Monday, March 31, 2014

Absolute Time and Space

Currently we are being treated to a remake of Carl Sagan's classic series Cosmos, hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson. (Interesting that with it's agnostic/atheist slant, it's on the Fox Network.) The latest installment explains Einstein's relativity. It's a good explanation insofar as it goes, but then we're informed that time and space are completely relative.

That's the usual scientific line, and there's something to it, but from a broader, fully human perspective, it's garbage.

Just from the point of view of established science, it's wrong. In fact Dr. Tyson's own narrative takes for granted that time is not relative: if time were completely relative, it would make no sense to quote an age of the universe. Or distances for that matter. Or even a speed for our galaxy or local group of galaxies.

The age of the universe is measured from the instant of the "Bang" (a misnomer since it wasn't an explosion in the conventional sense of a pressure wave expanding into anything). The absolute standard of rest is the frame in which the cosmic microwave background radiation is isotropic (not red- or blue-shifted in any direction). The proper velocity of our galaxy is relative to this frame of rest. These absolute measures are relative to the beginning of the universe, the creation.

Certainly in isolation the locomotion of matter has no absolute frame of reference, because there is nothing outside it. In concentrating on matter in isolation, physics as a methodological assumption neglects the absolute boundary or beginning: the horizon is the experimenter or observer.

The fundamental shortcoming of science that we always forget is that it flattens the universe beneath human power and takes matter out of its context, which is form—form imposed not only by human agency, but also given by nature and nature's God.