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Steven Weinberg on what’s wrong with quantum mechanics

soap bubbles/Timothy Pilgrim

From Nobelist and multiverse proponent* Steven Weinberg at New York Review of Books:

Many physicists came to think that the reaction of Einstein and Feynman and others to the unfamiliar aspects of quantum mechanics had been overblown. This used to be my view.

His view has changed to:

The introduction of probability into the principles of physics was disturbing to past physicists, but the trouble with quantum mechanics is not that it involves probabilities. We can live with that. The trouble is that in quantum mechanics the way that wave functions change with time is governed by an equation, the Schrödinger equation, that does not involve probabilities. It is just as deterministic as Newton’s equations of motion and gravitation. That is, given the wave function at any moment, the Schrödinger equation will tell you precisely what the wave function will be at any future time. There is not even the possibility of chaos, the extreme sensitivity to initial conditions that is possible in Newtonian mechanics. So if we regard the whole process of measurement as being governed by the equations of quantum mechanics, and these equations are perfectly deterministic, how do probabilities get into quantum mechanics?

Various solutions are mulled.

There is another thing that is unsatisfactory about the realist approach, beyond our parochial preferences. In this approach the wave function of the multiverse evolves deterministically. We can still talk of probabilities as the fractions of the time that various possible results are found when measurements are performed many times in any one history; but the rules that govern what probabilities are observed would have to follow from the deterministic evolution of the whole multiverse. If this were not the case, to predict probabilities we would need to make some additional assumption about what happens when humans make measurements, and we would be back with the shortcomings of the instrumentalist approach. Several attempts following the realist approach have come close to deducing rules like the Born rule that we know work well experimentally, but I think without final success. More.

In short, it may be that the assumption that there is a multiverse, in any scientifically meaningful sense, is part of the problem. Or…?

*Multiverse proponent:

Similarly, string theory, which predicts a multiverse, can’t be verified by detecting the other parts of the multiverse. But it might make other predictions that can be verified. For example, it may say that in all of the big bangs within the multiverse, certain things will always be true, and those things may be verifiable. It may say that certain symmetries will always be observed, or that they’ll always be broken according to a certain pattern that we can observe. If it made enough predictions like that, then we would say that string theory is correct. And if the theory predicted a multiverse, then we’d say that that’s correct too. You don’t have to verify every prediction to know that a theory is correct.

But do they need to verify any predictions anymore? See also: A scientist on the benefits of a post-truth society

Post-truth science

The war on falsifiability in science continues

Evolution bred a sense of reality out of us

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Weinberg notes that
"(the Schrödinger equation) is just as deterministic as Newton’s equations of motion and gravitation.,, There is not even the possibility of chaos, the extreme sensitivity to initial conditions that is possible in Newtonian mechanics."
Weinberg then asks
"So if we regard the whole process of measurement as being governed by the equations of quantum mechanics, and these equations are perfectly deterministic, how do probabilities get into quantum mechanics?"
Weinberg, after dismissing decoherence as a plausible explanation, then states:
"Today there are two widely followed approaches to quantum mechanics, the “realist” and “instrumentalist” approaches, which view the origin of probability in measurement in two very different ways. For reasons I will explain, neither approach seems to me quite satisfactory."
Weinberg rightly rejects the ‘realist approach’ to quantum mechanics mainly because of the many problems inherent in the ‘many worlds interpretation’, but, on the other hand, it is interesting to note the main reason for why he rejects the ‘instrumentalist approach’ to quantum mechanics:
"The instrumentalist approach,, (the) wave function,, is merely an instrument that provides predictions of the probabilities of various outcomes when measurements are made.,, In the instrumentalist approach,,, humans are brought into the laws of nature at the most fundamental level. According to Eugene Wigner, a pioneer of quantum mechanics, “it was not possible to formulate the laws of quantum mechanics in a fully consistent way without reference to the consciousness.”11 Thus the instrumentalist approach turns its back on a vision that became possible after Darwin, of a world governed by impersonal physical laws that control human behavior along with everything else. It is not that we object to thinking about humans. Rather, we want to understand the relation of humans to nature, not just assuming the character of this relation by incorporating it in what we suppose are nature’s fundamental laws, but rather by deduction from laws that make no explicit reference to humans. We may in the end have to give up this goal,,, Some physicists who adopt an instrumentalist approach argue that the probabilities we infer from the wave function are objective probabilities, independent of whether humans are making a measurement. I don’t find this tenable. In quantum mechanics these probabilities do not exist until people choose what to measure, such as the spin in one or another direction. Unlike the case of classical physics, a choice must be made,,,"
Since Weinberg rejects the instrumentalist approach since it undermines Darwin’s goal of trying to explain humans as purely the result of the laws of nature, and if I had the pleasure to ask him, I might like to ask Weinberg, "Who discovered the standard model? You or the laws of nature?" Or perhaps ask him, "Who wrote your article? You or the laws of Nature?"
Physicist George Ellis on the importance of philosophy and free will – July 27, 2014 Excerpt: And free will?: Horgan: Einstein, in the following quote, seemed to doubt free will: “If the moon, in the act of completing its eternal way around the Earth, were gifted with self-consciousness, it would feel thoroughly convinced that it was traveling its way of its own accord…. So would a Being, endowed with higher insight and more perfect intelligence, watching man and his doings, smile about man’s illusion that he was acting according to his own free will.” Do you believe in free will? Ellis: Yes. Einstein is perpetuating the belief that all causation is bottom up. This simply is not the case, as I can demonstrate with many examples from sociology, neuroscience, physiology, epigenetics, engineering, and physics. Furthermore if Einstein did not have free will in some meaningful sense, then he could not have been responsible for the theory of relativity – it would have been a product of lower level processes but not of an intelligent mind choosing between possible options. I find it very hard to believe this to be the case – indeed it does not seem to make any sense. Physicists should pay attention to Aristotle’s four forms of causation – if they have the free will to decide what they are doing. If they don’t, then why waste time talking to them? They are then not responsible for what they say. https://uncommondesc.wpengine.com/intelligent-design/physicist-george-ellis-on-the-importance-of-philosophy-and-free-will/
In further regards to the ‘instrumentalist approach’ in quantum mechanics where,,,
“humans are brought into the laws of nature at the most fundamental level”
And in further regards to Weinberg’s objection to the ‘instrumentalist approach’ because,
the instrumentalist approach turns its back on a vision that became possible after Darwin, of a world governed by impersonal physical laws that control human behavior along with everything else.
In regards to all of that, it is interesting to note that there is no known law of nature corresponding to Darwinian evolution itself. In other words, there is no known ‘law of evolution’, such as there is a ‘law of gravity’, within the physical universe.
The Evolution of Ernst: Interview with Ernst Mayr – 2004 Excerpt: biology (Darwinian Evolution) differs from the physical sciences in that in the physical sciences, all theories, I don’t know exceptions so I think it’s probably a safe statement, all theories are based somehow or other on natural laws. In biology, as several other people have shown, and I totally agree with them, there are no natural laws in biology corresponding to the natural laws of the physical sciences. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-evolution-of-ernst-in/ WHAT SCIENTIFIC IDEA IS READY FOR RETIREMENT? Evolution is True – Roger Highfield – January 2014 Excerpt:,,, Whatever the case, those universal truths—’laws’—that physicists and chemists all rely upon appear relatively absent from biology. Little seems to have changed from a decade ago when the late and great John Maynard Smith wrote a chapter on evolutionary game theory for a book on the most powerful equations of science: his contribution did not include a single equation. http://www.edge.org/response-detail/25468 “It is our contention that if ‘random’ is given a serious and crucial interpretation from a probabilistic point of view, the randomness postulate is highly implausible and that an adequate scientific theory of evolution must await the discovery and elucidation of new natural laws—physical, physico-chemical, and biological.” Murray Eden, “Inadequacies of Neo-Darwinian Evolution as a Scientific Theory,” Mathematical Challenges to the Neo-Darwinian Interpretation of Evolution, editors Paul S. Moorhead and Martin M. Kaplan, June 1967, p. 109.
Thus whilst Weinberg may object that,,
“humans are brought into the laws of nature at the most fundamental level”,,, "the instrumentalist approach turns its back on a vision that became possible after Darwin, of a world governed by impersonal physical laws that control human behavior along with everything else."
,, Thus whilst Weinberg may object to humans being brought ‘into the laws of nature at the most fundamental level’ , the fact of the matter is that Darwin, nor anyone else, has ever been able to find the ‘impersonal physical laws’ of Darwinian evolution that are suppose to be describing us. It seems rather futile for Weinberg to want to be able to describe the existence of humans, and the various behaviors of humans, as being solely the result of impersonal physical laws of the universe, and of Darwinian evolution in particular, when no one has a clue what those impersonal physical laws, that supposedly produced humans and their behaviors, might actually be for Darwinian evolution in the first place. Supplemental notes
Does Quantum Physics Make it Easier to Believe in God? Stephen M. Barr - July 10, 2012 Excerpt: Couldn’t an inanimate physical device (say, a Geiger counter) carry out a “measurement” (minus the 'observer' in quantum mechanics)? That would run into the very problem pointed out by von Neumann: If the “observer” were just a purely physical entity, such as a Geiger counter, one could in principle write down a bigger wavefunction that described not only the thing being measured but also the observer. And, when calculated with the Schrödinger equation, that bigger wave function would not jump! Again: as long as only purely physical entities are involved, they are governed by an equation that says that the probabilities don’t jump. That’s why, when Peierls was asked whether a machine could be an “observer,” he said no, explaining that “the quantum mechanical description is in terms of knowledge, and knowledge requires somebody who knows.” Not a purely physical thing, but a mind. https://www.bigquestionsonline.com/content/does-quantum-physics-make-it-easier-believe-god The Measurement Problem in quantum mechanics - (Inspiring Philosophy) - 2014 video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qB7d5V71vUE
Here is another critique of the Many Worlds Interpretation
A Critique of the Many Worlds Interpretation - (Inspiring Philosophy - 2014) - video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_42skzOHjtA&list=UU5qDet6sa6rODi7t6wfpg8g
Granville Sewell notes that "the Schroedinger equation, is itself critical for life.,,,"
The Fundamental Equation of Chemistry Is Itself Fine-Tuned - Granville Sewell - January 13, 2015 Excerpt: It is well known that all of the fundamental constants of physics are finely tuned to make life possible in our universe; for example, see this nice video featured recently at ENV. It is also well known that many scientists, in order to avoid drawing the obvious conclusion from this fine-tuning, postulate the existence of a huge number of other unobservable universes, in which these constants have random values, so that one was bound to get lucky and produce numbers favorable to life. What is not so widely noticed is that not only are the values of the constants of chemistry (the masses and charges of electrons, protons and neutrons, the strengths of the nuclear and electromagnetic forces, etc.) critical for life to exist in our universe, but the fundamental equation of chemistry, the Schroedinger equation, is itself critical for life.,,, For example, the figure at the top of this post is a contour surface plot of the probability distribution for one energy state of an electron orbiting two protons, from Fitzgerald and Sewell 2000, which was obtained by solving the Schroedinger equation using my PDE solver, PDE2D. See the PDE2D web page for a list of over 225 journal publications in which the numerical results were produced by PDE2D, and a link to the new third edition of my PDE book (Sewell 2015). If the elementary particles interacted by bouncing off each other like tiny balls obeying classical Newtonian laws, chemistry would be dead.,,, Are we to assume that in all these other universes there are still electromagnetic and nuclear forces, electrons, protons, and neutrons, and the behavior of the particles is still governed by the Schroedinger equation; but the forces, masses and charges, and Planck's constant, have different values, generated by some cosmic random number generator?,,, The fundamental equation of chemistry appears to itself be fine-tuned. http://www.evolutionnews.org/2015/01/the_fundamental_1092661.html
Job 38:4-12 4 Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding. 5 Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it? 6 Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof; 7 When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy? 8 Or who shut up the sea with doors, when it brake forth, as if it had issued out of the womb? 9 When I made the cloud the garment thereof, and thick darkness a swaddlingband for it, 10 And brake up for it my decreed place, and set bars and doors, 11 And said, Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further: and here shall thy proud waves be stayed? 12 Hast thou commanded the morning since thy days; and caused the dayspring to know his place (?);

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