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Here are some old letters from a now defunct site. I should have kept my mouth shut. My science is at the undergraduate level.

I hope you enjoy them.

Semper cogitans fidele,

Peter Taylor

From: Ram Tobolski <rtb_il@yahoo.com>

To: OWL <objectivism@wetheliving.com>

Subject: OWL: Re: Randomness & Rationality

Date: Wed, 08 Jan 2003 00:18:48 +0200

Neil wrote (1/6) about two types of randomness: One is dependent on our imprecision, and is not in the nature of things in themselves. For example, as when we say that when you throw a true die, the result is random. The second type of randomness is in the nature of things in themselves. A classic example (which was discussed here about ten months ago) is quantum theory, which is the best confirmed theory in empirical

science, and as much as it describes reality as it is, it says that there is randomness in some places at the heart of reality itself.

Neil thinks that the second type of randomness (I'll call it "real" randomness) is impossible, because it violates the law of identity. I disagree, because I do _not_ think that the existence of real randomness violates the law of identity. Real randomness is just another kind of identity. If it did violate the law of identity, how could physicists stick to it (in the context of quantum theory), work with it, _think_ with it, for the last 70 years (or so)?

Real randomness is "less desirable" than determinate identity, because it gives less information. And it is natural to try again and again to reduce randomness to determinate identity (especially when modern

science seemed to work well without real randomness for about 300 years). But the physical world is as it is, whether we desire it or not. And the world _may_ contain real randomness. And for now it seems that it actually does contain real randomness.

Ram

From: Ram Tobolski <rtb_il@yahoo.com>

To: OWL <objectivism@wetheliving.com>

Subject: OWL: Randomness and Identity: metaphysics or epistemology?

Date: Thu, 09 Jan 2003 23:08:36 +0200

Neil suggested (1/6) that the existing of real randomness, basic randomness in the world itself, is impossible, because it violates the law of identity. I replied (1/7) that true randomness does not violate the law of identity, that it is just another type of identity ("A is A" in Rand's succinct form), and I mentioned as supporting evidence that quantum physicists have been thinking about the world, for over 70 years, as if it contained true randomness. And now Neil replied (1/8):

> As the law of identity is currently understood and formulated, I agree, "real" randomness is certainly possible. The problem is with the definition of identity. We (humans) view identity as something that is stable and unchanging until some action or event acts upon the object under observation, thus causing it, and our evaluation of it, to change. But this is a macro view of identity [...]

>

> My point is that identity, as it pertains to the discussion on "real" randomness, is in a state of never ending change. Identity is not stable over time. Our mental conception of identity may be constant, but the object itself is always changing [...]

I disagree, on two levels:

1. I think that Neil's distinction between "epistemological identity" and "metaphysical identity" cannot stand.

2. And even if it were valid, it wouldn't support what Neil said about true randomness.

!?

If what Neil said about the metaphysical were true - that everything metaphysical is constantly changing - it would have a very simple immediate implication: That there was _no_identity_at_all_ metaphysically, i.e. in the world in itself. Or that only "momentary entities" had identity, that there was no identity beyond the single

moment ("moment" being an extensionless point in time).

But if there was no identity in the world, knowledge of the world would be impossible, simply because there was nothing to know. All the objects of knowledge are identities (entities, properties, relations, facts).

So if Neil's distinction between "epistemological identity" and "metaphysical identity" were valid, not only real randomness were impossible, but everything else would be impossible too. The world would collapse into an unintelligible mish-mash.

As the law of identity is currently understood and formulated, then, it refers to identities in world, in itself. When I refer to Neil, for example, I think of him as having identity metaphysically, in the world in itself.

- And how can this be, considering that on the molecular level, Neil is changing constantly?

- Well, Neil is not a molecule... nor simply a set of molecules. Neil is made of molecules, but his principle-of-identity is not in the molecules, but in their super-structure over space and time, and in their high-level functions.

Is Rand's law of identity "epistemological" or "metaphysical"? In a sense, both:

- It is metaphysical in that it refers to the world, to objects, to entities in the world.

- It is epistemological in that its basis is not some insight that we have into the world itself, but in an insight that we have about the nature of thought and of knowledge. When we prove the law of identity, we do not look outside, to the world's essence (which is impossible), but inside, into our own only way to think and learn about the world.

- So, we can be "epistemologically certain" about the law of identity,

but not "metaphysically certain". The world _as far as it can be known_

lives up to the law of identity.

Ram

From: "Ralph Blanchette" <ralph_blanchette@hotmail.com>

Reply-To: "Ralph Blanchette" <ralph_blanchette@hotmail.com>

To: "OWL" <objectivism@wetheliving.com>

CC: "Ram Tobolski" <rtb_il@yahoo.com>

Subject: OWL: Re: Re: Randomness & Rationality

Date: Thu, 9 Jan 2003 18:33:45 -0500

On January 07, 2003 Ram Tobolski wrote:

>Neil wrote (1/6) about two types of randomness: One is dependent on our imprecision, and is not in the nature of things in themselves. For example, as when we say that when you throw a true die, the result is random. The second type of randomness is in the nature of things in themselves. A classic example (which was discussed here about ten months ago) is quantum theory, which is the best confirmed theory in empirical science, and as much as it describes reality as it is, it says that there is randomness in some places at the heart of reality itself.

Yes, I remember that previous discussion. It ended, as difficult subjects often do, in _aporia_-- a dialectical impasse. That's why I am surprised to see Ram tell of "the best confirmed theory in empirical science" and

associate that statement with the claim that "there is randomness in some places at the heart of reality itself."

The predicted outcomes of experiments are well confirmed. That the outcomes are a result of randomness at the heart of reality is sheer poetry.

What are the facts of reality that give rise to this concept? Maybe Ram can explain what experiments prove his point and how? If not, I'm going to continue operating on the theory that individual things -- particulars --

Have determinate identities and it is our knowledge of their causes that is (and may remain) undetermined.

That's only rational.

--Ralph

From: Neil Goodell <ngoodell@zianet.com>

To: OWL <objectivism@wetheliving.com>

Subject: OWL: Re: Randomness and Identity: metaphysics or epistemology?

Date: Fri, 10 Jan 2003 14:26:34 -0700

On 9 January 2003, Ram Tobolski wrote:

>If what Neil said about the metaphysical were true - that everything metaphysical is constantly changing - it would have a very simple immediate implication: That there was _no_identity_at_all_ metaphysically, i.e. in the world in itself. Or that only "momentary entities" had identity, that there was no identity beyond the single moment ("moment" being an extensionless point in time).

Exactly.

When Ram writes: "only 'momentary entities' [have] identity, that there [is] no identity beyond the single moment ('moment' being an extensionless point in time)," he is precisely on point. Metaphysical identity, or the identity intrinsic to an entity, does not endure beyond the single moment.

The change that occurs between Moment-1 (M1) and Moment-2 (M2) is typically so small so as to be practicably immeasurable. But there are dramatic exceptions. Look at what happens during a nuclear explosion: The nuclear fissions brought about by neutrons start a self-sustaining sequence. At some point, the critical (mass?) point, this reaction shifts from one that is "merely" highly radioactive, to one that is explosive. This critical point can be measured in single nuclear fissions (theoretically), one too many and a bomb is born.

The change between M1 and M2 consists of the time it takes for a single nuclear fission to occur. This change in the metaphysical identity of the chemical reaction occurring between M1 and M2 is dramatic and extreme in this example, and so also is the epistemological identity.

Another way of looking at the distinction between metaphysical and epistemological identity is this: What identity would a neutron or a rock have if there were no human beings to observe it? As a matter of epistemology, there would be no identity because identity is a uniquely human construct; if there are no perceiving minds, there is no identity. From the perspective of metaphysics, the "identity" of a neutron or rock is what it is regardless of whether there is a perceiving mind or not.

Still another way of looking at the two is this:

>Rand provided us with a powerful, and deceptively simple, answer to these questions: objective identity arises from the relationships between things, and not the things in themselves. (Gregory Wharton (7/30/2001))

From the context of Gregory's post (larger excerpt appended at end) it is clear that he is referring to identity as a construct of epistemology. It requires a perceiving mind to state that "A is A," but "A" still exists regardless of whether a perceiving mind is present or not (at least for nonliving "A's").

Returning now to Ram's post:

>So if Neil's distinction between "epistemological identity" and "metaphysical identity" were valid, not only real randomness were impossible, but everything else would be impossible too. The world would collapse into an unintelligible mish-mash.

And the paragraph that immediately preceded this one was:

>But if there was no identity in the world, knowledge of the world would be impossible, simply because there was nothing to know. All the objects of knowledge are identities (entities, properties, relations, facts).

This is the clue that Ram is still talking about epistemological identity because "objects of knowledge" is clearly a concept from epistemology.

From the metaphysical perspective, the universe *is* a "mish-mash." This is a variation of the "the-universe-is-so-neat-and-orderly-there-must-be-a-God" argument (i.e., The Argument From Design). There is no "order" or "structure" to the the universe, only natural law. Order and structure are derivatives of the way in which human beings form and hold knowledge. These notions are something that perceiving human minds impute to the universe so as to make what we see understandable. But just because our minds impose order and structure on our knowledge does not mean the universe has these attributes too. Just as the concept "chair" has no manifest counterpart--only exemplars--so also are the concepts of order and structure attributes of an active mind.

In fact I believe the exact opposite of Ram's argument is the case. Consider, if metaphysical identity did not exist apart and independent of a perceiving mind, from epistemological identity, how could knowledge be possible? The fact that the universe is always changing would not be an impediment (because it is always changing), but rather because there would be no natural law to constrain the "properties, relations, [and] facts" that inhere to entities. In other words, a "primacy of consciousness" universe.

Metaphysical identity *must* exist in a "primacy of existence" universe.

-----

Yesterday (1/9) I received an offlist message pointing out that my clock example re Identity was previously discussed on OWL as "The Ship of Theseus" problem, along with this link:

http://faculty.washington.edu/smcohen/320/theseus.html

I was just trying to give a more modern version of the story.

The distinction I am making between metaphysical and epistemological identity, that the metaphysical is always changing while the epistemological is relatively constant, was earlier discussed by Gregory Wharton from the standpoint of identity within the philosophy of Objectivism. What follows is a longer except from his post.

On 30 July 2001 Gregory Wharton wrote:

>We all know that existence is composed of subatomic particles. Scientific experiment confirmed this for us long ago to a reasonable degree of certainty. These particles move around a lot, shifting incessantly from one location to another. They apparently have little regard for such tidy notions as "entity"--at least in the macroscopic sense in which we are used to thinking about such things.

>

> If I walk across the carpet, shuffling my feet, I (like Theseus' ship) shed some of my constituent parts (electrons) and pick up a whole host of new ones. Does this change my identity? Am I no longer myself? When I touch you on the tip of your nose and give you a good shock, am I then making myself a part of you? Is your identity irrevocably changed? Should you go and get yourself a new driver's license?

>

> Were it not for an understanding of the nature of entity and identity in a philosophical sense, the mind would truly boggle at such questions (and, continuing the thread, whose mind would be doing the boggling, eh?--such are the confusions from which midnight dorm-room speculations are born).

>

> In an objective sense, what is identity? How can we rationally say that Theseus' ship is still the same entity when the entirety of its component parts have been replaced piecemeal over the years? How can we say that I am me, even though (over the course of my 32 years of life), my body has already completely regrown its skeleton at least four times? I regrow my skin in entirety every few months (faster if I've had a sunburn). My parts have been updated and replaced every bit as thoroughly as the planks in Theseus' hull.

>

> Rand provided us with a powerful, and deceptively simple, answer to these questions: objective identity arises from the relationships between things, and not the things in themselves.

This last sentence of Gregory's is the clue that Rand was addressing herself specifically to the nature of identity as a concept of epistemology. But, A is still A, a thing still is what it is regardless of whether anyone is observing it or not. The whole of science is devoted to discovering what these relationships are. But again, these relationships exist irrespective of whether a scientist happens to be looking or not.

As a matter of metaphysics, Theseus' ship is always changing.

--Neil Goodell

10 January 2003

From: Ram Tobolski <rtb_il@yahoo.com>

To: OWL <objectivism@wetheliving.com>

Subject: OWL: Randomness, Identity & quantum theory

Date: Sun, 12 Jan 2003 00:29:38 +0200

I am packing here replies to the posts of Ralph Blanchette (1/9) and of Neil Goodell (1/10), so as not to exceed the posting limit.

I wrote (1/7):

> The second type of randomness is in the nature of things in themselves. A classic example (which was discussed here about ten months ago) is quantum theory, which is the best confirmed theory in empirical science, and as much as it describes reality as it is, it says that there is randomness in some places at the heart of reality itself.

And Ralph replied:

>Yes, I remember that previous discussion. It ended, as difficult subjects often do, in _aporia_-- a dialectical impasse.

I'm not sure I agree about the aporia (impasse). The previous discussion ended, if I recall, in disagreement, but this is not the same as aporia. Perhaps some of us were right, and some were not?.. Anyway, we can try again. I did learn a thing or two on the subject since the previous round.

>That's why I am surprised to see Ram tell of "the best confirmed theory in empirical science" and associate that statement with the claim that "there is randomness in some places at the heart of reality itself."

>

> The predicted outcomes of experiments are well confirmed. That the outcomes are a result of randomness at the heart of reality is sheer poetry.

Good remark, which tells me that I wasn't clear enough here. I'll try again:

1. Quantum mechanics is the best confirmed theory in empirical science. By this I refer to the following facts:

1a. The predictions that are made, using quantum mechanics, are the most precise ones in empirical science.

1b. In the 70+ years since quantum mechanics received its mature form (Heisenberg's matrix calculus and Shroedinger's wave function), there was not a single falsification of the theory, as much as I know.

1c. Also, there hasn't arisen yet any other theory to seriously compete with quantum mechanics.

2. Quantum mechanics, as any theory of science, refers to the world. To say merely that "the predicted outcomes of experiments are well confirmed", and to ignore the metaphysical side, is misleading, because we could the same for _any_ successful scientific theory.

3. Given the above, it is notoriously still difficult to interpret quantum mechanics in terms of specific entities, properties and relations. The Copenhagen interpretation, which has been the accepted one, is the simplest and most economical. It also seems to me philosophically sufficient, even though it lack much that is otherwise

desirable (such as definite identities instead of randomness). There were quite a few other interpretations that were suggested, but all of them contained serious theoretical problems and/or new assumptions which could not be independently tested (at least not yet).

4. The facts that quantum theory is well-confirmed, and that the Copenhagen interpretation is the best one available, do _not_ imply that this interpretation is true, just that it is the best one, at present, in the empirical aspect (metaphysical questions have also non-empirical aspects, and this is why empirical scientists, as a rule, steer away from them). However, since I don't see any a-priori reason to disqualify the Copenhagen interpretation (including the real randomness), the empirical support gives a good reason to accept it, as long as it hasn't been superceded.

>What are the facts of reality that give rise to this concept [real randomness]? Maybe Ram can explain what experiments prove his point and how?

Good question. The experimental story is rather complex (and I do not pretend to know all the details). The basic outline, I think, is this:

a. There has been an accumulation of experiments that support the existence of certain basic particles (atoms, electrons, photons).

b. For a range of basic behaviors for these particles, no determinate rules were found, despite decades of research.

c. On the other hand, probabilistic rules for these behaviors _were_ found. And not only found - they have been giving predictions with unprecedented precision and success.

>If not, I'm going to continue operating on the theory that individual things -- particulars -- have determinate identities and it is our knowledge of their causes that is (and may remain) undetermined. That's only rational.

Is that? I don't understand what you mean. How will you operate differently, than if you believed that things _may_not_ have determinate identities, but that you still _preferred_ determinate identities over probabilistic identities, if you could find them, because, as I mentioned in a previous post, they give more information?

There is the misleading thought, that you have to believe that entities _must_ have determinate identities, in order to look for such identities. But this is not true. It is enough that you _prefer_ determinate identities, even though you acknowledge that they _may_not_ exist. Actually, it is not only enough, but strictly better, for an

active scientist. If I'm not mistaken then it is a fact that Einstein and Shroedinger, for example, which played an important role at the inception of quantum theory, stopped contributing to the development of the theory after 1930, exactly because they were too strongly opposed to the probabilistic form of the theory.

===================================

My reply to Neil's post (1/10) will be shorter. I am quite surprised to see how opposed our views are. I suggested (1/9) that Neil's view, that everything metaphysical changes constantly, would entail that there is

no identity at all in the world, that the world "would collapse into an unintelligible mish-mash". To my surprise, Neil confirmed these conclusions.

I still think Neil doesn't really mean it... The position which he asserts and defends is _pure_nominalism_. He actually wrote "But just because our minds impose order and structure on our knowledge does not mean the universe has these attributes too". Neil's view is totally severing the connection between the mind and the world, because he think that the world is a "mish-mash", total chaos. This is strictly opposed to objectivism (I certainly do not try to intimidate by mentioning this. It's ok by me to take a stand against this or that point in Rand's philosophy. I just don't think that Neil meant to do this, and he does.). If we do not demand that the world _corresponds_ to our concepts, what gives validity to one person's concepts over another's? If we "impose" order on the world, as Neil suggested, why is the order that one person "imposes" on the world better than the order that is imposed by another? Only force remains - this is a usual companion view to nominalism.

And just one more query: Neil favorably quotes a post of Gregory Wharton's from 7/30/01, in which Gregory wrote: "Rand provided us with a powerful, and deceptively simple, answer to these questions: objective

identity arises from the relationships between things, and not the things in themselves".

I don't exactly understand this, and, as far as I understand it, I don't think I agree to it. And even if I agreed to it, I don't think that it supports the view which Neil asserted (because relations between things are in the world, just as much as the things are). _But_ what I mainly would like to know is _where_ did Rand write this, and in what context?

I liked your (Ralph's and Neil's) challenging inputs,

Ram

From: "Ralph Blanchette" <ralph_blanchette@hotmail.com>

To: "OWL" <objectivism@wetheliving.com>

CC: "Ram Tobolski" <rtb_il@yahoo.com>

Subject: OWL: Re: Randomness, Identity & quantum theory

Date: Mon, 13 Jan 2003 19:57:02 -0500

I appreciate Ram Tobolski's concise replies to my questions on quantum theory. I'm sorry I cannot deal with the issues he raises in as concise a manner.

On 1/11 Ram, quoting me from 1/9, wrote:

>The predicted outcomes of experiments are well confirmed. That the outcomes are a result of randomness at the heart of reality is sheer poetry.

>

> Good remark, which tells me that I wasn't clear enough here. I'll try again:

>

> 1. Quantum mechanics is the best confirmed theory in empirical science. By this I refer to the following facts: 1a. The predictions that are made, using quantum mechanics, are the most precise ones in empirical science.

Irrelevant to the point in dispute. The precision is not enhanced by the assumption of real randomness.

> 1b. In the 70+ years since quantum mechanics received its mature form (Heisenberg's matrix calculus and Shroedinger's wave function), there was not a single falsification of the theory, as much as I know.

Again, irrelevant, since any 'falsification' would be likely to undermine the mathematical formalism that _all_ critics of the orthodox interpretation acknowledge does predict accurately. That same formalism can be transformed in ways that preserve the predictions while allowing alternative descriptions of the underlying reality -- such as those that preserve causality.

> 1c. Also, there hasn't arisen yet any other theory to seriously compete with quantum mechanics.

I assume Ram means the 'standard' or orthodox interpretation which, as I understand it, is the Copenhagen interpretation stripped of some of its more embarrassing subjectivism. If this is the case, then we have to examine what he means by "serious" competition. In general, physicists are not going to bother themselves about matters of metaphysics. To many of them, it's a dirty word. There _is_ serious competition to the standard interpretation in the reformulation of quantum mechanics in the Broglie-Bohm theory, and others. The fact that physicists in general are not interested in these alternatives doesn't mean much. As soon as you buy into the positivist premises that what you are studying are the observable phenomena and your job is to predict those phenomena under novel experimental arrangements, the passion for understanding the difference between the entity and its measurement begins to fade. To give physicists the last word on physics is wise; to give them the last word on metaphysics and epistemology is a category mistake.

On the other hand there are people whose professional duty it is to learn enough of both physics and philosophy to comment on their intersection. These philosophers of science are worth listening to. You may be surprised at how _reasoned_ their analyses are, irrespective of the positions they wind up espousing, if any. Fortunately we have an excellent online resource for summaries of some of their views, which I urge you to explore: the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Go to the index and browse the articles related to quantum mechanics:

http://plato.stanford.edu/contents.html#q

For those who cannot spare the time to wade through that mass of information I have quoted a few relevant and layman-accessible passages at the end of this post.

Ram continues:

>4. The facts that quantum theory is well-confirmed, and that the Copenhagen interpretation is the best one available, do _not_ imply that this interpretation is true, just that it is the best one, at present, in the empirical aspect (metaphysical questions have also non-empirical aspects, and this is why empirical scientists, as a rule, steer away from them). However, since I don't see any a-priori reason to disqualify the Copenhagen interpretation (including the real randomness), the empirical support gives a good reason to accept it, as long as it hasn't been superceded.

I don't have an a-priori reason to disqualify that interpretation; I have an a-posteriori reason. I observe that proven knowledge of reality requires a minimum starting point of unproven axioms that are derived from all of my experience, and implied by all of my experience. Among those axioms are the axiom of existence and identity, and, particularly relevant in this case, the temporal corollary of identity: causality. I also observe a-posteriori, that the authors of the Copenhagen interpretation abandoned causality just when they -- and we -- needed it most: when the problem became intractable to the methods of classical physics and it became obvious that the tools available to probe the quantum realm were so coarse that it was impossible to study that realm without radically altering it in the process. What was their response? Not to work and think harder to discover a strategy for discovering the identities of the entities behind the phenomena, but to fall back on _their own_ a-priori metaphysical and epistemological predilections, particularly those Kantian and positivist theories that sanctioned their abandonment of the myth of objective, observer-independent reality and the

idea that scientific knowledge could be reduced to the observations one makes of the 'phenomena' and could never be knowledge of the 'things in themselves' that (we're not subjectivists after all!) underlie the

phenomena.

That's why it is wrong to regard the Copenhagen interpretation and its variants as, somehow, a "metaphysics free" example of pure science against which naive amateurs raise objections based on their a-priori commitment to various unscientific metaphysical world views. Before there is science there must be Natural Philosophy. In today's terms that means we need the Philosophy of Science to strengthen the foundations of sound scientific method, integrate the findings of the many branches of science, and keep a critical eye on the specialists.

> > What are the facts of reality that give rise to this concept [real randomness]? Maybe Ram can explain what experiments prove his point and how?

>

> Good question. The experimental story is rather complex (and I do not pretend to know all the details). The basic outline, I think, is this: a. There has been an accumulation of experiments that support the existence of certain basic particles (atoms, electrons, photons). b. For a range of basic behaviors for these particles, no determinate rules were found, despite decades of research. c. On the other hand, probabilistic rules for these behaviors _were_ found. And not only found - they have been giving predictions with unprecedented precision and success.

But that doesn't even start answering my question! The experiments certainly show randomness. But what experiment shows that it is _real_ randomness? Probabilistic rules are wonderful for predicting all sorts of determinately caused aggregate properties at the macroscopic level as well. As for precision, it goes with the territory: small and fast. I don't think one can make the case that the precision is a product of the assumption of

metaphysical ('real') as opposed to epistemological (unknown-determinates) randomness. Is the justification for thinking there are _no_ hidden variables at the subatomic level to cause the apparently random quantum

phenomena, that nobody has discovered any in 70 years? All that means is that such variables are inaccessible to anything with which, so far, we have been able to look for them. Getting discouraged so easily? It took 365

years to prove Fermat's last theorem and nobody needed to hunt for it in the recalcitrant world of matter.

I can't deal here with Ram's remaining points because this getting too long. I would like to offer a perspective on the axiom of identity and the quantum realm. The following is tentative, but it looks to me, as an outside

observer of quantum mechanics with an Objectivist orientation, that Rand's definition of the necessary steps in concept-formation are highly relevant. Science needs proper concept-formation as much as politics! A mathematical description of the contingencies of an experimental situation does not qualify as a proper concept.

The first step in concept formation is to find an _entity_. If you fail in that first step then naturally you will fail in all subsequent steps. In particular, you will create a mental construct, an _identity_, the step that

connects the possible entity with it's conceptual representation, which is in fact a pseudo-identity. But how can you fail to find an entity? Doesn't any sense impression, any perception prior to it's identification _as

something_ (though I know not what) qualify as finding an entity? In a way, yes, of course. But consider the old fable of the blind men and the elephant ( http://www.wordfocus.com/word-act-blindmen.html -- read it!:-).

Each found an entity and made an identification that could be verified and confirmed _ad infinitum_. But as a description of the elephant – the goal -- each had missed the _real_ entity and constructed a pseudo-identity.

Nature has a way of requiring us to identify holistic entities if they are to be integrated into one's knowledge as members of a class of similar units, meaning, the understanding of nature requires that we discover _natural kinds_. I don't think that a mathematical description of an observational situation, combining sub-atomic particles and macroscopic apparatus, qualifies as the identification of a natural kind. Sad to say, with its inextricable combination of subject and object, this feature of the Copenhagen interpretation doesn't even qualify as finding entities. Little wonder it can't find causes.

--Ralph

Here are the excerpts from the SEP. I hope they whet your appetite to look into the many challenging articles they offer on the subject.

from Measurement in Quantum Theory:

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/qt-measurement/

============(excerpt)=============

Einstein's position has roots in Cartesian as well as empiricist, and specifically Lockean, notions of perception. This realist position opposes the Kantian metaphor of the "veil of perception" that pictures the apparatus

of observation as like a pair of spectacles through which a highly mediated sight of the world can be glimpsed. To be specific, according to Kant, rather than simply reflecting an independently existing reality, "appearances" are constituted through the act of perception in a way that conforms them to the fundamental categories of sensible intuition. As Kant made the point in the Transcendental Aesthetic: "Not only are the drops of rain mere appearances, but...even their round shape, and even the space in which they fall, are nothing in themselves, but merely modifications of fundamental forms of our sensible intuition, and...the transcendental object remains unknown to us" (Kant 1973, 85).

By contrast, the realism that I am associating with Einstein takes the point of view that, insofar as they are real, when we observe rain drops under ideal conditions we are seeing objects "in themselves", that is, as they

exist independently of being perceived. In other words, not only do the rain drops exist independently of our observations but also, in observing them, what we see reflects how they really are. In William Blake's succinct

formulation, "As the eye [sees], such the object [is]" (Crary 1995, 70). According to this "realist" point of view, ideal observations not only reflect the way things are during but also immediately before and after

observation.[4]

Such realism was opposed by both Bohr and Heisenberg.[5] Bohr took a position that, by taking acts of observation and measurement more generally as constitutive of phenomena, aligned him more closely with a Kantian point of view. To be specific, Bohr took it that "measurement has an essential [by which I take him to mean constitutive] influence on the conditions on which the very definition of the physical quantities in question rests" (Bohr 1935, 1025).

...

The paradoxes and questions raised by the measurement problem have spawned a host of interpretations of QM, including hidden variable theories that continue Einstein's search for a "complete" account of physical reality, and the Everett-Wheeler "many worlds interpretation" (Wheeler and Zureck 1983, II.3 and III.3; Bell 1987, chapters 4 and 20). Most physicists bypass these philosophical resolutions of the interpretative difficulties of QM, and revert instead to some version of the Bohr interpretation. Often that version is related closely to the early Heisenberg's positivistic, anti-metaphysical approach. It is as if the long history of failure to resolve the acrimonious disputes surrounding the interpretation of QM has led quantum physicists to become disenchanted with the garden of metaphysical delights. As John S. Bell has made the point, despite more than seventy years of interpreting QM and resolving the measurement problem, the Bohr interpretation in its more pragmatic, less metaphysical forms remains the "working philosophy" for the average physicist (Bell 1987, 189).

========(end of quoted excerpt)========

The philosophical premises of the founders of the orthodox quantum mechanics ought to make us wonder, even in the absence of alternative formulations, whether that theory is telling the whole story. Fortunately,

though, we do have alternative formulations of quantum mechanics. Probably the best:

from Bohmian Mechanics

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/qm-bohm/

============(excerpt)==============

John von Neumann, one of the greatest mathematicians of the twentieth century, claimed to have mathematically proven that Einstein's dream, of a deterministic completion or reinterpretation of quantum theory, was mathematically impossible. He concluded that (von Neumann 1932, p. 325 of the English translation)

It is therefore not, as is often assumed, a question of a re-interpretation of quantum mechanics -- the present system of quantum mechanics would have to be objectively false, in order that another description of the elementary processes than the statistical one be possible.

This claim of von Neumann was almost universally accepted among physicists and philosophers of science. For example, Max Born, who formulated the statistical interpretation of the wave function, assured us that (Born 1949, p. 109)

No concealed parameters can be introduced with the help of which the indeterministic description could be transformed into a deterministic one. Hence if a future theory should be deterministic, it cannot be a modification of the present one but must be essentially different.

Bohmian mechanics is, quite clearly, a counterexample to the claims of von Neumann, so something has to be wrong with von Neumann's argument. In fact, according to John Bell (Mermin 1993, p. 805), von Neumann's assumptions (about the relationships among the values of quantum observables that must be satisfied in a hidden-variables theory) are so unreasonable that the "the proof of von Neumann is not merely false but foolish!" Nonetheless, some physicists continue to rely on von Neumann's proof, although in recent years

it is more common to find physicists citing the Kochen-Specker Theorem and, more frequently, Bell's inequality as the basis of this refutation. We still find, a quarter of a century after the rediscovery of Bohmian mechanics in 1952, statements such as these (Wigner 1976):

The proof he [von Neumann] published ..., though it was made much more convincing later on by Kochen and Specker, still uses assumptions which, in my opinion, can quite reasonably be questioned. ... In my opinion, the most convincing argument against the theory of hidden variables was presented by

J. S. Bell (1964).

Now there are many more statements of a similar character that could have been cited. This quotation owes its significance to the fact that Wigner was not only one of the leading physicists of his generation, but, unlike most of his contemporaries, he was also profoundly concerned with the conceptual foundations of quantum mechanics and wrote on the subject with great clarity and insight.

There was, however, one physicist who wrote on this subject with even greater clarity and insight than Wigner himself, namely the very J. S. Bell whom Wigner praises for demonstrating the impossibility of a deterministic completion of quantum theory such as Bohmian mechanics. Here's how Bell himself reacted to Bohm's discovery (Bell 1987, p. 160):

But in 1952 I saw the impossible done. It was in papers by David Bohm. Bohm showed explicitly how parameters could indeed be introduced, into nonrelativistic wave mechanics, with the help of which the indeterministic description could be transformed into a deterministic one. More importantly, in my opinion, the subjectivity of the orthodox version, the necessary reference to the ‘observer,’ could be eliminated. ...

But why then had Born not told me of this ‘pilot wave’? If only to point out what was wrong with it? Why did von Neumann not consider it? More extraordinarily, why did people go on producing ‘‘impossibility’’ proofs,

after 1952, and as recently as 1978? ... Why is the pilot wave picture ignored in text books? Should it not be taught, not as the only way, but as an antidote to the prevailing complacency? To show us that vagueness,

subjectivity, and indeterminism, are not forced on us by experimental facts, but by deliberate theoretical choice?

Wigner to the contrary notwithstanding, Bell did not establish the impossibility of a deterministic reformulation of quantum theory, nor did he ever claim to have done so. On the contrary, over the course of the past several decades, until his untimely death in 1990, Bell was the prime proponent, for a good part of this period almost the sole proponent, of the very theory, Bohmian mechanics, that he is supposed to have demolished.

========(end of quoted excerpt)========

For more on the Bohmian alternative see:

A View of Quantum Foundations , a website by Douglas Hemmick, Ph.D.

http://www.intercom.net/~tarababe/index.html

Again, for more SEP articles go to the index and browse the articles related to quantum mechanics:

http://plato.stanford.edu/contents.html#q

P.S. Ram thinks our previous disputes about quantum mechanics perhaps did not qualify as an aporia since the problems we had finding common ground may not have represented a true impasse but merely the failure of some parties to see the truth. Actually I was just being polite. A secondary definition of aporia is: A type of irony in which certainty masquerades as deferential uncertainty. ;-) --R

From: Ram Tobolski <rtb_il@yahoo.com>

To: OWL <objectivism@wetheliving.com>

Subject: OWL: Re: Randomness, Identity & quantum theory

Date: Tue, 14 Jan 2003 23:34:56 +0200

Ralph's post (1/14) was full of interesting material and excellent links. However, I felt that somehow the forest was lost among the trees. One might think, from reading that post, that what I was trying to do was to prove the real randomness exists. But my suggestion was merely that real randomness _may_ exist, after Neil presented his view (1/6) that it couldn't exist.

The fact that a leading physical theory actually points to a real randomness is a bonus for me, in the sense that it makes my position rhetorically easier. But it is not essential to my argument. My point was that from the point of view of a basic philosophy, such as objectivism, we cannot rule out in advance the existence of real

randomness.

So, nothing in Ralph's post seems to oppose my position. It can actually be the case, that explorations of deterministic alternatives to the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics were held and stifled for

a long time, and perhaps even now. But how does this connect to the basic epistemological / metaphysical level on which my argument stands?

Ram

From: "Peter Taylor" <solarwind47@hotmail.com>

To: atlantis@wetheliving.com

Subject: ATL: Re: OWL - Randomness and Identity

Date: Thu, 23 Jan 2003 23:56:28 +0000

Ram wrote:

“The fact that a leading physical theory actually points to a real randomness is a bonus for me, in the sense that it makes my position rhetorically easier. But it is not essential to my argument. My point was that from the point of view of a basic philosophy, such as objectivism, we cannot rule out in advance the existence of real randomness.”

End quote

Except for one class of entity, Objectivism maintains that causality governs all things. Objects are NOT random though the chain of causality can be amazingly complex. Quantum Mechanics is complex and bound by causality, though the why of this is not yet fully explained. It is a theory that partially explains reality but it is incomplete. Objectivism maintains that scientists will eventually tie QM into causality.

So, the issue of QM is not settled, as shown by the two following quotes:

Sourav K. Mandal wrote:

“That's not _quite_ true -- there are other interpretations of QM which meet both causality and locality (sub-luminal communication only), such as the "Transactional Interpretation" recently published in the _Review

of Modern Physics_. It _is_ true, that the Copenhagen Interpretation creates a choice between locality and causality. <<The basic element of TI is the transaction describing a quantum event as an exchange of advanced and retarded waves, as implied by the work of Wheeler and Feynman, Dirac, and others. The TI is explicitly nonlocal and thereby consistent with recent tests of the Bell Inequality, yet is relativistically invariant and fully causal.>>”

And Dennis May responded:

The "Transactional Interpretation" is also supraluminal. Any theory yet presented either disagrees with experiment or is supraluminal. The Bell Inequalities guarantee this result. Sourav is correct, the theoretical physics world is very uneasy and for good reason.

End quotes

Centuries old Calculus can explain APPROXIMATELY where and when an artillery shell will explode, and this approximation is very accurate but not 100% correct. In a similar vein, the final verdict is still out on ALL SCIENCE, including QM. The only exception to billiard ball causality is the actions of conscious beings.

In the case of “conscious animal beings” I CHOOSE TO SAY that there is a certain randomness in their actions, and this guess may not jibe exactly with Objectivism. However, Objectivism as a philosophy may one day agree with my stance, if I am correct, and I am correct.

Animals are endowed with instincts passed down through their DNA but a conscious animal may never be totally predictable. They are governed by instincts as they react to perceptual reality, but they also have an inner, conscious world. Two or more interacting “conscious animal beings” requires chaos theory to explain their actions (per the scientist Jeff Goldblum in ‘Jurassic Park’ :o) and chaos theory’s predictions are not 100% correct.

Next to a large window I rode my exercise bike for 30 minutes today. There are approximately 500 snow geese in the field next to my house. A large hawk dive bombed the flock 4 times in that half hour. Each time, the flock rose up honking and terrified, and each time they settled back onto nearly the same spot. The hawk was trying to tire out any sick or wounded geese, obviously, but its actions caused chaos which quickly turned to order, as the geese evolved into a formation, using perceptual data and their instincts, then they settled down onto the snow covered field again.

Animal behaviorists continue to find a few more examples of thinking that exemplifies conceptual thought in the higher “conscious animal beings.” But I caution, do not confuse brief moments of supposed conceptual thought in “conscious animal beings” or any minimalist passing down of culture, as significant. As far as the animals go, that is all there is. They are only, to a degree, random in their actions.

Does the fact that "conscious animal beings" do not always strictly react to causality mean they ARE random in some sense? Yes.

And Humans stride "one giant leap" beyond strict causality and randomness.

“Volitionally Conscious Beings” choose to put forth the effort to understand reality, so we are in a class by ourselves. I do not mean to imply telekinesis when I say, “human thought” is a motive power. Humans are self-movers. We can step out of the way of the billiard ball or plot how to change its course.

And if we so choose, we can start the billiard balls of causality rolling.

Semper Cogitans Fidele,

Peter Taylor

From: Neil Goodell <ngoodell@zianet.com>

To: OWL <objectivism@wetheliving.com>

Subject: OWL: Re: Randomness and Identity -- Throwing Virgins into Volcanos

Date: Tue, 14 Jan 2003 20:38:44 -0700

I'm going to try a different tact with this ongoing debate of whether true or "real" randomness can exist in the universe. But before I do I want to pose a question.

Question: Does light exist in the universe? (Whether from a light bulb or the sun makes no difference.)

Answer: If your answer to this question is "yes," you'd be wrong.

Before I explain this I need to correct a few things from Ram's post. Ram quoted several excerpts from my prior post of 1/10, but left out a few key sentences which had the effect of radically altering the meaning I intended.

On 11 January 2003, Ram Tobolski wrote:

> I suggested (1/9) that Neil's view, that everything metaphysical changes constantly, would entail that there is no identity at all in the world, that the world "would collapse into an unintelligible mish-mash". To my surprise, Neil confirmed these conclusions.

Two passages from my 1/10 post followed these comments:

> When Ram writes: "only 'momentary entities' [have] identity, that there [is] no identity beyond the single moment ('moment' being an extensionless point in time)," he is precisely on point. Metaphysical identity, or the identity intrinsic to an entity, does not endure beyond the single moment.

This passage clarifies that I was referring specifically to metaphysical identity as not being fixed and unchanging. Epistemological identity *does* endure.

And the second passage was:

> There is no "order" or "structure" to the universe, only natural law. Order and structure are derivatives of the way in which human beings form and hold knowledge.

This is clarifying that the "mish-mash" I was speaking of was the lack of "order" or "structure" being attributes of the universe qua universe. Maybe I should have made this clearer in my original post.

Concepts of "chaos" and "mish-mash" do not apply to the universe qua universe any more than do concepts of "order" and "structure." They are simply inapplicable because for "order" to exist there must be a comparator,

"non-order," against which "order is to be gauged. I could ask Ram how he knows there is order and structure in the universe, what is he comparing it against to draw this conclusion? Comparing the organizational structure of a book, for example, to the universe, is comparing apples with Alka-Seltzer!

Only natural law "governs" the universe. When primitive peoples threw a virgin into a volcano to pacify the angry gods, is this an example of order and structure? Actually, yes, it is. It's mistaken, it's wrong, but it did provide order and structure to the peoples' minds to help them understand the world around them.

Ram continues:

>I still think Neil doesn't really mean it... The position which he asserts and defends is _pure_nominalism_. He actually wrote "But just because our minds impose order and structure on our knowledge does not mean the universe has these attributes too". Neil's view is totally severing the connection between the mind and the world, because he think that the world is a "mish-mash", total chaos.

I *do* mean it Ram. This is not nominalism, and it does not sever "the connection between the mind and the world." Let me explain.

Recall the question I asked at the opening to this essay,

Question: Does light exist in the universe?

The answer to this question is: No, light does *not* exist in the universe. The sun bathes our planet in electromagnetic (EM) radiation. Our bodies have evolved a sensory mechanism that is sensitive to a very narrow range of this type of energy. EM radiation is in wave form and the wavelength our eyes are sensitive to is about 360 to 700 nanometers (blue to red). Our eyes and brain process this type of stimulus energy and we interpret the result as light. My point is that light is something "created" by our sensory system, it does not

exist in the world.

(As an interesting aside...If the authors of the Bible are to be believed, and we take them literally, either they messed up or god got things bass-ackwards. The third sentence of Genesis reads, "And God said, 'Let there be light'; and there was light." Not until Genesis 20, on the fifth day, when: "And God said, 'Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures...'." It's interesting that god brought something into existence on the first day, yet it was not until the fifth day that he made creatures that in fact are the ones that "make" light during the act of perception! :)

There is another type of wave form energy that we have evolved a sensory mechanism for. We call it audition, hearing. Some movement in the world causes air particles to move, which bump up against adjacent air particles and then return to their original position, and this sequence continues. Our ears are sensitive to this series of successive variations in the air pressure, and we interpret this as sound.

All of our senses work similarly: Our brain is not sensitive to the stimulus energy directly, only as "processed" by, and the output of, our sensory organs. Our brain does not have a direct connection to the world, it must

learn how to interpret the output of the sensory organs. The stimulus energy in the world is lawful (i.e., conforms to natural law), but whether this appears to be orderly or only a mish-mash depends on how successful that particular mind has been at understanding the output of the sensory organs and developing an associated cognitive structure.

(I earlier said that applying the concept of "order" to the universe was inappropriate because there was no commensurate "non-order" to compare it with. The same is not quite true for the concept of natural law. By itself, natural law does not impose any organization or structure on the universe; it states only that the universe is lawful, regardless of what those laws are or, how clear or confusing they appear to the human mind. Technically there is a comparator to natural law, and it exists within a primacy of consciousness universe.)

Now back to Ram's post:

> If we do not demand that the world _corresponds_ to our concepts, what gives validity to one person's concepts over another's? If we "impose" order on the world, as Neil suggested, why is the order that one person "imposes" on the world better than the order that is imposed by another? Only force remains - this is a usual companion view to nominalism.

We impose order on the world through our epistemology and our knowledge, not literally. I thought this was clear from what I wrote:

 Order and structure are derivatives of the way in which human beings form and hold knowledge. These notions are something that perceiving human minds impute to the universe so as to make what we see understandable. But just because our minds impose order and structure on our knowledge does not mean the universe has these attributes too. T

 he key phrase here is, "perceiving human minds *impute* to the universe so as

to m ake what we see understandable" [emphasis added]. When we impute an attribute to an entity (or whatever) it means we act and behave as though the entity really has the attribute even though it doesn't.

Ram also writes:

> And just one more query: Neil favorably quotes a post of Gregory Wharton's from 7/30/01, in which Gregory wrote: "Rand provided us with a powerful, and deceptively simple, answer to these questions: objectiveidentity arises from the relationships between things, and not the things in themselves".

>

> I don't exactly understand this, and, as far as I understand it, I don't think I agree to it. And even if I agreed to it, I don't think that it supports the view which Neil asserted (because relations between things are in the world, just as much as the things are). _But_ what I mainly would like to know is _where_ did Rand write this, and in what context?

I included Gregory's post mainly because it gave a rather detailed example of epistemological identity. On re-reading in light of Ram's criticism I think Gregory's use of "arises" in "objective identity arises..." is misleading. I think the words "discover" or "discern" would be more accurate as the identity of an entity can only be observed/uncovered when it interacts with other entities/stimuli. Without this interaction the entity of interest is dormant.

In summary: There is a real difference between metaphysical and epistemological identity. This does not mean that the real world is unknowable or that our senses are invalid. Our mind *does* perceive the real world --

"true reality" -- by means of our senses. More specifically, we perceive the stimulus energy as "processed" or transduced (converted from one type of energy into another, for example, air pressure vibrations into neural

impulses) by our sensory organs. This is what we perceive.

--Neil Goodell

14 January 2003

From: Ram Tobolski <rtb_il@yahoo.com>

To: OWL <objectivism@wetheliving.com>

Subject: OWL: Light, Law & Order

Date: Sat, 18 Jan 2003 21:21:43 +0200

In Neil Goodell's post from 1/15, he made two startling claims:

1. That there is law in the universe, but no order.

2. That light does not exist in the universe... but only for us.

The first claim, I still do not understand, so I'll ask Neil to clarify the underlying concepts. The second claim is not true, as I'll try to show.

1. Neil wrote:

>Concepts of "chaos" and "mish-mash" do not apply to the universe qua universe any more than do concepts of "order" and "structure." They are simply inapplicable because for "order" to exist there must be a comparator, "non-order," against which "order is to be gauged. [...] (I earlier said that applying the concept of "order" to the universe was inappropriate because there was no commensurate "non-order" to compare it with. The same is not quite true for the concept of natural law. By itself, natural law does not impose any organization or structure on the universe; it states only that the universe is lawful, regardless of what those laws are or, how clear or confusing they appear to the human mind. Technically there is a comparator to natural law, and it exists within a primacy of consciousness universe.)

I honestly didn't understand that! It seems to me, that anything which is lawful is also ordered, ipso facto. So I'd ask Neil to define his concepts of "law" and of "order" (if he take "order" to be a valid concept at all), so that I can comprehend, how can anything by lawful and yet without order?

2. Concerning light, Neil wrote:

>Question: Does light exist in the universe? The answer to this question is: No, light does *not* exist in the universe. The sun bathes our planet in electromagnetic (EM) radiation. Our bodies have evolved a sensory mechanism that is sensitive to a very narrow range of this type of energy. EM radiation is in wave form and the wavelength our eyes are sensitive to is about 360 to 700 nanometers (blue to red). Our eyes and brain process this type of stimulus energy and we interpret the result as light. My point is that light is something "created" by our sensory system, it does not exist in the world.

I think there is a fundamental error in this argument, and it is in this (the emphasis is mine): "Our eyes and brain process this type of stimulus energy and we interpret the _result_ as light". What does Neil mean by the "result" of the process? It seems to me that Neil refers to the _experience_ of light. The experience of light is a subjective phenomenon, something that we could never represent or communicate in full to someone who did not have a similar experience (such as someone who is blind from birth). I'll call it the light-experience. So Neil, if I understand him correctly, thinks that:

* light = light-experience

And since a light-experience is subjective, and therefore dependent upon a subject, a mind, therefore light (= light-experience) does not exist in the world, independently of minds.

I think, however, that the above is a wrong account of the concept of light. The right one is this:

* light = that in the world which causes the light-experience

And therefore light does exist in the world, independently of us.

If my brain would turn incoming waves with different lengths than the normal into light-experience, then my light-experience (in isolation from other experiences) would be the same as now. But my _concept_ of light would be different, because for me, the proposition "there is now light around" would be true, or false, in different circumstances than it is now. Th

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A classic example (which was discussed here about ten months ago) is quantum theory, which is the best confirmed theory in empirical

science, and as much as it describes reality as it is, it says that there is randomness in some places at the heart of reality itself.

Quantum Theory describes phenomena as they are observed and measured, not reality as it is (independent of measurement).

Ba'al Chatzaf

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