Friday, October 01, 2010

Einstein's Jewish Science and Contemporary Science and Society

First, good news. Einstein's Jewish Science, the book project I have been working on with my colleague Stephen Stern has been picked up by the Johns Hopkins University Press. It should make it to bookstore shelves by March 2012.

The project examines ways in which Einstein's science fits (or doesn't) into the politics of the time and the community he came out of. We often hold to a naive view of science in which practitioners are a combination of Joe Friday asking for "just the facts, ma'am" and Mister Spock using nothing but cold logic on those facts. But the fact is that the scientific project is undertaken by people and embedded in a larger context and that context does play some role in what science gets done and how it gets done. We are not making the absurd move that the theory of relativity is Talmudic in origin (it isn't), but asking the more intricate question about where the cultural residue that covers all human activities might be located with Einstein.

Where is it with current science? A federal court is right now reviewing whether embryonic stem cell research on new lines can move forward with government funding. Here's a place where contemporary politics and religion are affecting research. Are there others?