It seems that this blog is becoming the official website for Quantum Foundations job announcements. Sadly, in the current climate this still means that I don’t have to bug you with job adverts too often. In any case, there are two postdocs available via the PIAF (Perimeter Institute — Australia Foundations) partnership, which look like a pretty sweet deal for any finishing postdocs/grad students in Foundations. They involve spending 9 months of the year in Sydney and 3 months here in Waterloo. Theoretically, this means that you could completely avoid experiencing winter for the three years of the postdoc. The job ad is posted here and the deadline is 7th December 2007.

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Hi,

This is completely off topic but I was wondering if you could help me?

I am in an online debate with a Biblical creationist and since he has brought in Quantum Mechanics I thought that I would ask your advice.

He states “Current scientifc assumptions (including those underpinning the evolutionist viewpoint) are increasingly being undermined by quantum science.”

and

“Some insist that genuine understanding demands explanations of the causes of the laws, but it is in the realm of causation that there is the greatest disagreement. Modern quantum mechanics, for example, has given up the quest for causation and today rests only on mathematical description.”(this was taken from the Encyclopaedia Britannic)

That would sort of make the Lemon test in the Dover trial rather redundant, wouldnt it?”

and on

“I then raised the question as to what impact QM could have if causation is no longer an issue for science – it could indirectly open the door to ID as a viable theory as it was the causation that kept it out of the classroom, ref Dover. ”

and

“Now that QM has set the precedent, why can ID not use the same arguments to get into the science class?”

and

“why must ID have causation but according to Encyclopaedia Brit, Quantum Mechanics has “abandoned the search for causation???”

I am a layman in terms of science and I am up on most creationist

fallacies and feel confident enough to discuss biology, paleontology

etc but quantum mechanics is bit beyond me from the little I can get

the length scales in quantum theory and evolution are so far apart

that it makes as much sense as measuring the distance between the

earth and the sun with a 10 inch ruler..but trying to explain that is

another matter.

Any help/advice/hints in answering him would be greatly appreciated.

Regards

Harvey

Harvey,

It’s important to separate the well-confirmed empirical basis and predictions of quantum theory from the discussion of what it all means. In the vast majority of cases of practical interest, quantum theory makes clear predictions, albeit probabilistic ones, and it is no different from any other scientific theory in the way it is confirmed and tested.

On the other hand, the standard formulation of quantum theory does contain a number of ambiguous concepts, such as the idea that a measurement has to be treated as fundamentally different from other kinds of physical interaction. It also predicts a number of counter-intuitive phenomena, such as the violation of Bell inequalities. When discussing these issues, many scientists are inclined to be a little bit imprecise and often use misleading analogies that are likely to give the wrong impression of the theory to the general public. In some ways this is understandable, because the people giving the explanations are usually not experts on the foundations of quantum theory.

Suffice to say, there are well-defined interpretations of quantum mechanics that do not give up on determinism or causality, such as Bohmian mechanics for example. Whilst it’s true that such interpretations are a minority interest at the moment, and are likely to remain so for the foreseeable future, they do demonstrate that quantum theory does not actually necessitate giving up any of these fundamental notions. A more conservative take on the foundations of quantum theory would admit that there are several possible pictures of reality that are compatible with the theory, and that we don’t really know which one of them is correct. However, any acceptable picture must not conflict the basic assumptions of scientific methodology. To do so would undermine the only reason we have for believing in the theory in the first place.

Matthew,

Many thanks for taking the time out in giving me an informative reply, you have certainly cleared up a lot for me. I am new to QM and by no means do I understand it but very slowly I am getting the basic concepts!

Again thank you for replying.

Regards

Harvey

To switch back to the original post (before I get too enraged at the state of the world), why would anyone want to avoid winter? 🙂

Surprisingly, there are some people in the world who prefer sun, sea and sand to cold, snow and skiing.

Here’s a horrifically delayed response: I have sun, sea, and sand here in Maine year-round. Now, warm temperatures are a different story, but my philosophy is that one can always add layers of clothing to deal with the cold, whereas peeling off your skin on a particularly oppressively hot day becomes a bit impractical.