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Old 06 December 2007, 04:27 AM
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snopes snopes is offline
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Icon18 Einstein on evil

Comment: "The real problem is in the hearts and minds of men. it is not a
problem of physics but of ethics. it is easier to denature plutonium than
to denature the evil from the spirit of man." (quoted in Joyful
Noiseletter, Oct. '07)

Did Albert Einstein say this?
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Old 06 December 2007, 03:55 PM
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Bonnie Bonnie is offline
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I think it's probably best to say that Einstein kinda sorta wrote that.

[From Einstein's interview with Michael Amrine, "'The Real Problem Is in the Hearts of Men'; Professor Einstein says a new type of thinking is needed to meet the challenge of the atomic bomb," The New York Times, Sunday Magazine, 23 June 1946, Pg. SM4. Einstein is listed as the author of this long essay.]

The basic principles of the Acheson-Lilienthal Report [on the International Control of Atomic Energy] are scientifically sound and technically ingenious, but as Mr. Baruch wisely said, it is a problem not of physics but of ethics. There has been too much emphasis on legalisms and procedure: it is easier to denature plutonium than it is to denature the evil spirit of man.


Science has brought forth this danger, but the real problem is in the hearts and minds of men. We will not change the hearts of other men by mechanisms, but by changing our hearts and speaking bravely.
By the way, a different version seemed to have started appearing in the 1950s.

[From L.L. Loring's letter to The Los Angeles Times, "Lag in Ethics," 10 April 1955, Pg. B4.]

According to the summation of one great scientist, Prof. Albert Einstein, our present generation would be safer if it had more wisdom in government and morals and less in science and engineering.

He paints a grim picture as follows: "The real problem is in the hearts and minds of men. It is not a problem of physics, but of ethics. It is easier to denature plutonium than to denature the evil spirit of man. What frightens us is not the explosive power of the atom bomb, but the equally explosive powers of human personalities.

"Man's skills have outstripped his morals. His engineering has leaped ahead of his wisdom. We cannot cancel or call back his scientific advance, but we can and must, if the world is to survive, help man to catch up. In God's name, if you still believe in God ... we must somehow get control of what science has given the world, or else we shall perish."
It's difficult to say whether that particular bit of text is Einstein's product. It's possible that something like the above (especially the first paragraph) may have appeared in some of the pamphlets (such as "Only Then Shall We Find Courage") put out by the Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists, of which Einstein was a co-founder. Religious writers seem particularly attracted to this version because of that second paragraph, which feels much like a later, non-Einsteinian addition to me.

-- Bonnie
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