Wednesday, July 15, 2009

If scientists can create universes, why not money?

Strangely, those who claim that modern quantum cosmology enables one, in theory at least, to create universes literally out of nothing, have not so far come up with the creation of gold bullion out of nothing, and not even with the creation of a fifty dollar bill. Imagine what will happen if stockbrokers (and Bin Laden) learn quantum cosmology. I am afraid, utterly phony claims dressed up in science that are tolerated in the finest academic ambience, would not be tolerated by the FBI and rightly so.

Behind all this extravagating in the name of science there lies a miserable philosophy, which is a mixture of pragmatism and sensationism. Its standard name is the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics. Years ago I had a heated argument with one of its chief stalwarts, a Nobel laureate, now dead, about that interpretation. The argument was heated because he, like myself, was Hungarian by birth, but in the end I was able to make him admit that on the basis of that interpretation he could say only that he had sensations, separate from objects. Then I conjured up to him a farcical aspect of his admission: "Suppose a thief came and stole the wallet from your pocket. On finding this you would go to the police and tell them" - at this point he interrupted me: "Yes, I will tell them that my wallet was stolen." "No," I replied, "on the basis of the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics you are entitled merely to tell the police: 'I have the sensation of my wallet having been stolen'." He fell speechless, which did not often happen.

At this point I could have been blunt. I could have told him that the police would then take him to the nearest psychiatric ward. But of course, I did not. I had no heart to tell him even what is much less offensive, though very true, that the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics lands one in sheer solipsism. It is the religion of those who cannot see beyond their noses even when they have a Nobel Prize dangling from a golden chain around their necks. Solipsists cannot even tell others that they do exist, that they are. The only way to dismiss them is to do as Chesterton did when after a lecture given at Oxford University he was confronted with questions from the floor. One question was a plain statement from a solipsist, who insisted that solipsism was the only good philosophy. Chesterton, a thoroughbred realist, shot back: "Cherish it."

I only wish that we Catholics would really cherish the word is even though science cannot say anything about it. Unless we cherish that word is we shall not see beyond our very noses in the matter of science and religion. What we still have to realize is that our confusion lies not so much with science as with philosophies grafted by scientists onto their science. Almost all those philosophies witness to second-rate amateurism in philosophy. Amateurism can hit philosophers as well, be they Christians.
[SLJ "What God Has Separated... Reflections on Science and Religion" in A Late Awakening and Other Essays 69-70]

1 comment:

Caryl said...

Hello Dr. Thursday - a nice site and a worthy project, to commemorate Drs. Duhem and Jaki.
How is that the Copenhagen interpretation is more solipsistic than Cartesianism? Wolfgang Smith describes the Cartesian "bifurcationist" hypothesis in his Wisdom of Ancient Cosmology, and says that actually the new quantum physics cannot tolerate it.See my notes here:
I would be interested to hear your response. Best regards.