Monday, May 23, 2016

Quote Of The Day: Sean Carroll On How Causality Isn't Fundamental

As shocking as it may seem, causality is not a fundamental concept but a derived one. When we speak of causality in everyday life, we're talking about an emergent phenomena. This is why all the "first cause" arguments for god fail. They make the mistake of taking the everyday experiences and phenomena we observe that don't really exist fundamentally and try to turn them into "metaphysical principles." From Carroll's paper Why (Almost All) Cosmologists are Atheists:

From the perspective of modern science, events don’t have purposes or causes; they simply conform to the laws of nature. In particular, there is no need to invoke any mechanism to “sustain” a physical system or to keep it going; it would require an additional layer of complexity for a system to cease following its patterns than for it to simply continue to do so. Believing otherwise is a relic of a certain metaphysical way of thinking; these notions are useful in an informal way for human beings, but are not a part of the rigorous scientific description of the world. Of course scientists do talk about “causality”, but this is a description of the relationship between patterns and boundary conditions; it is a derived concept, not a fundamental one. If we know the state of a system at one time, and the laws governing its dynamics, we can calculate the state of the system at some later time. You might be tempted to say that the particular state at the first time “caused” the state to be what it was at the second time; but it would be just as correct to say that the second state caused the first. According to the materialist worldview, then, structures and patterns are all there are — we don’t need any ancillary notions.

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