Monday, May 25, 2015

Logic Isn't All It's Cracked Up To Be

I was browsing the Perimeter Institute’s video library the other day and came across a talk by Gerard t’Hooft on his new cellular automaton interpretation of quantum mechanics. The theory is in the early stages of development and I understood little of what he said, but based on his opening remarks, I would bet that the idea will go nowhere and will simply waste the time of this brilliant Nobel laureate, one of the most respected physicists in the world.

He began his talk by saying that he doesn’t believe in the “mysticism” that surrounds quantum mechanics, by which I think he means the mind-boggling idea that things don’t seem to exist until they are observed, which makes the universe seem fundamentally mysterious and beyond human understanding. He wants to develop a quantum mechanics without mystery, so that the universe can be understood using solid logic and nothing else. I found this disappointing. Here’s why.
This desire for a completely consistent, logical universe is shared by most physicists. Unfortunately, it’s mostly wishful thinking. As I asserted here, the two things physicists are missing are the correct model of spacetime, which is the subject of most of this blog, and a respect for metaphysics. To them, existence is just an abstract concept, consciousness is a result of brain function, and metaphysics is something a real physicist avoids. They don’t realize that, as abstract concepts, consciousness and existence are identical, and in fact, are not just abstract concepts, but fundamental entities that exist in themselves. So metaphysics is going to be an essential part of of any theory of the universe.

The necessary metaphysics I covered in this post, where we saw that existence has two aspects, temporal and atemporal. The universe also has these two aspects, or appearances, depending on who observes it and how. Everything flows from atemporal existence, an aspect of existence that we can’t experience at all. We are temporal beings and can only see the temporal universe.   
Now, the temporal universe isn’t logically consistent at all. Temporal reality is relative to the observer. Different observers can observe the same phenomenon in different ways and reach different and incompatible conclusions about it. Neils Bohr showed that we can live with this if the incompatible results can never be seen at the same time by any observer. So we can’t have absolute logical consistency, but we don’t need it.

The atemporal universe is the logical one, populated by abstract concepts that exist independently of time and everything else. The temporal universe is the physical one. To say that there are atemporal and temporal universes is the same as saying that there are logical and physical universes. These incompatible views of the universe can never be seen at the same time by any observer, so there’s no contradiction. Unfortunately, the bottom line is that we can never see a completely logical universe.