Critique of "The Scientific Worldview": Part 10a The Ten Assumptions of Science: Infinity

Bill opts for macrocosmic infinity but demurs on microcosmic infinity. We wonder if this might have something to do with his current development of Finite Particle Theory.

I am ever so grateful to Bill Westmiller, whose comments are marked "BW: ". The quotes marked TSW are from "The Scientific Worldview[1]" and my comments are marked "[GB: ".

TSW: Eighth Assumption: Infinity (Part 1 of 2)

“The universe is infinite, both in the microcosmic and macrocosmic directions."

BW: Since several of your previous assumptions depend on this one, you might consider moving it up the list. In several cases, I've argued that infinity doesn't resolve the issue in favor of those assumptions, even if I agree with them.

[GB: Bill, I had thought of that, but placed it 8th instead, precisely for the reason you mentioned in your last sentence. Science has progressed this far without embracing infinity. Many folks, such as yourself, accept finity–based versions of the first seven assumptions. And as I mentioned earlier, there is no “resolving the issue” with respect to fundamental assumptions. My claim that the entire constellation is consupponible is itself dependent on the Tenth Assumption of Science, interconnection.]

BW: We've already discussed some of this on your blog. While I agree there is good evidence and logic supporting an infinite macrocosm, I'm not persuaded that the microcosm is infinitely small.

TSW:  "It is, of course, impossible to know for sure which of these possibilities really exists; we can only assume one or the other."

BW: I've noted my distaste for the idea of one arbitrary "assumption" being as good as another. If the yardstick is omniscience, then we can never know anything "for sure". An hypothesis is subject to evidential and logical support, which is either unmitigated or mitigated by contrary evidence or logic. In effect, you've made a strong attempt to *justify* your assumptions, citing evidence and applying logical principles. That's good. It doesn't mean that your conclusions are *absolutely true*, but you're attempting to persuade the reader that they are something close to an "unmitigated truth".

[GB: Sorry Bill, but I never said that fundamental assumptions were arbitrary or that either of two opposing assumptions could be equally good. In my opinion, there is no valid evidence for any of the indeterministic opposites of the Ten Assumptions of Science. I realize, of course, that others may think they have evidence for indeterminism. That’s why the determinism-indeterminism debate is interminable. Because the universe is infinite, we can never be availed of your “unmitigated truth.” True, I have attempted to gather the evidence in favor of determinism, but I will never be able to do a complete job of it, since that is impossible. Thus, the best we can do is to abandon the debate, assume that "The Ten Assumptions of Science" are true, and get back to work.]

TSW:  "The more one saw of the macroscopic world, the more one was impressed by its immensity; the more one saw of the microscopic world, the more one was impressed by its inexhaustibility."

BW: I don't think they're equivalent.

[GB: Your opinion. My opinion is that they are and that it is only a matter of scale.]

BW: On the macrocosm side, there is evidence *every second* that there is nothing distinctive about the new telescopic evidence - arriving in our light cone - and the old evidence. There is nothing indicating a diminution in the frequency of stars and galaxies, much less an end-point.

The Big Bang theory has been falling apart ever since it was proposed. The discovered dimensions of the known cosmos were "impossible" without tagging on a crazy "Inflationary Epoch" of FTL [faster than light] separation. The acceleration of remote galaxies was "impossible" without throwing in the silly "Dark Energy" pulling power. The temperature of the Cosmic Microwave Background was "impossibly" hot in comparison with the theoretic predictions.

To my mind, all of these discoveries establish that there are huge gravitational bodies in adjacent cosmos, far beyond our light cone. They are attracting the most remote galaxies and generating hot cosmic rays. Therefore, the evidence for infinity is significant and there is no contrary evidence. Aside from the preposterous, mystical origin of "something from nothing", the Big Bang theory is dying with a whimper.

[GB: Agree.]

BW: On the microcosm side, the evidence is different, coming in staged phases. Inquiry has moved from the "basic elements" of fire, water, etc. ... to the classes of metals, gasses, liquids, etc. ... to the atoms ... to subatomic particles. Each of those discoveries identified distinct incremental steps in the microcosm, rather than continuous homogeneity. 

[GB: Sorry, but microcosmic infinity definitely does not assume “continuous homogeneity.” That would be the same as the indeterminist’s belief in “solid matter,” which is necessary for Finite Particle Theory. Infinity assumes that all microcosms contain submicrocosms ad infinitum.]

TSW:  "[Bruno and Newton] retained the legacy of atomism, which, without a doubt, presumed microscopic finity.

BW: And they were right in advocating a new incremental step of causation for the observed classifications of material properties in like objects. The atomist theory was an unmitigated truth, with no contrary evidence, until the discovery of radiation and the next incremental steps toward identifying a new layer of coherent material components. They were wrong about "indivisibility", but not atomism.

[GB: Sorry, but indivisibility is the essence of atomism, as it is for Finite Particle Theory. The fact that no one has been able to find something with nothing inside it is not proof that the atomists were wrong in principle. Indeed, we may eventually find what we think to be such a particle (aether-1?), but Steve and I are betting that it will contain other particles (aether-2?) as well.[1] These, in turn, will contain aether-3 particles, etc. ad infinitum. In our book we assume that there can be no smallest microcosm, just as there can be no largest microcosm in the infinite universe.]  

TSW:  "... microscopic infinity logically implies macroscopic infinity and vice versa."

BW: I don't think it logically follows. If anything, the concept "infinity" is an abstract ideal. If there is good evidence for a macro-infinity, it says nothing about micro-infinity: nature doesn't have to conform with human inclinations to assume one attribute necessarily applies in an opposite "direction". Remember that your "micro" and "macro" are relative terms: much bigger or much smaller than US humans. But, we aren't exceptional to nature ... at least not by virtue of our size.

[GB: Sorry Bill, but logic does not allow for special pleading. The infinite universe refuses to cooperate, continually presenting us with evidence for both micro and macro infinity. No matter what our “human inclinations,” nature has not given us even a hint as to a stopping point. Like others have, you might make one up, but that stopping point would only be temporary. The question I have for you is: Why would you want to do that? Why not just assume infinity and get on with our work?]

TSW:  "This follows from many of the previous discussions, particularly the one on 'spacetime' involving the opposed concepts of ideal 'solid matter' and ideal 'empty space.'"

BW: Simply because there is a conceptual idea does *not* mean that it must exist, nor that it *cannot* exist, in nature. The idea is either true or false, based on evidence and logic. For example, on the macrocosmic side, nobody contends that our universe is "solid matter", even if they imagine a peripheral "empty space". On the microcosmic side, nobody contends that there are no gravitational forces (= energy = matter in motion) "between" atoms, nor even among subatomic particles. The universe does not have to conform with the Thesis > Antithesis of dialectics.

[GB: Huh?]

TSW:  "The resulting assumption of infinity ... is the only form compatible with causality and uncertainty."

BW: I've pointed out several instances in prior assumptions where infinity was irrelevant.

[GB: You have, and in each case, you were wrong. Perhaps you should reread Bohm[2] again. How in the world could one assume uncertainty (It is impossible to know everything about anything, but it is possible to know more about anything) without also assuming infinity? I don’t get it. You must have some other definition of uncertainty.]

BW: Causality says there is at least one cause for every effect. It doesn't require a specific number of causes ... much less an infinite set. The speed of light is a well established fact, meaning that objects beyond our light cone *cannot* cause any local effects. Until science demonstrates or discovers FTL, causality cannot be infinite.

[GB: Ok. Now I am starting to get what you are thinking of. Because you do not assume microcosmic infinity, you must look to the macrocosm for your “infinite number of causes”—sort of like the new-age people who believe that everything in the universe affects everything else. Not seeing the possibility of an infinite number of colliders within reach, you have to go back to assuming finite causality. That is another reason microcosmic infinity is necessary. It helps explain the fact that no two effects are alike. The variations responsible for plus or minus values are local as well as distal. They are endless.]

BW: Uncertainty has nothing to do with any kind of infinity, at least not in Heisenberg's proposition. Some forms of observation entail modification of the objects being "viewed". That's critical on the subatomic level, but irrelevant for any large object emitting or reflecting light. Nor does the Uncertainly Principle affirm or refute the existence of an infinite microcosmic progression of discrete steps. It simply says there's a problem with observing them.

[GB: Disagree, but you are certainly on board with the regressive interpretation promoted by the Copenhagen school. Heisenberg’s problem would have been solved by adopting infinity, as we do by assuming uncertainty. This could not be done because physicists, like yourself, were still married to finity, which was the essence of classical mechanics and the math necessary to understand it. Heisenberg was hoist on the petard of the infinity of causes you seem to think irrelevant.]

Next: Part 2 of 2 for Infinity

cotsw 019

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

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


Westmiller said...

GB: "How in the world could one assume uncertainty (It is impossible to know everything about anything, but it is possible to know more about anything) without also assuming infinity? I don’t get it. You must have some other definition of uncertainty."

Causality does not require infinity: that every effect has a cause can be just as valid in a finite universe as an infinite one. It is true that infinity may result in some effects for which we *cannot know* the cause (either HUP or light cone), but finity doesn't contradict the causal proposition.

Uncertainty, in sense of Heisenberg's Principle, applies only to the measurement of sub-atomic particle properties. It asserts - erroneously, I think - that anything smaller cannot be known. But, to be clear, I do NOT endorse the Copenhagen Interpretation that human observation of any event is the cause of the event.

However, you've anthropomorphized uncertainty by asserting that WE cannot know everything. In that sense, it is true ... simply because we (individually and collectively) do not have sufficient brain storage capacity to encompass every particular of the universe. But, I think we can be certain (unmitigated truth) that all effects DO have a cause, whether or not we can learn them.

I'll grant that infinity is "consupponible" with (not contradicting) causality and uncertainty, but neither of them requires or proves infinity.

Glenn Borchardt said...


As I mentioned before, you are entirely correct that causality does not require infinity. That was the whole point of my rant on “finite universal causality,” which is the hallmark of classical mechanics. We must disagree, however, that either uncertainty or the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle (HUP) applies only to tiny particles.

Glad to see that you disagree with the Copenhagen claim “that human observation of any event is the cause of the event.” Of course, the Copenhageners made that over-generalization simply because the microcosms they were studying were so tiny that their aethereal surroundings transmitted motion precipitated by the tools necessary for their study. With aether-1 also being subdividable into aether-2, it is no wonder that there must always be a plus or minus even for particles erroneously thought to be finite and existing in empty space. Actually, size has nothing to do with uncertainty. For instance, sociologists must be aware that the advent of their presence in a society changes that society. So it is not so far-fetched that there is an element of truth to the view “that human observation of any event is the cause of the event.” Of course, what you and I both must agree upon is the claim that observation is “the” cause of a particular event. Both your finite causality and my infinite causality admit to multiple causes for particular events.

Sorry, but as I have said before, I totally disagree that “we can be certain (unmitigated truth) that all effects DO have a cause, whether or not we can learn them.” Again, as I have said before, that statement is an assumption. Both causality (All effects have an infinite number of material causes) and uncertainty (It is impossible to know everything about anything, but it is possible to know more about anything) can never be proven beyond an indeterminist’s doubt. There are no “unmitigated truths” and no certainties. The hubris you express was a common characteristic of classical mechanics. Thus, if an effect really did have a finite number of causes, I could claim to know absolutely everything about that interaction. I would have no need for the definition of uncertainty written above. I also would not be able to explain the inevitable plus or minus values I would get with repetitions of the experiment.

The indeterministic assumptions of finite universal causality, certainty, and finity you adhere to are indeed “consupponible.” That is, they are without internal contradiction, just as the deterministic assumptions of infinite universal causality, uncertainty, and infinity are. I find your constellation (a set of consupponible assumptions) to be unreasonable and the latter to be reasonable. Also as I have said before, there is no way of proving which one of us is right. You are not alone, as your belief in finity is typical of mainstream physics. It is why we have the Big Bang Theory and Finite Particle Theory.

What I do not get is your continued claim that “I'll grant that infinity is "consupponible" with (not contradicting) causality and uncertainty, but neither of them requires or proves infinity.” Both of my definitions require infinity, for each of them includes that word or that implication, while yours do not. Also, as I have maintained, along with Collingwood, there can be no proof of infinity or of finity.

Glenn Borchardt said...

Bill has added a comment on my last comment. I included it here verbatim with my comments in brackets:

GB: "What I do not get is your continued claim that “I'll grant that infinity is "consupponible" with (not contradicting) causality and uncertainty..."

BW: We disagree because your definition of causality is not the standard meaning of the word:


An effect may have one or more (or an infinite number of) causes. When the error bars are infinitely small, or too small to measure, then a singular effect can reasonably be presumed to have a finite number of causes.

[GB: Now you got it—well, almost! The classical definition is finite, while the neomechanical definition is infinite. This is an extremely important theoretical distinction. In practice, we must assume a finite number of causes (regardless of the size of the error bars). The infinite universe will not allow us to determine an infinite number of causal factors, so we must cut off the analysis at some point and “presume” that we have discovered enough of them for the analysis. My point: We should never “presume” that we have gotten all of them.]

BW: Granted, humans can't know every possible cause for every variation in the effect, since we're not omniscient. But, omniscience can't be the standard for truth, unless we happen to be Gods, which can't exist.

[GB: My point: Omniscience is not possible in an infinite universe. That became obvious when Laplace’s Demon was slain by Heisenberg (although I am not sure he or anyone else realized it).]

BW: Uncertainty is similar, in that humans cannot know everything. But, that can't be the basis for asserting that we can't know anything (fatalism).

[GB: Remember that the univironmental definition of uncertainty states that: It is impossible to know everything about anything, but it is possible to know more about anything. I do not see how that has anything to do with your idea of fatalism. Fatalism is the erroneous belief that the macrocosm (your environment) controls the microcosm (you). It is the opposite of solipsism, which is the erroneous belief that the microcosm (you) control the macrocosm (your environment). The correct philosophy is univironmental determinism, the observation that what happens to a portion of the universe is determined by the infinite matter in motion within and without.]

GB: "..there can be no proof of infinity or of finity.

BW: When all the evidence supports a proposition and there is no contrary evidence, that has to define human certainty: there is no reasonable doubt.

[GB: Bill, are you certain? I suggest not. Otherwise you would have not included “no reasonable doubt.” No one is ever going to the end of the universe to prove macrocosmic infinity and no one is ever going to find the smallest particle to prove microcosmic finity. Your statement can just as well fit a hundred different religions. It is of no value in distinguishing between determinism and indeterminism.]

BW: For example, we know for certain that motion (and time) are infinitely divisible. We can imagine that they are not, but that's fantasy, not reality.

[GB: It is surprising and quite ironic that you would use an erroneous statement as an example of certainty. Motion (time) is not an object that can be divided. Only matter, defined as that which has xyz dimensions and location with respect to other things, can be divided. Motion is what matter does. Time does not exist. That is the reality. The fantasy is our imagining that time could be sliced and diced like a banana. That idealization may be useful, but it does not make any of the slices real. You might want to reread:

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.]

Rick Doogie said...


Glenn and Bill, thanks so much for the great back-and-forth on these important scientific concepts. If only a few thousand more scientists would get into the debate. But alas, very few see anything seriously wrong with the current state of scientific philosophy. They think they have the story of particle physics, astrophysics, and cosmology pretty close to the reality, with only some tweaks needed here and there. Thanks for stirring the pot with your radical ideas.

I have a correction to the 2nd comment in this section; end of 2nd paragraph in Glenn's reply to Bill's first comment.

Here's the part I'm talking about. Glenn says,
"Of course, what you and I both must agree upon is the claim that observation is 'the' cause of a particular event. Both your finite causality and my infinite causality admit to multiple causes for particular events."

I think Glenn missed a word in that first sentence. I'm pretty sure you meant to write
"that observation is NOT 'the' cause of a particular event".
Adding the word "not" makes more sense to me. Maybe I'm missing something. Sorry if I'm being obtuse.

The present wording makes it sound like Glenn and Bill agree that human observation can indeed be "the" one cause of a particular event. In fact, you both agree upon the opposite; that observation can NEVER be the single cause of any event.

Only a mathematical equation could envision a causal chain with one single cause. - Like, perhaps that one single "random fluctuation" of "nothingness" that caused the Big Bang!

Glenn Borchardt said...


Once again, you are right on. I meant to include the word "not" just like you thought.