Boundaries of Science Intelligent Design Nature of reality Physics

At Evolution News: Can Physics Account for Our Whole Reality?

Spread the love

If only we could reduce the world to an equation — preferably one that is solvable — many think we would understand life better.

University of Durham philosopher Nancy Cartwright takes issue with that, arguing that the universe is “beautifully dappled, and requires a dappled science to explain it.” She is the author, most recently, of A Philosopher Looks at Science (Cambridge University Press, 2022). And she says,

If physics is to have total dominion, she must not only help out with chemical bonding, signal transmission in neurons, the flow of petrol in a carburettor, and the like. She must be able in principle to entirely take over the disciplines that usually study these things, to explain and predict the rise in teenage pregnancies, the current level of inflation, the Protestant Reformation, and the fate of migrants crossing the channel. Plus, she must be able to get me off the hook for shouting at my daughter: after all, I was just obeying the laws of physics. NANCY CARTWRIGHT, “PHYSICS CAN’T DEAL WITH REALITY’S COMPLEXITY” AT IAI. NEWS (OCTOBER 17, 2022)

Now that She Mentions It

Pop psychology has indeed featured many theories that tie together disparate phenomena like inflation, the Reformation, and shouting at loved ones. It’s comparatively easy to link very complex events to one another if we are allowed to choose any link we wish. Some might link Hurricane Ian with municipal elections in Vancouver and with high-starch diets in Texas. It takes creativity but many people have plenty of that. 

Physics sets itself a harder goal: showing the numbers (serious numbers, not pop stats) and a rigorous theory behind them. That necessarily means leaving out a great deal, assuming that what is omitted is subsumed in the theory. But is it?

The idea of physics as queen of all that happens has powerful implications about just what the world we live in must be like. It must be a world made up entirely of the basic entities of physics — fundamental particles, curved space-time and the like — entities that have only the mathematical features that physics equations describe, features that often have no names of their own other than the names of the mathematical objects that are supposed to represent them, like the “quantum state vector” and the “metric tensor” of general relativity. The world has to be that way since these are the kinds of features that physics can rule. NANCY CARTWRIGHT, “PHYSICS CAN’T DEAL WITH REALITY’S COMPLEXITY” AT IAI. NEWS (OCTOBER 17, 2022)

The World We Live In

Cartwright offers an alternative approach:

Instead of supposing that physics must be queen of all we survey, I recommend we construct our image of what an ultimate science might be like on the basis of what current science is like when it is most successful, from putting people on the moon to devising and carrying out a plan for the complete evacuation of the Royal Marsden Hospital (which took just 28 minutes when called into play by a gigantic fire, 2 January 2008)… This is a world in which irritability, generosity and social exclusion can affect what happens just as gravity and electromagnetic repulsion can. NANCY CARTWRIGHT, “PHYSICS CAN’T DEAL WITH REALITY’S COMPLEXITY” AT IAI. NEWS (OCTOBER 17, 2022)

As she says, that’s the world we actually live in, a world of many tiny, intersecting worlds where causes can include anything from fundamental physics to social psychology.

Read the rest at Mind Matters News, published by Discovery Institute’s Bradley Center for Natural and Artificial Intelligence.

Evolution News

Nancy Cartwright’s thesis, that the laws of physics can’t account for the realm of reality that includes ourselves, corresponds with the thesis of intelligent design – that our reality is consistent with one in which an intelligent mind (with the attributes of God) not only caused the physical reality of our universe, but has intervened within it to bring about outcomes that would not have arisen without intervention. We ourselves, as intelligent agents, continuously manipulate the material of this physical universe to produce outcomes that nature would never produce on its own (such as the laptop I’m typing on now).

6 Replies to “At Evolution News: Can Physics Account for Our Whole Reality?

  1. 1
    jerry says:

    More appropriate here

    https://uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/question-for-materialists/#comment-768407

    On sale today at. the Great Courses for $14.95 (video download)

    The Great Questions of Philosophy and Physics

    https://www.thegreatcourses.com/courses/the-great-questions-of-philosophy-and-physics

  2. 2
    chuckdarwin says:

    Caspian writes:

    [O]ur reality is consistent with one in which an intelligent mind (with the attributes of God) not only caused the physical reality of our universe, but has intervened within it to bring about outcomes that would not have arisen without intervention.

    Yet the DI’s grand delusion that ID is not religion still persists…….

  3. 3
    Querius says:

    Chuckdarwin @2,

    See https://uncommondescent.com/comment-policy/put-a-sock-in-it/ .

    Intelligent Design is Creationism in a Cheap Tuxedo

    No, it isn’t. Are you capable of comprehending the concept that a theory being consistent with a philosophical, religious, or metaphysical belief is distinct from being the belief itself or being founded on that belief? ID is consistent with religion but is not itself a religion nor is it founded on religion. ID is also consistent with non-religious beliefs like panspermia. Creationism is an attempt to take the biblical account in Genesis and find scientific evidence of it. Religious groups are always likely to be involved to a certain extent since ID gives epistemic support in the form of greater explanatory power for their theology.

    Intelligent Design is no more and no less than detecting patterns that can be independently given and whose probability of occurring by chance interplay of matter and energy are too improbable to be reasonable. It is meeting the challenge in Darwin’s Origin of Species that if any structure in a living creature cannot be constructed by small steps, where the structure at each step is useful to the creature, then it falsifies the theory of natural selection. ID is a modern scientific offshoot of philosophic arguments from design such as Aristotle’s first cause and Paley’s watchmaker, which predate unconstitutional creation science by thousands and hundreds of years respectively. The only cheap thing in this it’s a cheap shot to censor a valid scientific hypothesis by conflating it with religion that a court will find violates the establishment clause of the first amendment.

    -Q

  4. 4
    PyrrhoManiac1 says:

    Nancy Cartwright’s thesis, that the laws of physics can’t account for the realm of reality that includes ourselves, corresponds with the thesis of intelligent design – that our reality is consistent with one in which an intelligent mind (with the attributes of God) not only caused the physical reality of our universe, but has intervened within it to bring about outcomes that would not have arisen without intervention.

    I’m not sure about this.

    Cartwright, along with a few other philosophers of science (John Dupre, for one) thinks that the sciences are not unified. This means that there just isn’t any such hierarchical structure that depicts how physics is related to chemistry, chemistry to biology, biology to psychology, and so on.

    Instead, each scientific discipline works well enough for some problems and not for others, with no systemic relationships between them. That’s why it just wouldn’t make sense to look to physics for an explanation of our ability to devise and execute a hospital evacuation plan.

    I think (based on what I’ve read of her work) she’d deny that there’s anything metaphysically deep or interesting about us that makes us exempt from the laws of physics. That’s not because she’s a determinist (physics is all there is) but rather a pluralist about scientific explanations: there are lots of good explanations, and some of them involve concepts of fundamental physics, and most of them don’t. There simply isn’t any further, deeper, or more ultimate story to be told about the nature of reality.

  5. 5
    Querius says:

    PyrrhoManiac1 @4,

    While I’m also uncertain of the quote about Nancy Cartwright’s thesis, my exposure to physical chemistry leads me to believe that there’s no major disconnect between physics and chemistry.

    However regarding biology, I just learned that semipermeable membranes rely on quantum effects (electron “spin” direction).

    There simply isn’t any further, deeper, or more ultimate story to be told about the nature of reality.

    Considering the currently “broken” parts of physics, I’m more optimistic.

    Point
    How Physicists Proved The Universe Isn’t Real – Nobel Prize in Physics 2022 EXPLAINED (12 minutes)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=txlCvCSefYQ

    Counterpoint
    Has quantum mechanics proved that reality does not exist? (11 minutes)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wsjgtp9XZxo

    The problem
    What’s wrong with physics? | Sabine Hossenfelder (35 minutes but really interesting)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8aUk6oi_AmM

    -Q

  6. 6
    Querius says:

    PyrrhoManiac1,

    Did you watch these? I think Dr. Hossenfelder would suggest that Nancy Cartwright’s thesis is pure speculation. What do you think?

    -Q

Leave a Reply