Saturday, July 9, 2011

"Do I read you correctly to say that we don't understand quantum mechanics? What exactly are you trying to say?"

In my post, Is the brain a computer?, I said:

We need a deeper understanding of nature to understand the mind. As is obvious in quantum mechanics and in the study of the mind, the materialist paradigm is failed.

Commentor Oleg:

Do I read you correctly to say that we don't understand quantum mechanics? What exactly are you trying to say?
Good chance to elaborate!

The materialist paradigm is the philosophical theory that all that exists is matter in motion.  There are plenty of variants of materialism, but that definition fits what most materialists believe pretty well.  Materialism excludes such things as God,  the supernatural,  material causation by an immaterial entity, etc.

The classical understanding of nature was Aristotelian: Aristotle defined nature as 'that which changes', and he described four causes of change:

Material cause: the matter something is made of.

Formal cause: the intelligible principle in a thing. Loosely, it's intelligible structure.

Efficient cause: the agent cause that makes the change happen.

Formal cause: the directionality of the change. Corresponds to teleology.

The Four Causes were always understood in pairs: substances were explained by their material and formal cause, and final cause was the direction in which efficient cause acted.

Enlightenment scientists dispensed with Aristotle's four causes, for several reasons, none of them good.

Eventually modern materialists came to acknowledge only two causes: material and efficient, and their understanding of efficient causes was truncated. Materialist science is the view, colloquially speaking, that physics is colliding billiard balls. Matter in motion.

Materialists have always had the problem of explaining the laws of nature. That is, 'matter in motion' seems to move in accordance with certain laws. But the laws themselves aren't matter in motion. So whence the laws, if materialism is true?

Most materialists confront this issue by:

1) Ad hoc: 'oh, the laws exist too.'

2) There are no 'laws', just regularity, which we misinterpret as laws.

3) There isn't even regularity. Our minds make the world appear regular so we can make sense of it.

Obviously 'colliding billiard balls' doesn't explain the mind. Aristotelian metaphysics explained the mind naturally. Aristotle 1, materialists 0.

A similarly catastrophic problem for materialism has arisen with quantum mechanics.

Materialists (most of us are materialists, explicit or implicit) see quantum mechanics as 'strange' or even incredible. Matter pops into existence out of nothing,  things exist in discrete states of  possibility until observed, causation seems to happen retrograde as well as anterograde (quantum entanglement and the EPR paradox).

Materialism-- billiard balls in motion-- has no traction on this. It didn't predict quantum mechanics, and can't explain it.

1) Matter pops into existence in a quantum field-- Casimir effect. Materialism has no explanation for the emergence of matter from non-matter.

2) Things exist in discrete states of possibility until observes. Materialism has no explanation for this, and did not predict it.

 3) Quantum entanglement and the EPR paradox. Materialism is silent. No explanation.

Aristotelian metaphysics predicted quantum mechanics, and explains it fairly well:

1) Matter pops into existence in a quantum field-- Casimir effect. The Aristotelian understanding of "matter" differs profoundly from the materialistic understanding. What actually exists in nature are substances. Substances are composites of prime matter and form. Prime matter doesn't exist independently of form. It is pure potentiality, and it confers specificity on a substance. It is what makes a substance 'this tree', etc, rather than 'trees in general'.  Form is the intelligible principle of a substance.

The emergence of a composite of prime matter (no independent existence) and form (intelligible principle) from a quantum field (intelligible principle) is perfectly consistent with Aristotelian metaphysics. Materialism has nothing to say or offer.

2) Things exist in discrete states of possibility until observed. Materialism has no explanation for this, and did not predict it. Heisenberg observed that quantum states of potentiality are really Aristotelian "potencies", which are reduced to reality (Aristotelian "acts") by observation. Predicted by Aristotle 2300 years ago. Materialists neither predicted it nor can explain it.

 3) Quantum entanglement and the EPR paradox.  Teleology is retrograde causation. The goal in the future is a cause of the past. The EPR paradox and quantum entanglement is no paradox at all in Aristotelian metaphysics. It's just one of many examples of final causation. It is inexplicable in materialism.

Materialism has always been a stupid ideology. Quantum mechanics and the mind have made it a dead ideology.


  1. Materialists are very good at one thing: painting themselves in the corner!

  2. I posted a long comment that disappeared into the quantum void.

    Bottom line: Mike should stay away from subjects he knows next to nothing about.

    Case in point: Casimir effect is not matter popping into existence. It is a force between two polished metallic plates. It comes from the energy of zero-point fluctuations of the electromagnetic field.

    Objects need not "exist in discrete states of possibility until observed." We can prepare quantum objects (e.g., nuclear spin) in so-called pure quantum states. Such states are completely deterministic, there is no uncertainty about them. We can check repeatedly that the object remains in that very state. An uncertainty arises when one attempts to measure a physical quantity incompatible with that state. Aristotle's ancient metaphysics sheds no light on the problem of quantum measurement. If it does, I would like to hear how.

    "Quantum entanglement and the EPR paradox. Teleology is retrograde causation. The goal in the future is a cause of the past." This is to vague to even be criticized. Maybe you should expound on it further. I will note, however, that there is no retrograde causation in quantum mechanics. The principle of causality (loosely speaking, the present does not affect the past) remains a cornerstone of physics. It survived the relativistic and quantum revolutions.