Tag Archives: Philosophy of Science

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.

Karl Popper, falsifiability

Thoughts on Falsifiability and Popper

(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.

Popper accepted the Humean critique of induction and goes further.

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.

Of course, it would be baseless to assume that all swans are white and call that a valid induction. Why would we assume that? That is not how valid inductions works…

…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…

Karl Popper, The Logic of Scientific Discovery, Ch. 1 “A Survey of Some Fundamental Problems”, Section I: The Problem of Induction p. 27

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.

Induction is not how science works huh? Tell the classical physicists that then. Because Newton and others were masters of induction …

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 knowing anything.

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.”

Richard Dawe, “Philosophers Want to Know Why Physicists Believe Theories They Can’t Prove”

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.

Physicists vs Philosophy and Reality.

I was reading this article by Goldhill and found the opening rather refreshing. It led me to write this article about physicists’ rejection of philosophy.

We shall examine the article by Goldhill further in future articles. But for now, here is that opening:

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

Olivia Goldhill

It is rather refreshing that the author admits that philosophy has any relevance to physics at all. Since most physicists would disagree with this.

I would say that many in physics are outright hostile towards philosophy!

Let me provide a few quotes to amply make this point.

Philosophy used to be a field that had content, but then ‘natural philosophy’ became physics, and physics has only continued to make inroads. Every time there’s a leap in physics, it encroaches on these areas that philosophers have carefully sequestered away to themselves, and so then you have this natural resentment on the part of philosophers.

Lawrence Krauss

What about another one from the late Stephen Hawking (we discuss him in our second podcast episode here)?

Philosophy is dead. Philosophy has not kept up with modern developments in science, particularly physics. Scientists have become the bearers of the torch of discovery in our quest for knowledge.

Stephen Hawking

What about one heard repeated by Steven Weinberg but often attributed to Feynman?

The philosophy of science is just about as useful to scientists as ornithology is to birds.

Weinberg/Feynman
Oh Feynman, you don’t get philosophy, do you?

What about one from the famous Max Born?

“I have tried to read philosophers of all ages and have found many illuminating ideas but no steady progress toward deeper knowledge and understanding. Science, however, gives me the feeling of steady progress

Max Born

You get the idea. Many in physics are deeply hostile to philosophy. At best they think that philosophy has no relevance to what they do. At worst they believe that it contradicts their view of the world.

Because they do not understand the role of philosophy, they are often hostile to it.

Why? Well, for several reasons.

One of those would be that rational philosophies demonstrate that many tenents of modern physics cannot be right. For instance, Aristotle’s metaphysics and epistemology blast a lot of their fallacies apart.

For instance, Aristotle’s philosophy makes it clear that particle-wave duality is nonsense. Something cannot be two mutually exclusive things at once.

The most certain of all basic principles is that contradictory propositions are not true simultaneously.

Aristotle, Metaphysics

It also makes it clear that Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle is also nonsense. Everything that exists has identity, it has a definite nature. Not a vague, indefinite nature as alleged by this principle.

Now “why a thing is itself” is a meaningless inquiry (for—to give meaning to the question ‘why’—the fact or the existence of the thing must already be evident—e.g., that the moon is eclipsed—but the fact that a thing is itself is the single reason and the single cause to be given in answer to all such questions as why the man is man, or the musician musical, unless one were to answer, ‘because each thing is inseparable from itself, and its being one just meant this.’ This, however, is common to all things and is a short and easy way with the question.)

Aristotle, Metaphysics

But physicists have accepted anti-Aristotelian, anti-reality ideas. Therefore, they feel that they must rebel against the very ideas that brought the world out of the Middle Ages. The very ideas which made advanced science, including physics possible.

They are rebelling against the Aristotelian revival that made all this possible. The very knowledge that made it possible to get to the point where they know enough about atoms and space to make the kinds of irrational conclusions they have been making for over one hundred years!

Philosophy and physics are deeply intertwined.

Our view of metaphysics tells us what kind of world we think we live in. One in which objects have primacy or one in which consciousness and magic are primary.

Our epistemology includes our view of whether we live in a knowable world. And how we can know anything or if we think knowledge is even possible.

Physicists are, of course, influenced by philosophy. They believe that reality is inflicted with a kind of vagueness, in as far as it lacks a definite nature.

They believe that our senses are unable to perceive reality as it is, ala Kant.

Like Plato, they reify mathematics as somehow being more fundamental than physical objects, ala Plato.

philosophy, Plato
Funny how it almost always comes back to our arch-enemy, Plato…

So then, physicists are influenced by philosophy. Why then do they deny that philosophy influences them?

Because they do not understand the role of philosophy. They see it as intrusion on the business of science. Which they see as doing experiments and analyzing the results.

However, physics is not simply performing experiments and coming to whatever conclusions you wish. It is about explaining how the physical world works.

This requires one to be able to analyze the evidence of the senses and infer how the physical world works. It requires one to perform experiments and to be able to infer the mechanisms of nature from the results of said experiments. Without the conclusions contradicting basis metaphysical axioms such as “A is A”.

This is where one’s philosophy comes into play.

When looking at the results of these experiments, one’s view of the fundamental nature of reality, of metaphysics will come into play.

Their metaphysics tells them that things are not what they are, that they do not possess identity and that things can exist as something with a contradictory nature.

And this will seep into their physics. They will tend to interpret reality in this way and come to bizarre conclusions. The kind of bizarre conclusions modern physicists like to arrive at.

If they believe that reality is not knowable, then this will seep into their physics. They will pretend that some things cannot be known and thus do not need to be rationally explained. Or even explained at all.

They will evade explanations or offer non-explanations in their place.

Much as modern physics does when it pretends that the following is an explanation of gravity:

Einstein’s law of gravitation controls a geometrical quantity curvature in contrast to Newton’s law which controls a mechanical quantity of force.

Arthur Eddington, The Nature of the Physical World (1928) p. 133.

Or when it pretends that “electrons are a probability cloud” explains the unusual behavior of electrons.

A proper philosophy helps avoid these kinds of non-explanations. Irrational philosophies tend to make them inevitable.

Which is why modern physics is in the mess it is in. Good luck pointing that out given philosophy is allegedly useless!

It is rather like the man dying of thirst complaining that water is bad for him.

No, he needs water! And physics needs philosophy. Even if physicists lost in their desert of irrationality like to pretend otherwise…

The Primitive Non-Argument Against Reality, Part One

Today we are looking at this article, “The Evolutionary Argument Against Reality”.

In the words of the article:

The cognitive scientist Donald Hoffman uses evolutionary game theory to show that our perceptions of an independent reality must be illusions.

We shall see this is impossible. This is a gross misuse of mathematics. And is based on distorted view of natural selection.

We will get started with the first paragraph of the article.

As we go about our daily lives, we tend to assume that our perceptions — sights, sounds, textures, tastes — are an accurate portrayal of the real world.

We do not need to “assume” that. Our sensory organs passively perceive reality as it is. They have no means of distorting reality and showing us things as they are not.

Our visual cortex and other parts of our brain process the input of the senses. But they do not distort that input. They simply present the input of our senses to our consciousness. They do not fabricate or distort their inputs.

Everything we experience is an accurate portrayal of the real world, according to our mode of perception. There are different modes of perception. But that does not mean our senses are subjective or that we do not see reality as it is.

For example, we see things in color. Other organisms do not. Does that mean the senses of those organisms are invalid? Or that they do not see reality as it is?

No. It simply means that those other organisms have a different mode of perception. They observe the same facts of reality. But their senses present those facts differently.

Different modes of perception are not an argument for the subjectivity of those modes of perception. They simply mean that different organisms perceive the same facts of reality in different ways.

Do black and white photos invalidate our senses? No more than the fact that some organisms do not see color. Which is to say, not at all.

Nor does it prove that there is any distortion occurring. Different modes of perception are not kinds of sensory distortion.

Sure, when we stop and think about it — or when we find ourselves fooled by a perceptual illusion — we realize with a jolt that what we perceive is never the world directly, but rather our brain’s best guess at what that world is like, a kind of internal simulation of an external reality.

No. Our senses are not some kind of distorting lens that gives us a false view of reality.

Nor is what we perceive “our brain’s best guess at what the world is like”. It is an accurate representation of reality according to our mode of perception.

Indeed, we do not perceive everything that exists. We only perceive those things that are detectable by our senses. We will return to this a little later.

Episode sixteen of the podcast covers the topic of optical illusions.

In short, optical illusions are not an argument against the validity of the senses. When we observe an optical illusion, our senses are giving us valid data.

Neither our senses nor our brains are distorting the data. We are seeing things as they are. When we see bent straws in water, that is not our senses tricking us. That is how we observe light rays bent by water.

But if we want to better understand what we are observing, we must think and “see past” the illusion. We must understand that we need to process what we are seeing, which is real.

We need to more closely understand how it is consistent with reality. And then abstract away that optical illusion so that we can understand things better.

This does not invalidate our senses either.

The world presented to us by our perceptions is nothing like reality. What’s more, he says, we have evolution itself to thank for this magnificent illusion, as it maximizes evolutionary fitness by driving truth to extinction.

This obviously cannot be true. As we have seen, there is no false dichotomy between the world as we see it and as it is. We see what is. There is no alternative. We cannot see things as they are not.

Furthermore, evolution could not make any of this true. Evolution is a process whereby the gene pools of populations change. According to changes in the environment and other factors.

Living organisms undergo countless genetic changes in every generation. You have several such genetic mutations. Although most of them do not impact your life in any noticeable way.

Those mutations that are harmful to the survival of an organism tend to be less likely to be passed down to future generations.  Survival can be  tough enough as it is. Those with a genetic disadvantage are less likely to survive to have offspring.

Natural selection is the process by which genetic changes that are beneficial to survival tend to be passed on. It favors those changes which help increase the chances of survival. While tending to weed out many of the changes that would negatively impact survival chances.

Suppose an organism was less able to perceive the world as it is. That would make it harder for that organism to deal with reality. And thus, seriously impact its chances of survival.

Such unfortunate specimens are very unlikely to have offspring. Let alone offspring that survive to have offspring.

There is no way that being unable to see reality as it is could maximize evolutionary fitness. Only those with the greatest chances of survival maximize their evolutionary fitness. Not those with pathetic to zero chances of survival.

As for evolution driving truth to extinction, that is utter nonsense. The truth is what the facts are.

Natural selection is an extremely brutal and merciless process. Those changes which objectively enhance an organism’s chances of survival are likely to be passed on.

Those which are not in line with the brutal reality of nature tend not to be passed on. Life in the wild is hard and those changes which are not in accordance with the objective needs of the organism are less likely to be passed on.

In a sense, this makes natural selection and evolution itself, heavily subservient to the truth. To the objective requirements of an organism’s survival. Not something which somehow obliterates truth.

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: