The Conceptual Revolution

The Conceptual Revolution

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)

It is 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 the great paradoxes are 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.

In both these pillars of the new physics 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 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 physicist and philosopher of physics Thomas Kuhn. His work addresses the severe difficulty of updating the scientific paradigm, even when it is clear it 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 deeply novel ideas appear, the new perspective requires a new terminology, a new lexicon; and without this the new paradigm cannot make headway. As Eric Oberheim states 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 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 terminology. 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 this light 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, defined solely where observed, as described by QBism.  Technically it is a class of worlds as a world. At this level, where each individual actually lives, quantum reality is determinate only where observed. At the first level the universe is static, as mandated by relativity, but at the third level it is nothing but change.

The new paradigm is very different, a huge conceptual revision. Nonetheless, this is exactly what we should expect. Had the solution of these problems not required a radical leap in a counter-intuitive direction, it would all have been worked out a long time ago. This is exactly the kind of phenomenon Kuhn is describing.

Remarkable implications follow. The personal nature of the world defined by quantum theory brings extraordinary capabilities to each individual, and resolution of the 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. The considerable implication for our collective world is that this paradigm forms the basis of a transformed culture, as described by the pioneering environmentalist Alexander King as essential for the survival of our race and our ecosphere. This is described in Racial Survival Intelligence.

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