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Do electrons exist?
#11
RE: Do electrons exist?
Thank you Smile
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#12
RE: Do electrons exist?
(April 6, 2019 at 3:16 am)bennyboy Wrote:
(April 6, 2019 at 3:12 am)robvalue Wrote: I’ve given up having any objective criteria for what it means for something to "exist". All definitions end up being circular.

Like you say, all we can do is model to the best of our ability. We give names and attribute behaviour to parts of our models. If they can help us to predict future events in some way, then they are useful. But really all we're doing is trying to trace a drawing we can never see properly with big fat lines.

Well put.

Modern physics is my reason for choosing idealism over materialism-- the semantics of material as "stuff" are so stretched that its seems we're just tracing big fat lines over big fat lines.

Yeah, I can understand just using "material" or "physical" as interchangeable with "literally existent", as opposed to abstract, but you haven’t actually said anything by doing so. You certainly haven’t demonstrated that some things don’t/can’t exist, because they don’t fit whatever further definition of "material" you might like to use; that’s really just equivocating.

I’ve had pointless discussions like this before. I agree with someone that material means existent for the purposes of a discussion, then they try and say there’s some things that exist that aren’t material. That makes no sense either. That’s more equivocation.
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#13
RE: Do electrons exist?
For all practical, everyday purposes, materialism is both true and valid.  I try not to trouble myself about the rest of it.



Boru
'A man is accepted into a church for what he believes.  He is turned out for what he knows.' - Mark Twain
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#14
RE: Do electrons exist?
I used to adopt the position of "methodological naturalism", which is basically saying that we only concern ourselves with things we can reliably detect in some way. Other things don’t make any practical difference to anything, until such time as we find a way to detect them, whether or not they are "supernatural" or "immaterial", whatever those things may mean.

I still think that’s a reasonable proposition.
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#15
RE: Do electrons exist?
We describe atoms using various models because that is how our brains process information, as models, descriptions of how things appear rather than as what they are. It is impossible to think in terms of the things themselves, or have immediate knowledge of anything. And so we're led to intuitions like the Principle of Sufficient Reason which states that everything (or most everything) must have an explanation. This simply reflects the fact that we have no other way than a model or mechanistic explanation for describing things, and so the parts of our model themselves need models to explain their behavior, and the models of the parts of the model also have parts that need models to explain their behavior. And so it goes. Because we have no other means other than a model to represent reality, there is nothing other than yet another model in need of explaining to terminate this infinite regress. The alternative is simply to accept certain behaviors and phenomena as brute facts, requiring no explanation, but many find this emotionally and philosophically unsatisfying. Others, unhappy with the indeterminate, make the principle of sufficient reason a prescriptive norm, that things "must" have explanations or else we simply have not understood the phenomena and our thinking is in error. I think such people are being unreasonable, but most are of good intent.
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#16
RE: Do electrons exist?
(April 6, 2019 at 6:22 am)robvalue Wrote: Yeah, I can understand just using "material" or "physical" as interchangeable with "literally existent", as opposed to abstract, but you haven’t actually said anything by doing so. You certainly haven’t demonstrated that some things don’t/can’t exist, because they don’t fit whatever further definition of "material" you might like to use; that’s really just equivocating.

I’ve had pointless discussions like this before. I agree with someone that material means existent for the purposes of a discussion, then they try and say there’s some things that exist that aren’t material. That makes no sense either. That’s more equivocation.

I'd say that for a materialistic world view to make sense, you need a collection of things and their properties, expressible unambiguously in space and time. When you start talking about how fundamental particles are in an ambiguous state of superposition, and are able only to describe them mathematically, then I think clinging to our mundane mechanical sense is more likely to hinder science than to further it. You gotta go with the paradoxes and the craziness to really take reality head-on.

Let me say that you can call wave functions material if you want, and say that physics really IS a purely materialistic model. But the advantage to doing that isn't so much that science or a physical model requires it-- I think it's more that you don't want to open the door for woo: "Yeah man. . . the Universe is like. . . totally WATCHING us!"

I like the video I linked because it introduced a very interesting idea-- that the observer effect works supposedly "in retrospect" because we ourselves are entangled with the particles we are trying to experiment on. That's deep.
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#17
RE: Do electrons exist?
Ostensibly, if there were woo - there isn't any particular reason why that woo isn't just as material as the next material thing.

Case in point. The observer effect doesn't have anything to do with -you- being entangled or watching. That's not what they mean by observer. Any particle interacting with another is an "observer". Any change in a phenomena created by the instruments alteration is an "observer". It will happen regardless of whether or not you or anyone else is present. The universe is all around us, interacting with us, necessarily altering us as a phenomena. In this way, it's also presenting the effect on us...but it has nothing to do with "watching" us.

If you take that to be woo..then it's material woo.
When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for a battle to commence then KPLOW, I hit em with the illness of my quill, Im endowed..with certain unalienable skills....  

-ERB


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#18
RE: Do electrons exist?
(April 6, 2019 at 6:38 am)robvalue Wrote: I used to adopt the position of "methodological naturalism", which is basically saying that we only concern ourselves with things we can reliably detect in some way. Other things don’t make any practical difference to anything, until such time as we find a way to detect them, whether or not they are "supernatural" or "immaterial", whatever those things may mean.

I still think that’s a reasonable proposition.

Let's be clear that I'm not arguing substance dualism-- I'm saying that reality as we know it is probably best viewed in idealistic terms.  That's because we have preconceptions about what stuff should be, like the ones I just mentioned-- but no such prejudices about what forms ideas might take.

If you say, for example, that an electron is the expression of a mathematical idea, then you can attach whatever rules you want.  You just have to observe things, and say: "Oh. . . we've found that X acts in ways Y and Z."

(April 6, 2019 at 9:05 am)Gae Bolga Wrote: Ostensibly, if there were woo - there isn't any particular reason why that woo isn't just as material as the next material thing.

If you take that to be woo..then it's material woo.

The video I linked introduced that as a possible explanation for the quantum eraser effect.  I can't claim credit for the idea.

I don't think the quantum eraser effect agrees with you about "any particle" interacting with another particle.  The particles of a mirror which splits photon paths, for example, don't seem to interfere with the QEE. It very much seems to be an issue of whether information is preserved or destroyed.

Watch the video. It's a freaking cool experiment, and no discussion of QM can work without talking about QEE


(April 6, 2019 at 9:05 am)Gae Bolga Wrote: Ostensibly, if there were woo - there isn't any particular reason why that woo isn't just as material as the next material thing.

Yeah, to me, it's just semantics-- either we have a very squirrely and magical material monism, or we have an idealism in which some things and properties follow rules so tightly bound that we can use them to reliably performs billions of operations a second, or to fly in the air.

In general, though, I'd say letting go of preconceptions is more likely to aid in understanding the newer science than getting entrenched with a too-literal view of the mundane world. It's just easier to think of an electron as a mathematical idea than as a thing with strange properties-- at least to me.

We've gone down this hole before, but let's be clear-- I'm not trying to replace science or open the door to metaphysical woo. I'm just talking about how we should frame the world of computers and airplanes.
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#19
RE: Do electrons exist?
It's not just semantics, you are simply wrong.  The observer effect does not mean what you think it means. It's the acknowledgement that material interactions can alter a phenomena. Those interactions can happen between instrumentation and the thing being observed, or two particles not under instrumentation. I can happen when you are in the room, or when you are not in the room.

The world of computers and airplanes is thoroughly material. The operation (and production) of either explicitly leverages a particular set of material interactions for effect.
When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for a battle to commence then KPLOW, I hit em with the illness of my quill, Im endowed..with certain unalienable skills....  

-ERB


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#20
RE: Do electrons exist?


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