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Quantum physicist David Bohm on why there cannot be a Theory of Everything

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David Bohm/Karol Langner (CC)

At Scientific American, John Horgan reprints his profile of  Bohm (1917-1992) shortly before his death, in which Bohm explains his view:

Although he tried to make the world more sensible with his pilot-wave model, he also argued that complete clarity is impossible. He reached this conclusion after seeing an experiment on television, in which a drop of ink was squeezed onto a cylinder of glycerine. When the cylinder was rotated, the ink diffused through the glycerine in an apparently irreversible fashion. Its order seemed to have disintegrated. But when the direction of rotation was reversed, the ink gathered into a drop again.

He was consistent:

Bohm rejected the claim of physicists such as Hawking and Weinberg that physics can achieve a final “theory of everything” that explains the world. Science is an infinite, “inexhaustible process,” he said. “The form of knowledge is to have at any moment something essential, and the appearance can be explained. But then when we look deeper at these essential things they turn out to have some feature of appearances. We’re not ever going to get a final essence which isn’t also the appearance of something.” More.

As his interview with Horgan shows, he did not even think that one can reduce everything to mathematics. He believed in an “implicate order” but doubted that it could be captured by the methods of science alone. It would require a unification of art and science.

He might be right. Much seems stalled just now.

See also: Can there really be a Theory of Everything? Wouldn’t it really be a theology of everything?

How string theory can be a theory of everything

Post-modern physics: String theory gets over the need for evidence

Dusting off a 1970s Theory of Everything could be bad news for supersymmetry

Can a theory of consciousness help us build a theory of everything?

and

Scientific American Science writer John Horgan still doubts cosmic inflation …

10 Replies to “Quantum physicist David Bohm on why there cannot be a Theory of Everything

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    Bohm’s pilot wave theory has been found to be, to put it mildly, inadequate:

    A Critique of Bohmian Mechanics (Pilot Wave theory) – (2018) video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pn2hoU4jaQQ

    In regards to Bohm’s work, Bohr quipped,,,

    “When Bohm expressed “hope” that violations of QM (Quantum Mechanics) would be found later and hidden variables supported, Bohr responded that the strange sentence is almost isomorphic to “I hope that 2×2=5 will be proven at some point which will have a good effect on our finances.”
    https://motls.blogspot.com/2015/12/how-term-copenhagen-interpretation-got.html

    Moreover, pilot-wave theory requires that “hidden variables” exist. Yet, “multiple mathematical theorems have all but proven that hidden variables between particles cannot explain away the instantaneous ‘spooky action at a distance’ that is seen in quantum mechanics.”

    The One Theory of Quantum Mechanics That Actually Kind of Makes Sense – But most physicists don’t buy it. – Dec 1, 2016
    Excerpt: pilot-wave theory requires that “hidden variables” exist,,,
    But despite Einstein’s reservations, multiple mathematical theorems have all but proven that hidden variables cannot explain away all of the bizarre behaviors seen in quantum mechanics. The most recent and famous being John Stewart Bell’s theorem, which concludes that, “No physical theory of local hidden variables can ever reproduce all of the predictions of quantum mechanics.”
    http://www.popularmechanics.co.....cs-theory/

    Besides being mathematically preposterous, the conjecture of hidden variables is now also experimentally falsified. Specifically, in direct contradiction to Bohm’s base assumption within pilot wave theory, it has now also been experimentally confirmed that “entangled objects do not cause each other to behave the way they do.”

    Quantum correlations do not imply instant causation – August 12, 2016
    Excerpt: A research team led by a Heriot-Watt scientist has shown that the universe is even weirder than had previously been thought.
    In 2015 the universe was officially proven to be weird. After many decades of research, a series of experiments showed that distant, entangled objects can seemingly interact with each other through what Albert Einstein famously dismissed as “Spooky action at a distance”.
    A new experiment by an international team led by Heriot-Watt’s Dr Alessandro Fedrizzi has now found that the universe is even weirder than that: entangled objects do not cause each other to behave the way they do.
    http://phys.org/news/2016-08-q.....ation.html

    As the following article states, “Our result gives weight to the idea that quantum correlations somehow arise from outside spacetime, in the sense that no story in space and time can describe them,”

    Looking beyond space and time to cope with quantum theory – 29 October 2012
    Excerpt: “Our result gives weight to the idea that quantum correlations somehow arise from outside spacetime, in the sense that no story in space and time can describe them,”
    http://www.quantumlah.org/high.....uences.php

    Here are a few more notes along this line,

    “hidden variables don’t exist. If you have proved them come back with PROOF and a Nobel Prize.
    John Bell theorized that maybe the particles can signal faster than the speed of light. This is what he advocated in his interview in “The Ghost in the Atom.” But the violation of Leggett’s inequality in 2007 takes away that possibility and rules out all non-local hidden variables. Observation instantly defines what properties a particle has and if you assume they had properties before we measured them, then you need evidence, because right now there is none which is why realism is dead, and materialism dies with it.
    How does the particle know what we are going to pick so it can conform to that?”
    per Jimfit
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-548632

    Quantum physics says goodbye to reality – Apr 20, 2007
    Excerpt: Many realizations of the thought experiment have indeed verified the violation of Bell’s inequality. These have ruled out all hidden-variables theories based on joint assumptions of realism, meaning that reality exists when we are not observing it; and locality, meaning that separated events cannot influence one another instantaneously.
    http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/news/27640

    As to this particular ‘artistic’ sentiment of Bohm’s

    Bohm hoped scientists would eventually move beyond mechanistic and even mathematical paradigms. “We have an assumption now that’s getting stronger and stronger that mathematics is the only way to deal with reality,” Bohm said. “Because it’s worked so well for a while, we’ve assumed that it has to be that way.”
    Someday, science and art will merge, Bohm predicted. “This division of art and science is temporary,” he observed. “It didn’t exist in the past, and there’s no reason why it should go on in the future.”

    Ironically, Bohm, (although he seemingly detested a ‘mechanistic’ view of reality in which art, and particularly the artist himself, was left on the cutting room floor), Bohm, with his pilot wave theory was himself fighting against letting the ‘artist’ back into the picture of science. To be specific, Bohm, with his deterministic pilot wave theory, was fighting against the instrumentalist approach of quantum mechanics in which the free will of humans directly contradicts the deterministic view of reality that Bohm himself seemingly detested.

    As Steven Weinberg states in the following article, (in the instrumentalist of quantum mechanics) humans are brought into the laws of nature at the most fundamental level.,,, the instrumentalist approach (in quantum mechanics) 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 quantum mechanics these probabilities do not exist until people choose what to measure,,, Unlike the case of classical physics, a choice must be made,,,

    The Trouble with Quantum Mechanics – Steven Weinberg – January 19, 2017
    Excerpt: 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,,,
    http://www.nybooks.com/article.....mechanics/

    And as leading experimental physicist Anton Zeilinger states in the following video, what we perceive as reality now depends on our earlier decision what to measure. Which is a very, very, deep message about the nature of reality and our part in the whole universe. We are not just passive observers.”

    “The Kochen-Speckter Theorem talks about properties of one system only. So we know that we cannot assume – to put it precisely, we know that it is wrong to assume that the features of a system, which we observe in a measurement exist prior to measurement. Not always. I mean in a certain cases. So in a sense, what we perceive as reality now depends on our earlier decision what to measure. Which is a very, very, deep message about the nature of reality and our part in the whole universe. We are not just passive observers.”
    Anton Zeilinger –
    Quantum Physics Debunks Materialism – video (7:17 minute mark)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=4C5pq7W5yRM#t=437

    Thus, Bohm’s preferred view of art and science someday ‘merging’ into a ‘artistic spirit’ was a view of reality that he actually, apparently unwittingly, was fighting against with his, now falsified, deterministic pilot wave theory.

  2. 2
    bornagain77 says:

    Of related interest:

    Albert Einstein vs. Quantum Mechanics and His Own Mind – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vxFFtZ301j4

  3. 3
    Mung says:

    Catholic physicist Stanley L. Jaki says a theory of everything is possible.

  4. 4
    Nonlin.org says:

    Who cares? This is not even philosophy, it’s feelings. Do the work, show results, demonstrate and quit yapping senselessly.

  5. 5
    jdk says:

    Shut up and calculate was the mantra about QM for a long time. Efforts to understand what it means about reality are not worth the effort. Not everyone believed that was the proper perspective, though.

  6. 6
    Nonlin.org says:

    jdk,

    You misunderstand. Read again.

  7. 7
    jdk says:

    Read what again? And what do I misunderstand??? I was just making a statement about how there is a disagreement among physicists, especially 50 years or so ago, that trying to interpret QM was not worthwhile: the calculations worked and that was sufficient was the attitude.

  8. 8
    bornagain77 says:

    At 3 mung states:

    Catholic physicist Stanley L. Jaki says a theory of everything is possible.

    I don’t know what particular quote, or line of thought, that mung is referring to, but I do know that, in regards to Godel’s incompleteness theorem, Jaki stated this:

    “Clearly then no scientific cosmology, which of necessity must be highly mathematical, can have its proof of consistency within itself as far as mathematics go. In absence of such consistency, all mathematical models, all theories of elementary particles, including the theory of quarks and gluons…fall inherently short of being that theory which shows in virtue of its a priori truth that the world can only be what it is and nothing else. This is true even if the theory happened to account for perfect accuracy for all phenomena of the physical world known at a particular time.”
    Stanley Jaki – Cosmos and Creator – 1980, pg. 49

    Godel’s incompleteness can be stated simply as such:

    “Gödel’s incompleteness theorem (1931), proves that there are limits to what can be ascertained by mathematics. Kurt Gödel, halted the achievement of a unifying all-encompassing theory of everything in his theorem that: “Anything you can draw a circle around cannot explain itself without referring to something outside the circle—something you have to assume but cannot prove”.”
    Cf., Stephen Hawking & Leonard Miodinow, The Grand Design (2010) @ 15-6

    Bottom line, due to Godel, even if a single overarching mathematical theory happened to describe everything, we still would find it necessary to postulate God for why that particular equation, out of an infinity of other possible mathematical descriptions, described the universe:

    THE GOD OF THE MATHEMATICIANS – DAVID P. GOLDMAN – August 2010
    Excerpt: we cannot construct an ontology that makes God dispensable. Secularists can dismiss this as a mere exercise within predefined rules of the game of mathematical logic, but that is sour grapes, for it was the secular side that hoped to substitute logic for God in the first place. Gödel’s critique of the continuum hypothesis has the same implication as his incompleteness theorems: Mathematics never will create the sort of closed system that sorts reality into neat boxes.
    http://www.firstthings.com/art.....ematicians

    BRUCE GORDON: Hawking’s irrational arguments – October 2010
    Excerpt: ,,,The physical universe is causally incomplete and therefore neither self-originating nor self-sustaining. The world of space, time, matter and energy is dependent on a reality that transcends space, time, matter and energy.
    This transcendent reality cannot merely be a Platonic realm of mathematical descriptions, for such things are causally inert abstract entities that do not affect the material world,,,
    Rather, the transcendent reality on which our universe depends must be something that can exhibit agency – a mind that can choose among the infinite variety of mathematical descriptions and bring into existence a reality that corresponds to a consistent subset of them. This is what “breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe.” Anything else invokes random miracles as an explanatory principle and spells the end of scientific rationality.
    http://www.washingtontimes.com.....arguments/

    Here are a few more thoughts on what the true ‘theory of everything’ actually turns out to be.

    Gödel, Infinity, and Jesus Christ as the Theory of Everything
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x1Jw5Y686jY

    Quantum Mechanics, Special Relativity, General Relativity and Christianity
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h4QDy1Soolo

    Verse:

    Colossians 1
    15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

  9. 9
    Mung says:

    For bornagain77:

    “Godel’s theorem does not mean that physicists cannot come up with a theory of everything or TOE in short.”

    A Late Awakening to Gödel in Physics (pdf)

  10. 10
    bornagain77 says:

    mung, there is the same huge caveat for a “TOE” in your referenced paper, which you did not make explicitly clear, that I mentioned in my quote,,,

    “Herein lies the ultimate bearing of Gödel’s theorem on physics. It does not mean at all the end of physics. It means only the death knell on endeavours that aim at a final theory according to which the physical world is what it is and cannot be anything else.”
    – Jaki – pg 11

    Of supplemental note: Jaki, in the following video,

    Stanley L. Jaki: “The Mind and Its Now”
    https://vimeo.com/10588094

    ,,, seems to agree with Einstein when Einstein stated that,,

    “The experience of ‘the now’ cannot be turned into an object of physical measurement, it can never be a part of physics.”

    Yet, ‘the Now’, as philosophers term it, and contrary to what Einstein (and Jaki) thought possible for experimental physics, and according to advances in quantum mechanics, takes precedence over past events in time.

    Reality doesn’t exist until we measure it, (Delayed Choice) quantum experiment confirms –
    Mind = blown. – FIONA MACDONALD – 1 JUN 2015
    Excerpt: “It proves that measurement is everything. At the quantum level, reality does not exist if you are not looking at it,” lead researcher and physicist Andrew Truscott said in a press release.
    http://www.sciencealert.com/re.....t-confirms

    Moreover, due to these advances in quantum mechanics, it would now be much more appropriate, as far a quantum physics is concerned, to phrase Einstein’s answer to philosophers in this way:

    “It is impossible for the experience of ‘the now of the mind’ to ever be divorced from physical measurement, it will always be a part of physics.”

    Albert Einstein vs. Quantum Mechanics and His Own Mind – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vxFFtZ301j4

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