Physics Query

Jeff Webster (
Thu, 4 Apr 96 08:37:43 CST

Not long ago, Gary Deweese mentioned that some philosophers and physicists are
arguing for a Lorentzian interpretation of the Lorentz transformations, as
opposed to an Einsteinian interpretation. Lorentz was able to maintain a
privileged reference frame by invoking the ad hoc principles of length
contraction and time dilation in order to account for the null result of the
Michelson-Morley experiment. The issue is important philosophically for many
reasons, but one of which is that the traditional concept of God's timelessness
is often argued on the basis of Einstein's dictum of "no privileged observer, "
and hence, no "universal now" which defines a temporal perspective for both God
and the universe. If Lorentz's interpretation is valid, then there is a basis
for such a common temporal perspective.

One philosopher/apologist, William Lane Craig, prefers the Lorentz
interpretation and writes the following: "We thus have two different
interpretations of Relativity Theory which are radically different in their
metaphysical foundations and yet which are, to date, experimentally
indistinguishable and therefore insusceptible to scientific adjudication." FAITH
AND PHILOSOPHY, vol. 11, no.1, Jan. 1994, p.33.

My question is this: is there serious debate in the physics community about this
issue, or is Einstein's interpretation still preferred because of its conceptual
economy and beauty? As I recall, Einstein's principles of length contraction
and time dilation were entirely kinematic, resulting from two very reasonable
postulates, whereas Lorentz's interpretation requires a dynamical process (thus
far unknown) for the shrinking of measuring rods and the slowing of clocks. Can
anyone suggest literature about this?

Jeff Webster