Thursday, August 25, 2005

Bugger Off, I'm Busy

According to Nicholas Gruen at Troppo this is not an easy read for philosophical amateurs, but it's a good one. A pox on him; the last thing I want right now is to find interesting on-line articles that give me new ideas to write about. Not that I consider Gödel's incompleteness theorems new, exactly; they have been around for quite a while and I'll have you know that I'm not entirely unacquainted with them. But I've never done a blog post on them.

But right now, I've got other things to do for a while. Perhaps not better things, or more important things or even necessary things but things nonetheless. So I'm just going to slap up this edited extract from Chapter 5 of Physics and Philosophy by Werner Heisenberg (London, 1958) and leave it at that:

... in the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum theory we can indeed proceed without mentioning ourselves as individuals, but we cannot disregard the fact that natural science is formed by men. Natural science does not simply describe and explain nature; it describes nature as exposed t o our method of questioning ...

If one follows the great difficulty which even eminent scientists like Einstein had in understanding and accepting the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum theory, one can trace the roots of this difficulty to the Cartesian partition
[of reality into three parts - God, World, I]. this partition has penetrated deeply into the human mind during the three centuries following Descartes and it will take along time for it to be replaced by a really different attitude toward the problem of reality.

... We "objectivate" a statement if we claim that its content does not depend on the conditions under which it can be verified. Practical Realism assumes that there are statements that can be objectivated and that in fact the largest part of our experience in daily life consists of such statements. Dogmatic realism claims that there are no statements concerning the material world that cannot be objectivated. Practical realism has always been and will always be an essential part of natural science. Dogmatic realism, however, is, as we see it now, not a necessary condition for natural science ... When Einstein has criticized quantum theory he has done so from the basis of dogmatic realism. This is a very natural attitude. Every scientist who does research work feels that he is looking for something that is objectively true. His statements are not meant to depend upon the conditions under which they can be verified. Especially in physics the fact that we can explain nature by simple mathematical laws tells us that here we have met some genuine feature of reality, not something that we have - in any meaning of the word - invented ourselves. This is the situation Einstein had in mind when he took dogmatic realism as the basis for natural science. But quantum theory is in itself an example for the possibility of explaining nature by means of simple mathematical laws without this basis ...

And that's it from me for the rest of this week, all of the next and possibly most of the week after. Go and find somewhere else to amuse yourselves. I was going to suggest that you might lay off the interesting links until I get back but there's Buckley's chance of that happening. Oh, and spare me the smart-arsed comments about how the Many Worlds interpretation of quantum theory opens the possibility of an alternative universe where nothing interesting will actually get written, anywhere, over the next two weeks. Call me dated, but round here the Copenhagen interpretation rules, OK?

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