Process Studies Supplement 15 (2010)
On the Need to Interpret General Relativity
by Ronny Desmet
The main subject of my research is Whitehead's alternative interpretation of the General Theory of Relativity (GTR). This research can only be of value if the business of interpreting GTR is of value. Einstein, Weyl, Eddington, Whitehead, and many others invested a large amount of time searching for the best interpretation of GTR. But pointing at their involvement to justify the importance of interpreting GTR boils down to giving an argument by authority. The invocation of Einstein's glory and fame is insufficient to counter the possible reproach that this kind of research is a waste of precious tax money. Something else and more is needed.
In September 2007 I attended a conference in Budapest, "Mathematics, Physics and Philosophy in the Interpretations of Relativity Theory." I was one of many participants who did not question the need for an interpretation of GTR. I took it for granted. There was, however, a participant who firmly disagreed: Erik Curiel. "What about General Relativity Requires Interpretation?" was the challenging title of his scheduled presentation in defense of the position that GTR does not require an interpretation. Its text was included in the conference proceedings (Curiel 2007), and it is by reference to this text, and to my own research, that I will try to respond to Curiel's questioning of the value of the search for a good interpretation of GTR.