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Re: Social Science, Science, and Empirical Study
by n0705590
15 July 2002 10:36 UTC
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I found this posting extremely intresting but also rather confusing.  I have 
been studying now the philosophical and 'social scientific' implications of 
Complexity Science for a while, and my understanding was that it does 
represent a major paradigmatic shift due to its alternative problematization 
of temporality.  Following Prigogine, it is correct to argue that the basic 
calculus in quantum mechanics, the Schrodinger equation, is time reversible, 
while the whole point in Prigogine's advances is the irreversability of time. 
As I gathered the argument, if the frequnce which results from the Schrodinger 
equation is associated not with another frequence but is subtituted with 
Poincare's resonances, we would have a calculus that is priobabilistic, time 
reversible and anti-reductionist.  That is how Prigogine can say that there is 
'no collapse of the wave function': he is dealing with populations and not 
with single trajectories. If time ceases to be a mere parameter and 
constitutes a formative ingredient inherent to dynamical processes, we are not 
simply dealing with a minor methodoloigical change here, but with a major 
epistemic revolution.  It would mean that science is actually recognizing that 
there is an arrow of time, and that time is not merely an 'illusion' 
(Einstein).  It would expand the consequences of the second law of 
thermodynamics to the most 'noble' branches of physics.  THIS IS HUGE!  Part 
of my confusion derives from Prugovecki's own statments.  One the one hand, he 
affirms that "the considered theory of "chaos" is actually still classical 
physics: the "chaos" is only apparent, since the underlying laws are still 
deterministic".  Hence, I would argue, the notion of 'deterministic chaos'.  
Nonetheless, on the other hand, Prugovecki affirms a few lines after that "It 
is this "fundamental indeterminacy" that distinguishes the ideas of chaos 
theory from those of quantum theory (although some physicists are considering 
the possibility of "quantum chaos."  What are we to understand in here?  Does 
chaos deal with and recognozes this fundamental indeterminacy of nature or 
not?  And if it does, how can it still be 'deterministic'? There is, of 
course, the possibility that I misunderstood, in which case I apologize in 
advance (was the sentence 'the considered chaos' making reference to precise 
elements within previos postings or to the whole scientific eneterprise being 
branded as chaos theory?)

>===== Original Message From prugovecki@laguna.com.mx (E. Prugovecki) =====
>As a quantum physicist interested in social science, I read with interest
>today's (July 10, 2002) account of the debate between "Mike" and "Luke,"
>and especially the following part:
>>"For example, suppose an exact (nonlinear) law describing human thought was
>>discovered that covered the basic synapse to synapse neural process behind
>>thought.  Suppose what we are consciously aware of as a thought is the 
>>of dozens of such basic processes.  Then, even though the basic law 
>>thought is known, the product of that process (after dozens of repetitions)
>>would be unknowable, just as the position of the billiard ball is unknowable
>>after 10-30 ricochets.  In other words, people still have free will because
>>you can't predict what they will decide, even though you understand exactly,
>>at the fundamental level, what their brains do while they are making their
>The last sentence touches upon the ancient mind-body question, and it deals
>with matters which can't be solved in quite that facile a manner. Moreover,
>the considered theory of "chaos" is actually still classical physics: the
>"chaos" is only apparent, since the underlying laws are still
>deterministic. Hence in the above considered "model" of "human thought"
>there would be no actual "free will." "Mike" is actually confusing
>"unknowable" with "unpredictable from a practical point of view."
>In contrast, the Heisenberg principle postulates that the simultaneous
>values of certain "incompatible" observables are literally "unknowable." In
>fact, Heisenberg, Born and others had gone further than that, and
>considered the possibility of a "fundamental length" in nature. Carrying
>out this idea to its ultimate conclusion leads to a purely quantum
>formulation of spacetime itself - as I described in my monograph PRINCIPLES
>OF QUANTUM GENERAL RELATIVITY (World Scientific, 1995).
>As for the related mind-body question, I reproduce below a fictional
>debate, presented in my recent book DAWN OF THE NEW MAN: A FUTURISTIC NOVEL
>OF SOCIAL CHANGE (Xlibris, 2002). It takes place between Leonardo (one of
>the artificial "new men"), Liu (a computer scientist in a futuristic
>society representing a new type of "world system") and Philip (a
>contemporary quantum cosmologist).
>Excerpt from DAWN OF THE NEW MAN, pp. 68 - 69:
>        "Why do you say 'biologically structured humans'?" I [Philip] asked
>a bit annoyed. "After all, a human is, by definition, biologically
>structured, and not some kind of automaton."
>        "You're forgetting your basic readings in philosophy, Philip,"
>interposed Liu. "René Descartes was already speculating about 'animal
>automatism' in the seventeenth century, and by the eighteenth century some
>Cartesians were talking of Man as a Machine. Furthermore, by the end of the
>Old Era surgeons were already capable of replacing most organs in a human
>being with artificial counterparts. By now we can do that with literally
>every organ, except the brain. Does that make the end product any less
>        "Ah! But that's exactly the point," I exclaimed triumphantly. "The
>        "You again forget your readings in philosophy, Philip," Liu
>remarked with uncharacteristic gentleness, since he could be a very
>ferocious debater. "It's the mind, and not the brain that makes a human
>being what he is. Some other transcendentalist schools are working on the
>project of transferring the entire mind of a biological human being to an
>artificial brain and body, and are making some progress in that direction.
>If they succeed, would that render such human beings any less human?"
>        "I think that what Liu as driving at is the old mind-body
>philosophical question," intervened Leonardo. "How does the mind interact
>with the body? And what is free will?"
>        I wasn't quite prepared for a philosophical discussion, and
>especially not one with an advanced "machine" like Leonardo, but I quickly
>rose to the challenge.
>        "I know," I said, raising my left arm into the air by way of a
>demonstration. "Right now I just raised my arm of my free will. But how did
>I do it? Even in the Old Era scientists could explain everything about the
>electrical impulses leading from the muscles to the brain, and within the
>brain itself they had figured out how the neurons fired the impulses that
>resulted in such actions as my raising my arm. But what caused those
>neurons to act as they did? One could, of course, trace their functioning
>to that of constituent atoms and molecules, and then even deeper to
>constituent elementary particles, and so on. However, whatever fundamental
>level of matter we reach, we are still left with the open question: what
>had caused that conglomeration of matter to act as it did, so that that
>action eventually resulted in a macroscopically observable manifestation of
>my free will?"
>        "Bravo! Bravo!" exclaimed Liu and Leonardo in unison.
>        "Of course one possible answer is that there is no free will, and
>that everything is strictly predetermined from the instant the Universe was
>created," said Leonardo. "But in that case, we are all automata, aren't we?
>You as well as I."
>        "But that point of view, with which some philosophers struggled for
>centuries, was empirically refuted with the advent of quantum mechanics," I
>said, feeling at last in my element as a quantum cosmologist. "There is a
>fundamental indeterminacy in Nature!"
>It is this "fundamental indeterminacy" that distinguishes the ideas of
>chaos theory from those of quantum theory (although some physicists are
>considering the possibility of "quantum chaos.")
>I hope these observations will stimulate additional debate about
>fundamental issues, and maybe eventually connect this debate with social
>science, as suggested by the stipulated subject matter under discussion.
>Eduard Prugovecki
>Professor Emeritus
>University of Toronto

Damian Popolo
PhD candidate
Newcastle University
Department of Politics
Room 301

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