General Question

Blondesjon's avatar

Copenhagen interpretation or many worlds interpretation?

Asked by Blondesjon (33927points) September 4th, 2016

Is our reality determined by our observation or is it just one of a nearly infinite number of possible outcomes occurring simultaneously?

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49 Answers

janbb's avatar

Aha – the Uncertaintly Principle! I’m not sure!

Inspired_2write's avatar

In this vast universe why would we assume that We are the only ones here?
Even in this world their are many life forms, so why not other Worlds too?
I agree that there are many worlds.

dappled_leaves's avatar

All I know is that Fluther is the darkest timeline.

Blondesjon's avatar

@dappled_leaves . . . One of the best episodes ever.

SmashTheState's avatar

You ask this like it’s a either/or. If quantum weirdness teaches us anything, it’s that the Universe doesn’t like absolutes. A lot of bad science fiction has taught people to think of the many worlds model as “parallel dimensions,” but it doesn’t really work like that. The past and the future do not exist from the perspective of now except as a quantum probability wave. The farther into the past or future you go from the moment of now, the less certain the probability of a particle’s velocity or position becomes. Eventually the probability wave vanishes into the raw, seething background of quantum foam from which all possibility emerges: what the Taoists refer to as “the Great Mother.”

Instead of a bunch of Universes stacked side by side like a pile of lumber, think of the Universe as a parabolic curve with the moment of now at the bottom of the bowl, where probabilities are most certain, and the past and future fraying into tangles of overlapping uncertainty where we are unable to say this happened or that happened, but that multiple possibilities are equally likely. That dip in the middle, that moment of now where reality is most concrete, is the result of consciousness, the participatory anthropic principle. Through our interaction with the complex system which is the Universe, we cause the probability wave to flatten out – not into absolute certainty, but into a state certain enough that our senses can perceive it.

kritiper's avatar

Our reality is determined by our observations. Nothing else, no matter how possible, is relevant.

monthly's avatar

I disagree with the above absolutely. Reality is independent of observation.

SmashTheState's avatar

@monthly Physical matter is a myth. We’ve known for at least 300 years that physical matter can’t exist by its own definition, since it is internally inconsistent. For example, for physical matter to exist, it must exist, as you say, completely apart from any sensory qualia. If the only properties it can be said to have are those which can be sensed, it requires someone to sense it, and therefore can’t be matter. Now, give me an example of a property which can’t be sensed. I’ll save you some time: you can’t. In order for you to conceive of something, it must be sensible. Therefore, physical matter can’t exist.

That’s just one of the proofs. There are two others in Berkeley’s Three Dialogues, which was written in 1713. Centuries before even that, the Hermetics had already begun intuiting the fractal and stochastic nature of the Universe, and the oddly malleable nature of what is commonly called “matter.”

That’s not to say that the Universe isn’t real; phenomenologically, the mental creation of schema (such as time and space) causes the Universe to exist, regardless of what properties it may have, and whether those properties are representational or things-in-themselves.

monthly's avatar

I disagree. Matter exists whether or not someone is there to sense it or not. The universe was here long before we as a species existed and will be here long after. I am not familiar with the philosophy, and I defer to you on that, but I am well familiar with the physics. The postmodern idea of reality being based purely on one perception is hooey. IMO, of course.

SmashTheState's avatar

@monthly I defer to your religious faith in “matter,” even though it can’t possibly exist according to its own definition. It’s never very useful arguing with the religious faithful, since every response boils down to “it’s true because it’s true.”

olivier5's avatar

@SmashTheState Physical matter is a myth. We’ve known for at least 300 years that physical matter can’t exist by its own definition,

Maybe you got the wrong definition?

I don’t know what “matter” is, nor “energy”, nor “information” nor “mind” – it all looks very mysterious to me but I am certain that some “stuff” must exist.

Strauss's avatar

@olivier5 I am certain that some “stuff” must exist.

You’re certain of this because of your perception. The only way we know anything is through the experience of our senses. Any other method is hearsay. Even peer-reviewed scientific studies that “prove” scientific principles are at best second hand knowledge, many times even further removed from first-hand observation. Has anyone ever observed quantum physics in action? How about astrophysics?

This doesn’t mean that I don’t believe what science demonstrates.

monthly's avatar

@SmashTheState Hm. I am not arguing, I am disagreeing. And I do not have “faith” as you put it. I am not religious, but I will put the ad hominem and the straw man argument (well done, by the way) for now.

I am looking at matter from a purely empiric and scientific point of view, with the caveat that matter and energy are interchangeable. You are parsing words and definitions. I am looking at reality. I am typing this on an iPad keyboard which would exist whether I believed it existed or not.

olivier5's avatar

@Yetanotheruser You’re certain of this [that some “stuff” must exist] because of your perception.

If my perception exists, something exists, because my perception IS something, no? That’s the essence of the cogito.

Strauss's avatar

@olivier5 That’s the essence of the cogito.

By “the cogito”, I am assuming you are referring to Descartes’ Cogito ergo sum.

The translation of that sentence is: I think therefore I am. (emphasis added). IMHO, the statement has nothing directly to do with perception. It’s quite a different action to think than it is to perceive. We perceive with our senses, and interpret (by thinking) with our mind. The mind can be fooled. The Imagineers at the Disney theme parks make a great living doing just that.

What appears to us as objective reality is a set of mutually agreed upon illusions. If you and I look at a red flower, we agree that the color is red, but how do we know we’re seeing exactly the same thing?

olivier5's avatar

In order to KNOW positively that I think, I need to be aware of my own thoughts. I needs to “hear” them in my mind. Consciousness is just another sense. It informs us about what happens in parts of our mental space, just like hearing informs us about air pressure variations around us.

To say “cogito” in confidence, i need to rely on my perception of my own thoughts. I perceive my thoughts, therefore I think, therefore I am.

Besides, any perception, whether true or false, any “qualia” IS itself a form of thought. If I perceive anything, e.g. the sound of a fly, I think (since a perception is a thought), therefore I am.

olivier5's avatar

@Yetanotheruser What appears to us as objective reality is a set of mutually agreed upon illusions. If you and I look at a red flower, we agree that the color is red, but how do we know we’re seeing exactly the same thing?

The short answer is: nobody knows if you see the colors the way I see them, but you probably don’t, given the genetic variability of the human race. I think men and women see colors differently, for one. So what?

Strauss's avatar

My point about color was to illustrate the “agreements” that constitute objective reality. Our perception of reality is very much dependent on our observation.

All observations of so-called “external” reality are really observations of our own sensory experiences. There are experiences for each of the so-called “external” senses. For example, there are visual experiences, auditory experiences, tactile experiences, olfactory experiences, and gustatory experiences. These experiences are all assumed to result from “external” stimuli. (External to the senses, not necessarily external to the body.)

olivier5's avatar

Yes but there is no point in mistrusting our senses in a wholesale manner. Just because we can mistrust them doesn’t mean we should.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@SmashTheState There’s a difference between “Locke’s definition of matter” (which is Berkeley’s target) and ”the definition of matter” (which can change as our understanding changes). Berkeley’s arguments against Locke are brilliant, but our conception of the world has moved on from that of the 1700s. And as that conception has changed, so has the worldview of the physicalists.

We’ve also gotten a lot better at logic. In the 1700s, it was much easier to conflate metaphysical questions about what exists with epistemological questions about how we come to know that something exists. Also, the empiricist was never committed to saying that only things we can sense/detect exist. Traditionally, it was the rationalists who took a restrictive epistemic view (saying that we could only know that which could be proved by reason) and the empiricists who took a more expansive view (saying that we could also gain knowledge by way of our senses).

So the contemporary empiricist will respond to Berkeley (and Locke, since they reject his arguments as well) by pointing out that matter doesn’t need an observer to exist under the modern definition. It’s just that we’ll never know about it without observing it. Similarly, Locke had the problem of believing that properties were always separate from that in which they inhered, thereby requiring him to believe in a physical substratum without any properties of its own. But modern philosophers and physicists think that this is a mistake. While any given property may be conceptually distinct from the object in which it inheres, it does not follow that there is any material substratum without properties.

Berkeley’s arguments rely on the physicalist adhering to the Lockean assumption—which is entirely reasonable given that those were the assumptions of his day. Every philosophy is a product of its time. But philosophy moves on, and physicalists no longer hold to these assumptions. They have new assumptions and new arguments, which in turn requires new counterarguments.

kritiper's avatar

(Sure glad I said “Our reality…” and not just “Reality…”)

monthly's avatar

@kritiper Why? There is only one reality.

kritiper's avatar

Wrong. There is reality and perceived reality. Remember the old story about the 7 blind men and the elephant?

monthly's avatar

Wrong. There is only one realty. Ones perceptions may be different but that doesn’t change the reality. That’s how magicians make their money.

Strauss's avatar

There is only one reality and it is subjective.

monthly's avatar

Reality is that which when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.

Philip K. Dick

SmashTheState's avatar

@SavoirFaire I made very clear, as did Berkeley, that I was not claiming there is no reality, nor even that there is no objective reality. But the only reality which is knowable is our lebenswelt, which is what @monthly is really referring to in his axiomatic assertions of faith. And lebenswelt arises from the specific schema we use to divide the perceived Universe into separate qualia. Since many of our schema are archetypal, we’re born with a set of schema such as time and space (and the Platonic ideals) which allow us to communicate with one another. Not all our schema are universal, which is why there is such a schism in thought between Eastern and Western philosophy, for example.

None of this, however, changes the fact that “matter” as @monthly conceives of it not only does not exist but cannot exist. His naive-materialist view is both unsupportable and illogical, which is why he’s reduced to simply stating axioms. Ultimately it simply doesn’t matter whether there is something-in-itself which ephemerally gives rise to the qualia we manufacture into “matter,” since it’s unknowable. Arguing about the unknowable is the actual and literal equivalent of arguing about angelic pin-dancing – and just as useful.

This is important because quantum weirdness is constantly showing us that the model of physical matter is neither useful nor accurate. Our instinctive belief in physical matter is acting as a barrier to understanding, no different than the way Christian dogma blocked scientific advancement for 1500 years. As you may be aware, the names chosen to describe the qualities of quarks – up, down, top, bottom, strange, charm – were specifically chosen for the Zen-like purpose of breaking the instinct to conceive of them in conventional physical terms like the Rutherford atom. Understanding quantum weirdness requires a higher level of abstraction than most people are willing to tolerate. Of course, so do the higher levels of Kohlberg’s scale, which is why our shitty world looks the way it does. We have an ethical duty to our species to assist in helping people to achieve the capacity for higher levels of abstraction before we exterminate ourselves and take a large chunk of multicellular life on this planet with us.

@monthly That quotation by Dick doesn’t mean what you think it means. In fact, it means nearly the opposite of what you intend it to mean. I think you’ll find if you look into Dick’s life and personal philosophy (R. Crumb did an excellent comic about it if you want the Coles Notes version – if you want the longer version, read VALIS), you’ll understand why Dick didn’t intend what he said to mean what you think it does.

olivier5's avatar

@SmashTheState To many contradictions in there. First you say Monthly’s views are wrong, then you say “Arguing about the unknowable is the actual and literal equivalent of arguing about angelic pin-dancing – and just as useful.”

I agree that most of these discussion are utterly useless, because ultimately, what people say is often at a variance with what they think and act upon every single day. And guess what? Most people act as if some sort of “matter” existed out there independently of our perception.

E.g. when you lose your keys, don’t you look for them? Or do you assume they vanished from existence the moment you lost sight of them?... :-)

SmashTheState's avatar

@olivier5 Do you think the only alternative to believing in physical matter is believing that nothing exists?

olivier5's avatar

What do you mean by “physical matter”? Try and define it. As for me, i’m talking of “some kind of matter” ie i don’t know what it is but postulate that it exists independently of my perception.

That’s why I look for my keys when i misplace them.

SmashTheState's avatar

So if someone says, “I believe in some kind of God,” it’s my job to disprove every possible version and variation of God which could exist? No, it doesn’t work that way. You are positing this thing you call physical matter. Great. Now you get to provide evidence for it.

I knew a philosophy professor who had a proof for God’s existence that he liked to use. “The Egyptians believed that the Sun was God. Look up. See that big, bright, round thing in the sky? God exists, QED.”

The point he was trying to make is not that we should all be worshipping Amun-Re, but that you can make anything true through creative use of language and arguing from your conclusions. You want matter to exist because you were taught by a succession of authority figures that the world is made of matter. If the world isn’t made of matter, then it becomes a scary place where authority lies to you, and thus everything you have never questioned might also not be true. So you use your “common sense” to declare matter exists, and then set out to find properties you can assign it which haven’t (yet) been proven false, creating a matter equivalent of the God-of-the-gaps.

olivier5's avatar

@Smash

It’s not your job to disprove me or anybody else. However, it’s your duty to express yourself precisely enough for others to understand and check what you say. If you say “the definition of physical matter implies this and that”, you should provide your definition of physical matter so that others can check what you say. Otherwise you’re just making noise with your mouth.

You want matter to exist because you were taught by a succession of authority figures that the world is made of matter. If the world isn’t made of matter, then it becomes a scary place where authority lies to you, and thus everything you have never questioned might also not be true.

You’re making many unwarranted assumptions here. I have questionned these things a lot. That’s why I can say I have no idea what ‘matter’ is. But the world has to be made of SOMETHING. Call that something as you want.

The bottom line for me is that this ‘something’ does not depend on a member of the species Homo sapiens perceiving it in order to exist. That’s why I Iook for my keys when I misplace them: I assume that they still exist even when I can’t see them.

Why do you Iook for your keys when you misplace them (assuming you do)?

SmashTheState's avatar

@olivier5 ”...the world has to be made of SOMETHING”

Why? Because it would make you feel uncomfortable if it wasn’t? You appear to believe that your lack of imagination is somehow proof that matter must exist. First off, if we’re going to get all empirical, nothing is true. Truth is a metaphysical property, and empiricism does not deal in metaphysics, by definition. “Matter” is a model, and all models are false for the same reason that you can’t cross the Atlantic Ocean by stepping over a world map. Models are metaphors we create to help us understand something. When a person begins confusing the model for the thing it’s modelling, all hope of understanding is lost.

“To point at the moon a finger is needed, but woe to those who take the finger for the moon.”D.T. Suzuki

olivier5's avatar

You seem to be quite obsessed with ‘matter’ but unable to define it. Forget about it. The important point is NOT how to name whatever exists. The important point is that SOMETHING MUST EXIST.

Do you think you exist, Smash? Cause if you do, you agree with me that something exists… And if you DON’T, i should perhaps stop writing to you. :-)

SmashTheState's avatar

You know what? Forget it. I wrote three different paragraphs and deleted each one. Sometimes you just have to let it go.

olivier5's avatar

Yes, I think you’d be better off letting it go. But maybe you could muster enough energy to answer my question by yes or no?

The question is: When you lose your keys, do you look for them?

The reason I ask is that I have yet to meet with a “reality doubter” who can actually live up to his philosophy… They all live their lives as any realist would, they eat food, they drive cars, they look for their keys… thus proving that they actually BELIEVE in the permanence of objects irrespective of perception. Otherwise they wouldn’t look for their keys, right?

Your philosophy is pure pretense, Smash. Deep down you ARE a realist, just like anybody else. Sorry to burst your bubble.

SmashTheState's avatar

I’m not going to waste my time disassembling your straw men.

olivier5's avatar

Once again, you’re assuming that you, I, time and straw men actually exist… :-) tsk tsk tsk what a naïve realist you are…

monthly's avatar

Of course absolutely none of this has anything to do with the OP.

Strauss's avatar

Yes it does. If reality is subjective, then it is determined, or at least affected, by being observed. That’s the point of Schrödinger’s thought experiment.

olivier5's avatar

It does relate to the OP. I just showed that nobody seriously believes that observation determines reality.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@SmashTheState “I made very clear, as did Berkeley, that I was not claiming there is no reality, nor even that there is no objective reality.”

Neither “reality” nor “objective reality” appear anywhere in my response, nor does any part of it rest on the assumption that you or Berkeley are denying the existence of reality (objective or otherwise). If you read carefully, you’ll see that I was responding to your argument rather than your position.

“But the only reality which is knowable is our lebenswelt”

I don’t think this is true. In fact, I think it is a play on words. Our lebenswelt is not reality, but one set of data by which we come to know reality (to the extent that we can/do). When I learn Euclidean geometry, I learn that the world cannot be both Euclidean and have parallel lines that intersect (and thus if I later find intersecting parallel lines, I know that the world is non-Euclidean). The axioms are not the world, but I learn something about the world from them. When light enters my eye or sound enters my tympanic membrane, I receive data that my brain then interprets. The data is not the world, but I learn something about the world from it. This is not to say that our lebenswelt never gets in the way of our understanding. All data can be misinterpreted. It is only to say that there is no necessity to stopping at our lebenswelt (unless we have an overly expansive notion of “lebenswelt,” at which point the concept ceases to be helpful).

“which is what @monthly is really referring to in his axiomatic assertions of faith.”

Leaving aside the fact that he made no references to physical matter prior to the answer I was responding to, I am not here to adjudicate your disagreement with @monthly. I am responding directly to the claims of this answer.

“Not all our schema are universal, which is why there is such a schism in thought between Eastern and Western philosophy, for example.”

As someone who has studied both in depth, however, I find that this schism—while present—is often exaggerated. The Pyrrhonians and the Epicureans both profess ideas that are remarkably similar to ideas found in Buddhism. Other ancient Greek schools have interesting similarities with certain elements of Jainism and various Vedic traditions. This suggests that whatever interpretive schema may be at work in our minds are not insurmountable, particularly since many of these similarities are more likely to be due to influence than parallel evolution.

“None of this, however, changes the fact that “matter” as @monthly conceives of it not only does not exist but cannot exist.”

I do not see where @monthly has presented any particular conception of matter for us to investigate. But again, I am not here to adjudicate your disagreement with him.

“Ultimately it simply doesn’t matter whether there is something-in-itself which ephemerally gives rise to the qualia we manufacture into ‘matter,’ since it’s unknowable.”

Leaving aside whether or not it matters (it obviously matters for metaphysical purposes, but it may not matter for any practical purpose), I will simply note that this is a much different claim than the one you originally put forward. Berkeley’s subjective idealism and Kant’s transcendental idealism are rather different points of view.

“This is important because quantum weirdness is constantly showing us that the model of physical matter is neither useful nor accurate.”

The current model. Quantum weirdness has also inspired changes to that model, and the replacement may be both useful and accurate. Again, time marches on—as do philosophy and physics.

“Of course, so do the higher levels of Kohlberg’s scale, which is why our shitty world looks the way it does.”

Kohlberg’s scale is supposed to be observational. It is about changes that people in fact go through (complications of regression notwithstanding), not necessarily those that they ought to go through (though many often read it that way). And it’s interesting to note that Kohlberg’s reading of his observations mysteriously changed when his moral views changed (which tends to undermine the supposed objectivity and scientific legitimacy of it all). Indeed, I find that Kohlberg imports far too many philosophical assumptions into his work and overlooks important distinctions. So while there is much there of value, there is also much there that is misleading.

“We have an ethical duty to our species to assist in helping people to achieve the capacity for higher levels of abstraction before we exterminate ourselves and take a large chunk of multicellular life on this planet with us.”

Sure, and that’s going to require that we go beyond the thinking of the 18th and 19th centuries—brilliant as much of it was.

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

10 dimensions video part one
Part 2 Lots of other video just Google 10 dimensions YouTube.

monthly's avatar

@SavoirFaire Thanks for piping in, but honestly I don’t care that much. I’m trained in physics, not philosophy, and this question has pivoted from a question of a quantum mechanics which I know a lot about, to philosophy which doesn’t interest me in the slightest. So I’ve tuned out.

Strauss's avatar

There seems to be much in quantum mechanics (a subject in which I am merely an enthusiastic dabbler) that lends itself to philosophy and metaphysics, especially when we attempt to objectively observe the effects of objective observation. That is where, IMHO,the boundaries get blurry and the discussion can drift into subjectivity vs.objectivity.

monthly's avatar

@Yetanotheruser That is true for people who don’t understand quantum mechanics. There is absolutely nothing philosophical or metaphysical about quantum mechanics, and people who know what they’re talking about never resort to this. https://xkcd.com/1240/

olivier5's avatar

There is always a kernel of philosophy in any science. This said, QM have been abused by Sunday philosophers a lot. Anyone speaking of “qantum weirdness” is likely a poseur.

olivier5's avatar

By the way, how come Schrödinger never realized that his cat was an observer of his own fate?

In the Schrödinger’s cat thought experiment, the cat in the box is just as much of an observer as any of the scientists outside the box. The cat has ears and eyes. He can feel. He knows if he is alive and well, or dying from poison. Did Schrödinger read Darwin? Man is not supposed to be made in the image of God anymore, able to create the universe just by thinking (or observing)... Homo sapiens is just one animal species among millions now, just like Felis catus. Our observations are no more ‘magical’ than the observations of a fly, a rat, or a bacteria.

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