Chapter

Pilgrims' Progress

Peter R. Saulson

in The One Culture?

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print June 2001 | ISBN: 9780226467221
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226467245 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226467245.003.0032
Pilgrims' Progress

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Weinberg believes that among the present state of knowledge there exists a large measure of “hard” physics, on which one might agree even with creatures from other planets. Within restricted ranges of applicability, we have laws that describe outstandingly well the behavior of the natural world. Newton's laws will always be “true, mostly” in this sense, as will Maxwell's equations of the electromagnetic field, Einstein's field equations for gravity, and so on. Nonphysicists need to be reminded that what most interests most of them is probably among the “soft” material destined to be swept away. The “vision of reality that we use to explain to ourselves why the equations work” includes nearly all of the metaphysical concepts that accompany many theories: Newton's absolute space or Einstein's elastic space-time, the luminiferous ether or fields in the vacuum, the deterministic trajectories of classical physics or the probabilistic wave functions of quantum mechanics.

Keywords: natural world; state of knowledge; Newton's laws; quantum mechanics; wave functions; space-time

Chapter.  2546 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Science

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