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Does Quantum Mechanics Undermine the Scientific World-view?

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It is science, we believe, that has lifted us above primitive superstition to obtain verifiable, objective knowledge. Science, the crowning achievement of modern man. Science, unlocking the deepest secrets of the universe. Science, destined to bring the whole of the universe into the human realm of understanding and control.

Science tells us who we are, how we came to be, where we are going. Speaking of another culture, we might describe these prescriptions and these stories about the way of the world as a religion. For ourselves, we call them truth, fact, science-fundamentally different from other cultures' myths. But why?

We accord a privileged status to our stories because we think that the Scientific Method ensures objectivity. Ours is more than a mere religion, we think, because unlike all before it, it rests on verifiable, objective truth. Science is not just another alternative; it encompasses and supersedes all other approaches to knowledge. We can examine dreams or Chinese medicine scientifically. We can perform measurements, we can run double-blind studies, we can test the claims of these other systems of knowledge under controlled conditions. The Scientific Method, we believe, has eliminated cultural bias in prescribing an impartial, reliable way to derive truth from observation.

Could it be that the Scientific Method is not a supra-cultural royal road to truth, but itself embodies our own cultural presuppositions about the universe? Could it be that science itself is a vast elaboration of our society's more general beliefs about the nature of reality?

Our culture is not alone in believing its myths and stories to be special. We think that ours are true for real, while other cultures merely believed theirs to be true. What are our justifications? Perhaps we have simply done as all other cultures have done. Those observations that fit into our basic mythology, we accept as fact. Those interpretations that fit into our conception of self and world, we accept as candidates for scientific legitimacy. Those that do not fit, we hardly bother to consider or verify, prove or disprove, dismissing them as absurdities unworthy even of consideration: "It isn't true because it couldn't be true." It was in that spirit that Galileo's scholarly contemporaries refused to look through his telescope, because they knew Jupiter couldn't have moons.

At bottom, the Scientific Method assumes that there is an objective universe "out there" that we can query experimentally, thus ascertaining the truth or falsity of our theories. Without this assumption, indeed, the whole concept of a "fact" becomes elusive, perhaps even incoherent. (Significantly, the root of the word is the Latin factio, a making or a doing,[3] hinting perhaps at a former ambiguity between existence and perception, being and doing; what is, and what is made. Perhaps facts, like artifacts and manufactures, are made by us.)

The whole of 20th century physics invalidates precisely these principles of objectivity and determinism, [but this stark fact] has not yet sunk into our intuitions. The classical Newtonian world-view has been obsolete for a hundred years, but we have still not absorbed the revolutionary implications of the quantum mechanics that replaced it.


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[In quantum mechanics, it is demonstrably impossible to separate subject from object. Yet, 'objectivity' is fundamental to the scientific definition of truth. This is a deep crisis. Denial that quantum mechanics could have any implications for the nature of mind, or for paranormal science, or for the origin of the universe has led to a censorship of a great deal of telling stories and experimental data, which undermine the traditional scientific world-view.]

The world-view of classical science I describe in this chapter, obsolete though it may be, still informs the dominant beliefs and intuitions of our culture.

- Excerpted from The Ascent of Humanity, by Charles Eisenstein

 

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Charles Eisenstein is a visionary author, speaker and workshop leader.  His books include Sacred Economics, The Ascent of Humanity, and The Yoga of Eating.
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Does Quantum Mechanics Undermine the Scientific World-view?

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Jim Arnold

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There's an alternative to scientific objectivity and quantum subjectivity: Just an intuitive sense that we're part of nature, and nature is fundamentally just like us, independent of beliefs and observations.

The Schrodinger's Cat "paradox" is an excellent example of what happens when quantum physicists become primarily mathematicians, and confuse physics with math. The "wave function", just a probability equation, is attributed a physical reality, and when a probability becomes a certainty by an observation of a measurement, the "wave-function collapses", and a real event is believed to have been determined by just the observation.

In Schrodinger's famous "paradox" it is believed that a cat in a box can be simultaneously both alive and dead until it is observed. But consider what I call, with I think due modesty, "Arnold's Clock." Imagine a clock in the box instead of a cat. It is sealed in glass, and it somehow requires a vacuum in order to function. The clock is either functioning or not depending on whether a particle has decayed and shattered the glass, breaking the vaccum, and "killing" the clock. When the scientist-observer opens the box, "the wave-function collapses", but the time registered on the clock shows that the observation had nothing to do with the outcome, or with any physical "collapse."

Quantum mechanics is a useful tool for calculating sub-atomic probabilities. But it is no more a validation of the subjectivity of reality than pre-quantum mechanics is of objectivity.

Submitted on Wednesday, Nov 6, 2019 at 11:45:09 PM

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shad williams

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Reply to Jim Arnold:   New Content

Wow. I am so confused. I need to reenroll.

Submitted on Saturday, Nov 9, 2019 at 9:36:28 AM

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Josh Mitteldorf

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Reply to Jim Arnold:   New Content

Jim - what you say sounds reasonable, but QM is demonstrably unreasonable.

For example, wave functions are not just probabilities but have a phase as well as an amplitude. It means you can have colliding wave functions that cancel each other out instead of just adding the way probabilities would.

Bell's Theorem is a demonstration that the wave function is not merely a measure of our ignorance about a well-defined but unknown state. Bell proved that one person's decision about what to measure has an effect (that can be measured) on everything that has previously come into contact with what he has measured. If you haven't read it, I recommend Quantum Reality by Nick Herbert.

Submitted on Saturday, Nov 16, 2019 at 4:12:01 PM

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Jim Arnold

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Reply to Josh Mitteldorf:   New Content

Josh, regarding wave cancellation: Are you referring to the double-slit experiment?

I can only respond by invoking my admittedly crazy-sounding hypothesis on the nature of light:

click here

Submitted on Saturday, Nov 16, 2019 at 10:09:37 PM

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shad williams

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Puny humans...control yourselves.

Submitted on Saturday, Nov 9, 2019 at 9:44:17 AM

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shad williams

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Reply to shad williams:   New Content

Dang...forgot my name would be attached to the above comment...in which case, neeverr mindd.

Submitted on Saturday, Nov 9, 2019 at 9:45:34 AM

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Jim Arnold

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Reply to shad williams:   New Content

Careful! Don't reenroll over the cliff!

Submitted on Saturday, Nov 9, 2019 at 1:32:03 PM

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