Does Quantum Physics Refute Science and Reason?
Posted: 13 June 2007 01:00 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Does Quantum Physics Refute Science and Reason?

I ask because I see this argument a lot in smaller, more amateur debates over concepts like evolution, intelligent design, and God. Most often I see it used to dismiss evolution as “Newtonian” while religion is more enlightened via science.

Are there any good threads here on the topic? Good websites that discuss this issue?

Lost and alone in the universe.

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Posted: 13 June 2007 02:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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There are plenty of threads about quantum mechanics here on the forum—I’d check the folders on science and philosophy first. (I think most of the discussion was actually in philosophy).

Short answer is that it is theoretically impossible for QM to “refute science and reason” as you put it. QM is itself a scientific theory, based on evidence and experiment and years of successful predictions. It is itself science, and its discovery and elaboration involved reasoning by some of the most intelligent humans who ever lived.

Also the logician in me wants to add that it is self-contradictory to claim that something “refutes reason” ... since by definition refutation is a logical process, it assumes the very functioning of the reason that would be claimed to be refuted.

There are plenty of webpages on QM ... lots of nonsense written about it as well. Search around here awhile and see if what you find answers your questions.

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Posted: 13 June 2007 02:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I think Chris’ signature quote is the one that says “the science you don’t understand is magic.” QM is tough to understand through metaphors and language, without being able to follow the math. And it is counterintuitive based on our experiences on a day-to-day level. This leads people to give it a mystical flavor and use it to justify mystical supernatural ideas. Balderdash! The universe is a fascinating place, complex and probably in some aspects people our capcity to really udnerstand, but science is our best shot at understanding it and QM is just part of that process.

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Posted: 13 June 2007 03:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Thanks for the replies. I was also quite amazed that people are actually using science to “disprove” science. Even if they could succeed, it would in no way mean that their particular brand of supernaturalism (whatever it may be) is correct. On the contrary, it would seem that ANYTHING is correct and ANYTHING is incorrect all at once. So all bets are off, no?

I can see where that would lead to the most outlandish exaggerations of possibilities masquerading as probabilities. Fun fanfare for fiction, stupid silliness says science?

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Posted: 13 June 2007 11:49 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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I’ll admit that I haven’t studied Quantum mechanics as much as I’d like to, but… I think that Quantum Mechanics can be considered a legitimate field… however…

However, a lot of New Agers tend to twist it up to fit their personal beliefs and sell stuff. I’ve met alternative medicine people claiming that they can “read the quantum vibrations of [my] heart tissue,” and determine whether I have medical problems with it. Then there’s the infamous “What the Bleep Do We Know?”

As weird as the field of Quantum Mechanics tend to be, I’ve seen Relativity twisted in just the same way. My College Composition professor once told the class, in reference to her Lakotan circle-of-life beliefs, “You may think that believing a rock is alive is superstitious, but physics has proven the matter is energy, so a rock is alive.”

I had to cover my mouth as if I were in deep in thought to hide my laughter.

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Posted: 14 June 2007 01:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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I believe it was cgallaga who quoted Richard Feyneman (sp) a brilliant theoretical physicist who said, “If someone says they understand quantum mechanics, they don’t.”

I’m a pretty good chemist, with a little (required) training in physics, and my mind is boggled whenever I try to understand quantum mechanics in depth.  It’s annoying to see people who haven’t the slightest idea of how to calculate the acceleration by gravity of a dropped object or the simple mathematics of a lever, get into these “intellectual” discussions of quantum physics.

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Posted: 14 June 2007 02:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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The only time I’ve seen a person come close to a rational argument was when a newbie visited an IRC channel I frequent.  He was just asking about what basic things we know about quantum physics, when we came upon the idea that at extremely small areas, past subatomic, in the level of quarks and such, randomness prevails.  Turns out he had this planned out for us to get into, and he argued that since randomness prevails at this level, then causality fails, and therefore science as a method of establishing causalities as a whole should be cast asunder.

That doesn’t really follow though.  Science does not deal in absolutes.  Scientific ‘laws’ are only established theories that have never been proven wrong by any fact or permutation of facts and evidence/experimentation.

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Posted: 14 June 2007 02:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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And one of the problems that these people have (as do the creationists) is that they don’t understand the difference between single events and large sample probability.  Just because a few subatomic particles do something weird while you are doing an experiment that involves, say twenty pounds of material, or ten to the twenty-fourth molecules, so what.  You’re experiment is on the macro level, not the subatomic level. 

Occam

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Posted: 25 June 2007 07:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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jvwest - 13 June 2007 01:00 PM

Does Quantum Physics Refute Science and Reason?

I ask because I see this argument a lot in smaller, more amateur debates over concepts like evolution, intelligent design, and God. Most often I see it used to dismiss evolution as “Newtonian” while religion is more enlightened via science.

Are there any good threads here on the topic? Good websites that discuss this issue?

Lost and alone in the universe.

The short answer is “no, it doesn’t”.  However, read the famous quantum metaphysicist, Bell (I forget his first name) - he used to work at NASA and his collected papers are published in a single volume.  He goes into a lot of the underlying science behind the physics and makes a lot more sense than you will get out of any of the top names in the field (given that in trying to be populist, they tend to exagerate a hell of a lot).  Particularly with regard to the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen “paradox”, he goes into some really rigorous detail.  My favourite is “Bertleman’s socks and the nature of reality”, but his disproof of the validity of the theory of local beables is superb as well.

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Posted: 25 June 2007 07:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Occam - 14 June 2007 01:42 AM

I believe it was cgallaga who quoted Richard Feyneman (sp) a brilliant theoretical physicist who said, “If someone says they understand quantum mechanics, they don’t.”

Well, I have to disagree with R.P. Feynmann tongue wink : it seems that R.P. Feynman had a strong understanding of quantum mechanics, according to his Feynman’s diagrams. 

I don’t think QM contradicts reason. As I see it, QM ‘just’ challenges some of our intuitives views of the world (I must admit that my intuitive views of the world has been already challenged by electromagnetism) and it goes against ower notion of causality. But reason is not causality. Mario Bunge comes with a definition of ‘causality’ that is broader than than causal determinism.

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Posted: 26 June 2007 05:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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What me?

Brennen, the key operative in my quote (as opposed to your memory wink ) is “looks like.”

I found both quotes in the farcical novel Fluke, by Christopher Moore. The second one is the response of a non scientist to a scientists who is experiencing things he thought were scientifically impossible, and I think it is an incredibly wise statement as to why people believe (and disbelieve) weird things.

For the OP watch: “Queerer than we can suppose”, a Ted Talk by Dawkins:

http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/view/id/98

[ Edited: 26 June 2007 05:47 AM by cgallaga ]
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Posted: 03 July 2007 04:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Life is a movie. The Quantum Mechanix are way down front, their noses just inches from the screen, trying to figure out, from all that fuzzy chaos, just what the fuck is going on. The closer you get, the fuzzier the logic.

Most just ignore them, and watch the plot. But if you turn away from the plot, you can see the source of the lite back there. And if you stand up to go have a look, you may very well annoy some who just came to watch the show. You are likely to step on toes and stumble around in the dark trying to head for the source of the lite.

Course, the closer you get, the fewer there are annoyed at your progress. But when you enter the projection booth, you see the apparatus, but none of it relates to what has been going on on screen. If all you’ve been doing in watching movies, you dont have a fucking clue as to how it works, or what nomenclature can be used to explain it.

Then, when you get back to your friends, they tell you to sit down and shut up; they came to watch the movie, not listen to your insane ramblings about what you think is going on back there. Moreover, while you were gone, the plot continued, and you prolly dont understand what the movie’s about anymore either.

I’ve found it most useful to ignore the scientists down front as well as the Zen masters way back, and pay attention to the responses of those close enough to watch. Anything which panders to their egos they eat like popcorn. Its remarkable how such shallow images can elicit such strong emotional responses.

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Posted: 03 July 2007 11:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Interesting metaphor, daybrown, I like it. I think it’s faulty, though. Understanding of the “movie” actually can be furthered by understanding both the fuzzy stuff up close and the projection machinery in back,  though of course people can take it too far (see all the threads on why determinist causation invalidates the idea of choice and where quantum phenomena are projected onto ordinary life). And I don’t see how the investigations of either Zen masters or quantum mechanics should interfere with anyone’s enjoyment of the film. If someone gets excited by such an approach to the movie, fine for them.

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