Friday, July 24, 2015

The Modal Ontological Argument in a Nutshell

Premise 1:  I define God as a maximally great being.

Premise 2:  I define maximally great beings as beings that exist necessarily.

Conclusion 1:  Therefore, I define God as a being that exists necessarily.

Premise 3:  I define necessary existence as existence in all possible worlds.

Conclusion 2:  Therefore, I define God as a being that exists in all possible worlds.

Premise 4:  I define the actual world as an element of the set of all possible worlds.

Conclusion 3:  Therefore, I define God as a being that exists in the actual world.

Premise 5:  I define "existence" to mean existence in the actual world.

Conclusion 4:  Therefore, I define God as a being that exists.

Conclusion 5:  Therefore, God exists.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Idealists Do Not Understand Quantum Mechanics

This is a response to Inspiring Philosophy and his fellow cohorts who seem to think that quantum mechanics somehow supports their theistic conception of monistic idealism.  However, rather than do a detailed analysis of any particular video, I'm just going to get to the heart of the matter by spelling out the foundational failings behind their entire utilization of quantum mechanics.  Because unlike idealists, I've actually studied quantum mechanics.  I've taken college-level courses, both at the undergraduate and graduate level.  I've utilized quantum mechanics professionally in my career to help design real-world devices.  Hell, I've even published original research utilizing quantum mechanics in peer-reviewed journals.  So when I speak on quantum mechanics, I want to make it perfectly clear that I am personally speaking as a real-life authority on the subject; maybe not as a distinguished expert, mind you, but at least as someone with a practical, working knowledge in the field.  That's why I feel compelled to offer the following summary statement of the entire "quantum idealist" philosophy:

Dear Inspiring Philosophy, Raatz, and all quantum idealists on YouTube,

I understand that idealism is important to you and that you must have put a lot of hard work into making your videos. But with all due respect, none of you dumb-asses understand quantum mechanics.  There is nothing about quantum mechanics that even remotely supports any of your arguments.  It is wholly dishonest of you to pretend to be experts in a field that you obviously have zero formal training in. 

Now before you go accusing me of arguing from authority, here is a summary breakdown of everything that's fundamentally wrong with quantum idealism.

Number 1:

The heart and soul of all quantum mechanics is the Schrodinger equation.  Real quantum mechanics is accomplished by modeling some potential function into the Schrodinger equation, applying boundary conditions, and then solving for the corresponding eigenvalues and eigenfunctions.  Everything we know about the nature of subatomic particles is more-or-less expressible within this framework.  Yet quantum idealists make absolutely no effort to express their ideas in the same way.    Quantum mechanics therefore cannot possibly support idealism because idealists are simply not doing quantum mechanics in any meaningful mathematical capacity.

Number 2:

Quantum mechanics is philosophically antithetical to the entire idealist sense of epistemology.  That's because in order to effectively engage in quantum mechanics, you have to embrace several key principles of logical positivism [1].  For example, the analytic/synthetic distinction is a big one, as well as a soft form of verifiability criterion for meaning; principles, I might add, that Christian idealists are all more than happy to reject at almost every opportunity.  So once again, quantum mechanics cannot possibly support a single idealist argument because idealists themselves have already decided, in advance, to reject the core epistemic rules that govern it.

Number 3:

Quantum idealists constantly argue from authority in place of actual argument.  It's so brazen, too, that you can almost make a drinking game out of it.  Every time Inspiring Philosophy reaches some critical junction in his presentation, he almost never backs it up himself with any hard data.  He just splashes some guy's face on the screen next to a self-supporting assertion; as if we're all supposed to simply take that guy's word as gospel on an otherwise highly controversial subject.

I wouldn't even have that much of a problem with this, either, if he at least just stuck with mainstream scientific authorities, like maybe Stephen Hawking or Sean Carroll.  However, several of his most key arguments are supported almost entirely by the abject say-so of completely obscure figures with no authority at all.  For example, one name that Inspiring Philosophy loves to drop in his arguments is Henry Stapp.  I don't know any nice way to say this, but Henry Stapp is a complete scientific nobody - a "Spirit-Science" hack whose only claim to fame is that he co-writes books with Depok Chopra.  The guy has exactly zero technical publications involving any hard, empirical data or rigorous mathematical analysis.  Instead, all of his publications are long-winded rhetorical arguments, with the vast majority of them landing in purely philosophical journals and conferences.  Inspiring Philosophy is deliberately ignoring the entirety of mainstream quantum mechanics, choosing instead to build his entire case on the absurd ramblings of completely fringe crackpots.

Number 4:

The entire idealist argument relies on aspects of quantum mechanics that are known to be unresolved mysteries.  For instance, what is the proper physical interpretation of a wave function?  What constitutes a "measurement?"  Do particles obey local realism or not?  These are all actively debated questions in quantum mechanics with no real consensus beyond the standard Copenhagen interpretation.  So the moment someone comes along and starts pretending to solve all of these difficult issues, you can assume without hesitation that they're not being honest with you.  It's classic God-of-the-Gaps reasoning wherein some current hole in our scientific understanding of the universe inevitably serves as a breeding ground for supernatural explanations.  There are reasons why scientists aren't jumping to accept idealism as a new theory of quantum mechanics, chief among which is...

Number 5:

Idealists deliberately avoid making any hard, falsifiable predictions.  Instead, all they do is accommodate.  They're all more than happy to take prior existing data and then shove it into their preexisting paradigm, but never do they make any effort to predict a single piece of hard, empirical data that we didn't already know.

Even when they're actively trying to make predictions, they still completely fail.  For example, I once placed this exact challenge to Inspiring Philosophy, and his only response was that if idealism is true, then the universe is a hologram. 

Now that might sound impressive to layman, but Inspiring Philosophy doesn't seem to understand that people like me actually study this stuff for a living.  So let's just break this down, shall we?

For starters, it's pretty safe to assume that Inspiring Philosophy has no clue what a "hologram" is in any technical sense.  There's a lot of mathematical baggage that comes with a claim like that, and IP certainly hasn't been formally trained in any of it.  Instead, it sounds more like he just picked it up from a bunch of spirit-science websites, and thought it sounded cool.

Second, his "prediction" isn't really a prediction at all, because he didn't make it.  Professional cosmologists and string theorists are the ones talking about the potential for a holographic universe, and Inspiring Philosophy is apparently just riding on their coattails.  Again, that's not a prediction but accommodation.

Third, nothing about quantum idealism has any logical connection to holography, whatsoever.  Just ask yourself, how does the assumption of an immaterial mind-essence behind all of reality lead us to a universe where magnitude and phase information encode a three-dimensional geometry onto a two dimensional surface?  Where is the mathematical derivation of this principle?  Obviously, there isn't any, because Inspiring Philosophy has no clue what he's talking about.

Fourth, how do I measure "holograph-ness" of the universe?  Where do I point my telescope, and what empirical data am I trying to observe?  What is the predicted power spectral density of the cosmic microwave background?  How much red shift will type-1A supernovas produce and at what distance?  Those are the types of questions that have meaning for empirical predictions, and not some vague allusions to techno-sounding jargon. 

But hey, maybe I'm being too harsh.  Maybe there really is something to this whole "souls cause wavefunctions to collapse" thing.  So here's a challenge for all you quantum idealists out there.  Why don't you put your money where your mouth is and submit your findings to an actual scientific journal?  Not some hack philosophical forum or "Spirit Science" conference, but an actual, technical journal reviewed by experts in the field.  I know that I've personally had no trouble publishing findings of my own in those exact same journals, so what's stopping you?

Honestly, guys.  Who's kidding who, here?  Quantum mechanics is notoriously difficult stuff, and it takes years of training in mathematics and physics just to scratch the surface.  That's why it's so easy to spot a bunch of idiot fakers like yourselves, because you obviously have no formal understanding of the subject.  Unfortunately, that's also why it's so easy to just pretend to be an expert anyway, because none of your fan base has the slightest shred of education in partial differential equations, linear system theory, or stochastic processes.  Everything about your "quantum-idealism" argument is therefore only convincing to an audience that doesn't know any better.
Thanks for reading.

  1. "This philosophical approach of dealing only with questions that can be answered by measurement (or that are purely logical questions within some formal system of logic) and regarding all other questions as meaningless is essentially what is known in the philosophical world as “logical positivism.” It is the most common approach taken in dealing with quantum mechanics, at least at the elementary philosophical level…"  - David Miller, "Quantum Mechanics for Scientists and Engineers," page 7