Is Science the only sure path to Truth?
Physics is “the branch of science concerned with the nature and properties of matter and energy. The subject matter of physics includes mechanics, heat, light and other radiation, sound, electricity, magnetism, and the structure of atoms” (Oxford Dictionaries). Till the first half of the eighteenth century, physics was a branch of natural philosophy. It “became widely used in its modern sense (i.e., excluding the life sciences, geology, and chemistry) during the second half of the eighteenth century” (Olson, 2002, p. 301).
Olson (2002) explains how physics is divided into two main categories. He states that topics treated before the middle of the ...view middle of the document...
A similar example exists with other pair of variables such as energy and time. For example, according to Barbour (2000), we can predict when half of a large group of radioactive atoms will have disintegrated, but we cannot predict when a particular atom will disintegrate.
Do these uncertainties represent the limitations of our knowledge or real indeterminacy and chance in the world? Three possible answers were given by physicists to explain these uncertainties. Uncertainty may be attributed to temporary human ignorance, inherent experimental or conceptual limitations or indeterminacy in nature.
According to Barbour (1998), a minority of physicists, including Einstein and Planck, have maintained the uncertainties of quantum theory are attributable to our present ignorance. “They believe that detailed subatomic mechanisms are rigidly casual and deterministic; someday the laws of these mechanisms will be found and exact prediction will be possible” (Barbour, Religion and science:Historical and contemporary issues, 1998, p. 171).
On the other hand, according to Barbour (1998), many physicists assert that uncertainty is not a product of temporary ignorance but a fundamental limitation permanently preventing exact knowledge of the atomic domain. Cassidy (2009) quotes Heisenberg who states that the impossibility of an objective world of perception was the “source of indeterminacy”. The first version of this argument claims that the difficulty is an experimental one. The uncertainty is introduced by the process of observation. For example, if we want to observe an electron, we bombard it with a quantum of light. This actually disturbs the situation we were attempting to study. Barbour (1998), states that the uncertainty is present because of this disturbance. However, this interpretation cannot be used to explain uncertainties when nothing is done to disturb the system. For example, the unpredictability of the time at which a radioactive atom spontaneously disintegrates. Barbour (1998) further states that the second version of the argument attributes uncertainty to our conceptual limitations. “By our choice of experimental situations we decide in which of our conceptual schemes (wave or particle, exact position or exact velocity) an electron will manifest itself to us” (Barbour, Religion and science:Historical and contemporary issues, 1998, p. 172). The structure of the atomic world is such that we must choose either casual descriptions or spatiotemporal descriptions, but we cannot have both at once.
Finally, in his later writings, Heisenberg held that the indeterminacy is an objective feature of nature. For example, instead of assuming that an electron has a precise position and velocity that are unknown to us, we should conclude that it is not the sort of entity that always has such properties. Another version of the argument is Hugh Everett’s many-worlds interpretation. “Everett proposed that every time a quantum system can yield more than...