Cover image for Is nature supernatural? : a philosophical exploration of science and nature
Is nature supernatural? : a philosophical exploration of science and nature
Altmann, Simon L., 1924-
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Amherst, N.Y. : Prometheus Books, [2002]

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680 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
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Q175 .A53 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Reviews 1

Choice Review

This unique book is magnificently written with wit and penetrating insights by mathematical physicist Altmann (emer., Univ. of Oxford, UK). He succeeds in showing how many scientists think and operate with logic and philosophy in their quest to better understand the behavior of nature at fundamental levels. This book bridges the gap between science and philosophy for the first time in a style that invites all readers into the struggle to make sense of the universe. Physical concepts are enunciated correctly, with a genuine appreciation for their values seldom achieved by writers. The emphasis is not on detailed scientific knowledge, but on the flexibility of the mind necessary for doing science. Some of the key ideas in logic, philosophy, relativity, quantum mechanics, and other great concepts are cleverly presented in remarkably clear prose suited for most professionals. The final chapter opens inquiry into the question given in the book's title. Marvelous footnotes answer most questions posed by active readers; great index; comprehensive bibliography. Graduate students through professionals. F. Potter formerly, University of California, Irvine

Table of Contents

Prefacep. 19
Acknowledgmentsp. 25
1. What This Book is All Aboutp. 27
Is Science in Crisis?p. 29
Metaphysics and Meta-physicsp. 30
Two Views of Naturep. 33
2. Words and Necessityp. 37
A Rose Is a Rose: Tautologyp. 38
Analytic Propositionsp. 38
Synthetic Propositionsp. 40
Necessityp. 41
The A Priorip. 42
Positional Predicatesp. 43
Codap. 44
Notesp. 45
3. How to Deal with Properties by Logicp. 47
Toward Laws of Nature: Propertiesp. 49
Ravens Are Black: Material Implicationp. 50
Truth Tables and the Logical Functionsp. 51
The Universal Quantifier: Inductionp. 54
Ravens Are Black: Paradoxes of Confirmationp. 56
What Have We Learned about Induction?p. 60
Propertiesp. 61
Useful Untruths: Counterfactualsp. 62
Codap. 65
Notesp. 66
4. Of Hume and Poached Eggs: Causalityp. 69
The Sun Heats the Stonep. 71
Hume the Skepticalp. 73
Powers, Efficient Causes, and Other Pretty Ideasp. 74
Causal Chainsp. 76
Dispositionsp. 79
The Poached Egg at Last: Hume on Custom or Habitp. 82
A Brief History of the Worldp. 83
Evolution and the Principle of Natural Selectionp. 85
Back to Hume's Custom or Habitp. 87
The Anthropic Argument (Anthropic Principle)p. 89
Necessity Againp. 91
The Logic of Causal Statements in Sciencep. 92
Facts and How to Digest Themp. 95
Two Great Normative Meta-physical Principlesp. 97
Codap. 100
Notesp. 104
5. Virtuous Circles: Length and Timep. 113
The Ontology of Timep. 114
How to Measure Space and Timep. 116
The Timescalep. 118
Conventionalism and Virtuous Circlesp. 122
The Causal Timescalep. 124
Codap. 126
Notesp. 126
6. Virtuous Circles: Statesp. 129
What Is a State?p. 130
Newton on Newton's Second Lawp. 133
Time-Independent States and State Functionsp. 141
Newton's Third Law: Action and Reactionp. 142
Are Old Laws Dead?p. 143
The Importance of Being Surprisedp. 145
Codap. 147
Notesp. 148
7. Time Held Me Grue: Projection and Predictionp. 151
The New Paradox of Induction: Grue and Bleenp. 152
Virbonosp. 153
More Terran Worriesp. 155
Resolution of the Paradox: Entrenchmentp. 156
Prediction or Prophecy?p. 159
Codap. 160
Notesp. 161
8. The Laws of Naturep. 165
The Formalities of Lawlikenessp. 167
How to Use Logic to Formulate Laws. Causationp. 169
More about Logic and Laws. Principle of Symmetryp. 171
Symmetry: Not Paradoxes but Noble Blundersp. 176
The Principle of Sufficient Reasonp. 183
The Great Meta-physical Principlesp. 184
Are There Laws of Nature?p. 189
Are the Laws of Nature True?p. 191
How to Hallucinate Inexpensivelyp. 197
Codap. 198
Notesp. 200
9. Models: How to Handle Space and Timep. 203
Models and Grainingp. 204
Caution about Limit Takingp. 208
Infinitesimals Are Not as Small as You Thinkp. 208
Not So Much a Paradox as Exquisite Mischief Makingp. 210
How Not to Be Mesmerized by Mathematicsp. 214
The Continuump. 216
Codap. 217
Envoy. A Dialoguep. 218
Notesp. 220
10. Is There A Scientific Method?p. 223
The Pioneers of the Scientific Methodp. 225
The Visionariesp. 228
Instrumentalismp. 231
Popper and Afterp. 232
The Real Thing: The Scientist's Aimsp. 241
Methods, Models, and Explanationsp. 242
Codap. 246
Notesp. 249
11. Nature's Tool-Kit: Space, Time, Fieldsp. 253
Space: Newton, Leibniz, Machp. 255
Waves versus Particlesp. 256
Fieldsp. 261
Maxwell and Maxwell's Equationsp. 263
Newton's Equations and Galileo's Relativity Principlep. 265
Einstein the Conservatorp. 266
The Velocity of Light as a Limiting Casep. 269
Relativistic Time: Synchronization of Clocksp. 270
More about Time: Simultaneity of Distant Eventsp. 271
Time Scales for Moving Framesp. 273
Contraction of Lengthsp. 273
Spacetime and Applied Ontologyp. 275
Spacetime and Causalityp. 279
General Relativity and Geometryp. 281
The Illusions of Conventionalismp. 284
The Ether Is Dead: Long Live the Vacuump. 286
Vacuum and Fieldsp. 288
Entrenchment and Common Sensep. 292
Codap. 293
Notesp. 295
12. Time's Arrowp. 301
Language and Timep. 302
Time's Symmetries in Mechanicsp. 303
The Truth about Life: Frictionp. 304
Order and the Arrow of Timep. 306
More about Frictionp. 308
Heat, Thermodynamics, and Disorderp. 309
Entropy and the Maxwell Gas Modelp. 312
Identity and Namingp. 314
Boltzmann's Cup of Teap. 316
Entropy, Disorder, and the Second Principlep. 320
Boltzmann and Afterp. 321
The Cosmological Arrow of Timep. 323
Contra Loschmidt: All Is Revealedp. 324
The Psychological Arrow of Timep. 327
Codap. 329
Notesp. 330
13. Nature's Lottery: Probabilityp. 333
An Approximation to Historyp. 335
Two Views of Probabilityp. 336
Is Probability A Priori?p. 339
D'Alembert's Blunder and Insightp. 341
The Monte Carlo Fallacyp. 344
Frequenciesp. 347
The Ergodic Principle: Buridan's Ass Goes Placesp. 350
Random Sequencesp. 353
The Bare Bones of the Mathematics of Probabilityp. 355
The Laws of Large Numbersp. 361
The Frequency Definition of Probabilityp. 362
Statistical Probabilityp. 363
Probability in Classical Physicsp. 365
Codap. 366
Notesp. 366
14. Mathematical Heavens and Other Landscapesp. 369
Empiricism and Beliefp. 371
Universals and Platonismp. 371
Mathematical Platonismp. 373
Intuitionism and Mathematical Proofp. 380
Sets and Natural Numbersp. 384
Formalismp. 390
Self-Reference and Its Paradoxesp. 392
Metalanguagesp. 393
The Catalogue Paradoxp. 395
The Godel Theorem: A First Shotp. 397
Godel Numbersp. 401
A Second Shot at Godel's Proofp. 402
Godel and Platonismp. 405
The Anti-Platonists Contra Godelp. 406
More Godelian Dreams: Human Mind versus Machinesp. 410
A Case Study: Complex Numbersp. 414
An Interludep. 422
Is There a Largest Integer?p. 423
A Tale of Two Worldsp. 427
Mathematics as an Empirical Sciencep. 428
The Unreasonable Worries on the Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciencesp. 430
A Tail End: Chasing the Infinityp. 433
Codap. 436
Notesp. 438
15. Peeping Tom Peeping at the Microworldp. 445
Quanta and the Infirmities of Waves and Particlesp. 449
The Uncertainty Principlep. 456
Trajectories, Histories, and Complementarityp. 459
The Two-Slit Experiment. Interferencep. 462
Delayed Choice Experimentp. 465
Measurements and Eigenstatesp. 468
Variables and Operatorsp. 469
Commutation and the Uncertainty Principlep. 472
The Uncertainty Principle and Probability Distributionsp. 473
Codap. 475
Notesp. 475
16. Quantum Statesp. 479
The State Functionp. 480
The Schrodinger Equationsp. 482
The Meaning of the Probabilitiesp. 484
Stationary States and Quantizationp. 485
Eigenstates and the Principle of Superpositionp. 487
More about the Physical Meaning of the Superposition Principlep. 495
Stationary States and Quantum Jumpsp. 497
Identical Particles and the Pauli Principlep. 498
Back to Philosophy: Identity and Namingp. 500
Codap. 504
Notesp. 505
17. The Great Quantum Muddlep. 509
The Beginningsp. 512
The Interpretation of the Wave Functionp. 513
Why Heisenberg Cried: Bohr's Interpretation of Quantum Mechanicsp. 516
Einstein, Probability, and the Breakdown of Determinismp. 517
Quantum Mechanics a la Popperp. 519
Bohr: Complementarity and All Thatp. 519
Einstein versus Bohr: First Rounds of the Dogfightp. 522
The Superposition Principle and the Ignorance Interpretationp. 522
Schrodinger's Cheshire Catp. 525
Codap. 530
Notesp. 531
18. Is the Quantal Description of Reality Complete?p. 535
The Einstein, Podolsky, and Rosen So-called Paradoxp. 536
An Introduction to the New Results about Action at a Distancep. 539
Crucial Experiment: Two Nonparallel Analyzers. Bell's Inequalityp. 546
Action at a Distance and Metaphysicsp. 552
Codap. 554
Notesp. 554
19. Wave Function Reduction and Dream Quantum Worldsp. 557
Reduction of the Wave Function. Decoherencep. 558
Measurementp. 561
The Time Arrow in Quantum Mechanicsp. 562
Bohm's So-called Ontological Theory of Quantum Mechanicsp. 564
The Many-Worlds Interpretationp. 567
Codap. 569
Postilp. 569
Notesp. 570
20. Is Nature Supernatural?p. 573
Three Views of Naturep. 575
The Abolition of Matterp. 579
The Invention of the Mindp. 581
The Case against Physicalism: Dualismp. 584
What Dr. Johnson Should Have Said: The Defense of Scientific Realismp. 591
Where Has the Spirit Gone?p. 593
Back to Mental Statesp. 596
Science and Naturep. 598
The Present and Future of Sciencep. 611
Finale. Science and Beliefp. 613
Notesp. 623
Glossaryp. 629
Bibliographyp. 631
Indexp. 657