Einstein, Atoms and Prejudices

Author: P. Fernando Pascual, L.C | Source:

With wide diffusion in books, magazines, and Internet pages this sentence is attributed to Albert Einstein: "It is easier to disintegrate an atom than a prejudice". In English it appears in newsrooms like this: "What a sad was when it is easier to smash an atom than a prejudice".

Although there’s no evidence exactly when, how and by whom this phrase was first said, in many places where it is quoted as Einsteins’ no reference is offered to ensure his authorship.

There are even Internet pages that collect lists of phrases attributed to Einstein and separate the true from the false. The phrase about atoms and prejudices is sometimes on the list of true phrases, while in other places it is marked as among the false.

Beyond the authorship of the sentence, the frequency and the freedom with which it is quoted as if it were of Einstein to speak about the prejudices it serves precisely to demonstrate how something that revolves and spins thousands of times, of word of mouth, of text in text , screen-on-screen, is seen as if it were the famous scientist when missing elements that guarantee it.

In other words, to attribute to someone what is not certain that they have said obeys that notion of human credulity.

With regard to the phrase of atoms, their disintegration and prejudices, it is even sympathetic to see it attributed, almost like an unquestionable mantra, to Einstein, by those who wish to promote the critical spirit, when a serious person would not attribute it to the great German scientist without a reliable sources.

In today's world, which boasts autonomous thinking and scientific competence, serious efforts to study in depth each argument coexist alongside prejudices and legends that demonstrate astonishing credulity in thousands of people.

If Einstein were alive, perhaps he would add (if the sentence were to be his): precisely because I recognize that prejudices can depart from the truth, I ask that I am not attributed a sentence that I have never said.

The famous phrase about atoms and prejudice cannot be attributed to Einstein until sufficient evidence is offered for this. At the same time, that phrase invites us to be more cautious before accepting for true what has no guarantee of being and to set aside prejudices that prevent us from seeing reality well.

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