3.244 uncertainty and faith (69)

Thu, 13 Jul 89 19:58:08 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 3, No. 244. Thursday, 13 Jul 1989.

Date: Thu, 13 Jul 89 12:35 CDT
From: "John K. Baima" <D024JKB@UTARLG>
Subject: uncertainty and faith

This long debate about Physics leaves me wondering about another
topic: faith. Has the necessity of faith in today's world ever been
discussed in the Humanist forum? If so, please excuse me. No, I am not
refering to "religious" faith, but faith in a larger context. I have
listened to long and detailed arguments about an important topic, but
how much do I have to accept on faith and how much can I directly
observe or reason?

I'm still not sure that I have not read a description of Heisenberg's
"uncertainty" that I like. Take, for example, the correction by John

>What Richmond is leaving out, in this biased rendition, is the REASON this
>uncertainty is originally observed. That is, that the process of observation,
>on the quantum level, (Which, I would like to point out, could also be done by
>_women_...) always involves the exchange of at least one quantum of energy
>with the system being measured; that the process of measurement itself
>will always and forever disturb the system so measured, and hence, erect
>the momentum x position >= Planck's constant limit.

This is almost true. Or maybe sort of true. The REASON as Heisenberg
originally understood it, I beleive, is that particles behave as
waves. The wave equations of de Broglie and others leads to the
"uncertainty". The idea of expressing an electrical or other force as
the exchange of a particle (a quantum) is much later (I believe it was
Feynman in 1949) and it is not necessary to deduce "uncertainty".
These problems are difficult even without any math, most of which is
far beyond the schooling (not the ability) of most humanists. Am I
right about uncertainty? Am I wrong? Most who read this will either
have no opinion or they will accept one position on faith. Even for
those of us who have studied such things in detail, how much can we
remember out of the distant and murky past? How much is faith?

There was a time when a single person could know a lot of what was
known in the world, at least as far as science and technology was
concerned. Those days are long past and now we live by faith. How does
a modern car work? I like my 71 Volvo because I think I understand it.
I have faith in today's cars, not understanding.

Take the computers that we all love and hate. Does anyone really
understand how they work in all their detail? I wonder. I do not. But
I have faith. Although I do not have as much faith as others. I
make frequent backups. True believers in computers often do not make
backups and suffer.

Does anyone think that because we have to accept such things as
"Uncertainty" by faith that it should temper the results we derive
from it?

How many layers of faith can or should we build on? Is faith necessary
for progress?

John Baima