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Relativity and Religion: The Abuse of Einstein's Theory

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Einstein's special theory of relativity has had a wide influence on fields far removed from physics. It has given the impression that physics has shown that there are now no absolute truths, that all beliefs are relative to the observer, and that traditional stable landmarks have been washed away. We each have our own frame of reference that is as good as any other frame, so that there are no absolute standards by which our actions may be judged. The predictions of relativity theory, such as the elimination of simultaneity, the variation of mass with velocity, and the equivalence of mass and energy, are all highly counterintuitive and yet are precisely confirmed by detailed measurements. The clear rocklike mechanical physics of Newton seems to have dissolved into a swirling mist of unintelligible concepts, and familiar certainties seem to have disappeared.

A detailed analysis of relativity theory shows, however, a completely different picture. Properly understood, it is a logical extension of Newtonian physics that expresses the relations of space and time in a more exact and elegant way and in the process shows forth more clearly the invariant features of the world. The apparently counterintuitive features appear as natural consequences that extend and refine our classical concepts. The traditional landmarks remain, but God's world is more subtle than we had previously imagined.

Keywords: Albert Einstein; Isaac Newton; Lorentz transformation; relativity; space and time

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1Head of the Nuclear Physics Theoretical Group of the Nuclear Physics Laboratory, University of Oxford, and Emeritus Fellow of Corpus Christi College.

Publication date: 2003-06-01

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