Physics and philosophy: the revolution in modern science


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Objectivity versus subjectivism
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The vital need for rational imaginative and critical thinking about fundamental problems remains undiminished. It is needed so that science, and so that academic enquiry as a whole, can meet elementary requirements of rationality. Rationality demands that one keeps alive thinking about the fundamental problems one seeks to solve.

The self-mutilation of philosophy by the adoption of Continental philosophy or analytic philosophy — which results in philosophy failing to do what it most needs to do — is entirely unnecessary. Why, then, did it happen? In part, perhaps, because of a failure to appreciate just how vital, how necessary, it is to keep alive influential rational thinking about fundamental problems, especially as specialisation becomes more and more rampant. Instead of seeking to counteract the evils of rampant specialisation, academic philosophy has tended, in the 20th century, to seek out eagerly, even desperately, its own specialised niche.

There is, however, a far more important reason for the failure of philosophy to keep alive the spirit of Critical Fundamentalism over the decades and centuries. This failure stems from the failure of philosophy to solve one of its most fundamental problems: the problem of induction. I began by indicating how Newton killed off natural philosophy with his false claim, in the third edition of his Principia , to have derived his law of gravitation from the phenomena by induction without appealing to metaphysical hypotheses.

Subsequent natural philosophers concluded that they must follow Newton in ignoring metaphysics and philosophy, and attending only to evidence in considering what laws and theories should be accepted and rejected. The outcome was science , decisively dissociated from philosophy.

The crucial tenet of this conception is that, in science, no thesis about the Universe must be accepted as a part of scientific knowledge independent of evidence , let alone in violation of evidence. In the end it is evidence that decides what is accepted as scientific knowledge. But this Newtonian conception of science bequeathed to philosophy a fundamental problem about the nature of science that, for most philosophers, remains unsolved down to today.

It can be put like this. However much evidence we gather in support of a law or theory, it cannot verify the law or theory, or even render its probability greater than zero. This is because any physical law or theory makes infinitely many predictions, not just about the past and present, but about the future too, and possible states of affairs that have not, as yet, occurred and might never occur.

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We must always be infinitely far away from verifying all these infinitely many predictions of the theory. Put another way, however well-established a theory is by evidence, there will always be infinitely different theories that agree about the evidence we have gathered so far, but disagree, in different ways, about predictions for phenomena that we have not yet observed, because they are in the future, or because they concern possible states of affairs or experiments not yet created. Physics makes a big, highly problematic assumption about the nature of the Universe.

Evidence cannot verify a theory. It cannot even select a theory — since infinitely many disunified rivals will always fit the available evidence equally well, or even better.

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Science, in deciding what theory to accept or reject, attends not just to evidence, but to two considerations: 1 evidence, and 2 the simplicity, unity or explanatory character of the theory in question. This view has the great merit of doing better justice to what actually goes on in science. The empirically successful but horribly disunified versions of Newtonian theory, just considered, are ruled out. But there is still a problem. If physics, in particular, persistently accepts unified theories only, even though endlessly many disunified rivals are available that fit the available facts just as well, or even better, this must mean, whether it is acknowledged or not, that physics makes a big, highly problematic assumption about the nature of the Universe.


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  7. It means that physics makes the big assumption: the Universe is such that all disunified theories are false. There is some kind of underlying unity in nature. This assumption is implicitly accepted as a part of scientific knowledge since theories that conflict with it — those that are disunified — are rejected or not even considered whatever their empirical success might be.

    This assumption of underlying unity is, however, accepted independently of evidence , even in a sense in violation of evidence in that it clashes with endlessly many disunified theories even more empirically successful than the theories we accept.

    Physics and Philosophy: The Revolution in Modern Science by Werner Heisenberg

    The current orthodox conception of science, inherited from Newton, and still taken for granted by scientists today, that science must appeal only to evidence , and must not make metaphysical assumptions about the nature of the universe independently of evidence, is untenable, and must be rejected. W hat do we put in its place? In order to answer that question, it is vital to appreciate that the specific version of the metaphysical assumption of unity, accepted by physics at any stage in its development, exercises a profound influence over both the search for new theories and the acceptance of existing theories.

    And yet this assumption is a pure conjecture, the specific version of which, accepted at any given time, is almost bound to be false — as the historical record indicates in that metaphysical ideas, from corpuscular to string theory, have changed radically a number of times since the 17th century. The new kind of science we require explicitly acknowledges the existence of this substantial, influential and highly problematic metaphysical assumption of unity, and subjects it to sustained scrutiny, alternatives being developed and criticised, in an attempt to improve the specific version of the assumption that is accepted.

    Aim-oriented empiricism, as I have called this new conception of science, represents the metaphysical assumption in the form of a hierarchy of assumptions. As we go up this hierarchy, assumptions become less and less substantial, and so more and more likely to be true, and more and more nearly such that their truth is required for science, or the pursuit of knowledge to be possible at all.

    In this way, we create a framework of assumptions and associated methods high up in the hierarchy, very likely to be true, within which much more substantial assumptions and associated methods low down in the hierarchy can be critically assessed and, we might hope, improved. At the top of the hierarchy, we have the assumption that the Universe is partially knowable ; it is such that we can continue to acquire knowledge of our local circumstances sufficient to make life possible.

    If this assumption is false, we have had it, whatever we assume. It cannot harm and might well help the search for knowledge to make this assumption, whatever the Universe is like. Even though we have no reason to suppose the assumption true, nevertheless we are justified, on narrowly pragmatic grounds, in accepting this assumption as a part of our scientific knowledge.

    Next down in the hierarchy is the assumption that the Universe is meta-knowable ; it is such that we can formulate a conjecture about it that is true, and such that accepting the conjecture makes it possible for us, as we improve our knowledge, to improve methods for the improvement of knowledge. The Universe is such, in other words, that there can be something like positive feedback between improving knowledge, and improving knowledge about how to improve knowledge.

    Successive theories in physics have brought ever-greater unity to ever-wider ranges of phenomena. Next down there is the assumption that the Universe is comprehensible in some way or other. There is something , inherent in all phenomena, that is responsible for the way that events occur, in terms of which everything can, in principle, be explained and understood. This ubiquitous something might be God, or a cosmic purpose one that all events occur in order to fulfil , or a unified pattern of physical law.

    Granted meta-knowability, comprehensibility is a good assumption to adopt since, if true, it makes it possible for us to hone in on that version of comprehensibility that leads to the greatest success in improving knowledge. We put forward various sorts of explanatory theories; if one sort proves to meet with particular empirical success, meta-knowability justifies us in concentrating on theories that are explanatory in this particular sort of way.

    Next down is the assumption that the Universe is physically comprehensible ; a unified pattern of physical law runs through all phenomena, in terms of which all physical phenomena can, in principle, be explained and understood. This assumption of physical comprehensibility has played an astonishingly fruitful role in science ever since Galileo.

    Granted meta-knowability we are, in these circumstances, justified in accepting physical comprehensibility until something better turns up. Next down in the hierarchy of assumptions we have that specific version of physical comprehensibility that does the best justice to current theoretical knowledge in physics, and gives the best promise of future progress.

    Quantum Reality: Space, Time, and Entanglement

    This assumption can, today, be said to be string theory : everything is made up of tiny quantum strings in or dimensional spacetime. Its purpose is to offer new vistas in terms of world and human development while refusing to betray the intimate cor- relation between universality and individuality, dynamics and form, freedom and destiny. Each author deals with the increas- ing realization that spirit and nature are not separate and apart; that intuition and reason must regain their importance as the means of perceiving and fusing inner being with outer reality.

    Thus an enlarged mean- ing of life, of biology, not as it is revealed in the test tube of the laboratory but as it is experienced within the organism of life itself3 is attempted in this Series. For the principle of life consists in the tension which connects spirit with the realm of matter.

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    ISBN 13: 9781573926942

    The element of life is dominant in the very texture of nature, thus rendering life, biology, a trans-empirical science. The laws of life have their origin beyond their mere physical manifesta- tions and compel us to consider their spiritual source. In fact, the widening of the conceptual framework has not only served to restore order within the respective branches of knowledge, but has also disclosed analogies in man's position regarding the analysis and synthesis of experience in apparently separated do- mains of knowledge suggesting the possibility of an ever more embracing objective description of the meaning of life.

    From the first time mankind had an inkling Presents two essays commemorating Werner Heisenberg's th birthday, which are complemented by a short and Presents two essays commemorating Werner Heisenberg's th birthday, which are complemented by a short and nicely illustrated biographical note in the appendix. In the second part, the reader will find a spectrum of articles devoted to important developments in central God: A Story of Revelation. Deepak Chopra, whose extraordinary Enlightenment series includes the phenomenal New York Times bestsellers Buddha and Deepak Chopra, whose extraordinary Enlightenment series includes the phenomenal New York Times bestsellers Buddha and Jesus, delivers the most powerful installment yet: God.

    Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan. Trained since childhood to lead his nation as a living deity, Japan's Emperor Hirohito cultivated Historian Herbert P.

    Heisenberg, Physics and Philosophy

    Bix has unearthed hundreds of How good it feels to Read this book today to understand the science of Moral Courage. Why did a group of teenagers watch a friend die instead of putting their own Why did a group of teenagers watch a friend die instead of putting their own reputations at risk? Why did a top White House official decide to come clean and accept a prison sentence during Watergate?

    Physics and philosophy: the revolution in modern science Physics and philosophy: the revolution in modern science
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