Schlafly reviews the impressive (though somewhat forgotten) contributions of the leading physicists and mathematicians during that bygone era. A short list of great figures includes French mathematician and Nobel laureate, Henri Poincare (whom the British philosopher, Bertrand Russell, called the greatest man that France ever produced), the pioneering Dutch physicist and Nobel laureate, Hendrik A. Lorentz, and Scottish physicist and mathematician James Clerk Maxwell. According to Schlafly, Maxwell first coined the term ‘relativity’ and created the first truly relativist theory of mass and energy. Maxwell wrote the massive, two-volume 1873 Treatise on Electricity and Electro-Magnetism that, in Schlafly’s opinion, generated “the most important equations in the history of science.”
Poincare‘s subsequent treatise on relativity provided theorems that were “mathematically identical to Einstein‘s,” says Schlafly, and most of Poincare’s work also preceded Einstein‘s. “Lorentz and Poincare had every major aspect of the theory [of relativity], and had published it before Einstein,” he says.
Yet these towering scientific figures are mostly forgotten while Einstein’s reputation has achieved demigod status. Why?
As a young man, Albert Einstein was not only living in a time of explosive growth in the science of theoretical physics, but his specialized employment as a physicist in a Swiss patent office gave him unique access to emerging scientific discoveries. During this time, Einstein became keenly aware of what constitutes intellectual property rights. Einstein’s now-famous equation E=MC2, for instance, had actually been published by Olin to de Pretto in an obscure Italian journal two years before Einstein penned it, though Einstein claims he thought up the equation independently. Poincare as well, says Schlafly, published this equation before Einstein did.
Indeed, Schlafly contends that Einstein borrowed many ideas from others and claimed them as his own, including the postulate that the speed of light is constant as well as special relativity, the idea that energy and mass are interchangeable (E=MC2). “Einstein’s understanding of special relativity…was inferior to Poincare’s. On every essential part of special relativity, Poincare published the same idea years earlier, and said it better.”
Surely you are joking, Mr. Schlafly!
This is no joke.
According to Schlafly, the timeline and breadth of discovery preceding Einstein’s 1905 paper on special relativity is, at the very least, evidence of a far wider scientific process going on during this era than is commonly realized. This may explain why Einstein did not receive a Nobel Prize for this work on relativity, since he neither coined the term nor was first to advance the concept. In fact, H.A. Lorentz did receive a Nobel Prize for his work on relativity three years before Einstein‘s first papers on the subject appeared in 1905. It wasn’t until 1921 that Einstein received a Nobel Prize, and it was primarily for his contributions to understanding the photoelectric effect.
All the same, three of Einstein’s five papers that year (1905) are considered groundbreaking. But were the ideas exclusively his? Schlafly says they were not, and he provides a wealth of evidence to prove it. Schlafly claims that Einstein repeatedly borrowed ideas from others without giving credit.
Schlafly demonstrates that the concept of motion and time being a ‘fourth Dimension‘ preceded Einstein by well over a decade. H. G. Wells speculated on this concept in his 1894 novel, The Time Machine. That very next year, says Schlafly, Lorentz wrote a scientific paper where “he proposed the concept of local time in a moving object.” Poincare wrote a treatise in 1898 and another in 1900 exploring the relationship between motion and time.
Indeed, Schlafly cites the 2005 book Henri Poincare and Relativity Theory by Russian physicist A. A. Lugonov who also complains about how Einstein’s acolytes have repeatedly over-praised Einstein and while overlooking the contributions of Poincare.
We now know from publication of Einstein’s letters that he failed to credit his first wife for help with special relativity, and refused to credit many others. His first wife [Marie Maric] was a physicist who collaborated with him on relativity. Later papers also frequently failed to credit his sources, and yet he wrote complaint letters when he did not get what he wanted. He used the news media to promote himself more than any other scientist of the day. For the rest of his life he continued to ignore his sources and the contributions of others.
Indeed, after winning the Nobel Prize, Einstein gave all the money he earned from the prize to his former wife (and physicist) Marie Maric. Some biographers claim however that this exchange was done so Einstein could win a divorce.
Because of what Schlafly sees as deft plagiarism, he asserts that “Einstein’s 1905 paper is the most overrated paper ever written. No other paper has been so thoroughly praised, and yet be so dishonestly unoriginal”. Einstein does definitely deserve scientific credit, he says, but it’s mostly for refining the scientific ideas of others.
Ultimately, Schlafly’s claims can only be settled by (impartial) historians of science, if they’re out there. In the meantime, he proffers powerful evidence against the widely-held view that Einstein was alone in advancing these monumental scientific insights.
How Einstein Ruined Physics however is not just about Einstein the man, but how the world-changing findings in physics over the past century have produced an Einstein cult that continues to impact modern science negatively. In physics, says Schlafly, this has led to wasteful, un-falsifiable “top down” theorizing that often leads nowhere.
Einstein is the new Aristotle. Physicists love to ridicule Aristotle for his non-quantitative theory of physics, for his thought experiments, for his unsubstantiated realism, and for his (supposed) attempts to explain the world according to how he thought the world ought to be, instead of how it is. Most of all, they ridicule Aristotle followers for idolizing the master, and for blindly following what he had to say.
Aristotle was a great genius. [Aristotle’s] reasoning was influential for well over a millennium. But Einstein’s fame is based on the work of others, and his legacy is the pursuit of unscientific dreams. Now he is idolized more than Aristotle ever was, and his followers have created a subject more sterile than millennium-old Aristotelian physics.
Medieval monks are mocked for debating how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. They didn’t really do that, but modern theoretical physicists write papers on topics nearly as silly. They write papers on alternate universes, black hole information loss, extra dimensions, and Boltzmann brains. Most of them are preoccupied with string theory, which has no connection to the real world. And they all say they are pursuing Einstein’s dreams.
One popular bubble of misunderstanding that Schlafly pops is the ‘mass-energy equivalence’ that’s expressed in the famous equation E=MC2. Schlafly argues that the equation itself suffers from widespread misunderstanding. The equation’s relationship to the Manhattan Project of WWII (which produced the first atomic bomb) for instance, is one example:
E=MC2 is not even needed for the atomic bomb. [It] does not give any clue on how to split an atom, or how to create a nuclear chain reaction, or any of the other necessary steps to making an atom bomb. Relativity is not even needed to understand the energy release in a uranium or plutonium bomb, as the release can largely explained from electromagnetic considerations. … Predictions about relativistic mass were being tested [by German physicist Walter Kaufmann] in 1901, before Einstein wrote anything about it.
And it was HG Wells, says Schlafly (not Einstein) who first published the idea of “atomic bombs.”
Schlafly reminds us that Einstein spent most of his scientific life working on a “grand unified theory” of physics that never came to fruition, and says that many of today’s physicists are similarly afflicted with an Einstein-like ambition to create a “paradigm shift” that would catapult them into scientific stardom. This has damaged science, he believes, since it tosses aside the traditional practice of “observation-hypothesis-experimentation methodology” in favor of “elite intellectuals who insist on heaping the greatest praise on [often abstract] work with no measureable or rational advantages.”
Though Schlafly makes only a handful of oblique references to Einstein’s Jewishness, the veneration of Einstein by elite media and the academic world fits the guru phenomenon identified in The Culture of Critique in which Jewish intellectuals such as Freud, Boas and Trotsky become the focus of a cult following among Jews, just as charismatic rabbis were venerated among traditional Jews. This type of abstract theorizing that rejects observation-hypothesis-experimentation methodology is also reminiscent of the theorizing of Freud and the Frankfurt School: top-down theorizing in the absence of any empirical data. Over the past generation, Freud’s theories have been quietly and gently downgraded to a creative mix of quasi-scientific conjecture, sexual fantasy and therapeutic snake oil.