Monday, May 17, 2004

The Copenhagen Interpretation and The Theory of Evolution

The Many-Worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics [1] makes more sense to me than the Copenhagen interpretation. The latter seems a too ad-hoc -- why should reality give the notions of 'measurement' and 'observer' such fundemantal status? I can't say I know that much about quantum physics, but then -- and assuming my understanding of the Copenhagen interpretation is accurate -- my criticism is not based on the details of the physics.

A stronger way of framing my objection occurred to me recently (and I've been wondering what, if anything, has been written about it). This is the view that the Copenhagen interpretation goes against the theory of evolution. Surprising as it may seem, the theory of evolution should have the higher priority, for it is more fundamental. It would be easy to misinterpret my statement that the theory of evolution is more fundamental as saying it's more fundametal than quantum mechanics. That's not what I'm saying. I'm saying, I think it should be considered more fundamental than any type of interpretation of quantum mechanics, which themselves are not reliant on the details of quantum mechanics (or at least the Copenhagen interpretation doesn't seem to be).

I'm not here to argue the validity of the theory of evolution nor of its universality, as plenty of people have done a good job of that, notably Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett; I'm going to take it here as a given. From an evolutionary viewpoint, our universe started out with no real organisation, just "random interactions", and through evolutionary forces working over the progression of time the organisation we see in the world today has been constructed. This means that concepts such as observers, measurements and consciouness once did not exist, and have come into existance through the piecemeal construction of evolutionary forces.

From this point of view, the Copenhagen interpretation seems too arbirary. The Copenhagen interpretation makes it seem that the workings of nature presuppose the existance entities that did not appear on the scene until things were well underway. Now, I know this doesn't say demonstrate that the Copenhagen interpretation is wrong, but I do think it highlights something people don't think about when considering how we might interpret quantum mechanics, and I do think it makes the Copenhagen interpretation seem a lot more arbitrary.

[1] interestingly, Hugh Everett, the developer of the Many-Worlds interpretation, was the father of Mark Oliver Everett, "E", from the band the Eels.

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