Today, In Idiots: Andy Schlafly vs. Relativity

Posted: August 11, 2010 in Braak, crotchety ranting
Tags: , , , ,

It’s almost — almost — not fair to call Andy Schlafly a “conservative,” on the grounds that he should really be understood as just a crazy idiot who’s found a means to collect the crazy, idiotic idea of other crazy idiots together so they can all build on each other in a huge, hilarious circle jerk of crazy idiocy.

But he self-identifies as a conservative, he runs the “Conservapedia“, which the Republican establishment seems to like, and he’s not editing all of those articles himself. So, sorry Conservatives. You need to refudiate that fucker.

This, by the way, is also the cat working on the Open-Source Bible which…I mean, I’m no Biblical fundamentalist, but if you’ve presumably got the literal Word of God in your hands, isn’t that the opposite of the sort of thing you want to open-source?

Anyway, turns out he hates Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, too.

This is stupid for a myriad of reasons, and it’s actually SO stupid that it’s barely worth refuting.  I mean, think about this for a second:  what could Andy Schlafly possibly have to say on the subject of Relativity that could ever be of any consequence?  Relativity doesn’t give a shit whether or not you believe in it; it’s either true or it isn’t.  Unlike certain deities who shall remain nameless, Relativity doesn’t need churches, it doesn’t demand worshippers, it doesn’t require sacrifices or ask you to participate in rituals.  All Relativity says is, “I am.  Believe in me or don’t.”

And insofar as belief in Relativity is consequential, people believe in Relativity (we use it a lot in nuclear science).  The average person doesn’t need Relativity, though, so if he or she doesn’t believe it, it’s not a huge deal.  There’s no law that says you can only believe things that are true.

The problem is, Andy Schlafly is homeschooling kids, and they’re doing well on standardized tests, and this reveals to us two major problems:  1)  Andy Schlafly is homeschooling kids.  2)  You shouldn’t be able to do well on standardized tests if you won’t accept the functional usefulness of the Scientific Method.

As in the case of Relativity, it’s not really required that you believe in the Scientific Method; it’s just that that Method — Ideas Are Tested By Experiment — is the one and only consistently useful way we’ve found of figuring things out in the material world.  We make sure kids know it, even if they never intend to use it, because our schools have a mandate to produce students who are at least theoretically capable of functioning in the material world.

That’s what all those tests are for.

So, let’s look at a couple of Andy Schlafly’s problems with Relativity.

The first is that people who learn Relativity don’t regularly read the Bible.  If you look at his footnote for that, you can see that he’s basically just making this up.  Maybe there’s a book by Paul Johnson about the 20th Century, but I think that even a loosely-sourced article like this one ought to be able to name it.  Paul Johnson has written a lot of books — my guess is that this reference is either to Modern Times, which is a history of America from the twenties to the nineties; or A History of the American People, which is broader in scope than Schlafly suggests here.  Here’s me, finding those titles with a three-second search on Amazon.

Anyway, also interesting on that topic is the wording of the footnote:

Virtually no one who is taught and believes relativity continues to read the Bible, a book that outsells New York Times bestsellers by a hundred-fold.

with its gratuitous Bible plug.  “The Bible,” it seems to say, “is the most popular book; ergo, it’s the book that most people should be reading.”  I don’t now where this idea of “if it’s popular, it must be true” comes from, but it sure explains why so many wingnut Christians are terrified of Islam.  What happens if Islamic adherents outnumber Christian adherents?  That would then make Islam true, and all the Christians would go to Hell.  Defective inductive reasoning there, but whatever.

Most of the counterexamples are even less well-sourced; they’re just Schlafly saying things.  This is my favorite one:

If space were curved, one would never expect the universe as a whole to be almost precisely flat. Yet it is.

It is the kind of bold, nonsensical assertion that only the best kind of idiot can make.  Is it, Andy Schlafly?  IS IT?  How precisely “flat” is the universe?  You know that we live in three dimensions, right?  That nothing we interact with is “precisely flat”, right?  Because of depth?  Also, far be it from me to question your sources (again), which appear to just be you saying things (again), but how much of the universe are you able to see from your radio telescope on the top of Mount Dumbass?  Oh, all of it, huh?  That’s pretty good.  And you’ve taken measurements of the whole thing?  All 92 billion light years and 100 billions galaxies, each with their ten million to a trillion stars?  Great!  Finally, proof that the universe is a giant flat plate on the back of an enormous divine turtle.  Hey, it’s a good thing that you’re so smart; I mean, a lesser physicist might have been like, “you know, the universe looks flat, but if light is following the curve of space, then of course it would, wouldn’t it?”  Almost like there’s some kind of problem taking accurate measurements of something by USING THE THING YOU’RE TRYING TO MEASURE.

Also hilarious is what appears to be Schlafly’s complete misunderstanding of science and how it works.  It’s like he thinks that “Relativity,” now that it’s been theorized and generally accepted by the scientific community, is an Irrefutable Truth and the Bedrock Upon Which All Science is Based, which is the only reason I can think for trying to refute it with some dumb shit like this.  Relativity, like all scientific theories, is incomplete.  Duh.  Science doesn’t know everything.  Duh.  There are things we haven’t been able to explain yet.  YES, ANDY, DUH.

What, do you think this is a salient counter-example?

Contrived explanations have been suggested for this dilemma, such as Stephen Hawking proposing that the entropy of matter in a black hole is somehow stored in the surface area of its event horizon to be released back into its surroundings as the black hole decays by … “Hawking radiation.”

“Contrived explanations,” huh?  You mean “theories”?  You mean when physicists notice a problem, and then “contrive” (meaning:  “think up”) an “explanation” for it?  Which they then test using experiment?  Yeah, welcome to Science, idiot.  How did you think this worked?  When we noticed a flaw in Relativity, we just throw the whole thing out?  Burn all the pictures of Einstein and piss on his grave, everyone, Relativity is incomplete!  (He’s also making fun of Hawking for naming his explanation after himself, and…come on, really?  He’s Stephen Hawking.  Who the hell else should he name it after?  Maybe he should have called it Jesus Radiation.)

Science isn’t Religion, Andy.  It’s not built on unassailable truths, but explanations of varying precision and accuracy, which are displaced — sometimes incrementally, sometimes catastrophically — by better ones.

Here is a list of 30 counterexamples: any one of them shows that the theory is incorrect.

Each one of these examples could show any number of things (this is, again, presuming that you didn’t just make them up, since your references and documentation here are so absurdly lax that regular Wikipedia would laugh at you); bad instruments, inaccurate measurements, unexpected interactions with other theories, OTHER THEORIES being wrong, or just that “Relativity” is incomplete.  Which, again:  duh.

So!  Speaking of Religion, though, this is another good counter-example:

The action-at-a-distance by Jesus, described in John 4:46-54.

This one is listed right after the action-at-a-distance that is a feature of quantum mechanics.  I find this hilarious, because let’s consider:

In the story in question, this cat comes to Jesus but won’t believe he’s the son of God.  He says his son is sick with fever, Jesus claims that he will be cured.  The guy’s servants later say that the son was cured, at the EXACT SAME HOUR that Jesus said he would be.  This shows that Jesus was capable of acting his will out instantaneously, and therefore that relativity (which prohibits action-at-a-distance) must be wrong.

Far be it from me to dispute the inerrant Word of God; let’s assume everything in this story is entirely, 100% true, as reported by the faultless chroniclers of Jesus’ time.

So, first of all, this is the same Jesus that just turned water into wine, and walked on the Sea of Galilee; I was presuming that “miracles”, when enacted by God’s will, aren’t bound by natural law.  I mean, it’s impossible to turn water into wine, because wine is made up of all kinds of chemical compounds that are not found anywhere in water — does the story of Jesus turning water into wine disprove the scientific theory of “chemicals”?  Because that is a pretty bold move there, Andy.  It’s one thing to attack Relativity, who’s just hanging out there with his physics-nerd buddies, no friends, no job, a loser scientific theory.  But Chemicals?  Chemicals are pretty important, man.  Don’t pick on Chemicals, unless you want to get hurt, you know?

But let’s assume that all of Jesus’ miracles are, in some way, the product of heretofore undiscovered natural laws.  In this story, what happens?  Jesus says a thing, and it happens instantly, according to the guys in the town.

Now, let’s assume that you can’t be anything but honest when you report something that’s going to be written in the Bible.  It’s just absolutely impossible that these guys could have said “the seventh hour” if they meant, you know, “the seventh hour and five minutes.”  But is it possible for them to have simply been inaccurate in their measurements?

I’m not sure where Jesus was living at this time (Galilee is a pretty big place).  Let’s assume it was Nazareth, just for the sake of argument.  Nazareth is about fifty miles in a straight line from Capernaum.  If Jesus was transmitting his miraculous will in the form of radio waves, those waves would propagate at the speed of light:  186,283 miles per second.  That means his will could have traveled to Nazareth in approximately 0.0003 seconds.  While we can accept that it’s possible that this guy’s servants couldn’t possibly have said 7:00 if they meant 7:05, is it possible that they just couldn’t tell the difference between 7:00 and 7:  Especially considering that, up until the 11th century, everyone was keeping time like this?

Sundials are not accurate to the ten-thousandth of a second, I don’t think.

(Incidentally:  the speed of sound in air, at 20 degrees Celsius, is 343 meters per second, or one meter in 0.0087 seconds; if the person to whom Jesus was speaking was one meter away — a reasonable distance from which two people might communicate — Jesus’ miraculous will, travelling at the speed of light, would have reached Capernaum faster than his words, travelling at the speed of sound, would have reached the guy he was talking to.  “Instantaneous” starts to become a kind of complicated idea.)

Finally:  the claim that this is a “liberal” theory, as opposed to a good, god-fearing conservative one — in addition to being disproven by me, just now, when I showed that the Bible and Relativity are not mutually-exclusive — is further hampered by Schlafly’s reasoning:

It is heavily promoted by liberals who like its encouragement of relativism and its tendency to mislead people in how they view the world.

Is based entirely on, I think, a complete misunderstanding of “relativism.”  What conservatives hate about liberals isn’t our love of relativistic physics, it’s our love of relativistic morals.  And, despite the fact that they both contain the word “relativistic”, those things don’t have ANYTHING TO DO WITH EACH OTHER.  At all, in any way.  The similarity in names is purely a coincidence; nothing about “motion relative to the speed of light” is connected, AT ALL, to “a culture’s morality can only be judged within its own context.”

In conclusion:  Andy Schlafly, I don’t object to you homeschooling kids.  God knows, public education in this country is in the tubes.  But is this the kind of reasoning you’re teaching your kids?  Did you even check to see the difference between what would have separated “instantaneous” action and action that propagated at the speed of light?  Is this REALLY how you’re teaching your kids to cite their assertions — which is to say, not really at all?

Andy Schlafly, you are an idiot.

  1. katastic says:

    a) the minute I saw this, I said to myself, “Braak is going to be rolling in this.”

    b) You must have missed the first day of Liberal Indoctrination Camp, where they handed us pamphlets instructing us to brainwash young children to become gay atheists. Included in the footnotes of said pamphlet was a note, in bold: “AND RELATIVITY”, it said “GET THE LITTLE SHITS TO BELIEVE IN RELATIVITY, AND SO SHALT GO THE WORLD”.
    Good times. It was right before we all pissed on the bible and had a feminist Muslim vegan orgy on spread pages of the New York Times, all to the soothing strains of NPR.

  2. braak says:

    Oh, yeah, I was late that day. I passed an honest, god-fearing Real American Church on the way in, and took the time to replace their communion wine with a crisp, vintage Chardonnay, in order to make them all into effete queers.

    I was there for the orgy, though. I never miss a good feminist Muslim vegan orgy.

  3. deb says:

    What do you expect from a guy whose mother, almost single-handedly, defeated the Equal Rights Amendment by asserting that this would mean that men and women had to share the same bathrooms and that this would somehow doom us all?

  4. Did you coin “refudiate,” or did it come pre-coined?

  5. dagocutey says:

    Good god, why, why, WHY does someone like Schlafly have a public voice? Oh, I know why — because of this country and our obsession with freedom of speech. Ok. But I can not even put into words how this makes me feel — a vice closing around my temples comes close, but it doesn’t touch on the mouth puking. I would pay huge sums of money to see you and Schlafuck debate these points. My only relief lies in your use of the word “hilarious” so many times. Yes, we must laugh, laugh our guts out at him, because he’s not worth serving jail time for.

    @deb: I’m a feminist, and I don’t want to share public bathrooms with men. I’m not sure why there’s usually significantly more excretia on walls and surfaces in there, but there is and yeah, no.

  6. katastic says:

    @Braak: The tofu was halaal!

  7. deb says:

    @dagocutey: I appreciate that. We all did back then — and we TRIED to convince people that Phyllis was wrong, that we were pretty sure that we could continue to have separate bathrooms. Alas, to no avail. And, on the fear of potential bathroom grossness (although I’ve seen some disgusting women’s rooms that I’ve turned around and walked right out of), the ERA failed. *sigh*

  8. braak says:

    @dagocutey: We don’t want to share bathrooms with you, either. We like being able to get in and out in less than ten minutes.

  9. dagocutey says:

    @braak: If we just peed wherever we happened to be standing and didn’t wash our hands, it wouldn’t take us so long.

  10. braak says:

    Well, maybe you should consider that, then.

  11. dagocutey says:

    Well, maybe I just will. Never.

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