Non-Privileged Reference Frames

Once upon a time we believed we were the center of the universe. Around the earth circled the sun, planets and stars. If we observe light traveling in all directions, it travels at the same speed. But from Newton we know that can only happen in one frame: where nothing is moving. It seems we are in the most privileged situation in the universe.

By 1900, the evidence was pretty conclusive. And then there was relativity. One of the most startling discoveries of human history. It showed that, no matter where you are, you will appear to be special. It will look like you’re in the center of the universe. It will look like you’re the ones not moving.

Relativity was a fascinating beast. Faced with this realization it said: Isn’t cosmology great, its a wild ride, nothing is as it appears! Don’t be content to believe your little corner of the universe is at the center, we can figure out the universal picture.

It is the very opposite of relativism, which would say. Isn’t cosmology crap, it is pointless, nothing is as it appears. Everybody can go on thinking they are the center of the universe, but we’ll never know who’s right, so we’ll pretend nobody is.

Theology is struggling between those who think the earth really is the center of the universe, and those who think that everybody might as well have their own beliefs because we can never decide who is right. We have religious relativism, where is religious relativity?

[It only occurred to me after writing this post that, since this is effectively the question I’m trying to answer, that would make me Einstein :/ Which is pretty darn megalomaniac for a Wednesday afternoon!]



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3 responses to “Non-Privileged Reference Frames

  1. Good criticism of relativism.
    I have told Christians time and again that I am absolutely (!) not a relativist.
    They feel all atheists must be relativists.
    Good luck with your Einsteinian Venture !
    We shall all benefit, even if you fail.

    Can you give us a tid-bit of a sample?

  2. Ian


    Yes, I hope I’ll give more examples of how I’m approaching it as I go. At the moment I’m well into the analysis, and have precious little synthesis! So its mostly questions in my head at the moment, rather than answers.

  3. tension man.. gotta hold things in tension. i like relativism because it keeps you humble: the world appears to be centered on you, but everyone thinks that. yet one can’t go completely to the point of “there is no truth” but merely “the truth is not what it appears.” it is irreducibly complex. 😉

    like the rabbi’s description of the Torah: it is like a 70 sided gem, you have it one way admiring how the light reflects and just when you think you can describe it, you give it a little turn and the whole picture changes. that’s how i look at the world. i like hearing theists describe it just as much as i like hearing atheists describe it. i know the truth is some where in the middle of this tension… maybe even more!

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