Thursday, January 27, 2011

Modern Physics : The science of “mad but clever proposal"s

When ever I read any modern physics attempt at explaining observations my thoughts wander back to the "mad but clever proposal" of epicycles and how they too were used to explain observation.

And the more sophisticated the epicycles the better. Where perfection of the science isn’t grounded in reality, but in sophistication.

Everything I ever needed to know about modern physics and their explanations of substantial change once it goes beyond the observable I learned in Aristotle's first book of The Physics, because no matter the modern physics explanation, the underlying principles of that explanation were there long ago having been previously proposed by the pre-socratics..

In their day, the pre-socratics explained substantial change rather well, because their explanations did explain what could be observed, as long as their incorrect assumptions went unchallenged. Similarly, astronomical epicycles likewise did explain what could be observed, while different incorrect assumptions went unchallenged.

The errors were not in their observations, but in their assumptions. Some assumptions were made because of a lack of precision in the instruments used in their observations, but most assumptions were made because of preconceived notions that were assumed as unproven postulates. Unproven postulates that didn't require proof because to assume otherwise was unthinkable, for what ever the reason.

Today we are likewise faced with different but similar unproven postulates, where its likewise unthinkable to assume otherwise. The precision of the instruments, with their workings, and predictions are remarkable, and on a practical level, simply amazing. But what I find by far the most amazing of all, is just how wrong a science can be in its assumptions, but yet still work at the practical level.

By analogy, the Chinese at first had no idea how gunpowder worked, nor even which were all the required ingredients with the first gun power having chicken guts and similar in the brew. But they got it close enough, and it did work. And eventually it was refined with the assumed necessary chicken guts removed. But what matters here, is that even when initially wrong, it did explode.

The assumptions modern physics make are much the same as those Chinese chicken guts. Because the materialist underlying assumptions made by modern physics are as far off the mark as astronomical epicycles were far off the mark in their day. But nevertheless, the science is close enough so that it on a practical level it still does work.

God’s creation allows for remarkable error by us. If we just get it close enough, which is in turn what is the most remarkable. God knew we would err and err greatly, but yet designed our world so that we could live in it in spite of our errors.

And similarly, just as the practical sciences such as physics are remarkably resilient to our errors, so likewise is it with all else that is practical in our lives. As long as the errors are not too great, we can survive them. Of which no better example exists than looking at our own children, whose resiliency to the errors we make raising them is indeed most remarkable.

And so it goes when looking at society as a whole. Its resiliency to our errors are likewise remarkable, and merciful, as long as we don't stray too far. To all things there is a limit, and God in his wisdom made that limit wide enough for us to survive our selves.

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Modern physics reduces us to void, because even the real bits which aren't considered void are just some kinds of energy which in their turn have neither breadth nor width.

The mistake modern physics makes is to assume their models not only represent God's creation, but explain the nature of God's creation. Which is akin to someone saying this ball on a string explains the nature of gravity. What both are is a model because God in his wisdom gave us a world which could be modeled so that we could in turn manipulate it using models so that we would not have to fully understand it according to it nature in before we could manipulate it.

And to those who say the models explain too much and can be used too precisely to only models, they forget who designed those models into the nature of those substances they are modeling.

St. Augustine wrote that the bible has metaphorical meanings without limit, which is fitting because God is it author. The same with creation, God as author created a material world which could be modeled to unbelievable precision and complexity. But precision and complexity are not nature, anymore than accidents are substance because the distinction is not required in some models.

What is not a model is that which we know because it's self evident. I exist is self evident. Our senses are likewise self evident, because if they weren't then nothing could be known since we cannot use that which less knowable to come to know that which is more knowable. In other words, our sense do not deceive us because if they did, then we could not know the world around us.

And what our senses tell us is that the chair we are sitting on is not void. Which is of course how we live.

No one actually lives as if the void exists. Or as if we are nothing more than void and energy. We cry bitter tears when we loose a loved one because we know fully within our soul that we are more than the void our mechanist physicists say we are.

But yet, tell some fellow Catholic the modern atomic theory is nonsense and that bread isn't simply a bunch of accidents of place and arrangement of tiny parts. And they will speak as if the atomic theory is self evident, and our senses which tell us bread is a substance are not self evident.


more as i have time . . . .

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