Croker Sack

"Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard." — Henry Louis Mencken (1880-1956)

Monday, December 26, 2005

An Irreducibly Random World

In an interesting New York Times article about quantum mechanics is a cousin of the "irreducibly complex" argument of Intelligent Design proponents -- except this argument is being made to show the existence of a material "reality," so it's scientifically OK, I guess:

One of the most extreme points of view belongs to Dr. Zeilinger of Vienna, a bearded, avuncular physicist whose laboratory regularly hosts every sort of quantum weirdness.
In an essay recently in Nature, Dr. Zeilinger sought to find meaning in the very randomness that plagued Einstein.
"The discovery that individual events are irreducibly random is probably one of the most significant findings of the 20th century," Dr. Zeilinger wrote.
Dr. Zeilinger suggested that reality and information are, in a deep sense, indistinguishable, a concept that Dr. Wheeler, the Princeton physicist, called "it from bit."
In information, the basic unit is the bit, but one bit, he says, is not enough to specify both the spin and the trajectory of a particle. So one quality remains unknown, irreducibly random.
As a result of the finiteness of information, he explained, the universe is fundamentally unpredictable.
"I suggest that this randomness of the individual event is the strongest indication we have of a reality 'out there' existing independently of us," Dr. Zeilinger wrote in Nature.
He added, "Maybe Einstein would have liked this idea after all."

I'll have to get that Zeilinger article from the December 8, 2005, issue of "Nature." It sounds as though it may be as fascinating as "Finding Darwin's God."

Imagine a world in which humans can exercise free will. Could it be possible without this "irreducibly random" aspect of the world?


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