Boxing Pythagoras

Philosophy from the mind of a fighter

WLC’s Time, Part 3: Bell’s Theorem, CMB, and the Aether Frame

Professional apologist William Lane Craig has made some very interesting claims about the scientific understanding of “time” in his published work. Most specifically, WLC thinks that Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity is wrong. In previous installments of this series, we’ve seen Dr. Craig laud Lorentzian relativity over Einstein’s model, and we’ve seen him attacking Special Relativity on the basis of Einstein’s verificationist philosophy. Today, I’ll move on to some of the more specific scientific claims that Dr. Craig makes in his book, Time and Eternity: Exploring God’s Relationship to Time. Specifically, we’re going to look at Dr. Craig’s claim that Bell’s Theorem and the Cosmic Microwave Background are evidence of a preferred inertial reference frame in the cosmos, which I will hereafter refer to as the Aether Frame. If you are unsure what a “preferred inertial reference frame” means, I recommend reading my first post on Lorentzian relativity (linked above) for the details.

Unfortunately, WLC is once again, wrong.

Bell’s theorem expands upon the phenomenon known as quantum entanglement. Without going into the confusing specifics, quantum entanglement is a phenomenon which seems to show that, in certain situations, acting on one subatomic particle can affect another particle of the same type instantaneously, regardless of the distance between the two. According to Dr. Craig, this is therefore a restoration of the concept of absolute simultaneity– that is, the idea that two separate events can occur at exactly the same time, regardless of the observer. This is poignant because Einstein’s Special Relativity implies that there is no such thing as absolute simultaneity. If events A and B are simultaneous to one observer, another might view A occurring before B, while yet another observer might witness A occurring after B. All three observers are equally correct, because time acts differently in each of their reference frames. If Dr. Craig is correct that quantum entanglement restores the idea of absolute simultaneity, then Einstein’s model is necessarily wrong, and WLC’s view of time becomes vindicated.

Of course, quantum entanglement does not actually restore the concept of absolute simultaneity. William Lane Craig, and the men that he quotes, are completely misinterpreting the data. According to their view, since making a change to particle A also leads to a change in particle B, this shows that two events can actually occur absolutely simultaneously, regardless of the observer. The problem is that this is not two events. Quantum entanglement describes only a single event. The fact that multiple particles are affected by this single event is irrelevant. Essentially, Dr. Craig is attempting to claim that, since an event is simultaneous with itself, Einstein is refuted. This is, of course, preposterous. Special Relativity only makes assertions about the simultaneity of two different events. Attempting to show that a single event is not simultaneous with itself would be like trying to show that a bowling ball weighs more than itself. It’s simply silly.

Thinking that he has now vindicated the concept of the Aether Frame, Dr. Craig attempts to identify which inertial reference frame in the cosmos is actually the Aether Frame. This may seem like a madman’s game, since even the Lorentzian relativity which Dr. Craig lauds states that the Aether Frame is completely indistinguishable from any other inertial reference frame. But Dr. Craig won’t let a little thing like being indistinguishable prevent him from attempting to distinguish the Aether Frame! William Lane Craig believes that he has found the Aether Frame in the Cosmic Microwave Background.

Quick bit of history, for the unfamiliar: the CMB is the oldest light in our universe, left over from about 400,000 years after the Big Bang. Amazingly, it seems that the CMB is uniformly distributed across our entire universe. The discovery and measurement of the CMB has been amazingly confirmatory of the Big Bang model– so much so that when the COBE mission brought back the first full map of the CMB, its data conformed to the predictions made by the Big Bang Theory almost exactly. Now, one of the most interesting properties of the CMB is that it is at rest with respect to the expansion of spacetime. That is to say, the space in which all physical objects in the universe exist is, itself, getting bigger. As it does, it’s stretching the CMB along with it, distorting the wavelength of the CMB’s light. Measuring this distortion of wavelength allows cosmologists to infer many very interesting things about our cosmos. Since the CMB seems to be at rest with respect to the expansion of spacetime, Dr. Craig asserts that the CMB’s inertial reference frame can therefore be considered the “true” reference frame of the universe.

The problem with such a view is that every inertial reference frame is at rest with respect to the expansion of spacetime. This is not unique to the CMB. So, when Dr. Craig attempts to claim that measurements of Earth’s motion with respect to the CMB is a vindication of 19th Century attempts to measure the Aether Wind, he is completely wrong. After all, he completely neglects the fact that, if the Earth is moving relative to the CMB, that means that the CMB is moving relative to the Earth. He is, once again, simply making an arbitrary determination as to which reference frame is the preferable one. Now, there are certainly useful applications in considering the CMB’s reference frame over against Earth’s, but that does not– in any way– indicate that the CMB’s frame is “correct” while all others are “illusory.” After all, there are also useful applications for considering the Earth’s frame instead of the CMB’s, but that does not give us leave to assert that the Earth’s frame is the “correct” one.

Despite Dr. Craig’s efforts, the Aether Frame has not been vindicated. Bell’s Theorem and the Cosmic Microwave Background do no more to establish the existence of a true Aether Frame than did the Michelson-Morley Experiment in 1887, which was quite possibly the most important and profound failed experiment in the history of science. WLC misunderstands quantum entanglement, and he misrepresents the implications of the CMB. William Lane Craig continues to assert that Einstein was wrong based on theology, metaphysics, and misunderstandings– not on the strength of any real science.

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6 thoughts on “WLC’s Time, Part 3: Bell’s Theorem, CMB, and the Aether Frame

  1. Man, this was a great post. I’ve seen other people try to argue the inertial reference frame of the CMB is the preferred reference frame and actual physicists smack them down.

    That Craig does it I find surprising. He’s usually better at covering his tracks when using complex scientific ideas to bolster his claims. This one is just too easy to refute.

    I really think he might be losing his mojo.

    • To be fair, in the very next section of his book (where he discusses the General Theory of Relativity) Craig does state that he doesn’t find any need for God to occupy any single inertial reference frame, since they are essentially local phenomena and since his God is, presumably, non-local. Craig’s misunderstandings of GR will be the next topic of my WLC’s Time series.

      Thanks for your input!

    • Thank you for the link! It’s a very interesting read.

      I would note, however, that the article specifically mentions that these scientists have NOT ruled out the possibility that both wave functions collapse instantaneously. All that this experiment seems to show is that, if not instantaneous, the speed of entanglement is at least 10,000 times the speed of light.

      • You’re absolutely correct, my verbiage was sloppy. I probably should’ve phrased it something like “empirical evidence shows that wave collapse for entangled quanta occurs at roughly 10,000 times C. As such, the claim that entanglement is non-instantaneous has carried the burden of proof and falsified the null hypothesis whereas instantaneous transmission has not. As this is an inductive argument and measurements were insufficiently accurate to attain a high sigma value on our results, we cannot state definitively that entangled wave collapse is non-instantaneous, the current relative-best evidence contradicts that claim.”

        I would contend, however, that that caveat sure seemed to be the usual ‘confidence interval disclaimer’ that any physicist worth their salt would include with their claims. Four orders of magnitude less than C is a difference that’s non-trivial, and unless their equipment and methodology were totally substandard, I think that the results are relatively secure. To be fair, I haven’t read the actual paper yet, only the science writing, and that’s always a dangerous proposition.

        Thanks for helping keep me honest and nuanced.

        • Er, four orders of magnitude more than C.

          Or, to put a finer point on it, it seems unlikely to me that although they calculated a fairly accurate result to four orders of magnitude, that the actual displacement of information is so rapid (s = d/t) , that its speed is (I assume, asymptotic to ) infinity.

          But I’m certainly happy to admit I could be wrong in my analysis, and I’d certainly be one of the first people who’d be thrilled to learn that our current data on entanglement was incomplete.

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