Re: virus: level 3 minds

Jason McVean (
Mon, 11 Nov 96 11:08:38 MST

Yeesh... I'm doing the final part of my candidacy exam on
Wednesday so I don't want to get too involved in this debate
again for the next few days but here is a brief reply.

David Leeper wrote:
> Jason,
> : David Leeper wrote:
> : > Einstein's Theory of Relativity has shown that there is no
> : > absolute truth. All truth is relative.
> : To my knowledge, the theory of relativity says nothing of the
> : kind. In fact, one could argue that it is a component of absolute
> : truth.
> What is your definition of Absolute Truth? Isn't that something
> we're trying to define on this list? Something _we're_ developing?
> If this is so, then perhaps the TOR fits into this "home grown"
> definition and perhaps not.

I'd like to define Absolute Truth as a set of properties of
Objective Reality.

> The meaning of "Absolute" I've seen outside this list are
> things like Newton's concept of "Absolute" space, of which the
> TOR has disposed.


> The "absolute truth" refered to above include the absolutes
> disposed of by TOR and to the fact that "truth" requires two
> or more concepts to be valid.

Not okay... The TOR has very specific implications. Einstein
himself would cringe at the use of the TOR as evidence for the
assertion that "everything is relative". The TOR actually
supplies a means of interpreting what is going on when you get
two different reports of an event. Bill says event A happened
before event B. Sam says it was the other way around. The TOR
explains how these conflicting reports are not actually
conflicting, just observations of an event from two different
reference frames. With the TOR, you can predict how certain
events will appear to different observers and explain why.

It can be argued that the TOR supplies a means of finding out
what is actually going on based on our observations. The
observations are relative, and using the TOR, we can use them to
objectively describe reality.

> An example of this given by
> David McFadzean is one cannot say "This biscuit is false".
> There's only one concept there: biscuit. One can say "This
> biscuit is hot" and then determine if that statement is true
> or false. This is because there are two concepts: biscuit
> and hot. Truth comes from the _relationship_ of the concept
> "hot" to the concept "biscuit".

I'm not sure of the relevence of this.

> This has always been so, but the TOR disposed of the last
> vestages of the Absoulte in physics. Now we know that if
> something exists it is subject to relativity.

Regarding the last vestages of Absolute, see above.

The TOR no more says that "if something exists it is subject to
relativity" than quantum mechanics says that "we're all one with
the cosmos". These are (new age) interpretations of very specific
mathematical thoeries. The TOR starts with the assumption that
the speed of light is _not_ relative and works from there.

> We are on less firm ground when dealing with ethics. Even
> here I believe in the the validity of relativity, and the
> law would agree with me. There are times when divorce is
> ok, times when it is not, _relative_ to the situation. The
> same is true of murder, in some situations a killer will
> himself be killed by the state for his "crimes" in other
> situations the state may give him a metal, again relative
> to the situation.

The first sentence is quite an understatement. The TOR says
nothing at all about ethics and Einstein would roll over in his
grave at the thought. If we're still having trouble unifying
theories in physics cohesively, we're a long way from adding
ethics, politics, and art to the mix.

Sorry if I seemed confrontational. I just hate when very specific
scientific concepts are used as "evidence" in unrelated debates.


Dept. of Physics and Astronomy University of Calgary

"I am as close to you as the veins in your neck when I say to you, in
my whispering lisp, I, too, began as a boy." Mark Richard - Fishboy