Re: causality

Garry DeWeese (deweese@ucsu.Colorado.EDU)
Wed, 5 Feb 1997 10:52:34 -0700 (MST)

On Wed, 5 Feb 1997 wrote:

> Paul,
> Thank you for your concise summary of quantum theory in your note of Feb. 3.
> [snip]
> Are there any arguments from the strictly scientific perspective (i.e.,
> non-theological/non-philosophical perspectives) that human beings are the
> result of purposeful and non-materialistic processes?

Since this reply was sent to the entire list, let me weigh in here, as
I've wanted to do since this thread started.

I would maintain that there is no "non-philosophical perspective" on
quantum mechanics (QM)--or, for that matter, on General Relativity, on the
neo-Darwinian synthesis, or any other high level scientific theory. That
is because the inferential pattern from observation to interpretation to
explanatory theory is itself not a scientific but a philosophical issue.

But this is especially true of QM, since the standard Copenhagen
Interpretation entails so many counter-intuitive notions which, if one
wishes to be a scientific realist, must be given physical interpretations.
(Of course, anti-realists like instrumentalists or operationalists will
have no problem here.) Wave-particle complementarity, the "probability
wave" model of quantum particles, and non-locality are example. But he
biggest problem with QM is the measurement problem. If the "probability
wave" (described by the Schroedinger equation) is collapsed on
observation, that assumes the measuring (observing) device itself is in a
deterministic state. But that does not follow. Indeed, the entire system
from quantum particle to quantum system to measuring device to the
brain of the observer is describable by its own wave function. So where
is the wave function of the quantum particle collapsed?

The eminent philosopher of science John Earman concludes that "neither
clever semantical rules nor extravagant metaphysics will suffice [to solve
the measurement problem] and that eventually new physical principles will
have to be recognized" (Bangs, Crunches, Whimpersand Shriels, Oxford
Univesity Press, 1995), p. 4. IOW, *QM is incomplete.* The missing
physical principles must explain not only the measurement problem, but
also the (intuitively repugnant) notion of instantaneous non-local
causation, and the part of the measurement problem that bears on your
interests, where and how the interface between quantum indeterminacy and
classical determinacy occurs.

I don't doubt that some physicists on this list will take exception to
what I have written, claiming (correctly) that QM is the most accurate
physical theory known, giving predictions accurate to 11 or 12 decimal
places. But that very accuracy--steming from the deterministic evolution
of the Schroedinger equation--should raise questions about the apparent
intdeterminacy at the heart of the theory. At any rate, I'll be eager to
learn from the replies.

As a result of the above considerations, I don't believe any answer can
currently be given to the question of whether God"plays dice with the
universe." And while quantum explanations may be invoked to explain
biological phenomena, such as chance mutations, I don't see that such
explanations can really be free of serious philosophical metaphysical

Garry DeWeese