Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Theocosmic Diagram

Ever heard of Arvid Reuterdahl?  Perhaps not –– me neither until last fall.

He made this drawing:

It is The Theocosmic Diagram, the frontispiece of Reuterdahl's 1928 book The God of Science, and it graphically distills that book's theory –– a Theory of Everything whereby Reuterdahl demonstrates the essential harmony of religion, philosophy, science, and proves the existence of God and immortality.  Deeply interested in religion and "scientific theism," Reuterdahl rigorously explored these subjects in The God Of Science, using as his organizing paradigm the forms and transformations of energy and the overarching concept of "cosmoenergy."

Visitors may want more data than that provided above –– which admittedly is a teaser –– and they are encouraged to click on The God of Science, its full text being available online.

Arvid Reuterdahl (1876–1933)
Minneapolis Tribune, 4/10/21
Returning to the Diagram, its meaning seems clear enough so it warrants little if any explication from my editors and me.  We concede that aspects of the space-time kinematrix may prove thorny, but in greater measure Todd, Cyril and I have faith in the analytic faculties of our readers. (We confess that we ourselves have not actually read the entirety of The God of Science, and further allow that were we true researchers we would have fully stayed the course on these Theocosmic waters.)

But rather than explicate text, we will

instead offer some relevant music to accompany your study of the Diagram.
In different ways these songs address the complexities that surround our understanding of natural phenomena.

Care to know more about Reuterdahl? He was born in Sweden and came to America as a boy, later earning bachelor's and master's degrees from Brown University.  An academic, Reuterdahl taught engineering at various universities, eventually heading the Department of Engineering and Architecture at the College of St. Thomas (now University of St. Thomas), St. Paul, Minnesota.  Among his publications was an influential 1908 text, Theory and Design of Concreted Arches: A Treatise for Engineers and Technical Students.  Click here for access to the permanent collection of Reuterdahl's papers at the University of St. Thomas.

Curious readers will discover that Reuterdahl invented a world alphabet, was founder of the Inter–Church Theistic Alliance, and was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Science degree in 1923 by the College of Fellows of the Academy of Nations –– an honor arguably offset by Reuterdahl's having founded and being Chancellor of the Academy of Nations.)

All that said, Reuterdahl may be remembered more for having spent years attacking Albert Einstein's theory of relativity –– in 1921 referring to Einstein as the "Barnum" of science and accusing him of being, if not an outright plagiarist, someone whose theory had been antedated by others.

Henry Ford c.1919 
Library of Congress
But here we are sorry to report that Reuterdahl may have been anti-Semitic in his anti-Einsteinism, in part through association.  That is, Reuterdahl was science editor of Henry Ford's anti–Semitic journal The Dearborn Independent –– yes, that Henry Ford, the industrialist who in the early 1920s published The International Jew: The World's Foremost Problem: a four-volume compilation propagating conspiracy theories that linked Jews to Russian Bolshevism and to control of numerous sectors of American life: finance and the Federal Reserve; the theater, music, and motion picture industries; the so-called Jewish Liquor Trust, etc.  Ford also funded the publishing of 500,000 copies of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a repellent 1903 anti-Semitic hoax presented as truth by Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party.

Now I was thinking it unfair to judge Reuterdahl by the company he kept ... until I came across Einstein's sceptics: Who were the relativity deniers?, a 2010 New Scientist  article by Milena Wazeck, PhD.  Dr. Wazeck is Associate Research Scholar of Environmental Studies, New York University, and below is an article-excerpt that addresses anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.

It specifically cites Reuterdahl:

     For a start, someone's views about whether time could
     be stretched were not defined by ethnicity, nationality,
     religion or political convictions.  Einstein's opponents
     included people who held progressive views, and some
     who were of Jewish descent.  So it would be simplistic
     to characterise the fight against relativity theory in the
     1920s as a one-sided nationalistic or anti-Semitic
     campaign.  Nevertheless, those who opposed the theory
     were not above attacking Einstein the person –– the
     democrat, the pacifist, the Jew.  Lenard, for instance, was
     an early adherent of Nazism and a proponent of the
     nationalist and anti-Semitic "German physics".  By 1922,
     he was already ranting about the Jewish "alien spirit"
     that he claimed the theory of relativity incorporated.

     Aware of their marginalised position, many of Einstein's      

     opponents turned to anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.
     "Our trouble in America is that all scientific journals are
     closed to the anti-relativists through Jewish influence.
     The daily press is almost entirely under the control of
     the Jews," Reuterdahl wrote in 1923.  From this position,
     it was easy for Einstein's opponents to see themselves as
     victims rather than aggressors.  In their interpretation of
     reality, the mere existence of relativity theory and the
     non-acceptance of arguments against it qualified as an
     attack on them.  (Vol. 208, Issue 2786, p.51)

Reuterdahl's tie to Henry Ford is sobering, but this last passage makes me aware how much happier I was when I knew less.  Because up to this point Todd, Cyril and I were, frankly, just playing: we genuinely enjoyed the obsessive abstraction and pseudoscience of the Diagram, and goofing with it.  Now we feel as if we had been absorbed in an intricate rock design, only to find something slimy on the other side.

It may turn out –- should we ever get around to thoroughly reading The God of Science –– that the text is merely wacky and not malignant. Still, it doesn't seem so amusing now, and maybe Reuterdahl should have stuck to concrete arches.

At least you'll like the music.

1 comment :

Douglas Bernon said...

...we had been absorbed in an intricate rock design, only to find something slimy on the other side... Man oh man, ain't that the truth a whole bunch of the time. But it sure is fun

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