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2/3/11

Beyond Belief: David Albert On Our Stories About The World


Physicist David Albert, PhD, was interviewed for the movie, What The Bleep Do We know?, a film that wildly speculates on the metaphysical ramifications of modern science. He is not happy with how the interview was edited. According to a Popular Science article, he is "outraged at the final product." The article states that "Albert granted the filmmakers a near-four hour interview about quantum mechanics being unrelated to consciousness or spirituality. His interview was then edited and incorporated into the film in a way that misrepresented his views. In the article, Albert also expresses his feelings of gullibility after having been 'taken' by the filmmakers."

Recently he attended and gave a talk at Beyond Belief, an annual meeting organized by The Science Network (TSN), "which brings together a community of concerned scientists, philosophers, scholars from the humanities, and social commentators to explore the human quest for the Good Life. The Science Network shares Carl Sagan’s vision of science as a candle in the dark. TSN is committed to enlarging the constituency of reason by making programs about science."

In the video below some of his points are these:

  • A militant scientific worldview might succumb to pressures from within. He has a fundamentalist scientific view in mind. (I am reminded of New Atheist Richard Dawkins and those in the same movement.)


  • Fundamentalist science, if pushed far enough, leads to insurmountable road blocks.


  • It is impossible to construct a realistic account of the world.


  • We will be able to tell a story about the world in terms of physics, but the story we tell will be very strange.


  • From the beginning of recorded history, certain radical convictions about the world have been false. One conviction pervaded early physics, that we can have observable access to the world in a passive way. The conviction was that we could observe without disturbing the system we observed--that we didn't help generate what we observed.


  • This conviction of passive observable access was regarded as a precondition in order to do science with the world.


  • But, in terms of particle physics, observation is an absolutely unavoidable and violently disruptive process.


  • Another radical conviction is that the world is local, which asserts that events here effect only events spatially and temporally in the neighborhood. This is false. There is no mediating cause and effect as demonstrated by John Bell in the 1960s--direct and immediate connections between events were not spatially and temporally related to one other. Bell provided rigorous proof that locality is false.


  • A reductionist claims that he doesn't need to know why a property of H20 is wetness. He claims to only need its chemical composition.


  • Early on, in the 1920s, Neils Bohr concluded that we no longer can provide a seamless account of what the world is. It is impossible. This signaled a moment of change in science. Science had to redirect its highest ambitions.


  • With that introduction, here is David Albert in the video.

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