Date: October 09, 2021 01:31PM
"I've read Einstein's name a bit here but I agree with this article. Johnny was much more relevant than Albert for the world we live in."
COMMENT: One way to put this is that von Newmann was much more relevant than Einstein to the *world* we (as human beings) live in; but Einstein was much more relevant to the *universe* we live in. In this regard, we can note that not much scientific theory, as it relates to the universe at large, is relevant to human beings living in the world. As such, maybe "relevance to human beings" should not be the final criteria in evaluating and comparing scientific achievement.
Moreover, if we are talking about contributions of scientists to the world we live in as human beings I would suggest that Michael Faraday, James Clerk Maxwell, and Paul Dirac (and arguably several others) would all come in ahead of von Newmann; as brilliant as he was. These scientists pioneered the establishment of electromagnetic radiation and associated field theory (Faraday and Maxwell); as well as the dynamic quantum properties of the atom (Dirac). These contributions provided the backbone of quantum electrodynamics and chemistry, which together encompass virtually everything technologically relevant to human beings. The von Newmann universal computer architecture would be nowhere without these contributions. (Not to mention his reliance on Alan Turing, another pure mathematician.)
Finally, if we are talking about relevance to "the universe we live in," or even to scientific contributions generally, no one tops Einstein, and von Neumann is not even in the top ten! Don't take my word for it, ask any physicist. Well, how about just in intellectual prowess? Note, the following statement from Eugene Wigner who know both men intimately:
"Einstein's understanding was deeper even than von Neumann's. His mind was both more penetrating and more original than von Neumann's. And that is a very remarkable statement."
[One final note: A recent attempt by a poster to undermine Einstein's person character--particularly as it applied to social responsibility-- was outrageous and entirely misplaced. He was not morally perfect in his private life; but he showed a consistent regard for humanity generally, and was often outspoken in his condemnation of social policies and injustices; while many of his collogues turned a blind eye. I regret that I did not respond in detail to that post.]
See Abraham Pais, Subtle is the Lord: The science and life of Albert Einstein; who, incidentally, was himself a physicist who also knew both Einstein and von Neumann personally.
Date: October 10, 2021 12:42AM
As great as Einstein was, he had many contemporaries just as good. Lorentz and Minkowski, for example. So, why did he get to be the rock star? Not because of his goodness, but because he served the right masters.
David Bohm did not serve those masters. He may be the only physicist in history awarded a PhD without a dissertation. Why? Because his dissertation became classified after his advisor used its findings in the Manhattan Project. Turns out making bombs wasn't Bohm's thing, which didn't help his career.
Going further back, to the Enlightenment, consider the character of Rene Descartes. His contemporaries included Gottfried Leibniz, the co-inventor of Calculus and a polymath. A real Renaissance man. Why wasn't Leibniz the Father of Modern Science? Because Descartes was a warrior. The powers that be wanted Science to serve power. Had the world followed the path of Leibniz instead of Descartes, the last 400 years would have been drastically different.
So here we are, 400 years on, with mainstream science firmly entrenched in physical materialism. I would call it a cult of materialism, promoted by another rock star physicist, Richard Feynman. Another womanizing attention hound who greatly pleased his establishment masters.
Choose ye this day whom ye will serve, as they say. Whom did Joseph Smith serve? I will tell you. A lying womanizer who chases anything with a skirt does not serve God. A man who uses his sexuality in that way lives in his lower energy centers. JS and BY were carnally minded, all hypocrisy to the contrary. Mormonism is not your friend. It's a mental prison that provides you with friends in the form of cellies.
Mormon leaders pretend to speak for God so they want you to serve them. This feature is common to fundamentalist religions. They are God's middlemen. God is inside you, is you, is everyone and everything. To serve God is to serve that connection. Mormons adopted all of their good tricks from Christianity and took their bad tricks from cults and maybe a few from old scratch himself. Teaching self-sabotage makes a Mormon compulsively serve the wrong master.
Christianity seems to have been made for the animistic world. The Enlightenment was not kind to it, as Nietzsche pointed out when he said "God is dead, and we killed Him". However, Christian mysticism seems to be making a comeback. There is a lot of cross pollination with Eastern traditions like Buddhism, Taoism, and Hinduism. I can see Christianity evolving to meet the needs of the 21st century.
As you point out, a serial cheater isn't someone to place on a pedestal. My mystical view is that anyone in a position of authority should be faithful to their spouse because otherwise the personal self-sabotage that results from living that way scales up to the limits of their authority. That’s why the United States finds itself in its current situation. But as Trump's appeal illustrates, we want leaders who make us feel good about being bad. No wonder selling democracy to the world can only be done at gunpoint.
Edited 4 time(s). Last edit at 10/10/2021 01:32AM by bradley.
Date: October 10, 2021 01:34AM
I quibble with a few of your minor points.
First, I don't think Einstein, Newton, and some of the other famous physicists became rock stars solely because they served the authorities. At least as important was their marketability, their control of their public images. Newton used his position in the royal society (? I forget the actual name) to block some of his rivals and even to take credit for their work. Einstein presented a marketable, even iconic, image who wrote some books on pop politics and geopolitics which are embarrassingly shallow but appealed to the reflexive pacifism of the nuclear age. He was probably more attractive to the public after he turned against the authorities.
Second, just as Henry is wrong to offer Einstein a defense ad hominem, so too must we avoid rejecting someone's achievements for his unethical conduct. Everyone you mention except JS (although I guess charlatans can be great too) was a prodigy in his particular field and should be recognized as such even as we denounce their shortcomings.
Finally, and not contrary to your views, a word about pedestals. Perhaps we should dispense with those structures altogether. That would enable us to look at people based on the congeries of incompatible facts that comprise each individual rather than insisting on simplistic tendentious glosses. That Einstein was a bad husband and father does not diminish his stature among physicists. They are merely two facets of a complex personality.
Date: October 10, 2021 03:08AM
"so too must we avoid rejecting someone's achievements for his unethical conduct."
Why? Christopher Columbus "discovered" the New World, making the world safe for slavery. It wasn't so great for the people who were already living here.
Likewise Einstein's selling FDR on the feasibility of atomic weapons. Not so great for the residents of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Or Bikini Atoll.
But all of this is beside my point, which is that personal lives are not separate from professional lives for esoteric reasons. You see an ethical problem, I see a technical problem. The problem involves the energy body and nonlocal consciousness, which is very fringe Physics and also spiritual tradition. Besides, what profits a man if he should gain the world but lose his own soul?
My other thought is that we get the leaders we deserve. It's not so much meritocracy (Trump again), but the vagaries of the collective unconscious. So these thought leaders get manifested for unfathomable reasons.
Although I keep circling back to the end game, which is planetary ascension. That would be a good reason. The quickest way to drive social evolution is through evil men.
Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/10/2021 03:14AM by bradley.