Philosophical Implications

People do not always like the idea of introducing any sort of philosophical debate to the ‘domain’ of science, possibly because it may be interpreted as a failure of science to provide adequate answers to questions we have about the world around us. However, some the ideas in quantum theory, as discussed so far, would appear to suggest that quantum theory does indeed have some unsettling implications that extend well beyond what might be described as the exclusive ‘domain’ of science. For it would seem that quantum theory seeks to replace the long-held notion of determinism, as established by Newtonian mechanics, with ideas based on probability and uncertainty. The nature of this paradigm shift in scientific thinking was also a matter of profound concern to many of the founders of quantum physics, possibly now best characterised in Einstein's famous quote:

"God does not play dice with the universe"
1

Clearly, this quote could possibly be described as more of a philosophical belief, but one that Einstein would try to defend for the rest of his life, even in the face of mounting scientific evidence. However, in many ways, it was also challenged by Niels Bohr on an equally philosophical level in the following quote:

"It is not the job of scientists to prescribe to God how He should run the world."

However, it is not the intention of the following discussions to pursue this line of philosophical debate, especially when overloaded with theological ambiguity, but rather to consider the philosophical implications in terms of the principles and methodology of science. In this context, we might reflect more on the implications of another Einstein quote:

"Concepts that have proven useful in ordering things can easily attain an authority over us such that we forget their worldly origin and take them as immutably truths. They are then rubber-stamped as a "sine-qua-non of thinking" and an "a priori given". Such errors often make the road of scientific progress impassable for a long time." 

Those who reject the imposition of philosophical logic into science, on the grounds that this type of logic cannot necessarily be verified, might also have to examine the increasing role of mathematical logic, which some might equally claim to be physically unverifiable, at least, in the timeframe when initially presented. So within this more ‘philosophical’ framework, the intention is to review some of the implications that appear to stem from quantum theory:

While the debate that surrounds these topics originated within the timeline of the ‘Pre-War Years’, it appears that some aspects of the debate still continues to this day. If this is the case, then possibly we need to consider whether this constituents a failure of science to explain the reality of quantum mechanics or a failure of science to understand the true reality of nature. Of course, we might also have to face up to the potential reality that we, as individuals, are simply incapable of understanding the complexity of what quantum theory is now presenting to us. However, according to Einstein, we might still pass the buck back to science:

"You do not really understand something unless
you can explain it to your grandmother."