Tag Archives: Philosophy of Physics

Post-Reality Physics: Evidence, Who Needs It?

Today we are going to examine this article on the physics of string theory, “Philosophers Want to Know Why Physicists Believe Theories They Can’t Prove”.

As we discussed in one of our earlier articles, “Physicists vs Reality”, it starts in a rather refreshing way:

It’s often assumed that physics and philosophy are at opposite ends of the academic spectrum. In fact, they’re close—so close that they can overlap…”

Interesting, it is not that often you get to see people admitting that philosophy might be of any relevance at all to physics. Not a lot of physicists would admit this.

I suppose that it should not too be too surprising that philosophers might know better. And even less surprising that a philosopher of science might think this.

We will be hearing from one such, Richard Dawid, in this article.

Here is something he has to say:

The criteria for establishing a theory, he discovered, is not in itself subject to scientific enquiry. “They’re considered background assumptions,” says Dawid. “It’s a question that’s driven by physics but it’s a philosophical question.”

There are criteria for establishing a theory. At least there is if you want to do it rationally.

First, your theory should have a rational foundation. It should start with known facts, be it direct observational results. Or with something else we know to be true based on observation. Then we attempt to build up from there.

One should study the facts of reality and identify some implications of those facts. One should then focus in on one or more implications of reality and attempt to see what new facts one might be able to identify.

These form the basis of one’s hypothesis, some proposed fact of reality one wants to prove to be true. One then needs to validate this in some way.

In the physical sciences, this involves experimentation. One needs to perform experiments that validate that hypothesis and then show that it is indeed true.

In more abstract subjects, such as mathematics, one might need to perform a mathematical proof, based on logic. Such proof shows that given some established premise, that a given conclusion is true or false.

Of course, math proofs can be very hard and abstract. But they are not totally disconnected from reality …

In any case, one needs some valid way to prove their hypothesis and show that they have indeed identified some fact of reality.

So, yes, there are criteria for establishing a theory. And the philosophy of science helps establish what these criteria are.

And guess what Mr Dawid, philosophy is a science.

To quote Ayn Rand:

Philosophy is the science that studies the fundamental aspects of the nature of existence. The task of philosophy is to provide man with a comprehensive view of life. This view serves as a base, a frame of reference, for all his actions, mental or physical, psychological or existential. This view tells him the nature of the universe with which he has to deal (metaphysics); the means by which he is to deal with it, i.e., the means of acquiring knowledge (epistemology) …

Ayn Rand, “The Chickens’ Homecoming”, Return of the Primitive: The Anti-Industrial Revolution, 45

That is right, philosophy includes metaphysics, that is, our view of the fundamental view of existence. Which, ideally, one would approach scientifically.

It also includes epistemology, the science of how one goes about gaining knowledge. And this would include how we would go about performing science. Which, again, ideally, we would approach scientifically.

Despite what many philosophers might believe, philosophy is not a bunch of subjective thoughts where one argues whatever one wants.

At least, it does not have to be approached this way.

Ayn Rand, the great rational and founder of the philosophy of Objectivism.

To the contrary! Ayn Rand shows that philosophy can and should be approached as a systematic study of reality, of mankind’s nature and his relationship to the world around him. It should start with observation and work its way up from that.

Observation is something that scientists themselves often implicitly dismiss. What with Kant trying to argue that we cannot trust our senses and a lot of philosophers agreeing with him.

So, it is little wonder many of them can find no basis for their philosophical ranting.

[M]any serious physicists seem to have abandoned this model. String theory, for example, is one of the most exciting ideas in modern physics. But it’s not testable—so how can physicists be confident that it’s sound?

They cannot be. Anyone can come up with any kind of theory that they like. I could come up with a system that tries to explain physics as the product of little meta-puffballs (credit to Leonard Peikoff for this amusing idea or at least one like it).

Let us suppose that it is consistent and that if the universe is made up of meta-puffballs, that this would explain everything we see in physics. Does this make the theory true? Does this make this a good theory or good physics?

No, it does not. A theory is not true simply because it is self-consistent. It is not true because it might explain how things work.

What if meta-puffballs do not exist? Or if they have no bearing to anything we can observe? What if the theory does not explain anything?

We need to test theories against the facts of reality. And not simply come up with a purely mathematical hypothesis that may or may not describe the nature of real objects.

We do not want these hypotheses to fail to describe the interactions of real entities.

There is a need to verify that our theories describe actual fundamental entities and their actions. And not a simply self-consistent mathematical theory that may not describe how reality works!

Not that string theory is internally consistent anyway.

Vodcast Episode One: The Cause of Modern Physics is Philosophy

Play

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.]

Intro

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.

No experiment will ever show that reality is not real….

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.

Gee thanks Bohr, thanks for plunging physics into irrationality…

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: