comment + criticism welcome
Copyright © 2009 Ray Dickenson
Warring ideas about `reality' - such as materialism vs. idealism, absolute vs. relative, particle vs. wave.
Each seem to be `hard and fast' positions - just like opposite sides in a war.
And it doesn't stop there, - reductionism vs. holism, walled vs. open, property vs. commons, and their (logical?) extensions, slavery vs. liberty.
Examine them and you'll find distinct types of thinkers, people, on each of the opposing sides - in some cases two individuals have starred in several of these `wars' at the same time.
For example, in the absolutist vs. relativist dispute, Newton was also a believer in `particles', and a materialist. ref-01 He had to choose absolutism, to make his `Laws of Motion' look sensible.
While Leibniz, ref-02 arguably a deeper thinker, was a relativist and `idealist'.
Then Young, another versatile and deep thinker, proved that the wave theory ref-03 apparently won out over particles - but that argument wasn't over.
Let's be a bit daring - let's speculate that they're all the same war, only being fought on different battle-fields. In which dispute can we expect to find more facts than hot air?
Right - in the last few decades we've gotten a huge amount of evidence on the particle versus waves debate in physics.
Yet, all that evidence got us nowhere, despite the strong positions taken - Einstein got a Nobel prize for his `particle-istic' photo-electric effect, and Richard Feynmen went further, writing emphatically that "light comes in particles, not waves, particles" - in `QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter'.
[ Although Feynman said (in `QED') "You see, my students don't understand it either. That is because I don't understand it. Nobody does", and he also wrote "One does not, by knowing all the physical laws as we know them today, immediately obtain an understanding of anything much" - in `The Character of Physical Law'. ]
So, despite all `opinion', there is no agreement over particles vs. waves. No one has `won' that war. Why? Haven't we gotten closer to a view of `reality'?
Nope - if anything the view is even more confusing - our scientists are getting plenty of `information' but they can't make any sense of it.
In fact the most `successful' new area of science - quantum - only works because they use a mathematical cheating called `re-normalization'.
That just allows them to ignore something in quantum results which tells us that there is a huge unknown force in the universe. I.e. - Its power and `instantaneous' velocities are hinted at, and represented, by the `impossible infinities' in most results.
Human science can't understand or deal with that - so, for the time being, they ignore it. ref-04
Should we care about that?
Well, one thing we should know - we can't trust `opinion' or what people `want'. John D Barrow was recently forced to conclude, about all our present `theories' - "Eventually, they
will all be shown to be wrong".
But uselessly, in the past people have voted to control nature, and even mathematics (they voted to make `pi' an easier number, like 3 - but `pi' didn't care!).
So we need to care! In fact it's beginning to look like the war - maybe each and all of those wars - is simply a big mistake. Due to the fact that an anthropoid ape (us) is trying to understand the universe while using an ape's brain.
Light cannot be a wave, nor can it be a particle. Because a wave can't behave like a particle, and a particle can't behave like a wave. Finito.
But photons (light) and electrons (matter) can do both. ref-05
So photons - and by extension matter - are not waves or particles - they are something else. And, this is the scary bit, they are something we have no words for, not even a hazy concept.
The ape brain has reached its limit (maybe).
That ape (us) has always used the illusions of physicality (which, perhaps fatally misleading us, are always ref-06 communicated to our brains by photons ref-07) to convince itself that it is either standing in a valley (materialist) or on a mountain-top (idealist).
Whereas the truth could be very different. We now know that photons aren't what we thought - and neither is matter.
Our real universe, and even our surroundings, might be such that an ape can't yet imagine, or even tolerate - as the phrase `being all at sea' shows us.
[Because we apes still naturally tend to fear the wide, deep waters. ref-08]
"Everything we sense is an illusion to a degree"
"there are many reasons to assume an observed world differs from the world as it is"
"There could be other classical worlds completely different from ours"