Thursday, January 1, 2009

Logical Positivism and Cosmology

When I went through a course on Relativity, the professor said that relativity was at its foundation based on the philosophy of logical positivism (i.e., the only meaningful discussion is of observations, no discussion of a larger reality is meaningful), which seems to preclude larger discussions of cosmology. I also understand that Logical Positivism was the leading philosophy of science until the 1980s, but after that Realism became the more accepted philosophy of science.It seems like some of the contradictions of relativity and quantum mechanics could be explained if we took a realist interpretation of the formula (that they correctly predict measurements, but are from only a limited perspective of a external reality). Of course we would be reopening the questions of why the measured constant speed of light is always measured the same and Bell's experiments. But would that be less acceptable than to accept the contradictions implicit in the logical positivist interpretations of Relativity (like the twin paradox) and Quantum Mechanics (like Schroedinger's Cat)?So, in discussions of cosmology, shouldn't we be working to remove any logical positivist assumptions from our discussions? Specifically, isn't the changing of time and space a logical positivist concept (those concepts would be valid when predicting measurements, but not when discussing overall cosmology). And isn't the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics (that the world is probabilistic in reality) a logical positivist concept as well?Time and space seem like abstract human concepts which use clocks (uniformly repeating phenomena) and rulers (uniformly spaced phenomenon) to compare with other phenomena. I can see how rulers and clocks can be affected by the world, but it seems like the concepts of time and space should not be entangled with specific clocks and rulers in discussions of cosmology.And even if our measurements of small phenomena give us a probabilistic answer, isn't that a limitation of our measures rather than an actual view of the world itself? Or alternatively, are we measuring the probability of a particular event occurring rather than proving that reality is, in and of itself, probabilistic?Maybe I am missing something here, but I can't think of what it is. Maybe the constant speed of light and Bell's experiments are so compelling that we just have to accept the contradictions, but I am not convinced. Am I off track and missing something here? Is there other evidence that I am not considering?


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