بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
A friend of mine sent my third post in the proof for the existence of God series to a mutual friend who is a PhD student in physics. Let’s call him Muhammad. He made a comment in response:
An electron is here and not here at the same time
The cat is dead and alive simultaneously in Schrodinger’s thought experiment
Funny how the new knowledge is embedded already in the first premise. Have you really deduced anything new that you haven’t already known in this process?
I decided to send him a full length reply because I intended on posting it here, as this objection is no doubt common amongst the scientifically minded.
Wa alaykum as-salaam,
Yes that’s exactly the point – the knowledge is already embedded in the premises. The deduction simply helps clarify and unpack everything that the premises entail – that’s exactly why it is more secure and foolproof than induction.
But let me ask you – has mathematics “deduced anything new” from the axioms? In one sense yes, in another sense no. Although, to phrase the question as “have you really deduced anything new” is, first of all, a confusion in terms and second of all to miss the point of deductive thinking. Deduction is a process of thinking (i.e unpacking the premises), so anytime there is a syllogism you have “deduced something new”, but that doesn’t mean the knowledge was not already entailed by the premise. Secondly, the point being missed here is that by unpacking what premises entail through deduction, we come to understand consequences of certain propositions we did not understand before. Just like in mathematics. I gave a simple example with Socrates, but with metaphysics it is more complex and can lead to unexpected results, just like math.
Also regarding the idea that the electron is here and not here at the same time is to confuse epistemology with ontology. Physicists give a probability amplitude of where an electron will be (which can be more than one place) prior to measurement – that is totally different than asserting that the election is actually in more than one place, at the same time and in the same way. Potentiality =/= actuality. Besides which, even if such a result would be obtained, it would have to be through somehow redefining terms (e.g. what “place” means) so that the theory remains logically consistent (just like how non-Euclidean geometry redefined Euclidean definitions so as to remain logically consistent on non-2D space.) This is not a refutation of the law of excluded middle, which as I said in the article, every scientist applies when they write their null and alternative hypotheses.
Muhammad can look at this link for a quick answer, but more seriously he can look at a wiki of “the Copenhagen interpretation” and other things related to this subject. Look, if you’re going to throw out the law of excluded middle then you need to throw out the mathematics you’re using to even determine that the electron is in both places at the same time, as well as all prediction since apparently something can both be and not at the same time you can deduce anything from any theory.
The idea that physics can rewrite any of our foundational assumptions is refuted by the fact that physical theories are formulated by the human mind and therefore must submit to the rules that govern the human mind. You cannot assert a triangle has both 3 sides and 4 sides at the same time and in the same regard unless you change the definition of the terms. If strict contradictions were possible, human thought could not occur because “chair” could mean both “not chair” and also “chair” which means that I cannot meaningfully refer to anything by any word at all since any word will include everything and exclude nothing. As long as a theory is formulated by the human mind using language then it will adhere to the laws of logic or else literally be nonsense.
Anyway, I hope this helps inshaAllah. I have to ask – was this response before or after he read the article? Because it feels like he is focusing on one offering one counter-argument (which is fine), but is perhaps ignoring the several compelling reasons offered for why science requires deduction and the laws of logic to hold for it to work.
This kind of preference for observation over logic is not new. Back in the 17th century, certain people claimed that a glass case with the air pumped out was a vacuum. They claimed this meant that there was literally nothing inside (i.e. ontological non-being). Others of a more rationalistic bent responded by saying this is preposterous because how can you have “nothing” inside a glass case. Predicates cannot apply to “nothing” let alone time and place and even spacial dimensions (for example if you have a 3×3 glass case, you have 3×3 of “nothing.” This is nonsense). To say non-being “is” anything is really a trick of language, we use the word “is” which itself cannot be used for non-being, for to say “is” literally indicates existence. Anyway, the “rationalists” who rejected the possibility that an ontological “nothing” said that maybe there is ether or something else in the vacuum that is not detectable. This was laughed at by the so-called enlightened natural philosophers (i.e. scientists) who claimed the empirical method was how we determine reality even if it literally makes no sense.
As it turns out, science eventually agreed with the rationalists in postulating special relativity and quantum theory which does regard the vacuum as something (space-time, electromagnetic/quantum fields or whatever). Now it is considered a “scientific fact” when the least bit of metaphysical reasoning would lead you to the conclusion that the vacuum was never “nothing.” It was nonsense to begin with. Every example that physicists can and will ever supposedly give of something in empirical reality that contradicts sound metaphysical reasoning will end exactly like this. As I said in the article, it is like saying we cannot rely on mathematics to know what 2 billion apples plus 2 billion apples is, and we need to empirically count the apples to determine it. You will either make errors (AHA! SEE! There are not 4 billion apples, we counted it empirically and there are only 3, 999, 993! Your “armchair math” has been refuted by science!) or you will confirm the original deduction. Contrary to popular belief, none of the main metaphysical ideas in long-standing traditions like Islamic philosophy or scholasticism have ever been refuted by empirical data. This is despite the achievements of science in the last 400 years – nothing has even come close to refuting or even resolving any of the debates. The only thing that’s been refuted is the physics of Aristotle and the mashaa’i / peripatetic school. One physics refuted another physics – that’s it.