Time, Science, and Society in China and the West

By J. T. Fraser; N. Lawrence et al. | Go to book overview

Scientific Explanation and the Evolution of Time

Conrad Dale Johnson

Summary Since the origins of Western science, it has been generally assumed that to be intelligible, the cosmic order must have a foundation that is both timeless and determinate. This assumption is not arbitrary; it follows directly from the dominant role of causal explanation in our scientific tradition. But in view of the discoveries of quantum physics, it has become necessary to rethink the ontological assumptions implied in this kind of explanation.

In fact, today it is only in the physical sciences that causality and determinacy still play an indispensable and primary role. Biology, for example, has been revolutionized by an evolutionary theory that operates with an entirely different explanatory strategy, the ontological implications of which remain largely unexplored. Between biology and quantum physics we can draw no direct analogy; but, as J. T. Fraser has shown, the evolutionary mode of explanation can be extended throughout the range of the natural sciences by means of the notion of "the evolution of time" and of temporally constituted modes of being.

This paper sketches such an extended evolutionary schema, to the point where a significant analogy to the structure of quantum physics appears possible. It suggests that explanation in the quantum realm may depend upon the very absence of any timelessly given, determinate foundation, since the lack of such an a priori ground of determinacy sets powerful constraints on the evolution of primitive temporal structure.

The most basic presupposition of any form of science is that the world somehow makes sense: that it constitutes an intelligible order. This is an ontological presupposition, an assumption about the ultimate nature of "what is." But how we make this assumption depends on something else, namely, what counts for us as intelligible. In the Western scientific tradition stemming from the ancient Greek philosophers, the intelligibility of the world was construed in a very particular way, and the whole array of fundamental ontological concepts evolved in the course of that tradition reflects this basic sense of what it means to "make sense." The essence of this orientation is summed up in the concept of determinacy, which in turn presupposes a very particular way of conceiving time.

What I want to suggest in this paper is that the kind of science that grows out of this ontological orientation, governed by the equation of intelligibility with determinacy, has definite limits to its scope and explanatory power. Today we are coming up against these limits quite explicitly and dramatically in theoretical physics, the traditional stronghold of "exact science" and the deterministic view of reality. But what is more important than merely recognizing these limits is to find a way beyond them--to find an alternative approach to explanation, grounded in another sense of what it might mean for the world to be intelligible--and such an alternative seems especially difficult to envision within the

-39-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this book

This book has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this book

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Time, Science, and Society in China and the West
Table of contents

Table of contents

Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen
/ 262

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.