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Physics is now becoming metaphysical

  1. Sep 13, 2012 #1
    As we delve deeper and deeper into the basis of physical reality, we are increasingly encountering our own selves in what we seek to know.

    One such example would be the Anthropic Principle. It arose out of trying to answer the question 'Why is the Universe the way it is?' While there may well be a 'physical' explanation to it, many physicists are now veering toward what has come to be known as the Anthropic Principle, which takes the position that the Universe is the way it is because we are in it to observe it to be the way it is. If we did not exist, if we were not an outcome of the Universe, it may well have been very different. Some physicist balk at the Anthropic Principle, considering it a circular argument, but the fact remains that the need to understand the Universe is 'our problem' - so the Anthropic Principle is just another way of recognizing that reality.

    We may extend the Anthropic Principle to even how nature manifests itself. Consider the phenomenon of quantum entanglement: a pair of particles exist in dual mode of manifestation, say A-B. By selecting in which mode, say A, we wish to observe one of the particles, we compel nature to manifest the other particle in B mode. In other words, natural reality is how we want it to be. We are also nature, with a mind, that can choose how to reveal nature.

    Finally, to resolve many of the present mysteries in cosmology, say dark energy or dark matter, may require an extension of the Anthropic Principle. The approach of physical explanation to physical phenomena may no longer work. We may have to supply solutions that are not so much physical but philosophical. In other words, they would be 'our' explanations of what the physical phenomenon is about. Of course they would hopefully be experimentally verifiable, but we should also be prepared for the eventuality that it may not be completely possible - ultimately we may just have to trust 'our truth'.
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 13, 2012 #2


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    To me the question is, are we trying to relate existence in terms of ourselves or in terms of all existing potential and already realizable phenomena that extends far beyond our own bodies and our own minds.

    People laugh now but a short while ago, people believed that they were at the centre of the universe (remember that theory anyone)? Hell they even killed people that asked questions in those days!

    To me, the biggest shock that comes to any person is when they realize how relatively unimportant they are when it comes to considering everything out there that we have the capacity to observe if only we paid a little attention.

    I'm not saying that we are not without our own purposes both individually and collectively as a species (and also with respect to everything else), but quite frankly when you consider the absolute spectrum of what is out there: the elements, the biology of cells and micro-organisms, the birds, the plants, the fish, and everything even on our own little planet, not to mention that the earth is nothing when it comes to discussing things like a galaxy, then you start to realize that we are really just as relative as everything else: it's like comparing a blood cell to the surface of the planet.

    This upsets a lot of people because a lot of people want to feel like they are somehow superior, but I don't really think so and this is something that changes how people think.

    We want to feel superior: after all we have computers and atom bombs. But slowly enough we find out that beings like dolphins have rather extensive language abilities and communication abilities and one of our so called key advantages is that our developed brains allowed for so called superior linguistic attributes which allowed higher cognitive function and the ability to analyze which is good when its coupled with a high creative capacity.

    Just like it was back in the days of the earth being at the centre of the universe, people try and relate back to themselves and this is always going to skew the interpretation towards something that yields a more limited understanding.

    Now you ask about truth and its always this obsession to find some truth, or better yet some "ultimate truth", something again that a handful of humans are obsessed with for various reasons.

    But what is truth? Truth is meant to be something that is invariant, that does not change, that is fixed. It also is something that everybody has to agree on and is universal.

    Now how the hell can you look to seek truth when people are trying to relate and interpret what they observe to themselves? You can never find truth that way because the results will never ever be something that everyone agrees on since it has already been filtered down long before it has had a chance to be thoroughly examined.

    Finally I'll leave you with something to think about: is every potential outcome going to realizable and experimentally observed in a finite amount of time? If this so called truth relies on the ability to continually rectify so called truths with experimental verification when this can not happen, then isn't the idea of truth through only experimental verification (I said only not in combination with something else) a little pointless if you want this so called truth?

    Seeing the world with ourselves as merely just as important as anything else allows us to see things that we would never ever see if we tried to relate everything back to ourselves, our own existence and our own purpose and it clouds every form of interpretation that we have.
  4. Sep 13, 2012 #3
    I don't think you should say physics is becoming metaphysical. Physics is very specific in what it is used for and what it can explain. It should be completely objective. Any interpretation we make of it could be metaphysical, but that doesn't mean physics is becoming metaphysical.
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2012
  5. Sep 13, 2012 #4
    It's not easy to talk about metaphysics or its relationship to physics because no one seems to know exactly what metaphysics is.

    Last edited: Sep 13, 2012
  6. Sep 14, 2012 #5
    Let's put it this way: physics is meeting metaphysics. Physicists are now writing books like "A Universe from Nothing', and nothing means really nothing, not quantum vacuum, but nothing at all. Metaphysics of course deals with 'being' and 'nothingness' routinely. While the bulk of physics and metaphysics concern different things and methodologies, there are also points of confluence, at least in the general concepts, like 'time', 'substance', etc.

    What I am really trying to get at is the responsibility and aloneness of our intellectual efforts. Even the 'scientific method' is not something readymade. All great discoveries come about because at some point the discoverer 'invented reality', which explained natural reality. And the more 'invented' the explanation, the more difficult it is to convince its validity. This invented reality may even involve breaking the rules of previous invented reality. For example, the 'renormalization' method in quantum mechanics involved breaking the rules of basic calculus, to get rid of infinities; if physicists remained loyal to existing mathematical rules, there would be no progress in quantum mechanics and unification theories.
    At some point we just have to do what we got to do, know what we know. Recall Einstein's retort when asked what if general relativity were to be wrong: "Then I would feel sorry for the dear Lord; the theory is correct". But then again, one's very individuality means one will be right about some things and wrong about others. When Einstein insisted "God does not play dice', Neils Bohr's testy response was: "Stop telling God what to do!"

    Scientific progress is a bit like democracy and free speech. The more people participate and debate, the better it is for everyone - and for the truth.
  7. Sep 14, 2012 #6


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    I agree with the debate, and to facilitate a good fair even debate you need to work in a language that everybody can agree on (which so far is mathematics) and something where everybody has transparent access to results, experimental configuration and other observations.

    Debate is a great thing when it's based on a genuine interest to figure something out as opposed to a pissing contest between the two parties (which is what a lot of debates end up being).

    When it becomes a pissing contest then what happens is people start targeting the emotional responses and then it basically becomes the scenario that we are familiar with in primary school (you know the things we did to hold on to our "point").

    But it's important to realize this emotional triggering because experienced "persuaders" know about it and exploit whenever possible. It's amazing to see how emotion is used to convince people of things that are so wrong it's not funny.

    Using laughter, charisma, and all the superficial crap to convince someone has gone on for as long as debates and arguments have begun though, and people naturally like to be around those that have the energy, charisma, humour, and all the other stuff that can turn crap into gold, at least superficially.

    What I think will happen is that scientists will move towards tools that allow more transparency and also ways to not only collect data that everyone can agree on, but more importantly store data and give retrieval methods that everyone can agree on.

    I see things like recording data whether it be audio, video, or even raw signals from some kind of device in a way that is done in a protocol that is trust-worthy and has some resistance to "personal tampering". An example might be that the devices themselves output the data in some format that leaves a water-mark that is hard to forge and have measures much like we see on currency (i.e. digital watermarks and other security features).

    When you get things like that, it means that lots more people will be willing to look at anyone's data as if it were their own if the watermarking processes are sound and honest and that will really create a revolution in science, because it helps move out all the un-necessary bickering, slandering, and all that aside if people agree on the data being real (and everything that follows) so that they can focus on a mature debate instead of resorting automatically to "crack-pot" when the data suggest otherwise and the entire process and data itself was been watermarked in a standard that is hard to fake.

    It's going to be interesting!
  8. Sep 14, 2012 #7
    optics, condensed matter physics, plasma physics and biophysics are also physics.

    can you tell me whats metaphysical about those?
  9. Sep 15, 2012 #8
    In physics people often remark about how counter intuitive something is. If you consider optics, which belongs with quantum mechanics, one may recall what Richard Feynman had to say about QR: "You think you understand quantum mechanics ?… then you don’t understand Quantum Mechanics!" Or this gem: "Quantum objects are crazy, but at least they are all crazy in the same way!"

    So one may say that the metaphysicality is in how we perceive physics, rather than the physics itself.
  10. Sep 15, 2012 #9
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