Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Logical Implications of Strict Physicalism

Here is a new 5-minute podcast on Stephen Barr - What is Human Mind in a Theistic World?.

The guest argues that if you want to be a strict physicalist, then you are forced into the many-worlds interpretation, with infinitely many copies of you.

Normally I would say that he is using bad Physics to justify his spiritual beliefs, but there are many respected atheist physicists who say the same thing.

I may be in the minority, but I say that strict physicalism means just believing in what is physically observable, and that rules out many-worlds. Believing in unobservable parallel universes and many copies of yourself is just another spiritual/religious belief, about like believing in the Bible. Believe in it if you want, but do not pretend that it is scientific, or logical, or strictly physical. It is not.


  1. A scientist walks into the Louvre, looks at all the works of art and statuary and declares: Yep, looks like just a bunch of ordinary random processes caused by common chemistry and entropy.

    There is a existential breaking point where you realize that the sheer mathematical improbability of your existence is so high, and the universe so vast, that it begins to approach the likelihood of a religious miracle you can even ponder such a thing...

    ... and that pulling an infinity of unobservable undetectable universes out of your ass to sum over what is right in front of you is obscene.

    Physicalism is a logic tool that requires finite measurements that can be repeatedly performed. It simply has no function outside of this intentionally limited scope and can not be applied to the purely mathematical abstraction of infinity.

    If you want to sneer at a single miracle, don't invoke an infinite number of them in your calculations.

  2. Why do you ask even, Roger,

    I say:

    ``Logical Implications of Strict Physicalism''

    *is* the Strict Logical Positivism.

    Look. I've been confused about this word these idiots from these philosophy and humanities departments sometimes use, OK? I mean Logical Positivism.

    Allow me my own version of the French, but what *is* fucking different from this vs. that, you tell me, Roger?


  3. Roger, could you comment on Anton Petrov's (a famous YouTuber science influencer) latest video on the Double Slit Experiment with... time?

  4. Dave,
    I just watched the Youtube video out of curiosity. There was some very strange fast talking and very casual eliding from dual slits in space to 'dual slit changes in time' in any meaningful way. Shining light through liquid crystal displays does not change time whatsoever, maybe the rate light travels through said crystal, but not time. This is just optics, light can travel at different speeds through different mediums or parts of a lens, this is how you get diffraction in a prism or use glasses to see better. Saying that you are changing time doesn't really mean anything specific, and if you actually could, it would invalidate the rest of your measurements as they are all actually ratios dependent upon time to remain constant in order to mean anything.

    The whole issue of time really needs to addressed as well. Technically, time can't ever be directly measured, only a rate of the change of some cyclical phenomenon which is considered relatively uniform in periodic movement (which is technically always a distance from the beginning of the particular cycle to the end, a completed oscillation), then this rate is put into a ratio with some other periodic movement (days of the year, hours of the day, seconds of the hour, etc., or a distance over the particular rate of a change (which is still another kind of distance) It can be anything from larger scales like the lunar cycle to the rate of decay of some isotope or particle, but in all cases, the smaller you go in increments for more precision the more variation and imprecision creeps into the measurement of all lengths and distances to the point you really can't get any more precise due to the limits of your instrumentation. Mechanical watches aren't perfect due to mechanical imperfections and friction, digital watches aren't perfect because oscillating crystals aren't actually perfectly uniform, atomic clocks aren't perfect because particles don't actually decay at exactly the same rate due to many possible background causes and minor variations in electronics behavior issues, as even two atomic clocks next to each other will eventually diverge over time.

  5. Thanks, CFT, I always enjoy your insightful commentary. Anton's stuff is usually good, but this was just click-baity material, it seems.