Quantum Physics and a World Without Causality




Kahn, Eva

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Why did quantum physicists abandon causality? To answer, this study traces the practice of science to its roots in natural philosophy, examines experiments and equations that may have indicated microphysical indeterminacy, and analyzes Weimar culture through the lens of philosophers who proposed that aspects of science are socially determined. I argue that experimental results alone could not have pressured physicists to abandon causality because scientists maintain dogmatic metaphysical beliefs about their practice, and do not all agree on a single definition of causality. I also argue that Paul Forman’s thesis, currently the best sociological explanation for the abandonment of causality, could be improved if the denial of causal law were explained by the increasing abstraction of physics, and if modern anti-Semitism were defined as an abhorrence of the abstract. This study reveals the bifurcation of prediction and understanding in 20th century physics as well as in history, by investigating the role of causality in historical narratives. Finally, this study emphasizes the importance of interdisciplinary methods and humanistic accounts of the “hard” sciences.



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