Louis Marshall Takes Exception to Charges Made Against Professor Einstein by Cardinal O’connell

Louis Marshall, in his address at the Einstein Jubilee Celebration held Tuesday evening at the Manhattan Opera House, New York City, stated:

“A few weeks ago, with remarkable spontaneity, the scholarly world celebrated the fiftieth birthday of Albert Einstein, acclaiming his great achievements as a physicist, a mathematician, and a thinker. The person to whom this accolade occasioned the greatest surprise was the recipient of the greetings which came from every region of the inhabited earth. However great was his desire to escape from the demonstration, it was literally impossible for him to do so. Richly has he merited these marks of approbation, confidence and admiration, for he is recognized by those whose verdict is accepted as an honest and truhtful estimate of the man, as one of the great intellectual figures of the age. His life has been devoted to study, meditation, research and education. His imagination has enabled him to penetrate into the far places of the universe, into the starry heaven, into the widest reaches of philosophy and human thought. And withal he has maintained his active interest in the world in which we live, in humanity, and in the struggles of the human race to attain a higher plane of civilization.

“Within the last few years he has been identified as the promulgator of scientific theories, which though at first regarded as startling on account of their scope and novelty, have been generally accepted by men of learning, by the recognized experts in the various sciences, and by the leaders of thought everywhere. During that brief period upwards of 1,000 essays, pamphlets and books have been written in many lands and in many languages, by men whose mental training and experience qualified them, in acceptance, elucidation and endorsement of the theories which for all time will bear his name. They have been tested to the uttermost by such men as Professor Michaelson and by mathematicians of unquestioned attainments, and have been found to meet the ordeal to which they have been put,” he said.

“Here and there, as is natural, voices have been heard which have expressed a doubt or which have indulged in belittlement or have indicated a desire for further investigation. It would have been strange had this not been so, for wherever men exist and wherever new theories or doctrines are advanced men may honestly differ. However, the overwhelming consensus of opinion vigorously and triumphantly ranks Einstein among the immortals and awards him the meed of vision, originality and intellectual honesty.

“Those who have had personal contact with him, even though they can not speak with authority as technicians or educators or as adepts in the field of science, are filled with admiration for the man. He inspires trust, he attracts by his charming personality, he disarms doubt and suspicion. He is the embodiment of modesty and simplicity. He shrinks from praise and adultation, and refrains from speaking of himself and his work. One would never imagine that it is his mind that has brought forth the tremendous ideas with which the souls of thousands of the princes of intellect are palpitating in unison.

“One of the great privileges of my life was to spend several days with him at Geneva three Summers ago. He was a reevlation to me. He was so human, so absolutely free from self-satisfaction and pride, his interests were so broad, his love of nature was so apparent, he spoke of music with such feeling and appreciation, and of his fellowmen with such fraternal love, that the feeling that one was in the presence of true greatness was overwhelming. When he spoke of Palestine and of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, it was with eloquence and emotion. His eyes gleamed and I beheld in him the modern product of generations of our Jewish ancestors filled with loyalty and devotion to those ideals which first took root upon the sacred soil whence sprang Israel.

“I have spoken of the well-nigh universal recognition of the achievements and the qualities of this noble man. Yet I feel impelled on this occasion to comment upon a jarring note which during the past week was sounded by an exalted churchman, not only in derogation of the intelligence of him whom we are celebrating, not only of his honesty, but of his motives. The fact that when Einstein’s attention was directed to these animadversions, his sole reply was that they left him cold and indifferent, affords further evidence of his fine sense of propriety. But we who are engaged in this celebration and are confronted with what has been made a public matter are not warranted in maintaining silence.

“In an address delivered to collegians this distinguished man, for whose church I have the highest regard and respect, asked:

” ‘What does all this worked-up enthusiasm about Einstein mean? It evidently is a worked-up fictitious enthusiasm, because I have never met a man who understood in the least what Einstein is driving at; and I have been so much impressed by this fact that I very seriously doubt that Einstein himself knows really what he is driving at.’

“I stop to ask what is implied in this suggestion of a worked-up enthusiasm? It is not the enthusiasm of a mob. It is not the enthusiasm of politicians. It is the enthusiasm of the intellectual elect of the world. Perhaps the learned speaker may not have met a man who understood the theory of relativity, and the later contribution of Einstein to world thought; but the thousand authors who commented upon his work, the tens of thousands of scientific men, the outstanding mathematicians and masters of research, knew what Einstein was driving at. They certainly did not look upon him as an ignoramus or a charlatan.

“Apparently, however, between Sunday the 7th and Friday the 12th of this month this learned gentleman had made a study of Einstein’s theory, which led to the supplemental statement that Einstein is not a true scientist, that since the delivery of his address on Sunday he had gathered new facts, and that he was then convinced that Einstein’s theory is ‘false in its construction, plagiaristic in its main statement and atheistic in its tendencies.’ So within the five days he pretends to have reached an understanding as to what Einstein was driving at. That at least, acquits Einstein of ignorance.

“But let me proceed with the original address. In it he says:

” ‘Now I have my own ideas about the so-called theories of Einstein, with his relativity and his utterly befogged notions about space and time. It seems nothing short of an attempt at muddying the waters, so that without perceiving the drift innocent students are led away into a realm of speculative thought, the sole basis of which, so far as I can see, is to produce a universal doubt about God and His creation.’

“Let me ask what waters are being muddied by these theories? What is there in the theory of relativity that can possibly produce a doubt about God and His creation? Why should a man who reverently approaches the problems of the universe and who recognizes the grandeur of God’s handiwork, be charged with an attempt to corrupt youth, the same charge that was made centuries ago against Socrates? Why this sudden objection to speculative thought? Was it foreign to the medieval followers of Aristotle? Was it unknown to the adepts in scholasticism? I commend the reading of the chapters on Abelard and William of Champeaux and of Saint Thomas Aquinas in Henry Adams’ remarkable book ‘Mont St. Michel and Chartres.’ Does the learned scholar desire to eliminate speculative thought? Is he bent upon overthrowing philosophy and the speculations of those who deal

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with the higher things of life? Is theology itself to become taboo?

“Let me read on. Says he:

“I mean that while I do not wish to accuse Einstein at present of deliberately wishing to destroy the Christian faith and the Christian basis of life, I half suspect that if we wait a little longer we will find he unquestionably will ultimately reveal himself in this attitude. In a word, the outcome of this doubt and befogged speculation about time and space is a cloak beneath which lies the ghastly apparition of atheism.’

“Mark the reserve with which this statement is made! Its author disavows the purpose to accuse Einstein of deliberately seeking the destruction of the Christian faith. So far so good. Then follows the statement that he half suspects that by a little waiting we will find that he unquestionably will reveal himself in this attitude. Such a statement before a court of law, which is declared to be not even a fullfledged suspicion, but merely a half-suspicion. would not be hearkened to for an instant. And yet, with nothing else to build upon, he makes the unqualified deduction that in a little while Einstein will ‘unquestionably’ reveal himself as the destroyer of the Christian faith. Then follows the peroration, that the outcome of this doubt about time and space is a cloak which maskes atheism.

“The logician would say that this is a non sequitur and that there is no relation between a new theory about time and space and atheism. What is there so sacred about the concept of time and space, which originated in the days of Aristotle, three hundred and fifty years before the common era, that makes it atheistic to express a new idea on the subject?

“But, as I have already shown, the semi-suspicious attitude vanishes after the mature reflection of five days, and Einstein stands gibbeted as one who is seeking to undermine belief in God.

“The student of history will at once note the similarity between this attack made in the year 1929 and the attacks upon Copernicus, upon Bruno, upon Keppler, upon Galileo, upon Roger Bacon, upon Spinoza. Because Copernicus departed from the Ptolemaic and Aristotinian ideas of astronomy, because he asserted that the earth had a diurnal motion of rotation, he was condemned. Because Galileo supported the theories of Copernicus he was forced to recant.

“The books of these men were placed upon the Index Librorum Prohibitorum. Is it intimated that the slender pamphlets of Einstein are to be placed upon the Index to join the goodly company that have preceded him and to assure him of immortality? Even without such distinction his fame is secure and will not be contracted by time or space. With Spinoza, often described as the “God-intoxicated man,” he will claim complete freedom of expression for thought and belief in the interest alike of true piety and of the State itself, and with him he may well declare that no speculative or scientific investigation can be regarded as putting religion in jeopardy. No, rather may it be said that it is such men as he who ennoble religion and strengthen the concept of God. Whether the oft-repeated words attributed to Galileo, “eppur si muove,” were ever uttered by him, it is nevertheless true that the world has moved since those evil days, and that in our time men with noble thoughts, who desire to add to the sum of human knowledge, who are engaged in the investigation of the grandeur of God’s universe, cannot be destroyed, nor can their achievements be eradicated by wild and senseless denunciation. We glory in Einstein as a true and faithful child of God,” Mr. Marshall concluded.