In this post I’m going to attempt the impossible: I’m going to explain (at a high level) Quantum Physics using math while trying to keep it interesting. I’m basically going to use a dumbed down and somewhat modified example I’ve taken from Roger Penrose’s book called Shadows of the Mind: A Search for the Missing Science of Consciousness.
I believe people willing to persevere through this post will find themselves surprised by the end by the rather starling philosophical implications of quantum physics. I also believe that, if you take it slowly, the math is understandable to any high school graduate. I am personally very bad at math and can only handle this example because the math is so easy. If you don’t assume you can’t understand it, you’ll find that you can.
Forget What You Think You Know
Unless you are a physicist, start by emptying your mind of what you think you know about quantum physics through popular books because there is a substantial gap between what people say about Quantum Physics and the real theory. It seems to me that Quantum Physics currently gets used as the new ‘magic’. It’s become common for the fad magical (or sometimes even religious) worldview of the moment to slap a ‘quantum’ label in there somewhere to add a scientific veneer.  The reason this happens is because quantum physics has a deserved reputation for being really ‘weird’. But keep in mind what ‘weird’ means. It only means “something I’m not familiar with.” Claiming something is ‘weird’ says nothing ontological about the object/idea in question and actually serves as a statement about the speaker’s state of ignorance of the subject. (A point I often bring up when we talk about Mormons or other religions being “weird.”) Continue reading
I have wanted to do a series of posts discussing various topics I find interesting. I love trying to find the cross section between science, religion, and philosophy. Sometimes I have to look really hard to find such a cross section. At any given moment, any two of these areas of knowledge are likely going in such opposite directions that there is no hope of them ever meeting without a major paradigm shift. But I find it fun to try all the same.
I once did a series of posts for Wheat and Tares (M* got pointers to the posts) on epistemology. Epistemology is a fancy word for “theory of knowledge” or, in other words, it’s a word for a theory on how we gain knowledge.
Karl Popper’s theory of epistemology is in the forefront of all other theories of knowledge because his theory is superior to all contenders. However, Popper’s own presentation had some flaws that I felt Thomas Kuhn filled in nicely. (Though Kuhn’s conclusions that there is no such thing as scientific realism seem patently false to me.) My posts made an attempt to integrate some of Kuhn’s better ideas into Popper’s overall framework. In addition, I threw in some of David Deutsch’s improvements on Popper plus some ideas from John Polkinghorne. For those interested, see my summary of this epistemology here. Continue reading
For those following my series over at Wheat and Tares, don’t miss out on my latest post: Positivism vs. Scientific Realism: An Example. Here is a teaser:
However, Deutsch is right about one thing. Positivism ultimately fails to grasp the value of believing your explanations. It is only through believing your explanations that you can comprehend them. And only by comprehending them can you refine them into something even more useful.
Check out the next post in my “Reason as a Guide to Reality” series over at Wheat and Tares. Here is a preview:
To prove his point of view, Deutsch suggests a thought experiment. Pretend that aliens give us poor humans a magic box, an ‘oracle’ so to speak, that can “predict the outcome of any possible experiment, but provides no explanations.” (The Fabric of Reality, p. 4) In theory this should be a Positivist’s dream. Since we only care about the predictive power of science, we now no longer need science because we can literally predict anything.
Warning: The attached link to Sam Harris’ video includes some fairly small ‘magazine images’ to demonstrate Western views on the female body. He does not condone western views as morally correct, and in fact I think his point of view is in alignment with our values. But I was not comfortable including the video directly on a Mormon website where people might click on it and watch it without realizing what they were about to see.
Sam Harris’ speech on science and morality made the rounds amongst Internet circles a while back. A non-LDS friend brought it to my attention and was curious what I thought of it. He later told me that he found it enlightening, but felt there was something wrong with it, though he couldn’t put his finger on it.
The idea that “science” (and by that we really mean scientific epistemology of conjecture and refutation) has the ability to explain and answer questions of morality is very appealing to me because it fits properly into my view of an explainable reality, including an explainable God.
I believe that this first part of Sam Harris’ presentation is spot on. I agree with him that “Values are facts about well being of conscious creatures.” Continue reading