Examining The Newtonian Worldview Essay

1680 words - 7 pages

In The Quantum Enigma, Rosenblum and Kuttner address the impact of the “Newtonian worldview” on our ability to understand and explain the phenomena of the physical world. Science has been able to greatly advance our knowledge of the natural world over the last several centuries largely due to this worldview. In this paper, five tenets of the Newtonian worldview will be summarized; two of these points—those found to be the most and least defensible—will be discussed in greater detail. As a final point, a discussion will be laid out regarding which of the five precepts, if rejected by modern physics, would be the most disturbing to give up.
The first concept to be addressed is determinism. According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, determinism is “the idea that every event is necessitated by antecedent events and conditions together with the laws of nature.” Essentially, it is the philosophy that all events are determined by a fixed set of causes, so that the future is as rigid as the past. Some religious forms of determinism assert that events are decided by the will of a deity. For our purposes, however, we will consider the scientific form of determinism that is based on basic causality. Consider, for example, throwing a die. We might see this as a way to determine a random result (between 1 and 6). But, thrown from a certain height and with a certain velocity, the die will land on a certain edge or corner and roll a certain number of times before it slows down and stops. Because the die is bound by the laws of physics, the outcome of the roll is determined as we roll it, although we may be unable to calculate all the factors involved and predict the outcome.
The second tenet of the Newtonian worldview is that of physical reality. This is the assertion that there is a reality independent of the observer. This takes into account the idea that any observations we make do not necessarily reflect reality due to our inherently limited perception of the world. Typically, realists hold that truth is determined by whether a claim corresponds to reality. This allows science to draw a line between verifiable fact and subjective beliefs. Blackburn (2005) maintains that what we consider to be true is merely an approximation of reality, and that each new observation gives us a more complete picture of the world.
Next on the list is separability, the commonsense notion that objects can only interact with each other via physically real forces. In other words, specific objects have no holistic connection to the rest of the universe—they are separable from it. This principle is rather parsimonious in that it asserts that the best causal statements do not relay on supernatural claims. Instead, a causal statement is only valid if it refers to a specific physical force or set of forces. Such forces are empirically verifiable, no matter how subtle they may be.
The fourth concept is reductionism, the philosophical position that...

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