QR6.1.4 Physical Realism

The best theory to explain consciousness should be the one that also best explains matter. This theory is widely thought to be the physical realism of physics because its equations 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? Physical realism initially saw it as particles with mass, charge and spin until they turned out to be dimensionless points, raising the question of how a zero-size particle 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.

Electrons are matter particles but physics had to call them waves to explain them in atoms. A wave needs a medium but the Dirac wave function vibrates electrons into an imaginary plane outside physical space, which a physical wave can’t do. No-one knows how a physical 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 like a wave and sometimes like 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 like a wave in an atom, so it is just another miracle

If a miracle is an outcome with no physical basis, physical realism needs a lot of them to work, for as Part I established:

       Gravity is said to be caused by graviton particles that have no physical basis at all.

       Light travels at a constant speed but has 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 with 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 basis.

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

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

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

Is a miracle-based theory realistic? Is it realistic that imaginary waves cause physical events? Is it realistic that virtual particles cause 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 are detected without physical touching? Physical realism has given us what some now call fairytale physics (Baggot, 2013), that predicts what can’t be verified and can’t explain what can.

Physical realism doesn’t deliver but it is accepted because the alternative is seen as a return to medieval superstition. Physics prefers a fairytale that fits its equations to one that doesn’t, but science shouldn’t have 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 requires it and scientists think that physics requires it, although neither is in fact true:

a. Physicists think that science requires physical realism but an evidence-based study of reality doesn’t need it at all, as physical realism is just another 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 and scientific realism still applies if the quantum world is real, so physical realism is the unneeded third man between lawful physics and scientific realism, as the following story illustrates:

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 able to freeload because both father and son thought he was the other’s friend. Likewise, physical realism is a friend of neither physics nor science. It is an impostor that pontificates but doesn’t deliver when the reality check arrives, so both are better off without it.