Ethnic Conflict in German Physics
Dan Michaels’ current TOO article on Jewish-German conflict in physics raises some fascinating issues about intellectual styles between the two groups. He quotes Johannes Stark, a Nobel laureate and leader of the German Physics movement as follows:
The dogmatic approach seeks to extract scientific knowledge from the human mind. It builds thought systems based on human concepts of the outside world and sees in these only manifestations of their own thoughts and formulas. Our pragmatic approach [i.e., experimental physics] draws its knowledge from careful observations and planned targeted experiments. Our own imagination is used only as a means of planning the experiment. If the plan does not confirm the experiment, then it is replaced by another concept that better corresponds to reality. … The pragmatic [experimental] approach seeks to understand reality in patient, often yearlong laboratory work and limits itself to the publication of the results so obtained..
This struck a chord with me because one could say the same about the ideas in the Jewish intellectual movements described in The Culture of Critique. Psychoanalysis is a paradigm: Freud and his followers projected their own ideas of reality onto the world and then spent the next century elaborating on the ideas without ever being bothered that no one could prove the ideas one way or the other. For this effort in mental gymnastics, Freud was deified not only by his followers but lavishly promoted in the media as a genius.
Meanwhile, American behaviorists of the early 20th century began slowing building up knowledge one experiment at a time — using rigorously controlled methods and altering the theories as new data became available. Behaviorism finally ran out of steam when psychologists showed that human learning couldn’t be explained without cognition, and since then cognitive science has been slowly and gradually accumulating knowledge of the inner workings of the human mind.
It was the same in American sociology, where Jews committed to Marxist ideology conflicted with native Protestants committed to an empirical science framework. From Ch. 2 of The Culture of Critique:
The ethnic conflict within American sociology parallels to a remarkable degree the ethnic conflict in American anthropology that is a theme of this chapter. Here the conflict was played out between leftist Jewish social scientists and an old-line, empirically oriented Protestant establishment that was eventually eclipsed:
American sociology has struggled with the contrary claims of those afflicted with physics envy and researchers . . . more engaged in the dilemmas of society. In that struggle, midwestern Protestant mandarins of positivist science often came into conflict with East Coast Jews who in turn wrestled with their own Marxist commitments; great quantitative researchers from abroad, like Paul Lazarsfeld at Columbia, sought to disrupt the complacency of native bean counters. (Sennett 1995, 43)
The struggle of the Frankfurt School to produce empirical data that would be acceptable to American social scientists (reviewed here) provides an interesting saga in its own right. In the end, they managed to produce data that at least had the appearance (and only the appearance) of supporting their a priori commitment to producing a politically effective intellectual rationale for White displacement.
It is tempting, then, to think of Einstein as part of this Jewish tradition in the social sciences, and several commentators over the years have mentioned this to me as a research project. There may be something to this. But one problem is that, unlike psychoanalysis, Marxism, or the ideas of the Frankfurt School, the subject matter of Einstein’s theories cannot be seen as directly furthering Jewish ethnic goals (even though Einstein himself was a strong Zionist and had the usual Jewish fetishes about Jewish racial purity and racial superiority; see here). For example, the theories of Freud and the Frankfurt School were used in the battle to make people think that Whites with a sense of White identity and White interests have a psychiatric disorder and pathological family relationships. These theories were also used to fashion malignant and self-serving theories of anti-Semitism in which Jewish behavior is irrelevant. This was not the case with Einstein’s theories.
Further, whatever else one may say about Einstein’s theories, they have produced an enormous amount of research attempting to confirm them — unlike the Jewish intellectual movements discussed in CofC where agreement was enforced by simply expelling and ridiculing dissenters. In the end, providing a theory that produces a lot of new research is perhaps all that any good theory can do. Of course, this does not absolve Einstein from the allegations that he didn’t adequately acknowledge the contributions of his predecessors — always an issue in the academic world where priority is everything.
Still, there seems to be a difference in intellectual style between Jews and non-Jews. One of the quotes that was left out of Culture of Critique (because I didn’t know quite what to make of it) was from John Maynard Smith, the prominent British biologist. He made the following statement on contrasting intellectual styles in evolutionary biology:
By and large, those who held that [natural] selection played a major role in evolution were English country gentlemen, but…those who were not have largely been urban Jews….I mean urban intellectuals, people like Stu Kauffman and Steve Gould . It’s the search for universal truths. They seem to say, if there are not universal truths, how can you do science? Natural selection appears to be too ad hoc for them, just opportunistic adaptation. For me, that’s the way nature is.
Again we see the contrast between the Jewish style of universalist abstraction and the style of patient naturalists like Darwin steadily accumulating data over many years — fascinated with finding out how nature works, developing their theories inductively on the basis of evidence and not having any preconceived ideas about how nature works. E. O. Wilson titled one of his books The Naturalist and another Biophilia, reflecting his fascination and love of the natural world and how it works. Sociobiology, his 1975 synthesis of theory and data on the social behavior of animals and humans, remains a paradigm of powerful theory firmly grounded in empirical reality.
Of course, people like Gould also had ethnic reasons for disliking natural selection since, as Jewish leftists, they feared the development of a robust evolutionary science of humans. (Gould is a major villain in Ch. 2 of CofC.) Gould was a well-known critic of sociobiology and research on race differences.
Indeed, it is interesting that the only example in CofC where Jewish social scientists deviated from a commitment to weakly grounded universalist abstraction comes in the attack on Darwinism as it applied to the human social sciences. Here the method was radical skepticism and the enshrinement of an anti-theory of the differences between cultures and differences between human races. Gould is a prominent example, but the most important figures historically were Claude Levi Strauss and Franz Boas whose influence meant that anthropology would deify the minutiae of cultural differences rather than seek the sort of unifying theory that had been elaborated by the Darwinian anthropologist Louis Henry Morgan on the basis of patiently accumulating and synthesizing data.
As is the case in other arenas, Jewish intellectual style can be altered radically to suit Jewish interests. Whatever is good for the Jews and all that. As I note in Ch. 6 of CofC,
Within the intellectual world, the greatest potential danger for a collectivist minority group strategy is that science itself as an individualist enterprise conducted in an atomistic universe of discourse could in fact coalesce around a set of universalist propositions about human behavior, propositions that would call into question the moral basis of collectivist minority group strategies such as Judaism. One way to prevent this is for science itself to be problematized and replaced by a pervasive skepticism about the structure of all reality.
As I argue elsewhere, the decline of the non-Jewish intellectual elite inspired by Darwin was a critical factor in the decline of WASP America and the West generally.
Apart from this destructive effort directed against Darwinism, the thesis of Culture of Critique is that Jewish intellectuals have a long track record of developing theories in the social sciences and humanities that are very difficult, if not impossible, to test. Rather than empirical testing, group cohesion was maintained by ingroup consensus and fealty to god-like figures, with dissenters being expelled. This was also true of traditional Jewish groups: These groups saw the world through the lens of a non-falsifiable, abstract theological theory, and they were centered around charismatic rabbis, with heretics and other non-conformists expelled from the group.
At the same time, these theories — both the religious and secular versions — have been very useful to Jews politically. In traditional societies they enabled cohesive, effective groups where any event (e.g., anti-Jewish persecutions) could be explained by the theory (e.g., Jews had strayed from God’s law). And since the Enlightenment, these theories have been used as weapons against non-Jews and their culture. Conceptually, these theories are similar to Einstein’s theory in being internally consistent and difficult to verify. But Einstein’s theories have resulted in a lot of novel research attempting to confirm them and it is my (unsophisticated) understanding that aspects of his theories have been confirmed. And I rather doubt that Einstein’s theory satisfied Jewish political aims in quite the same way as the theories discussed in The Culture of Critique. Nevertheless, I await comment by people trying to make a case for a stronger relationship.
Finally, whatever one thinks of Einstein as a scientist, the media hype for Einstein is unquestionably intense, and there can be little doubt that the pervasiveness of the cult of Einstein as a Jewish genius has overtones of Jewish influence. For example, in 2000 Einstein was Time Magazine’s “Person of the Century.” Einstein is useful not just as a Jewish intellectual genius (and all the positive aura that provides for Jews generally). He is also useful because he had values typical of a very large section of the Jewish Diaspora in Western societies then and now — the same values that publications like Time wish to celebrate and that dominate the mainstream media and elite intellectual and political discourse now. The implicit logic is that really smart people have left/liberal attitudes — just the sort of person all non-extremists want to be. Indeed, this suggests that a really interesting Einstein project would be to try to figure out how influential Einstein and his cult were in molding elite opinion during the crucial 20 years following World War II.
This is from the Time article, written by Frederic Golden, who is careful to quote non-Jews who worship at the altar of Einstein:
Following World War II, Einstein became even more outspoken [with his leftist political views]. Besides campaigning for a ban on nuclear weaponry, he denounced McCarthyism and pleaded for an end to bigotry and racism. Coming as they did at the height of the cold war, the haloed professor’s pronouncements seemed well meaning if naive; Life magazine listed Einstein as one of this country’s 50 prominent “dupes and fellow travelers.” Says Cassidy: “He had a straight moral sense that others could not always see, even other moral people.” Harvard physicist and historian Gerald Holton adds, “If Einstein’s ideas are really naive, the world is really in pretty bad shape.” Rather it seems to him that Einstein’s humane and democratic instincts are “an ideal political model for the 21st century,” embodying the very best of this century as well as our highest hopes for the next. What more could we ask of a man to personify the past 100 years?
I’m guessing Prof. Holton is a philo-Semite.
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