Post­ed by Nao­mi Firestone-Teeter

To add to our ever-grow­ing col­lec­tion of Ein­stein-themed titles is this new one: Ein­stein’s Jew­ish Sci­ence: Physics at the Inter­sec­tion of Pol­i­tics and Reli­gion (Steven Gim­bel). Gim­bel’s book will be pub­lished by The Johns Hop­kins Uni­ver­si­ty Press in May:

Is rel­a­tiv­i­ty Jew­ish? The Nazis den­i­grat­ed Albert Ein­stein’s rev­o­lu­tion­ary the­o­ry by call­ing it Jew­ish sci­ence,” a charge typ­i­cal of the ide­o­log­i­cal excess­es of Hitler and his fol­low­ers. Philoso­pher of sci­ence Steven Gim­bel explores the many mean­ings of this provoca­tive phrase and con­sid­ers whether there is any sense in which Ein­stein’s the­o­ry of rel­a­tiv­i­ty is Jew­ish.

Argu­ing that we must take seri­ous­ly the pos­si­bil­i­ty that the Nazis were in some mea­sure cor­rect, Gim­bel exam­ines Ein­stein and his work to explore how beliefs, back­ground, and envi­ron­ment may — or may not — have influ­enced the work of the sci­en­tist. You can­not under­stand Ein­stein’s sci­ence, Gim­bel declares, with­out know­ing the his­to­ry, reli­gion, and phi­los­o­phy that influ­enced it.

No one, espe­cial­ly Ein­stein him­self, denies Ein­stein’s Jew­ish her­itage, but many are uncom­fort­able say­ing that he was being a Jew while he was at his desk work­ing. To under­stand what Jew­ish” means for Ein­stein’s work, Gim­bel first explores the many def­i­n­i­tions of Jew­ish” and asks whether there are ele­ments of Tal­mu­dic think­ing appar­ent in Ein­stein’s the­o­ry of rel­a­tiv­i­ty. He applies this line of inquiry to oth­er sci­en­tists, includ­ing Isaac New­ton, René Descartes, Sig­mund Freud, and Émile Durkheim, to con­sid­er whether their spe­cif­ic reli­gious beliefs or back­grounds man­i­fest­ed in their sci­en­tif­ic endeav­ors.

Ein­stein’s Jew­ish Sci­ence inter­twines sci­ence, his­to­ry, phi­los­o­phy, the­ol­o­gy, and pol­i­tics in fresh and fas­ci­nat­ing ways to solve the mul­ti­fac­eted rid­dle of what reli­gion means — and what it means to sci­ence. There are some sens­es, Gim­bel claims, in which Jews can find a spe­cial con­nec­tion to E = mc2, and this claim leads to the engag­ing, spir­it­ed debate at the heart of this book.

Orig­i­nal­ly from Lan­cast­er, Penn­syl­va­nia, Nao­mi is the CEO of Jew­ish Book Coun­cil. She grad­u­at­ed from Emory Uni­ver­si­ty with degrees in Eng­lish and Art His­to­ry and, in addi­tion, stud­ied at Uni­ver­si­ty Col­lege Lon­don. Pri­or to her role as exec­u­tive direc­tor, Nao­mi served as the found­ing edi­tor of the JBC web­site and blog and man­ag­ing edi­tor of Jew­ish Book World. In addi­tion, she has over­seen JBC’s dig­i­tal ini­tia­tives, and also devel­oped the JBC’s Vis­it­ing Scribe series and Unpack­ing the Book: Jew­ish Writ­ers in Conversation.