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The Quotable Einstein
The following quotes are from the Science News, March 31, 1979, report on a conference held at the Smithsonian Institute in celebration of the 100th anniversary of Einstein's birth.
"Creativity by definition means to free one's self of old assumptions, to discern previously unseen patterns and dare. "
"To the sphere of religion belongs the faith that the regulations valid for the world of existence are rational, that it is comprehensible to reason. I cannot conceive of a genuine scientist without that profound faith. The situation may be expressed by the image: Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind."
"Science is a wonderful thing if one does not have to earn one's living at it. One should earn one's living by work of which one is sure one is capable. Only when we do not have to be accountable to anybody can we find joy in scientific endeavor.
"It is, in fact, nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry."
"The scientific theorist is not to be envied. For Nature, or more precisely experiment, is an inexorable and not very friendly judge of his work. It never says 'Yes" to a theory. In the most favorable cases it says 'Maybe,' and in the majority of cases simply 'No.'"
"Man seeks to form for himself in whatever manner is suitable for him, a simplified and lucid image of the world, and so to overcome the world of experience by striving to replace it to some extent by this image. This is what the painter does, and the poet, the speculative philosopher, the natural scientist, each in his own way."
"One thing I have learned in long life: That all our science, measured against reality, is primitive and childlike --- and yet it is the most precious thing we have."
"To punish me for my contempt for authority, fate made me an authority myself."
For us believing physicists the distinction between past, present, and future is only an illusion, even if a stubborn one."
"The only thing which the individual can do is to give a fine example and to have the courage seriously to stand up for ethical convictions in the company of critics."
"Heroism on command, senseless violence, and all the loathsome nonsense that goes by the name of patriotism --- how intensely I hate them, how vile and despicable war appears to me; I would rather be torn limb from limb than take part in such business."
"I have little patience with scientists who take a board of wood, look for its thinnest part, and drill a great number of holes where drilling is easy."
Listen to the voice of Albert Einstein
1. Einstein's famous telegram
1. Einstein's famous telegram
The following headline appeared on page 13 of the New York Times May, 25, 1946:
"ATOMIC EDUCATION URGED BY EINSTEIN: Scientists in Plea for $200,000 to Promote New Type of Essential Thinking."
Dr. Albert Einstein, whose formula on the equivalence of mass and energy led to the discovery of the enormous amount of energy locked up within the atom, issued a personal appeal yesterday by telegram to several hundred prominent Americans. He asked contributions to a fund of $200,000 with which to carry on a nationwide campaign "to let the people know that a new type of thinking is essential" in the atomic age "if mankind is to survive and move toward higher levels."
A letter from Dr. Einstein in 1939 informed President Roosevelt that the Germans were engaged in the development of an atomic bomb and urged that science and technology in the United States be mobilized on a similar effort. This letter gave the first impetus to the development of the atomic bomb.
The campaign, Dr. Einstein's telegram says, is to be carried out by the newly formed Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists, or which Dr. Einstein is chairman. Other members of the committee who signed the appeal are Prof. Hans A. Bethe of Cornell University, who played a major role in the development of the atomic bomb at Los Alamos, N.M.; Dr. Leo Szilard of the Manhattan Engineering Districts's atomic laboratory at the University of Chicago, who pioneered in the development of atomic power piles; Prof. Harold C. Urey of the University of Chicago's Institute for Nuclear Studies, Nobel Prize winner and former director of the atomic research center at Columbia University, and Dr. Edward U. Condon, president of the American Physical Society and Director of the National Bureau of Standards.
The Federation of American Scientists also joined in the appeal.
Dr. Einstein's telegrams says:
"Our world faces a crisis as yet unperceived by those possessing power to make great decisions for good or evil. The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking and we thus drift toward unparallel catastrophe.
"We scientists who released this immense power have an overwhelming responsibility in this world life-and-death struggle to harness the atom for the benefit of mankind and not for humanity's destruction.
"Bethe, Condon, Szilard, Urey, and the Federation of American Scientists join me in this appeal, and beg you to support our efforts to bring realization to America that mankind's destiny is being decided today --- now --- at this moment.
"We need two hundred thousand dollars at once for a nation-wide campaign to let the people know that a new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move toward higher levels.
"This appeal is sent to you only after long consideration of the immense crisis we face. Urgently request you send immediate check to me as chairman, Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists, Princeton, N.J. We ask your help at this fateful moment as a sign that we scientists do not stand alone."
POSTSCRIPT FROM THE BOOK, "EINSTEIN ON PEACE," Simon and Schuster, NY, 1960
"In May 1946 Einstein took an important step: he agreed to serve as chairman of the newly formed Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists.
"As has been pointed out, a number of the scientists who had worked on the bomb project were deeply disturbed about the menace to mankind created by the existence of atomic weapons. They were conscious of the responsibility which the United States had assumed by her decision to drop atomic bombs over Japanese cities. Discussion groups had sprung up at all the major atomic installations, and despite considerable diversity of opinion, many people agreed that every possible effort should be made to make sure that the survival of the human race be never threatened by atomic weapons.
"In the fall of 1945, atomic scientists played an important role in defeating the May-Johnson bill (see p. 345), which would have kept atomic energy under military control. The scientists increasingly felt the need of an informed public opinion to help in the struggles that lay ahead. The general public seemed confused and apprehensive. The atomic problem was too new and too big, its implications almost too terrible to be fully appreciated by the great mass of people. The many and books as well as the many speeches and statements on the subject did not sufficiently provide the people with constructive information and advice.
"In January 1946 the various scientific groups which had been concerned with this problem merged into the Federation of American Scientists; the informational activities of the Federation were largely discharged through an organization that dated back to the 1945 San Francisco Conference of the United Nations. The work of the committee was limited by several factors, such as the lack of funds. Further, scientists were not always able to spare the time necessary to prepare the kind of articles which would meet the increasing public demand for information, and the task was too great for amateur publicists.
"It was against this background and this need that the Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists was conceived, primarily as a fund-raising and policy-making agency. It was hope that its board of trustees, all outstanding scientists with great reputations, would command universal respect and wide financial support... The first action of the committee was a telegram over Einstein's signature to several hundred prominent Americans appealing for contributions."
2. "When we are clear in heart and mind --- only then shall we find courage to surmount the fear which haunts our world"
BY ALBERT EINSTEIN, IN AN INTERVIEW WITH MICHAEL AMRINE
Published in Decision magazine and The New York Times Magazine in 1946
(Einstein's use of the masculine "man" and "mankind" to refer to human beings as a collective was a convention little questioned at the time he was writing.)
Many persons have inquired concerning a recent message of mine that "a new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move to higher levels."
Often in evolutionary processes a species must adapt to new conditions in order to survive. Today the atomic bomb has altered profoundly the nature of the world as we know it, and the human race consequently finds itself in a new habitat to which it must adapt its thinking.
In the light of new knowledge, a world authority and an eventual world state are not just desirable in the name of brotherhood, they are necessary for survival. In previous ages a nation's life and culture could be protected to some extent by the growth of armies in national competition. Today we must abandon competition and secure cooperation. This must be the central fact in all our considerations of international affairs; otherwise we face certain disaster. Past thinking and methods did not prevent world wars. Future thinking must prevent wars.
Modern war, the bomb, and other discoveries present us with revolutionary circumstances. Never before was it possible for one nation to make war on another without sending armies across borders. Now with rockets and atomic bombs no center of population on the earth's surface is secure from surprise destruction in a single attack.
America has a temporary superiority in armament, but it is certain that we have no lasting secret. What nature tells one group of men, she will tell, in time, to any group interested and patient enough in asking the questions. But our temporary superiority gives this nation the tremendous responsibility of leading mankind's effort so surmount the crisis.
Being an ingenious people, Americans find it hard to believe there is no foreseeable defense against atomic bombs. But this is a basic fact. Scientists do not even know of any field which promises us any hope of adequate defense. The military-minded cling to old methods of thinking and one Army department has been surveying possibilities of going underground, and in wartime placing factories in places like Mammoth Cave. Others speak of dispersing our population centers into "linear" or "ribbon" cities.
Reasonable men with these new facts to consider refuse to contemplate a future in which our culture would attempt to survive in ribbons or in underground tombs... There is no radar defense against the V-2, or should a "defense" be developed after years of research, it is not humanly possible for any defense to be perfect...
Our defense is not in armaments, nor in science, nor in going underground. Our defense is in law and order.
Henceforth, every nation's foreign policy must be judged at every point by one consideration: does it lead us to a world of law and order or does it lead us back toward anarchy and death? I do not believe that we can prepare for war and at the same time prepare for a world community. When humanity holds in its hand the weapon with which it can commit suicide, I believe that to put more power into the gun is to increase the probability of disaster.
It is easier to denature plutonium than the evil spirit of man
Remembering that our main consideration is to avoid this disaster, let us briefly consider international relations in the world today, and start with America. The war, which began with Germany using weapons of unprecedented frightfulness against women and children, ended with the United States using a supreme weapon killing thousands at one blow.
Many persons in other countries now look on America with great suspicion, not only for the bomb but because they fear she will become imperialistic. Before the recent turn in our policy, I was sometimes not quite free from such fears myself.
Others might not fear Americans if they knew us as we know one another, honest and sober and neighbors. But in other countries they know that a sober nation can become drunk with victory. If Germany had not won a victory in 1870, what tragedy for the human race might have been averted!
We are still making bombs, and the bombs are making hate and suspicion. We are keeping secrets and secrets breed distrust. I do not say we should now turn the secret of the bomb loose in the world, but are we ardently seeking a world in which there will be no need for bombs or secrets; a world in which science and men will be free?
While we distrust Russia's secrecy and she distrusts ours, we walk together to certain doom.
The basic principles of the Acheson-Lilienthal Report are scientifically sound and technically ingenious, but as Mr. Baruch wisely said, it is a problem not of physics but of ethics. There has been too much emphasis on legalisms and procedure; it is easier to denature plutonium than it is to denature the evil spirit of man.
The United Nations is the only instrument we have to work with in our struggle to achieve something better. But we have used U.N., and U.N. form and procedure to outvote the Russians on some occasions when the Russians were right. Yes, I do not think it is possible for any nation to be right all the time or wrong all the time. In all negotiations, whether over Spain, Argentina, Palestine, food or atomic energy, so long as we rely on procedure and keep the threat of military power, we are attempting to use old methods in a world which is changing forever.
Restrictive measures will destroy the American free way of life
No one gainsays that the United Nations Organization at times gives great evidence of eventually justifying the desperate hope that millions have in it. But time is not given to us in solving the problems science and war have brought. Powerful forces in the political world are moving swiftly toward crisis. When we look back to the end of the war --- it seems ten years ago! Many leaders express well the need for world authority and an eventual world government, but actual planning and action to this end have been appallingly slow.
Private organizations anticipate the future, but government agencies seem to live in the past. In working away from nationalism toward a supra-nationalism, for example, it is obvious that the national spirit will survive longer in armies than anywhere else. This might be tempered in the United Nations military forces by mixing the various units together, but certainly not by keeping a Russian Unit in tack side-by-side with an intact American unit, with the usual inter-unit competition added to the national spirit of the soldiers in this world enforcement army. But, if the military staffs of the U.N. are working out concrete proposals along these lines for a true internationally minded force, I have yet to read of it.
Similarly, we are plagued in the present world councils over the question of representation. It does not seem fair to some, for example, that each small Latin-American nation should have a vote while much larger nations are also limited to one vote. On the other hand, representation on a population basis may seem unfair to the highly developed states, because surely great masses of ignorant, backward peoples should not carry as much voice in the complicated technology of our world as those with greater experience.
Fremont Rider in an excellent book, The Great Dilemma of World Organizations, discusses the idea of representation on the basis of education and literacy --- numbers of teachers, physicians, and so on. Backward nations looking forward to greater power in the councils of men would be told, "To get more votes you must earn them."
These and a hundred other questions concerning the desirable evolution of the world seem to be getting very little attention. Meanwhile, men high in government propose defense or war measures which would not only compel us to live in a universal atmosphere of fear but would cost untold billions of dollars and ultimately destroy our American free way of life --- even before a war.
To retain, even a temporary total security in an age of total war, government will have to secure total control. Restrictive measures will be required by the necessities of the situation, not through the conspiracy of willful men. Starting with the fantastic guardianship now imposed on innocent physics professors, outmoded thinkers will insidiously change men's lives more completely than did Hitler, for the forces behind them will be more compelling.
The objections of "realism" ignore psychological realities.
Before the raid on Hiroshima, the leading physicists urged the War Department not to use the bomb against defenseless women and children. The war could have been won without it. The decision was made in consideration of possible future loss of American lives --- and now we have to consider the possible loss in future atomic bombings of millions of lives. The American decision may have been a fatal error, for men accustom themselves to thinking that a weapon which was used once can be used again.
Had we shown other nations the test explosion at Almogordo, New Mexico, we could have used it as an education for new ideas. It would have been an impressive and favorable moment to make considered proposals for world order to end war. Our renunciation of this weapon as too terrible to use would have carried great weight in negotiations and made convincing our sincerity in asking other nations for a binding partnership to develop these newly unleashed powers for good.
The old type of thinking can raise a thousand objections of "realism" against this simplicity. But such though ignores the psychological realities. All men fear atomic war. All men hope for benefits from these new powers. Between the realities of man's true desires and the realities of man's danger, what are the obsolete "realities" of protocol and military protection?
During the war many persons fell out of the habit of doing their own thinking, for many had to do simply what they were told to do. Today, lack of interest would be a great error, for there is much the average man can do about this danger.
This nation held a great debate concerning the menace of the Axis, and again today we need a great chain reaction of awareness and communication. Current proposals should be discussed in the light of the basic facts, in every newspaper, in schools, churches, in town meetings, in private conversations, and neighbor to neighbor. Merely reading about the bomb promotes knowledge in the mind, but only talk between men promotes feelings in the heart.
American's voice must come from the village square
Not even scientists completely understand atomic energy, for each man's knowledge is incomplete. Few men have ever seen the bomb. But all men, if told a few facts, can understand that this bomb and the danger of war is a very real thing, and not something far away. It directly concerns every person in the civilized world. We cannot leave it to generals, senators, and diplomats to work out a solution over a period of generations. Perhaps five years from now several nations will have made bombs and it will be too late to avoid disaster.
Ignoring the realities of faith, good will, and honesty in seeking a solution; we place too much faith in legalisms, treaties, and mechanisms. We must begin through the U.N. Atomic Energy Commission to work for a binding agreement, but America's decision will not be made over a table in the United Nations. Our representatives in New York, in Paris, or in Moscow depend ultimately on decisions made in the village square.
To the village square we must carry the facts of atomic energy. From there must come America's voice.
This belief of physicists prompted our formation of the Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists, with headquarters in Princeton, N.J., to make possible a great national campaign for education on these issues. Detailed planning for world security will be easier when negotiators are assured of public understanding of our dilemmas.
Then our American proposals will be not merely documents about machinery, the dull, dry statements of a government to other governments, but the embodiment of a message of humanity from a nation of human beings.
Science has brought forth this danger, but the real problem is in the minds and hearts of men. We will not change the hearts or other men by mechanism, but by changing our hearts and speaking bravely.
We must not be merely willing, but actively eager to submit ourselves to binding authority necessary for world security.
We must realize that we cannot simultaneously plan for war and peace.
When we are clear in heart and mind --- only then shall we find courage to surmount the fear which haunts our world.
3. Einstein as viewed by the FBI in the 1930's
TWO EXCERPTS FROM THE BOOK, THE EINSTEIN FILE, BY FRED JEROME
(Printed in The Nonviolent Activist, Nov-Dec 2000, the magazine of The War Resisters League; Einstein was honorary Chair in the early 1930's)
FIRST EXCERPT: Memo to the U.S. Department of State, November 22, 1932 from the Woman Patriot Corporation. "This alien, more extensively and more potently than any other revolutionist on earth, promotes lawless confusion to shatter the Church as well as the State --- and to leave, if possible, even the laws of nature and the principles of science in confusion and disorder... He is affiliated with more anarchist and communist groups than Joseph Stalin himself... (He) apparently cannot talk English. "
SECOND EXCERPT: "For nearly a quarter century, from Einstein's arrival in the United States in 1933 until his death in 1955, Hoover's FBI, in cooperation with six other federal agencies, conducted an investigation into Einstein's political ideas and activities, collecting more than 1,850 pages of "derogatory information" in a campaign to undermine his credibility and influence. (The file contains nothing at all about Einstein's science.) The FBI's most intensive anti-Einstein effort came between 1950 and 1955 at the height of this country's Red-scare hysteria.
"The Feb. 23 dinner for (African-American activist and scholar W.E.B.) DuBois was more than a birthday party: Two weeks earlier, he and four other officials of the Peace Information Center had been indicted by a federal grand jury for failure to register with the Justice Department as Soviet argents under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
"While Einstein's sponsorship of the dinner/protest for DuBois was recorded in the FBI's catalog of "derogatory information," the scientist committed another act even more un-American had he know about it: Einstein offered to testify at DuBois' trail.
"The DuBois case was dismissed nine months later, before it came to trial, but images of this internationally venerated Black scholar, at 83, in handcuffs at his court hearing, became --- along with the denial of a passport to Paul Robesons -- a focal point in anti-American protests around the world.
Indeed, more noteworthy than Einstein's affiliation with any particular civil rights group was his solidarity with these two outstanding figures in the face of the double-barreled assault against them for having the audacity to be both Black and red. "
4. Einstein's Own Views
Excerpts from the Utne Reader, Summer 1984
(Einstein) was a stranger not only to bellicosity but to the competitiveness and materialism that Western societies so often champion in their young. In 1932 , invited to name his salary at (Princeton's) Institute of Advanced Study, he requested on $3,000 a year, asking, "Could I live on less?" The Institute responded by paying him $15,000 a year...
Awarded the 1921 Nobel Prize for psychics, Einstein neglected to mention it in his diary, in letters to friends, or years later, on a form requesting a list of the honors he had received. This was not because he felt he didn't deserve the prize. Quite to the contrary: When he divorced his first wife, Mileva, in 1919, he promised her as alimony the Nobel prize money he was confident would soon come his way.
A solitary man, he had few if any intimate friends. "It is strange," he wrote, "to be known so universally and yet to be so lonely." Asked what might be the ideal livelihood for a working scientist, Einstein replied, "lighthouse keeper." Yet for all his detachment and steely will, he was, by accounts, extraordinarily warm... He took pains to put people at ease; colleague Banesh Hoffman recalls that when he was introduced to Einstein in the 1940's, feeling "utterly overawed and scared,' Einstein suggested that Hoffman explain his work, then added, "Please go slowly. I don't understand things quickly."
"When Einstein said that," Hoffman remembers, "all my fears left me. It was magical --- what he said and how he said it. He treats us all as equals."
For insisting that in the nuclear age, "mankind can be saved only by a supranational system," Einstein was called impractical and naive. The best reply to this charge is his own: "Is it really a sign of unpardonable naivety," he asked, "to suggest that those in power decide among themselves that future conflicts must be settled by constitutional means rather than by the senseless sacrifice of great numbers of lives?"
"Do I fear the tyranny of a world government?" he asked. "Of course I do. But I fear still more the coming of another war."
Einstein was deeply religious, though in a way sufficiently subtle to recall the dictum that if one is asked, "Do you believe in God?" the answer least likely to be understood is "Yes." Einstein's answer was the he believed in "Spinoza's God, who reveals himself in the harmony of all being."
"What I see in nature," Einstein wrote, "is a magnificent structure that we can comprehend only very imperfectly, and that must fill a thinking person with a feeling of 'humility.' This is a genuinely religious feeling that has nothing to do with mysticism."
"My religiosity," he added," consists in a humble admiration of the infinitely superior spirit that reveals itself in the little that we, with our weak and transitory understanding can comprehend of reality."
Einstein saw God as dressed in questions more than answers --- "What really interests me," he told his assistant Ernst Straus, "is whether God had any choice in the creation of the world... The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed."
Frank Press, President Carter's science advisor, told the audience at an Einstein centennial celebration at Princeton in 1979 that "Einstein, were he with us today, would have been appalled that the world now spends more than $350 billion a year on arms and more than $40 billion on their research and development.
"If there is anything that the science community can do to honor the memory of Albert Einstein today, Press said, "it is to support efforts toward arms control."
Einstein understood that real peace might be a long time coming. In 1936 he wrote a little note on the subject, on a sheet of long-lasting rag paper to be placed in a time capsule. It read:
If you have not become more just, more peaceful, and generally more rational than we are (or were) --- why then, the Devil take you.
Having, with all respect, given utterance to this pious wish,
I am (or was)