Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Time to Take WLC to Task (Again)

I initially wrote this on Craig-Land, in a post that I titled Is WLC anti-science or unscientific or ascientistic, or something else?  I must have just been riled up, because I’ve had to edit it quite a bit, removing extraneous words and trying to provide some context.

It might seem to be a little bit technical and esoteric for a forum inhabited by amateur apologists, but remember that they aspire to incorporate science into their endeavours and to bend the findings of science to serve their agenda.


My departure point here is WLC's Q&A response on relativity.

In short, WLC is not arguing against relativity per se, but he is arguing for one interpretation of relativity over the other (or, rather, the other two).

The first interpretation that WLC deals with is Einstein's, which WLC implies was from his 1905 paper.  The trouble is that the interpretation that WLC is talking about isn't in that paper.  There's nothing in there that implies that Einstein thought that "there is no over-arching way the world is".  The closest is perhaps this statement in Section 2 of Part I (The Kinematical Part) – On the Relativity of Lengths and Time:

So we see that we cannot attach any absolute signification to the concept of simultaneity, but that two events which, viewed from a system of co-ordinates, are simultaneous, can no longer be looked upon as simultaneous events when envisaged from a system which is in motion relatively to that system.

But this is true in all three interpretations.

I thought that maybe Einstein said something like that which WLC claims in his argument with Bergson in 1922, but even that doesn't seem to be so.  At best, Einstein indicated that he held that the time of the philosophers does not exist and that there remains only a psychological time that differs from the physicist’s.  Perhaps WLC extrapolated from this.

Anyways, WLC calls Einstein's interpretation (one which he may well never have held) "really kooky" and thus dismisses it, purportedly leaving only the interpretations of Minkowski and Lorentz.  However, suggesting that Einstein's conception was different to Minkowski's is ridiculous since Einstein incorporated Minkowski’s four-space into his work on General Relativity.  Sure, he didn't initially go along with it, but once he understood the principles, Einstein not only adopted them but showed that it all works.  The "really kooky" interpretation was no more than an intermediate thing, if even that.

The major problem comes in when WLC is trying to choose between Lorentz and Minkowski and I think that it is at this point that he (WLC) become profoundly unscientific or anti-science.

In order to make the choice, WLC relies on his belief that there is a god of a particular sort with particular characteristics, as his final paragraph shows:

For I claim that God’s timeless existence, given that there is a temporal world, is possible only if a tenseless view of time is correct; whereas if a tensed view is right, God exists temporally in absolute time. Since I am firmly convinced that a tensed view of time is correct, I think that Lorentz was, in fact, right, and that God accordingly exists in time

So, he plumps for Lorentz (which gives him a god existing temporally in absolute time).  Hopefully readers can see what WLC did there, he argued "the god of WLC -> Lorenz".

Furthermore, he's arguing that if Lorenz is wrong and space really is Minkowskian, then the god of WLC cannot exist.  I think this is a little short-sighted of him (WLC, that is).


WLC also presents a false dilemma between "tensed time" in which past and future are real (whatever "real" might mean in this context) and "tenseless time" which he characterises as "just an illusion of human consciousness".


So, is WLC anti-science, willing to toss science aside if it is inconvenient with respect to his god beliefs?  Or is he simply unscientific, which would possibly imply that he is pseudo-scientific willing to use science-like pronouncements with little if any scientific basis?  Or is he ascientistic, merely charting a difficult course which requires you to use the boat of philosophy here, then leap onto a scientific cart there, and finally ride the rhetorical slippery-dip to a presupposed conclusion (rather than the scientists who are plodding along in the cart the whole way, wondering who that crazy hitch-hiker was)?  Or maybe ... maybe he's a charlatan making it up as he goes along, using whatever tricks he thinks will convince the punters?  Or something else perhaps?


There is in fact a way to view fourspace (a form of "tenseless time") which is entirely compatible with a god, in fact it's a view that many physicists reject quite fervently perhaps because it opens the door to a Minskowian variant of a god.  I've talked previously about the expansion of space being time.  Implicit in that model is the idea that there is expansion and a rate of expansion.  This might still not leap out at the reader, but it should be more clear from what I wrote in On Time.  I talk there about an invariant space-time speed, including the speed of time (which would be c in a rest frame).  For this to be meaningful there would be some sort of meta-time against which time in our universe would be expanding and time in our universe would be passing.  (This might just be a metaphorical thing of course, but for a god to use it, it'd have to be real, we humans simply wouldn't have any access to it.)

From outside the universe, a god would notionally be able to observe everything simultaneously.  It could tweak events in the "past" and watch (in meta-time) how they play out in the "future".  This has the benefit of avoiding the horns of the predestination-free will dilemma.  Humans in a universe like this one could have absolute free will, but the god watching from outside would be able know the consequences nevertheless, since all of history (including future history) is there before its gaze, simultaneously in meta-time.  Theists could use this model to explain why there were far more interventions (miracles, visitations etc) in the past and none recently.  All the necessary tweaking, or at least major tweaking, has already been done.


Note that while I do think we all have an invariant space-time speed (c), meaning that I can agree with both Minkowski and Lorenz, I don't think that there's a god out there tweaking our universe.

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