With all due respect and great admiration, there are a number of issues with your article, Tim, that beg a response. Mike Scott, for example, makes a good point that does not necessarily question the physics behind what you propose—rather it raises a point about the sloppiness of language… which is crucial because it can confuse the reader. I would push Mike’s point even further: it *does* have the potential to undermine the physics, hence which appears to betray your view of reality.

Permit me to chase a quite troubling assertion you make: “Erwin Schrödinger, whose famous equation is a precise, Newtonian-style law governing the wavefunction, gives this example of the baffling nature of quantum randomness when describing a radioactive decay experiment.” The meta-problem with this assertion is it’s used as an interpretive backdrop (hence leading the reader) to the Schrödinger quote, and then to the stunningly non-scientific and, frankly, ignorant assertion, “With this simple observation, all of Newton’s philosophy comes crashing down.” To be clear, I’m not defending “Newton’s philosophy”—what I’m pointing out is the illicit underlying presupposition to which you hold, namely, that an observation from “physics” can validly speak to a philosophical position as if you yourself were not interpreting the observation onto a position that, by its nature, is reflective upon observations.

For example, try as one might, no empirical observation of physics nor any hypothesis nor any theory can undermine in any way the First Principle of Real Being—Non-Contradiction nor the Principle of Sufficient Reason. The flip side of the coin, for example, exposes the nonsense of Intelligent Design—that God’s “existence” can be proven or disproven by the modern empirical (natural) sciences. That question can *only* be resolved by philosophical reflection—not empirical observation. Worse, many scientists swallow subconsciously the nonsensical and self-refuting pseudo-philosophical notion that empirical observations and the modern empirical sciences are *the* epistemic arbiters of what is true… otherwise known as the deeply destructive viral meme of scientism.

Apologies for that long-winded, all-too-broad focus on the *effects* of your assertion, so let me get back to the first one I mention.

First, scientific “laws” are not real things out there somehow “governing” the behaviors of material objects and physical phenomena. (Steven Weinberg is particularly foolish in this regard when he asserts the Laws of Nature are as real as rocks in the field.) There are no Platonic police out there directing traffic (“governing” the motion of objects) as if those objects had no natures of their own—reducing them to inert bodies based on the *real* problem with Newton—his mechanistic vision of reality, which you correctly aim for but miss. The net *external* forces of Newton, incorrectly interpreted, illicitly become the *only* way by which we understand the causes of motion. The Laws of Nature are nothing but metaphors by which we describe the orderliness of things in the Universe—they don’t actualize anything because metaphors don’t actualize anything. It appears even Weinberg, an avowed atheist, also needs “invisible friends” (Platonic Laws of Nature) to get through the day.

An unfortunate knock-on effect is the sloppiness of language that masks an underlying reification of mathematical formalisms. No one can properly assert something that appears all too often in the literature and teaching: no mathematical formalism “governs” anything because they are not real beings with causal efficacy—mathematical formalisms do not actualize the motions of objects. This is a very deep and damaging problem in physics—even among the best of physicists. It leads, for example, to the reification of constructs such as “space-time” as if it were a real extra-mental existent (substance), as if a Minkowski mathematical formalism actually “bends” or “warps” or “deflects” or, etc. It’s the real objects (substances) that behave the way they do because of their natures that we observe interacting. The mathematical formalisms of General Relativity are a descriptive “map” of real objects’ behaviors, so one should *never* confuse the map with the territory. While such assertions make for the cute entertainment value of Star Trek (Scottie: “Fancy that: I never considered space itself as the thing that moving!”), ultimately… it’s nonsense.

Let me pick on Blazh Femur’s silly comment: “True randomness DOES exist at the quantum level…” while taking you to task for not defining “randomness” rigorously—neither operationally, logically, nor essentially. A *chance* event is the intersection of two or more independent lines of causality. A *random* event (or a truly *stochastic process) is impossible because “randomness” means acausal. Again, one can try in vain to prop up the mathematical formalisms of quantum mechanics to undermine or even deny causality… as if a physicist actually knows what “causality” is in its widest throw. Causality itself is not even an object with properties that physicists can study because they only presuppose causality to do their work. It won’t work. Quantum mechanics provides very interesting new knowledge upon which we can and should reflect (everyone philosophizes—the question is whether one philosophizes well or poorly) to broaden our understanding of causality, but it can’t eliminate causality. To do so would undermine physics itself, which seeks out causes to explain motion of material objects and physical phenomena. This is what makes absorbing Hume and Kant so dangerous (the latter sucked at physics, by the way): Hume claims causality doesn’t exist because we can’t “see” it as an object, while Kant literally destroys physics by claiming we cannot know the actual things—only the phenomena, leaving Kant and his minions forever locked inside their minds. The mathematical formalisms of quantum mechanics are built upon observation—clearly—as descriptive tools. As such, they are very limited in their throw. But, the epistemic limitations currently forcing us to depend on probabilistic mathematical formalisms to describe quantum phenomena do not (nor can they ever) determine/impose ontological status.

Finally, Fuzzy.One also makes a ridiculous non-physics claim that reflects the damage an improper understanding of Newton’s “Laws” can wreck: “… the bottom line is that if you know the rules of physics (every one of them) and know the elements in play, you can therefore calculate every change that occurs and know the outcomes and continuous outcomes and changes thereof. Take into account that human (or life) actions are within the realms of natural physics.” This is *really* poor philosophizing if only considered at one level. Leaving aside Fuzzy.One’s dependence upon Platonic “rules of physics,” if applied back upon his own assertion “a human act”, the assertion loses all meaning… which is precisely the point of many who try do decry the existence of meaning, intentionality, free will, truth, etc. And, then there’s this chestnut: if what Fuzzy.One asserts is true (everything reduces to the “rules of physics”), how does he account for the “rules of physics” themselves—Platonically or otherwise? How exactly do these “rules” interact with our real world?

Apologies for the lengthiness of this response… maybe I should consider turning it into an article.




Catholic, Aristotelian-Thomist, Ukrainian, nuclear engineer, physicist, philosopher of nature, husband, father, grandfather, teacher, classical music, athletics

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Alexander Sich

Alexander Sich

Catholic, Aristotelian-Thomist, Ukrainian, nuclear engineer, physicist, philosopher of nature, husband, father, grandfather, teacher, classical music, athletics

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