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The Conceptual Revolution

We stand on the brink of a revolutionary change to our understanding of reality. There has been a major scientific revolution, but it is incomplete. The final step is to understand the meaning of the new physics we have discovered. As stated by Heinz Pagels:

We live in the wake of a physics revolution comparable to the Copernican demolition of the anthropocentric world a revolution which began with the theory of relativity and quantum mechanics in the first decade of this century and which has left most educated people behind. (1982, 347)

When it comes to the true nature of the reality we live in, it has left everyone behind. As Nick Herbert wrote in Quantum Reality:

Basically physicists have suffered a severe loss: their hold on reality (1985, 15).

This is not for lack of expertise; the physicists have a very keen grasp on objective physical reality. It is the physical reality one actually encounters, which is not quite the same thing, that they have lost their hold on. In truth no one ever had it. It is a new discovery of considerable significance. Unexpectedly, this has major implications for everyday life.

The Current Paradigm

Three hundred years ago Isaac Newton transformed human understanding of the world. The physics of Newtonian mechanics showed that the world is essentially a huge physical mechanism. This became the scientific paradigm, the well-established and generally-accepted scientific worldview. This is also called the classical view. With this understanding the seeds of the industrial revolution were sown.

One hundred years ago the fundamentals of the new physics were discovered, and the age of modern technology was born culminating in the current information age. But the science still cannot determine exactly what reality is. In September 2012, New Scientist magazine published a special issue What is Reality?. The answer is we still do not know. It is not clear exactly how reality is defined, and how it actually works. This is the technical issue in quantum theory that is encapsulated in the well-known ‘measurement problem‘. In relativity the great paradoxes are the passage of time, and the Now, meaning the present moment.

These issues are seldom addressed but they remain stubborn paradoxes that appear to show that the science is incomplete. It is generally assumed these unresolved problems mean that the new physics needs more work, or that a further discovery will reveal their resolution. In fact, however, the solution to all these issues have already been discovered, it is just we have not been able to recognise them. It is all too alien. In other words, it is too far removed from the current paradigm.

The New Paradigm

This is the very problem described by Thomas Kuhn, an influential physicist and philosopher of physics. His work addresses the severe difficulty of updating the scientific paradigm, even when it is clear that this is inadequate or even wrong; solutions that do not conform to the current paradigm are just assumed to be mistakes. He came to see the whole issue as a problem of language. As he explained, when a new explanatory principle is required that seems deeply at odds with the existing worldview, a new vocabulary is required in order to make sense of it, a new lexicon. As stated in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

In the influential The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962), Kuhn made the dramatic claim that history of science reveals proponents of competing paradigms failing to make complete contact with each other’s views, so that they are always talking at least slightly at cross-purposes. … These competing paradigms lack a common measure because they use different concepts and methods to address different problems, limiting communication across the revolutionary divide.

This is why the modern solutions to the paradoxes of the new physics have not been recognised as such. Fortunately in this case there is an existing vocabulary. Here it is shown that analysis in terms of ‘logical type’ resolves the great paradoxes, and reveals the full meaning of the new physics.

In both pillars of the new physics there are deep paradoxes because obvious and fundamental attributes of the world have no explanation in the physics; but in the light of this analysis it is clear the physics is complete and correct, all that is missing is this further explanatory principle. At the first level of logical type the world is an ordinary physical world, determinate throughout, but at the second level physical reality is personal, as described by QBism, and determinate only where observed.  At the first level the universe is static, as mandated by relativity, but at the third level it is in constant dynamical change.

The new paradigm is a huge revision, a conceptual revolution. Nonetheless, this is exactly what we should expect. Had the solution of these problems not required a radical leap into the unknown, it would all have been worked out a long time ago. Remarkable implications follow. The personal nature of the world defined by quantum theory brings extraordinary capabilities to each individual, and resolution of paradoxes of relativity brings even wilder changes to the paradigm. A summary of the new perspective is provided in Overview, with linked content giving further explanation.

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