Brent Meeker wrote:
> Colin Hales wrote:
>> Hi,
>> When I read quantum mechanics and listen to those invested in the many 
>> places the mathematics leads, What strikes me is the extent to which the 
>> starting point is mathematics. That is, the entire discussion is couched 
>> as if the mathematics is defining what there is, rather than a mere 
>> describing what is there. I can see that the form of the mathematics 
>> projects a multitude of possibilities. But those invested in the  
>> business seem to operate under the assumption - an extra belief  - about 
>> the relationship of the mathematics to reality. It imbues the 
>> discussion. At least that is how it appears to me. Consider the 
>> pragmatics of it. I, scientist X,  am in a position of adopting 2 
>> possible mindsets:
>> Position 1
>> 1a) The mathematics of quantum mechanics is very accurately predictive 
>> of observed phenomena
>> 1b) Reality literally IS the mathematics of quantum mechanics (and by 
>> extension all the multitudinous alternative realities actually exist). 
>> Therefor to discuss mathematical constructs is to speak literally of 
>> reality. My ability to mentally manipulate mathematics therefore makes 
>> me a powerful lord of reality and puts me in a position of great 
>> authority and clarity.
> I don't know many physicist who takes this position. I guess Max Tegmark 
> would 
> be one.  But most physicists seem to take the math as descriptive.  It is 
> more 
> often mathematicians who are Platonists; not I think because of ego, but 
> because 
> mathematics seems to be "discovered" rather than "invented".
I know that most physicists would, when asked, likely deny that their 
mathematics has been taken as real. It's more that their behaviour is 
'as if' they have, because  position2 has not been adopted and there .
>> Position 2
>> 2a) The mathematics of quantum mechanics is very accurately predictive 
>> of observed phenomena
>> 2b) Reality is not the mathematics of (a). Reality is constructed of 
>> something that merely appears/behaves quantum-mechanically to an 
>> observer made of whatever it is, within a universe made of it. The 
>> mathematics of this "something" is not the mathematics of kind (a).
> What about the mathematics is as complete a description as we have of 
> whatever 
> underlying reality there may be.  So we might as well, provisionally, 
> identify 
> it with the real.
> Brent

It's not complete and it has 1 chronic abject failure: to explain 
scientists (scientific observation). The position 1a 'laws of nature' 
presuppose the scientist and scientific observation in the sense that 
they merely 'organise appearances' in a scientist - the scientist is 
built into the laws and the explanation as to why there are any 
'appearances' at all (as delivered in brain material) goes 
unexplained... thrown away in the act of objectivity.

If there's a perfectly servicable alternative (position 2), and a 
chromic problem in cognitive science, the more reasonable (in terms of 
doubt management) position 2 might be thought to be deserving more 

Hmmm. Just in case there's a misunderstanding of position 2, here's 
their contrast rather more pointedly:

Position 1
1a There's a mathematics which describes how the natural world behaves 
when we look.
1b Reality is literally made of the mathematics 1a. (I act as if this 
were the case)

Position 2
1a There's a mathematics which describes how the natural world behaves 
when we look.
1b There's a *separate* mathematics of an underlying reality which 
operates to produce an observer who sees the reality behaving as per 1a 
1c There's the actual underlying reality, which is doubted (not claimed) 
to 'be' 1b or 1a.

Position 2 is justified because when you simulate 2b it on a computer 
you can see, operating inside it, what constitutes the observation 
system of the scientist) ... it produces a scientist with a scientific 
observation system. That observation system reveals the natural world to 
be behaving 'as-if' math 1a was driving it, when in reality it is not. 
Thus the chronic problem is of position 1 behaviour is solved. Instead 
of "many" extra worlds... you only need 1. ... all the while MWI remains 
just as predictive.

I understand your position on the matter, but I wonder as to the 
psychology of it in general.

Let's posit position 2 as the real epistemic option for scientists 
inside a natural world. Lets say the 'hard problem' of explaining 
scientists is solved by position 2 work in the year 2050 when simulation 
can handle 40 orders of magnitude of detail....Let's say in 2075 a 
historian is characterising the mindset of 20th century physics. What 
they describe is an entire century of unjustified self-deception 
promulgated by a kind of systemic practical religious behaviour which is 
denied, by the physicists/mathematicians, in *omission*. That is, their 
tacit subscription to position 1 is affirmed by a failure to act 
according to position 2 when the explanatory failure of position 1 has 
been in place for over 2000 years, but "was well defined and broadcast 
widely in a cross-disciplinary sense, only in the last decade of the 
20th century".

MWI is an example of a position 1 belief system (tacitly held because 
position 2 is not even discussed). I am fairly sure that there's going 
to be a whole pile of "what were we thinking!??" exclamations in the 

I am also fairly sure that physics and mathematics are going to have to 
change the way people are recruited. Those whose mental dexterity is (a) 
confined to abstract symbol manipulation are going to have to be more 
balanced by (b) those who's multidimensional visualisation and other 
projection/imaginative skills, who might find abstract symbolic math a 
pain in the butt.. Neither is 'best', it's just that (a) seems to 
dominate for quite understandable reaons.... I am fairly sure that the 
education tends to weed out (b)-style thinkers.. That would be my 
'diagnosis' in this little hypothetical 2075 history.

food for thought.... I hope that position1 (eg MWI) thinkers (yes even 
tacitly!) have a think about what a position-2-future may write about 
you. It's a fascinating state of affairs.


Colin Hales


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