Critique of "The Scientific Worldview": Part 4 The Ten Assumptions of Science: Causality

Bill's unmitigation, Aristotle's absolute chance, and Bohm's infinite causality.

I am ever so grateful to Bill Westmiller, whose comments are in bold:

The Second Assumption of Science: Causality.

All effects have an infinite number of material causes.

Causality doesn't stipulate the number of causes, only that there is *some* material cause for every effect. I understand that you want to make the case for infinity, but even an infinity does not mean that every effect is caused by *all* matter. For example, there's an argument to be made that no matter beyond our "light cone" can possibly affect anything in our proximity: it hasn't arrived yet. Yes, it will arrive some day, but until it does, it isn't a cause of any current effect.

[As you imply, the causality of the classical mechanist is that there is “some” material cause for every effect. This is finite universal causality. In its simplest idealized form, as the Second Law, the cause of a body’s acceleration or deceleration is collision with another body. All of this takes place in perfectly empty space. Even if there were other bodies involved, it is assumed that their number would be finite. This assumption was handy for the superb mathematician that Newton was known to be. The messiness of the infinite universe was ignored and the calculations worked well enough to make wonderful, if not perfect, predictions of what the resulting acceleration would be.

In neomechanics, however, we have been able to solve many trenchant problems by assuming, contrary to Newton, that matter is infinitely subdividable (Puetz and Borchardt, 2011). The aforementioned collision would not take place in empty space, but in a macrocosm filled with infinitely subdividable microcosms like those favored by Aristotle. This means that there cannot be only a few bodies involved in a particular collision, but that there must be an infinite number of them. In fact, such minor collisions are what helps to keep the Newtonian object itself in one piece, as we explained in our Neomechanical Gravitation Theory (Borchardt and Puetz, 2012). This does not mean that any effect is the result of collisions from “all” matter, which would be absurd, as you point out—the distances are infinitely great and the amount of matter is infinite. Remember though, that there are also an infinite number of infinities. Examples are: even numbers, odd numbers, snowflakes, pebbles on the beach, aether-1, aether-2, etc. ]

... In science, as in life, we seek meaning by discovering the causes of effects.

Yes, but ... if all effects are a consequence of everything in the universe, we cannot discover ANY unique and proximate causative factor. Science attempts to *constrain* the possible causes for any experimental effect, relegating unknowable causes to "noise". That doesn't mean that all scientific experiments are inherently faulty or "wrong".

[Right. Because of infinity, each effect is unique and can never be reproduced exactly no matter what constraints we use. This is why, as Potter maintained, observation and experiment can only provide support for a theory. It can never prove that the theory is correct beyond any doubt. On the other hand, it only takes one observation or experiment to prove a theory wrong.  The Hafele-Keating (1972a, 1972b) flight of Cesium clocks around Earth comes to mind: one of the four clocks had no time delay or speed up, thus proving Einstein wrong (although that was ignored in their conclusion that he was right) (Borchardt,  2011). The upshot is that no experiment can be completely right, thus allowing the interpreter's preconceived notions (or acknowledged assumptions) to influence the conclusions. Experienced scientists are not especially bothered by this. As the saying goes: “It’s good enough for government work!”]

If causality is the proposition that all objects are influenced by the motions of other objects, then acausality is the absurd proposition that no objects are influenced by the motions of other objects.

You missed a word that you used earlier: "influenced by the motion of [ALL] other objects". In this case, you got it right, but the argument is still flawed. Spiritualists don't argue for acausality, but rather supernatural causality. You could argue the philosophical case that there can be no "thing" that has existence beyond nature, or merely that we couldn't possibly know anything about it, but you can't claim that they are opposed to the concept of causality.

[Ok, I agree. As immaterialists, spiritualists are opposed to the concept of “material” causes. Like Einstein and his mathematical followers, they are not opposed to “immaterial” causes (immaterial fields and other matterless motion, etc.). To clarify the disagreement, I have defined things as portions of the universe having xyz dimensions and location with respect to other things. That, of course, is an assumption opposed by immaterialists as well.

Again, with regard to causality, infinity never implies “all” things. That is because causality is defined by Newton’s Second Law, in which one thing collides with another according to the equation F=ma. “All” things never collide with any single thing. In fact, causal microcosms normally are simply the nearest ones. Let me repeat: Because so-called "empty space” actually contains an infinite number of infinitely subdividable microcosms, none of the collisions included in the Second Law are actually caused by a single object, but by an infinite number of objects. That is why no two collisions are identical. Each of those infinite number of microcosms has a unique mass and a unique velocity at the time of the collision. That is why no two collisions ever involve exactly the same objects and thus cannot result in exactly repeatable results.]

The doctrine of absolute chance neatly avoided that.

I agree that "absolute chance" contradicts causation, but Aristotle was referring to unintended coincidences, which are perceived as a suitable effect of an unrelated act. Example: A statue of so-and-so fell onto the man who had murdered so-and-so. By chance that the murderer met his proper justice. Aristotle says that in its absolute sense (haplos) chance is the cause of NOTHING:
[I am glad to see that Aristotle recanted. Unfortunately, indeterminists have nicely forgotten that, just like they conveniently forgot Newton’s (1718) push theory for the physical cause of gravity (see below).]

Of course, I totally agree with your disdain for Hans Reichenbach's acausality by chance. That error is perpetuated in many aspects of quantum mechanics, particularly Bell's Inequality.

Laplace’s Demon

I don't think any scientist can totally ignore the prevailing religious beliefs of their era. Some tried to make their theories "compatible" with spiritualism, just to gain social acceptance. Wrong, but forgivable.

[You are right, but, in my opinion, that would be unforgivable. As scientists, we are taught to never tell a lie and to ignore prevailing religious beliefs (we could not get published in mainstream journals otherwise). So why does “compatibility” happen anyway? Let me reiterate: Newton proposed two theories for the cause of gravity:

1) High aethereal pressure away from matter (a push, which was compatible with his Second Law), and

2) attraction (a pull, which was not compatible with any of his laws of motion).

The second was more “compatible” with indeterminism. Both were offered, but only one was chosen, only because it fit the prevailing social milieu. You see this happening throughout the universe. In biological evolution, for instance, it is not survival of the fittest so much as it is destruction of the unfittest. The “fittest” is what is left over after the predator has done its job.]

By using an explicit assumption of infinity, Bohm demonstrated that the "cause" for an "effect" is never established with absolute certainty. We must always accept something less because both the cause and the effect, like the objects they describe, have infinite properties.

I don't think you can invoke Bohm to establish "infinite properties", only that some effects have unknown causes, which we reasonably assume to exist. He was talking about the expectation that the development of new sensing tools would discover previously unknown causes, not that they were infinite (and therefore incalculable). In seeking those unknown causes, we either find mitigated or unmitigated truths about reality.

[Reread Bohm again. You are right that Bohm never explicitly stated that there were infinite causes for any effect, but you sure can get that understanding by reading his classic, “Causality and Chance in Modern Physics” (Bohm, 1957). Many of his statements do not depend on new tools to discover more causes. I don’t believe he ever said that some new tool would discover the last of a set of finite causes. Again, Bohm never claimed that there were unmitigated truths about reality. All “truths” must be qualified by context. The interaction between a microcosm, containing an infinity of types of matter, and its macrocosm, containing an infinity of types of matter, can never be repeated exactly in the way it was expected to by classical mechanists. The upshot is that the concept of “unmitigated truth” is a variant of the indeterministic assumption of absolutivity, which is the opposite of the Ninth Assumption of Science, relativism (All things have characteristics that make them similar to all other things as well as characteristics that make them dissimilar to all other things).]

The prediction, however, can never be perfectly accurate.

True, but logically irrelevant to human beings. The reality is that no human will ever be omniscient. For that matter, no God can be omniscient, since It would have no motive to ever act: It either knows the future state of all things or It acts to change them ... in which case, It doesn't know that It will act. One of the many contradiction of God's attributes.

Causality assumes that, because the universe is macroscopically and microscopically infinite, the number of these causes is in principle infinite.

Causality does not dictate infinity, since it is an "unmitigated truth" that no Thing can influence another Thing in the absence of motion ... which makes it proximate ... which requires time. Therefore, unless you want to postulate infinite velocity, you can't conclude infinite causation.

[Sorry for the mix-up. At that point in the text I defined causality as the Second Assumption of Science, causality (All effects have an infinite number of material causes). Before that, I had mentioned two other types of causality:  specific (used by religious scientists) and universal finite (used by classical mechanists). I don’t know where you get the idea of infinite velocity as being a product of a large number of collisions from a large number of microcosms. Each breath of air we breathe has billions of atoms of nitrogen and oxygen. The billions of oxygen atoms are the “cause” of our continued respiration, but that fact doesn’t have anything to do with infinite velocity.]

... the number of objects to be considered is infinite and each of them is in motion relative to each other and all other bodies in the universe.

In the context of your example, you seem to be suggesting that the velocity of gravity (or light) is infinite. If it is not, then remote objects do not affect proximate objects until some future time. They are not causes until they become causes for a proximate effect.

[See above. Sorry you got this mixed up. My bad.]

Nevertheless, we are able to compile partial, finite statements that we call causal laws and that we find relatively valid for specific instances.

The scientific method (experimentally) is to isolate effects, in order to determine a specific, proximate cause. I don't think anyone claims any "Black Box" is perfect, merely that it's sufficient to identify causes for specific effects. However, there are many causative events that have universal effect, such as gravity or the characteristics of light. They aren't just valid for "specific instances", but for all instances of a kind.

[This only amounts to semantics. “Specific instances" and “instances of a kind” are ways of subdividing “all instances.” We can only do specific experiments. No experiment can be applicable in “all instances.” For example, the velocity of wave motion is dependent on the medium, which has specific characteristics. Thus, the velocity of light is dependent on the density of the aether medium through which it passes. Only an idealist could believe that the density of aether actually is everywhere the same. In most cases, we can assume that it is pretty much everywhere the same,  but there will always be instances where it definitely is not.]

It seems to me sufficient to say that ALL evidence in human history establishes that every effect has *at least two* material causes (the actor and the acted upon). There is no contrary evidence. Therefore, causation is an "unmitigated truth".

[I wish I could agree with you, but that sounds like absolutism to me. There are plenty of indeterminists who would disagree. If there is disagreement, then any statement that uses that word must be false. Again, the semantics here are key. Here is the definition of “unmitigated”:

 un·mit·i·gat·ed ( n-m t -g t d). adj. 1. Not diminished or moderated in intensity or severity; unrelieved: unmitigated suffering. 2. Without qualification or exception

That, of course, is what we were taught in classical mechanics. It is also what gave rise to Einstein’s assumption that c was constant. We assume that there are material causes for all effects, but until we have determined all of them, we cannot prove that assumption to be “unmitigated.” All we can do is to assume that the assumption is true. I have no problem with that.]

Next: Uncertainty

cotsw 004


Bohm, David, 1957, Causality and chance in modern physics: New York, Harper and Brothers, 170 p.

Borchardt, Glenn, 2011, Einstein's most important philosophical error, in Proceedings of the Natural Philosophy Alliance, 18th Conference of the NPA, 6-9 July, 2011 (http://www.worldsci.org/pdf/abstracts/abstracts_5991.pdf), College Park, MD, Natural Philosophy Alliance, Mt. Airy, MD, p. 64-68.

Borchardt, Glenn, and Puetz, S.J., 2012, Neomechanical gravitation theory ( http://www.worldsci.org/pdf/abstracts/abstracts_6529.pdf ), in Volk, G., Proceedings of the Natural Philosophy Alliance, 19th Conference of the NPA, 25-28 July: Albuquerque, NM, Natural Philosophy Alliance, Mt. Airy, MD, v. 9, p. 53-58.

Hafele, J.C., and Keating, R.E., 1972a, Around-the-World Atomic Clocks: Predicted Relativistic Time Gains: Science, v. 177, no. 4044, p. 166-168.

Hafele, J.C., and Keating, R.E., 1972b, Around-the-World Atomic Clocks: Observed Relativistic Time Gains: Science, v. 177, no. 4044, p. 168-170.

Newton, Isaac, 1718, Opticks or, a treatise of the reflections, refractions, inflections and colours of light. The second edition, with additions. By Sir Isaac Newton (Second ed.): London, Printed for W. and J. Innys, printers to the Royal Society, 382 p.

Puetz, S.J., and Borchardt, Glenn, 2011, Universal cycle theory: Neomechanics of the hierarchically infinite universe: Denver, Outskirts Press ( www.universalcycletheory.com ), 626 p.


Westmiller said...

All good comments on my quibbles. I found this sentence amusing:

"All we can do is to assume that the assumption is true. I have no problem with that."

That could be an infinite recursion: assuming that the assumption about the assumption, regarding the assumption, might be assumed to ... etc.

Of course, I meant "unmitigated" in the second sense: "without qualification or exception", which is a necessary requirement of logic: a negative can never be disproved. It's also the legal basis for requiring certainty of guilt "beyond any reasonable doubt". If there is no contrary evidence (after multiple attempts) and all contentions against it lack any reason or justification, then the affirmative can properly be said to be "unmitigated truth".

Glenn Borchardt said...

Sorry for the repetition repetition. Infinity always makes for slight variations that amount to qualifications. You are correct in implying that logic, like math, is based on finity. However, we need to remember that those idealizations are always finite abstractions of reality, which is infinite. We can imagine identities, but, in nature, no such things can possibly exist. That is what is emphasized by the Ninth Assumption of Science, relativism (All things have characteristics that make them similar to all other things as well as characteristics that make them dissimilar to all other things). Thus, when we say 1 + 1 = 2, we necessarily need to emphasize similarities while ignoring dissimilarities. For the purpose of counting, we must consider the two items as identical. An absolutist would consider 1 + 1 = 2 to be an “unmitigated truth” even though there are no such things. Believers in finity, as most folks are, will see this distinction as a mere quibble, but it becomes majorly important in understanding regressive physics. So we will have to agree to agree to disagree on that one.

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