Hidden Variables
Hidden Variables and Common Sense - Printable Version

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Hidden Variables and Common Sense - Schmelzer - 05-07-2016

Once this point has been made here, I think this is worth a separate discussion:  The thesis that the development of modern physics has been anti-common-sense, and that this has a negative influence on society as a whole,  because it destroys the very ideal of the enlightenment as man's emergence from his self-imposed immaturity. He has, again, to believe claims which contradict common sense, once Scientists, some sort of High Priests of Holy Science, who have some Higher Understanding, tell us that Science has established this.

Instead, hidden variable theories are much more compatible with common sense, much less mystical. Would this be a valid argument in favor of hidden variable theories? Or would this simply an indication that those who propose hidden variable theories are simply too stupid to understand the Deep Truth of the Scientific Insights?

A first point is that there is no such danger for common sense. Nobody gives up his common sense because he does not understand, say, how an IPhone or a modern car works. Understanding the details how these things work can be, indeed, left to specialists. There is no reason to believe that understanding this would be impossible in principle or so without giving up common sense.

The next point is that there may be no choice. Ok, scientists are specialists. Their job is to find out the truth. This truth exists independent of their wishes and choices. If the truth is so that it contradicts common sense, what can one do? Nothing.

Moreover, there is the moral position that scientists should not even care about what happens to society if it learns the truth. They should care about the truth, and if they have found it, to tell it. If quantum theory contradicts common sense, such is life. Scientists are obliged to tell the truth, as far as they know it, and the arguments which make them believe that this is the truth. Roughly, the Galileo vs. the Catholic Church problem.

Fine, but what if it is not clear what is the truth? This is the case of hidden variable theories. We have the mainstream interpretations (spacetime, Copenhagen), and we have hidden variable interpretations (Lorentz ether, dBB). And there is no observational evidence which allows to distinguish them. We cannot be sure, at least yet, which interpretation is the true one. It seems, in this case one could make a case that it would be better if science would support those interpretations which are more compatible with common sense.

Unfortunately, this argument is weak too. The role of different interpretations is that they give different hints for theory development, different directions for future research. Which direction is the most hopeful one? This question is which has to guide a scientist who is searching the truth, and not what the public would prefer.

So, I think all what one can make out of this point is the following: As long as a viable common-sense-compatible interpretation exists, scientists should not claim that it is wrong, even if it is not the preferred one, and even if to present the universe as mystical as possible makes a pop-science article more interesting. And the point of freedom of science: As long as a viable common-sense-compatible interpretation exists, those scientists who favor this interpretation should not be disadvantaged.

Beyond this, common-sense-compatibility is not more than a nice side effect. Which is more a danger known as "wishful thinking" than a good argument for hidden variables.



Or one thinks about a different aspect: Are there some hidden reasons why scientists prefer interpretations which contradict common sense? But this would be a different question, for a separate thread.


RE: Hidden Variables and Common Sense - xelasnave - 05-07-2016

Umong other interesting points you said
"Ok, scientists are specialists. Their job is to find out the truth."
I would agree that finding truth should be of paramount importance but I have read that science does not seek the truth.
Perhaps I have not read enough such that my impression is incorrect.
Alex


RE: Hidden Variables and Common Sense - Schmelzer - 05-07-2016

Science cannot claim to have found the truth.  And can never prove that the best theories it has are the truth.  All scientific theories remain hypothetical, forever.  

But truth remains the aim.  Scientists may look for the simplest, or the most beautiful theory, but they do this because experience shows that simple and beautiful theories have a higher probability to be true.  So, simplicity and beauty are not the aim, but a (quite vague) criterion for truth.  The more important criterion - predictive power, the ability to make many predictions for experiments, and, then the confirmation of such predictions by real experiments, are also methods to reach truth. A theory which makes predictions which fail cannot be true. Mathematicians may look for internal, logical contradictions of a theory - also with the aim to find truth, because a contradictory theory cannot be true.  

There are, of course, some philosophers who disagree.  The main problem is that one cannot define truth, beyond the trivial "correspondence to reality"  of the correspondence theory of truth.  Some conclude that once we have no precise criterion which allows to identify a truth, there is no truth, and the word "truth" is only some informal name for something else, which can be precisely identify.  So the "consensus theory of truth" that truth is what all people agree about, or instrumentalism, that scientific theories are only instruments for making useful predictions, and as long as they work nice as such instruments they are fine.


RE: Hidden Variables and Common Sense - secur - 05-07-2016

Schmeizer: Are there some hidden reasons why scientists prefer interpretations which contradict common sense?

I think so. You might call it the "High-Priest Syndrome".