“Everything is relative. Einstein’s Theory of Relativity demonstrates this.”
How many people actually believe such nonsense and proudly make such declarations while supposing they are on solid philosophical ground, allegedly supported by science? Too many I surmise, and what makes matters worse is that a significant number of scientists and others sufficiently well-trained in science do not make the effort to disabuse people of the faulty notion that science supports relativism. In fact, many scientists join along with many others in the promotion of scientism, which is the irrational belief that science is the last word in everything despite its very real limitations to measuring material reality and nothing else.
But Einstein was a scientific realist, and his theory actually supports a realist, objective perspective concerning observation because it insists upon recognizing the reality of a thing (or event) observed despite differing “perspectives” of the observers regarding when the event occurred, etc. Instead of claiming that everything is relative, Einstein’s theory demonstrates the objective nature of the universe despite the relative position of one observer compared to another.
So the next time some yahoo proudly declares that “everything is relative and Einstein proved this,” I recommend first a good belly laugh followed by a forceful declaration that Einstein’s theory does not pertain to the philosophical question of truth in and of itself, but even so, the theory’s name is misleading because the theory actually demonstrates the objective reality of the universe…as briefly set forth above. If you have the time and inclination, I also recommend a little bit more reading in this regard so you can better explain why Einstein’s theory does not support any kind of philosophical relativism.
More Recent “Champion of Relativism Supported by Science”
In more recent years, another ignorant misuse of science has also caused people to doubt reality itself, thereby helping to pave the way for relativism to gain an even stronger foothold in the minds of many. This involves the field of quantum physics (aka quantum mechanics). The philosophical misinterpretation of quantum physics goes something like this: ‘Precision in measuring the speed and position of sub-atomic particles at the same time is impossible, and this indicates that the laws of cause and effect do not operate in the sub-atomic world. Now, since the sub-atomic world consists of those particles that are the building blocks of all nature, the idea of cause and effect operating in the macroscopic, everyday world also cannot be scientifically supported. And of course, without cause and effect, the entire universe can simply be in existence without the need for any kind of creator.’
This view takes on an even more skeptical outlook that is adopted and promoted by many who completely dismiss reality. This was succinctly stated many years ago by science popularizer John Gribbin who boldly declares in his In Search of Schrödinger’s Cat: Quantum Physics and Reality (1984) that “what quantum mechanics says is that nothing is real” (p. 2).
Wow! I wonder if Gribbin’s publishers advised him that there would be no payment for his book because what they planned to give him turned out not to be real. 🙂
Of course, the rational person with a realist frame of mind sees at once the philosophical error made by many quantum physicists and others who subscribe to the nonsense that “nothing is real,” and that “there really is no such thing as cause and effect.” To exist is not the same thing as being accurately measured in a scientific way. Moreover, the inability to measure anything accurately does not deprive that thing of its inherent reality as many bogus quantum physics philosophers and/or popularizers would have us believe.
Impact and How to Further Respond
Unfortunately, these faulty interpretations of The Theory of Relativity and quantum physics continue to gain ground and influence a large portion of the world, and when you have a culture that increasingly looks at science as the last word on just about everything (scientism, as stated above), you have at least one potent prescription among many for developing a mentality that can and does easily find favor with many evils, like abortion, the irrational denial of DNA/biological reality, and so on.
For if “everything is relative,” and “cause and effect isn’t real,” how much easier is it to declare that the being in the womb is only “potential life” that does not need to be protected? These particular misuses of science lead many to skip over the realist science of Biology 101 that clearly demonstrates how life begins at conception based on the reality of cause and effect involving the combining of biological components that bring about life. Biology 101 also clearly demonstrates that a person’s gender is established by DNA and the person’s biological make-up, but in the relativist mindset, people can define things anyway they choose regardless of how ridiculous it is.
Indeed, if “everything is relative,” then anything goes and can be “justified” by the appeal to “relativity supported by science.” And if “nothing is real,” then why not just let people do whatever they want to do, declare that reality is what they proclaim it to be, and so on?
Of course, if you just happen to live in and recognize the real world where cause and effect are always operating, and everything is not relative, then do what you can to prevent such misinterpretations of science from further corrupting minds too easily susceptible to accepting nonsense wrapped in pseudo-scientific garb. A good start is to promote the understanding that many people, including scientists, frequently misinterpret and/or exaggerate scientific findings to make proclamations about things that legitimate science does not support. Beyond that, grounding oneself and others in realist philosophies like Thomism will also help prevent nonsense claims from gaining more devotees.
Legitimate science is a fine servant of truth, but faulty misinterpretations of science only serve the enemy of truth and should be exposed and resisted in defense of the Truth.