Re: [asa] Contingency and Quantum Indeterminacy

From: <philtill@aol.com>
Date: Wed Mar 19 2008 - 13:26:51 EDT

In the following answer I'm ignoring the Everett (Multi-world) interpretation, as previously explained.

Your part (a):? Physics has not identified any specific causation for things at the quantum level.? For example, when a particle has a half-life of 1 hour, and then it decays at 36 minutes 42.35487504 seconds, what made it occur at that specific time and not at any other time?? There is no answer from within physics so far, although there may be some day.? (But it?doesn't?seem we'll be finding that answer any time soon, if ever.) ?For now we just have to say the cause is unidentified.? That does not rule out that there may be a cause, whether from within or from outside the universe.? To say that there is "no" cause....hmmmm...I'm not even sure I know what that means in a practical sense.? If there is no cause for something at the quantum level, then ultimately there is no cause for anything in physics.

Your part (b):? Can we identify anything in quantum mechanics that has precisely zero probability.? Well, in idealized models, yes, but in them messyness of nature I'm not sure we can identify true zero probability situations.? however, many things are so far practically?zero (many zeros after the decimal place) that we can treat it as zero probability.? For example, in an idealized model we can set the phase cancellation of two photons so there is zero probability that they will travel out a certain path of the interferometer.? In reality the photons are interacting with the laboratory environment so there is never a perfectly idealized experiment.?

Think of it this way:? think of a perfectly symmetric system like an idealized?needle balanced on its point.? Without any external perturbation, what breaks the symmetry?? Why does the needle fall toward the north instead of the southeast?? If physics is perfectly symmetric (as implied by its beauty so far) then why is everything coming out of a perfectly symmetric beginning in the Big Bang so asymmetric?? What caused the first asymmetric ripples in the cosmic microwave background radiation??It came from the quantum level, but why did that particular asymmetric set of ripples occur instead of any other set of ripples???Then, those ripples condensed into galaxies and planets and apple trees and humans that are so asymmetric because there was a further, ongoing sequence of symmetry breaking events.? This is the real root of what you are asking -- the cause of asymmetry in nature.? Physics is symmetric and everything in nature is asymmetric and therefore something must have brok
 en?the asymmetry, and every quantum event is an observable breaking of symmetries, so you have focused on QM because that is where the symmetry breaking is actually observed.? That is where we find physics has no "cause" and yet things happen!? So why the asymmetry?? That's really the fundamental question.? Everett said that nature only _looks_ asymmetric because we can't see all the worlds in the multi-worlds wavefuction.? Considering the entire wavefunction there is perfect symmetry (and no need for any causation within nature).? But if we believe there is only one "world" (as I do) then?physicists?use the language of "spontaneous" symmetry breaking, but this begs the very question of causation that you are raising.? "Spontaneous" implies no cause, and this seems unintelligible.? It's like saying everything (including you and me) just exist without explanation.? But the only alternative is that something from outside the system (e.g., God) perturbs nature to break the symm
 e
 try.? If nature is not big enough to encompass every possible world, then either physics must be fundamentally asymmetric in its formulation (and so far it is not), or (in my opinion) there must be God.

(By the way, God is not symmetric.? He is good and not evil.? So I think there is a fundamental and necessary asymmetry in the nature of God as a Being.)

Phil

-----Original Message-----
From: David Opderbeck <dopderbeck@gmail.com>
To: philtill@aol.com
Cc: asa@calvin.edu
Sent: Wed, 19 Mar 2008 11:58 am
Subject: Re: [asa] Contingency and Quantum Indeterminacy

Thanks!? I think my last question may have been unclear though.? So, we know things are contingent rather than deterministic.? But, does that mean (a) all things "just happen"; and (b) anything can happen?? Can we still say (a) things are "caused"; and (b) not just anything, but only a probabilistic range of things, can happen given our universe (I guess another way to say this is, is anything in our universe probability 0)??

On Wed, Mar 19, 2008 at 11:45 AM, <philtill@aol.com> wrote:

I can answer the last question.? They are completely open as far as we know from physics unless you choose to believe in a multi-verse model.? The violation of Bell's inequality shows that there is nothing localized in?spacetime around a particle that contains sufficient information to determine what it will do.? So if there is anything that determines what the particle will do (thus taking away the contingency) then it must be a non-local effect and no such non-local thing has been identified in physics so far.? Everett's Multi-Worlds interpretation does remove contingency by saying that all possibilities necessarily occur.? Things only seem contingent because you are just one of many copies of yourself and you (as one copy of yourself) cannot choose which of the many parts of the multiverse you will exist within.? But if you don't accept the multi-worlds interpretation then there is nothing known to physics to remove the contingency.

Phil

-----Original Message-----
From: David Opderbeck <dopderbeck@gmail.com>
To: ASA <asa@calvin.edu>
Sent: Wed, 19 Mar 2008 11:23 am
Subject: [asa] Contingency and Quantum Indeterminacy

In the ASA statement of faith, we use the term "contingent order."? Contingency is important in Torrance's thought as well as Polanyi's.? Contingency is also part of Aquinas' teleological argument.? Does the notion of contingency as we use it require a creation ex nihlo, a big bang?? How does contingency relate to quantum indeterminacy, since states are only represented by probability distributions?? Are quantum probability distributions completely open, or are they bounded by more basic physical laws?

-- 
David W. Opderbeck
Associate Professor of Law
Seton Hall University Law School
Gibbons Institute of Law, Science & Technology
(ASA Member)
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-- 
David W. Opderbeck
Associate Professor of Law
Seton Hall University Law School
Gibbons Institute of Law, Science & Technology 
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Received on Wed Mar 19 13:28:42 2008

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