Debate:Is Relativity in direct conflict with the Genesis account?

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In relativity there is no such thing as absolute time. This removes the possibility of simultaneity of events, and means that any sequential ordering of events will not necessarily be agreed by all observers. Different observers (depending on their speed and location) would disagree about the duration, timing and order of events. This fact means that the veracity of any historical account is essentially limited to one particular observer at one particular point in time. The implications of this is that a strict reading of the Genesis (or for that matter any other biblical) account, must be incompatible with any relativistic account of the same process.

How would biblical scholars account for this anomaly?--Felix 12:22, 18 April 2007 (EDT)

Answer: It turns out Felix, that there is only ambiguity in time-ordering when events have a space-like separation. For time-like separated events, there is no ambiguity (there is no frame that would re-order the events). So the leading paragraph was wrong; the events in Genesis suffer no such time-ordering ambiguity since the Earth is far too small. --Quantumdot 23:44, 6 April 2008 (EDT)


the effects of general relativity is mostly negligiable on earth.Jaques 21:44, 19 April 2007 (EDT)

Why would that affect the argument?--Felix 03:55, 20 April 2007 (EDT)
Because the Genesis creation account establishes an observer on Earth. Anyhoo, there's plenty of reasons to doubt a strict reading of Genesis, but using relativity to deny the very possibility of an historical narrative sounds like something Sokal might've contributed to Social Text.--All Fish Welcome 04:07, 20 April 2007 (EDT)
The point of view of the observer is precisely the point. The Genesis account does indeed take a view from the earth, and attempts to provide a universal account true for all time. If you were at another time and another place, the chronology would be wrong. This means that IF creation & relativity are deemed compatible, you could make the following predictions: "Any evidence that there is any other point of view OTHER than that of the Earth, would render the Genesis account invalid". This means that if extraterrestrial life were ever discovered, OR we were able to travel to other stars, then Genesis would have to be rewritten OR that relativity is invalid--Felix 04:25, 20 April 2007 (EDT)

(undent)I don't follow. The POV is established in Gen 1:2, and from there the narrative never leaves the Earth. It doesn't provide an account "for all time," it provides an account for a (disputed) period of time over an unnamed body of water and in the Garden of Eden IIRC. Anyway, the argument you're using still amounts to, "No historical narrative is valid."--All Fish Welcome 04:48, 20 April 2007 (EDT)

In relativistic terms, it matters not a jot that these things have happened; given some reasonably distant location, the Genesis Events might be turned on their head. The fact is therefore, that any claim that the Gensis account is the one true account of the creation cannot possibly be compatible with relativity, as the Genesis account is purely tied to one point of view, namely the earth, and is therefore absolute and not relative. If I were a being travelling near the speed of light, for example, in my timescale, if the Genesis account is correct, it would have occured a few minutes ago, not 6000 years as the young earth creationists believe. It may be that our galaxy has a huge gravitational field relative to some other location, in which case it might be that they would argue that (if indeed we both agreed there were a creation event, and agreed that it was roughly the one in the bible) it did not occur 6000 years ago, but that this event occured 6 million years ago. You get the point?--Felix 05:23, 20 April 2007 (EDT)
Apperently, Relativity also says that the laws of physics is the same in any frame of reference.Jaques 05:40, 20 April 2007 (EDT)
The Laws of physics are the same, but not everything, otherwise it would not be called RELATIVE-ity!--Felix 05:46, 20 April 2007 (EDT)
Relativity simply makes clear what is relative and what is objective. For example, the time events happen according to each observer is relative, but the amount of time elapses between 2 events is absolute according to every observer.Jaques 05:51, 20 April 2007 (EDT)
Both the amount of elapsed time AND the sequence of events depends on the location and velocity of the observer.--Felix 06:06, 20 April 2007 (EDT)
no, the duration is independent of the frame of reference.Jaques 06:51, 21 April 2007 (EDT)
I think you are confusing the fact that different observers moving at different speeds both declare that theirs is the 'one true time' (and for them time is still passing at the same rate that it always has done) with the fact that when fifferent observers measure time passing for each other they will come to very different answers. However, the point about [| Time Dilation (see Wikipedia entry) ] effects, the phenomenon whereby an observer A finds that another observer (B)'s clock which is physically identical to A's is ticking at a slower rate as measured by A's clock, (meaning that time has apparently "slowed down" for B), is that different observers will necessarily measure ALL time differently. Consider the following: The sun emits a photon, and it speeds off and strikes the earth 93million miles away 8 minutes later, according to an earthbound observer. Captain Picard in the enterprise passing at 0.99c measures the distance between the earth and the sun and declares it not to be 93 million miles, but due to the Lorentz contraction, only 13 million miles. As the speed of light is constant, he measures the time from emission to target to be 1.1 minutes approximately. This means that two observers observe the same two events event but measure the elapsed time between them differently. In the ultimate case, an observer sitting on a photon would declare that NO TIME has elapsed between the two events. The duration between two events is DEPENDENT upon the frame of reference.
It is even worse than this; in the [Ladder paradox], two observers observe the same two events but declare them to have occurred in a completely different order.--Felix 12:25, 23 April 2007 (EDT)

I took enough physics classes that relativity only matters when something is going very, very fast relative to an observer. As the narative takes place on earth, along with two of the characters and the attention of the third, nothing is moveing fast enough. - BornAgainBrit

..or in a gravitational field - General (as opposed to special ) Relativity. Suddenly producing matter out of nowhere will affect the gravitational pull of the ... what on earth am I doing? I am tring to conduct an Einteinian analysis of a completely mythological account of an hypothesised creation. The fact is that General Relativity would, per se, prohibit the creation account in the bible anyway. I am rapidly losing the will to live here.--Felix 05:46, 20 April 2007 (EDT)

OK, I don't know how someone who actually knows what (s)he is talking about ended up on conservapedia ("trustworthy"? hah!), but here I am anyway. Felix seems to be suggesting that relativity renders invalid every "historical narrative", which is a load of rubbish. All it does is show that the time difference between two events (and the spatial separation) will be measured to be different by different observers. Additionally, as has been mentioned, the time order of events can be reveresed, according to different observers; but THIS IS ONLY TRUE FOR SOME PAIRS OF EVENTS, AND NOT OTHERS! Roughly speaking, if a person is capable of travelling from one event to the other then every observer (no matter how they are moving) will agree which event happened first (in this case, no one will come to the conclusion that the person arrived before they set out). As this is the manner of description of events in the Bible (eg, Jesus cured someone, then went on the next day to feed the 5000), there is no contradiction from the order in which the events are described. As for talk about the length of the past, yes, this is a more reasonable point, although the Creationist account could be taken to be a standard Big Bang model happening 6000 years ago according to an observer stationary with respect to what would become the Earth. It is fairly reasonable to assume that the biblical account would be geocentric.

For those who know a bit more relativity, we define the space time interval as t2 - x2 (where we have set c=1); the crucial point is that all observers, no matter how fast they are moving, will agree on its value (as can be seen by using the Lorentz transformation). If the interval is greater than 0, so a timelike worldline connects the 2 points, then all observers will agree on this, and hence agree on the order of the events. It is only for spacelike separated events that the time order is not absolute. This can be extended fairly easily to higher dimensions (t2 - x2 - y2 - ...), non-constant velocities (by using calculus), and general relativity (by using tensor calculus to find the metric, as the expression given for the interval is not valid in curved spacetimes), and the results can be shown to hold. Thus, the Bible and relativity are consistent, at this level at least.

The moral of this story is, "Don't invoke complicated physics/maths/whatever if you failed it earlier in life". Tristan 18:02, 22 June 2007 (EDT)

Ha! Finally someone who knows what they are talking about! The guy/chick above me is correct. But he/she failed to address one point that I think all the conservatives in here need to understand: Relativity, including general relativity, is NOT a theory about RELATIVES. It is a theory about ABSOLUTES! That's why Einstein originally wanted to call it "the theory of INVARIANCE." Historical note: the reason his name didn't prevail is because the term "relativity" had already been in use to describe how being in different inertial frames affects physical measurements since around the time of Galileo (i.e. the term was NOT new, and Einstein didn't want it for his theory).

Relativity is about the fact that ALL OBSERVERS AGREE ON THE SPACETIME INTERVAL. They may disagree on the SPACE or TIME interval alone, but ALL will agree on the SPACETIME interval. The theory described a FOUR DIMENSIONAL universe, and the FOUR-quantities (4-momentum, 4-D spacetime interval, etc) are all CONSERVED in every reference frame, and many of these things are numerically the same in every reference frame (the spacetime interval, speed of light, the laws of physics, etc). Note: high school and introduction courses to relativity will not go into the details of the four dimensional nature of the theory on account of the fact that the mathematics are more difficult (tensors, linear algebra, non-Euclidean geometry, etc).

In short, there is a great deal of ignorance about the theory and it's contributing to an irrational fear of it among conservatives and Christians.

Further, the page on the two theories is full of misunderstandings. I wonder if it was written by some undergrad using a creationist source as a reference.


Albert Einstein didn't think it conflicted. That's good enough for me.--Roopilots6 20:07, 20 April 2007 (EDT)

Albert Einstein was not a christian. Therefore it is quite likely that he has been quoted out of context. Bolly Ottihw 20:47, 21 April 2007

Jews usually believe in the same genesis story?Jaques 06:50, 21 April 2007 (EDT)
It's a book in the Old Testament, or Tora, and not out of any context. Didn't know he was Jewish? Why am I not surprised that so many people don't know that?--Roopilots6 21:36, 21 April 2007 (EDT)

Albert Einstein was of jewish descent. There is a difference, he was not religious at all. He specifically stated that he did not believe in a personal god, ie a supernatural god. Bolly Ottihw 15:06, 23 April 2007

Albert Einstein is not a reliable witness when it comes to interpreting relativity theory. He might have invented it, but that does not mean he understood everything. He refused to accept black holes, the expansion of the universe, and the Kaluza-Klein equations, all of which were later proved to be correct.--Felix 12:46, 23 April 2007 (EDT)

Careful what you say; the Kaluza-Klein theories describe extra dimensions, and have not yet been shown to exist.--Quantumdot 23:38, 6 April 2008 (EDT)
Non practicing Jew whose parents were. Although at one time a due paying member of a Jewish Congregation. Age eleven was initiated in Jewish religious ritual. Quoted as saying "I want to know how God created this world." and also "God does not play dice." As for not being reliable with other interpretations, so what? I'm pretty sure he understood more then Felix does on the subject. Still good enough for me.--Roopilots6 18:31, 23 April 2007 (EDT)