As Albert Einstein once said, “Don’t believe every quote you read on the internet, because I totally didn’t say that.” This year marks Einstein’s 136th birthday and to celebrate, we have nine quotes incorrectly attributed to Einstein that you may have seen swirling around the internet lately. They’re all fake.
1. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.
Einstein never said that. And neither did Benny Franklin. Salon has a good round-up of people using this quote in various political contexts, because politicians really love this quote. The Ultimate Quotable Einstein traces the quote to Rita Mae Brown‘s 1983 book Sudden Death, but it’s almost certainly older than that. Also, that’s not the definition of insanity.
2. Everything is energy and that’s all there is to it. Match the frequency of the reality you want and you cannot help but get that reality. It can be no other way. This is not philosophy. This is physics.
Nope. There’s absolutely no evidence that Einstein ever said this. You don’t get to choose whatever reality suits you. Well, at least not without the help of some cognitive dissonance and a fistful of hallucinogens.
3. International law exists only in textbooks on international law.
Not Einstein. The anthropologist Ashley Montagu actually said it in an interview with Einstein.
4. Evil is the result of what happens when man does not have God’s love present in his heart. It’s like the cold that comes when there is no heat or the darkness that comes when there is no light.
This quote comes from a viral email that’s been circulating for over a decade now. In it, a snooty professor is arguing with a brash young student about God and the nature of evil. Slowly but surely, using air-tight logic, the student makes a fool of the professor and proves that God is all around us. The big twist at the end? The student was a young Albert Einstein all along! Except that it wasn’t. Snopes has a good breakdown of the letter’s history. It’s fun to re-read the story and imagine that the student is actually Jerry Lewis with the hiccups.
5. Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.
Nope. The quote certainly makes a person feel better when they fail at something. But we can’t credit Einstein with this one. As Quote Investigator explains, allegories about animals doing impossible things have been incredibly popular in the past century. But no, this one isn’t from Einstein.
6. I refuse to believe that God plays dice with the universe.
Not exactly. The actual quote comes from a private letter Einstein wrote in 1942 to Cornelius Lanczos at Princeton. As quoted in the book Albert Einstein, the Human Side: New Glimpses from His Archives: “You are the only person I know who has the same attitude towards physics as I have: belief in the comprehension of reality through something basically simple and unified… It seems hard to sneak a look at God’s cards. But that He plays dice and uses ‘telepathic’ methods… is something that I cannot believe for a single moment.”
7. Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.
Not Einstein. The quote actually comes from E.F. Schumacher‘s 1973 book Small is Beautiful: A Study of Economics As If People Mattered.
8. Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.
It’s a pleasant point to be made, but Einstein never said this. Quote Investigator points to a 1963 paper by sociologist William Bruce Cameron: “It would be nice if all of the data which sociologists require could be enumerated because then we could run them through IBM machines and draw charts as the economists do. However, not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.”
9. Two things inspire me to awe: the starry heavens and the moral universe within.
This one seems incredibly popular when it’s plastered on top of photos of starry night skies and people doing yoga. But Einstein never said that. It’s actually a version of a quote from Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Practical Reason: “Two things fill the mind with ever-increasing wonder and awe, the more often and the more intensely the mind of thought is drawn to them: the starry heavens above me and moral law within me.”
Photo from the Associated Press: Professor Albert Einstein at the microphone, congratulates Thomas Edison on the 50 years anniversary of the first electric lamp, by telephone from Berlin to America, on 18 October 1930.