Intelligent Design

A new WAC: On those ever so revealing chalkboards (of the quantum physicists) and the law of non-contradiction, LNC

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Below, is a picture of Einstein’s chalkboard at Princeton as he left it — and you should see his bookshelves and desk, too!

Einstein's Chalkboard as he left it (Source: Life, fair use)

What does this have to do with the now so commonly dismissed laws of thought, especially the law of non-contradiction?

A lot.

AKA, one cannot wisely saw off the branch on which s/he is sitting.

What does that mean?

We can start from the proverbial main tools of the great theoretical physicists of 100 years ago when quantum physics was emerging: chalk-boards, chalk, and — of course — what they had between their ears.

So, they used distinct scratch marks with definite meanings, to clarify, analyse and communicate what they were thinking.

(Some, proverbially, had “chalkboards in their heads” that in some cases were capable of three-dimensional, moving images and even simulations! Hence, Einstein’s favourite thought-experiments, and the equally proverbial physicist’s intuition that has so often proved fruitful. At the extreme, proverbially, was the engineer, Tesla, who — as the stories handed down go — could build, assemble and run a new electric machine in his head; then after a few weeks, take it apart and inspect the wear patterns to adjust his design. Fancy software that with considerable effort we use to model and visualise today is crude by comparison! But, it at least helps those of us who have more modest equipment between the ears to walk in the footsteps of the true giants.)

The trick is, that as all of this physical and mental chalk-dust work interacts with the experienced world, it deeply, inextricably embeds the classic laws of thought into the experimental and analytical work of science. So, to then imagine that such results can undermine or dismiss those laws of thought is to saw off the branch on which even quantum physicists must sit.

That’s why, in UD’s brand new Weak Argument Corrective, no 38, on LNC and quantum theory, frequent commenter and occasional UD contributor Stephen is quoted:

Scientists do not use observed evidence to evaluate the principles of logic; they use the principles of logic to evaluate such evidence.

That’s a key insight, and, sadly, it is too often overlooked. (Indeed, there was a hot debate at and surrounding UD over the past few weeks on just this topic.)

So, let us now read and discuss the new WAC 38, and the more detailed supplementary discussion. END

11 Replies to “A new WAC: On those ever so revealing chalkboards (of the quantum physicists) and the law of non-contradiction, LNC

  1. 1
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: If you want to see Einstein’s desk, bookshelves and chalkboard in all their chaotically productive glory as at April 18, 1955, have a look at the link from the more detailed discussion. Genius at work, right up to the last. (I just love the TWO pipes on the desk; Einstein’s office must have been fragrant with the special smell of his favourite pipe blend! Does anyone know what it was?) KF

  2. 2
    Axel says:

    “Scientists do not use observed evidence to evaluate the principles of logic; they use the principles of logic to evaluate such evidence.”

    How desperately sad that you guys should have to spell that out – to argue with people of such limited understanding; people who are your putative peers and are even “sitting in the chair of Moses!”

    Reading quotes of Einstein, Planck and Bohr, it’s clear that the level of foolishness in the higher reaches of the empirical-science establishment deeply saddened them. Planck’s comment that science progresses one funeral at a time”, would be hilarious if it were not so evidently true.

    For me this very issue was highlighted by a comment on YouTube clip by the Nobel laureate, Murray Gell-Mann. He was tickled to death that Einstein used to respond to reports from people that one or other of his theories had been empirically disproved, with the comment: “It will go away.”

  3. 3
    kuartus says:

    Kairos, what about quantum computers which are supposed to be faster and more powerful precisely because they can explore all states simultaneously? Is that a problem for the lnc?

  4. 4
    kairosfocus says:

    K: How do you know that quantum computers do this sort of superposition of states and not something else or both this and something else, save by LOI, LNC and LEM being implicitly used? See the sawing off the branch principle at work? KF

  5. 5
    material.infantacy says:

    KF, your link in the OP, “the new WAC 38,” is broken.

  6. 6
    kairosfocus says:

    Hi MI: Thanks. Just cleared it, put it in again and tested. Seems to delay for me but goes through. Hope it works for you. KF

  7. 7
    material.infantacy says:

    Works fine now, thanks!

  8. 8
    material.infantacy says:

    I wonder, can something both

    “exist and not exist at the same time and in the same fashion”


    not “exist and not exist at the same time and in the same fashion,”

    at the same time and in the same fashion? xp

  9. 9
    kairosfocus says:


    Are you thinking in terms of iterative extension?

    NOT_(NOT_X) reverses itself. [Think This ball is NOT_(NOT_RED). That’s a long way around to say the ball is red.]


  10. 10
    material.infantacy says:

    KF, I was just being silly, tongue in cheek. Apologies for the disruption. I find the LNC to be axiomatic, so I considered in jest whether it could be true and not true at the same time.

    I find that those who question its validity, for instance in examples of quantum physics, to rely on the LNC in their attempt to question it. In fact, we all rely on the LNC as the principal aspect in our ability to reason about anything at all.

  11. 11

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