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The Physics of Existence

Ethereal

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In a previous thread (Prove God Exists) we discussed the physics and mechanics of God's existence, and I, for one, thought that was an extremely interesting topic. I'd like to dedicate a thread geared specifically toward the scientific aspects of God and the universe.

The foundation for our previous debate was that the universe, being dependent upon cause, could not have caused itself, and subsequent to this a being or entity independent of cause must have created the universe.

Furthermore, the infinitude of the universe was discussed and contested. My thoughts on this were that the universe cannot possibly be infinite since this would be a direct violation of Newtonian physics, specifically the law of inertia and the law of reciprocal actions. How could these Newtonian theories be true if nothing was required to set the hypothesized, infinite set of events into motion as the law of inertia states must occur for any action or event to initially take place? Also, I think it a logical fallacy to divide the universe into a sequence of events or occurrences. If the universe were truly infinite then the following equation must be false - ... => event => event => event => ... - since infinitude is singular, or even circular in nature, each divisible event in the sequence of infinitely occurring events could be considered implicitly the beginning and the end, and pursuant to this it doesn't seem possible that something singular or circular could have a beginning or an end.

Whether it's intrinsic infinitude which would constitute the following; B = Beginning of event, E = Ending of event, and (B + E) = Event where ... => (B + E) => (B + E) => (B + E) => ...

or extrinsic infinitude where B = Beginning of infinitude, E = End of infinitude, and where (B + ... + E) = Infinitude.

It seems to me that neither one of these equations could possibly be true.
 

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Ethereal said:
In a previous thread (Prove God Exists) we discussed the physics and mechanics of God's existence, and I, for one, thought that was an extremely interesting topic. I'd like to dedicate a thread geared specifically toward the scientific aspects of God and the universe.

The foundation for our previous debate was that the universe, being dependent upon cause, could not have caused itself, and subsequent to this a being or entity independent of cause must have created the universe.

Furthermore, the infinitude of the universe was discussed and contested. My thoughts on this were that the universe cannot possibly be infinite since this would be a direct violation of Newtonian physics, specifically the law of inertia and the law of reciprocal actions. How could these Newtonian theories be true if nothing was required to set the hypothesized, infinite set of events into motion as the law of inertia states must occur for any action or event to initially take place? Also, I think it a logical fallacy to divide the universe into a sequence of events or occurrences. If the universe were truly infinite then the following equation must be false - ... => event => event => event => ... - since infinitude is singular, or even circular in nature, each divisible event in the sequence of infinitely occurring events could be considered implicitly the beginning and the end, and pursuant to this it doesn't seem possible that something singular or circular could have a beginning or an end.

Whether it's intrinsic infinitude which would constitute the following; B = Beginning of event, E = Ending of event, and (B + E) = Event where ... => (B + E) => (B + E) => (B + E) => ...

or extrinsic infinitude where B = Beginning of infinitude, E = End of infinitude, and where (B + ... + E) = Infinitude.

It seems to me that neither one of these equations could possibly be true.
This whole argument is made moot by several things.

Firstly, Newtonian Physics is simply not correct, it provides good approximations for things that we observe on a daily basis, but it completely fails to explain many of the phenomenon that occur in the realms of the very large and very small - things that can only be (and then, only partially) explained by General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics, respectively.

Second, the universe may not be causal in the Newtonian sense. The statement that "every thing must have a cause" may not be necessarily true, and is indeed not the case in many areas of Quantum Mechanics (zero-point energy, anyone?). Our laws of physics break down at the singularity level, so we really have no idea how the universe would act before or at the time of the Big Bang. The idea of the deist watchwinding God is not one that can result from our current understanding of physics, and is really an appeal to ignorance.
 

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Newtonian physics has been proven wrong in many circumstances and has too many flaws


The foundation for our previous debate was that the universe, being dependent upon cause, could not have caused itself, and subsequent to this a being or entity independent of cause must have created the universe.

quantum physics proves that the universe is not based on causality (it is a probabilistic universe). You are not the only one who finds this hard to accept. Einstien had a problem with it (god does not play with dice) and fought it vigorously with his EPR paradox but Bell's theorum came along and proved him wrong.

And remember, it is still the most accurate branch of physics so far.
 
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ashurbanipal

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Second, the universe may not be causal in the Newtonian sense. The statement that "every thing must have a cause" may not be necessarily true, and is indeed not the case in many areas of Quantum Mechanics (zero-point energy, anyone?). Our laws of physics break down at the singularity level, so we really have no idea how the universe would act before or at the time of the Big Bang. The idea of the deist watchwinding God is not one that can result from our current understanding of physics, and is really an appeal to ignorance.
quantum physics proves that the universe is not based on causality (it is a probabilistic universe). You are not the only one who finds this hard to accept. Einstien had a problem with it (god does not play with dice) and fought it vigorously with his EPR paradox but Bell's theorum came along and proved him wrong.
Hang on a second. It sounds like you guys are confusing causality with determinability, which are two separate issues. Nothing in quantum mechanics does away with the necessity of causality--that would be remarkable. QM does show many instances in which it is impossible to determine the exact outcome of an event from known preconditions--which is just to say that events appear to be ultimately underdetermined by their physical precursors (which ought to lead us to infer something resembling God). That doesn't mean that those preconditions don't have to exist in order for the event itself to happen, or that their existence doesn't cause the outcome.

I personally don't see the need to bring physics into the causal argument for God, which I've recently come to realize is a much more powerful argument than is usually thought.
 

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I was thinking more of how Bell's theorum demands "noncausal structure of events" So we may be interpreting the word causal diffently as you rightfully pointed out

I also agree that we need to leave physics and science out of the proof of god. He or she is so much larger than any of it.
 

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ashurbanipal said:
Hang on a second. It sounds like you guys are confusing causality with determinability, which are two separate issues. Nothing in quantum mechanics does away with the necessity of causality--that would be remarkable. QM does show many instances in which it is impossible to determine the exact outcome of an event from known preconditions--which is just to say that events appear to be ultimately underdetermined by their physical precursors (which ought to lead us to infer something resembling God). That doesn't mean that those preconditions don't have to exist in order for the event itself to happen, or that their existence doesn't cause the outcome.

I personally don't see the need to bring physics into the causal argument for God, which I've recently come to realize is a much more powerful argument than is usually thought.
No, no, of course Quantum Mechanics removes the classical idea of determinism from our equations, the Uncertainty Principle makes sure of that. The fact of the matter is that our physical models of the universe (based on QM or GR) cannot predict what happens before or at the point of singularity.

Even on regular scales, QM has things that defy causality. Like I mentioned before, the spontaneous creation of particles/anti-particle pairs occurs constantly on the subatomic level, even in the emptiness of space. Indeed, this is the basis for Hawking Radiation, and the mechanism by which black holes shrink.

As well, causality is often equated with determinacy, at least semantically.
 

ashurbanipal

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No, no, of course Quantum Mechanics removes the classical idea of determinism from our equations, the Uncertainty Principle makes sure of that. The fact of the matter is that our physical models of the universe (based on QM or GR) cannot predict what happens before or at the point of singularity.
So? Maybe there's something wrong with our models.

Even on regular scales, QM has things that defy causality.
It is impossible to defy causality. That's like saying that even on regular scales, QM has things that defy the sound of a tuba. It's a nonsensical phrase that has, and can have, no meaning.

Like I mentioned before, the spontaneous creation of particles/anti-particle pairs occurs constantly on the subatomic level
Spontaneous? We assume it's spontaneous because we have no means to determine when and how it will occur. But that's not at all like saying that it has no cause.

Indeed, this is the basis for Hawking Radiation, and the mechanism by which black holes shrink.
"The mechanism by which?" Implies causality, it appears. "The basis for?" Implies it again.

As well, causality is often equated with determinacy, at least semantically.
I'm not sure why or that it should be.
 

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I seem to be misunderstanding your argument, or something. Perhaps this is an issue of semantics.

What, exactly, are you basing the idea that there can be no uncaused events (if that is indeed what you are saying) on?
 

ashurbanipal

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What, exactly, are you basing the idea that there can be no uncaused events (if that is indeed what you are saying) on?
I wouldn't say that there can be no uncaused events, just that QM doesn't do away with the notion of causality. Any event that QM describes still has a cause. You mentioned, for instance, Hawking radiation. That only occurs within a very small threshold outside the event horizon of a black hole. The pair of virtual photons come into existence thanks to quantum fluctuations. It therefore requires a black hole and quantum fluctuations to cause Hawking radiation.

Quantum fluctuations themselves are a little trickier--no one knows what causes them, but that hardly means that nothing causes them, and no theory with which I am familiar makes that precise claim.

That said, the causal argument for God claims that there must be an uncaused event or thing or entity or whatever. Perhaps Quantum Fluctuations, or whatever causes them, qualifies.
 
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ashurbanipal said:
Quantum fluctuations themselves are a little trickier--no one knows what causes them, but that hardly means that nothing causes them, and no theory with which I am familiar makes that precise claim.
This is more of what I was getting at, and you certainly make a good point. What, then, if quantum fluctuations simply have no cause, in that they truly occur spontaneously and without any provocation?
 

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Well, we really don't understand what quantum fluctuations are. If they truly are uncaused, then if we define God as the first cause, quantum fluctuations must be God.

I tend to think that eventually we'll figure those out as well.
 
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Ethereal said:
I'd like to dedicate a thread geared specifically toward the scientific aspects of God and the universe.
That is an oxymoron. God has no place in science because science depends on empirical data and observable phenomenon and God is neither of those two things.
 

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Napoleon's Nightingale said:
That is an oxymoron. God has no place in science because science depends on empirical data and observable phenomenon and God is neither of those two things.

Well, not really. The more and more we learn via the scientific method, the smaller and smaller the box God lives in becomes. Right now God lives in a box a Planck Length on a side.

Just remember, wherever God is, where ever and when ever God is invoked as the "solution", thought and science stop dead in their tracks.

Oh, and someone mentionen "infinity". If the universe is truly infinite, either in this material universe we perceive, or through various multi-bubble theories, then the concept of uniqueness is also dead. That sorta makes God a fairly useless idea as well, since the absense of uniqueness implies duplication, and that would mean God's repeating herself. Infintitely, I might add.
 
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Scarecrow Akhbar said:
Well, not really. The more and more we learn via the scientific method, the smaller and smaller the box God lives in becomes. Right now God lives in a box a Planck Length on a side.
Leave the idea of God to Metaphysics. Immanuel Kant tried to establish Metaphysics as a valid science but he ultimatley failed.
 

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Whaddyaknow

you do not pay attention for a while, and everyone's I.Q. level increases dramatically.. where do they find you people? I couldn't begin to tell you anything about Quantum Physics.
 

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Well, not really. The more and more we learn via the scientific method, the smaller and smaller the box God lives in becomes. Right now God lives in a box a Planck Length on a side.
Not true. There is still much mystery. Science allows us to substitute terms, but does not tell us the ultimate nature of anything. Can you (or anyone) say finally what such a simple phenomenon as electricity is? Of course, a flow of electrons through a conductive substance. But what is an electron? A combination of quarks in a certain manner. But what are quarks? The smallest possible bits of matter. But what is matter, and why are quarks the smallest possible bits? Well....

That we've learned to predict with great certainty some natural phenomena shouldn't go to our heads so much, methinks.

(P.S. Of course, I'm aware that modern physics has gone beyond the sequence above, and there are some physicists who would disagree with the specifics of what I've said. But the general idea is sound, regardless).
 

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ashurbanipal said:
Science allows us to substitute terms, but does not tell us the ultimate nature of anything.
Not so. The ultimate nature of anything is the way it behaves. An electron behaves in such a way. It's not made of chocolate or wood. It is a certain combination of quarks & it behaves in a certain way as we all know from it's charge & mass etc.
That's the ultimate nature of the electron. There is no more to it than that. It's that simple. If you are looking for a metaphysical explanation it simply isn't there. Metaphysics is like religion. It professes to answer higher questions. But it doesn't. Those 'higher questions' are in fact meaningless & just serve to make things more complicated than they are.
 
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robin

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Ethereal said:
The foundation for our previous debate was that the universe, being dependent upon cause, could not have caused itself, and subsequent to this a being or entity independent of cause must have created the universe.
If the laws of nature are outside space & time then nothing was needed in the 1st place to give rise to them. This universe is just a bubble in infinity. So there's your God... infinity. Not quit the loving caring figure you might think, but there nevertheless.
 

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Not so. The ultimate nature of anything is the way it behaves.
That's a cop out, and demonstrably false. A sword may never be used to cut someone or inflict violence in any way--does that change the fact that it's a weapon? Its behavior has not reflected its nature--according to your principle, it's not a weapon.

Or, suppose we focus instead on a scalpel. First, I use it to operate on someone, and thus by its behavior, it's an instrument of medicine. But then a crazed maniac breaks into my operating room and I use it to kill him. Now it's a weapon. What about the scalpel actually changed from point A to point B?

Or, we could focus on a class of objects that you acknowledge to exist, but that defy such analysis: behaviors. If we ask what the ultimate nature of a behavior is, we'd have to say (by your logic) that it's nature is how it behaves. How does behavior behave? I'm not sure I can figure that out.

Note that the reverse idea--that the nature of a nature is equally absurd, is not true. The ultimate nature of an electron may be abstract, but the nature of that nature is just the sum total of every aspect of the electron.

An electron behaves in such a way. It's not made of chocolate or wood. It is a certain combination of quarks & it behaves in a certain way as we all know from it's charge & mass etc.
You were just saying that a thing is the way it behaves...who cares about all that other stuff? I think electrons are made of bananas--and so long as they continue to behave like electrons, who is to challenge my claim? Certainly not you.

That's the ultimate nature of the electron. There is no more to it than that. It's that simple.
I agree, but why stop there? You said it's made of quarks. What is a quark? Whatever your answer, what is that? And whatever your answer, what is that? So on, ad infinitum.

If you are looking for a metaphysical explanation it simply isn't there.
I wouldn't say I'm looking for a metaphysical explanation per se. But suggesting that metaphysical explanations don't exist (depending on what you mean) is either a ridiculous claim or one that is simply false.

Aristotle coined the notion of the Meta-ta-phusika (sorry, no Greek fonts) to mean those things we must invoke to explain the phusika--the physical world. In this light, there are lots of metaphysical things. A natural law, for instance, qualifies as a metaphysical object. You can't take a picture of a natural law (only how we denote it or how it affects physical things). You can't weigh it. You can't put an ounce of it in the mail and post it to someone. If you think about it, there are all kinds of everyday things that people talk about that fall into the same category. Language, words, numbers, operands, wrath, power, processes, etc. are all metaphysical in that we acknowledge they exist, but we know we'll never bump into them at a train station.

Metaphysics is like religion. It professes to answer higher questions. But it doesn't. Those 'higher questions' are in fact meaningless & just serve to make things more complicated than they are.
You sound a lot like Mortiz Schlick. There's a reason he's fallen out of favor.
 

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Your tone is a little harsh to start with & not condusive to a constructive or indeed pleasant debate. Nevertheless I shall reply on this occasion.
ashurbanipal said:
That's a cop out, and demonstrably false. A sword may never be used to cut someone or inflict violence in any way--does that change the fact that it's a weapon? Its behavior has not reflected its nature--according to your principle, it's not a weapon.
A complete definition of a sword will need to include the fact that it's not always used as a weapon. Any other definition of the nature of swords is incomplete. Therefore my premise stands.

ashurbanipal said:
Or, suppose we focus instead on a scalpel. First, I use it to operate on someone, and thus by its behavior, it's an instrument of medicine. But then a crazed maniac breaks into my operating room and I use it to kill him. Now it's a weapon. What about the scalpel actually changed from point A to point B?
You are playing with words. You are speaking of the scalpel/human combination as if it's the scalpel alone. You did the same with the sword.

ashurbanipal said:
Or, we could focus on a class of objects that you acknowledge to exist, but that defy such analysis: behaviors. If we ask what the ultimate nature of a behavior is, we'd have to say (by your logic) that it's nature is how it behaves. How does behavior behave? I'm not sure I can figure that out.
Humans are complex & capricious. You've just proved that to be so. Does that make the 'nature of humans' as being any less valid as a means to define them ?
We can go on to explain some behaviours.. example.. woman can be irrational due to PMT etc etc. Men aggresive due to testosterone etc etc. In so doing we would be giving the causes for some behaviour but not the nature of it. Or do you define humans as 'PMT' or 'testosterone' ?
You would be being rather incomplete if you did.

ashurbanipal said:
Note that the reverse idea--that the nature of a nature is equally absurd, is not true. The ultimate nature of an electron may be abstract, but the nature of that nature is just the sum total of every aspect of the electron.
Isn't 'The nature of nature' a circular argument ?
ashurbanipal said:
You were just saying that a thing is the way it behaves...who cares about all that other stuff? I think electrons are made of bananas--and so long as they continue to behave like electrons, who is to challenge my claim? Certainly not you.
I never said the constituent parts are not of interest. For example.. the electron has negative charge of minus one. That explains many aspects of it's nature.

ashurbanipal said:
I agree, but why stop there? You said it's made of quarks. What is a quark? Whatever your answer, what is that? And whatever your answer, what is that? So on, ad infinitum.
A quark is that which along with other quarks necesary can comprise an electron & also that which behaves as a lone quark does. Incidently they haven't isolated quarks yet have they ?
If so then they can only be defined in terms of how they behave in conjunction with the other constituent quarks of the electron. There's the nub... namely that a vital part of the nature of a quark is.. you can't have a single quark in isolation. They always come in groups in the form of hadrons.

ashurbanipal said:
Aristotle coined the notion of the Meta-ta-phusika (sorry, no Greek fonts) to mean those things we must invoke to explain the phusika--the physical world. In this light, there are lots of metaphysical things. A natural law, for instance, qualifies as a metaphysical object. You can't take a picture of a natural law (only how we denote it or how it affects physical things). You can't weigh it. You can't put an ounce of it in the mail and post it to someone. If you think about it, there are all kinds of everyday things that people talk about that fall into the same category. Language, words, numbers, operands, wrath, power, processes, etc. are all metaphysical in that we acknowledge they exist, but we know we'll never bump into them at a train station.
It's erroneous to speak of natural laws as 'physical objects'.

ashurbanipal said:
You sound a lot like Mortiz Schlick. There's a reason he's fallen out of favor.
Thank you, I'll take it as a compliment that you classify me with such great men as Kurt Gödel :smile:
 
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ashurbanipal

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Your tone is a little harsh to start with & not condusive to a constructive or indeed pleasant debate. Nevertheless I shall reply on this occasion.
I didn't mean it to be, but looking back over it, I can see where it might seem a bit snarky. Please accept my apologies.

A complete definition of a sword will need to include the fact that it's not always used as a weapon. Any other definition of the nature of swords is incomplete. Therefore my premise stands.
You mean, a complete catalog of its behavior? Why isn't the fact, say, that swords are generally made of metal important?

You are playing with words. You are speaking of the scalpel/human combination as if it's the scalpel alone. You did the same with the sword.
But can you answer the question? Your answer will reveal much, I believe.

Humans are complex & capricious.
Well now wait a minute--who said anything about humans? I was talking about behaviors--i.e. the behavior of an electron, the behavior of a crane, the behavior of a galaxy, the behavior of a virus, etc. If behaviors exist, they're things (physical or not). If things are just the catalog of their behaviors, then asking how behavior behaves is surely a legitimate question--otherwise, we can't understand what we mean when we ask people to catalog behaviors.

You've just proved that to be so. Does that make the 'nature of humans' as being any less valid as a means to define them ?
I don't follow you.

We can go on to explain some behaviours.. example.. woman can be irrational due to PMT etc etc. Men aggresive due to testosterone etc etc. In so doing we would be giving the causes for some behaviour but not the nature of it. Or do you define humans as 'PMT' or 'testosterone' ?
You would be being rather incomplete if you did.
Again, I don't follow you. You said that the essence or nature or definition of a thing just is, and is exactly exhausted by, the catalog of its behavior. Or did I misunderstand when you wrote:

The ultimate nature of anything is the way it behaves.
So I don't understand how testosterone or PMT enters into the matter, unless you mean to suggest it as an example that proves your point. If so, how does it do that?

Isn't 'The nature of nature' a circular argument?
No. It's not an argument.

I never said the constituent parts are not of interest. For example.. the electron has negative charge of minus one. That explains many aspects of it's nature.
OK. I agree. How is this relevant to the point you were trying to refute? I said that science allows us to substitute terms and nothing else (at base). By that, I mean it establishes connections between things that were previously not seen to be connected. We used to not realize that lightning and static electricity are essentially the same phenomena, and we used to not realize that they are both made of flows (or fields) of free electrons. Now we know that, we can generate static electricity by our understanding of how electrons behave. That's what science does.

What it does not do is tell us what electrons actually are--except by defining them in terms of something else, of which we may ask the same questions.

A quark is that which along with other quarks necesary can comprise an electron & also that which behaves as a lone quark does. Incidently they haven't isolated quarks yet have they ?
No, to my knowledge no one has ever seen a quark. I think there was an experiment a few years ago that looked promising, but it turned out that the result was misinterpretted.

But anyway, "that which behaves as a lone quark does" is just another term, and one, it turns out, is logically equivalent to "quark." So it's not really a definition. If it can't be defined, then we have to admit to being mystified by what an electron is--hence my point. If it can be defined, then whatever we define it as, we ask the question again. Eventually, we'll get to a point where we have to admit we are mystified--hence my point yet again.

If so then they can only be defined in terms of how they behave in conjunction with the other constituent quarks of the electron. There's the nub... namely that a vital part of the nature of a quark is.. you can't have a single quark in isolation. They always come in groups in the form of hadrons.
Yes, but how does that indicate what a quark is?

It's erroneous to speak of natural laws as 'physical objects'.
That was exactly the point. Are you willing to agree with the statement that there are no natural laws? If not, then you've admitted a metaphysical object.

Thank you, I'll take it as a compliment that you classify me with such great men as Kurt Gödel.
Godel and Schlick have nothing to do with each other in this context. Godel was not a positivist, though he probably was the more intelligent of the two.
 

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ashurbanipal said:
Godel and Schlick have nothing to do with each other in this context. Godel was not a positivist, though he probably was the more intelligent of the two.
Ummm...I've got a book on Godel's Incompleteness Theorem sitting on the shelf that I need to read, but I do believe that saying that Godel wasn't a positivist is an understatement. Wasn't the Incompleteness Theorem the death blow to "Postivism"?
 

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PS I just checked. Electrons aren't hadrons so not made of quarks, so imagine I'm talking about protons instead visa vie quarks.
 

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Ummm...I've got a book on Godel's Incompleteness Theorem sitting on the shelf that I need to read, but I do believe that saying that Godel wasn't a positivist is an understatement. Wasn't the Incompleteness Theorem the death blow to "Postivism"?
Well, the history of the Viennna five and their cronies is about as convoluted as that of the Russian Revolution(s), and it wasn't something I was ever so interested in to begin with. But IIRC, Godel's proof wasn't recognized as important until the late 40's, and logical positivism was already dying by then. The problem with positivism is that its theory of meaning is self-contradictory. Schlick, Carnap, and Ayer all proposed that a proposition is meaningful if and only if its references are empirically verifiable. But that principle is itself a proposition, and it doesn't seem to be empirically verifiable, so by its own standard, must be meaningless.

Neurath was the only one whose system semi-escaped this pretty simple criticism, thanks to his notions of coherentism. The rest, after about a decade of heated discussion, finally had to admit that their system was "just a suggestion."

Godel showed that any sufficiently complex system would generate uprovable propositions, and that did sort of flush away any kind of residue left from the positivists. But they were on their way out before anyone took notice of his work.
 

ashurbanipal

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PS I just checked. Electrons aren't hadrons so not made of quarks, so imagine I'm talking about protons instead visa vie quarks.
Surely you understand that it doesn't really matter what we're talking about, specifically. If electrons aren't made of quarks, what are they? And whatever that is, what is that? And whatever that is, what is that. And so on.

If you prefer to talk about protons, what are they? And whatever your answer, what is that? And whatever your answer, what is that. And so on.

Once again, my point--science allows us to substitute terms. Nothing more.
 
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