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The Fundamental Basis of Reality

John on December 30, 2005 at 4:55 pm

This article from the NY Times science section (free reg. req’d) deals with some recent research giving further confirmation of quantum strangeness. In this case, atoms which rotate simultaneously in both directions.

Of course it may come as no surprise that quantum theory seems strange to an amateur (such as myself). What may surprise the uninitiatied is how strange quantum theory seems even to those who do understand it, Einstein being the most famous example.

The article ends by mentioning a Dr. Anton Zeilinger who believes that the multiple interpretations of the meaning of QM suggest a basic lack of understanding about what it represents. He goes farther to suggest that interpretations like “multiple worlds”, which I wrote about here, are really attempts to avoid the unpleasant philosophical consequences of the Copenhangen interpretation:

I suggest that the search for interpretations different from the Copenhagen interpretation very often is motivated by trying to evade its radical consequences, that is, an act of cognitive repression on the part of the proposers.

The unpleasant consequence he has in mind is the importance of the observer. The Copenhagen interpretation suggests that intelligent observers are “special” to the laws of physics. Even this faint whiff of teleology is unnaceptable to physicists like Steven Weinberg who said in a discussion of the topic:

True, when quantum mechanics was new, some physicists thought that it put humans back into the picture…But, starting with the work of Hugh Everett forty years ago [the creator of the multiple worlds interpretation], the tendency of physicists who think deeply about these things has been to reformulate quantum mechanics in an entirely objective way, with observers treated just like everything else. I don’t know if this program has been completely successful yet, but I think it will be.

The rejection of the specialness of creation and especially the specialness of man is known as the Copernican principle. As Weinberg’s quote suggests, it is an increasingly faith-based initiative.

In my post linked above, I noted that the history of 20th century cosmology can be read as an attempt to avoid the problem of “anti-chance” outlined by Arthur Eddington in 1931. It’s revealing to me that at least some physicists see the history of QM interpretations in much the same light. (and perhaps String Theory interpretations as well).

In any case, what’s most interesting is that Dr. Zeilinger’s proposed solution to the problem of so many QM interpretations is to redefine our understanding so that information is the fundamental unit of reality. This would seem to coincide with the suggestion of physicist and theologian John Polkinghorne that the future lies this way.

Of course there is still a gap between information and intelligence, but I think it’s entirely reasonable to say that — to the extent strict naturalists try to hide in these gaps — they are looking at a burgeoning godless of the gaps problem.

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