Tuesday 12 December 2017
Schroedinger's Cat and the Anthropic Principle
I will not try to explain the Schroedinger's Cat thought-experiment, or the Anthropic Principle, as associated with Fred Hoyle -
I just want to make a comment about the status of this kind of theoretical reflection in Physics - or in science generally. (Another related example would be 'the collapse of the wave function' when something 'quantum' is observed.)
As a scientist I have always felt there was both something significant, and also something wrong, with this kind of reasoning. And this, I think, is the consequence of trying to deal with matters of metaphysical philosophy within the paradigm of science - where problems of this kind can be described, or sensed, but not solved.
Science developed as a subject, at least since Newton, by ignoring the observer - that is by assuming that all relevant (competent, properly-motivated) observers would observe in the same way such that the observer could simply be left out of consideration.
There is an element of covert fixing about this! In the sense that only a few people are 'allowed' to function inside science - and there is an extended process of education/ training/ socialization/ indoctrination which scientists must go-through before their observations (or opinions) count for anything within science.
Some/ many/ most people either cannot or will not get through this process - and are excluded from science - indeed, all active scientists know that the ability to do science (that is, to be an observer who observes like other scientists) is pretty rare; and most will have come across plenty of people who just cannot do it.
(In the past, this was known via the personal contacts of 'invisible colleges' of self-selected and self-regulating people working on particular areas and problems - but nowadays what calls-itself science is populated mostly by people who can't do it - neither can they interpret it nor use it. Thus science is overall and overwhelmingly a thing of the past.)
However this pragmatic solution is incoherent, and always was incoherent - as Goethe (among others) sensed and argued two hundred years ago. It is obvious, on consideration - which is seldom done - that the observer is always involved in any science, as well as the inferred-unobserved-phenomena. In sum, consciousness must exist before science can be done; and science also requires phenomena independent of consciousness - however, nothing can be known of phenomena without consciousness.
More exactly, scientific knowledge involves, not either, nor or, but both phenomena and an observer. Furthermore, any real knowledge must be the same for all observers. So that-which-observes needs to be common-between scientist, and it must observe validly, if any science can be true. A Fred Hoyle commented 'It makes sense to suppose that a bit of God is operating in all of us... it is almost as if God doesn't know what is going on in the universe [and that human intervention] is the way that records are kept'.
In other words, Physics theoretical reflection like Schroedinger's cat and the Anthropic principle are partial and distorted formulations which are properly dealt-with in the philosophy of Rudolf Steiner and Owen Barfield - and indeed this seems to have been well understood by Barfield and his friend David Bohm.
The quantum aspect is just a red herring - it merely highlights the problem of not being able to know exactly, not being able to predict exactly, not-knowing unless we 'observe'.
In sum, these are problems that can be sensed from within science - in terms of theoretical incoherences; and problems of replication; and problems of inability to conceptualise a scientific method leading to anything more than expedient-but-not-true models, imperfectly communicated in ways whose imperfections can never be pinned-down...