QR6.1.4 Physical Realism

The best theory to explain consciousness should be the one that also best explains matter. This is widely thought to be physical realism because the equations of physics predict how matter behaves, but to do so they routinely invoke non-physical causes like quantum waves.

Consider the question, is matter a particle or a wave? Electrons were first seen as particles with mass, charge, and spin, until they turned out to be dimensionless points, raising the question of how a particle of zero size can have properties like mass or charge? How can a particle with no physical extent spin? No-one really knows, so it’s a miracle.

Physics then had to describe electrons as waves to explain their behavior in atoms. A wave vibrates in space, but the Dirac wave function vibrates electrons in an imaginary plane outside our space, which a physical wave can’t do. No-one knows how an electron wave can vibrate outside physical space, so it’s another miracle.

Both particle and wave equations work, so it was agreed that matter is sometimes a wave and sometimes a particle, though particles aren’t wave-like nor are waves particle-like. This was called wave-particle duality but no-one can explain how the electron knows to act like a particle in space but act like a wave in an atom, so it is yet another miracle

If a miracle is an outcome with no physical basis, explaining the physical world in physical terms needs a lot of them, for as Part I established:

       Gravity is attributed to graviton particles that have no physical basis at all.

       Light travels at a constant speed with no physical reason to go at just that speed.

       Moving matter changes space and time but has no physical way to do so.

       The vacuum of empty space exerts a pressure that has no physical basis.

       An electron can suddenly appear outside a Gaussian sphere with no physical path.

       An object on a path can be detected without any physical contact at all.

       The physical universe is said to have created itself from nothing, which isn’t physical.

       Entangled photons define each other faster than the physical speed of light.

       Most of our galaxy consists of dark matter that has no physical explanation.

       Most of the universe consists of dark energy that has no physical explanation.

       Our universe consists of matter not anti-matter for no known physical reason.

       Quantum waves that aren’t physical predict physical event probabilities.

How then can a miracle-based theory call itself realistic? Is it realistic that imaginary waves cause physical events? Is it realistic that virtual particles cause actual forces? Is it realistic that particles with no size spin? Is it realistic that massless gluons create most of a proton’s mass? Is it realistic that the future affects the past in delayed-choice experiments? Is it realistic that objects can be detected without physical touching? Physical realism has resulted in what some now call fairytale physics (Baggot, 2013), that predicts what can’t be verified but can’t explain what can.

Physical realism doesn’t deliver, but it is accepted because the only alternative is thought to be medieval superstition. Physics prefers its new fairytale to the old one, but science shouldn’t be about fairytales at all. The fault isn’t in the equations, because they work, but in the fantasy that physical realism has spun around them.

Physical realism survives because physicists think that science needs it and scientists think that physics needs it, yet neither statement is actually true:

a. Physicists think that science requires physical causes, but science verifies theories by the evidence of physical results, not causes, and physical realism is just a theory of science.

b.  Scientists think that physics requires physical causes, but this isn’t true either as quantum science predicts physical events from non-physical quantum waves.

The laws of physics work just as well or better if the quantum world is real, so neither physics nor science needs physical realism, as the following story shows:

A father and son would meet to discuss the meaning of life over a meal. Each time they were joined by a third man who ate most of the food, dominated the conversation and left when the bill arrived so he paid nothing. One day the son said “Your friend eats a lot and never pays!” to which the father replied “He’s not my friend, I thought he was yours!”.

The third man was accepted by father and son because both thought he was the other’s friend. Likewise, physical realism helps neither physics nor science, so both are better off without it. It is an impostor that pontificates but doesn’t deliver when the reality check arrives.