Sometimes, ingenious scientists and engineers can run circles around humanities PhDs. Sir Isaac Newton, Galileo, Leonardo Da Vinci, and Benjamin Franklin were all equally adept at understanding the human condition and unlocking the secrets of STEM (Science, Tech, Engineering, Math). Albert Einstein is not a member of that elite group of polymaths. To understand why, we must appreciate the difference between intelligence and wisdom.
Intelligence is the processing capacity of the brain to synthesize complexities of varying degrees. Highly intelligent people can solve complexities that normal people will never be able to solve, no matter how hard they try. Wisdom is the sound and serene judgement regarding the conduct of life. It affects knowledge acquisition, accuracy, cognitive integrity, speculative depth, and intellectual acuteness.
A wise person has a high level of reflectiveness and judgment. Reflectiveness is the tendency to consider events and beliefs through the lens of their basis and consequences. Judgment requires experience, values, and visions that align with human nature. A wise person is prescient while his peers turn out to be wrong. A wise person can see the truth in a cloud of uncertainty and vagueness, even if they can’t justify their judgments with irrefutable evidence. Wisdom is a product of experience, knowledge, morality, and cognitive integrity. Intelligent people have an advantage in gaining wisdom, but that’s not a guarantee that they will undergo the moral, cognitive, epistemological, and experiential developments needed for wisdom.
In STEM fields, we often encounter smart fools (aka smart dumbasses). They are highly intelligent, but severely lacking in wisdom. They make terrible executives and managers. They struggle to acquire business acumen that comes naturally to wise technologists. History is no stranger to this dichotomy of STEM personalities. Unlike Galileo and Ben Franklin, Albert Einstein was a smart dumbass. Despite having access to the correct economists of his day — Ludwig von Mises, F.A. Hayek, and many others — he vociferously advocated democratic socialism. Einstein not only had access to the justified scholars who disproved the tenets of socialism, but he had access to generations of socialist failures. He wrote his essay “Why Socialism?” in 1949:
150 years after Charles Fourier wrote his first contribution for Utopian Socialism in 1799
101 years after the Oneida Community was established in America in 1848
86 years after August Bebel formed the German democratic socialist party (SPD) in 1863
30 years after Weimar Germany was founded in 1919, starting a long tradition of dirigiste democratic socialist national self-destruction including Greece, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Ireland, Venezuela, Tunisia, South Africa, Chile, Argentina, and Brazil
The history of socialism over 220 years has proven that Einstein was not prescient, and that his contemporaries like F.A. Hayek and Ludwig von Mises were the wise ones. How could such an intelligent man be so very wrong about a topic that is less demanding than his mastery of physics?
In short, Einstein lacked wisdom. He needed more reflectiveness, experience, and judgment. His time was spent grinding equations and formulas, rather than experiencing how business, commerce, economics, and culture works in real life. Rather than applying his scientific method to understanding humanity, Einstein simply ignored the sordid history of socialism like a fool, as he was enchanted by its conceptual, unrealistic visions.
He bemoaned the “oligarchy of private capital” (his propagandistic term for oligopoly), as if the answer to an oligopoly is an actual oligarchy ruled by democratic socialist power. It didn’t occur to him that the counterbalance to oligopoly is competition, market agility, and the evolution of economic supply and demand. It didn’t occur to him that democratic socialist policies create and exacerbate oligopolies. In fact, he bemoaned “capitalist competition” in his essay as one of the “great evils” of capitalism. Characterizing a solution to the problem as a “great evil,” is an unwise position.
Albert Einstein showed that he was a typical socialist conspiracy theorist in his essay — with fantasy visions of “fat cat” scapegoats who callously oppress the poor and abused workers. He recited the class warfare vision of “owners of private property” and “workers,” along with the military-religious boogeymen of history. He imagined that a socialist education apparatus would instill a more responsible and harmonious social fabric than the Christian churches of yesterday, which he claimed were the tools of capitalist oppression. The Soviet Union and China have proven him wrong on that point, to name just two godless socialist monstrosities of history that replaced traditional education with socialist indoctrination.
He imagined that economic freedom “cripples the social consciousness of individuals,” which was one of his most foolish items of conspiratorial paranoia. He said that the “capitalist education system” trains students to “worship acquisitive success.” In reality, the irreligious philosophy that underlies socialism — dialectical materialism — is the thing that trains youths to value material acquisition over spiritual and intangible qualities. Dialectical materialism is certainly present in capitalist societies, but it is not a core tenet as it is with socialism. The very nature of class warfare and the socialist vision of humanity depends upon dialectical materialism.
For that reason, Mao Tse-tung and Lenin believed that dialectical materialism must replace all religion and philosophy. Observe the modern Chinese and Russian citizens in their neo-fascist “State Capitalism,” and zwangswirtschaft socialist economies. These products of deep socialism are the epitome of superficial, materialist, consumerist hamster wheels, bemoaned by Einstein in his essay as a unique feature of economic freedom (i.e. ”capitalism”). Most tragically and inhumanely? The tortured workers of socialist societies must have felt the evil of socialist materialist priorities, as Stalin and Mao Tse-tung sold their food and forced-labored them for steel production, while they starved by the millions.
Anyone properly educated in history and religion would understand these facts. Although Einstein was a Jew, and supportive of religion in general, his conspiracy-theorist visions of an oppressive military and colluding priest-class was absurd. European militaries and churches were not driven by consumerist values, even if some exploitative people emerged from time-to-time. Did he not learn about the Christian warriors sacrificing their lives for honor, virtue, and noble causes such as the reclamation of Jerusalem from Islamic invaders, the establishment of the state of Israel, the American revolution, and defeating French, Russian, German, and Japanese fascists and imperialists? It was not Karl Marx or consumerism that these warriors invoked in the trenches, it was God, Jesus Christ, freedom, and honor.
What about the religious mothers putting their love of children and family above their own vanity and superficial materialism? What about the Catholic monks silently and diligently innovating architecture, literature, philosophy, engineering, and science from their monasteries? What about the Catholic legends like Michaelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci, Bach, and Beethoven divesting themselves of consumerist motives and sacrificing their lives for pure intangible inspiration and their love of God and the good of humanity?
Contrary to Einstein‘s conspiracy-theorist vision of history, the military, priests, and statesmen of the past were not so cut-and-dry. There were wicked ones and there were saintly ones, as in any culture, and overall, the Christian culture itself inspired great sacrifice for spiritual and intangible objectives, rather than the materialist agenda of socialists who think they can fairly count, allocate, and redistribute every last penny of wealth in a society.
Was it the Catholic clergy or Queen Elizabeth whose agents went door-to-door, forcing “the workers” to inventory every last item in their house, including spoons, plates, shoes, clothes, and toys? No, those were the socialist Russians, Cubans, and Chinese. In the process of dekulakization, the Russians even accelerated the “training” of their door-to-door thugs with propaganda packets. Any motivated student can find archival footage of the legions of state-empowered Soviet thugs grabbing the equipment with glee before they embarked upon their state-sanctioned socialist oppression.
Einstein even finishes the essay by singing the merits of the Soviet Constitution, Chapter 10, in which the Russian communists “guaranteed” jobs and quality of living to their subjects. If he was as erudite as Ludwig von Mises just 30 years prior, he’d have understood what a deception it was: to believe that an all-powerful state would ever be fairer to citizens than independent businessmen cooperating for mutual interests, and to believe that motives of ideology are always necessarily more humane than motives of profit and income.
But perhaps the most embarrassing indicator of Einstein‘s stupidity about politics, humanity, and economics is not his sophomoric essay on the fictitious merits of democratic socialism. It is his gullible sycophancy for Upton Sinclair, an admitted liar (agitator), and one of the twentieth century’s most absurd propagandists for syndicalism, anarchosocialism, and democratic socialism. Einstein even wrote a preface for Upton Sinclair’s book “Mental Radio,” which explored the ideas of psychic phenomena and mentalism.
The antagonistic anti-Christians who deride religious belief should take note: their ingenious irreligious scientists are often as equally-grasping for the human needs and elements of religion, no matter how much they try to shroud their supernatural interests as “curiosity,” and “open-mindedness.” Even if skeptical, they speak of mystical and faith-based phenomena (like mentalism) with “openness to the possibility” in the same way that Christians speak of the “mysteries of the faith.” Ever-the-objective and rational ones, aren’t they? Do they feel a bit of hypocrisy when they spend hundreds of hours absorbing aliens, science fiction, spiritualism, mentalism, “the force,” and whatever mystical conception is currently in vogue?
To Einstein’s credit, he was wise and fair about religion, as a Jew with unorthodox sentiments. As it is with so many religious geniuses like Sir Isaac Newton, Galileo, and Thomas Jefferson, their religious beliefs and visions are complicated and unorthodox, bringing them into conflict with the religious authorities of their day while frustrating the faithful and unfaithful alike.
When I think of Einstein, I remember a physics graduate student in college. I was a junior and had only one course in Thermodynamics, and he came to me desperate for help on real-world problems that he couldn’t solve for his class. Our instructors were constantly tricking us with real-world complexities that threw off our presumptions and closed-form math and modeling mindset. As an Engineering Physics student (Applied Physics), this was invaluable, and training for wisdom.
It’s the difference between Einstein and Oppenheimer. While Einstein no doubt moved humanity’s understanding of our natural world magnificently forward? Oppenheimer and his team of engineers enjoy the honor of having prevented more war deaths than anyone in history, as Mutually Assured Destruction flatlined the exponential rise of war casualties that commenced with the American Civil War and Napoleon’s conquests and peaked during World War II.
One might say that those who fixate solely upon the specter of a nuclear apocalypse might open their eyes a bit wider, to see the countless benefits of nuclear science, including the prospect of transitioning off of a limited fossil fuel supply. But that might require reflectiveness and judgment that, like Einstein, they have yet to acquire.
And for the profound question of the day: how can a man as brilliant as Einstein be duped into passionately believing socialist conspiracy theories? His visions of historical military-priest oppression, anti-colonialism, imperialists, and capitalists vs. “workers“ were so cartoonish as to make him amenable to the most absurd polemicists of his day such as Upton Sinclair. How could he be so brilliant at physics, wise about religion, yet a massive fool about economics, national security, and politics?
In the next part of this essay, we will review the distinction between real conspiracies, conspiracy theories, and popular falsehoods. If the story of Einstein’s economic and political essays didn’t drive the point home, let’s spell it out. Wisdom plays a large role as we seek to understand why a person’s vulnerability to conspiracy theory has little to do with intelligence. Those who claim otherwise have failed to accurately define popular conspiracy theories like Einstein’s socialist visions, BLM, Occupy Wall Street, and the Trump-Russia collusion hoax. Many intelligent people have fallen for these conspiracy theories.