Re: Implications of MWI

From: Stathis Papaioannou <>
Date: Sun, 01 May 2005 14:36:21 +1000

John Mikes wrote (in part):

>Your example "...a hydrogen atom is made up of an electron and a proton,
>..." is asking for the question: "and an electron? and a proton?" and so
>on - but the main deficiency of your (reductionist) statement is to
>for the alleged material(?) particles as to 'making' a model whithout also
>including functional aspects, total ambience-connections in an interrelated
>totality - dynamism.
>I (as a colloidal chemist) used another example:
>there is no such thing as "water = H2O" except for the primitive conclusion
>of 'destroying' water and getting measurement results resembling those on
>H2 and O2 (not H and O) with the proportion describable as in the water
>formula-weights. None of such "ingredients" allowing for a surface tension,
>the 4C max density, or hydrodynamics etc., so characteristic for 'water'.
>Reductionistic model-view resulted in an unimaginable edifice of the
>scientific knowledge-base, all balanced by applied math. As it turned out
>½century ago, it does not contribute easily to a 'deeper' understanding of
>the world. We realize complexities within models, between models and
>unrelated to models. Finite and infinite ones.
>This is why I slant my speculations away from the reductionistic
>Alas, I am not to far ahead with it.
>You asked the m$ - I replied the 2c.
>John M

You seem to be against what Daniel Dennett has called "greedy reductionism",
or trying to explain too much with too little. More simply, one can call
this scientific hubris. But I don't think there are many scientists who come
out and say "I'm a reductionist", any more than there are scientists who
come out and say "I know everything". It is always a working assumption that
scientific models are approximate and tentative, even if this is not
actually stated; otherwise, it isn't science, it's religion.

With your example of water, it is clear that it has special properties which
are not obvious from knowing the properties of hydrogen and oxygen. It is
possible that we do, in fact, have enough information to work out the
properties of water from first principles - from quantum mechanics - but at
present this is an extremely difficult task computationally, which is why
the chemists are safe from takeover by the physicists. The other possibility
is that we don't have enough information, because there is a fifth
fundamental force we haven't yet discovered, or because we need a complete
theory of quantum gravity, or whatever. Am I perpetuating reductionist
thinking by making these statements? If so, what would a non-reductionist
theory of water look like?

--Stathis Papaioannou

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Received on Sun May 01 2005 - 00:39:18 PDT

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