Robert Campbell

The Logical Leap: Induction in Physics

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To claim that the universe is finite is simply to assert the incoherence of saying that however big existence is, it is even bigger than that.

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There is nothing a priori incoherent in the notion of an infinitely big universe (or "omniplex" if you like), only in the way you express it: would you say that however big the set of natural numbers is, it is even bigger than that?

You would need to clarify to me what you mean by infinitely big universe. I would say that an infinitely big universe would be one in which no ratio between it as a whole and its parts exists. I do not see any coherent meaning assignable to the notion.

The set of natural numbers is not a thing, it is a idea left incomplete. It is defined negatively. There could be no actual enumeration of it. One would be forced to say that however large an actual enumeration of the set of whole numbers is, it is even bigger than that. The universe, unlike the set of natural numbers, is actual.

I do understand the idea of a finite yet unbounded universe. In order for me to understand an infinite universe, you'll need to unpack for me coherently what would be meant by infinite in more concrete terms.

I agree with Dragonfly about this. I don't see anything at all incoherent or contradictory about an infinitely large universe. You're correct that the analogy between the universe and the set of all natural numbers is not very good, since the latter is an abstraction, while the universe actually has a physical existance. What is meant by an infinitely large universe seems self-evident. It is a universe that goes on forever, without limit. It has infinite spatial dimensions of length, volume, etc. Essentially, if you were to travel in a straight line from any point in the universe, you could go on forever and keep entering new regions of space. Whether the universe is or is not infinite is a matter of scientific study; it cannot be determined apriori. There is no philosophical contradiction in positing an infinite universe.

Martin

Can you explain, Martin, how the universe might be finite, yet unbounded?

No, I can't. I can neither understand nor visualize such a universe. Here's what little I do know about this subject.

Cosmologists have defined a parameter called omega, which is the average density of matter in the universe. The idea behind this is that, if omega equals one, there is just enough matter in the universe for gravity to stop its expansion. If omega is greater than one, then the force of gravity was proposed to be sufficient to stop the expansion of the universe and begin a contraction phase, or a "big crunch". If omega is less than one, then there is insufficient matter in the universe to stop its expansion, and the universe was proposed to go on expanding forever. As I recall, the most recent estimate of omega is about 0.03, or about 1/30 the density required to stop the expansion. But this is based on counting only the visible matter in the universe. Astonomers have now proposed the existence of "dark matter", which if it exists as they believe, would increase the value of omega by quite a bit. When recent astronomical observations led to the conclusion that the expansion of the universe is in fact accelerating rather than slowing, they proposed the existence of a strange, unseen entity which they now call "dark energy", which basically has the same function as Einstein's cosmological constant.

I've also read that, according to the Einstein field equations, a universe with omega less than one would be an "open", infinite universe, whereas a universe with omega greater than one would be a "closed", finite universe. This closed, finite universe would be finite, yet unbounded.

All of this, which is basically the existing standard big bang theory, is highly speculative. Noone has ever identified and proven the existence of either the dark matter or dark energy. It may even turn out that the universe is not actually expanding at all. The expansion theory is based on an interpretation of the cosmological red shift, which may turn out to have a different, not presently identified mechanism.

Anyway, getting back to my previous point, I don't see how the finitude or infinitude of the universe can be established from apriori philosophical premises. If the answer to this daunting question is ever learned, it will be by means of future scientific investigation. Philosophy can only discount the possibility of things that are self-contradictory. And there's nothing self-contradictory about either a finite or an infinite universe.

Martin

Omega has to do with a separate question, whether the universe will keep expanding or stop expanding and shrink back to a big crunch at some point in time. That is a question that we have to leave to scientists. It is a matter of observation, and it does not imply any actual currently existing infinities.

big-crunch---open-and-flat-universe.jpg

What I am asking is, without regard to time or the expansion of the universe, in other word, in regard to just one of those circles of galaxies at one point in time in the image above, can you envision how the vast entirety of space at one moment might be finite, yet without having an edge that would stop you potentially from traveling in one direction forever? I am not trying to pester or challenge you. I am just curious if you are familiar with or can comprehend the idea.

Edited by Ted Keer

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There are other problems as well. All the sciences, including physics, would not be possible without presupposing causation -- sometimes called the uniformity of nature. Physicists do not, because they cannot, directly observe subatomic phenomena. They must rely on instruments , and from these instruments they get readings of one kind or another. Unless it is assumed that the same instruments will register the same readings (i.e., effects) in the same causal conditions such readings would be meaningless. The same event could register one reading at one time, an entirely different reading at another time, and so on indefinitely.

But even our own eyes (and senses) must be regarded as instruments. The scientific instruments we have created merely enhance our own "built-in" ones. There is nothing wrong with the idea of 'causation' but there is something wrong with the idea of "one cause => one effect". Instead, science has shown us that there are many variables involved and it is better to speak about about 'states' and the conditions required to move from one state to another. The idea of simple "cause and effect" is simplistic and outdated.

I never meant to defend the one cause/one effect thesis. But the complexities of causation are not something that we needed science to show us. Philosophers have been aware of distinctions like necessary and sufficient conditions for centuries. Even Aristotle posited four different types of causes.

Those who defend the notion of causeless events are the ones who are using a simplistic and outdated idea of cause and effect.

Ghs

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Can you explain, Martin, how the universe might be finite, yet unbounded?

No, I can't. I can neither understand nor visualize such a universe. Here's what little I do know about this subject.

I don't know what Ted is getting at (he seems to enjoy teasing people with either real or feigned knowledge), but I know of two ways people have visualized it. One is through a metaphor to the surface of a sphere, metaphorically extending the 2D surface of a sphere to the "idea" of 3D space curving back on itself. But metaphor doesn't really count as visualization -- I consider this completely illegitimate.

Another way is to define the universe as the maximum extent of any thing that is in it whether medium or object, with literal nothingness -- literal empty space -- at its border. Nothing physically constrains you from leaving this border, but when you leave it the universe just became larger in extent (assuming the rest was fixed). Nothing magical happened, you just moved, thus enlarging the universe. In this view, an "infinite" universe refers to the boundlessness of it in this sense. There is no actual infinity, just a boundless potential of becoming larger.

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To claim that the universe is finite is simply to assert the incoherence of saying that however big existence is, it is even bigger than that.

.

There is nothing a priori incoherent in the notion of an infinitely big universe (or "omniplex" if you like), only in the way you express it: would you say that however big the set of natural numbers is, it is even bigger than that?

You would need to clarify to me what you mean by infinitely big universe. I would say that an infinitely big universe would be one in which no ratio between it as a whole and its parts exists. I do not see any coherent meaning assignable to the notion.

The set of natural numbers is not a thing, it is a idea left incomplete. It is defined negatively. There could be no actual enumeration of it. One would be forced to say that however large an actual enumeration of the set of whole numbers is, it is even bigger than that. The universe, unlike the set of natural numbers, is actual.

I do understand the idea of a finite yet unbounded universe. In order for me to understand an infinite universe, you'll need to unpack for me coherently what would be meant by infinite in more concrete terms.

I agree with Dragonfly about this. I don't see anything at all incoherent or contradictory about an infinitely large universe. You're correct that the analogy between the universe and the set of all natural numbers is not very good, since the latter is an abstraction, while the universe actually has a physical existance. What is meant by an infinitely large universe seems self-evident. It is a universe that goes on forever, without limit. It has infinite spatial dimensions of length, volume, etc. Essentially, if you were to travel in a straight line from any point in the universe, you could go on forever and keep entering new regions of space. Whether the universe is or is not infinite is a matter of scientific study; it cannot be determined apriori. There is no philosophical contradiction in positing an infinite universe.

Martin

Can you explain, Martin, how the universe might be finite, yet unbounded?

No, I can't. I can neither understand nor visualize such a universe. Here's what little I do know about this subject.

Cosmologists have defined a parameter called omega, which is the average density of matter in the universe. The idea behind this is that, if omega equals one, there is just enough matter in the universe for gravity to stop its expansion. If omega is greater than one, then the force of gravity was proposed to be sufficient to stop the expansion of the universe and begin a contraction phase, or a "big crunch". If omega is less than one, then there is insufficient matter in the universe to stop its expansion, and the universe was proposed to go on expanding forever. As I recall, the most recent estimate of omega is about 0.03, or about 1/30 the density required to stop the expansion. But this is based on counting only the visible matter in the universe. Astonomers have now proposed the existence of "dark matter", which if it exists as they believe, would increase the value of omega by quite a bit. When recent astronomical observations led to the conclusion that the expansion of the universe is in fact accelerating rather than slowing, they proposed the existence of a strange, unseen entity which they now call "dark energy", which basically has the same function as Einstein's cosmological constant.

I've also read that, according to the Einstein field equations, a universe with omega less than one would be an "open", infinite universe, whereas a universe with omega greater than one would be a "closed", finite universe. This closed, finite universe would be finite, yet unbounded.

All of this, which is basically the existing standard big bang theory, is highly speculative. Noone has ever identified and proven the existence of either the dark matter or dark energy. It may even turn out that the universe is not actually expanding at all. The expansion theory is based on an interpretation of the cosmological red shift, which may turn out to have a different, not presently identified mechanism.

Anyway, getting back to my previous point, I don't see how the finitude or infinitude of the universe can be established from apriori philosophical premises. If the answer to this daunting question is ever learned, it will be by means of future scientific investigation. Philosophy can only discount the possibility of things that are self-contradictory. And there's nothing self-contradictory about either a finite or an infinite universe.

Martin

Omega has to do with a separate question, whether the universe will keep expanding or stop expanding and shrink back to a big crunch at some point in time. That is a question that we have to leave to scientists. It is a matter of observation, and it does not imply any actual currently existing infinities.

big-crunch---open-and-flat-universe.jpg

What I am asking is, without regard to time or the expansion of the universe, can you envision how the vast entirety of space at this moment might be finite, yet without having an edge that would stop you potentially from traveling in one direction forever? I am not trying to pester or challenge you. I am just curious if you are familiar with or can comprehend the idea.

I am certainly familiar with the idea and can comprehend it as an abstract model of the universe, where space curves back on itself due to gravity, such that, in such a universe, if you were to start at one point and keep going in a geodesic through space, eventually you would return to your starting point, like moving along the surface of a sphere. Can I visualize something like that? Not really. Certainly not in the sense that I can visualize our normal reality. Whether or not this is an accurate description of our universe, I leave to our cosmologists, who will hopefully some day be able discover the answer.

Martin

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Does a physicist claim that I don't know enough about physics to fully comprehend the details of his theory? Fine, that may be true, but all the physicist need do is state his scientific conclusions in a coherent manner. If he cannot do this, then he has defaulted on a basic requirement for a productive discussion, and all of his ramblings about philosophical implications don't mean a goddamned thing. He is a pretentious twit who doesn't even understand his own area of supposed expertise. The physicist should tend to his own garden before telling others how to tend to theirs.

How do you know that it is his fault? His may present his conclusions in a coherent manner, but if they don't make sense to you, it isn't the fault of the physicist, but the fact that reality turns out to be much stranger and more counterintuitive than you'd might have expected. Don't blame the messenger. And if you don't trust the messenger, by all means improve the results, but then you have to study the subject first, you can't dismiss them just because they don't make sense to you.

It may be true that a failure to understand a physicist is my fault, but it may also be true that it is his fault. This must be decided on a case by case basis. You surely don't mean to say that it is always the fault of the layman. But if this is what you mean to say, then you are attributing a kind of infallibility to physicists that would put Catholics to shame.

Let's go back to your claim that, from a scientific point of view, our perceptions of solid objects are an "illusion." This argument (as Eddington proposed it) is sometimes used in elementary texts on philosophy and logic as a classic example of fallacious reasoning. It is an abuse of language, among other things. When I was a freshman in college, a science wonk friend of mind, who went on to become a physicist, used to argue this point with me with the relish that only a college freshman can have. After he took a few philosophy courses, however, he never used it again. And when I asked him about it a few years ago, while he was visiting me, he said, "George, I was a stupid freshman; give me a break. It's a dumb argument."

You are not a college freshman, so I am not willing to give you the same break. And my attitude does not spring from a failure to understand your point. Rather, it stems from your failure to analyze terms like "illusion" and, I suspect, from your contempt for philosophy. You claim that I should learn about physics. Well, you appear to know zilch about philosophy, yet that doesn't stop you from making grand and silly philosophic generalizations about "illusions."

Ghs

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Omega has to do with a separate question, whether the universe will keep expanding or stop expanding and shrink back to a big crunch at some point in time. That is a question that we have to leave to scientists. It is a matter of observation, and it does not imply any actual currently existing infinities.

big-crunch---open-and-flat-universe.jpg

What I am asking is, without regard to time or the expansion of the universe, can you envision how the vast entirety of space at this moment might be finite, yet without having an edge that would stop you potentially from traveling in one direction forever? I am not trying to pester or challenge you. I am just curious if you are familiar with or can comprehend the idea.

I am certainly familiar with the idea and can comprehend it as an abstract model of the universe, where space curves back on itself due to gravity, such that, in such a universe, if you were to start at one point and keep going in a geodesic through space, eventually you would return to your starting point, like moving along the surface of a sphere. Can I visualize something like that? Not really. Certainly not in the sense that I can visualize our normal reality. Whether or not this is an accurate description of our universe, I leave to our cosmologists, who will hopefully some day be able discover the answer.

Martin

Yes, almost exactly. That's what I was getting at. (Only that you are mixing in gravity which, while it is adduced as a cause for the local curvature of space and the (now doubted) closed-universe/big crunch model, is not needed to explain why space is finite instead of Newtonian and infinite) This is a coherent model, widely held, the details of which will have to be worked out by scientists. My point is that one can have a notion of a universe where one can "keep on going" (i.e., unbounded) without having to say that the universe has no actual size, that its volume and the number of galaxies is ∞. This is the notion which Peikoff cannot grasp which makes the big bang model incomprehensible to him, because he thinks the big bang model necessitates reaching a wall somewhere.

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First, many physicists have little or no knowledge of philosophy, so they are in the same boat.

No they're not. First many physicists are engaged in fundamental research, so they don't need to bother about philosophical issues. But in the fundamental research there is no sharp division between the physical theory and its philosophical implications.

Well, you obviously have not bothered yourself with philosophical issues; this is evident from your posts.

Never mind that "research" can only produce data, that such data must be interpreted, and that all fundamental interpretations about the nature of reality involve philosophic presuppositions. Willful ignorance is not normally considered a virtue, but you have made it one.

[Later edit: There is nothing more inherently "fundamental" about physics than any other cognitive discipline. All such disciplines deal with the fundamentals of their subject matter.]

Ghs: You are quite the kiss-ass when it comes to "experts." I doubt if you have given the philosophical issues involved here more than a few minutes of thought, if that much.

Is somebody who is seriously ill a "kiss-ass when it comes to experts" when he prefers the opinion of the medical expert over the quack and the faith-healer?

You obviously think you have the ability to distinguish between medical experts and quacks. Well, guess what? I claim the same ability to spot philosophic quacks.

Ghs: Rand doesn't delve all that much into developmental psychology. How about you? You are not a psychologist, so does this mean that you never render psychological judgments? You certainly are not an economist, so how can you possibly reject, say, the labor theory of value or Keynesian macroeconomics or econometrics, without a certificate from a state institution that dubs you qualified? You are not an economic historian, so how can you possibly judge between socialists who claim that the Industrial Revolution lowered the standard of living for the "working classes" and those free-market historians who claim the opposite? It must be a nightmare not to reason for yourself but instead take a poll of the experts in a given field and then march in lockstep to the majority opinion.

This is unbelievable. Don't you really see the difference between having an opinion and writing a supposedly authoritative treatise on a subject? I do have my ideas about psychology or economy and many other subjects, but I wouldn't dream in a thousand years to write a book about them, pretending to be an expert in those fields.

I don't have a clue what you are talking about. Rand never wrote a book on developmental psychology, and I would never attempt to write a book on physics or even on the philosophy of science.

My point had to do with proper versus improper appeals to authority. You go all over the map on this issue, and this indicates that you have given little if any thought to this crucial matter. Many philosophers have written about legitimate and illegitimate appeals to authority; indeed, this subject is typically discussed in introductions to logic. Brand Blanshard has an especially good discussion in his two-volume work, The Nature of Thought.

I would recommend that you read some of this material, but I know you won't want to trouble yourself with what philosophers have to say. After all, it might shake your faith in physicists.

Ghs: Btw, have you consulted the majority of theologians about the existence of God? Of course, you cannot reject theology out of hand, since you are not yourself a theologian and therefore lack the specialized knowledge. I guess you will just have to believe in God. Don't you dare think for yourself.

I won't have to bother about theologians, as theology is not a science.

Are you an expert in theology? If not, how can you be qualified to render this judgment? Many experts in theology have said it is a science, so who are you, a mere layman, to dispute this claim? They would say that your curt dismissal of theology is dogmatic and ill-informed. I could say with equal justification, given your reasoning (or lack thereof), that physics is not really a science.

So how should we decide this matter? By taking a vote? Another option is to give the problems involved with appeals to authority a little thought, instead of invoking authorities when they suit your purpose and ignoring them when they do not.

Ghs

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Yes, I noticed DF's retreat under fire.

There wasn't any "retreat under fire." You'd disregarded his previous comments.

The subject matter Df and and the GWers (just like theologians) study may differ in its underlying validity but the elite authoritarian attitude is exactly the same.

Well, if DF has an "elite authoritarian attitude," then so do I, since I agree with his views on criteria of competence.

Ellen

I find this difficult to believe. DF may be a fine physicist, but he as clueless on philosophical issues as anyone I have had the misfortune to encounter. I can deal with ignorance; we are all ignorant about some matters. But what I cannot abide is arrogant ignorance.

I am a physicist. I have no need for philosophy. I know about the nature of reality, and you are not qualified to question my pronouncements. If you do not understand what I tell you, then you may ask me questions and I will enlighten you. But you may not question or doubt what I say, for I am a physicist. -- Thus Spake Dragonfly.

I wish I could say this is a caricature, but it's not. It's bullshit of the highest order.

Ghs

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I am a physicist. I have no need for philosophy. I know about the nature of reality, and you are not qualified to question my pronouncements. If you do not understand what I tell you, then you may ask me questions and I will enlighten you. But you may not question or doubt what I say, for I am a physicist. -- Thus Spake Dragonfly.

He never said any such thing.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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I am a physicist. I have no need for philosophy. I know about the nature of reality, and you are not qualified to question my pronouncements. If you do not understand what I tell you, then you may ask me questions and I will enlighten you. But you may not question or doubt what I say, for I am a physicist. -- Thus Spake Dragonfly.

He never said any such thing.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Then you tell me what you think DF has been saying.

Ghs

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One more thing...

Who is Dragonfly? His profile does not give his real name or any personal information.

I don't trust someone who refuses to give his or her real name while posing as an expert in a field. The only reason I have to believe that DF is a physicist is because Ellen Stuttle thinks he is, but I don't know why she believes this.

For all I know, DF is a troll who has to Google a subject before writing anything about it. Does he have a PhD in physics? If so, from which university? Is he a professor of physics somewhere? Has he ever published any peer reviewed articles on physics? What is his standing in the profession?

Without a name I cannot do a background check to see if DF is really an expert in physics or whether he is a fake. Anyone who knows how to Google could have easily written the same posts he has.

Since DF is so big on "experts," let him give his name and credentials so we can determine if he truly qualifies as an expert in physics.

Ghs

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I am a physicist. I have no need for philosophy. I know about the nature of reality, and you are not qualified to question my pronouncements. If you do not understand what I tell you, then you may ask me questions and I will enlighten you. But you may not question or doubt what I say, for I am a physicist. -- Thus Spake Dragonfly.

He never said any such thing.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Then you tell me what you think DF has been saying.

Ghs

He has said several things pertaining to physics and he never said what your pseudo quote said. It is not nice to put words in the mouths of other people.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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I am a physicist. I have no need for philosophy. I know about the nature of reality, and you are not qualified to question my pronouncements. If you do not understand what I tell you, then you may ask me questions and I will enlighten you. But you may not question or doubt what I say, for I am a physicist. -- Thus Spake Dragonfly.

He never said any such thing.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Then you tell me what you think DF has been saying.

Ghs

He has said several things pertaining to physics and he never said what your pseudo quote said. It is not nice to put words in the mouths of other people.

Ba'al Chatzaf

You haven't been paying much attention to this exchange, have you?

Ghs

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To demand a proof of causality is to steal the concept of proof. Causality is an axiomatic corollary of the law of identity: the nature of an action or event is caused and determined by the nature of the entities that act.

That is a weird and meaningless definition (see for the common definition for example the wikipedia article on causality), as it is as tautological as the law of identity. Because how do we know what the "nature" is of the entities that act? The only way is to observe how those entities act and that is what we call its "nature". So the event consists of the acting of the entities that act as they are observed to act. Well, duh. This doesn't preclude the possibility that such entities will act completely random, that for example that a table will the next moment become a chair and then a canary. In general we don't see such things happen, but that is an empirical fact, not something that can be derived a priori from the law of identity.

Causality is logically anterior to the concept of proof: you can only prove something when there is a necessary connection between the data being described. You can prove the connection between entity X and event P if and only if X has a specific identity that limits what X can and cannot do.

Again: what is a specific identity? Unless you can rely on divine revelation you can only empirically determine what that identity is, by observing the behavior of that entity. Saying then that its behavior is determined by its identity is merely repeating a tautology.

Now it may be true that it would be hard to live in a world were all entities would behave in a random way (that is a kind of anthropic principle), but that doesn't imply that no entity could behave in a random way.

The wikipedia definition of Causality is ‘the relationship between an event (the cause) and a second event (the effect), where the second event is a consequence of the first.’

Quoting Nathaniel Branden from the third lecture of ‘The Basic Principles of Objectivism’:

All actions [or events] in the universe are the actions of entitites, and the actions possible to an entity are determined by it nature. What a thing can do depends on what it is….The concept of action requires and presupposes that which acts and would not be possible without it….To deny that actions are caused by entities, to deny that what a thing does is determined by what it is, is to imply that any entity can perform any action, which means that an electron can write a symphony, a building can grow wings, a leaf can turn into a lion, a man can simultaneously depart in two different directions—which means that an entity can do that for which its nature contains no potentiality—which means: contradictions are possible.

Such was the view of reality held by primordial savages, who regarded every event in the universe as an inexplicable miracle, bound by nothing save the unknowable whim of unknowable demons. And when today, prominent scientists who find themselves unable to ascertain the causal principles exhibited in the behavior of subatomic particles, decide that the solution lies in declaring that causality is invalid, and that the particles act as they do for no cause whatever, it is to the metaphysics of those primordial savages that their contentions would reduce mankind.

I suppose you realize, or perhaps you don’t, that to say the Law of Identity is tautological is to say that it simply repeats the same thing, and is, therefore, meaningless. I suppose you would say the same thing about the axiom that existence exists. Since the Law of Identity—A is A-- is the basis of the laws of logic, you are basically denying the validity of logic itself. The purpose of the Law of Identity and the laws of logic is to enable one to validate one’s conclusions in a non-contradictory manner. As such, it is anything but meaningless. As Ayn Rand said, logic is a method, “the art of noncontradictory identification.”

You say that the only way to know the nature of a specific entity is “to observe how those entities act and that is what we call its nature.” That much is true. But then you go on to say: “This doesn't preclude the possibility that such entities will act completely random, that for example that a table will the next moment become a chair and then a canary.” In other words, as George suggested in his follow-up post, all the events in your universe could just as well be inexplicable miracles. To act “completely random” is to act contrary to an entity’s nature. Observation could easily establish, empirically, that contradictions can exist.

If that is indeed the case in your universe, then this entire discussion is a complete waste of everyone’s time. Logic is a meaningless tautology for you, which experience can invalidate at any given moment. You live in a universe rife with randomness and contradictions. Therefore, any conclusion we draw from this discussion, based on your 'expertise' as a physicist, could easily be overthrown in the next instant by your momentary, random whim.

And this just leads one to wonder: why are you posting on an Objectivist webforum?

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The following comments by David Kelley are relevant here, because he highlights a rational approach to the nature of the controversy—i.e., how do we go about reconciling causality and quantum physics? He does not imply that there is any need to prove causality, which is logically impossible.

David Kelley (in private correspondence)

[T]here is a metaphysical question that does seem to depend on the status of entities. The law of causality rests on the fact that any action is the action of an entity; actions are derivative, entities primary. That's why an action is dictated by the identity of that which acts. But if entities existed only in relation to our senses, in the way colors do, then what grounds would we have for saying that the law of causality applies outside that realm?

This is one of the questions raised by quantum physics. The wave-like nature of elementary particles suggests that they aren't really entities, so it isn't surprising that many people claim that the law of causality breaks down at this level, and things just happen, by chance.

This is one of the issues raised at a recent Institute colloquium on quantum physics, and in the course of the discussion, we tried to separate the concept of entity from that of particle. The idea is that particles or discrete objects as we know them perceptually are only one form of entities. An entity can also be a kind of stuff, and it remains true that an action must be the action of something (some stuff).

Kelley acknowledges that this conclusion is somewhat vague, but I think he is suggesting a valuable perspective on a potential resolution.

This is interesting. Kelley seems to be conflating the concepts body and entity and then saying we need a new type of entity which is not a body, but perhaps a stuff.

First, he should not be treating entity as if it means the same thing as body. Rand treats any unitary whole of defined form and of which we may predicate attributes and relations as an entity. This can include things like people, storms, or atoms. Barack Obama, Hurricane Earl, and the iron atom in a heme group are all entities. But not all primary ousia are treated as entites. We talk of substances (in the sense of materials, not universals) as beings of which things are predicated, without regard to their limits or form. (The limit or form exists, but is not specified or taken into account.) Such subtances would include velvet which is blue, air which is humid, or porridge which is too hot. The distinction is one of perspective and scale. A shadow is an entity, (but not a body!) while shade is a substance. We can look at Hurricane Earl from a satellite or we can say the wind is brisk. We can say the porridge is hot or we can say he choked on a lump of porridge.

Also, Kelley should not be treating entities as only physical. Concepts and mental images are entities. We can say the child integrated the concepts of lizard, turtle, snake, and crocodile under the concept of reptile. Here we are viewing them as mental entities. We can say the child has a broad range of knowledge, speaking as if it were a substance. Substance and entity are concepts which bridge metaphysics and epistemology. Metaphysics because they deal with things. Epistemology because they are a matter of perspective. Keep in mind that we can even, following Shakespeare, speak of a pound of Antonio, as if he were a substance.

Body and entity are two different concepts. Entities are primary ousia viewed as unified wholes with defined forms. Bodies are material entities extended in space. Subatomic parties are not made of matter - they are what makes up matter. Whether we treat them as entities or substances depends on what the physicist discovers and finds to be the appropriate perspective. To treat subatomic particles as if the were bodies because they are entities is a failure to make the proper distinctins and to properly differentiate one's concepts - the frozen concept fallacy.

I find your discussion very confusing, and I don’t think your treatment is entirely consistent with Ayn Rand’s discussion of entity in the expanded version of ITOE. She is very careful to distinguish entity from mental entity. And she definitely does say that an entity (in the sense of “primary existent”) must be material, as opposed to a mental entity, which is a phenomenon of consciousness.

An entity is “that which you perceive and which can exist by itself.” And: “We call an entity that which is welded together physically and about which we can learn something, to which we can ascribe certain properties, as a whole.” And: “The concept of entity is an issue of the context in which you define your terms. So that an entity has to be a material object, but what you regard as an entity in any given statement or inquiry depends on your definitions. You can regard part of an entity as a separate entity…” And: “Recall what we said about the pile of dirt vs. the mountain: it has to be a unit of some kind, tied or welded or integrated together, which has certain properties, and with actions being possible to it as a whole. Such as, you can climb a mountain, but you can’t do anything with a pile of dirt, unless you glue it together.”

In distinguishing ultimate ‘stuff’ from particles, Kelley is simply attempting to assess the nature of the ultimate “primary existents”: he is speculating on the ultimate constituents of the physical universe. To say that the ultimate constituents of matter are not matter, as if they are somehow not extended in space, strikes me as tantamount to mysticism. What possible basis (scientific or otherwise) could anyone have for drawing such a bizarre conclusion?

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I am a physicist. I have no need for philosophy. I know about the nature of reality, and you are not qualified to question my pronouncements. If you do not understand what I tell you, then you may ask me questions and I will enlighten you. But you may not question or doubt what I say, for I am a physicist. -- Thus Spake Dragonfly.

He never said any such thing.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Then you tell me what you think DF has been saying.

Ghs

That those qualified to speak on a subject are those who know the subject.

I wonder how many times I've seen you slice and dice someone on an elist who ignorantly pronounced on a subject you knew. Many times, many times.

In this discussion, among the things you've said is that you accept the experimental results. But then you've proceeded to demonstrate that you don't know what those results are. From what hat are you expecting the hidden variables which you think are there to emerge? Do you have a theory of non-local hidden variables?

Ellen

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The wikipedia definition of Causality is ‘the relationship between an event (the cause) and a second event (the effect), where the second event is a consequence of the first.’

Please note that that (event-event relationship) is not NB's notion of causality. NB presents an entity-action notion -- though very badly IMO. I'd forgotten how rhetorically uninformative the presentation was:

Quoting Nathaniel Branden from the third lecture of ‘The Basic Principles of Objectivism’:

All actions [or events - [DH's insert]] in the universe are the actions of entitites, and the actions possible to an entity are determined by it nature. What a thing can do depends on what it is….The concept of action requires and presupposes that which acts and would not be possible without it….To deny that actions are caused by entities, to deny that what a thing does is determined by what it is, is to imply that any entity can perform any action, which means that an electron can write a symphony, a building can grow wings, a leaf can turn into a lion, a man can simultaneously depart in two different directions—which means that an entity can do that for which its nature contains no potentiality—which means: contradictions are possible.

Such was the view of reality held by primordial savages, who regarded every event in the universe as an inexplicable miracle, bound by nothing save the unknowable whim of unknowable demons. And when today, prominent scientists who find themselves unable to ascertain the causal principles exhibited in the behavior of subatomic particles, decide that the solution lies in declaring that causality is invalid, and that the particles act as they do for no cause whatever, it is to the metaphysics of those primordial savages that their contentions would reduce mankind.

Ellen

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The wikipedia definition of Causality is 'the relationship between an event (the cause) and a second event (the effect), where the second event is a consequence of the first.'

This is exactly the simplistic, outdated view of causality I was speaking about with George.

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I am a physicist. I have no need for philosophy. I know about the nature of reality, and you are not qualified to question my pronouncements. If you do not understand what I tell you, then you may ask me questions and I will enlighten you. But you may not question or doubt what I say, for I am a physicist. -- Thus Spake Dragonfly.

He never said any such thing.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Then you tell me what you think DF has been saying.

Ghs

That those qualified to speak on a subject are those who know the subject.

Exactly what are DF's qualifications or credentials in physics? He hasn't given any; he doesn't even give us his name. An anonymous so-called expert or authority is worthless, especially on the Internet where articles on specialized subjects can easily be paraphrased or plagiarized. I'm afraid I will need more than your hunch that he is a physicist.

Around a year ago on the JazzWestCoast list, a newbie made a splash with an excellent and lengthy post on the history of lead trumpet players in jazz. Many were impressed, and so was I. He followed with two more good posts on the history of jazz.

One well known jazz musician was skeptical, however. After he sent me an offlist email explaining the reason for his skepticism, I Googled some key phrases from the newbie's first post. Sure enough, all of it was plagiarized, virtually word for word, from an online article. And significant chunks of his subsequent posts were similarly plagiarized. After I posted this info, the newbie left for parts unknown.

Now, I am not accusing DF of plagiarism, and he might actually be a physicist. But there are some things I find curious in his posts. I have discussed issues relating to physics and philosophy with real physicists for around 40 years, and I have read a fair number of books on the subject by physicists (Einstein, Schrodinger, Bohr, Heisenberg, Bridgman, etc.). And in no case have I encountered the simplistic and dogmatic attitude towards philosophy and physics that DF has repeatedly displayed.

Most real experts in physics are aware, sometimes painfully so, of the philosophical complexities of their discipline. They may have definite opinions, but they also have the confidence to express their doubts and reservations, a confidence that comes from knowledge. In contrast, the kind of oracular pronouncements and incessant appeals to authority made by DF are often (not always)a sign of a person who doesn't know nearly as much as he claims to know.

DF can easily settle this matter. All he need do is give us his name and credentials in physics, and I will concede the point, drop the matter, and move on.

I wonder how many times I've seen you slice and dice someone on an elist who ignorantly pronounced on a subject you knew. Many times, many times.

I don't claim a special authority for what I say. On the contrary, I have repeatedly said that there are no authorities in philosophy.

As for slicing and dicing someone on an elist who ignorantly pronounced on a subject I knew, I do know something about the philosophy of science. I certainly know enough to spot DF's ignorant pronouncements on the subject.

In this discussion, among the things you've said is that you accept the experimental results. But then you've proceeded to demonstrate that you don't know what those results are. From what hat are you expecting the hidden variables which you think are there to emerge? Do you have a theory of non-local hidden variables?

When have I ever denied particular experimental results of physicists? I don't recall ever saying anything about "non-local hidden variables." I have never used that expression -- I'm not even sure what "non-local" is supposed to mean -- and I certainly don't have a "theory" about it. You must be confusing me with someone else.

Ghs

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One more thing...

Who is Dragonfly? His profile does not give his real name or any personal information.

I don't trust someone who refuses to give his or her real name while posing as an expert in a field. The only reason I have to believe that DF is a physicist is because Ellen Stuttle thinks he is, but I don't know why she believes this.

For all I know, DF is a troll who has to Google a subject before writing anything about it. Does he have a PhD in physics? If so, from which university? Is he a professor of physics somewhere? Has he ever published any peer reviewed articles on physics? What is his standing in the profession?

Without a name I cannot do a background check to see if DF is really an expert in physics or whether he is a fake. Anyone who knows how to Google could have easily written the same posts he has.

Since DF is so big on "experts," let him give his name and credentials so we can determine if he truly qualifies as an expert in physics.

Ghs

http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/wikipedia_catholic_expert_resigns_after_being_exposed_as_a_fake/

Wikipedia 'Catholic expert' resigns after being exposed as a fake

Supposed expert used "Catholicism for Dummies" as source

Mar 8, 2007 / 12:05 pm (CNA).- One of Wikipedia’s foremost contributors and editors resigned last week after it was learned that his supposed credentials as a professor of Religion with a PhD in Theology and a degree in Canon Law were fake, reported The Age.

The editor, who called himself Essjay, was recruited to work on the online encyclopedia’s arbitration committee, a team of “expert administrators” who vet content. But it seems no one vetted his credentials.

According to The Age, Essjay was found out after The New Yorker magazine referred to his estimated 20,000 contributions to the site and how he would spend up to 14 hours a day editing, "correcting errors, and removing obscenities".

However, afterwards a Wikipedia critic later told The New Yorker that Essjay’s biographical information was untrue.

Essjay is really Ryan Jordan, a 24-year-old college drop-out from Kentucky, who used texts such as “Catholicism for Dummies” to correct articles on religion. The New Yorker admitted to not knowing Essjay’s real name at the time of publication.

In a statement, Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales said he Essjay was asked to "resign immediately."

Edited by Ted Keer

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One more thing...

Who is Dragonfly? His profile does not give his real name or any personal information.

I don't trust someone who refuses to give his or her real name while posing as an expert in a field. The only reason I have to believe that DF is a physicist is because Ellen Stuttle thinks he is, but I don't know why she believes this.

For all I know, DF is a troll who has to Google a subject before writing anything about it. Does he have a PhD in physics? If so, from which university? Is he a professor of physics somewhere? Has he ever published any peer reviewed articles on physics? What is his standing in the profession?

Without a name I cannot do a background check to see if DF is really an expert in physics or whether he is a fake. Anyone who knows how to Google could have easily written the same posts he has.

Since DF is so big on "experts," let him give his name and credentials so we can determine if he truly qualifies as an expert in physics.

Ghs

If you had some knowledge of physics, you'd have no doubt that Dragonfly knows his stuff.

I think he got his degree from the University of Utrecht, as I said in post #974, which was a reply to the post (#973) in which you stated:

Yes, I am aware that DF is a physicist. So what? I am not taking issue with the experimental findings of QM.

Ellen

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If you had some knowledge of physics, you'd have no doubt that Dragonfly knows his stuff.

And if you knew anything about the philosophy of science, you'd have no doubt that Dragonfly does not know his stuff.

Any reasonably intelligent person with access to the Internet can appear to "know his stuff." Fakery occurs all the time.

I think he got his degree from the University of Utrecht....

How do you know this? Has DF ever given you his name?

I was willing to take DF at face value earlier on, but no longer. His recent remark that physicists are engaged in fundamental research and so don't need to trouble themselves with philosophy was one of the most bizarre things I have ever read in this area. It's not something I would expect to hear from someone who knows his stuff. Moreover, it contradicts his earlier statement that physicists are experts when it comes to ascertaining the philosophical implications of their experimental findings.

If DF really is a physicist, then he has an extremely sloppy manner of expressing himself. You have excused this by saying that English is his second language, but I'm not willing to accept this excuse any longer.

As I said, DF can easily resolve this issue....

Ghs

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Popper doesn't set the standards here.

Did I cite Popper?

First, it's what we've observed -- no matter how small we've broken up matter, we've always managed to go smaller, up to the limits of government funding. Further, if you suppose a smallest element of reality, then how could one conceivably know that it is the smallest?

How can you conceivably claim to know the limit of future discoveries? Aren’t you claiming that thousands of years from now physicists will be studying “elementary particles” many orders of magnitude smaller than those they study now? Does this not amount to an infinite regress? On the plus side, you’ll almost certainly make it to your deathbed without seeing your claim falsified. I perceive a fragile self-esteem behind your bluster, but you're safe, you probably won't ever see yourself proved wrong.

Been hearing voices lately?

Just one. It said that there’s a jackass posting on OL who isn’t worth talking to.

How do you know this? Has DF ever given you his name?

Here DF’s name is given as Peter, he seems to have established his bona fides over several years posting on O’ist fora. I gather that he’s Dutch, has read Atlas Shrugged 10+ times and was very influenced by it, but is now pretty critical. I don’t begrudge someone preferring a higher level of anonymity online, compare to this weirdo.

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Popper doesn't set the standards here.

Did I cite Popper?

Apparently inadvertently. Search google for "falsifiability."

How can you conceivably claim to know the limit of future discoveries?

That's a laughable interpretation of what I claimed. But implicit in your comedic routine is the claim: "No one can put any limits whatsoever on future discoveries." In other words, you're saying that no one can discover any limits whatsoever. To quote a poor comedian: "This strikes me as an extraordinary claim about the future of science."

Shayne

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