Science Can't Tell Us What an Electron Is

The world of science is an abstraction. It discovers that electrons stand in certain quantitative relationships to protons, and so forth. Whitehead suggests that this is because they "prehend" the proton and react to it in a certain way. This is a philosophical position, and science can have nothing significant to say about it, other than, "Whether or not electrons prehend protons, that is no part of the abstractions with which we deal."

Similarly, science says nothing at all about what migraine headaches "really are." It traces out certain quantitative relationships in human physiology that occur before or along with a migraine. If someone suggests that these changes are the result of a demon entering the sufferer's body, all science can say is, "Well, the demon doesn't appear in our equations."

But, of course, neither do the sights, sounds and smells of the real world. So not showing up in a scientific equation is no sign of irreality.

UPDATE: Sorry, Siri had changed "prehend" to "pretend"!

9 comments:

  1. Whitehead suggests that this is because they "pretend" the proton and react to it in a certain way.

    The meaning of this sentence is unclear. I think you missed a word or two.

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  2. Why treat it as a sign of reality?
    I can explain the death ofthe shooting victim in terms of physiology and elements of equations. If you want instead to talk of his quidity, and specify that nothing you say about the quidity can ever be tested or measured or serve as the basis for an explanation, or prediction, have at it. I say your quidity adds nothing, except perhaps your emotional reaction.

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    1. "Why treat it as a sign of reality?"

      WHAT????!!! Who ever said that?

      "I can explain the death ofthe shooting victim in terms of physiology and elements of equations. "

      No you cannot, because in the equations, there is no "shooting" and no "victim"!

      Science deals with abstractions, not with the real world. (Although they are, of course, abstractions FROM the real world, and so contain an element of reality.)

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    2. Oh, and:

      "I say your quidity adds nothing, except perhaps your emotional reaction."

      Can you make a measurement that proves this statement? Can you make predictions based on this evaluation of "quidity"?

      Oops, so this very statement fails your own tests!

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    3. And note that what I am pointing out here is something an atheist philosopher like Bertrand Russell took to be rather obvious.

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    4. And finally: nothing in science can tell us what your comment *means*, Ken. Would you therefore admit it is "just your emotional reaction" to my post?

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  3. Wow. I did mention physiology didn't I?

    Nor, despite your appeal to Oakeshott in the other thread, is it true that science deals only with equations.

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    1. Neither Oakeshott nor I ever said "Science deals only with equations"!

      And what does "mentioning physiology" have to do with anything? To the extent it is scientific, it deals with abstractions.

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    2. You will note that neither "shooting" nor "victim" are terms of physiological science.

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