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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on July 16, 2013
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
I had a number of problems with this book. First, I could not relate to the fundamental question: was Einstein's science Jewish science. An old Nazi trope that I have no interest in revisiting now. Second, the author has a hard time making a case as to whether Einstein, a secular Jew, was Jewish enough, so to speak, to support the question. And he is uncertain whether he can say that Einstein's science was in any way Jewish science. Ambivalence does not make for compelling reading. If he is ambivalent, then I am too. Second, the discussions of other scientists and whether they were influenced by their religious beliefs was interesting. But there was a lot of explanation about their science, more than necessary to prove or disprove the point. I could not engage with these explanations because I was still trying to figure out what the book was about. I know other readers find this aspect of the book fascinating. I did not. Was this a book about Einstein, about science, or perhaps about influences on scientists. It seemed to be a philosopher having fun with science. Third, there is a lot of repetition. Fourth, this book needed a different editor. Finally in the last chapter, the author describes writings by conservative and anti-semitic writers today denigrating Einstein's accomplishments. Perhaps the reason for the book was to refute current writings. If so, this should have been said in the introduction. I would have cared more.
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21 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on August 1, 2012
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
This book pulls together a lot of information across many disciplines to look fearlessly at questions of definitions, axioms, and the belief in objectivity; in science. I found the book to be well worth the time and effort to read and absorb the material. He does not provide easy answers, but lays out the questions and concerns in the philosophy and history of science very clearly. I particularly liked the idea of a third path to scientific methodology. One being deductive, the second being inductive and the third being a kind of pairwise synthesis that accepts that there is an ultimate Truth or objective reality out there, but we can only see bits and pieces of it based on our perspective (reference frame) and so it behooves us to get a study partner to see more anlges on that Truth we seek. The question is whether this approach is "mere" formalism and if modern physics has become just a symbol manipulation system devoid of connection to that greater reality. This book argues for a nuanced understanding of these issues.
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11 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on October 10, 2012
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
I'm not sure that the author succeeds in establishing the connection between science and religion, in particular between Einstein and Judaism. He devotes pages to demonstrating that religion played an essential part in the theories of both Descartes (Catholic) and Newton (Protestant). Indeed, both Descartes and Newton were definitely religious.

However, he seems to me to force the influence of religion onto Einstein. Since Einstein was a secular Jew, he has to resort to some kind of Jewish ambience during Einstein's youth (p. 68) to establish a connection between Einstein's science and Judaism. In fact, trying to find a special "Jewish way of doing science" is one of the author's main purposes. He even says, "While there is certainly no direct link between Einstein's work and the rabbinic tradition, there is an interesting resemblance between their approaches to the problem" (p.59). He works hard to link the two. I realize the purpose of the book is to establish Einstein's Jewish credentials, but it doesn't work.

Basically, I don't think the religious angle works for any them. He lists (p. 154) all of the influences on Einstein's special theory of relativity (which Einstein did not cite in his 1905 paper): seven names from five countries. Was there some religious influence on the work of all of them? The author doesn't try to show it, and I doubt he could. Only Einstein's role in relativity was influenced by religion?

Everyone agrees that science is a steady, collaborative and cumulative effort, and what emerges from the book is less the Jewish influence than the fact that a lot of scientists had a hand in developing both theories of relativity. I don't know how he could have written this book without consulting EINSTEIN'S MISTAKES by Hans Ohanian (Norton, 2008) (not mentioned in the text or in the bibliography), a major work by a practicing physicist. Ohanian traces all the influences on Einstein without mentioning any religious influence. In addition, in a new biography of Poincare (Princeton, 2013). Jeremy Gray says, "Poincare undoubtedly discovered many of the ideas that now form our mental picture of the theory of special relativity and associate with the name of Einstein" (368).

I think the author would have been better off sticking to the scientific influences on Einstein and avoid trying to force the religious issue. His divagations into the difference between "Christian style" science (goyische-style science, as he puts it) and "Jewish style" science are not convincing. Most scientists are not religious, so he would have a hard time forcing them into his categories.

He concludes, "The theory of relativity is in most senses not Jewish science. . .," (p. 211) and, "So is Einstein's theory of relativity Jewish science? Yes and no. And that is precisely what makes it Jewish." (p. 217) Let the reader make sense of that if he/she can.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on April 2, 2014
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
The title was intriguing, but I stopped at midpoint. The author had no clear objective. I expected something of the caliber of Amir Aczel's books on scientists and mathematicians. I was disappointed.. I would suggest "Einstein's Jury", or Einstein's short treatise "Relativity" as a better investment of time.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
The title is suggestive of the concept put forth by the Third Reich’s notion of science. Tt was influenced by politics. But that simplistic concept based on racism and fanaticism is not really what Gimbel sets out to dispel. His book is deeper than that. He probes a question that he raises about the cultural and religious influences on scientific thinking. The idea of scientific impartiality as incorrect has been delved into much over the years. There is a lot to it as we see currently by the slews of journal retractions, firings and even arrests for scientific fraud. We knew of Hitler’s “Jewish” science theories and Stalin’s devotion to his genetic quack Lysenko. Science for all of its moral purity and self-correction has a history replete with charlatans.

Yet daily there are thousands of researchers toiling away with pure thoughts and a devotion to the scientific method. Men and women who know that their work may be proven for naught at some future date despite its promise today. Gimbel focuses on their efforts with a question about bias. He does not present an answer but merely poses questions. Do researchers inadvertently let a socio-cultural bias seep into their work? Is there a corruption of their science based on their beliefs? Without answering the questions he raises, Gimbel provides food for thought.

This reader was unwilling to accept that the laws that have stood the test of time such as Newton’s mechanics and optics, relativity, Boltzman’s statistical probabilities or Heisenberg’s uncertainty could be tainted by their own bias because these ideas have been studied and evaluated for in some cases centuries. Even when they are discarded for the proof of new theories on the surface they appear as science in its pure form. Gimbel begs the reader to ponder some other ideas.

He asks several questions about the Jewish influence on Einstein and his Relativity theory. Was Einstein a Jew? He suggests that he was not in the religious sense yet he was influenced by the cultural dicta of that heritage. The tradition of Judaism came with a sense of awe when encountering the world. Feynman wrote about this continually and he also was secular but Jewish. It is a passion if not a duty to be in a state of wonderment. Having answers is far less exhilarating than having questions. That certainly could be seen in the works of Einstein both of his theories and the thought problems he proposed throughout his life. In addition a traditional liberalism exists that allows one to question.

Was Newton’s a Protestant science? This reviewer would have scoffed at this notion prior to reading the book as he would have at the concept of Descartes being a Catholic scientist. Gimbel makes compelling points about both given the times in which they lived, the strictures of theological philosophy. Protestantism was borne in part out of the gainsay of papal authority. In Spinoza like fashion the Protestants were less likely back then to accept divine authority coming from a human. On the Catholic side they were only recently emerging from the inquisitions that forced early scientific philosophers from being anything less than cryptic in their writing. So possibly there is a sort of Protestant and Catholic science as there is a Jewish science. It is a new avenue of thinking when pondering the history and philosophy of science.

As Gimbel points out Auguste Comte proposed that early science sort of unraveled in three stages. Initially it was religious with a design to prove the glory of God’s efforts. The metamorphosis of a butterfly was viewed as a specific design of a deity. The next stage was metaphysics and wonderment about our place in the world-a somewhat more secular supposition. Finally positivist or material and empirical way of viewing the world and nature. Those transitional stages do not come easily as Darwin found when unwrapping his Origins and Natural Selection treatises. It does not sit all that well in the current United States and its very large adherence to Genesis.

Ultimately Einstein held pretty firm to notions like enlightenment, freedom and creativity. Like his secular predecessor Spinoza, theses ideals were paramount to the betterment of society. Sans the ability to think freely we are subject to the rules of authority which have no philosophical control but certainly governmental control. The freedom to act ethically under the law of man offers the possibilities of new thinking and represses excesses. Creativity is necessary for the culture to expand and thrive.
There is much more to say about the book but not in this venue. Read it yourself for more details. The takeaway is that Gimbel suggests to the slightly interested reader some food for thought. For the avid reader the same plus a plethora of ideas to explore. He does not proffer as many answers as he does questions.
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on December 8, 2012
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
I hope the "movie" is as good as the book. After reading Einstein's Jewish Science, I had the pleasure of attending a talk by the author before an audience of 200 or so at a synagogue. If some version of the mini-lecture is not yet on video or the web, it should be. Professor Gimbel brings it on by melding a Poconos stand-up schtick with some heavy duty physics, philosophy and Talmudic insights. Though not required, some college level background in the three subjects will definitely enhance your enjoyment of the book. The string of thought around which the book cystalizes is the Nazi attempt to discredit Einstein's theories of relativity as "Jewish" science as opposed to pure "Aryan" science. "Jewish" science is, in the Nazi view, detached from reality and morality. "Aryan" science is, in the Nazi view, a so-called pure empiricism in the Bacon-Newtonian tradition. Professor Gimbel lucidly explores the senses in which religious training, culture and traditions may have influenced the scientific revolutions at the beginning of the 20th century. Professor Gimbel then examines the thought process that an outsider steeped in the multi-perspectival traditions of rabbinic Judaism brings to a hard science problem. For those interested in the history of science as it intersects with religion, especially the world view (views) of the Hebrew Bible, you might also enjoy Betraying Spinoza by Rebecca Goldstein (Einstein was, in a sense, a Spinozist) and Critique of Religion and Philosophy by Walter Kaufmann. No longer in print, but available on the web, is a introductory level anthology entitled Creation: The Impact of an Idea edited and complied by Professors Francis Oakley and Daniel O'Conner. [...]
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4 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on November 25, 2012
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Although I've read a lot about Einstein, his theories and how they upset the standard paradigm of physics at the time, this book presented a different kind of overview. Divided equally between Jewish philosophy and physics, it deepened my understanding of the period and the man. The idea that science, our objective exploration of the world as it is, can be influenced by background and society shouldn't be controversial; we see people bending it to their own uses on an everyday basis. Nonetheless, historical amplification always lends an additional level of resonance to current models. The author is an excellent writer and presents his ideas in a clear and fluent voice. I not only enjoyed it thoroughly, I also bought a copy for my brother, who loved it too.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
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This is a book that I will reread again and again. It has given me a perspective, not only of Einstein's primary theories but of an historical perspective of major political/ scientific thought. This book has invoked study and discussion at my Jewish synagogue and is serving as the basis for discussion groups. It achieves the difficult task of merging the scientific, religious and political thesis into a readable text without requiring too much background from the reader. Besides it's a "OH Yeah" of a read.
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3 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on January 5, 2013
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
I read this book from end to end but it was a difficult read due to the syntax. The location of words within the sentences forced me to reread these particular sentences several times to gain an understanding of what the author was trying to say. The book was well researched and contained a barrel of information. At times I considered putting the book aside but I shuffled on. Because of the detailed research and information, I am glad I read it.

I have a Masters degree from Johns Hopkins University so I am not an illiterate.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on July 10, 2014
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
I found it fascinating. Each chapter takes up a different aspect and could almost stand on it's own. I'd never heard about the conflicts over the invention of theoretical physics (as opposed to traditional experimental physics) but it made sense, especially with an old guard of German physics profs. But for them to twist it into a racial/Nazi issue, totally unexpected, totally predictable if I'd only been thinking.
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