Physics and Causation - Dr. Richard Healey

Some partial backups of posts from the past (Feb, 2004)

Physics and Causation - Dr. Richard Healey

Postby Dan Rowden » Tue Jun 05, 2007 10:14 am

In this edition we tackle the issue of causation and what it means both in a logical and an empirical sense, how it relates to the work being done in Quantum Physics and its implications in a broader, metaphysical context. The show also looks at modern cosmology, the origins of the Universe, the field of physics itself, and questions the arrogance of some of its purveyors. Hosts Kevin Solway and David Quinn also take a brief look at the Templeton Foundation, the prizes it awards and its underlying motives.

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Re: Physics and Causation - Dr. Richard Healey

Postby Carl G » Tue Jun 05, 2007 12:27 pm

I'll probably be berated for focusing on the seeming trivial, but I would have liked it better if host Kevin Solway would have started by introducing himself (he does not even identify himself at the show's sign-off), and if he would have welcomed his guest to the show, before plowing into the questions.
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Re: Physics and Causation - Dr. Richard Healey

Postby Kelly Jones » Sat Jun 09, 2007 9:59 pm

A transcript for this show is a logical necessity, at least if the Observable Multiverse is as determined by ignorance as I am.

Seriously, please explain the jargon and the big-names on the fly, fellas. Not every listener is an arrogant theoretical theophysicist millionaire

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Re: Physics and Causation - Dr. Richard Healey

Postby Mitchell Porter » Sun Jun 10, 2007 4:08 pm

I'll do a draft transcript if that would save some work. Also, I can verify that everything Healey said made sense to me (i.e. I knew what he was talking about), so if there's anything genuinely perplexing I can interpret.
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Re: Physics and Causation - Dr. Richard Healey

Postby Kelly Jones » Mon Jun 11, 2007 11:54 am

Mitchell, can you understand or explain why Healey doesn't see that "causality" (as defined by Healey interpreting whats-his-name) is a limited view of causality? Do you think his definition of causality is the reason why he thinks non-locality (of whatever) is proof of non-causality? And also why he thinks the singularity prior to the expansion of the multiverse can be caused by nothing at all ?

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Re: Physics and Causation - Dr. Richard Healey

Postby Mitchell Porter » Mon Jun 11, 2007 11:02 pm

Kelly Jones wrote:Mitchell, can you understand or explain why Healey doesn't see that "causality" (as defined by Healey interpreting whats-his-name) is a limited view of causality? Do you think his definition of causality is the reason why he thinks non-locality (of whatever) is proof of non-causality? And also why he thinks the singularity prior to the expansion of the multiverse can be caused by nothing at all ?


He does have that broader view - he calls it logical necessity. And as I recall, it's more that he's agnostic about the nature and universality of physical causation. So perhaps the question is, how does he come to even have room for doubt about physical determinism?

First, it's worth appreciating something of where the problems of nonlocality and the Big Bang come from. The problem of the Big Bang arises because, if you extrapolate the expanding universe backwards according to Einstein's equation for gravity (G = 8 pi T), the curvature of space and the density of matter rise to infinity at a time a little over 10 billion years ago. That equation, which is a deterministic formula for finite values of G and T, breaks down when they become infinite, and it's not so easy to change the equation without screwing up in the present. The problem of nonlocality is a little longer to explain, but it similarly poses dilemmas for anyone proposing to derive the ungrounded probabilities of quantum mechanics from a deterministic subquantum theory. Bohm's theory, for example, throws out relativity.

It might have been better all around if Bohm's theory had nonetheless become orthodoxy, and Bohr's school (uncertainty principle, etc) had been the dissidents. The basic problem of theoretical physics would then have been - and could still be regarded as! - a matter of reconciling two straightforwardly causal and objective theories (Einsteinian gravity and Bohmian mechanics), rather than a lot of "what if" stuff - what if events don't cause other events but only cause probabilities, what if the particle isn't really anywhere definite at all, etc - which might be described as the speculative abandonment of basic principles of thought. (I think I've seen you castigating Laird for this, on other threads.)

The main problem with this view is that what I'll call the metaphysical apriori really can go too far. By this I mean the categories in terms of which the empirical is framed. A crude example would be the idea of extra spatial dimensions. On occasion throughout history this was rejected as inconceivable and therefore impossible, but in fact there's nothing wrong with the idea. Furthermore, the abandonments of causality, identity, etc which disfigure 20th-century physics were not made whimsically, but because of difficulties intrinsic to theories whose mathematical framework arose from empirical considerations. Example already mentioned: the idea of a beginning to time ('Big Bang'), arising out of determinism and field theory. There is a very interesting interplay between mathematics, metaphysics, experiment, incredulity and imagination here, and it seems that no one has yet managed to reason out, ahead of time, the form of all possible worlds (or to put it another way, the set of all theories worthy of consideration).
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Re: Physics and Causation - Dr. Richard Healey

Postby Kelly Jones » Tue Jun 12, 2007 11:48 am

Mitchell,

I think we need the transcript here. Dan, how about Mitchell and I type up this transcript. We've both indicated an interest in it.

We can continue this discussion afterwards.

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Re: Physics and Causation - Dr. Richard Healey

Postby Dan Rowden » Wed Jun 13, 2007 10:19 am

Knock yourselves out!
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Re: Physics and Causation - Dr. Richard Healey

Postby Kelly Jones » Wed Jun 13, 2007 10:52 am

I wonder if that means, "You're both idiots" or "Go ahead".

Anyway, we pounded the transcript out last night. It now needs a good clip around the ears. The pulp should be ready for you by this even.

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Re: Physics and Causation - Dr. Richard Healey

Postby Dan Rowden » Wed Jun 13, 2007 11:11 am

Well, there's no time frame. I went over my download limit and have been slowed down to tortuously slow speeds till the 15th so even receiving email is a hassle at the moment.
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Re: Physics and Causation - Dr. Richard Healey

Postby Kelly Jones » Wed Jun 13, 2007 2:25 pm

Yeah, I'll be away for quite a few weeks, so I suppose I can't discuss much in the near future.

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Re: Physics and Causation - Dr. Richard Healey

Postby BMcGilly07 » Wed Jun 13, 2007 3:41 pm

I've got to say this episode was out to a painfully rocky start, and I think Healey takes a good chunk of the "credit" for that. Some may credit him with skepticism, but I think his derogatory upward inflection on his "OKay's" and his "Mmhmm's" was quite distracting and degrading. His tight-lipped, aloof approach was only melted in the last 20 minutes of the program. His whole approach can be boiled down to his fear of talking about God and his colleagues for fear of slighting them.

Dan might have been a good choice to throw in the mix in this one, his approach would have knocked the smugness out of Healey's voice and perhaps put him on the defensive and gotten him going.

I find it funny Healey agrees to the observation that physicists think themselves the superiors of their colleagues in the scientific genre, when he is the very picture of the smug physicist.

*note edited in the last sentence
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Re: Physics and Causation - Dr. Richard Healey

Postby Kelly Jones » Wed Jun 13, 2007 5:43 pm

Interim location of Transcript

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Mitchell,

In the podcast, I think the closest Healey got to cause and effect as an absolute logical principle is when he spoke about a "dependence relationship". But he immediately interpreted it using inductive logic, and, unsurprisingly, doesn't see it as any more logically necessary than Bohm's causality. He saw that David's idea of absolute necessity is not the same as Bohm's, but interpreted David's principle inductively, meaning, he couldn't understand it.

He admitted as much when he said, "you worry me a bit when you talk about a logical relation" and "I don't know the difference between truth and absolute truth" --- which is odd considering he also said, "No, although we can change our definitions, the truths themselves can't change."

I'll get back to your other points later.

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Re: Physics and Causation - Dr. Richard Healey

Postby Cory Duchesne » Sun Jun 24, 2007 6:25 am

I enjoyed this show.

However, I'm concerned about a little audio glitch I encountered half way through, around when Richard was confronted with the problem of objective reality outside of consciousness.

Glitch occured at the 28:54,55 mark.

He was in the midst of illustrating a point that I'd really like to be clear on, and I'm concerned that I missed out on something helpful.

Here's the transcript of a small portion of the show, one which shows where the glitch occured. Maybe Kevin or David, because they have the original recording might be able to fill in the blank. I also encourage anyone who is inclinced, to help me understand what exactly Richard was saying:

It begins at the 28:23 mark -

Richard Healey: When you look at what science say about [the existence of boundaries] then it will get much more interesting, in particular, what Quantum mechanics says about the existence of boundaries.

Typically, the picture of a supposedly solid object that would emerge from Quantum theory would be one which described that object in a rather abstract way in terms of a wave function or actually a density matrix. And, if you ask well, where does the object finish? Where is it’s spatial boundary? There would *Glitch* the unique answer forth coming from that quantum mechanical representation of the object, and indeed there would be non-zero probability of finding bits of that object arbitrarily far away from where you think the object is. Of course those probabilities would be minute but there would be no way in theory to draw a well defined boundary, so QM, it would appear, would permit one to draw boundaries outside of the range of acceptable boundary choices in our ordinary language. My car might have a boundary that extends far beyond my garage.
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Re: Physics and Causation - Dr. Richard Healey

Postby David Quinn » Sun Jun 24, 2007 9:47 am

"There would be no unique answer forthcoming ....."

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Re: Physics and Causation - Dr. Richard Healey

Postby Ataraxia » Sun Jun 24, 2007 3:29 pm

... the progress of science has itself shown that there can be no pictorial representation of the workings of nature of a kind that would be intelligible to our limited minds. The study of physics has driven us to the positivist conception of physics. We can never understand what events are, but must limit ourselves to describing the pattern of events in mathematical terms: no other aim is possible .... the final harvest will always be a sheaf of mathematical formulae. These will never describe nature itself, but only our observations on nature. (Sir James Jeans, 1942)
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Re: Physics and Causation - Dr. Richard Healey

Postby Cory Duchesne » Sun Jun 24, 2007 11:19 pm

Ok, thanks David.

I'm going to rewrite the excerpt:

Richard Healey: And, if you ask well, where does the object finish? Where is it’s spatial boundary?

There would be no unique answer forth coming from that quantum mechanical representation of the object, and indeed there would be non-zero probability of finding bits of that object arbitrarily far away from where you think the object is.


What does he mean by 'there would be non-zero probability of finding bits of that object arbitrarily far away from where you think the object is?

And the part where he says: of finding bits of that object arbitrarily far away from where you think the object is - shouldn't he be saying: "of finding bits of that object arbitrarily far away from where you think the object 'ends'?

I know I seem nitpicky here, but I reason that the degree to which I make my bewilderment clear to others, the easier they can help me.
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Re: Physics and Causation - Dr. Richard Healey

Postby Elizabeth Isabelle » Mon Jun 25, 2007 8:42 am

Cory,

I believe he was referencing this: Non-zero sums by Nobel Prize winner, John Nash.

As for is vs ends, i don't see the difference in phrasing in this case.

Personally, I think this was the clearest Reasoning Show so far.
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