QR3.9.5 The Unmeasured Reality

To think physical events are real is like thinking a TV soap opera is real. When people meet actors from their favorite TV show for the first time, they often treat them like their onscreen persona, so it is no surprise that most people think the physical world real. It is natural to assume that what presents is reality, but no case has ever been made for physical realism because it is assumed to be self-evident. Yet this is just our bias:

Observers have to be made of matter…Our description of nature is thus severely biased: we describe it from the standpoint of matter.(Schiller, 2009) p834

The physical world as a substantive reality is a meta-physical idea held without proof, since that we register the physical world doesn’t prove that it is real. Yet we accept:

… the dogma that the concept of reality must be confined to objects in space and time…(Zeh, 2004) p18

Science advances by questioning assumptions not sanctifying them. Quantum theory claims that behind physical reality there is quantum reality of which Bohr said we must not speak. Yet if physics is science, since when was science about protecting a dogma? Quantum theory tells us that quantum collapse takes only an instant, so entities are mostly in-between measurements:

Little has been said about the character of the unmeasured state. Since most of reality most of the time dwells in this unmeasured condition …the lack of such a description leaves the majority of the universe … shrouded in mystery.” (Herbert, 1985) p194

If entities exist mostly in unobserved, uncollapsed quantum states, by what logic are their brief moments of collapse considered reality? Surely reality is what is there most of the time?

And if quantum waves cause physical reality, isn’t saying that the unreal causes the real backwards logic? By what rationale is the cause of physical reality unreal? If one thing causes another, surely the cause is real not the effect?

The current denial of quantum reality is doctrinal not logical, based on faith not facts. When atoms were first proposed, physical realists like Mach denied they existed because they couldn’t see them but today we accept unseen electrons, protons, neutrons and quarks. Now, when quantum theory says the physical world is based on probabilities, we cry “Enough!” and turn away. That the answer to life, the universe and everything is just a number is a step too far. After two thousand years of scientific struggle, do we now walk away from our own final conclusion?