The Conceptual Revolution


The Conceptual Revolution

Five hundred years ago Nicolaus Copernicus set in motion the first great scientific revolution. He showed the Sun is the centre of the solar system, and thus the Earth was no longer the centre of the universe. Scientific infancy was over. Three hundred years ago Isaac Newton transformed scientific understanding of the world. The physics of Newtonian mechanics shows 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 great puzzles remain. In September 2012, New Scientist magazine published a special issue What is Reality?. The answer is we still do not know. As stated by philosopher of physics Wayne Myrvold:

Despite its status as a core part of contemporary physics, there is no consensus among physicists or philosophers of physics on the question of what, if anything, the empirical success of quantum theory is telling us about the physical world. (2016)

In other words, it is still not clear exactly how reality is defined, and how it actually works. This is the technical issue in quantum theory known as the ‘measurement problem‘. In relativity there are two great paradoxes: the passage of time, which is incompatible with the physics, and the Now, meaning the present moment, which cannot possibly exist in physics, as Einstein lamented. Thus obvious and fundamental attributes of the world one encounters have no explanation in the physics.

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 the new physics needs more work, or that a further discovery will reveal their resolution. In fact, however, the solutions to these great 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. This is exactly the problem described by physicist Thomas Kuhn.

Scientific Revolutions

Kuhn is often considered the most influential philosopher of science of the last century. His work addresses the severe difficulty of updating the scientific paradigm, even when it is clear it is inadequate or even wrong. He explained that solutions that do not conform to the current paradigm are just assumed to be mistakes; this is described in Paradigm Shift. In his later work he came to see the issue as primarily a problem of language. As he explained, when deeply novel ideas appear, the new perspective requires a new terminology, a new lexicon; and without this the new paradigm cannot make headway. As philosopher of science Eric Oberheim writes 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. (2013)

This is precisely the case with the current impasse in the comprehension of quantum theory. The standard worldview gives rise to severe paradoxes. As shown in QBism, they all disappear if reality is taken to be defined by experience (the same is also demonstrated in the many-minds theories, which simply take Everett’s many-worlds theory at face value). But this does not make any sense in the standard worldview. However, as demonstrated here, applying the concept of logical type bridges this gap, showing that both perspectives are perfectly correct. In this light it is clear the physics is complete and correct; all that is missing is this further explanatory principle. The world of the individual is a class-of-worlds-as-a-world, a second-logical-type phenomenon. This is described in Logical Types.

Special Case

The new physics emerged from discoveries at the turn of the nineteenth century. Increasing evidence showed that there are bizarre anomalies under certain conditions which show that the classical view of Newtonian mechanics is no longer correct. The classical view held sway for three centuries before this was discovered. The result was it was shown to be a special-case set of rules, by the new physics. These enlarged upon the previous view, adding new dimensions of explanation.

Relativity and quantum theory gradually emerged to resolve these problems by creating a new understanding. The world of the new physics is the quasi-classical world that has replaced the basic ordinary world of Newtonian physics. But this does not means that Newtonian mechanics is incorrect. It is simply a special case. Under what we think of as ordinary conditions, the world works exactly as Newton’s equations describe. But as the scientists discovered, these no longer work correctly under extreme conditions, the very very small and the very very large. It turns out that the rules of Newtonian mechanics form a subset of the new, more complete, rules of the new physics, meaning at ordinary speeds and distances, quantum theory and relativity give the same results as Newtonian mechanics.

The same problem is going on today. As shown here, the concept of the world in the current paradigm is a special case; and the rules of the current paradigm are a subset of the new, more complete, rules. The new paradigm, suggested by QBism, seems utterly bizarre, but is exactly the kind of thing we should be expecting. Each time a scientific revolution comes along, it seems utterly outrageous, even ridiculous, from the perspective of the old paradigm. But it has to seem totally wrong because the world described by the new paradigm cannot exist in the reality of the current paradigm, by definition. A wider perspective is required. And just as the basic Newtonian rules of mechanics have been superseded in the emergence of the new physics, this set of rules in turn is just a special case, in the greater context of the rules of the new paradigm. As shown here, the new idea subsumes the current paradigm, meaning that the rules of the current paradigm are a subset of the new, more complete, rules.

The New Paradigm

As stated on the home page there is no new physics here. All that is required is a shift in perspective. The solutions presented here have been waiting in the wings for some time, but the concept of logical types is required to make them make sense. The QBism solution in quantum theory is essentially the same thing as the world of the ‘many-minds’ theories, originally mooted thirty years ago. In relativity, the vital moving frame of reference is essentially Weyl’s proposition regarding consciousness, put forward almost seventy years ago. But in each case the new paradigm was too different, too great a conceptual revolution. This is exactly the kind of situation Kuhn is describing. Without the lexicon of logical types these ideas seem they must be nonsense, for these things cannot be so in the physical world as we know it. But with this terminology, it is clear that the new paradigm simply subsumes the old. The new lexicon is the key.

Remarkable implications follow. Taking the personal nature of the world defined by QBism as a given, quantum theory ascribes extraordinary capabilities to the individual. Resolution of the paradoxes of relativity brings even wilder changes to our view of life. A summary of the new scientific perspective is provided in Overview, with linked content giving further explanation.

This is all good news. The other region of the site addresses the implications for ourselves and our culture, beginning with World Superposition. The World Hologram begins the explanation of the expanded concept of the individual, and subsidiary pages describe the remarkable new identity each of us carries in the light of the new paradigm.

The new paradigm provides the basis for a reconstructed human culture, and this arrives just in time. This gives rise to precisely the transformation of perspective that the pioneering environmentalist Alexander King describes as essential for the survival of our race and the preservation of our spaceship Earth. This is described in Race Survival Intelligence. The whole making sense of the new physics hinges on the nature of the individual because this defines a frame of reference subtly different to what we have, quite naturally, assumed. This is the subject of the section of this site beginning with World Superposition. The World Hologram begins the explanation of the expanded concept of the individual, and subsidiary pages describe the remarkable new identity each of us carries in the light of the new paradigm.

External links are underlined, internal links to other pages on this site are plain.

World Superposition