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 could no longer be thought of as 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.

The New Physics

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 despite intense efforts great puzzles remain. The full meaning of the new physics has remained a mystery. In September 2012, New Scientist magazine published a special issue What is Reality?. The conclusion 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. Schrödinger’s cat is alive and dead at the same time. And it is not clear exactly how it actually works. This is the technical issue in quantum theory known as the measurement problem.

In relativity, the other great pillar of the new physics, there are also great paradoxes. Obvious and fundamental attributes of the world one encounters can have no explanation in the physics. These are the passage of time, which is fundamentally incompatible with the physics, and the Now, meaning the present moment, which cannot possibly exist in physics, as Einstein lamented.

These issues are seldom addressed, but they remain stubborn paradoxes that appear to show 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. (QBism, referred to on the Home page, is the solution to the measurement problem. Weyl’s dictum quoted in Universe Consciousness is the resolution of the paradoxes of relativity.) What has been missing is the explanatory principle that makes sense of these concepts, and weaves all this together correctly. This is the concept of logical type as explained in Logical Types. This introduces a further dimension of explanation. This should not surprise us for this is the process in every conceptual revolution. The solution is invisible without the new enlarged framework of explanation.

Special Case

The classical view held sway for three centuries. Then, at the turn of the nineteenth century, bizarre anomalies were discovered. Increasing evidence showed that under certain conditions the classical view of Newtonian mechanics is not correct. As a result, the new physics of relativity and quantum theory gradually emerged to resolve these problems by creating a new understanding. These theories produce mathematical predictions that match experimental results precisely. These concepts enlarge upon the previous view, adding new dimensions of explanation. But this does not mean that Newtonian mechanics is incorrect. It is simply the set of rules of a special-case condition.

Under what we think of as ordinary conditions, the everyday world one lives in, the world works exactly as Newton’s equations describe. But as the scientists discovered, these rules no longer work correctly under extreme conditions, essentially the very very small and the very very large. As they demonstrated, the rules of Newtonian mechanics form a subset of the more elaborate, and more complete, rules of the new physics. This is very nicely illustrated on the Wikipedia page on Classical Physics.

As described here, the same problem is going on with the next stage in our understanding of the world. The concept of the ordinary world we have in the current paradigm is a special-case condition. In other words, it is a subset of the new, more complete, concept in the new paradigm. But here all that is required is a single and elementary new dimension of explanation, that of logical type; and the whole puzzling picture snaps into sharp focus. The real world, as defined by quantum theory, and encountered by each experimenter, is a whole class of ordinary worlds superposed – a ‘second-logical-type’ phenomenon. This class-of-worlds-as-a-world produces the type of world described by QBism; it is indeterminate except where observed, by definition. This is explained in detail in the section headed by Overview. As Fuchs and his colleagues demonstrate in QBism, this type of indeterminate personal world resolves the great paradoxes of quantum theory. Now it also has an explanation in terms of the current paradigm.

Many-Worlds Reality

The new paradigm, the nature of the world described by QBism, seems utterly bizarre, but this 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, the well-established science of the day. This is why a new paradigm is needed in the first place. QBism seems obviously wrong because it directly contradicts the current paradigm, which shows the world is essentially ordinary, and certainly all there.

A wider perspective is required. Just as the current paradigm subsumes the classical view of Newtonian mechanics, meaning that the rules of the classical view are a subset of the more complete rules of the new physics, so too the new paradigm subsumes the current paradigm, meaning that the world of the current paradigm is a special-case situation in the wider concept of the new paradigm. The real world encountered by each person is a class-of-worlds-as-a-world, a many-worlds reality. As in each conceptual revolution, the conceptual framework is extended, and the origins of previously inexplicable phenomena are revealed.

The Shift

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. In quantum theory the QBism world 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. In other words, it is too far removed from the current paradigm.

You would think that since these ideas resolve major paradoxes they would be the key to successful exploration in the science of physics. But given the objective physical reality as the only proper basis of all explanations, the wider context in which these concepts make perfect sense is unreachable.

Scientific Revolution

This is exactly the problem described by physicist Thomas Kuhn. As Kuhn describes, ordinary research in physics never crosses the boundary of the current paradigm. And this is why, as he explains, the gradual developments of ordinary science never give rise to major revisions of the paradigm. They are always scientific revolutions as he called them. 

Later on in his work he came to see this as problem of terminology, essentially a problem of the conceptual framework. The new concept makes perfect sense in the new wider perspective, but this has yet to arrive. It requires descriptive terms that are not yet invented, a new lexicon or vocabulary in which the further dimension of explanation is couched. As described in Paradigm Shift, without this adaptation of the language the new concepts cannot be conceived as meaningful, and this explains why new discoveries are often effectively invisible in the very domain where one would expect them to appear.

This is exactly the situation with the early solutions mentioned above. 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 the new terminology, it is clear that the new paradigm simply subsumes the old. The new lexicon is the key. This is a many-worlds reality, a second-logical-type phenomenon, as explained in Overview. Time passes in experience, as the consciousness passes along the worldline of each person, and this is necessarily a third-logical-type phenomenon. This is explained in Universe Consciousness.

The New Paradigm

Remarkable implications follow. Taking the personal nature of the world defined by QBism as a given, quantum theory ascribes extraordinary capabilities to the individual. This is described in Interactive Destiny. These are best understood in the light of the true nature of the individual. This is described in depth in the section headed by World Superposition. We are pretty much what we thought we were, but we are something else as well, something directly connected to the world as a whole. It is this connection that will hopefully enable us as a race to come to terms with reality, and live intelligently with one another.

The new worldview reshapes the way we relate. An inherent morality, on which one’s own life depends, becomes frighteningly clear. At the very least, one wants to want the best for everyone. Egoism begins a transformation. Thus the new paradigm provides the basis for a reconstructed human culture. 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. A genuine new age is possible. This is described in Human Being 2.0.

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

Logical Types