RE: [asa] Evolution and history compulsory

From: Jon Tandy <>
Date: Sat Nov 21 2009 - 14:31:40 EST

I don't remember about quantum mechanics, but I believe it is true of both QM and relativity that there are mathematical formulas involved. Even if only an introductory, qualitative, version is taught in lower grades where students aren't prepared for the math, that does NOT make it "not science". That's what it sounds like you are saying. It only means that they are being taught a less rigorous version of the subject. To say that something must be empirical, math and formula based, etc., in order to be science is a philosophical supposition that the ontology of nature must follow the precision of mathematical formulas.

Whether Einstein "got it right" is the wrong question. The answer is, certainly he did get it right, as do every scientist who doesn't have the perfect knowledge of God. It is true that the speed of light may be about epistemology rather than ontology, but what else do you have? I would dare say we don't know much about ontology (the way things really are) except through experience and measurement. QM and the appearance of "common descent" could both be tricks of God, but as scientists we have to look at the data, analyze, extrapolate, and ultimately make educated guesses about the ontology.

As to why QM was brought up in this thread, I don't recall, but I think it was a rhetorical comment that has since branched off from the original point. But I will respond to one comment that was made earlier. If the teaching of biological evolution were pushed back into the 11th or 12th grade instead of 9th grade biology, it wouldn't make any difference whatsoever to the public dispute, legality, etc. Those opposed to evolution will oppose it wherever it is taught, and those who say that evolution must be taught in school because of the scientific strength of the evidence will say it regardless of the grade. And those who rule that creationism can't be taught as an alternative will say the same whether it's 9th or 12th grade, at least in the context of publicly funded schools.

Jon Tandy

-----Original Message-----
From: [] On Behalf Of wjp
Sent: Saturday, November 21, 2009 8:41 AM
To: Schwarzwald
Subject: Re: [asa] Evolution and history compulsory
Importance: Low

I'm not certain why teaching QM in high school has come up.
QM can be taught in a number of ways.

I remember by undergraduate and graduate classes in QM as primarily a study of mathematics & mathematical approximation, often guided by a presumed happy union with semi-classical methods and ways of thinking.

It was taught simply as a physicist's tool, little, if nothing, was said of various metaphysical or philosophical interpretations.

It is only in the last 20 years that I have begun to think of the supposed philosophical implications, both for the nature of the world and the nature of science.

What would be said in a high school QM class where none of the mathematics would be presented? Wouldn't it be all interpretation, all philosophy?
It sounds like it would be some popular exposition, more like a religion class.

The same can be said of all of physics, including SR and GR. Without the mathematics, what are we left with? We are not left with tools, but studies of the nature of the world and the nature of epistemology. This is interesting stuff, but it is NOT science. Witness, for example, that 100 years after Einstein's landmark 1905 paper on SR, and the relativity of simultaneity it is still be debated whether Einstein "got it right." Not that people doubt the mathematics and the physics. They doubt whether Einstein's arguments are correct. They doubt, as for QM, whether it speaks of epistemology or ontology.
Yet, it seems to me, that from the beginning it was about epistemology.
Even the light postulate says that all observers will *measure* the same speed of light regardless of their "inertial" frame relative to the source.
It appears to strictly speaking be saying something about measurement and nothing about ontology. It is silent on what is behind the empiricism.
In as much as science relies upon observable results, we are bound only to what can be observed. For all we know, it could be a trick of God.

So, tell me, what have I missed. Why teach QM, and what would be taught?


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Received on Sat Nov 21 14:32:03 2009

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