3.218 uncertainty, science, the humanities (63)

Thu, 6 Jul 89 19:50:13 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 3, No. 218. Thursday, 6 Jul 1989.

(1) Date: Thu, 06 Jul 89 07:08:53 EDT (17 lines)
From: David Megginson <MEGGIN@vm.epas.utoronto.ca>
Subject: Observation and Quantum Physics

(2) Date: Wed, 5 Jul 89 19:39 EST (26 lines)
From: Richard Jensen <CAMPBELD@IUBACS>
Subject: science

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Thu, 06 Jul 89 07:08:53 EDT
From: David Megginson <MEGGIN@vm.epas.utoronto.ca>
Subject: Observation and Quantum Physics

There is an interesting parallel to the Quantum observation problem on
the non-quantum level. Consider a television set with rabbit's ears
in a small room. What you see on the screen depends on how close you
are standing to the television set, and you can never see what the
picture is like by itself, because your presence in the room affects
what you can see.

This is a day-to-day problem for those of us without cable TV, because
when we walk to the TV to turn the antenna, we also change the signal
to the point that we cannot tune the set accurately.

Please note: a) I am not a physicist; and b) I am not claiming an
instance of quantum physics, only an analogy.
(2) --------------------------------------------------------------28----
Date: Wed, 5 Jul 89 19:39 EST
From: Richard Jensen <CAMPBELD@IUBACS>
Subject: science

The debate about quantum mechanics is about the wrong science. In the
18th century, physics was the dominant science for humanists, (thanks
to Newton) and again in the early/mid 20th century (thanks to
Einstein, Heisenberg et al.) But the 19th century, dominated by
reactions to Darwinism, seems more atuned to our current postmodern
sensibilities. Evolution attracted the 19c mind because it seemed
congruent with the teleological theme of progress. Granted that
caused humanities & social sciences some trouble. Spencer and all
that. But Spencer wasn't Darwin. Consider the advantage of
evolutionary biology today (in the guise of the neo-Darwinian
synthesis, as explained by Ernsy Mayr). It is non-telological. A
species' adaptation to the world--finding the right niche--is a risky
and uncertain venture. While biology can explain adaptation after the
event, it cannot predict the future. That is, it's a technical matter
to explain why the giraffe has a long neck. It's quite impossible to
predict what giraffes will look like a million years hence.
Uncertainty about the future arises from the options open to decision-
makers, combined with the impact their choices will have on the
environment and other creatures. This is much more akin to the
humanities' insights than the problem of measuring velocity or
location of a particle to plus-or-minus 10exp(-40).