“I think that modern physics has definitely decided in favor of Plato. In fact, the smallest units of matter are not physical objects in the ordinary sense; they are forms, ideas which can be expressed unambiguously only in mathematical language.” – Werner Heisenberg
No, science has never indicated any such thing and it never will. It never could. Nothing in the natural world is made up out of Platonic “Forms”.
Here Heisenberg lays bare the Platonic form of his mind.
Let us look at the views of the young Albert Einstein. It should be noted that the young Einstein was a rabid Neo-Kantian. Later in his life, his philosophy was more in the lines of more traditional rationalists such as Spinoza.
“We must remember that we do not observe nature as it actually exists, but nature exposed to our methods of perception. The theories determine what we can or cannot observe…Reality is an illusion, albeit a persistent one.” – Albert Einstein
This is very Kantian. Einstein believed that do not observe reality as it is. Instead, we observe reality distorted by the lenses of our senses. This is a view which many of his peers shared and which many today agree with.
“I became more and more convinced that even nature could be understood as a relatively simple mathematical structure.” – Albert Einstein
Einstein toyed with the idea that reality itself could be a mathematical structure.
That strongly reminds me of Platonism. Regardless, many physicists in modern times agree with Einstein! We have many people, such as Max Tegmark who think reality is mathematics!
So far, we have discussed physicists of the early twentieth century. Now let us jump ahead to those from the late twentieth century and early 21st centuries.
We will start with Stephen Hawking. Our second episode dealt with his irrationality. Let us look (again) at a few of his irrational claims.
“Do we really have reason to believe that an objective reality exists?” – Hawking
Yes, we do! The fact that you are here to spout such nonsense proves that we do!
An “objective reality” is just another way of saying that things exist and have identity.
This is axiomatic and there is no logical way to escape this. Everything we observe and know about the universe reaffirms this. So, yes, we do have reason to believe that an objective exists.
Of course, Hawking does not know any of this. He, like most before him, has passively adopted the philosophy that objective reality does not exist. That we must simply describe mathematical appearances.
“One might think this means that imaginary numbers are just a mathematical game having nothing to do with the real world. From the viewpoint of positivist philosophy, however, one cannot determine what is real. All one can do is find which mathematical models describe the universe we live in.” – Hawking
One cannot determine what is real?
Bohr would have agreed. All one can do is come up with mathematical models. In other words, mathematical descriptions.
Does that sound familiar? Bohr urged us to come up with pragmatic descriptions of relationships between illusions. Mathematics is an obvious way to describe such pragmatic relationships and it should come as no surprise that Bohr was big on such mathematical descriptions of appearances.
So, it should come as little surprise that Hawking and most physicists today are still big on it. It is about all they think physics is good for. Not explaining reality as it is, but just describing relationships between abstractions.
“Science predicts that many different kinds of universe will be spontaneously created out of nothing. It is a matter of chance which [one] we are in.” – Hawking
No, science most certainly does not predict any such thing. No reasonable scientist ever would either. What should we expect from one that has already abandoned reality and therefore logic and reason?
Once you have abandoned reality, you have no reason to exercise logic or reason.
Why not resort to supernatural causes? That is, things which happen without cause! Why not embrace acausality and say that things just happen?
If you are going to take that attitude, why bother with science at all? The point of physics is to understand and explain how the natural world works. If you can just say “it just happened for no reason”, why bother?
Is it then any wonder that so much of physics today is so unscientific?
Let us move on from Hawking and see what some of his peers have to say.
“Einstein, in the special theory of relativity, proved that different observers, in different states of motion, see different realities.” – Leonard Susskind
Susskind is embracing Einstein’s naked subjectivism. Special relativity is based on the premise that reality is different for different observers.
Therefore, would it surprise you that Susskind is a proponent of parallel universes? It should come as little surprise. Once you accept this kind of subjectivity, it is not a large step from “different observers see the same facts according to their own subjective viewpoint” to “there is no one objective reality, but a whole bunch of realities subjectively determined by causeless variations”.
“In the end, labeling one realm or another a parallel universe is merely a question of language.” – Brian Greene
Sound familiar? Remember, Bohr believed that physics was just a matter of poetic language, not the description of an objective reality.
Brian Greene agrees that this is just a matter of language, however, he cares less about poetic language.
I think by now you get the idea. We have looked at several quotes and caught a glimpse of the philosophical motives behind them. Perhaps you are starting to see that the issues here might be philosophical and not due to the fact that reality is inflicted with a kind of vagueness.
We will end with a quote that accurately sums up the pathetic state of modern physics and the consequences of all the ideas expressed by the previous quotes.
“After decades of closely studying quantum mechanics, and after having accumulated a wealth of data confirming its probabilistic predictions, no one has been able to explain why only one of the many possible outcomes in any given situation actually happens.” – Brian Greene
That is accurate. As far as actual explanations of how things work or why anything happens, modern physics has very little to offer.
Why should we expect it to be any different if these people are operating under the premises that they cannot know reality but are simply describing mathematical appearances?
The cause of all this is philosophy.
We shall return to this topic and look at more quotes as we dive deeper into this. I hope you enjoyed our brief overview.
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