Many think the quantum mechanical world of probabilities define our reality. However, the Greek philosopher, Plato around 375 BC would disagree.
In Plato’s allegory "The cave" he describes how people who have been chained to a cave wall view the world outside of it. "The people watch shadows projected on the wall by things passing in front of a fire behind them, and begin to ascribe forms to these shadows. According to Plato’s Socrates, the shadows are as close as the prisoners get to viewing reality. He then explains how the philosopher is like a prisoner who is freed from the cave and comes to understand that the shadows on the wall do not make up reality at all, as he can perceive the true form of reality rather than the mere shadows seen by the prisoners.
However he could have been talking about today’s scientists who are locked into a worldview that projects shadows that cannot be made to agree with the reality of the world they are living in.
For example Quantum theory defines the existence of particles in terms of a mathematically generated probability function and that they do not exist until a conscience observer looks at it. In other words it assumes the act of observation or measurement creates the physical reality of our particle world. However because only conscience beings can be observers it implies that it cannot exist without them being there to observe it.
However if one assumes reality exist only after someone observes it one must also assume that we humans evolved out of something that did not exist.
This seems to contradict the most common definition of reality: that it is an environment with a set of physical properties that exists even when there are no observers present. In other words most believe the world exist in even when no one is there to observe it.
Plato’s in his allegory "The Cave" he tells us that one should base his or her interpretation of reality on direct physical observations of the "shadows" they cast on the cave walls because he feels it is the only way to connect their existence to the reality of the world outside of it.
However the proponents of quantum mechanics face an even greater problem than those who reside in Plato’s cave because they assume that reality and existence is defined in terms of abstract mathematical probabilities which by definition do not have physical properties; therefore they are unable to cast shadows on the reality of the non-abstract environment that exists all around us.
In other words the reality defined by quantum mechanics cannot create or define the physicality of the shadows projected on the walls of our world or cave as Plato calls it because they themselves do not have any.
Some would argue the fact that quantum mechanics can accurately predict what we observe in the world in terms of the abstract nature of probability functions means that what we perceive as the reality does not exist.
However as Plato pointed out our only connection to reality is though the observation of the "shadows" it displays on our physical or material world. Yet because of the abstract nature of probability functions of quantum mechanics they, by definition can never be part or interact with that world. Therefore because we can physicality observe of the "shadows" of the quantum mechanical world in our environment isn’t it more likely the abstract one defined by quantum mechanics does not exist while those of the world that we can see and touch do.
Einstein was often quoted as saying "If a new theory was not based on a physical image simple enough for a child to understand, it was probably worthless."
He realized as Plato did that reality can only be discovered by forming a physical image of what its shadows are telling us.
For example Newton in a letter to Bentley in 1693, talks about a conceptual problem he has with his gravity theory by rejecting the action at a distance that it requires.
"It is inconceivable that inanimate brute matter should, without the mediation of something else which is not material, operate upon and affect other matter without mutual contact…That gravity should be innate, inherent, and essential to matter, so that one body may act upon another at a distance through a vacuum, without the mediation of anything else, by and through which their action and force may be conveyed from one to another, is to me so great an absurdity that I believe no man who has in philosophical matters a competent faculty of thinking can ever fall into it."
Einstein looked at the shadows of reality cast by gravity and realized they could be created by a universe made up of four dimensional space-time. He extrapolated the physical image of how objects move on a curve surface in a three-dimensional environment to a curved four dimensional space-time manifold to show that it can explain and predict how gravity "may act upon another at a distance through a vacuum" in terms of a curvature in space and time. This allowed him to understand the reality behind the shadows we can see in our three-dimension world in terms of a physical image based on the existence of four dimension space-time.
In other words he was able to explain the gravitational shadows on the Newtonian cave walls in terms of a physical image cast by four dimensional space-time on them.
As Plato would say he perceived the true form of reality based on a physical image of the shadows seen by its prisoners.
Unfortunately many of today scientists seem to be ignoring the lessons taught to us by Plato and Einstein. They chose to look for reality in terms of abstract mathematics instead of the physical imagery given to us by its shadows.
The reason may be because it is easier to alter an abstract environment based on mathematics to conform to an observational inconsistency that it is to alter one based on physical imagery.
For example Quantum theory makes predictions based on the random properties of a probability function. However because its abstract properties are not connected to any physical images of our world all observations no matter how inconsistent they are with the physical world it is describing can be incorporate into it.
This is in sharp contrast to the space-time environment defined by Einstein in that projecting the physical image of objects moving on a curve surface in a four-dimensional environment directly connects it to the physicality of the shadows it casts on our three-dimensional environment.
For example a mass that was repelled by gravity instead of begin attracted would contradict the physical model define by Einstein and would be extremely if not impossible to explain according to that model because that would mean that we should observe objects rolling up hill in our three-dimensional environment. In other words because he defined gravity in terms of a physical image based on how objects move on a curve surface in a three-dimensional environment it makes observations like two masses repelling gravitational each other impossible to incorporate into it.
If however if some observation happened to contradict complimentary principal of quantum mechanics such as simultaneously observing both the particle and wave properties mass it could easily explained in terms of the fact that its probability functions tell us that anything that can happen eventually will This makes it impossible to find an observation that would contradict it because it tells us the even the impossible is possible if we wait long enough. However this can only happen in an abstract environment which is not bound by the physicality of our observational world because in that world we observe that some things just cannot happen.
But why should science put in the effort to understand the physical reality behind the shadows of our world when both the abstract mathematical foundation of quantum mechanics and the physics imagery of Einstein’s theories make very accurate predictions of future events based on the past.
Because the mission of a science is to define reality in terms of what we perceive in the world around us which by definition is not abstract.
Copyright Jeffrey O’Callaghan 2013
of the Fourth
Vol. 5 — 2014