Jump to content


Photo
- - - - -

discussing philosophy in a physics textbook


  • Please log in to reply
27 replies to this topic

#1 Bender

Bender

    Molecule

  • Senior Members
  • 720 posts

Posted 17 April 2017 - 08:55 AM

I just finished reading a physics textbook. The last paragraph mentions the anthropic principle and ends with (quickly translated) "A poet would say that the universe was adjusted very precisely, almost as if it was meant for our habitation."

 

Is that acceptable? What business is it of a physics textbook, clearly meant for education, to push forward such contested, theistic, world view without nuance? It doesn't even mention the possibility of manyworld interpretations or other multiverse concepts which render the anthropic principle trivial and irrelevant.

 

Otherwise the book adheres very closely to established science. The only other diversion was a paragraph about the interpretation of quantum mechanics, where it only mentions the Copenhagen interpretation and no others.


  • 0

#2 Prometheus

Prometheus

    Protist

  • Senior Members
  • 950 posts

Posted 17 April 2017 - 02:20 PM

My physics text ended with a T.S. Eliot snippet:

 

 

We shall not cease from exploration,

and the end of all our exploring 

will be to arrive where we started 

and know the place for the first time.

 

I quite little flourishes like this. 

 

How clear is it that the quote is the author's opinion rather than consensus opinion?


  • 0

The wild geese do not intend

To cast their reflection

The water has no mind

To retain their image.

 

www.senseaboutscience.org/

 


#3 Phi for All

Phi for All

    Chief Executive Offworlder

  • Moderators
  • 16,666 posts
  • LocationCO, USA

Posted 17 April 2017 - 02:28 PM

I think it's poorly chosen, if only because it sounds just like the kind of thing Intelligent Design proponents would try to slip into a science textbook unnoticed. 


  • 0

"You knew the job was dangerous when you took it, Fred!" -- Super Chicken
 


God does have to keep the miracles going, or no one would believe that He is real.


#4 Bender

Bender

    Molecule

  • Senior Members
  • 720 posts

Posted 17 April 2017 - 02:50 PM

I think it's poorly chosen, if only because it sounds just like the kind of thing Intelligent Design proponents would try to slip into a science textbook unnoticed. 

My first thought was along those lines. This could be abused by religious people: "see, this reputable physics book agrees with us"

My physics text ended with a T.S. Eliot snippet:
 
 
I quite little flourishes like this. 
 
How clear is it that the quote is the author's opinion rather than consensus opinion?

I have no problem with that little snipet.

About this being the authors opinion: what else can it be? The book is quite thorough, spanning almost 1500 pages and all area's of physics. I would find it hard to believe he would be ignorant about the implications of this paragraph.
  • 0

#5 swansont

swansont

    Evil Liar (or so I'm told)

  • Moderators
  • 36,454 posts
  • LocationWashington DC region

Posted 17 April 2017 - 03:39 PM

OTOH, it does say "a poet would say", not that physics says this.


  • 0

Minutus cantorum, minutus balorum, minutus carborata descendum pantorum          To go to the fortress of ultimate darkness, click the up arrow ^

I am not a minimum-wage government shill.             Forget it, Jake — it's Crackpottown.

My SFN blog: Swans on Tea                                                           

 

 

                                                                                                                     

 

 


#6 Bender

Bender

    Molecule

  • Senior Members
  • 720 posts

Posted 17 April 2017 - 05:09 PM

OTOH, it does say "a poet would say", not that physics says this.

Doesn't that say "I know it shouldn't be here, but I want to say it anyway"?
  • 0

#7 swansont

swansont

    Evil Liar (or so I'm told)

  • Moderators
  • 36,454 posts
  • LocationWashington DC region

Posted 17 April 2017 - 05:33 PM

Doesn't that say "I know it shouldn't be here, but I want to say it anyway"?

 

 

Perhaps, but the author decides what gets put into the book (to first order).


  • 0

Minutus cantorum, minutus balorum, minutus carborata descendum pantorum          To go to the fortress of ultimate darkness, click the up arrow ^

I am not a minimum-wage government shill.             Forget it, Jake — it's Crackpottown.

My SFN blog: Swans on Tea                                                           

 

 

                                                                                                                     

 

 


#8 Bender

Bender

    Molecule

  • Senior Members
  • 720 posts

Posted 17 April 2017 - 07:43 PM

 

Perhaps, but the author decides what gets put into the book (to first order).

Of course he does. I'm not arguing the legality. I'm arguing whether it is ok to put something like that in an otherwise "opinionless" educational physics book.


  • 0

#9 studiot

studiot

    Genius

  • Senior Members
  • 6,637 posts
  • LocationSomerset, England

Posted 17 April 2017 - 08:26 PM

I quite like the practice of heading chapters with a pithy and perhaps witty quotation.

 

One of my favorites is

 

 

Gentlemen shall I refuse my dinner because I do not fully understand the process of digestion?

 

Another good one is

 

 

The phrase "The Laws of Chance" is self contradictory. If it is chance then there are no laws, if there are laws then it is not chance.


Edited by studiot, 17 April 2017 - 08:27 PM.

  • 1

#10 Bender

Bender

    Molecule

  • Senior Members
  • 720 posts

Posted 17 April 2017 - 08:43 PM

Who doesn't like them :).

 

But those are just funny and generally don't have deeper ideological implications. The paragraph I mentioned in the OP was also in the actual text.


  • 0

#11 Prometheus

Prometheus

    Protist

  • Senior Members
  • 950 posts

Posted 17 April 2017 - 08:57 PM

Once saw a stats book dedication along the lines of: to my wife, without whom this book would have been completed much earlier. Brave.


  • 0

The wild geese do not intend

To cast their reflection

The water has no mind

To retain their image.

 

www.senseaboutscience.org/

 


#12 studiot

studiot

    Genius

  • Senior Members
  • 6,637 posts
  • LocationSomerset, England

Posted 17 April 2017 - 09:02 PM

Who doesn't like them :-).

 

But those are just funny and generally don't have deeper ideological implications. The paragraph I mentioned in the OP was also in the actual text.

 

Both those quotations had deeper implications, did you recognise either?


  • 0

#13 CharonY

CharonY

    Biology Expert

  • Resident Experts
  • 7,263 posts
  • Locationsomewhere in the Americas.

Posted 17 April 2017 - 09:31 PM

Actually quoted as it is, I find the statement in OP rather thoughtful. It is open to interpretation, but my first thought is rather:"yes intuitively it seems so, but why is it so?" With the latter being what sets scientists off to this journey (and rocky careers).

 

To me, any statement that makes you ponder is a worthwhile one to have and I have no issue with that. It would be different if they misstate facts, or make wrong definite statements, for example. 


  • 0

#14 Strange

Strange

    SuperNerd

  • Senior Members
  • 12,885 posts
  • Location珈琲店

Posted 17 April 2017 - 09:42 PM

It might have been better as an opening, with the rest of the book showing why the poet is wrong.

 

But it was probably just that the writer thought he should end with an open-ended and (possibly) inspiring thought.


  • 0

#15 Bender

Bender

    Molecule

  • Senior Members
  • 720 posts

Posted 18 April 2017 - 06:07 AM

Both those quotations had deeper implications, did you recognise either?

No, I'm not really into quotes.
But please enlighten me :)

It might have been better as an opening, with the rest of the book showing why the poet is wrong.
 
But it was probably just that the writer thought he should end with an open-ended and (possibly) inspiring thought.

That's probably it, and I might be overreacting. I would have preferred if both sides of the argument would be presented.
  • 0

#16 swansont

swansont

    Evil Liar (or so I'm told)

  • Moderators
  • 36,454 posts
  • LocationWashington DC region

Posted 18 April 2017 - 09:42 AM

Of course he does. I'm not arguing the legality. I'm arguing whether it is ok to put something like that in an otherwise "opinionless" educational physics book.

 

 

Would you have a problem if the author had discussed interpretations of QM? Is acknowledging different views of the Anthropic principle very different from that?


  • 0

Minutus cantorum, minutus balorum, minutus carborata descendum pantorum          To go to the fortress of ultimate darkness, click the up arrow ^

I am not a minimum-wage government shill.             Forget it, Jake — it's Crackpottown.

My SFN blog: Swans on Tea                                                           

 

 

                                                                                                                     

 

 


#17 studiot

studiot

    Genius

  • Senior Members
  • 6,637 posts
  • LocationSomerset, England

Posted 18 April 2017 - 10:49 AM

No, I'm not really into quotes.
But please enlighten me :-)

 

 

 

The first was by Heaviside, the originator of the operational calculus and Laplace transform.

However he was not a pure mathematician and could not prove his new methods in pure maths so he was ridiculed by pure mathematicians.

His answer was basically it works when other methods don't and I need answers.

 

The quote was to the Royal Society at a dinner where he was a guest speaker.

 

The second quote was from Lord Samuel essays in Physics.

 

 

 

 

 

Pearls of wisdom can also be found in the most unlikely of places.

There is no reason why Poet's should not create some.

 

Coleridge wrote this to his brother

 

coleridge.jpg

 

 

Some scientific wisdom can even be found in the Bible

 

The Book of Ecclesiastes offers this

 

 

Time and chance happeneth to them all

 

and the Book of Kings offers a respectable (for the time) value for pi.


Edited by studiot, 18 April 2017 - 07:32 PM.

  • 0

#18 DrP

DrP

    Molecule

  • Senior Members
  • 1,959 posts
  • LocationUK

Posted 18 April 2017 - 11:13 AM

...."The universe was adjusted very precisely, almost as if it were meant for our habitation"

 

Isn't it the same as the puddle of water saying "this hole in the ground is the perfect shape for me! It must have been made precisely for me to fit into it" ?

Maybe he meant it that way, maybe the inclusion of the word 'almost' was deliberate too. The world is an amazing place and can inspire numinous in many.


  • 0

"Tonight I am going to party like it's on sale for $19.99"! - Apu Nahasapeemapetilon


#19 Bender

Bender

    Molecule

  • Senior Members
  • 720 posts

Posted 18 April 2017 - 05:35 PM

Would you have a problem if the author had discussed interpretations of QM? Is acknowledging different views of the Anthropic principle very different from that?

As I said, he mentioned only the Copenhagen interpretation, and yes, I had a problem with that.
Not that he discussed it at all, but that he only gave one view.

 ...

thanks

...."The universe was adjusted very precisely, almost as if it were meant for our habitation"
 
Isn't it the same as the puddle of water saying "this hole in the ground is the perfect shape for me! It must have been made precisely for me to fit into it" ?
Maybe he meant it that way, maybe the inclusion of the word 'almost' was deliberate too. The world is an amazing place and can inspire numinous in many.

Perhaps, but the fact that this argument regularly shows up in religious arguments annoys me.

Perhaps he wanted to put in a wink towards colleges in the largely religious US, as a selling point? (The book is translated from English )
  • 0

#20 goldglow

goldglow

    Baryon

  • Senior Members
  • 116 posts
  • LocationEngland

Posted 22 April 2017 - 04:08 PM

I just finished reading a physics textbook. The last paragraph mentions the anthropic principle and ends with (quickly translated) "A poet would say that the universe was adjusted very precisely, almost as if it was meant for our habitation."

 

Is that acceptable? What business is it of a physics textbook, clearly meant for education, to push forward such contested, theistic, world view without nuance? It doesn't even mention the possibility of manyworld interpretations or other multiverse concepts which render the anthropic principle trivial and irrelevant.

 

Otherwise the book adheres very closely to established science. The only other diversion was a paragraph about the interpretation of quantum mechanics, where it only mentions the Copenhagen interpretation and no others.

There is an enthralling book, readily available, entitled " The Ending Of Time " ( sometimes subtitled " Where Philosophy And Physics Meet " ) which is the record of several discussions between the eminent physicist Dr, David Bohm and the metaphysical philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti.  It makes for fascinating reading, and fits comfortably into both worlds. The discussions, or dialogues, are also the subject of numerous videos, under the same title, on YouTube.


  • 0




0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users