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Pool: On quoting Einstein

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"Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live all its life believing that it is stupid."

"As soon as economic conditions improve, Hitler will sink into oblivion. He dramatizes impossible extremes in an amateurish manner."

One of these two quotations is by Albert Einstein. The other is falsely attributed to him. Can you guess which is which?

The second quote comes from a little book "Einstein: On Cosmic Religion and Other Opinions and Aphorisms" originally published in 1931 in New York. The first comes from the Internet.

Einstein said and wrote on many subjects during his long lifetime. He was not only a brilliant scientist who changed the way we perceive the cosmos, but he was also a kind and gentle man who became a public figure and whose utterances were cherished.

Having become a sage, Einstein is particularly likely to be misquoted, to the extent that some people simply make up quotes and attach his name.

Conversely, it is uncommon to see quotes showing that Einstein was a man of his time who does not share our contemporary values.

For example, he actually wrote this: "In Mme. Curie I can see no more than a brilliant exception. Even if there were more woman scientists of like caliber they would serve as no argument against the fundamental weakness of the feminine organization."

Curious to find more of Einstein's actual quotations, I bought "The New Quotable Einstein," published by Princeton University Press and edited by Alice Calaprice. Much scholarship has gone into the book.

Some misquotes simply attribute to Einstein something said by others. Some quotes clearly predate Einstein. Spurious quotes are identified, and although we cannot be absolutely sure he didn't say them, we can be - ahem - relatively sure.

So here's a true-false test. Which of these did Einstein really say? Answers are at the bottom.

1. "Two things inspire me to awe - the starry heavens above and the moral universe within."

2. "If the facts don't fit the theory, change the facts."

3. "Organized power can be opposed only by organized power."

4. "If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music."

5. "That a man can take pleasure in marching in formation to the strains of a band is enough to make me despise him."

6. "If you think intelligence is dangerous, try ignorance."

7. "Common sense is a collection of prejudices one acquires by age eighteen."

8. "I never had the chance to teach youngsters. A pity. I would actually have liked to teach high school."

9. "A man's moral worth is not measured by what his religious beliefs are, but rather by what emotional impulses he has received from Nature."

10. "What really interests me is whether God could have created the world any differently; in other words, whether the requirement of logical simplicity admits a margin of freedom."

11. 11. "Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances for survival on Earth as much as the evolution of a vegetarian diet."

12. 12 "Isn't all of philosophy like writing in honey? It looks wonderful at first sight, but when you look again it is all gone. Only the smear is left."

Answers: 1-F, 2-F, 3-T, 4-T, 5-T, 6-F, 7-F, 8-T, 9-T, 10-T, 11-F, 12-T

<em>- Frank Thomas Pool is a poet and English teacher working in Austin. He grew up on Maple Street in South Longview and graduated from Longview High School. Email him at FrankT.Pool@gmail.com.</em>

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Today's Bible verse

“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.”

1 John 3:1

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