No, there are many claims the Bible makes about the world or how it works that I will not go into. But what am I going to go into?
I will focus on somewhat less obvious or less well-known ways in which the Bible is wrong.
Our List of Blunders
Let us start with what the Bible thinks about insects…
The Bible Thinks Insects Have Four Legs
Here is one of the things the Bible has to say about insects:
All flying insects that walk on all fours are to be detestable to you. There are, however, some winged creatures that walk on all fours that you may eat: those that have jointed legs for hopping on the ground. Of these you may eat any kind of locust, katydid, cricket or grasshopper. But all other winged creatures that have four legs you are to detest.
Insects have six legs, not four. Therefore there are not any four-legged flying insects. Unless the Bible s, for some reason, concerned about insects that have lost two legs.
Surely the Bible authors noticed that insects have six legs?
Well, they noticed they had six limbs. But they did not count two of the limbs as legs. Why? Because at least for the insects described here, they did not consider the two hind legs as walking legs but leaping legs.
But all the same, insects all have six legs. So it is wrong to say that they are four-legged creatures.
The Bible Does Not Know Anything About the Mustard Seed
Let us see which seed the Bible considers to be the smallest seed.
Another parable put he [Jesus] forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.
The mustard seed is not the smallest seed. Jesus might not have known that. But I suspect farmers and the like might have known that.
The mustard seed does not grow into a tree either. The mustard plant is clearly not a tree and looks nothing like a tree.
It might have been classified by some as a tree back then because it grew relatively tall. But that is not a scientifically valid reason to classify something as a tree.
The Bible Thinks Pi is 3
Let us turn to the Bible describing a cauldron and see if we can figure out if the all-knowing God knows the correct value of pi.
Also, he made a molten sea [cauldron] of ten cubits from brim to brim, round in compass, and five cubits the height thereof; and a line of thirty cubits did compass it round about.
The more mathematically astute among you may have already seen the problem. Let me point it out.
Pi is a circle’s circumference divided by its diameter.
The circumference of a circle equals pi times the diameter.
Pi = Circumference divided by diameter.
Now, let us look at what the Bible says. It says that the cauldron is 30 cubits around. So, if we consider the circumference of the circle formed by the rim of the cauldron, it says this circle is 30 cubits around.
It also says that the cauldron is 10 cubits from one brim to the other. So, the diameter of the rim is 10 cubits.
Therefore, according to the Bible:
Pi = C/d or 30/10 = 3.
But we know that pi is not equal to three. It is about 3.14 and the decimal digits go on indefinitely.
It certainly is not equal to three!
The Bible Thinks the Moon is a Light
Let us see what the Bible says about the Moon, shall we?
And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars.
This seems to be talking about the Moon. The greater light would be the Sun and the “lesser light” seems to be the Moon.
But there is one big problem with this. The Moon is not a light, it gives off no light of its own. It is a big bunch of rock. People only think it is light because it reflects the light of the Sun.
So the Bible does not even know what the Moon is. Nor that it has no means of giving off any light of its own!
So, again, how could the authors of the Bible have the modern concept of species in mind? They did not know about that concept when the Old Testament was compiled over 2,500 years ago!
If it were a known concept back then, why would the Creationists not point this out, instead of refusing to define the term?
They would not talk about their “cat” kinds or “bear” kinds, since “cat” and “bear” kinds are not species.
If by “kind” the Bible meant species, then why does it talk about the “fowl” kind?
Of fowls after their kind, and of cattle after their kind, of every creeping thing of the earth after his kind, two of every sort shall come unto thee, to keep them alive.
Bible, King James, Genesis, 1:25
What is the fowl kind? Who knows what a fowl kind is, whatever the authors of the Bible considered fowls to be?
More importantly, is there a “fowl” species? No there is not. There is no single species that we could logically call a fowl.
Instead, in modern taxonomy, “fowl” is a group consisting of two orders, the Galliformes (gamefowl) and Anseriformes (waterfowl). Each consisting of several species.
So, it seems that the “fowl kind” does not correspond to a “fowl” species.
Let us go into a deep dive of the King James Bible and find every time it mentions kinds.
Keep in mind that later, our Antagonist is going to assert that perhaps the Bible authors meant family or genus. Let us see if we can find any use of the word kind that implies species, family or genus.
And Noah went forth, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons’ wives with him: Every beast, every creeping thing, and every fowl, and whatsoever creepeth upon the earth, after their kinds, went forth out of the ark.
Nothing about species, family or genus here. Just vague descriptions of “kinds” which could mean almost anything.
And it shall come to pass, that the fishers shall stand upon it from Engedi even unto Eneglaim; they shall be a place to spread forth nets; their fish shall be according to their kinds, as the fish of the great sea, exceeding many.
Again, nothing about species of family or any genus of fish.
15:39 All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds.
Here we are talking about kinds of flesh. It is not clear this is the same … um … kind of kinds. But there are certainly more than one “kind” of best, fish or birds.
In any case, nothing about the concepts of species, family or genus.
For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.
Yet again, no mention of the concept of species, family or genus. What a surprise!
So, how does any of this suggest that by “kind” that the Bible mean species? Or family? Or genus?
Nothing in the Bible indicates this. So, why would we assume this?
Or what we call “family”. Or “genus”. Using a different word for the same concept doesn’t invalidate the concept.
How could it be referring to either the concept of family or genus? Those concepts, as used in modern taxonomy, did not exist back then.
So, again, how could the Bible have had these concepts in mind when they were not known to exist then?
So, no this is not a matter of using a different word for the same concept. There is no indication that the Bible is talking about species, family or genus. It gives no indication it is talking about any of these.
Nor did these concepts exist then, as far as we know!
It seems Antagonist is giving the Bible authors credit for taxonomic concepts that were not known to have existed for almost 2,000 years.
I somehow doubt we should attribute a bunch of goat-herders such advanced knowledge.
You say that but give no evidence as to why it couldn’t mean that other than a semantically irrelevant argument.
It is not my place to show that it could not mean that. It is your place to that is what the Bible meant. Which you have failed to do. Which everyone that has ever tried to pin down what the Bible meant has failed to do!
Having said that, I managed to show that what the Bible means is not a species.
Please show me any evidence that the Bible authors meant any such thing.
I’m not saying Creationism is right, I’m saying making a semantical argument and acting incredulous towards a plausible explanation is not an argument.
You have yet to provide me with a plausible explanation. I have pointed out that your “plausible explanations” are not relevant.
You have yet to show that they are plausible explanations for what the Bible meant. Since there is no evidence at all to support that is what was meant.
It is not my place to prove that it does mean that. It is the Creationists place to define what they think the concept of “kind” means. Which they seem unable to do.
Instead, they use the word without giving any definition.
It does not mean species, family or genus. The Bible does not use it in a way consistent with species. Creationists do not use it in a sense consistent with any of these concepts.
Creationists decide things that look or act similar are “the same kind”. And this seems to be how the Bible authors were thinking. But whether they were thinking has nothing to do with “species” or “family” or “genus”.
I’m not saying creationism is right, I’m saying making a semantical argument and acting incredulous towards a plausible explanation is not an argument.
Why are you defending the Bible’s use of the word “kind”? This is a lot like trying to argue with a Creationist. Which is funny because I am reasonable sure that you are not one.
And where is this plausible argument you claim to have presented?
Why don’t they define what they mean by a kind? You would think that if you had a point, you would be able to show this.
You are right though, acting incredulous is not an argument. Good thing I presented arguments then and even better arguments now!
(Editorial: Please note that in this article on falsifiability, I use the phrases “science”, “sciences” and the like. Unless otherwise noted, I am talking about the “empirical” or “physical” sciences such as physics, chemistry and biology.
And not sciences such as mathematics and philosophy.
However, much of the same logic applies to those other sciences as well.
Also, I am not attacking the idea of falsifying a theory as such. I am discussing Popper’s philosophy of how falsification is the essence of science.)
Falsifiability is a problem to a “central problem” in the philosophy of science developed by Karl Popper. Popper was a philosopher of science and closely associated with the influential Vienna Circle.
According to Popper, the central problem in the philosophy of science is demarcation. The problem of demarcation is that of distinguishing between science and non-science.
In Popper’s own words:
The problem of finding a criterion which would enable us to distinguish between the empirical sciences on the one hand, and mathematics and logic as well as ‘metaphysical’ systems on the other, I call the problem of demarcation.
Karl Popper, The Logic of Scientific Discovery
In other words, the problem of demarcation is how to distinguish between science and what Popper considered to be non-scientific. Things such a metaphysics and logic.
Karl Popper proposed falsifiability as the solution to this problem.
It can be summed up as:
[S]tatements or systems of statements, in order to be ranked as scientific, must be capable of conflicting with possible, or conceivable observations.
Hansson, Sven Ove (2008). Zalta, Edward N. (ed.). “Science and Pseudo-Science”. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2008 ed.). 4.2 Falsificationism.
We can briefly sum up Hume’s critique of induction with this quote:
From causes which appear similar we expect similar effects. This is the sum of all our experimental conclusions. Now it seems evident that, if this conclusion were formed by reason, it would be as perfect at first, and upon one instance, as after ever so long a course of experience. But the case is far otherwise. Nothing so like as eggs; yet no one, on account of this appearing similarity, expects the same taste and relish in all of them.
It is only after a long course of uniform experiments in any kind, that we attain a firm reliance and security with regard to a particular event. Now where is that process of reasoning which, from one instance, draws a conclusion, so different from that which it infers from a hundred instances that are nowise different from that single one? This question I propose as much for the sake of information, as with an intention of raising difficulties. I cannot find, I cannot imagine any such reasoning.
David Hume, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, 4. Sceptical doubts concerning the operations of the understanding
Popper agreed with Hume that it is logically impossible to conclusively verify a universal proposition by reference to experience.
After all, in his view, it is easy to say that all swans are white. But you have no way to know this simply by observation.
All it would take, according to Popper, is a single counter-example to falsify the induction.
…The answer to this problem is: as implied by Hume, we certainly are not justified in reasoning from an instance to the truth of the corresponding law. But to this negative result a second result, equally negative, may be added: we are justified in reasoning from a counter-instance to the falsity of the corresponding universal law (that is, of any law of which it is a counter-instance). Or in other words, from a purely logical point of view, the acceptance of one counter-instance to ‘All swans are white’ implies the falsity of the law ‘All swans are white’ – that law, that is, whose counter-instance we accepted. Induction is logically invalid…
He, therefore, rejects the validity of induction and insists that science does not use it. Instead, he argues that science consists of problem-solving.
But, in practice, as we shall see, this consists of producing theoretical bowling pins which you then spend your time trying to knock over.
Popper did not understand the importance of induction.
He seemed to equate induction with making an arbitrary generalization from observation and thus making unsupported universal statements.
It is therefore consistent that Popper insisted that you cannot prove a theory true by showing that it agrees with observation.
If you cannot make inductions in science, then you cannot generalize from experimental observation and form conclusions about the phenomena you are studying.
For instance, suppose you are Newton and you have the hypothesis that there is some force which attracts objects towards one another. How might you prove that this is the case?
You might observe the way Mars moves around the Sun. And the way the Moon moves around the Earth. And induce that they have similar behaviours which can be explained by the same inverse square law.
But, according to Popper science does not work by induction.
So, you are not meant to generalize from observations and form generalizations about instances/things you have not observed.
How then are you meant to show that your hypothesis about attractive forces is valid? If you cannot reason from the observed and generalize from observations to general principles, how do you validate your theories?
Well, this indeed means that you have no way to do so. So, yes, if Popper was right about science not using induction, then it would seem reasonable to believe that science cannot show anything to be true.
You can, however, according to Popper, disprove a theory by showing that it contradicts with observation. He believed that you can never prove a theory to be true since you might disprove it tomorrow!
So, if you take all this to its logical conclusion, then according to Popper you can never be sure that any given theory is right.
A conclusion Popper seems to have agreed with:
What we should do, I suggest, is to give up the idea of ultimate sources of knowledge, and admit that all knowledge is human; that it is mixed with our errors, our prejudices, our dreams, and our hopes; that all we can do is to grope for truth even though it be beyond our reach.
Karl, Popper, Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge
Indeed, according to Popper, the quest for any particular nugget of scientific truth is never-ending, further implying we can never hope to find it:
The game of science is, in principle, without end. He who decides one day that scientific statements do not call for any further test, and that they can be regarded as finally verified, retires from the game.
Karl Popper, The Logic of Scientific Discovery, 11 Methodological Rules as Conventions
So much for certainty in science then. Or knowinganything.
If we cannot be certain that a theory is true, then how are we to assess the worth of a theory?
Is Falsifiability the Main Criteria to Assess a Theory?
According to the philosopher of science, Richard Dawe, it certainly is an important one.
“Physicists have long relied on a notion advanced by philosopher Karl Popper, that a theory is scientifically valid if it is falsifiable.”
Indeed, it is widely accepted that for a theory to be accepted as true, it must be possible to test the theory and show that the theory is falsifiable.
Generally, I do not consider the issue of falsification to be the essential issue when it comes to testing a theory. And this is not widely considered the central issue, not to the extent Popper advocated.
Let us further explore why I do not think this is the central issue Popper makes it out to be.
Yes, a theory needs to be tested. It should be possible to show that the observable facts of reality are consistent with the theory. One needs to demonstrate that the observable facts lead one inexorably to that theory.
One should try to prove that the theory in question and only that theory is the logical implication of the observable facts of reality.
If the theory is not consistent with the facts, it should be possible to show that the theory is false.
It is important to be able to show that a given theory is false. But if a theory is false, then it would be nice if the experiment was designed so that this could be determined.
Take the Michelson-Morley experiment. This was intended to detect the presence of a luminiferous aether. It was so designed that if there was not one, then the experiment would indicate this.
In other words, this experiment was designed so that the existence of the aether could be falsified.
Generally, the focus of science is not on trying to show a theory to be false. Generally, the point is rigorously making observation and seeing what they imply about the validity of the theory.
Is there any such thing as settled science? Yes, there is.
But, first, what do I mean by “settled” science? A scientific claim that any rational person would accept as true and established beyond any reasonable doubt. And which they consider will never be replaced by an alternate theory.
You might object that this is not very scientific! We must always keep in mind that we might be wrong. We need to be ready to adjust what we know to accommodate new information that might cast what we know today into doubt!
Yes, that is partially true. We should keep in mind that we are fallible and that we might come to invalid conclusions.
Science, as with any other body of knowledge, is contextual. We study reality and based on what we observe, we form logical conclusions. But we can only account for that which we know about.
For instance, take Newtonian gravity. In the context of not knowing what happens near the speed of light, it was entirely reasonable to accept Newton’s laws of gravity as settled science.
We did not know what happened at extremely high velocities so we had no reason to doubt Newtonian gravity. Newtonian gravity is valid, within the context of things not moving near the speed of light.
Then, we expanded our context to be able to account for things near light speed. We realized that in that context, Einstein’s relativity provides better mathematics for what happens with gravity at near light speed.
Does that mean that we had no reason to be certain about Newtonian gravity?
No, it does not. We knew that it was an extremely accurate description of gravity at speeds much lower than the speed of light.
That is why NASA uses Newtonian gravity for most purposes, even though relativistic equations would be more accurate. Newtonian gravity is easier to deal with and is extremely accurate at the speeds NASA tends to work with.
Certainty is contextual. Suppose in the context of our knowledge, the available evidence supports a theory. We are therefore entitled to some certainty about that theory.
But what if it turns out that we are wrong? After all, we used to believe some strange things.
We used to think things burned because of phlogiston. Phlogiston was a mysterious substance that was thought to exist in all combustible bodies.
We used to think that dinosaurs were all sluggish, scaly critters that probably lived in swamps to support their massive weight.
Well, yes. Sometimes we are wrong. Our theories are sometimes not supported by facts. We have no business accepting some theories as anything more than a plausible hypothesis.
These are the theories which do not make up the body of settled science. These are the theories we should not consider settled.
However, it would be dishonest to consider a theory settled in the absence of evidence. It would also be dishonest to consider a theory settled if we did not understand it well enough to be sure it was consistent with all the available evidence.
Having said that, some theories are entirely reasonable within the context of the available evidence. Sometimes all the known evidence points to these theories being true.
Sometimes we understand the theory well enough to reasonably conclude it is entirely consistent with the facts. Therefore, we can be certain about these theories.
We should not entertain serious doubt of theories that have substantial evidence behind them.
We can always imagine that some theories might be disproven. However, we should be certain about a theory if all the available evidence points to it being true.
Certainty does not require us to magically account for the possibility of a context of knowledge we do not currently possess. We can be certain that something is true even if there is something we do not know about now that may later show that it is not true.
Certainty is contextual, it is valid to be certain based on the context of available evidence. As long as we are willing to address any evidence that arises should the context of our knowledge change.
In other words, we can be certain something is true. And yet adjust our theories when the context of our knowledge expands.
However, there are theories that we can consider completely and forever settled. These are theories we know with certainty and can prove without any shadow of a doubt to be true.
We know these will never be shown to be false.
It would contradict known facts of reality if they were not true. Things would have to not be what we know that they are.
Examples of these would be that atoms exist. We know atoms exist; we have seen them. If they did not exist, almost everything we know about chemistry and atomic physics would not be true.
We know evolution happens. We might not know everything about how it happens, but we know that it does. To disprove evolution, we would have to invalidate almost everything we know about biology and the known facts of biology would have to be other than what they are.
We know that the Earth is round and that it orbits the Sun. To invalidate this, the direct evidence of our senses would have to be wrong! The fact that we can see that the Earth is round would have to be fake. And how would we explain the observed behaviour of Earth if it does not orbit the Sun?
We can say without a shadow of a doubt that theories like this are absolutely and forever settled and that we will never find anything that contradicts them. We know that no such evidence is even possible.
Such science is completely settled. It would be nonsensical to pretend otherwise!
So yes, there is such a thing as settled science. It is baseless to pretend otherwise. And it would be intellectually dishonest and non-scientific to pretend that it is not settled!
It is unscientific to question that the Earth might not be round. Or that evolution does not happen. Or that atoms do not exist. Why?
Because we have seen that the Earth is round! Are we to question the evidence of our senses so that we can become a Flattard?
It would contradict the obvious implications of the evidence of our senses to believe atoms do not exist. Additionally, we have seen atoms!
It would go against observable facts and their logical implications to question that evolution happens.
It would be unscientific to question that light exhibits wave behaviour. This would go against the evidence of our senses and the logical implications of that evidence.
To question theories which we can show are irrefutable facts based on the evidence of our senses and the logical implications of such, is unscientific.
Your belief that the irrefutable facts of reality might be wrong is completely nonsensical and unscientific.
The ability to entertain alternatives to the way reality works is not indicative of science, it is closer to the mindset of the religious person that must evade reality to maintain the possibility of his delusions.
The questioning of everything, even things we can prove beyond any reasonable doubt is little better than those that deny science outright.
To deny the absolute certainty of that which we can show beyond any reasonable doubt, is to either partially deny the veracity of the evidence or fail to understand that science is about the study of an objective reality, not blind guesswork.
Today we are going over quotes that help to show that the cause of the irrationality in modern physics is philosophy.
Click here to download the PDF transcript or read below the video.
You may also listen to or download an audio only version above.
[Note: Please note that this transcript may not exactly match the audio. However, there should be no significant differences.]
Metaphysics of Physics is the crucial voice of reason in the philosophy of science, rarely found anywhere else in the world today.
We are equipped with the fundamental principles of a rational philosophy that gives us the edge, may make us misfits in the mainstream sciences but also attracts rational minds.
With this show, we are fighting for a more rational world, mostly by looking through the lens of the philosophy of science.
We raise awareness of issues within the philosophy of science and present alternative and rational approaches.
The irrationality of modern physics is the focus of this channel. We have covered topics such as:
The irrationality of Stephen Hawking.The universe and the Big Bang. The philosophy of Niels Bohr. The achievements of Isaac Newton.Optical illusions and the validity of the senses.
If you think that science is about explaining a knowable reality, then this is the channel for you.
If you want to learn more about the irrationality of modern physics, then you are in the right place.
I am your host Ashna. My husband, Dwayne Davies is the primary content creator and your guide through the hallowed halls of the philosophy of science.
We will discuss the problems in modern physics and more and how we can live in a more rational world!
Check out our website at metaphysicsofphysics.com.
The Show Itself
Hi everyone! Welcome to the first of the Metaphysics of Physics video podcast. Today we are going over quotes that help to show that the cause of the irrationality in modern physics is philosophy.
If you are a long-time fan of Metaphysics of Physics, then you will know that modern physics is full of crazy absurdities. Such as things being particles and waves at the same time. And things not being real unless they are observed. Or the tendency to treat obvious concepts such as that of “dimension” or “time” as though they were physical things. Or that the universe is made from mathematics!
Why do educated people take such nonsense seriously? Is it because reality is as weird as physicists like to believe? And do we just have to accept this?
No! If you examine all these kinds of claims, you will not find any evidence that supports them. All these claims are simply baseless, nonsensical interpretations of experiments and/or mathematical equations. There is never a shred of evidence that supports any of these interpretations.
Ah, but what about all the alleged experimental evidence. Yes, what about it? In no case can it reasonably be interpreted as supporting any such anti-reality position. No experiment ever performed will ever show that reality is not real or that it is unknowable.
If reality was not real, the results of experiments would not be real and they would demonstrate nothing. If reality was unknowable, then you could never learn that by performing experiments that could not reveal that.
Or in other words: you cannot use reality to demonstrate that there is no reality. You cannot claim knowledge that proves that knowledge is impossible.
Why then do physicists take any of this seriously? It is because of the ideas that physicists have accepted either passively or actively. It is because of the philosophies that those in physics have blindly accepted or have actively embraced. Philosophies which lead them to interpret reality through the twisted lenses of those very philosophies which are hostile to reality and knowledge.
What kind of philosophies might these be? The kind that asserts that what we call reality is an illusion and that we might as well give up trying to understand how it works. Instead, they claim that we should confine ourselves to studying only mathematical appearances. As that is all they believe we shall ever know about.
Today we are going to explore some quotes from physicists. We will start with Niels Bohr and his contemporaries. They started physics down the road of abandoning reality in favor of mathematical appearances. And then we shall turn to more recent physicists who evidently agree with Bohr and his peers.
We shall see that the absurdities of modern physics should come as no surprise. The people inflicting modern physics with these absurdities are simply being consistent with the philosophy of Bohr and the like. The philosophy which dominates science today and which is shaped by the Neo-Kantian philosophies that have dominated our culture for over a hundred years.
Without any further ado, let us look at some of these quotes. And then discuss what kind of philosophical premises motivated them.
“Everything we call real is made of things that cannot be regarded as real.” – Niels Bohr
Bohr believed that we could never know reality as it is. We can merely develop a pragmatic abstract description consistent with what we observe. Which is merely an illusion, not things as they are.
If we cannot know reality, then one might ask “towards what purpose?” do we have science? Creating science-fiction?
That seems rather pointless to me. But pragmatists would assert that there is some use in describing illusions. If they help us live better lives as we navigate our way around all these illusions.
“Isolated material particles are abstractions, their properties being definable and observable only through their interaction with other systems.” – Niels Bohr.
We are to view things such as an “electron” or a “proton” as abstract descriptions. We should not think that we know anything about what they are. No, we are merely creating abstract descriptions. And then identifying relationships between these abstractions.
After all, if we cannot know reality as it is, and all we have are illusions to work with, then should we not at least try to find out how these illusions are connected? At least then we can learn to live in this world of illusions.
“I consider those developments in physics during the last decades which have shown how problematical such concepts as “objective” and “subjective” are, a great liberation of thought.” – Niels Bohr.
Here Bohr exposes his pragmatism. He does not consider it worthwhile to discuss whether the abstractions he holds so dear are “objective” or “subjective”. He is merely concerned with whether they might prove pragmatically useful.
If we cannot know reality, then what use is it to say whether something is objective or subjective? We can never know. We can only know whether abstractions are useful.
A reasonable person might say that abstractions are only useful if they are objective.
Bohr believed that we cannot know whether something is objective or not, so considers it pointless to consider such things.
“We must be clear that when it comes to atoms, language can be used only as in poetry. The poet, too, is not nearly so concerned with describing facts as with creating images and establishing mental connections.” – Niels Bohr
Bohr enjoyed the fact that so much of the quantum physics he was developing made no sense. He reveled in its frequent contradictions and insisted that different aspects of the same thing could be in a kind of conflict (but were complementary) with each other. Of course, he urged his peers to accept such conflicts!
He was like one of those deranged poets who enjoys constructing rhymes that make no sense. But who nonetheless insists that his poetry is of great depth and significance.
Except he was not merely some poet filling his victim’s ears with an insult to the Muses. He was detaching physics from reality while insisting that physics does not need it. While insisting that instead it needs beautiful descriptions of contradictions!
“There is no quantum world. There is only an abstract quantum physical description. It is wrong to think that the task of physics is to find out how nature is. Physics concerns what we can say about Nature.” – Niels Bohr
That sums it all up. According to Bohr, the point of physics is not to learn about the fundamental nature of the physical world. What then is the point of physics?
According to Bohr, it is about whatever we want to say about reality. Without concerning ourselves with things like objectivity, logic or the true nature of things. It is all about “poetry” and the relationships between meaningless abstractions with no connection to an unknowable reality.
Of course, physics is about explaining the real physical world. But according to Bohr we can not know the real world, let alone explain it!
You can read more about the philosophy of Bohr in episode seven of the podcast. There we cover his philosophy in some depth.
Bohr and his disciples had an enormous influence on physics and later physicists. But he was not the only person to assert such things.
For instance, we have this quote from Werner Heisenberg:
Today we are continuing a new series where we take seven quotes from my database of irrational quotes, briefly examine what they mean and what is so terrible about each of the quotes. You can see part one of the series here.
Without any further ado, let us look at our quotes. We have several quotes from the physicists Einstein, Kaku and Planck. As well as some more quotes from Islam.
Scare Quotes of Note from Islam
“the Messenger of Allah said: I have been commanded to fight against people till they testify that there is no god but Allah, that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah” – Sahih Muslim
More verses of violence, this time from one of Islam’s other holy sources.
People like to claim that any assertion that Islam is violent is misrepresenting the faith. But it is a faith revolving around a violent warlord and has countless verses like this!
Islam is fundamentally a violent religion in the spirit of the Old Testament.
It is not like Christianity, which was intended to be a somewhat more peaceful adaptation of the Old Testament Judaism. Islam is intended as a violent radicalization of Abrahamic theology!
Religions never tolerate disbelief and they all prescribe some kind of penalty, even if it is simply severe moral condemnation. In fact, in most religions, non-belief is the cardinal sin.
In most religions, the one sin the gods, including the Christian God, cannot forgive is the sin of non-belief. Most religions can forgive most or all other sins if the sinner engages in the proper magic rituals.
The more violent the religion, the more its ideas support radical violence, the more probable it is to openly advocate the slaughter of heretics.
Islam is a religion with a very violent ideology. So, when Muslims demand the slaughter of non-believers we should not cry “that is not the real Islam talking”.
We should condemn Islam as an incredibly violent ideology that must be opposed as the cult of death that it is.
“And if ye are unclean, purify yourselves. And if ye are sick or on a journey, or one of you cometh from the closet, or ye have had contact with women, and ye find not water, then go to clean, high ground and rub your faces and your hands with some of it” Quran 5:6
Islam has a less than healthy attitude towards women.
As do many religions, particular the Abrahamic ones. It considers women inferior to men. Islam takes it further than some of them and considers women not only unclean but lowly, degrading creatures.
Apparently women are inherently unclean. If one touches them one should wash ones hands and faces!
Islam treats women as inferior in many other verses too. As we can see here.
So much for a peaceful religion. And the claims that Islam is not anti-women. Evidently, it is.
Scare Quotes of Note from Physicists
“I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness.”- Max Planck
Consciousness is not fundamental.
Biological organisms possess consciousness, the faculty of awareness. As far as we know, only biological organisms possess consciousness.
Consciousness does not and cannot exist separately of organisms. Just as we cannot separate life from living organisms, neither can we separate consciousness from living organisms.
Since only organisms possess consciousness and organisms are matter, matter must exist as a prerequisite of consciousness. If there is no matter, there is nothing to possess a faculty of awareness.
Not only that, if there was no matter, there would be nothing for consciousness to be aware of. A faculty of awareness when there is nothing to be aware of is a contradiction and therefore does not represent reality.
Consciousness requires matter in order to exist in the first place.
“All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force which brings the particle of an atom to vibration and holds this most minute solar system of the atom together. We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent mind. This mind is the matrix of all matter.” ― Max Planck
All matter exists and originates from a force?
First of all, force is an abstract description of the action of entities. Before forces exist, entities must exist in order that they can interact and thus exert forces on one another.
You cannot have forces that exist without entities to act. No more than you can have dancing without dancers or driving without cars. Actions require entities to act. Actions can not exist divorced from entities to act.
We have no reason to think that matter originates and exists only by virtue of some force. Or that the force in question must be a result of some conscious and intelligent mind.
This is a thinly veiled attempt at primacy of consciousness.
It asserts that consciousness is primary to reality. In the words of Ayn Rand, the primacy of consciousness is “the notion that the universe has no independent existence, that it is the product of a consciousness”.
This is exactly what Planck is asserting! That somehow matter and the physical world would not exist if it were not for some form of consciousness that created it!
Planck was a member of the Lutheran Church. It is obvious that this requirement for intelligence is meant to suggest that matter requires the existence of some kind of god, preferably the Christian God.
Obviously this is not true. If the universe does not require consciousness to exist, then it certainly does not require intelligence to exist either.
“When Physicists speak of “beauty” in their theories, they really mean that their theory possesses at least two essential features: 1. A unifying symmetry 2. The ability to explain vast amounts of experimental data with the most economical mathematical expressions” – Michio Kaku
There is not necessarily anything wrong with a theory having a unifying symmetry.
In fact, this can lend a theory a kind of mathematical beauty.
But what about this ability to explain vast amounts of experimental data with the most economical mathematical expressions? Um, explain data with mathematical expressions?
No, mathematical expressions are not explanations. They are quantifications of relationships. We talked about this in episode one of Scare Quotes of Note.
“The physical world is real.” That is supposed to be the fundamental hypothesis. What does “hypothesis” mean here? For me, a hypothesis is a statement, whose truth must be assumed for the moment, but whose meaning must be raised above all ambiguity. The above statement appears to me, however, to be, in itself, meaningless, as if one said: “The physical world is cock-a-doodle-do.” It appears to me that the “real” is an intrinsically empty, meaningless category (pigeon hole), whose monstrous importance lies only in the fact that I can do certain things in it and not certain others” – Albert Einstein
How is it meaningless to assert that the physical world is real?
The physical world is axiomatically real. “The physical world” is equivalent to “the objects, the things that exist qua entity and which are not relationships or other abstractions”.
To say it is meaningless to assert that the physical world is real, is like saying it is meaningless to assert that entities exist!
Obviously it is not meaningless or arbitrary or empty. The fact that anyone can make these claims proves that some kind of physical world exists. As those making these claims are part of the physical world!
Einstein is applying some kind of Neo-Kantian philosophy here it seems. He is trying to argue that there is no sense trying to discuss reality. This is a clumsy attempt to do away with objective reality. And it cannot work.
“Whether you can observe a thing or not depends on the theory which you use. It is the theory which decides what can be observed.” – Albert Einstein
Theories do not determine what can be observed!
They are a description of reality, they do not determine how reality works nor do they create reality.
Whether or not we can observe something depends on its nature. It is not determined by the content of an abstract description of it.
Why did Einstein take this view? He took the view that we cannot really know reality as it is. However, physics has to start somewhere. It seems he took the view that it starts with your theories.
Which are not logical deductions based on observing the world and performing experiments. But that you pluck ideas out of the air and see which ones stick.
This is not how you do science or gain knowledge about anything. You have to start by studying reality, not plucking arbitrary ideas out of thin air!
String theory is based on the misguided idea that the “great pillars of 20th-century science”; quantum mechanics and relativity can be unified. Unified into one theory that explains the quantum theory and relativity.
This is meant to unify physics and allow us to come up with a unified “Theory of Everything“. Or, at least to come up with a unified theory that can be used to explain most/all of physics. It is believed that with this theory, pretty much every other aspect of physics could be derived.
How do we know that we should try to unify quantum mechanics and relativity?
Even if we assume that these are reasonable theories, how do we know that we can unify them into a good or even coherent theory? Who says such a theory exists?
Many physicists assume that such a theory must exist. However, I see little or no reason to assume that such a theory must exist.
Why do so many believe that it must? Physicists have noticed how successful quantum theory and relativity have been in making astoundingly accurate mathematical predictions. It is rather hard not to. In terms of their powers of mathematically describing relationships, both of these theories are remarkably accurate to very high levels of precision.
And there has certainly been a trend in physics towards increased unification. For instance, electricity and magnetism were once considered to be separate things until it was discovered that they are very closely related and that the same set of equations describe how they both work.
So, it is widely considered that there is this increasing trend toward unifying lots of different things under one theory, all describable by one set of equations. As done with electromagnetism and as physicists believe they accomplished with space and time.
They now want to unify quantum physics and relativity so that one theory explains both of these. And that can describe both with one set of equations. They assume that this is possible and that such a theory must exist. Must it?
Is it necessarily the case that a single theory explains the things covered by quantum mechanics and gravity?
I am not sure this is necessarily the case. Nor am I sure that it need not be the case. Until such a reasonable candidate for such a theory comes along, I think it is premature to do more than speculate.
Whether or not there is any such theory, we know that it cannot be a combination of quantum theory and relativity. Not as quantum theory and relativity exist as we know them today.
We should ask ourselves if quantum mechanics and relativity are theories that are ready to be unified.
Do quantum mechanics and relativity make any sense?
If not, should we be trying to unify them? Are they coherent theories and if not, should we expect to be able to unify them into a coherent theory?
Relativity claims to unify space, time and gravity all into one neat bundle, all described by one set of equations. I would argue that it does not. I would argue that the physical interpretations of relativity make no sense. You cannot explain how gravity works by treating mathematical concepts such as space and time as though they were physical aspects of the universe.
Sure, it might work as a mathematical method, but we have to keep in mind that it is just a mathematical method and that space and time are only mathematical concepts. We cannot explain how anything works by treating abstractions as physical aspects of the universe.
Quantum theory is also rather nonsensical.
In fact, it largely avoids trying to explain anything and largely denies that subatomic particles have any reality or act in any consistent way with reality while they are not being observed.
Quantum mechanics explains very little in terms of the actions of physical objects. Instead, it is the action of magical entities that are not fully real and act as ghosts that are somehow made mostly real by the process of observation.
I am going to argue that neither quantum mechanics nor relativity is a coherent theory. Sure, the mathematics of both theories has been verified time and time again to match reality with great precision.
The point of physics is not to merely come up with accurate mathematical descriptions of reality.
The point is to help us understand physical reality as it really is. Not to merely describe mathematical appearances.
The problem is that neither quantum mechanics nor relativity helps us to understand reality. They provide nonsensical, metaphysically invalid descriptions of appearances but do not describe reality or help us to understand it. In fact, they deny reality any place in physics and merely describe appearances.
They describe impossibilities such as particles that exist in contradictory states. Or objects that have different properties for different observers. This is about as far from a rational attempt to help us understand reality as one could imagine.
Why then should we try to make a unified theory out of these two failed theories? We shouldn’t! These are not coherent theories in the first place, so why should we attempt to come up with a theory that somehow accounts for both theories?
Neither theory works to explain reality, so why account for them at all? That would be like if I took Islam and Hinduism and tried to come up with a Unified Theory of Common Religions in India. Given neither Islam nor Hinduism have any truth to them, all I would end up with is yet another body of ideas without any truth to it.
Sure, one could perhaps take the aspects of quantum theory and relativity that work and come up with another theory. But, that would be a very different theory, at least in terms of its physical interpretations.
Sure, a lot of the math might be familiar, but physics is about physical explanations of how reality works. Not merely mathematical descriptions of how reality works.
This is all string theorists could hope to do. To come up with a body of mathematical equations that somehow unifies relativity and quantum mechanics. By that I mean, the equations would describe things from relativity and quantum theory.
But that does not provide a physical explanation of how physical reality works.
So, it does not qualify as physics. And that is the problem.
Even if we have a mathematical unification of relativity and quantum theory, we still need a physical unification. And where is that going to come from?
From two fields of physics that have no rational physical interpretations to offer? I do not see how that is possible.
So, in as far as it tries to explain two largely false theories, that string theory is doomed from the start. It is not possible to come up with a coherent theory that starts with two other absurdly false theories as its premises.
This should come as no surprise. If so much of modern physics is nonsensical and anti-reality, why then should we expect string theory to be any better?
Other than this, is string theory of any use to anyone? In upcoming articles on string theory, we will see that it is not. The problems with string theory and its practitioners go far beyond what we have outlined here.
Today we discuss the philosophy of Niels Bohr and some of its influences, such as pragmatism. We will explore these by looking at some Bohr quotes.
If you want to know more about the absurdities of quantum mechanics, you can try this link.
[Please note that this may not exactly match the audio. However, there should be no significant differences.].
Welcome to episode seven of the Metaphysics of Physics podcast. I am Ashna, your host and guide through the hallowed halls of the philosophy of science. Thanks for tuning in!
With this show, we are fighting for a more rational world, mostly by looking through the lens of the philosophy of science. We raise awareness of issues within the philosophy of science and present alternative and rational approaches.
You can find all the episodes, transcripts and subscription options on the website at metaphysicsofphysics.com.
Today we will be taking a look at the philosophy of Niels Bohr. We will be making the case for three central elements of Bohr’s philosophy and we will use quotes to show that he did indeed hold to these tenets.
If you are interested in further readings, links to the sources from which many of these quotes are taken have been provided in the show notes.
So, what are these three central tenets of Bohr’s philosophy?
Firstly, the rejection of reality and objective facts.
Secondly, a rejection of the Law of Identity.
And thirdly, that Bohr ascribed to a kind of acausality, that is a rejection of causality. This might seem a consequence of the second and arguably it is. If you reject the Law of Identity, it is no surprise that you might also reject causality.
What do these tenets point to? Which philosophical influence or influences might Bohr then be said to have suffered from?
Let’s begin by looking at his background.
Bohr is considered one of the foremost and founding figures of modern physics. He is best known for his contributions to quantum theory and his work on the structure of atoms, for which he won the Nobel Prize in physics in 1922.
Bohr was born in 1885 and died 1962, aged 77. He became interested in physics at a young age and acquired a doctorate in physics in 1911 from the University of Copenhagen, at the relatively young age of 26.
It should be noted that his father, Christian Bohr, was a friend of the well-known philosopher Harald Høffding. Christian would invite Høffding to the Bohr household and Niels would observe and take part in many philosophical discussions with this philosopher.
Høffding was heavily influenced by Kant and later became a positivist. Positivism holds that knowledge begins with sensory experience and Bohr most certainly agreed with this.
These early experiences with Høffding seems to have sparked an intense interest in philosophy. Furthermore, Høffding was not his only philosophical influence.
Bohr was a philosophical eclectic and was influenced by various other philosophers, such as the pragmatist William James.
As we shall see, the Neo-Kantian philosophies he was exposed to influenced his physics for the worst.
His early work was on the measurement of surface tension of liquids using oscillating fluid jets, for which he won a prize offered by the Copenhagen Academy of Sciences while still a student. He also got published by the Royal Society of London for related work.
While he was researching material for his doctoral thesis on the electron theory of metals, he came across Max Planck’s early work on quantum theory. There he read about how light was quantized into packets. After this, his work became a lot more abstract and eventually positively unworldly!
In 1912, Bohr met Ernest Rutherford, the discoverer of the atomic nucleus. Rutherford also worked on an early atomic model, for which he received the 1908 Nobel Prize. Bohr went on to make his own atomic model, under the guidance of Rutherford.
Bohr combined Rutherford’s description of the nucleus and Planck’s quantum theories into his own atomic model. For this, he received the Nobel Prize in 1922.
Bohr’s atomic model is considered one of his most significant contributions to modern physics. It shows the atom consisting of a positively charged nucleus with negatively charged electrons traveling around it in separate circular orbits with discrete radii. And that the electrons can transition between orbits by emitting or absorbing energy equal to the quanta of light.
His theoretical work was also used to help understand how nuclear fission works and was used in the first attempts to split uranium in the 1930s.
Bohr developed a concept of “complementarity” which would prove to be perhaps one of his most irrational and revealing philosophical notions. This concept held that there was seldom a single way to describe something and that often, seemingly contradictory, mutually-exclusive descriptions had to be embraced.
The most well-known and influential examples of complementarity at work is that of the particle-wave duality of light and other subatomic “particles”.
It is unfortunate that complementarity would come to lie at the heart of quantum mechanics. As we shall see, it is useful in revealing the deep irrationality of quantum mechanics and its philosophical influences.
Now, let’s look at some Bohr quotes that point to the pillars of his philosophy, the first one being, the rejection of reality and objective facts.
Bohr’s Rejection of Reality and Objectivity
Isolated material particles are abstractions, their properties being definable and observable only through their interaction with other systems. 
The Quantum of Action and the Description of Nature (1929).
As we shall see, Bohr does not think that physical reality has any place in physics. He believes that knowledge is the process of forming relationships between abstractions, not the study of the concrete physical world.
From the very beginning, however, one was not unprepared in this domain to come upon failure of the forms of perception adapted to our ordinary sense impressions.
The Quantum of Action and the Description of Nature (1929).
Here, this domain refers to the atomic theory and Bohr admits that he was not unprepared for the alleged failure of the forms of perception. What could have lead one to be prepared for this? Philosophy.
There is no quantum world. There is only an abstract quantum physical description. It is wrong to think that the task of physics is to find out how nature is. Physics concerns what we can say about Nature. 
The Philosophy of Niels Bohr’, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 1963, Volume 3, Issue 19
So, in other words, we cannot know physical reality, only abstract descriptions. Physics is not the study of reality as it is, but simply a pragmatic description that explains what we observe.
An abstract description of what? The next quote gives us a clue.
We must be clear that when it comes to atoms, language can be used only as in poetry. The poet, too, is not nearly so concerned with describing facts as with creating images and establishing mental connections. 
Defense Implications of International Indeterminacy (1972) by Robert J. Pranger, p. 11, and Theorizing Modernism : Essays in Critical Theory (1993) by Steve Giles, p. 28
Here Bohr means that language can not be used as a precise method of the description of reality. The purpose of words, of concepts, of ideas is not to describe reality, but to describe and relate “images” and “mental connections”.
In other words, the purpose of language, of concepts, is not to study physical reality, but to study and relate abstractions.
So when we asked, “An abstract description of what?” Of, what? Nothing? Or perhaps abstract descriptions of sense perceptions. But sense perceptions of what? We shall return to this in a little bit.
Are these abstractions to be considered objective? Bohr does not think so.
I consider those developments in physics during the last decades, which have shown how problematical such concepts as objective and subjective are, a great liberation of thought. 
Physics and Beyond (1971) by Werner Heisenberg
Bohr does not consider it worthwhile discussing whether or not an idea is objective or subjective. This is not too surprising given that one of Bohr’s many philosophical influences was, as we shall see, pragmatism.
You might ask whether there was any justification for Bohr saying these kinds of things. It is certainly widely asserted that Bohr and his peers were forced to reluctantly accept the implications of quantum theory.
But there can be no physical justification for claiming that reality is unknowable.
Why then did Bohr adopt this view? Is it because the quantum world really is “inflicted with a kind of vagueness”? Or, is it because of his philosophical influences?
The situation which we meet here is characterized by the fact that we are apparently forced to choose between two mutually contradictory conceptions of the propagation of light. One, the idea of light waves, the other, the corpuscular [particle] view of the of the theory of light quanta, each conception expressing fundamental aspects of our experience. As we shall see in the following, this apparent dilemma marks a particular limitation of our forms of perception which is bound up with the quantum of action.
The Atomic Theory and the Fundamental Principles underlying the Description of Nature (1929).
Are we forced to choose between contradictory conceptions of light? No. Objectivity, the recognition of reality as it really is, requires us to identify the fact that it can be only one of those and to attempt to identify which one is the case.
Far from it being a dilemma, it is a requirement of objectivity and identifying reality. To ignore this requirement is to reduce the concept of light to a floating abstraction and to make it impossible to identify its true nature.
Nor is it a limit of our “forms of perception” as such. Nothing that exists can exist with a contradictory nature. To be is to be something, free of contradictions.
Far from being a “limitation” of our “forms of perception” this is a necessary fact which everything, including perception, must adhere to.
An independent reality in the ordinary physical sense can neither be ascribed to the phenomena or to the agencies of observation. After all, the concept of observation is so far arbitrary as it depends upon which objects are included in the system to be observed. Ultimately, every observation can, of course, be reduced to our sense perceptions. 
Quantum postulate and the recent development of atomic theory Nature. 121: 580-591.
Here Bohr advocates the idea that observation is not the observation of real entities in the physical world, but of floating sense perceptions. In his view, science is not the study of external physical reality, but the description of sense perceptions.
Sense perceptions of what? Reality does not begin with sense perception. To perceive is to perceive something.
Our senses do not distort that which they observe. Neither do our senses create their own content. But, Bohr frequently spoke as if he believed that our senses create their own content or distort that which they do observe.
We have said that Bohr is irrational. Here we provide some evidence for those claims! We will go over some of them in a future episode. But for now, see what you can make of them.
“The very recognition of the limited divisibility of physical processes, symbolized, by the quantum of actions, has justified the old doubt as to the range of our ordinary forms of perception when applied to atomic phenomena. Since, in the observation of phenomena, we cannot neglect the interaction between the objection and the instrument of observation, the question of the possibilities of observation again comes to the foreground. Thus we meet here in new light, the problem of the objectivity of phenomena which has always attracted so much attention in philosophical discussions.”
“There are trivial truths and the great truths. The opposite of a trivial truth is plainly false. The opposite of a great truth is also true.”
“We must be clear that when it comes to atoms, language can be used only as in poetry. The poet, too, is not nearly so concerned with describing facts as with creating images and establishing mental connections.”
“Your theory is crazy, but it’s not crazy enough to be true.”
“Everything we call real is made of things that cannot be regarded as real.”
“I consider those developments in physics during the last decades which have shown how problematical such concepts as objective and subjective are, a great liberation of thought.”
“Isolated material particles are abstractions, their properties being definable and observable only through their interaction with other systems.”
“The quantum theory may be said to be a disappointment, for the atomic theory arose just from the attempt to accomplish such a description, also in the case of phenomena which, in our immediate sense impressions, do not appear as material bodies. From the very beginning, however, one was not unprepared in this domain to come upon failure of the forms of perception adapted to our ordinary sense impressions”
“No, no, you’re not thinking; you’re just being logical.”
“There is no quantum world. There is only an abstract quantum physical description. It is wrong to think that the task of physics is to find out how nature is. Physics concerns what we can say about Nature.”
“In addition, it has been my desire to emphasize as strongly as possible how profoundly the new knowledge has shaken the foundations underlying the building up of concepts on which not only the classical description of physics rests but also our ordinary mode of thinking. It is above all to this emancipation that we owe the wonderful progress far exceeding all the hopes which one ventured to cherish just a few years ago.”