24 November 2011
The history of both science and philosophy is one in which man observes things (or studies the observations of others), and attempts to construct models for understanding those observations. Those models are borne in the thought processes of humans, and thereby limited to the realm of human experience.
Quantum physics, on the other hand, is a different story.
Having discovered that the Newtonian models for describing the behavior of physical bodies fail when predicting the behavior of elements at the atomic level, man could no longer rely on human observation and experience in his search for answers. Instead, the mathematics were discovered which held the potential for understanding the unobservable.
And through these mathematics, a portal was opened to a world of phenomena that simply defy the human experience. A world in which time can slow down. A world with far more than the basic four dimensions we experience. A world in which a particle travels from A to B not along a single path, but along all possible paths — simultaneously.
A world in which something can actually come from nothing.
Although we can't observe the things that quantum theory predict, we can gain confidences in the theory by testing its consequences. For example, if something actually does come from nothing, trillions of times per day, we should be able to measure its residual energy in a vacuum. If gravity does come from a vortex caused by the earth rotating in the space-time dimension, we should be able to measure the consequences of that with highly sophisticated instruments in space.
Over the past decades, man has repeatedly searched for, discovered, and constructed ways in which he can test the consequences of quantum physics, and in every case, the predictions have been validated through measurement to a accuracy that leaves little doubt as the reliability of the quantum models.
To put this in perspective, we're talking about an accuracy on the order of estimating the width of the United States to the precision of a human hair.
Of all existing human knowledge today, quantum physics is accepted to be that in which we can most rely to be true. It also happens to be the body of knowledge that offers the promise of understanding the origin of our universe; offering an answer to how and why we are here.
Let's deeply reflect on that:
The body of knowledge which offers an understanding of the universe is both:
the knowledge we most take to be true, of all knowledge, and
the domain of phenomena which are outside of the realm of human experience.
When physicist Stephen Hawking said at a Google conference that "Philosophy is Dead," I think this is what he was referring to. How can any branch of understanding compete with science, once truth has been determined to exist outside the domain of human experience?