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I Are quantum interpretations just religions within science?

  1. Dec 22, 2015 #1
    I like science in part because I thought religion is irrelevant to science. Science is at its basis simply exploration married to intelligent analysis. When I read about quantum physics interpretations I hear about proponents (followers) of these different interpretations.

    What is religion other that belief in a story without any evidence. Some call this faith. It sure is not science. Quantum physics interpretations may be creative speculation about reality, but there should not be a proponents of any interpretations without evidence.
     
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  3. Dec 22, 2015 #2

    mfb

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    They are interpretations with equivalent predictions. It doesn't make much sense to believe in them. You can favor one (or more of them) over others, in the same way you can like blue more than red or vice versa, which has no influence on the physics behind blue and red light.
    There are some interpretation-like things which might lead to different predictions, but then they are different theories which can be tested.
     
  4. Dec 22, 2015 #3

    stevendaryl

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    I wish people would stop saying things like this. Using comparisons to religion as an insult is lazy and unenlightening.
     
  5. Dec 22, 2015 #4

    stevendaryl

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    The distinction between a "different theory" and a "different interpretation" is a little bit subtle. It's a different interpretation of the same theory if it makes exactly the same predictions. However, it's often the case that the predictions are only exactly the same under a certain set of assumptions, and if you relax those assumptions, it's possible for the predictions to be different. Another point is that even if two interpretations have exactly the same predictions, they might suggest different extensions. For example, the Lorentz Ether theory can be described in a way that makes its predictions exactly equivalent to SR. So in some sense, they are different interpretations of the same theory. However, LET has a preferred rest frame, and even though that rest frame is not detectable according to SR, it's possible that LET is some kind of continuum limit of a discrete theory with a preferred rest frame (some kind of lattice).
     
  6. Dec 22, 2015 #5

    stevendaryl

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    I would definitely say that interpretations are part of the "intelligent analysis" of a theory.
     
  7. Dec 22, 2015 #6

    Demystifier

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    It is not true that interpretations of quantum theory are not supported by any evidence. It is only that evidence is not strong enough to be accepted generally.

    The evidence in science is not black-or-white. It is not that you either have it or don't. Evidence has 50 shades of grey, and the same grey evidence may appear more "white" to some and more "black" to others. In science, almost nothing is 100% certain, but it doesn't make science a religion.
     
  8. Dec 22, 2015 #7

    bhobba

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    Actually many interpretations are simply an argument about the meaning of probability:
    http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/bayes.html

    Makes you wonder why some get so caught up in 'discussions' about it.

    Thanks
    Bill
     
  9. Dec 22, 2015 #8

    DrChinese

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    Interpretations of QM have uses. The hype around them doesn't.

    First, there is the possibility that one interpretation's elements can be built upon to extend existing theory. Experiments have been performed with this in mind: include or exclude Bohmian, Many Worlds, etc. As Demystifier and bhobba correctly say, most recent experiments are either not fully convincing to all, or are a matter of definitions.

    Second, some people find them useful for discussion purposes, even if they are not taken literally.
     
  10. Dec 22, 2015 #9

    kith

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    I think that interpretations are valuable. For example, the birth of the special theory of relativity was Einstein's reinterpretation of established results. Also, I don't think that you can sharply separate the physical content of a theory from its interpretation. Theories are shaped by the way its developers and users look at things. The interesting thing about QM is that there's no way of looking at things which isn't considered to be deficient by many people.
     
  11. Dec 22, 2015 #10
    I think you misunderstood what I was saying. I was not insulting either religion or science. I was saying that the various interpretations were speculations into the black box of what is actually happening during the "collapse" event. I have read different people push one interpretation over others. Everyone has different views on what is actually happening in the black box and no one has actually shown what happens in the black box. I felt from reading different comments especially about the many worlds interpretation that it was similar to arguing about religion. I am not a physicist nor am I lazy.

    I don't have a problem imagining that any of the interpretations might be true. I don't have a problem saying I don't know either.
     
  12. Dec 22, 2015 #11
    I want to say thank you to all that responded. The comments were very helpful with my understanding.of how interpretations are viewed.
     
  13. Dec 22, 2015 #12

    atyy

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    How can you tell you are not a brain in a vat? If you believe you are not, then that is according to you - religion.

    And yes that is also interpretation of quantum mechanics: http://arxiv.org/abs/1112.2034.
     
  14. Dec 23, 2015 #13

    Demystifier

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    I like to compare interpretations of QM with interpretations of illusions performed by a magician. How the rabbit is pulled out of hat? One interpretation is that the rabbit was somehow hidden in the hat all the time, another interpretation is that he was in the jacket of the magician, yet another interpretation is that he was waiting inside the table on which the hat was laying. There is even an interpretation that the rabbit did not exist before pulling from the hat. As long as I am only staying in the audience and watching the performance, I cannot know with certainty which answer is correct.

    Does it mean that all those interpretations are religions? Of course not! (Well, except perhaps the last one.)
     
  15. Dec 23, 2015 #14

    stevendaryl

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    The intuition-shattering revelations of relativity and QM in the last century has prompted people to make a lot of pronouncements about what science really is and is not. Many people say that science is strictly about predicting the outcomes of experiments, and that it is metaphysics, or philosophy, or religion, or something else other than science to worry about what really is going on when nobody is around to observe it. I think that attitude is unfortunate. Whatever science "really is", what motivates scientists to do science is curiosity about the way the world works. If you declare that curiosity to be nonscientific, I think that that's damaging to science.

    In the particular case of QM, it seems empirically that there is a nugget of mystery that has resisted our best efforts to crack. So it might very well be a more productive use of our time and energy to just leave it as a mystery, and turn to more promising problems. That's fine to have that attitude, but I think it's wrong to say that further work on understanding QM is somehow contrary to the definition of science.
     
  16. Dec 23, 2015 #15
    I was not saying that at all. Re-read my post. I was saying speculating about things in a black box with out any information is fine. Advocating for a specific interpretation or belief about what is in the black box is not a scientific argument. From a scientific point of view speculating is fine and looking for, exploring ways to get information about what is in a black box is fine.

    I just found some of the comments of some advocates for specific interpretations I read sounded a little arrogant and unfounded.
     
  17. Dec 23, 2015 #16

    atyy

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    How do you even know there is anything in the black box? How do you even know the black box exists? If you are just a brain in a vat, the black box is just a figment of your imagination. Isn't believing in reality just religion?

    In fact, Demystifier gave a very good analogy in post #14. How do you know the rabbit existed at all before it was pulled out of the hat? Isn't believing in the reality of the rabbit before you see it just religion?

    The criticize your OP clearly: there you use the word "reality". Isn't a belief in reality just religion, without evidence?
     
  18. Dec 28, 2015 #17
    Part of physics is philosophy, of necessity. I enjoyed An Introduction to the Philosophy of Physics by Marc Lange, for raising good questions, and pointing out how physicists are doing some philosophy whether they want to or not. When building a theory, you have to choose an ontology--declare, "these things exist, and these are the rules for how they behave." I had no problem learning general relativity, because it mapped to reality easily. I have never really learned quantum mechanics (no matter how many times I solve the Schrodinger Equation) because I can't grasp how to go back and forth between a physical description of the world and the math. Apparently some people can do it, or we wouldn't have a million engineering products of QM to play with, but I can't grasp it. For me, reality is not optional--that's the definition of reality. Saying, "this exists sometimes" might be workable if they could be clear when "sometimes" is, but it always looked like handwaving to me. I know it's not (computers, etc) but it sure does LOOK like the Emperor has no clothes. My failure to grasp how to work with QM is what drove me out of physics, and I'm far from alone in that. I need a picture, a model, something to hang my intuition on. I got into physics because I wanted to understand things, and I left physics because QM seems to be saying, "understanding is too hard. Give up and play with some nice toys." The day somebody comes up with a good interpretation of QM is the day I come back to physics.
     
  19. Dec 28, 2015 #18

    bhobba

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    Then be mystified no longer. Great progress has been made in understanding the formalism:
    http://arxiv.org/pdf/quant-ph/0101012.pdf

    After that study the first three chapters of Ballentine. Schroedinger's equation etc follows beautifully and elegantly from symmetry. Once you understand it, it's really very beautiful.

    This is of course the formalism - what it means - thats another matter.

    Thanks
    Bill
     
  20. Dec 28, 2015 #19
    If you want to know what happens in this "black box", you are free to take cat out and insert yourself in.
    Current technology already makes this conundrum experimentally verifiable, but whatever result you get, you will keep for yourself.

    I have more doubts about things like string theories which are not verifiable experimentally now or in foreseable future.
    Probably *never*.
    All looks like a sort of mathematical wonkery.
     
  21. Dec 28, 2015 #20

    bhobba

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    Math is just a language. What it says is important. We know that pretty well these days for QM. What it means - that what's argued about. But since it in no way affects any predictions I am not that sure its worth worrying about. Philosophers spend a lot of time worrying about the meaning of math - as far as I can see it hasn't led anywhere and in some cases was actually counter-productive.

    Thanks
    Bill
     
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