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Put simply, Professor Fine knows what he's talking about. Written at a level which is understandable to the lay reader with a minimum of scientific background, but with attention to detail that excludes any trite simplification, the Shaky Game details Einstein's work on and objections to the quantum theory as it was hammered together (mostly by the likes of Heisenberg et al in Copenhagen) during the 1920s. Many misconceptions exist: such that Einstein was simply too old (in his 40s) at the time that these brilliant new thinkers (in their late 20s and 30s) were bringing together QM. Never mind that Einstein actually laid the groundwork for the theory in the 1910s and earlier, as well as working well into his golden years, Fine presents many other objections, mostly from Einstein's unpublished correspondance with other notable figures of the day. Fine also presents his and several other alternate interpretations designed to circumvent the various snags that QM invariably encounters, all with some degree of success. All in all, its a good read, and solid physics too, which is an important and all too often forgotten aspect of physics philosophy.
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Successive revolutionary developments in science have occasioned successive deaths, transformations, and revivals of realism, as firstly scientists and later laymen learn to see reality as new science describes it. In Concept of the Positron Hanson portrayed the reluctant acceptance of each successive theory's ontology as a progression from opaque black box to translucent gray box to transparent glass box. Such reflection on the history of science has yielded the contemporary pragmatist scientific realism, a realism that subordinates ontological claims to empirical criticism. But in his Shaky Game Fine says that realism is dead, and he advocates an alternative, his "natural ontological attitude" (NOA), which he calls a nonrealist commonsense epistemology (p.130).
Heisenberg practiced scientific realism, when he imitated Einstein's realism in relativity theory beyond Einstein's gratuitous ontological constraints. But in his chapter "Is Scientific Realism Compatible with Quantum Physics?" Fine creates several realist interpretations by supplementing the quantum theory with correspondence characterizations not affirmed by the theory, which he says are needed by even a minimal realism. But Fine's minimal realism is not minimal, because these correspondences are added to and separable from the quantum theory itself. They enable no new empirical tests or new predictions, and thus no empirically warranted ontological claims.
Today's pragmatic scientific realism is the thesis that a theory's ontology is described by the semantics defined by the context of universal discourse accepted as empirically warranted.Read more ›
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