Puzzled by anti-relativists

  • Thread starter UnicycleGuy
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UnicycleGuy

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Puzzled by "anti-relativists"

Right off the bat, I'm sorry if this is the wrong forum. I joined to ask this question.

What is the story with the apparently large contingent of people who seem to be in denial about SR and GR, and endlessly belittle Einstein's part in creating them? I sort of understand creationists, though I do not share their views, but used to think such people had little to say on physics. As with creationists, no amount of experimental confirmation will ever convince them that they are wrong. Are they anti-semites, religiously inspired, morons, mavericks or all of these?

I have recently entered into a debate with someone who holds some rather strange ideas, but is at least polite. The good news is that this has caused me to dust off my copy of 'Gravitation', and to refresh and improve my (qualitative) understanding of GR. I'll leave the number crunching to people with larger brains. :-)

Maybe I should just walk away, but I prefer The Enlightenment over the Dark Ages.


UnicycleGuy
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
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They don't like things that run counter to their intuition.
 
  • #3
mgb_phys
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They would deny Quantum Mechanics too except they don't understand it
 
  • #4
Kurdt
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They would deny Quantum Mechanics too except they don't understand it
I wasn't aware they understood relativity either.
 
  • #5
RonL
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I think one of my biggest change points was when I started thinking, "what was going on before God put the rainbow in the sky?"
 
  • #6
UnicycleGuy


I could sit here all day and call such people morons and whatnot, but that's not what I'm after. There are lots of things I find counter-intuitive, including SR, but I don't construct gigantic fallacious arguments in some kind of attempt to de-legitimise or undermine them. What is the ultimate motivation? Is it political, religious, racist, financial? Maybe they don't know. I saw this pile of garbage yesterday: http://www.relativitycollapse.net [Broken]. It is passing strange.

My own debate is/was with an individual who seems to find answers to all of the Universe's mysteries in obscure and unsupported claims about plasma. I guess we need mavericks because every now and then they might be right. But not this time, eh?


UnicycleGuy
 
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  • #7
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Without explaining more specifically what their objections are you won't recieve valuable answers to your question. The best you could hope for is speculation on speculation. If 'strange ideas' is as descriptive as you can get then you have the answers you were looking for.

edit - maybe try asking this question on a site that is anti-relativist. I'm sure they would be more than happy to tell you exactly what their objections are. Until then the answer is always 42.
 
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  • #8
UnicycleGuy


Without explaining more specifically what their objections are you won't recieve valuable answers to your question. The best you could hope for is speculation on speculation. If 'strange ideas' is as descriptive as you can get then you have the answers you were looking for.
Well, that's a fair point. I'm not really interested in how A justifies his claim that spacetime curvature is meaningless, B's denial that GPS involves regular relativistic corrections, or what C says to "demonstrate" that Einstein was a plagiarist, etc. I'm more interested in the ultimate motivations for these activities. It seems utterly bizarre to make such claims in face of countless confirmations of the theory. Just more creationist types...

I suspect this is a pointless quest, so I withdraw the question.


UnicycleGuy
 
  • #9
mgb_phys
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I wasn't aware they understood relativity either.
no but E=mc2 is easier to write on a poster than
c8fd68ad6b5fc9167a2843463afc3e62.png


(see even I couldn't get the tex to work out!)
 
  • #10
Janus
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I could sit here all day and call such people morons and whatnot, but that's not what I'm after. There are lots of things I find counter-intuitive, including SR, but I don't construct gigantic fallacious arguments in some kind of attempt to de-legitimise or undermine them. What is the ultimate motivation? Is it political, religious, racist, financial? Maybe they don't know. I saw this pile of garbage yesterday: http://www.relativitycollapse.net. It is passing strange.




UnicycleGuy
The difference is that you seem to be able to accept that some things can be counter-intutitive and still be correct.
Many of these others however, suffer from chronic "teenageritis"; the belief that they already know everything and that all "authority figures" are idiots.
 
  • #11
sylas
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no but E=mc2 is easier to write on a poster than
c8fd68ad6b5fc9167a2843463afc3e62.png


(see even I couldn't get the tex to work out!)
You want this T-shirt:
DontUnderstand.jpg
 
  • #12
Kurdt
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Write the operators out in full why don't you.
 
  • #13
russ_watters
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I wasn't aware they understood relativity either.
They understand just enough to not like it.
 
  • #14


I think that for just about anyone who would devote their life to science their greatest dream is to do something grand and "shake the foundations". Disproving long held theories, as many great scientists in history have done before them, would fit the bill quit nicely.
 
  • #15
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You want this T-shirt:
DontUnderstand.jpg
Where can I get that?
 
  • #16
Ivan Seeking
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I think Janus hit the nail on the head. Some people can't seem to accept that their perception of the world is fallible. There is also a confidence issue. If one doesn't study physics and gain an understanding of how we got to where we are today, it is impossible [for many people] to make the leap of faith and trust science when theory contradicts intuition.

What adds to this problem are those times when science is wrong or incomplete. Two examples come to mind: I was taught that it was a fact that the expansion of the universe is slowing down. There were no qualifiers. It was taught as an absolute fact. In all honesty, I felt a bit betrayed by science when later I learned that an accelerating expansion was within the margin of error all along. Why weren't we told that thirty years ago? Apparently the correct assessment would have been that the expansion could be slowing down, speeding up, or it could be a constant. Could it be that science education showed a bias in order to support the BB Theory?

Another example would be the realization that we had missed 70-90% of the universe. WHOOPS! Talk about egg on the face. To scientists and science lovers, it was a grand discovery. To others, it was just more evidence that scientists take themselves too seriously.

To me the lesson here is not to be so cock-sure that we know as much as we think we do. I love science and physics, so I can only imagine the effect that these discoveries had on people who don't.
 
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  • #17
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Where can I get that?
I second that question lol

To the OP:

If it's for the purpose of a discussion with a friend, if you want to prove them wrong, start by assuming they're right.
 
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  • #18
chroot
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Generally, such people are ignorant about the scientific method. If you talk to them long enough, they will all eventually demonstrate one or more of the following:

1) They do not understand that science only seeks to make models which can predict the outcomes of experiments.

2) They confuse science with philosophy, and make the unreasonable demand that science also explain why its models work, in some form of meta-argument.

3) They do not understand that a model is, in fact, an explanation in and of itself, and no meta-argument is required.

4) They do not understand that any two theories which predict all the same outcomes are, in fact, the same theory, though perhaps dressed up in different mathematical formalisms.

The arrogance and distrust of authority they commonly display is really orthogonal to their misconceptions about science; many scientists also display arrogance and distrust of authority.

So, crackpots are really those who suffer from both arrogance and ignorance simultaneously. Their arrogance is usually much more strongly vocalized, though, and it's so annoying that it usually becomes the entire focus of any debate with them.

From their perspective, any scientist they speak with gets angry and smug, and that reaction only cements their belief that they are winning the debate. It creates a positive feedback loop, where arrogance begets more arrogance. Eventually, they stop caring about the science and focus entirely on the human interaction, and are forever lost.

The same situation happens in many other contexts -- people who feel strongly about religion or politics can become "religious crackpots" and "political crackpots" by exactly the same mechanism.

- Warren
 
  • #19
Saw
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I myself, of course, think that SR and GR are correct or at least correct enough to be the foundation for the enormous progress that science and technology have experienced since the advent of those theories (I put this caveat just because sooner or later an evolution/improvement must exist; it's always like that; otherwise, relativity as we know it today would not exist and we'd still adhere to the Galilean mindset).

But it must also be noted that the way science is usually popularized does not help. I suggest you count the number of times that divulgation books use the adjectives "puzzling", "startling", "unbelievable", "incredible" or propose that you should dispense with your logic... It's not rare that people end up being puzzled when they are insistingly being told that something is puzzling. It's not strange that some people object being ordered to dispense with logic and common sense.

As to relativity being counter-intuitive..., I think it is the other way round. It is extremely intuitive: it is the one-shot realization that, even if light does not take the motion of the source, all physical phenomena still conform to the principle of relativity, even if you don't know the logical path that you must traverse to reach such conclusion. That is what an intuition is: you know the answer, you don't know how you got it.

I think that many contenders against relativity would not contend if students or laymen were simply told: Einstein, who was a very intuitive man, made some postulates that "appear" to contradict common sense. But these postulates have been corroborated by experience. So there must be a logic in them, which has not yet been fully unveiled. You are invited to seek that logic and certainly that should boost our understanding of current theories and, who knows, it might even facilitate dvelopments. It is not strictly necessary to fully understand the ultimate causes of phenomena to make science. Very often a pure mathematical formulation of the values that we measure with our instruments suffices to do wondrous things. But of course a better logical understanding of the mathematical concepts and of the measurement process would be welcome...

In this sense, I do not understand why people define Einstenian and Lorentzian (aether) relativity as conflicting and competing theories. For me there is no such opposition. It simply happens that the former provides some easy rules to make science without wasting time on pondering over why the tricks work. That is the beauty of intuition. If you are in a desert and have a dog that finds water by instinct, you'd better trust it if you wish to survive. But, given more time, there is nothing wrong with making some geological investigation. The same applies to relativity: I only need a few formulas to predict that a muon created at the upper atmosphere will hit the surface, but it still seems advisable to keep investigating why it is so, on the basis of the aether hypothesis or any other hypothesis that you may feel like "framing"...
 
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  • #20
10
3


Generally, such people are ignorant about the scientific method. If you talk to them long enough, they will all eventually demonstrate one or more of the following:

1) They do not understand that science only seeks to make models which can predict the outcomes of experiments.

2) They confuse science with philosophy, and make the unreasonable demand that science also explain why its models work, in some form of meta-argument.

3) They do not understand that a model is, in fact, an explanation in and of itself, and no meta-argument is required.

4) They do not understand that any two theories which predict all the same outcomes are, in fact, the same theory, though perhaps dressed up in different mathematical formalisms.

The arrogance and distrust of authority they commonly display is really orthogonal to their misconceptions about science; many scientists also display arrogance and distrust of authority.

So, crackpots are really those who suffer from both arrogance and ignorance simultaneously. Their arrogance is usually much more strongly vocalized, though, and it's so annoying that it usually becomes the entire focus of any debate with them.

From their perspective, any scientist they speak with gets angry and smug, and that reaction only cements their belief that they are winning the debate. It creates a positive feedback loop, where arrogance begets more arrogance. Eventually, they stop caring about the science and focus entirely on the human interaction, and are forever lost.

The same situation happens in many other contexts -- people who feel strongly about religion or politics can become "religious crackpots" and "political crackpots" by exactly the same mechanism.

- Warren
This is one of the most insightful and intelligent explanations I've ever read on this issue.
 
  • #21
gel
533
5


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herbert_Dingle" [Broken].

I suspect that in many cases it is actually an abnormal psychological condition.
 
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  • #22
490
2


General relativity is only one hypothetical explanation for gravity. The graviton is another. I personally find the evidence for gravitons to be much more convincing. I've spoken with several physicists on the matter, none of which have been able to point to any evidence that strongly supports GR over the standard model. I therefore classify belief in GR in the same category as belief in God: faith, or pseudo-science at best.
 
  • #23
gel
533
5


I personally find the evidence for gravitons to be much more convincing.
So you find zero evidence to be more convincing than a lot of very accurate data agreeing with GR? Very odd.
not that they are inconsistent anyway. Quantum gravity theories, which involve the gravition, are merely refinements of GR in regimes in which GR is expected to break down (as all existing theories must at some point - no serious scientists believes that any current theory is a complete and final theory of everything, afaik)
 
  • #24
mgb_phys
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I therefore classify belief in GR in the same category as belief in God: faith, or pseudo-science at best.
Except that my GPS stops working if I don't believe in GR, it continues to work if I don't believe in Santa Claus (oddly my DVD player does stop working - but I blame Disney)
 
  • #25
gel
533
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(oddly my DVD player does stop working - but I blame Disney)
me too. Not GR related, just the damn region encoding.
 

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