Friday, March 12, 2021

Rejecting probability is worthless

As more professors fall for nonsense like many-worlds, I explain the biggest problem. This applies to many-worlds, superdeterminism, multiverse, simulation, and similar theories.

The problem is the same as for solipsism, and were identified two millennia ago.

Nearly all of science works like this. Collect some data, form a hypothesis, collect more data, and construct a theory that makes predictions. The prediction is that, for a set of given conditions, a particular measurement will be observed, with some confidence. The prediction might be: The displacement will be 95% likely to be between 1.4 and 1.5 meters.

There is nearly always a probability involved, even in a supposedly deterministic field like celestial mechanics. It is hard to think of examples that do not fit this pattern. Reader Andrei suggests quantum mechanics predicting that the H2O molecule is stable. Maybe also Darwin's "survival of the fittest". But 99+% of all scientific work involves probabilities.

Many-worlds theory rejects all probabilities. They have no notion of some worlds being more likely than others. Your branch of the wave function is all that is real to you, and all possibilities happen in parallel worlds. The seemingly unlikely possibilities are just as real. Some researchers have arguments for why we might subjectively perceive probabilities, but these arguments are not widely accepted, and do not function as real probabilities anyway.

Superdeterminism also rejects probabilites, for different reasons. It denies that you can even set up a controlled experiment. You might toss a coin 100 times and get 50 heads, and that is no indication of a fair coin. The coin could be weighted to come up heads 90% of the time, but a conspiracy of forces going back to the Big Bang might have forced a misleading statistical outcome. In short, probabilities are meaningless.

Gerard ’t Hooft was one of the top geniuses being the Standard Model, and he has been sucked into superdeterminism. To show how twisted his thinking has become, his latest paper says:

A complete answer to the question ‘what happens in an EPR-Bell experiment?’, is not given here, but we do summarise what, according to this author, the principal weaknesses are in Bell’s argument, which is not the mathematical calculations but the general assumptions, in particular those connected with causality and ‘free will’. ...

All this implies for instance that Alice and Bob have no free will. Not in a deterministic world. For unfathomable reasons, many experienced scientists have difficulties with that.[15]

Really, he cannot fathom why scientists believe in free will? I don't think he is joking, as he has written papers against free will, such as this one. And sure enough, he shows no clue to understanding why anyone would believe in it.

He is so eager to abolish free will that he also abolishes probabilities.

Sean M. Carroll and Scott Aaronson back many-worlds theory, and hence also reject probabilities.

Scott Aaronson writes:

The original papers by Gerard ‘t Hooft on “superdeterminism” were shockingly blase about the absurd implications I mentioned — implications that would mean you could explain basically anything (telepathy, superluminal signaling, etc.) via similar devices, and that physics would be over — and (to their credit) were also clear enough that there was no possible other way to interpret them. None of the other papers I saw about “superdeterminism” showed any inkling of appreciating the enormity of the problem. And none of them contained what I saw as the slightest hint of a promising idea to balance the absurdity.

By the usual standards I apply to anything else, this would be more than enough reason for me to ignore the topic thereafter.

That is all true, but the same is true about many-worlds. Because anything can happen in the parallel worlds and there is no way to say how unlikely those things are, the theory can explain basically anything. And the proponents show no inkling of appreciating that they are rejecting 99% of all modern science, and offering nothing in return.

And I mean literally nothing. There is no paper on many-worlds or superdeterminism that has ever contributed anything to modern science. No paper has made a successful prediction, or even explained how a prediction could be made. No paper has explained anything that we don't already know.

It is as if some smart person announced: Maybe 99% of all science is wrong, and it only seems right because God is performing miracles to trick us.

I cannot disprove such a statement, just as I cannot disprove solipsism. But what is the point? There is no evidence for such thinking. The view has no benefits. It cannot predict or explain anything. And it discards most of the best of human knowledge.

I am flabbergasted at the sloppy thinking of our intellectual leaders.

Update: Andrei writes:

Superdeterminism is a generic concept like “field theory”. Is it possible for a field theory to predict telepathy? Yes. Does it mean that all field theories are non-scientific? Not really. General relativity or electrodynamics are field theories and are universally accepted as science. ... the superdeterministic theory that reproduces QM would not predict telepathy either.
His argument is that someone might construct a superdeterministic theory that reproduces known physics, and so that would be scientific.

No. He could say the same about solipsism, simulation, or anything else that denies reality. Under those theories, no one can do any experiments to test the theory, so there cannot be anything scientific about them.

Scott writes:

Yes, I really believe that belief or disbelief in MWI should have no bearing whatsoever on what risks you’re willing to take in your life. Or to put it differently: whatever about MWI causes you to think it would bear on that, that’s precisely the part you need to discard in order to continue along the Zen path.
He is also denying reality. Under MWI, he has no ability to take risks. If, say, he goes skydiving, he will crash in some branches and land safely in others. MWI has no way of saying which branches are more likely. The concept makes no sense in MWI, as the copy of him that survives will think that he is the real Scott, and nothing bad happened. He also has no free will in MWI, as every apparent choice puts him in a branch, but the opposite choice puts him in another branch and that Scott will think that he made that opposite choice.

All these forms of solipsism are unscientific, and nothing in life makes any sense if you believe in them. Andrei and Scott both pretend that you can adopt these beliefs, and go on with life just as before. You cannot.

Update: Scott responds:

My argument is simply that the superdeterministic theory that does all these wonderful things — e.g., naturally reproduce QM while not superluminal signaling or telepathy — is a nonexistent construct. I personally see no reason why anything like it should exist; at any rate it doesn’t exist at present. But it’s more than that: I don’t accept the framing that this is a “promising research program that just needs more time to succeed.” I’ve seen nothing — nothing — of the slightest scientific interest ever come out of it. I don’t see why anything would, given that

(1) its original motivation was a terrible one (basically, people who didn’t understand the Bell inequality, and then after it was finally explained to them, searched for some arbitrarily exotic way in which they might still be right), and

(2) the “mechanism” they decided on is effectively indistinguishable from magic — it’s just that you arbitrarily declare that this magic is only for violating the Bell inequality, and not for any of the more interesting things that magic would seem able to do once you introduce it into the universe.

I agree with all that, but the same could be said for many-worlds and the other solipsist theories. In particular (1) MWI was motivated by people with a philosophical objection to Copenhagen QM, and searched for an exotic way to avoid measurements; and (2) the mechanism is a form of magic that defies all scientific analysis.

Scott does not agree with that, of course, as he has joined the MWI cult. He just brushes aside the magic by calling it Zen.


  1. Roger,

    I'd rapidly gone through Scott's post when it came, but didn't respond because I was sure I wouldn't be returning back on the 'net itself as often as posting replies would require. So, I just smiled a bit while going through his latest set of Scottisms, and thought to myself that he is going to be done with the post (and along with it, also with his freshly adopted intellectual positions regarding MWI) as soon as he comes out of the bed. In short, I thought, he could be entertaining MWI simply because he was missing his days in California or something.

    Well, turns out, that nostalgia isn't about to get over as quickly as I thought it would. Or, may be, it wasn't just nostalgia in the first place. I mean to say, may be, he has *really* begun entertaining MWI a little more seriously than I thought he was.

    Oh well... I just can't figure out why he's got into that mess---the MWI---as if being in the QC field wasn't enough for him.

    He says:

    >> " If you had to, you could call even me a “Many-Worlder,” but only in the following limited sense: that in fifteen years of teaching quantum information, my experience has consistently been that for most students, Everett’s crutch is the best one currently on the market."

    OK, but just because his students use this crutch, why must Scott himself begin using it *also* for himself? Isn't it taking "the child is the father of man" a bit too far? Indeed, why he does he need any crutch at all if he can also say:

    >> "QM is what it is and doesn’t need an interpretation."

    Anyway, I find it impossible to believe that he doesn't/didn't notice such issues with MWI as what you've correctly pointed out here---*even while* responding the way he has been.


    Anyway, there is another thing that I would like to point out. Scott says:

    >> "As Sidney Coleman famously argued, what needs reinterpretation is not QM itself, but all our pre-quantum philosophical baggage."

    Ummm... No. That's a wrong framing of the issues.

    The actual problem with QM isn't so much that its ideas / abstractions are so radically different from those of pre-quantum theories.

    The actual problem with QM is that no one thus far has been able to supply a very good way to map its *abstractions* with the QM *phenomena* as we observe them.

    Note, the word is phenomena, and not the pre-quantum (or CM) ideas. I will pick up just two aspects to highlight this point.

    [Contd in the next part]

  2. [Contd from the previous reply]

    Note, the word is *phenomena*, and not the *pre-quantum* (or *CM*) *ideas*. I will pick up just two aspects to highlight this point.

    1. QM uses the $3N$-dimensional configuration space. But everything about QM experiments can be *fully* specified, and results consistently observed, in reference to the $3$-dimensional physical space alone.

    By "*fully* specified" I mean: to such a degree that experiments become reproducible, within the usual $\pm$ statistical variations.

    Yet, none has so far been able to show a good pathway between these two. Namely, that the engineering drawings for Geiger counter are done using $3$-D space, for the QM phenomena it measures are such that for theoretical predictions, calculations must be done in $3N$-D space.

    This problem was spotted by Lorentz right in first half of 1926; he even mentioned it during his correspondence with Schrodinger. It has remained unresolved till date.

    Notice, $3$-D space doesn't mean having to use pre-QM (or CM) abstractions (like those of NM or EM). Even if you never cared about a good correspondence with pre-quantum *theories*, you would still have this basic problem at your hand.

    2. QM theory predicts an oscillatory universe, i.e., one in which there cannot be any irreversible changes.

    But experimental observations are irreversible.

    Again, you don't have to invoke the more sophisticated ideas from classical *theory*, e.g., thermodynamic definitions in respect of irreversibility. It is enough that you can describe the experimental behaviour using very simpler notions of "irreversibility". For instance, you can make the simple phenomenological observation that a measured electron is never observed to hop back into the System being measured (as would be required by the oscillatory nature of QM processes), and then lead to a second flick of the Instrument's pointer, then the third, then... ad infinitum. Notice, in making this statement, I didn't have to invoke Carnot's observation concerning heat, or Clausius' statement, or Boltzmann's reformulations. I didn't use any of those terms. I could still make that simple observation. And, QM theorists can't explain it.

    So, the trouble is: People don't know how to map QM maths with the simplest statements that can be made about QM experiments, QM phenomenology. *That* is the basic trouble. The radical differences between CM and QM (and even the supposed "weirdness of *CM*" as Dr. Motl recently put it) are *secondary* considerations, not primary.