ThePolyMath, Quantum Bayesism, Wave Functions, and more

He’s back… ThePolyMath actually did a video reply to my blog post reply, to his video reply, of my original video. This is getting long… But he uses the exact same tactic he used the first time: a retreat to vagueness, personal attacks, and bouncing around from different interpretations. All he has succeeded in doing is showing idealism is a pretty solid understanding of reality if this is the best he can offer.

He starts out by replying that it was not an ad hominem to dismiss certain physicists as quacks because as he says, “Well, actually it is, if the person you are citing is spewing fringe quackery.” Now, if he thinks this constitutes as a reply then I have more to question then just his arguments. Naming-calling people who disagree with you and then dismissing them as quacks is not an argument. The reason certain people are quacks is because their arguments are terrible and based off bad or no evidence. That is why some people are labeled as quacks. If ThePolyMath thinks some of the physicists I cited are quacks then it is his duty to explain why, not just say they are quacks because they are quacks.

I believe Benny Hinn is a quack because he makes doctrines up based on his “so-called” personal revelations he claims to receive, and doesn’t provide objective evidence or support for his claims. That is why he is a quack, not because I can just label him one. ThePolymath fails to demonstrate these things about the physicists he labels as quacks. He seems to imply, “they don’t agree with me, therefore they must be quacks.” It doesn’t work that easily. If you want to call someone a quack then back it up with reasons as to why, do not just say they are quacks because they are quacks…

Ending at 3:18 – ThePolymath tries to refute the von Neumann chain and in doing so demonstrates he doesn’t understand the philosophical implications. He argues that physicists accept the photo detector causes collapse and thus the observer is not necessary. But this is not the point. Advocates of the von Neumann chain agree the photo detector causes collapse, obviously. It is part of the chain and interacts and no one denies this. What we then ask is what caused the photo detector to collapse? If the answer is the environment, then what caused the environment to collapse? Hence you get a chain, a von Neumann chain of several things causing collapse. Trying to say the photo detector causes complete collapse doesn’t address the von Neumann chain.

What he seems to be doing is arguing from the Copenhagen Interpretation alone. Well, of course in the Copenhagen Interpretation the photo detector can fully explain collapse, but it is only a pragmatic interpretation. Of course the von Neumann chain is not necessary in a pragmatic understanding alone. But it doesn’t take any metaphysical conclusions into account, so it can hardly give a complete description of reality. If we are talking from a pragmatic standpoint, then yes, the photo detector causes collapse and I have never denied that. However, it completely misses the real issue of what that would entail, namely a following von Neumann chain to initiate ultimate collapse. So despite “the PolyMath’s claim, the von Neumann chain does take into effect the environmental decoherence effects on particles. But decoherence alone cannot fully explain collapse beyond a pragmatic understanding, and the debate is over the truth of reality. So this appears to be a bait and switch: announce interaction/decoherence can fully explain collapse, but fail to mention that it only applies in the pragmatic Copenhagen Interpretation, which doesn’t address the truth of what reality is.

Also where are these physicists he speaks of that say the photo detector can entirely explains collapse? He claims this all physicists accept this is true, but he seems to leave out the fact that I quoted several physicists in my previous reply to him, which showed interaction/decoherence cannot fully explain collapse. However, he seems to have simply ignored all those quotes and say the exact opposite of what they overwhelmingly agree on – that interaction cannot fully explain collapse. As E Joos said and I previously quoted, “Does decoherence solve the measurement problem? Clearly not. What decoherence tells us, is that certain objects appear classical when they are observed. But what is an observation? At some stage, we still have to apply the usual probability rules of quantum theory.1

There are far more I could of used, like this one from Maximilian Scholosshauer, “…decoherence arises from a direct application of the quantum mechanical formalism to a description of the interaction of a physical system with its environment. By itself, decoherence is therefore neither an interpretation nor a modification of quantum mechanics.2 In fact I could keep going on, but the point is physicists do not say the interaction/decoherence can fully explain collapse other than from a pragmatic standpoint. So ThePolyMath needs to back up his claim, and not just assume something that is obviously true, without evidence. That is intellectual dishonesty at its finest.

Ending at 4:11 – Ok, he did this last time and I skipped over it because it was not an issue. He quotes Lawrence Krauss who says quantum mechanics is deterministic, but our measurement is not what is deterministic. I agree and is why I never addressed it. I fail to see how this is supposed to be shattering for my argument for idealism. We agree the Schroedinger equation is deterministic. As Henry Stapp says:

The Schroedinger equation, like Newton’s and Maxwell’s equations, is deterministic: given the motion of the quantum state for all times prior to the present, the motion for all future time is fixed, insofar as the Schroedinger equation is satisfied for all times. However, the Schroedinger equation fails when an increment of knowledge occurs: then there is a sudden jump to a ‘reduced’ state, which represents the new state of knowledge. This jump involves the well-known element of quantum randomness.3

Of course nature is deterministic, but it is incomplete without our input. This is Henry Stapp’s point, who I quoted in my last reply and ThePolyMath ignored. As I already said in that reply:

Interaction stems back from an observer’s “Heisenberg choice” (to use Henry Stapp’s terminology) which derives a “Dirac Choice” from nature. That is how we can derive the Born Rule and get one actual outcome from the possibilities of the wavefunction. Only the observer has the ability to ‘choose’ between possibilities. Non-conscious measuring devices cannot. As Henry Stapp says, “The observer in quantum theory does more than just read the recordings. He also chooses which question will be put to Nature: which aspect of nature his inquiry will probe. I call this important function of the observer ‘The Heisenberg Choice’, to contrast it with the ‘Dirac Choice’, which is the random choice on the part of Nature that Dirac emphasized.4

 So I fail to see what this is suppose to accomplish in pointing out the evolving wave function by itself is deterministic. No one denies that and neither have I.

Ending at 6:02 – Okay, now I am confused about his position. Prior to this he seemed to argue decoherence theory or from a pragmatic Copenhagen view. In his last video he did that as well, but also implied hidden variables. But now he is advocating quantum bayesism? First thing to note, he seems to be jumping between different ways to avoid idealism, which doesn’t seem reasonable, but instead is an attempt to avoid the most logical explanation. Second, I don’t think quantum bayesism is a good way to save materialism. It seems to be more akin to a scientific anti-realist view of quantum mechanics. Scientific American did an article on this interpretation titled, “Quantum Weirdness? It’s all in your mind: A new version of quantum theory sweeps away the bizarre paradoxes of the microscopic world. The cost? Quantum information exists only in your imagination.5

Now if ThePolyMath is actually an antirealist then it is his right to hold to this view, but I don’t think he has been advocating it up until this point and he doesn’t seem to be elsewhere, which is why I am confused of his position. QBism argues the wave function is just a description of what the observer believes. We are detached from reality and can never know what is taking place and the mathematics is all in our imagination, so to speak. As they say in the Scientific American article:

By interpreting the wave function as personal degrees of belief, it gives precise, mathematical meaning to Bohr’s intuition that “physics concerns what we can say about nature.” And proponents of QBism embrace the notion that until an experiment is performed, its outcome simply does not exist. Before the speed or position of an electron is measured, for example, the electron does not have a speed or a position. The measurement brings the property in question into being. As Fuchs puts it, “With every measurement set by an experimenter’s free will, the world is shaped just a little as it participates in a kind of moment of birth.” In this way, we become active contributors to the ongoing creation of the universe.5

This doesn’t sound like the salvation of materialism (And ThePolyMath fails to demonstrate how this rescues materialism). It sounds like a scientific anti-realist position and more close to subjective idealism. If ThePolyMath wants to hold to QBism, that is his right, but he never demonstrated how this rescues materialism or what the interpretation implies. It seems to lead more towards idealism, which defeats his argument.

It is also a fairly new theory and is unable to explain macroscopic phenomena, so I don’t see it is competing with interpretations based off of standard quantum theory. When I pointed these things out in the information section to ThePolyMath, he simply jumped to Bohmian Mechanics. I’m sorry, but I must ask: are we following the data to where it leads or starting with a presupposition that materialism must be true and then finding anyway to explain the data to save that presupposition? Bohmian Mechanics is incomplete as physicsts have noted.6,7 But also becomes ad hoc due to problems with contextually and over complicates things, causing it to lack parsimony.

However, that is besides the point. This is not how we do science. We don’t start with a metaphysical belief, like materialism, and do everything we can to save it in the face of new evidence. I’ll let the evidence lead me. As Henry Stapp says, “…once the physics assumptions are rectified the philosophy will take care of itself.8 We do not start with a set belief. We start with science and build a philosophical worldview that fits what science has given us. This is why I am idealist now and wasn’t when I started my channel. Scientific evidence converted me.

Ending at 6:48 – Ok he seems to be jumping back to a neo-Copenhagen Interpretation or a hidden variable interpretation now. I wish he would just pick a position to argue from. ThePolyMath is not holding to an interpretation he feels best fits the data, but it simply trying to do anything he can to avoid idealism. When I pointed out the environment cannot choose between different possibilities he responds by quoting something from his last video, where he argues “the wave function doesn’t have a physical reality, it is just a mathematical model that describes the expectation values of particular observables of a quantum particle or system.” To which I reply: why on earth would I disagree with this? Of course it doesn’t have a “physical reality”. Seriously, is he even trying or has he been listening to me up until this point? I argue it is real, just as something nonphysical from which physical reality emerges from upon collapse. So his argument is a straw man. I never said the wave function had a “physical reality.”

He then tries to argue the Neo-Copenhagen view of the wave function, that it is just, “…a mathematical model that describes the expectation values of particular observables…” Well that is fine, but not everyone agrees as he implies. In fact the ThePolyMath fails to explain why this view of the wave function is the only view one can hold to. The problem is ThePolyMath fails to explain why this is the most logical way to view the wave function or even demonstrate that it is not an actual thing (non-physical that is).

Rosenblum and Kuttner in “The Quantum Enigma,” argue the wave function is a real nonphysical thing:

Quantum probability, waviness, on the other hand, is mysteriously objective; it’s the same for everyone. The wavefunction is the whole story: The standard quantum description has no atom in addition to the wavefunction of the atom. As a leading quantum physics text would have it, the term “the wavefunction of the atom” is synonym for “the atom. If someone looked in a particular spot and happened to see the atom there, that looked “collapsed” the spread out waviness of that atom to be wholly at that particular spot.9

If you read the surrounding the context, they keep iterating the point “Observing the particle creates it being there,” “the atom’s widely spread out wave function to be concentrated at that spot on the screen.” Now the reason I bring this up is because later in his video ThePolyMath comes back to this point and tries again to say that no physicists thinks the wave function is a real thing. Which is clearly false. I could name several.

Here is another recent paper which also makes a similar argument: http://arxiv.org/abs/1311.7127

He can call “The Quantum Engima” a book of far-out ideas, but he has yet to demonstrate why this is. If particles have properties prior to measurement and the wave function is only a mathematical model that describes what we can know about the system, then how does that not collapse to scientific anti-realism or hidden variables? And if it is hidden variables then where is the evidence for it? Perhaps I am misunderstanding his position, but he is jumping all over the place making it is impossible to follow or know what his position actually is.

He then goes on to say, “…It is not as if the particle did no have any properties prior to measurement” (and later quotes Stenger who says the same thing, so I address that here as well). As before, I reply – what evidence suggests they do? If hidden variables have been ruled out and the Kochen-Specker shows us the experimental context is essential for the outcome obtained how does this show particles had physical properties prior to measurement? Where is this hidden variable that can give a particle it’s physical properties prior to measurement that he speaks of? As Rosenblum and Kuttner say, “We can never rule out “undetectable things.” But a theory with no testable consequence beyond what is was invented to explain is unscientific”10. If ThePolyMath wants to argue particles can have properties prior to measurement he better get some data to back it up. If he cannot he is being unscientific, because all the data I’ve presented in my blog and videos suggests hidden variables do not exist. He has failed to present evidence for hidden variables so far or explain how particles obtain properties without an observer’s measurement. Until he does that, simply repeating the same assertions in a new video will not change that and I’m sick of repeating myself. So I’ll just ignore his sad attempts to pretend hidden variables exist until he presents evidence.

Ending at 7:13 – ThePolyMath directly lies, literally. There is no other way to put it. He implies I am only quoting some of the early pioneers of quantum mechanics, and we have moved past their ideas so they do not hold any power today. This is incredibly dishonest and he should be ashamed. It is pathetic propaganda. I have quoted early pioneers, but I’ve also quoted recent physics like Paul Davies, John Gribbin, Bruce Rosenblum, Fred Kuttner, Bernard Haisch, Anton Zeilinger, Eaun Squires, Maximilian Scholosshauer, etc. (and Henry Stapp, since he is still alive today and still contributing work). I’ve quoted both early and modern physicists and for him to dishonestly leave out that detail demonstrates his video is a piece of propaganda. Perhaps he is getting desperate at this point and why he feels he has to resort to these types of tactics.

Also why is it wrong to quote the early pioneers of quantum theory? Here is a recent paper Anton Zeilinger co-authored that directly uses a Neils Bohr quote that I have also used – http://arxiv.org/pdf/1206.6578v2.pdf

Is ThePolyMath going to whine about modern physicists quoting early pioneers as well, or only when I do it? The point is their ideas have not been kicked to the wayside as ThePolyMath dishonestly implies. Quantum theory is the most accurate scientific model ever developed. The work of the early pioneers still has an impact and is used by physicists today. If ThePolyMath doesn’t realize this, then he once again has demonstrated poor research on his behalf.

Ending at 14:07 – We finally get to my favorite part. He first tries to claim something I already addressed last time. Yes, Zeilinger doesn’t ever say mind or consciousness, and I addressed this in my last post, so I won’t repeat it here. Did ThePolyMath conveniently leave out that this little fact in his video reply? That is adorable… Just repeating an argument I already addressed is not a counter.

He then say the second half of my response is just a hissy fit and to just ignore it. Yes, the old ‘pay no attention to the man behind the curtain’ act. So just ignore the parts where I pointed out his error on the Kochen-Specker theorem, quote mining of Zelinger, his errors surrounding the Leggett-Garg inequality, etc. If that is what he thinks works as a reply, then it only reassures myself that my arguments are sound, to which I owe him thanks.

He ends the video by resorting back to his ways of childish of insults and then quotes Matt Dillhaunty who is trying to argue you can’t test God, because God is not a variable. This is so much of a misunderstanding I don’t even no where to begin. First, I never said there was a God variable, because God is not a natural process that can be studied. If He were, He would not be God. That much should have been obvious to anyone who tries to debate theism. So that is a straw man. Second, you can’t test any metaphysical view of reality. All we can do is study the data in the natural physical word and reach a metaphysical conclusion of what that data means. To just call a metaphysical inference a conjecture doesn’t make it one. The skeptic needs to show why. There is no materialism variable either. Materialists study reality and feel the data infers the philosophical belief of materialism. So shall we kick materialism to the side since it cannot be tested in the same matter as well?

That is all for now. At this point if I get another response I doubt I’ll respond. ThePolyMath has advocating the hidden variables idea for a second time – that a particle can have properties prior to measurement, but he has yet again failed to offer evidence for it. If he can come up with something better I’ll take another crack at it, but I doubt he will. Furthermore, he seems to just be bouncing around from interpretation to interpretation, trying to find anything to save materialism. If that is his tactic it is pointless to converse with him. Apart from acting like a 5th grade bully who insults people he doesn’t agree with, he doesn’t seem to make coherent sense. He claims I misrepresent physics and that is the cause of his anger but he can’t seem to justify it. So what is the real cause of his childish anger? What he seems to actually be angry about is I offer an interpretation and argue it best fits the data. He doesn’t like the presented interpretation because it doesn’t fit with his philosophical beliefs, so he is angry people disagree with him, which again is childish.

Look, I don’t agree with Many Worlds interpretation but I would never say Everettians are misrepresenting science. They just have different metaphysical beliefs, and I argue they are wrong. But to say either of us is misrepresenting science shows us ThePolyMath doesn’t know what that means and just throws out these lines to further is propaganda work.

Since he doesn’t give evidence or an account of which interpretation he is arguing from it is pointless to keep pointing this out. All he has done is demonstrated that if this is the best reply materialists can come up with then he has assured me idealism and the argument from quantum mechanics is pretty strong and cannot be refuted.

Notes:

  1. Joos (2000). Decoherence: Theoretical, Experimental, and Conceptual Problems, Page 14.
  2. Schlosshauer (2005). Decoherence, the measurement problem and interpretation of quantum mechanics, Page 8. http://arxiv.org/abs/quantph/0312059
  3. Stapp (1999) “Attention, intention, and will in quantum physics,” J. Consciousness Studies, Page 17 http://arxiv.org/pdf/quant-ph/9905054v1.pdf
  4. https://inspiringphilosophy.wordpress.com/2014/03/15/quantum-physics-still-debunks-materialism-refuting-thepolymath/
  5. Von Baeyer, “A New Version of Quantum Theory Sweeps Away the Bizarre Paradoxes of the Microscopic World. The Cost? Quantum Information Exists Only in Your Imagination.” Scientific American June 2013: 49-53. Web.
  6. Schlosshauer (2005). Decoherence, the measurement problem and interpretation of quantum mechanics, Page 31-33. http://arxiv.org/abs/quantph/0312059
  7. Gao (2011). Why the De Broglie-Bohm Theory Goes Astray. http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/8956/
  8. Stapp (1999) “Attention, intention, and will in quantum physics,” J. Consciousness Studies, Page 4 http://arxiv.org/pdf/quant-ph/9905054v1.pdf
  9. Bruce Rosenblum & Fred Kuttner (2011) The Quantum Enigma 2nd Edition, Page 81.
  10. Bruce Rosenblum & Fred Kuttner (2011) The Quantum Enigma 2nd Edition, Page 110.
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