Friday, April 24, 2015

Quantum physics and the nature of science

I drag you through this raft of speculation only to help you understand that if science is supposed to be a literal, verified view of Reality in itself, based on experiments which are somehow able to see beyond readings on instruments to that Reality in itself, then science is dead. There is no direct observation of the metaphysical objects of contemporary physics. ... More

What is "science"? A recent article argued that "science" is dead, based upon the implications of quantum physics, in the sense of it perceiving and verifying reality. While one can argue that quantum physics shouldn't be taken as representative of the sciences in general, yet the main point is not to say that what is implied from quantum physics can be implied from the others sciences, but rather that IF quantum physical phenomena and "objects" are in fact real, THEN science as this idea of an objective understanding of reality does not exist. In the collapse of the subject/ object distinction and the dissolution of matter, reality is reduced to some form of Idealism, and we can almost start flirting around with solipsism (I mean "I," whatever "I" means).

The problems pose by Quantum Physics should give us pause in thinking of science in a realist sense. Scientific Realism, the reigning paradigm in the natural sciences, must necessarily hold to the realities of quantum objects and phenomena, which it seems to me would result in the death of the natural sciences as we currently understand them (i.e. objective, empirical investigation of the world). Thus, we have three things of which all three cannot all be true at the same time: Scientific Realism, Science as objective empirical investigation, and Quantum Phenomena. One may be tempted to reject Quantum Physics altogether, but then at least some aspects of Quantum physics seem to be true, for we use them in our everyday lives (e.g. Tunneling Electron Microscope, or you can check this out on some other practical applications.). So if we want to rescue the objective nature of science, it seems we are forced to jettison Scientific Realism, and this in my opinion is the right move.

Denying Scientific Realism is not the same as denying Realism. Denying Scientific Realism just mean that science does NOT necessarily deal with ontologically real entities and phenomena. Pragmatism, a version of scientific anti-realism, merely states that science works. So quarks for example may or may not ontologically exist; that is irrelevant. What science is concerned with is to use these as descriptors for understanding the workings of reality, not reality itself. Scientific laws is our human way of mapping out natural operations as perceived by us and as applicable for our use.

Pragmatic scientific anti-realism deals with quantum phenomena and "objects" easily, since whatever they are, all laws regarding them are explanatory of their workings, not necessarily of what they are in themselves. We cannot see quarks with our eyes, not even under a microscope for that matter, so who knows whether they actually exist or not? We just need to know that they "exist" as explanations and descriptors in order for us to comprehend quantum phenomena, and that is sufficient. Are all matter merely waves, and thus "matter" as a category doesn't exist? No, for the wave-like nature of matter is an explanation of phenomena, and bears nothing on the reality of matter other than its operations.

For those who embrace Scientific Realism, Quantum Physics would pose a major problem. Together with the implications of General and Special Relativity especially concerning the theoretical possibility of time travel, it seems to me that one cannot simultaneously embrace Christian metaphysics and Scientific Realism and the findings of science.

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