RE: [asa] Results of Cameron's Survey

From: Alexanian, Moorad <>
Date: Tue Jun 30 2009 - 10:35:42 EDT

I totally agree with you assessment. That is why in developing my view of the whole of reality as being physical/nonphysical/supernatural I rely on two “detectors” the human being, which is physical/nonphysical/supernatural, and purely physical devices, which are only physical and have no nonphysical or supernatural aspects.

From: wjp []
Sent: Tuesday, June 30, 2009 10:16 AM
To: ""; Alexanian, Moorad
Cc: George Murphy; David Clounch; Iain Strachan;
Subject: RE: [asa] Results of Cameron's Survey


In thinking about Bohr's reaction to QM and more modern "realistic" pictures
(as for example the one you support here), I wondered what it is we mean
by reality.

Bohr sat at the cusp of the classical era and the more modern one.
As such, speaking Kuhnian, he road the revolutionary wave. We, however,
live in "normal" times.

What was surprising, even shocking, in Bohr's era has become commonplace
and familiar to us today. That, I suggest, is what "naturally" adopts
us to a more realistic attitude.

The "real" world is a familiar world, one where we know our way around,
know generally what to expect, and how to use a world that appears ready
made for our methods and activities.

Reality, in this sense, is more a psychological issue than an ontological
one. We attempt in our ontological considerations to develop a formal
and careful set of criteria for what it is to be real. Ultimately, however,
what is real is what we treat as real, and few determine their
commitments by such a formal method, if it is even possible to do so.


On Tue, 30 Jun 2009 09:30:28 -0400, "Alexanian, Moorad" <> wrote:
> George,
> Perhaps you are right and we all “live” in a virtual world. In
> Compton scattering, we treat both the photon and the electron as free,
> even though the electron is bound to an atom. I suppose the shortness of
> the interaction time as compared to the frequency of the electronic orbit
> allows that to be an excellent approximation. Of course, experiments
> confirm the correctness of those assumptions. However, strictly speaking,
> everything may be virtual. Strange, the more we think deeply of what
> reality is, the more confusing it gets.
> Moorad
> ________________________________________
> From: George Murphy []
> Sent: Tuesday, June 30, 2009 8:53 AM
> To: Alexanian, Moorad; wjp; David Clounch
> Cc: Iain Strachan;
> Subject: Re: [asa] Results of Cameron's Survey
> Moorad -
> Your definition of "virtual particle" is of course correct but your
> closing
> statement about photons seems odd. Whether or not all pgotons are in the
> process of being absorbed (as required, e.g., by the old Feynman-Wheeler
> theory) is debatable. But even if that's correct, why aren't transverse
> photons travelling through a vacuum "real" between emission & absorption?
> Of course to detect them you have to absorb them but the same is true for
> electrons &c.
> Shalom
> George
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Alexanian, Moorad" <>
> To: "wjp" <>; "David Clounch" <>
> Cc: "George Murphy" <>; "Iain Strachan"
> <>; <>
> Sent: Tuesday, June 30, 2009 7:47 AM
> Subject: RE: [asa] Results of Cameron's Survey
> Technically, virtual particles are particles that are not on the mass
> shell,
> that is, E^2 is not equal to p^2+ m^2, where I have set the speed of light
> in vacumm =1. E=energy, p= momentum and m=mass. Free particles are the
> only particles that are on the mass shell. For instance, photons, with
> m=0,
> are always virtual since they are always in the process of being absorbed
> and so actually are never free.
> Moorad
> ________________________________________
> From: [] On Behalf Of
> wjp []
> Sent: Tuesday, June 30, 2009 1:33 AM
> To: David Clounch
> Cc: George Murphy; Iain Strachan;
> Subject: Re: [asa] Results of Cameron's Survey
> David:
> Methodological Naturalism (MN) is an agnostic position.
> As such, it bears some resemblance to Bohr's attitude toward
> QM and the entire unobservable, abstract physics of
> atomic physics.
> His attitude would have been to assign reality to the
> commonsensical world of our experience, but say nothing of
> the reality of this unobservable world.
> As such, it seems that he would have assigned no reality to
> entities such as virtual particles, and who knows what else.
> I presume he would have assigned reality to electrons and
> protons, but perhaps have said little of their properties.
> Instead, the physics of this world is more to be treated as
> a formal procedure by which observables are predicted.
> In some sense, it appears to be a throw back to Ptolomeic
> science. Not even, so much, an instrumentalism, for that
> is committed to seeing scientific theory as only a tool.
> That may be saying too much for Bohr.
> Bohr apparently believed that this fantastic invisible
> world was beyond the ken of the human mind. We should
> therefore not attempt to say much about it, for it would
> generally be misleading or just plain wrong. But that
> did not mean that a predictive theory could not be devised
> and empirically tested.
> What similarity does this bear to MN? The motivation for
> MN appears to be different. As Duhem argued, the purpose
> of something like MN was to prohibit science from adopting
> a particular metaphysics. It was intended to be
> metaphysically neutral so that all could participate.
> Whether this was possible was discussed by Plantinga and
> found lacking. MN was suppose to be a big tent, housing
> realists and anti-realists of all stripes.
> The supposed wall of separation between discovery and
> theory assessment permitted the theories of science to
> exist in a kind of platonic bubble, untouched by
> human hands. Discovery, on the other hand, is a
> dirty business for it relies upon metaphysics,
> attitudes, goals, and the price of beef.
> MN is adopted for the sake of the scientific community.
> Whereas Bohr's view of QM was adopted for epistemological
> reasons. MN, one might say, was adopted because of the limits
> of human community, whereas Bohr's view (complementarity) was
> adopted because of the limits of human understanding.
> Is there any value in the comparison?
> bill
> On Mon, 29 Jun 2009 11:33:09 -0500, David Clounch
> <>
> wrote:
>> George wrote:
>> "but is a statement that position-momentum pairs that violate it don't
>> exist. "
>> Q1.
>> George, my question is (because I don't know the rules) is this true
> for
>> virtual particles as well?
>> The reason I ask is it seems to me virtual particles exist ontologically
>> but not in a way we could ever observe.
>> [an aside]
>> My son was telling me about muon decay and how it produces a number of
>> virtual particles, and there are always a neutrino/anti-neutrino virtual
>> pair produced, but these almost always destroy each other. But about
>> every
>> millionth time they don't and the neutrino exits. And these neutrinos
> are
>> always left-handed. He was trying to tell me about the fact that all
>> neutrinos are left handed but there is no law or rule of nature as to
> why
>> it
>> should be that way - that nobody knows why. My point is there are at
>> least
>> 10^6 virtual pairs for every real neutrino.
>> [end aside]
>> Obviously scientists believe in virtual particles. But, if we can never
>> observe them, are they really there? Aren't they beyond the edge of
> MN?
>> aren't they just something we pretend are there so we can get a logical
>> reason for things we are able to see (the observed products).
>> I agree with your statement as applied to real particles. Its not just
>> about
>> limits of knowledge, but is a real statement about existence. I'm just
>> wondering if the same QM rules apply to virtual particles.
>> Q2.
>> If virtual particles are just a game and don't have ontological
>> existence,
>> then under the rules of MN aren't they really in the same category as
>> other beyond the (playground) edge topics (like ID is alleged to be)?
> If
>> the answer is yes, then are teachers allowed to discuss these areas
> where
>> God plays dice?
>> On Mon, Jun 29, 2009 at 11:10 AM, George Murphy
>> <>wrote:
>>> Iain -
>>> This gets into the murky area of the interface between classical chaos
>>> theory & quantum mechanics, where I claim no great expertise. Since
>> quantum
>>> mechanics is linear there's no "quantum chaos" in a straightforward
>> sense.
>>> But in specifying the initial conditions more & more precisely for a
>>> classical system, as you suggest below, you'll eventually get to the
>> limit
>>> specified by the uncertainty principle, & below that point you can't
> go.
>>> With a strong interpretation of QM even God can't because the
>> uncertainty
>>> principle is not just about limits on what we can measure but is a
>> statement
>>> that position-momentum pairs that violate it don't exist.
>>> Shalom
>>> George
>>> ----- Original Message -----
>>> *From:* Iain Strachan <>
>>> *To:* George Murphy <>
>>> *Cc:*
>>> *Sent:* Monday, June 29, 2009 11:13 AM
>>> *Subject:* Re: [asa] Results of Cameron's Survey
>>> On Mon, Jun 29, 2009 at 3:52 PM, George Murphy<>
>>> wrote:
>>> > You can put me down with Terry's #4. (Or, if only the 3 answers
> given
>>> > originally are allowed, as is usually the case with standardized
>> tests,
>>> I'll
>>> > take #3 "under protest.")
>>> >
>>> > I would not absolutely rule out the idea of front-loading of design
>> (#2)
>>> but
>>> > it seems to me that hardwiring the detailed outcome of any physical
>>> process
>>> > into its initial conditions billions of years in advance is just the
>> sort
>>> of
>>> > thing that chaos theory - which is more precisely "sensitivity to
>> initial
>>> > conditions" - rules out for systems of any complexity (i.e.,
>>> nonlinearity).
>>> George:
>>> Just a quick query here. Is it not the case that it's not ruled out so
>>> much as non-computable
>>> For example if I try to integrate the third order non-linear
>> differential
>>> equations for the Lorenz
>> Attractor<>then I
> experience
>> that if a slight change is made to the initial values of
>>> the state variables, then after a certain time, two runs that are
>> otherwise
>>> the same diverge and bear no resemblance to each other. But the
> smaller
>> the
>>> initial delta, the longer it will take to diverge. However,
> divergences
>> can
>>> be observed even at the machine precision level, for example if I
> change
>> X0
>>> to X0*(1+eps) where eps is the smallest constant so that in the machine
>>> 1+eps > eps. (In standard double precision arithmetic eps has the
>> value
>>> 2.2204e-016).
>>> But if one had a machine with billions of bits of precision for the
>>> arithmetic, instead of 53 (double precision arithmetic has 53 bits
> for
>> the
>>> mantissa, 10 for the exponent and 1 for the sign, making 64 in total),
>> then
>>> it's clear that macroscopic changes in the outcome will only appear
>> after an
>>> immensely long time because the corresponding value of eps is so much
>>> smaller.
>>> So I wouldn't have said it was ruled out unless God only uses 64 bit
>>> arithmetic!
>>> Iain
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Received on Tue Jun 30 10:36:36 2009

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