Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Richards on Relativity

Here's ID proponent Jay Richards, lecturing us about relativity. The subject is this article, from The New Yorker about Godel and Einstein:

The February 28 issue of The New Yorker has an interesting article by Jim Holt on Einstein and Gödel. It bears a striking similarity to an article on Einstein and Gödel that David Berlinski published in Discover magazine in 2002. Similarities aside, Holt summarizes Einstein's argument on special relativity nicely, so nicely, in fact, that it reveals what I have long suspected is a mistake in Einstein's argument.

Holt tells us:

A century ago, in 1905, Einstein proved that time, as it had been understood by scientist and layman alike, was a fiction. And how did he do that? Simple: If the events in question are at some distance from one another, judgments of simultaneity can be made only by sending light signals back and forth.

Whoops. Stop right there. Maybe there's more to Einstein's argument than that (although this is just how I've seen it described many times before.) But assuming this is accurate, there's an obvious problem.

Determining that two events are simultaneous is not the same thing as two events being simultaneous. Right now, my wife is doing something at home. She's doing it right now even though I don't know what it is she's doing.

Einstein's argument seems to mistake epistemology for ontology. Holt's description of Einstein's argument, as it proceeds in this article, provides more evidence of this.

See the original article for links.

More to Einstein's argument than a two-sentence description in a popular-level account? Ya think?

What kind of mindset does it take to say “I've found what appears to be an error in a common, popular-level treatment of a major theory from physics. I guess Einstein and everyone after him has overlooked this, so I'm going to rush to point it out in a blog entry.”

This sort of arrogance is SOP for creationists. We're talking about people whose knowledge of evolution starts and ends with popular work of Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Dawkins. It is upon this basis that they feel qualified to attack the entire field.

Anyway, cosmologist Sean Carroll has the takedown here.

I'm reminded of something Richard Dawkins once wrote, responding to a vicious review of The Selfish Gene by philospher Mary Midgley: “Indeed, we are in danger of assuming that nobody would dare to be so rude without taking the elementary precaution of being right in what she said.”


At 10:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Richards' final remark, about mistaking ontology and epistemology, is quite annoying. To suppose that these categories are distinct at the level of abstruse physical theory is to take a philosophical stance that is not universal among philosophers of science. The relationship between epistemology and ontology in this area is very much a subject about which reasonable minds can differ.

At 3:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My cat says that Einstein was wrong and that the best way to test simultenaity (sic) was on how bad the open can of cat food smelled


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