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Quantum Mechanics and Objectivism

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Leonard Peikoff has spoken negatively of certain particle physicists. In one lecture, he dismissed the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, for instance. Since then, there have been far more scientific discoveries which have been claimed by particle physicists. I am wondering, what exactly are the findings in quantum mechanics which Objectivists take issue with, and why? Is this a red herring? Scientists should be our closest allies, as they are basically applied epistemologists, using the evidence of the senses as enhanced by scientific instruments to inform us as to the nature of reality. Yet not a single prominent scientist is an Objectivist. Could this perceived split be one of the reasons?

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Not a single prominent scientist is an Objectivist because

  • Objectivism adds absolutely nothing to what they already do. 
  • as extreme specialists they are natural 'compartmentalizers' having no interest in integrating thoughts beyond their field
  • "prominent" is an ambiguous term.  There are scientists that are Objectivists or Objectivism-influenced (Travis Norsen) but you haven't heard of them.  There are scientists who are prominent (Neil deGrasse Tyson) but not because of any science they have done.

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On 9/30/2017 at 11:32 PM, CartsBeforeHorses said:

I am wondering, what exactly are the findings in quantum mechanics which Objectivists take issue with, and why?

There are a number of equations in particle physics which describe reality with incredible accuracy.  Such math has been proven correct so many times that (unless we learn something really, really weird) it's basically irrefutable.  However, there are also a number of interpretations of what the math means which (and I have to sympathize with Peikoff on this one) seem to suggest the existence of contradictions.

As Rand put it (through John Galt in Atlas Shrugged):

Quote

Whatever you choose to consider, be it an object, an attribute or an action, the law of identity remains the same. A leaf cannot be a stone at the same time, it cannot be all red and all green at the same time, it cannot freeze and burn at the same time. A is A. Or, if you wish it stated in simpler language: You cannot have your cake and eat it, too.

So when I hear a physicist say that some thing is in multiple places and states at once, or smeared across a probability wave (without any 100% definite attributes whatsoever), those are the statements I have a problem with.

And it might just be the way they're phrasing their discoveries.  If the defining traits of "up" and "down quarks" didn't actually overlap (such as electric charge and mass), so that we're actually discussing two different measured quantities, then it might be perfectly mundane for something to be both an up-quark and a down-quark, simultaneously.  (And yes, I pulled that hypothetical out of thin air for the sake of brevity).  However, there are a number of their "discoveries" which I cannot believe actually mean what they're thought to mean.

 

P.S:

That's by no means an exhaustive overview of "the Objectivist view of QM". In fact, the very first thing Strictly Logical did on O.O was to voice the OP's very same concern, although not quite as tactfully (I believe analogies were drawn to illiterate hillbillies).

 

Welcome to O.O. :thumbsup:

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold
PostScript

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11 hours ago, Harrison Danneskjold said:

So when I hear a physicist say that some thing is in multiple places and states at once, or smeared across a probability wave (without any 100% definite attributes whatsoever), those are the statements I have a problem with.

And it might just be the way they're phrasing their discoveries.  If the defining traits of "up" and "down quarks" didn't actually overlap (such as electric charge and mass), so that we're actually discussing two different measured quantities, then it might be perfectly mundane for something to be both an up-quark and a down-quark, simultaneously.  (And yes, I pulled that hypothetical out of thin air for the sake of brevity).  However, there are a number of their "discoveries" which I cannot believe actually mean what they're thought to mean.

 

It definitely has more to do with the phrasing. More specifically, it has a lot to do with popularizes of science not actually understanding QM, but, more seriously, physicists themselves didn't have a very good grasp of QM in its early days. So a lot of the old misconceptions have survived to the present day, even though quantum theory has moved on.

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So when I hear a physicist say that some thing is in multiple places and states at once,

With regard to states, nothing can ever be in two states at once. If a particle is in a superposition of two states A and B, then it is not correct to say that it is in both state A and in state B. Superposition really just means sum. So, for example, northeast is a superposition of the directions north and east (under vector addition). If you are traveling northeast, you are not traveling both due north and due east., obviously.

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or smeared across a probability wave (without any 100% definite attributes whatsoever), those are the statements I have a problem with.

Unfortunately, the probabilistic nature of quantum observables is inescapable.

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