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I Try To Avoid Insulting People.

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Posted by Richard D. Stafford, Ph.D. on November 16, 2001 17:42:50 UTC


I don't feel calling a spade a spade is an insult!

Return for a moment to my post "Curley Responds" (the Curley Moe thing was introduced by Luis). The issue under discussion was: is it possible that the view of reality presented by Einstein's theory of relativity is in error. Anyone who takes the position that the possibility of error does not exist is taking a religious position, not a scientific position; i.e., they are fundamentally taking the position that the subject under discussion is not open to discussion. Now, as far as I am concerned, that is a rather "stupid" position and anyone who would hold such a position can only be stupid. Ignorance is excusable but stupidity is not.

In fact, it is the opinion of the current authorities that no alternate view capable of reproducing the experimental facts is possible. I have presumed that the more intelligent authorities (the ones I would love to talk to) hold that position out of ignorance of an alternate view, not because they truly believe all possibilities have actually been examined as I can not believe they are all that stupid (though I suppose it could be).

So, what do I do? I present an argument that there is in fact a rather simple alternate view which does yield *exactly* the same experimental results.

My opening line of my argument is, "In the interest of making relativity (in particular, the definition of time) clear, let me propose a rather simple thought experiment. Suppose for the fun of it someone has given me a functioning time machine."

Luis's response is, "I can entertain any scenario not too far removed from my understanding of things, but I should preface this by stressing my understanding of time does not espouse 'time travel' in the sci-fi sense of the word."

So, apparently Luis either cannot comprehend time travel in sci-fi sense of the word (which to me implies a very limited imagination) or he cannot comprehend that his understanding of things could be in error and doesn't want to discuss the issue. Either position seems to qualify him for the stupidity title.

Having described the supposed functioning of the time machine: fundamentally, if I am not touching the stem, everything is normal and if I am touching the stem I am at the time indicated on the dial. One would have to be pretty stupid not to comprehend that from this description a fine alternate explanation of what is going on is "the watch is a good watch and shows the correct time, the time travel thing being a figment of Dick's imagination".

Luis's response? "I'd say that what was "you" would become something quite bizarre appearing, in both temporal and spatial coordinates."

It is quite clear that either he cannot follow the arguments up to that point, in which case he would have to be quite stupid, or he doesn't want to and hasn't thought about the issue at all! I will give him the benefit of the doubt and presume it is the second.

With regard to the hypotheses that the time machine moves me to the time indicated on the dial, I comment that "I exist at every time between start and the end": i.e., I cannot move the dial to another reading without moving it through the intermediate readings. Again, completely consistent with the alternate explanation that I am merely touching the stem.

Luis's response? "This doesn't jibe with my view of time."

And, in defense of his "view of time" (which apparently yields that bizarre result he talks about above) he comes up with some gobble-de-gook about " time is composed of specific intervals somehow tied to the differential between an object's mass and its motion". This is once again little more than a statement that he already has a model of what space and time is and he doesn't want to consider an alternative (also implying that his image of that model is not very clear).

Then, as further "evidence" of the error of my hypothesis he says, "But the number of intervals you (and your watch) experience would be much less than the number I experience while watching you travel." Please, where in my description of the thought problem did I even mention anything about what I was experiencing? Luis appears to overlook the simple explanation that I am merely lying to him about owning a time machine; which is the position any reasonably bright observer would take.

Anyone who was reasonably intelligent would consider the situation and try to come up with an experiment which would invalidate my statement. Just saying it is not possible or it is stupid is scientifically insufficient.

Having set this situation up, I then begin my main argument. My first line is " I will presume the old Newtonian view of the universe is absolutely correct." At this point, the issue is just hypothetical as I indicate with my statement: "If you let me hypothesize a time machine, you ought to allow me to hypothesize a Euclidean/Newtonian universe!"

What happens? Luis goes ballistic! One of his first comments is " Well, it's not like I had a choice. I thought Newtonian physics broke down at [velocities] near c!"

Now, considering the question on the table, that is a pretty stupid comment.

The view set forth by Einstein is an extension and alteration of the Newtonian view which takes care of the experimental problems. My position was that there existed an alternate view which also takes care of the problems. Luis's position is essentially "Einstein's" solution is the only possible solution consistent with experiment so I will look at your logic no further.

Luis is clearly taking the position that the subject under discussion is not open to discussion! As I said in the opening of this post, that is an intellectually stupid position. Luis has made it clear that he would rather believe, without questioning, the official line than think about the issues. I had gotten the mistaken impression earlier that he was more intelligent than that.

I can see no reason to take back anything in the post you refer to: "[Luis has] just made it eminently clear that [he] cannot comprehend the possibility of error in the view held by the authorities. [His] position is not historically unusual at all. In fact it is exactly that very position which has most often blocked advances in science in the past. I am sorry that [he is] completely unable to think on [his] own!"

Harv, I try very hard to be honest and open and if someone tells me I have said or done something stupid, I do not take offense, I rather examine the situation to see if I can understand their comment. Sometimes I do indeed discover that I have said or done something stupid but, in many cases, I often find that the person making the statement just has poor judgement. On this forum I have been told my ideas are stupid by many individuals and in every case, I have concluded the problem was that they simply did not understand my ideas. Now that is not important to me and I do not find it offensive. Most intelligent people on earth have absolutely no interest in understanding any of this stuff; but when I see mental midgets trying to impress people with the coherence of their thoughts, I am offended.

My sole purpose in bringing in the hypothetical time machine was to explicitly separate the issue of interacting from the concept of time (two issues held analytically very close by everyone). If one cannot follow that example, than they cannot separate the two issues sufficently to examine them objectivly and are barred from seeing the alternate representation of reality I propose.

This is exactly the same as those who were (or are) mentally barred from conceiving of the earth as going around the sun or those who cannot concieve of the earth being round as (from their perspective) it is obvious people in China would fall off. Arguing with people like that is a total waste of time.

Have fun -- Dick

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