A Fine for Einstein - Relative or Absolute?
Every so often I hear people talk about "relativity" - or Einstein - and I heartily wish that Chesterton's plan of fining people for misusing these words had been accomplished. (And I would add "Galileo" as well!) I tell you this because I wanted to quote Father Jaki about Einstein, and I will, but first I will quote Chesterton, because I may still have to pay the fine...For instance, suppose everybody was instantly fined a small sum for mentioning the name of Einstein. The money would be refunded if he could afterwards demonstrate, to a committee of mathematicians and astronomers, that he knew anything about Einstein. What a salutary check it would be on the public speaker, criticising the Budget or the latest economic panacea, who would be just in the very act of saying: "Makes the brain reel. Reminds one of " and would sharply catch himself up, with a holy fear of losing half a crown, and hastily substitute "Alice in Wonderland." On the other hand, it would be equally valuable in arresting the headlong pen of the journalist announcing Brighter Brotherhood or reverently praising The Revolt of Youth: "The new year opens before us new faiths, new ideals, and the young will no longer be content with the dead shibboleths of creed and dogma. New light has been thrown on all the daily problems of life by the great scientific genius of our time; the name of "; and then he will stop suddenly and be most horribly stumped, for Einstein is the only man of science he has heard of, and Einstein costs two-and-six. It is a luxury, in the strict sense of a superfluity, to mention Einstein. He is not a part of any ordinary human argument, because any ordinary human being does not know where his argument leads or what it can really be used to prove. It may be, for all I know, a perfectly good argument for those who really follow it; but those who drag in the name without the argument cannot know what an argument means. We should not be interfering with the freedom of debate by eliminating it, for the men who only deal in such unknown qualities are not debating. They are simply showing off.
[G. K. Chesterton, ILN May 23, 1931, CW35:526]
Now, hoping that I am not showing off, (and if I am, I will pay "two-and-six" gladly!) I will quote Fr. Jaki. (Given that he has a doctorate in nuclear physics, I think we can agree that the fine does not apply in his case.) Besides, he mentions Newton too.The origin and whole history of the so-called Newtonian universe shows something of man's science in two different senses. One is the greatness of man's mind as evidenced by his science. Newton's third law, which is the basis of his law of gravitation, proved exceedingly powerful. It enabled subsequent scientists, such as Euler, Herschel, and Laplace, to explain most peculiar features of the motion of planets and of distant double stars. In other words, the science of Newtonian gravitation was truly a science because it allowed man to reach far into the cosmos. But Newtonian gravitation could not give a scientific account of the universe, inasmuch as the universe was taken for a so called infinite Newtonian universe. That such a universe was not rejected categorically by Newton and that in the nineteenth century it became generally believed in is the other sense of Newtonian science being but man's science. For all its greatness, the scientific mind is not infallible. In its reasonings it repeatedly became the victim of foibles, biases, prejudices, and even of sheer blindness to the obvious.
For us, late twentieth-century men, Newtonian science is a thing of the past. Everybody knows that Newton has been superseded by Einstein, but very few people know the true reason for this. The usual reason given is that Einstein showed everything to be relative. Nothing could be further from the truth. Einstein's theory of General Relativity is the most absolutist theory ever proposed in the history of science. In fact, the entire success of Einstein's theory is that it is absolutist. According to it, the value of the speed of light is independent of any reference systems and therefore has a value which is absolutely valid.
[S. L. Jaki, "God and Man's Science: A View of Creation" in The Absolute Beneath the Relative 65]
If I end up not getting fined, I will try to tell you more about Einstein, Newton, and Galileo in future postings. See you in court!