The New Background of Science

The New Background of Science

The New Background of Science

The New Background of Science

Excerpt

After undergoing a succession of kaleidoscopic changes, theoretical physics appears to have attained a state of comparative quiescence, in which there is fairly general agreement about essentials. In the following pages I have tried to depict the present situation in broad outline and in the simplest possible terms. I have drawn my picture against a roughly sketched background of rudimentary philosophy--the philosophy of a scientist, not of a metaphysician--because I believe, in common with most scientific workers, that without a background of this kind we can neither see our new knowledge as a consistent whole, nor appreciate its significance to the full. Statements made without reference to such a background--as, for instance, that "an electron consists of waves of probability" or that "the principle of indeterminacy shews that nature is not deterministic"--can convey at best only a minute fraction of the truth.

I have tried to exhibit the new knowledge in such a way that every reader can form his own judgment as to its philosophical implications. There is room for much legitimate difference of opinion as to what precisely these are; yet few, I think, will be found to doubt that some reorientation of scientific thought is called for. I have not suppressed my own view that the final direction of change will probably be away from the materialism and strict determinism which characterised nineteenth-century physics, towards something which will accord better with our . . .

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