Skip to content

Descartes before the horse – does information exist?

Last updated on 22 Jun 2018

I have been kind of busy with actual, you know, work, which is ironic because I do not actually have, you know, employment. But I am teaching. Anyway this is by way of being an apology and apologia for not having posted lately. Be assured much Wilkinsy goodness is being done behind the scenes.

So my text for today is John Horgan’s piece in Scientific American on whether or not everything is built from information. His argument is not great: basically it fails common sense. Many things fail the common sense test without thereby being false, and the commentators pick up on this almost immediately. However, I agree with the conclusion even if not that argument. Here are some equally bad ramblings on why.

There is a long-standing western tradition that derives from the classical era, that there is something ontologically unique about information, usually given the label Logos. Philo of Alexandria bequeathed that philosophy to the eventually-Christian west out of nascent neo-Platonism, but information as a quantity is rather late. For most of the history of the Christian west, “form” not information was the key property. Like information now, it was not physical but it had physical effects. Basically, this view, known as hylopmorphism (substance-formism), was a constraint upon what evolved into modern science. It was mostly supplanted by atomism and its physical heirs and successors, such as quantum mechanics and modern subatomic physics and The Zoo.

Okay, so why is information now so important? As communications technology improved, it became important to ensure that a signal sent at one place was received properly at the end point. At Bell Labs in the 1930s and 1940s, Claude Shannon developed a mathematical theory of communication (note: not “information” as such) which involved the definition of “bits” (binary digits) and an entropy-like equation that came to be known as “Shannon’s metric”:


Basically, Shannon’s metric is the number of binary decisions it takes to get from a field of possible states or symbols to a single state or symbol. It’s a measure of difference.

Now this is not really what most people think of when they think of information, although it is part of it. Shannon himself was fairly clear that this had nothing to do with semantic information, or meaning. Moreover, he and his colleague Norbert Weiner, the founder of cybernetics, knew very well that this was about formal descriptions of things, not the things themselves. Weiner even wrote:

Information is information, not matter or energy. No materialism which does not admit this can survive at the present day. (Wiener 1948: 132)

What was information, then? Well, it was something that “existed” in descriptions and statements. It was the structure of some string of symbols and our uncertainty that the string we have received is the string that was sent. How, then, is the universe supposed to be comprised of information, as the physicist John Wheeler, whose slogan “the it from bit” indicated, held that it was? Wheeler’s view (1990) was basically this: if a state of the universe or part of it can be clearly described, as physicists think that it can be, then there is an information content to that state. Using equations like the Wave Function we can describe the universe and its evolution over time. Therefore, the universe is made from information. A similar argument is often put under the rubric “the Matrix”, after the famous film, by David Chalmers. Any reality we experience is simply the sum of all the information we have about it. This is Berkeleyan Idealism updated for the computer age.

Now if I may step back a bit to the oft-abused scholastic philosophers of the late medieval period, they made a distinction that later was adopted by C. S. Peirce, between the sign and the signified. If you like, it is between the words, and the world. The informational idealism of Wheeler is, in effect, to say that all we have access to, and therefore ontologically all there is, is the information contained in our equations and descriptions of the world. Not only is to be a matter of instantiating a variable as Quine put it, it is just the value of the variable. This is a case of an error of inversion: putting Descartes before the horse, so to speak.

Assume with me now that there is, in fact and independently of anything anyone may know about it including gods, a computer before me. I am actually, whether I know it or not, typing on this computer. Now suppose I give you a clear and precise description of that process. Call that description D and the state of the computer being typed S. Does S resolve down to D? Is S nothing more than D? Is the sentence “John types on his Mac” the state of John typing on his Mac? Surely that is faintly absurd. I might say that the fact of John typing on his Mac is the sentence or some proposition that has equivalent information, sure. I might even say that my knowledge (or anyone’s knowledge) of that case consists entirely in the information content of that sentence or proposition. But to say that my typing on my Mac is just the factual propositional content of D is a case of anthropomorphism of the highest water.

To mistake the sign (the word, description or formalisation) for the signified (the denotation, extension or reference) is a classic mistake. It goes by the name “reification fallacy” (Marcuse) or “hypostasis“. Whitehead, that badly-underappreciated philosopher, called it the “fallacy of misplaced concreteness“. John Maynard Smith would walk up to students in the cafeteria at the University of Sussex and ask of their discussions “Is this about words, or the world? If it is about the world, I will stay, but if it is about words, I will go.” [Anecdote about JMS by David Penny, c2000] Surely we cannot be making such a simple mistake?

We can, and do. In fact it is I think one of the enduring mistakes of western thought for 2500 years, to the point where a good many people think it is not a mistake at all. It underlies the argument from design (since Socrates, according to Sedley 2007). It puts our conceptual forms, and symbolic formulations, before the world they are supposed to refer to. It’s in Locke, Kant and Russell. And it is, I believe, entirely unnecessary. One need not think that the world has semantic content even if it has structure.

The misuse of information talk, the new hylomorphism, is ubiquitous. We cannot conceive of things without representing them, so we mistake our representations for the things. Consider arguments from simulation, such as the infamous “Singularity” views of Ray Kurzweil. Ignore the fact that few if any of the predictions made by people since Turing have come to pass; that may be due more to the problems of technological development. Kurzweil’s argument is roughly this: we can simulate the activity of each neuron in the brain. A neural simulation behaves the same way. As we are the sum of all the neuronal behaviours of our brains, eventually we will be able to instantiate ourselves in a computer, and live forever.

But, and here is the hypostatic fallacy, a simulation is not the same as the thing simulated, or a computer model of the solar system would have a mass of 1.992 x 1030kg, which it doesn’t. A “brain” being simulated is a simulated, not a real, brain. Physical differences make a difference. This new anthropic hylomorphism misleads our thinking. It is found in genetics (genes are “transcribed”, “edited”, and “code for” properties). It is found in physics. It is obviously found in information technology. It is found all over the place. There is even a tendency for scientists to mistake their formal descriptions and record keeping (as in the Ontology project, the very name of which is a giveaway) for the things they record. Systematists in biology, in their battles over nomenclature, often make this very error.

So, if information is not a physical property of energy or matter, what is it? Here I think the ideas of Edward Zalta, who among other things edits the wonderful Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, can help. In his theory of abstract objects (1988), Zalta distinguishes between things that are bounded by space and time, and are hence concrete, and things which are not so bounded, which he calls abstract objects. For my money, only a concrete object can have causal powers, and hence only a concrete object can be explanatory for physical processes and states. Information is an abstract property that inheres in abstract objects. Words, qua words, are abstract objects (but an instance of a word is a concrete object of sound, ink or electromagnetically modulated signals), and so they have no causal power. This debate, too, is old. It includes the famous nominalisms and conceptualisms of the middle ages: are universals (things which include more than a single particular thing) real or in the head? Is information just in the head? How can a physicalist like me account for shared informational properties?

Again, I refer to the abstract/concrete distinction. What is in my head, and indeed what is in the sum of all heads across time and space, is concrete even if it is a functional rather than material thing. All cases of the word “dog” and cognates exist in physical heads or something like them, and ancillary contexts for recording and retrieving information sensu lato. But the concept itself does not. It is unbounded by time and space. And that suggests that the nominalist view, that these things do not really exist, is correct, and so I conclude. We are the ones that instantiate abstractions, and so the information exists, inasmuch as it does, only in our semantic behaviours. There is no existing thing that is information, just behaviours that we abstract out for formal purposes. However, one may take a different line and still be a physicalist or a realist of some flavour. I’m just giving my preferred defence of the matter.

So if we abandon the metaphysics of hylomorphism and adopt a realist view of the world, I think that is common sense of a kind. It avoids the unnecessary anthropomorphism that we have and probably always will fall into. It’s not an easy view to hold, but I think it is right. Information is an abstraction, and does not, strictly speaking, exist.

Chalmers, David. 2005. The Matrix as Metaphysics. In (C. Grau, ed) Philosophers Explore the Matrix (Oxford University Press, 2005). Reprinted in (T. Gendler, S. Siegel, & T. Cahn, eds) The Elements of Philosophy (McGraw-Hill, 2007). Reprinted in (S. Schneider, ed) Science Fiction and Philosophy (Wiley, 2009).

Sedley, David N. 2007. Creationism and its critics in antiquity, Sather classical lectures. Berkeley, CA; London: University of California Press.

Wheeler, John Archibald. 1990. Information, physics, quantum: The search for links. In Complexity, Entropy, and the Physics of Information, edited by W. Zurek. Redwood City, CA: Addison-Wesley.

Wiener, Norbert. 1948. Cybernetics, or, Control and communication in the animal and the machine. Cambridge, Mass: Technology Press.

Zalta, Edward N. 1988. Abstract Objects: An Introduction to Axiomatic Metaphysics. Dordrecht: D. Reidel.


  1. Nick Matzke Nick Matzke

    This should be an article. Cripes, how do you know so much John??

  2. Thanks for taking the time to post! I like this article a lot, and it’s nice to see someone writing intelligently about a subject everyone else seems to gloss over. I’d say the same thing about your entries on religion, btw.

  3. I’ve always wanted to take Ray Kurzweil to lunch to see if he would try to eat the menu.

    Your version of the relationship of meanings or information to things reminds me a lot of the Stoic doctrine of the lecta. Lecta are the intentional objects of signs. The Stoics were strict materialists; but that didn’t stop them from talking about ideal objects such as concepts, forms, or propositions because they realized that you didn’t need to think of such things as existing in order to use them to make sense of the world. Works for me.

    • John S. Wilkins John S. Wilkins

      I’ve always wanted to take Ray Kurzweil to lunch to see if he would try to eat the menu.

      The old ones are the best ones!

  4. John, very interesting piece, tracking some of my own thinking on these matters.

    I agree that the “it from bit” trend, which is as you point out becoming pervasive, is at the least a bit misleading. Information is, as commonly used, simply an abstraction, a simplification from what is ontologically just matter and energy (setting aside for the moment what these terms really mean). When we talk about information in its common usage, relating to bits and gigabytes and representations and such, it’s simply a shorthand way of talking about the abstracted essence of some conglomeration of matter and energy. More concretely put, all “information” in my computer or any computer is in fact the structure of certain types of matter and energy, stored magnetically. The “information” in this example is, literally, the structure of matter and energy and nothing more.

    However, and this is a big “however,” we can’t ignore other lines of reasoning that go deeper than this analysis. Wheeler and others who tout information as ontologically fundamental are making a broader claim that may be true at a deeper level. From whence do matter and energy arise?

    Reg Cahill, a countryman of yours at Flinders University, has developed a “process physics,” inspired directly by Whitehead, which asserts that quantum bits, qubits, are ontologically precedent to matter and energy. And “geometrical bits,” or gebits, are ontologically precedent to qubits. Gebits are semantic information and it is from semantic information that Cahill constructs his conceptual edifice and thus the entire universe. He’s worked it all out quite rigorously but he’s far from the mainstream and is a bit of crank – frustrated by years of being passed over for recognition. I have a feeling, however, that he will be accorded more recognition in coming decades.

    The gebits that Cahill refers to can themselves be considered a non-material ether (that is, not matter and not energy), as he himself writes in his earlier material. Another name is the “ground of being” or Brahman in the Vedanta tradition.

    I don’t buy all of Cahill’s musings but I find it all terribly interesting.

    • Jonathan Jonathan

      You’re confusing information, the logarithmic measure of uncertainty in a system, with data, the symbolic representation of a system.

  5. Michael Fisher Michael Fisher

    Hi John

    I subscribe to your blog & I greatly enjoy it. Thank you for taking the trouble to put your thoughts out here on the www

    Sometimes I think I understand what you’re saying, but on this one you’ve got me bamboozled by your terminology so I want to raise a question about just one aspect of what you have written:

    I don’t follow your logic here:-

    Kurzweil’s argument is roughly this: we can simulate the activity of each neuron in the brain. A neural simulation behaves the same way. As we are the sum of all the neuronal behaviours of our brains, eventually we will be able to instantiate ourselves in a computer… But, and here is the hypostatic fallacy, a simulation is not the same as the thing simulated, or a computer model of the solar system would have a mass of 1.992 x 10^30kg, which it doesn’t. A “brain” being simulated is a simulated, not a real, brain.

    A computer simulation of a dynamic system will not have the physical properties of the real thing, but in theory it can model the processes that interest us. In the case of a weather computer it could be fed with real time weather data & thus be able to model rainfall, but the computer innards will not get soaked in water when we run the simulation.

    A computer simulation of human brain processes will not be grey, spongy or wet, but if it was fed with the same external sensory data as its real world original why would it not also have experiences & thoughts ?

    Assuming thought & consciousness emerges out of a complex physical process in the brain matter why can’t we change the substrate, but faithfully model the processes ?

    Rgrds Michael

    Can you recommend any books that deal with this area ? Years ago I read discussions about John Searl’s Chinese Room & I lean towards Dennett’s arguments on Mondays & Wednesdays

    • John S. Wilkins John S. Wilkins

      The key term/phrase here is “the processes that interest us”, to shift the emphasis. The universe has many processes in any physical case. In addition to the “signals” in the brain, there are cell membranes sharing molecules of food and waste, structural connections, glial cells that we usually ignore, and of course exogenous free energy in the form of temperature. Are all these irrelevant? Well, they are, but only because of our own interests. If we simulate one aspect of brains but not all, how do we know that what we ignore or abstract out as “mere substrate” is not the critical difference maker? What about the nucleic polymers? Cytoskeletal structures (which, by the way, play a crucial role in Williams’ Syndrome)? Ad nauseum. Until we know what matters, which is about physical knowledge not cybernetic, a simulation is purely relative to our interests. Hence, any “copy” of me will eliminate properties the actual I has, and so at best it is going to be a different entity.

      Now you might think that if we could replace each physical object with a different physical object we might be able to simulate the thing being simulated in a physical manner (which is true – we do that all through our lives as we replace brain cells with new brain cells, contrary to popular belief), but each new object will also have other properties that will have causal powers. And if physical differences do make a difference, then what you have will at best be an approximation of me, not me.

      I suggest John Heil’s book as an introduction, and DBM’s and Jackson’s book for intermediate discussions (a bit heavy going for beginners):

      Braddon-Mitchell, David, and Frank Jackson. 2007. The philosophy of mind and cognition. 2nd ed. Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub.

      Heil, John. 2004. Philosophy of mind: a contemporary introduction. 2nd ed, Routledge contemporary introductions to philosophy. New York: Routledge.

      • Michael Fisher Michael Fisher

        Thanks for the book references John. I’ll check them out at Amazon.

        If we begin by agreeing that ‘me’ is my thoughts & feelings and that our interest in the simulation is to reproduce ‘me’…

        No matter how good our science becomes we will never know what can be left out of a simulation & yet still have the essential ‘me’ simulated, but we can be sure that ‘me’ does not depend on absolutely everything in the physical realm being simulated.

        Even if we could produce what we think to be exact physical copies of physical objects in a Star Trek facsimile machine we could never be sure it was exact. Maybe some physical property is not reproduced in the copy exactly.

        If I sent myself through to Australia from the UK I could never be sure that it’s the same ‘me’ that’s rebuilt at the Aussie end. Supposing the ‘me’ that’s in the UK isn’t destroyed & the two Michaels meet we could never be sure we were both intrinsically ‘me’, but with histories (memories say) that have recently diverged

        I don’t think your argument shoots down Kurzweil ~ he can still have his bottled virtual brains one day. You seem to merely be saying that we don’t know enough yet about what else besides neurones are needed to produce ‘me’. But we can NEVER ‘know’ the answer to that can we ?

      • Also see Derek Parfitt’s exhaustive review of self and personality from a philosophical perspective in his book, Reasons and Persons.

  6. An excellent analysis sir I would say you have deftly skewered the problem.

  7. DiscoveredJoys DiscoveredJoys

    Information is an abstraction, and does not, strictly speaking, exist.

    I’ll agree (in my one-eyed autistic way). Now widen your view, and by the same argument beauty does not strictly exist, nor does love, or society, or free will.

    People behave as if these abstractions exist, because such behaviour results in leaving more descendants in a contingent world. I suspect animals behave as if their abstractions exist too (such as ‘home range’, ‘kin feeling’, ‘troop morality’). I doubt if plants manage abstractions other than through using molecular gradients as a proxy for reacting to the external world.

    The diverse forms in the universe
    Are fundamentally empty
    So what meaning would there be in
    Pointing at space?
    A withered tree standing on a rock
    Feels neither hot nor cold.
    In spring, flowers bloom;
    In autumn, fruits are born.

    – Kusan Sunim (1909-1983)

  8. bob koepp bob koepp

    What? Not even a nod in the direction of those who view information as a kind of causal dependency relation (e.g., Dretske, Gibson)? What have you got against objectivity?

    • John S. Wilkins John S. Wilkins

      Come on, it’s a blog post. And Dretske’s “objective” notion is basically contextual anyway; the information here really is a matter of knowledge, and as Dretske himself remarks, it is both relativized to background knowledge, and applicable only to a class of biological systems he calls “learning systems” (Dretske 1981: 80, 2000). There is objectivity in the sense that what exists in the cognitive map of the signal receiver is reliable in that context.

      Dretske, Fred I. 1981. Knowledge and the flow of information. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press. 2000. Perception, knowledge, and belief: selected essays, Cambridge studies in philosophy. Cambridge, U.K.; New York: Cambridge University Press.

      • bob koepp bob koepp

        John –
        The relativization to context and/or background knowledge comes into play when we’re trying to deal with questions about _transmission_ , such as distinguishing signal from channel. But ‘knowledge’ and its cognates obviously can’t figure in the definition of ‘information’ if the former is to be analyzed/explicated in terms of the latter.

        • John S. Wilkins John S. Wilkins

          Relativisation also plays out in questions of what content to attend to: interest-relativity. And who said knowledge would be explicated in informational terms anyway? Certainly not in terms of that kind of information (since there are many kinds in play: the term is a polyseme).

      • bob koepp bob koepp

        What content/information we attend to is, of course, relativized to our attending to or showing interest in various things. That shouldn’t be seen as a reason to deny the objectivity of information.

        It was Dretske who attempted to explicate knowledge in informational terms — so relativizing information to background knowledge wasn’t an option for him. That doesn’t mean he couldn’t appeal to background knowledge (based on previous interactions with information) when explaining how (currently available) information is used by cognitive systems. In his world, there can be information that is never utilized by any cognitive system.

  9. Chris' Wills Chris' Wills

    Is this similar to The map is not the territory?

    • John S. Wilkins John S. Wilkins

      Very much so. With the obvious caveats about using the territory as its own map.

  10. An excellent post. Now, if you could only come to realize that your view on induction derives from the information-centric view that you have just criticized.

    • John S. Wilkins John S. Wilkins

      No, I really think it doesn’t. The sense of “information” that knowledge comes from is more properly Fisher information, the second derivative of a probability distribution that a measurement is correct. That sense of information is objective, and while measurement-relative, is not observer-relative. In short, we know the world by observation. This has little or nothing to do with Shannon or Dretske information.

      Induction is the generalisation that one makes from Fisher observations, if I may call them that, but based upon other inferences, and I never suggested that it was observer-independent or in some bald sense objective. We discover the structure of the world by trial and error, and we know only part of it, defeasibly and fallibly.

      • We are probably talking past one another.

        I don’t have a problem with Fisher inferences or other kinds of statistical inferences. But they do not give rise to the kinds of statements that are often said to result from induction.

    • Neil, I am trying to get some orientation about where the assault on induction that I keep stumbling across in blogs is coming from. Are you a theist or a Libertarian?

  11. I’m highly skeptical of John’s views of information. John is trying to draw a line of demarcation between things in science that he believes are “real” and those that he thinks are “not real”. As a scientist, and something of a nuanced physicalist, I tend to take our scientific concepts and theories at face value and “believe in them” by default — that is, I tend to “reify” them unless I have good reason to think that I shouldn’t. I think of electrons as real things, as matter as a real thing, as energy and entropy as a real thing, as heliocentrism as a real thing. That said, I realize that there is no good way for us to tell whether our scientific theories and concepts are referring directly to underlying real things, or whether they are merely predictively and explanatorily successful “mathematical tricks”. Early critics of Copernicus argued that the heliocentric solar system was a good mathematical trick, but that the usefullness of this mathematical trick didn’t imply that the sun really was at the center. And they have a point.

    So I will remain unconvinced, until John can describe and justify his method of demarcation. What scientific things does he think are “real”, and why? And then, why is information not one of the real things? So far, the argument appears to be special pleading, an unfair criticism of information that would similarly show that everything else in science is reified if applied consistently. In other words, why does John think information is not “physical”, while he thinks electrons and energy and entropy are? As a scientist I see no meaningful difference. Why is John’s belief in a “real” electron not just another example of “mistaking our representations for the things”? Perhaps John is simply defining energy and matter as physical by fiat. If so, I find proving one’s assumptions to be uninteresting.

    • John S. Wilkins John S. Wilkins

      Actually I am not asserting that there are certain things that are real, which is to say, mind-independent. I am saying there are some things that are, even when we do not know what those things are. I presume we have sufficient reason to think electrons are real (“if you can spray them, they are real”), but they were presumably real before we had any conception of them. But if it turns out they are not, that they are an illusion created by gluons or something, the point remains: the real world is not constrained by our knowledge of it.

      I gave my demarcation criterion: something is real if it causes a physical difference. Abstract items cannot cause anything. Now it is reasonable to argue, as I have heard some do, that “cause” makes no sense at the base physical level. If you adopt a block universe, then that might be the way you want to go (things are just correlated regularly over the time dimension), but that doesn’t make any difference here. We call something real if it is able to do whatever it is that we call causation. Information (as a type) doesn’t cause anything; although tokens of information (that is, on my view, physical states we include as tokens of the type) do.

      I am not arguing for physicalism here. I take it to be an axiom of the approach I adopt. Yes, matter and energy are physical things, because in our best physics they are irreducible aspects of spacetime. If it turned out a better physics had a single unified existent – let’s call it the sagon – from which one can derive all matter and energy, etc, and all causal relations, then that would be the very definendum of “physical”. But it wouldn’t include “information” in the usual senses, and the broader sense that might include physical entities (structure) is so vague one really should just talk about physical entities and causation anyway.

      But even if we are not pure physicalists – even if we think the world has nonphysical properties, for instance – I still do not see the need to think that information exists other than as a functional category of cognitive-semantic systems (i.e., “heads”).

  12. So something is real if it causes a physical difference, and abstract items like information cannot cause anything. Now that means your demarcation criterion boils down to a commitment to some theory of causation. As it so happens, I’m one of those who is also skeptical of causation, as I don’t think it makes any sense at the base physical level. In fact, I would argue that if anything “causes” things, it’s only abstract things like the laws/behavior underlying the universe that our theories supposedly describe.

    In any case, your stated demarcation criterion doesn’t save your argument, as long as we stick to some sensible/usual version of causation. Suppose I put you in a locked room with a keypad that, if the correct information is entered, will turn off the toxic gas slowly blowing out of the air vents. Do you really think that the information I’m withholding from you (the 8 letter code that closes the vents) *makes no physical difference*? And note, the information need not take any particular physical form — it could be spoken, written on a napkin, spelled out with refrigerator magnets, scratched in the paint on the wall, or whatever.

    I will also mention in passing that there’s a good argument that energy itself is abstract — being nothing more than an abstract quantity that is a necessary result of the time invariant property of our laws of motion (google Noether’s theorem). Energy is not really a “thing”, and it causes nothing — it is simply a special combination of measurables of an isolated system, the magnitude of which doesn’t change with time. And if we take relativity seriously, then mass is in the same boat.

  13. This is all a total confusion about information, IMHO 🙁
    John Horgan’s piece was nonsense too 🙁

  14. sbej sbej

    “Is this about words, or the world?

    Reminded me of my fav. line from the anthropoligist Robert Fox who described the subject as one that often “mistakes terminology for thought”.

    Ive very much enjoyed this and the last post. Philosophy often seems to my un-philisophical mind a jumble of words and esoteric terms with little practical application or value. Youre take on the subject is a constant reminder that this is not the case.

  15. John Gregg John Gregg

    The map is not the territory. Just because our best descriptions of the universe must come down to formulas (information), it is a mistake to make the leap to thinking that the universe thus described must itself be made of formulas. I agree – information does not exist, at least not in any explanatorily useful way. “Information”, at least as we think of it in our heads, is a pure mathematical abstraction, but in the real world, “information” is always just a way we have of conveniently describing something mundanely physical. As our technology becomes more and more refined, we can represent more and more information with less and less physical stuff (vacuum tubes to transistors, to integrated ciruits, with ever more diodes crammed on a chip). To imagine, however, that the universe itself has perfected its “technology” to the point where it can leave base, coarse phsyical matter behind entirely, and instantiate “pure” information, information in itself, is nutty. It is an old, familiar kind of nuttiness, however. It is the same late medieval Platonism that lead thinkers to hypothesize concentric crystaline spheres of ever more rarity and fineness around the earth, with angelic ether filling the void between them, and producing music we are too base to hear. It is dualism of the flakiest sort.

    -John Gregg

  16. So, those of you who are so sure that information is not “real” — how do you explain things like channel capacity?

    For me, it’s hard to understand how such limits can apply to how much information can be transmitted over a channel (“channel” being made of matter and something most of you would likely agree is really physical and not just in my head) without information being something real that exists independent of my mind. I mean, there are engineering and science textbooks on information, and engineering and science information departments at universities. All these laws, limits, and such that regulate how computers and transmission channels work are all just dealing with an “explanatorily unuseful” abstraction? This view doesn’t pass the sniff test.

  17. John Gregg John Gregg


    When I say that information is not real, I mean that it is a convenient abstraction for us, but is only a shorthand way of talking about physical stuff “below” it. Information supervenes on the physical, always. Shannon’s laws, etc. are true in the sense that if one chooses to think of certain physical systems as information, then the laws apply to those physical systems. The point is the direction of the arrow of supervenience. Once God (philosophical God) had created the physical facts about the universe, He didn’t have any more work to do to create the laws of information, any more than He had more work to do to create the economic laws, or for that matter, the traffic laws. Just as “flock” is just a way of looking at a bunch of individual birds, “information” is an extremely useful and powerful way of looking at good old physical matter. Information theory is extermely useful to us, as perceptually and cognitively limited beings. But information theory is explanitorily useless to the universe itself as it crunches along one moment to the next.

    -John Gregg

    (some) more on this here:
    and here:

    • bob koepp bob koepp

      John G –
      The “arrow of supervenience” is an odd measure of what is “real.” Just as ‘information’ could, in principle, be dispensed with in favor of descriptions couched in terms of subatomic particles, so too for ‘atom.’ But it would be playing fast and loose with the notion of ‘real’ to claim that atoms aren’t real. Is there a confusion here between ‘real’ and ‘fundamental?’

    • So Gregg — I understand your position, in a way, assuming that there is real, independent-of-me physical stuff underneath everything (as I assume). I can buy the argument that information is a convenient abstraction. But again, my problem with this argument is why you think information is any different than anything else in science, like electrons or energy or entropy. How in the world do you know that, say, electrons are actual physical stuff and not just a “convenient abstraction for us, … a shorthand way of talking about physical stuff below [them].” I maintain that you [b]cannot[/b] know this — fundamentally, there is no way in science or philosophy to distinguish between the “real” and what is merely a cute and useful mathematical trick. All such arguments are sophistry and illusion.

      I see no reason why, say, the second law of thermodynamics is necessarily true — we test it against empirical observation to see if it is consistent with experimental results. The same is true for information theory — I see no reason that real information transfer [i]must[/i] conform to the channel capacity theorem, but empirically it apparently does. Ultimately this is as far as we can go, whether we are talking about theories of electrons, of matter, of entropy, or of information. As I see it the position that you and John espouse, that information is somehow conceptually inferior to electrons, is just a misunderstanding of what science is capable of, combined with a type of physics bias (an arbitrary belief that the physical sciences are “better”).

      As I see it, Wheeler’s ideas about the primacy of information are just as reasonable, self-consistent, and wrong-headed, as John’s ideas about the primacy of [whatever he actually thinks is real other than information], as both founder on the same epistemological problems.

      • Chris' Wills Chris' Wills

        But I don’t send information down a wire, I send electrons or waves or and em pulse or something else that exists (exists in the sense that I can set up a detector at the end of the line to take a physical measure of it).

      • But yes you can send information down a wire — information is always embodied in the arrangement or pattern found in the physical medium that’s carrying it. That does not imply that you can derive the channel capacity theorem from the properties of electrons, or waves, or an em pulse or what-have-you. Information is something in addition to that medium (send the same number of electrons at the same rate down the same wire, but scrambled, and you can empirically show that the information is gone). If you think you can derive the channel capacity theorem from Maxwell’s equations, I’d like to see it.

      • Chris' Wills Chris' Wills

        I agree that the receiver of the stream of stuff that comes down the wire can derive information from it; but only if they know that it is meant to carry data and how to translate the signal into the data and how to turn that data into information.

        If the stuff coming down the line is in morse code and the receiver is expecting an AM signal at a specific frequency how much information is sent?

        So the carrying capacity of the line is only part of the information sending/receiving requirements

  18. Anthony McCarthy Anthony McCarthy

    If you like, it is between the words, and the world. The informational idealism of Wheeler is, in effect, to say that all we have access to, and therefore ontologically all there is,

    I’d say it’s all we can talk about in words, whether or not that is all we have access to. I suspect, disposes of a large part of our experience that can’t be articulated. The conceit of intellectual communities is often that what can be articulated and processed is the only thing that is when it’s the only thing that can be articulated and processed. Sometimes it’s a matter of what is convenient, outliers exist, sometimes far, far outliers. You can throw them out of your analysis but you can’t make them disappear.

    It’s always been kind of peculiar that so many later day “humanists” are, in fact, the remnant of logical positivism, claiming to reject the anthropocentric pretensions they attribute to religion. Humanism is based in the idea that man is the measure of all things, as monumentally and arrogantly anthropocentric an idea as was ever articulated. Man can only measure what man can measure, which includes vast ranges of the universe that man doesn’t have easy access and nothing that can’t be observed or classified. The bigger pretense of the positivists and humanists is that they have the ability to reduce the universe to the limited compass of human abilities. The universe and even humans ourselves, are under no obligations to agree with them.

    What we call information is chosen out of the universe of human experience of the universe, it is often chosen more for its susceptibility to our processing, the larger part of our own experience eludes that attempt.

  19. Anthony McCarthy Anthony McCarthy

    From John Horgan’s article

    Matter can clearly exist without mind, but where do we see mind existing without matter?

    Even if it’s true that mind doesn’t exist without matter, the question couldn’t be answered by anything that we can articulate because everything we say is based on that part of our shared life which is either based in or mediated by our experience of the physical universe. We don’t have any way to communicate anything else. That makes the question unanswerable which is entirely different from “mind existing without matter”. I agree with Horgan that it is presumptuous to ignore the vast range of matter which we don’t know about, reducing it to what we can process as information. To assert that there isn’t a range of mind which we also don’t know about would is even more presumptuous, since we have even less knowledge of its scope and what constitutes it.

    That it’s dissatisfying to be in ignorance doesn’t matter. We don’t know if mind can exist without matter. I doubt we can know that.

  20. John Gregg John Gregg


    I am a reductionist by temperment. So yes, I do put physics at the bottom of the pyramid. We might not have the perfect and complete physical theory yet, but everything we do have is built on physics. As Rutherford indelicately put it, “Physics is the only real science. The rest are just stamp collecting.” Is an electron just an convenient abstraction? Interesting question. Maybe, but in a more solid sense than most other abstractions. An electron is defined exclusively in terms of observed functional dynamics, which themselves are not defined in terms of any lower layer. This is not true of, say,
    economics. Can you imagine a world physically identical to ours but economically different? I can’t. Economics supervenes on physics. Could you have a world physically identical to ours but informationally different? We use economics, we use information theory, we use chemistry, etc. But all the universe needs in order to “know” how to behave one moment to the next is physics.

    What “implements” physics? I don’t know, but I do not think it is pure abstraction, invented by us as pure abstraction. That’s what I see information theory as – a branch of mathematics, or mathematical logic. The channel capacity theorem is, as the name says, a theorem. Theorems are not empirical. Once you have a good theorem, you can certainly apply it to real world situations, but it is backwards to reify the theorem itself. As I said, I detect more than a whiff of Platonism – this old idea that our gross, messy, coarse physical world really is built on Pure Ideas.

    Information theory (and physics, for that matter) describe the functional dynamics, the interactions of . . . something. I do not accept the idea that just because our best theories bottom out with a shrug as to what that something is, that it must be “pure” dynamics, “pure” interaction, leaving any notion of stuff doing the interacting behind. And when I say I do not accept this, I mean that I do not accept it as coherent.

    -John Gregg

  21. Anthony McCarthy Anthony McCarthy

    Is an electron just an convenient abstraction? Interesting question. Maybe, but in a more solid sense than most other abstractions. John Gregg

    In a long argument I was involved in at Sean Carroll’s blog last year I raised the question, does physics know even one object in the universe comprehensively and exhaustively, with neither Carroll nor any of the other physicists involved willing to answer the question. It took many days and the possibility of the argument extending into another comment thread on a post – which I interpreted as a reaction to what I gather was seen as an impertinent question – to get an answer. I did bribe him, saying if he answered it I wouldn’t post another comment. Carroll finally said, “no”.

    So, an eminent physicist is on record as admitting that physics doesn’t have knowledge of everything about one thing , nevermind a “theory of everything”. I assume that it undermines Carroll’s claim in the second post that “The Laws Underlying The Physics of Everyday Life Are Completely Understood”, though I was under an obligation to keep my side of the bargain and not comment further on his blog, though I did mention it elsewhere.

    I’d think that a reduction is, actually, an abstraction, in that it draws out partial information about something in order to deal with it partially. Given that science is an incomplete view of things, as all human thought is, anything we can articulate to other people is certainly an abstraction. Whatever our thought about the external world is, it isn’t the recreation of physical objects and motion in any kind of complete sense.

    We all are in the habit of pretending that our knowledge is far more absolute than it is, that might begin in convenience but it too often ends in arrogance, asserting immodest claims when a more realistic view would lead to something a bit more humble. The fashion of pop materialism these days is, at times, amusingly unaware of the contingent and incomplete nature of even the most sophisticated science. Though more often the arrogance is anything but amusing. Because science is often efficacious in proportion to the reliability of what it asserts, it has the potential to magnify human power, often to murderous effect. Because of that scientists have a responsibility to always remind themselves of their ignorance, of their basic inability to know it all. That’s something that could be said about people in just about every area of life, as well.

    • Jonathan Jonathan

      So, an eminent physicist is on record as admitting that physics doesn’t have knowledge of everything about one thing , nevermind a “theory of everything”.

      One does not get to be an eminent physicist by expressing certainties.

      Considering that the two fundamental theories of reality, relativity and quantum mechanics, stand opposed to each other, it means that at least one of the theories is at least partially wrong. That introduces a basic level of uncertainty to all of physics. However, a “Theory of Everything” would necessarily unify gravity with the other four forces, it would remove that fundamental uncertainty from physics.

  22. Anthony McCarthy Anthony McCarthy

    John Gregg, you might find this exchange interesting, especially Reuben Hersch’s response, or, at least, that’s what I found most interesting, especially this:

    This reminds me of anthropic discussions in cosmology. How in Heaven’s name could it happen that the values of the fundamental constants are just what they need to be to make human life possible?

    How is it that by solving problems, and inventing tools and concepts to solve those problems, and then solving the new problems about those new tools and conceptsÛmathematicians often give physics a hand?

    Naturally it’s no surprise that mathematicians working on questions from physics may give physics a hand. But that’s not where fiber bundles and connections came from.

    It’s a mystery. I haven’t tried to solve it. Is it more fruitful to be hung up on this mystery, or to accept it and go ahead?

    You can’t explain why there is matter rather than nothing. You don’t wait to answer that before you do a little physics.

    • Jonathan Jonathan

      Fucking magnets, how do they work? Tide goes in, tide goes out; never a miscommunication. You can’t explain that!


  23. Disclaimer: my knowledge on this topic is probably far lower than most who have posted above, but I am interested, so please forgive my ignorance and my straying a little off-topic.

    I tend towards a materialism-of-convenience such that, for example, it seems far better established that there are materials without minds than that there are minds without material, though I don’t take such probabilistic inferences as absolute. But lately I have started to couch my materialism in the following context:

    Nothing represented in my consciousness is the thing represented (the map is not the territory). So my consciousness is for all intents and purposes a simulation and everything I “know” about the world is part of the simulation. For all I am able to know, the “world” might be my own dream. But so what?

    I may think it highly likely that something exists outside the dream that does the dreaming, a “real” brain in a real body in a real world, for example, but I can’t be absolutely certain of that (again, so what?).

    Science and philosophy seem to give me lots of good reasons to be agnostic about “ultimate” reality or objectivity.

    OK. Fine.

    I still have a very serviceable version of relative or subjective reality and relative or subjective objectivity without those gradients in my simulation needing any absolute external referents. All the usual scientific methods still apply and still work.

    That said, things I call material ARE different from things I call abstract, even if both exist only in my hypothetical dream or simulation.

    Getting back to the proper topic:

    The information “contained” in or “carried” on any “material” seems to me to be a product/function of a neuro-sensory system or other information-sensing-and-processing system. I have to remain agnostic about whether any or all such materials and systems are themselves actually, or ultimately, “composed” of information or something else, but within the limits of my simulation of the world I’ll say they are composed of matter/energy and I’ll say that information is a byproduct of my observations about the structure, behavior, or other attributes of matter/energy systems. Interestingly, if I want to transmit my information to another person or to a computer I need to attach, embed, or encode that information on some “material” substrate that they or it are equipped to sense and interpret.

    Regardless of whether other people exist only in my dream or they also exist in another level or type of reality outside of my simulation, it is useful (at least to me) for “us” to agree on such conventions about information, matter, energy, scientific methods, etc.

    I’m not too worried about it because most people (real or imagined) seem to behave as if they share my view.

    Poor Richard

  24. Parenthetically, I think the first recorded instance of this view that each conscious individual experiences the world via its own idiosyncratic (but probably law-conforming) simulation was Plato’s “Analogy of The Cave”. Personally, I suspect he may have stolen the idea from Pythagoras.

  25. Jonathan Jonathan

    Needs more physics. John, you don’t seem to have a grounding in the history of the idea that all of reality is just information.

    Let’s first take information to be the uncertainty in a given system. The more surprising the progressive states of a system, the more information that system contains. Thus, as a system progresses to disorder, it gains information. This distinguishes information from data.

    Now let’s take information in the context of quantum mechanics. In the context of quantum mechanics, we find that uncertainty, and thus information, is a fundamental aspect of all physical systems. Furthermore, uncertainty cannot be removed from a closed system. This would mean that the total information of a system would not be allowed to decrease.

    Now let’s take a quantum mechanical system, i.e. some stuff. Let us now throw that system into the event horizon of a black hole. What happens to it? Relativity says that it is crushed into a singularity, never to be recovered. But if this were true, the total information in the system, i.e. reality, would decrease. Quantum mechanics says this is a no-no.

    So is quantum mechanics wrong, or is relativity wrong? Either one would be bad news for modern physics. Fortunately, two physicists came up with an answer: The information contained within the stuff thrown into the black hole isn’t devoured by a singularity. Instead, it is smeared out across the surface of the event horizon. Thus the information of the system remains the same, as long as it takes an infinite amount of time for physical substances to fall into a black hole. Relativity says this is the case, so both relativity and quantum mechanics agree again!

    This means that the two-dimensional surface of a black hole contains an isometric projection of three-dimensional particles that have fallen into it. Thus, the surface of a black hole is a hologram of everything that’s touched the event horizon. Not only is the information preserved on the surface of the black hole, the information on the surface can interact with other information on the surface as if it were still three-dimensional!

    Now, let’s take the math that was used to prove that holographic particles can exist on the surface of the event horizon of a singularity. Now let’s apply that math to another singularity we know about: The singularity at the start of the Universe. Physical reality as we know it would just be a four-dimensional holographic projection. Considering that all the information for a four-dimensional projection can be contained within three dimensions, and that 3D isometric image can itself be rendered as a 2D hologram, which could then be rendered as a 1D object, i.e. a singularity.

    This allows for all the observations we have made to date. It also makes predictions for what went on pre-inflation. It also makes predictions about what the current Universe should look like. It also makes predictions about what the nature of fundamental forces (EM, gravity, strong & weak nuclear), their relative strengths, their origins, and how the unify.

    Some of these predictions have already been made. Some are being worked out by theoretical physicists as we speak. The math on deriving gravity from entropy of a 4D projection of a constrained 3D system is particularly daunting. Applied physicists and engineers are currently working on the next generation of research equipment that will prove things one way or another about the theory. To find out the truth on the subject, we’ll have to wait for the LHC to work its way up to higher energy levels. We’ll also have to wait for the next-gen space telescopes to be launched. So right now, the theory is at the same point that inflation was in the late seventies. Intriguing, but waiting for technology to catch up to theory.

    Hopefully I’ve shown that much of your dismissal of holographic information theory was just your lack of understanding of esoteric physics (which is nothing to be ashamed of) and a lack of historical context to the idea.

  26. Jonathan, keep in mind that quantum mechanics and relativity disagree on many key issues – which is why there is no theory of quantum gravity. David Bohm wrote in 1980:

    [R]elativity theory requires continuity, strict causality (or determinism) and locality. On the other hand, quantum theory requires non-continuity, non-causality and non-locality. So the basic concepts of relativity and quantum theory directly contradict each other. It is therefore hardly surprising that these two theories have never been unified in a consistent way. Rather, it seems mostly likely that such a unification is not actually possible. What is very probably needed instead is a qualitatively new theory, from which both relativity and quantum theory are to be derived as abstractions, approximations and limiting cases.

    More generally, I agree that we can frame all of reality as information. This seems very strange at first b/c most people new to these ideas have a hard time accepting that information can give rise to anything substantial, to any “stuff” at all. But when we think deeply we realize that all the “stuff” we see and feel around us can as validly be framed as information as matter or energy or pure consciousness. These are all just labels for the ding an sich, Kant’s thing in itself, which he pointed out convincingly (as Plato did much earlier) we’ll never know about fully. Framing all stuff as information, as Cahill and Wheeler and many others have tried to do, may have the advantage, however, of being inherently quantifiable. Or not. Because quantifying information in bits is just convention and there’s no particular reason to believe that reality at its most fundamental level is comprised of any type of bits. These are all just models for what is ultimately unknowable and the hard task for thinkers is to determine how best our models can match reality and lead to useful insights.

    • John S. Wilkins John S. Wilkins

      Like I said, Berkleyan idealism. Which means that you had better attend to the philosophical arguments addressed to that position over the past 400 years. It’s not like this pops up de novo. This is a philosophical issue that cannot be solved by appealing to physics, no matter what the physics is.

      • It’s not really Berkeleyan idealism because he of course concluded that all stuff must be kept in the mind of God. We can hold an idealist position without believing in God as a necessary feature of our ontology. As you know, I’m a card-carrying Whiteheadian panpsychist, but I can’t say idealism is “wrong.” None of these theories are “wrong” – they’re just more or less in keeping with one’s intuitions and more or less explanatory with more or less parsimony.

        • John S. Wilkins John S. Wilkins

          Berkleyan idealism does not rely upon the mind of God but upon the primary/secondary qualities distinction, eliminating primary qualities. The mind of God is a solution to the subsequent problem of the persistence of unobserved objects, as the pair of limericks by Ronald Knox explained:

          There was a young man who said “God Must find it exceedingly odd To think that the tree Should continue to be When there’s no one about in the quad.”

          “Dear Sir: Your astonishment’s odd; _I_ am always about in the quad. And that’s why the tree Will continue to be Since observed by, Yours faithfully, God.”

      • Jonathan Jonathan

        You’re confusing information, the logarithmic measure of uncertainty in a system, with data, the symbolic representation of a system.

      • Thanks for the correction John – I’m rusty on my Berkeley and need to go back and review. Or are the limericks themselves a sufficient re-statement of Berkeley’s thought? 🙂

    • Jonathan Jonathan

      Why didn’t you reply to my actual post so that the reply would be in the same thread?

      Also, you didn’t use the >blockquote< tag or quotation marks, so I’m going to guess that just that one paragraph is his.

      Just because relativity and quantum mechanics disagree on a subject doesn’t mean your theory is wrong. But if they both agree it does mean that it’s almost certainly right. Considering black holes are places where the density of mass is great enough to give gravity meaningful effects at quantum scales, the study of black holes is a place where relativity and QM are frequently forced to work together.

      More generally, I agree that we can frame all of reality as information. This seems very strange at first b/c most people new to these ideas have a hard time accepting that information can give rise to anything substantial, to any “stuff” at all. But when we think deeply we realize that all
      the “stuff” we see and feel around us can as validly be framed as information as matter or energy or pure consciousness. These are all just labels for the ding an sich, Kant’s thing in itself, which he pointed out convincingly (as Plato did much earlier) we’ll never know about fully.

      And, you’ve completely missed my point. Let’s step through this again. Information in this sense has a formal definition. That definition is much different than the colloquial usage. You are making a common error in conflating “information” with “data”. Take a hard drive. Increase its entropy. Congratulation! Your data is gone. The total information on the disk, however, has increased. Data can describe an thing. Information is a fundamental property of stuff. Information is as integral to physical substance as mass and energy.

      Because quantifying information in bits is just convention and there’s no particular reason to believe that reality at its most fundamental level is comprised of any type of bits.

      You obviously don’t understand the technical definition of a “bit” in information theory. This goes back to your not understanding the distinction between “data” and “information”. A bit of information is the amount of information needed to decrease uncertainty about an object by half. This makes a bit a logarithmic measure of information. It also means that each bit in a bit string reduces proportionally less information than the previous bits. Thus the amount of information in a bit is relative to the amount of uncertainty in the system being described. Data are the symbols used to express and encode information. The holographic information theory is discussing the Universe being made of information, not data.

      I’d like you to consider the double-slot experiment. Take a screen with two slots in it. Send electrons at the screen one at a time. Observe the interference pattern on a detection screen on the other side of the first screen. The electrons will leave an interference pattern on the detector. This is because electrons, being quantum particles, have a degree of uncertainty about there vector vs their energy level. Thus we express the movement or electrons as a probability wave. But this isn’t just a matter of notation or conceptualization. The electron is actually physically existing as a probability wave. Thus the electron can even interfere with itself to leave the interference pattern on the detector. If you use a photon (laser beam) to measure the vector of an electron, the probability wave collapses and the electron, now certain in vector and more uncertain in energy, becomes a particle, in the context of vector. The electron is now a particle, in the context of vector, and no longer leave an interference pattern on the detector (unless you measure the energy of the particles hitting the detector, which will still leave a interference pattern when plotted, not their vector). The vector-energy uncertainty of the electron is as fundamental to its nature as its mass and charge. Since information is uncertainty, information then is a fundamental property of all known physical substances.

      • Jonathan, you’re overly certain of your conclusions. Words mean what we want them to mean. I am using “information” in a different way than you are.

        Moreover, your statements are arguably contradictory because you are defining information in such a way that it is entirely derivative from matter and yet you are claiming that information is fundamental. The “it from bit” debate is generally framed as a debate between information as fundamental in that it ontologically precedes matter versus the traditional substantialist/materialist view that matter and energy are fundamental and information/data derivative therefrom.

        My general point is that these are all word games and the labels we use don’t matter as much as the concepts we’re getting at – all trying to get at the “thing in itself,” a venture destined for failure but I do believe in “asymptotic truth” as we learn more and more about the universe around us and inside of us.

        As for the double-slit experiment, your description shows that you subscribe to the Copenhagen interpretation of this experiment. I don’t because I find it non-sensical to claim that a particle is a wave from a different angle. Rather, I find the Bohmian interpretation more compelling, in which there is a particle AND a guiding wave that represents the “quantum potential” as a key component of determining the particle’s behavior.

      • Jonathan Jonathan

        Jonathan, you’re overly certain of your conclusions. Words mean what we want them to mean. I am using “information” in a different way than you are.

        Of course you are. That was my whole point. This is a discussion of the physical theory that all of reality is just information. Physicists have to define their terms before constructing a theory. There is a technical definition of information in the physics/mathematics argot. That definition is the logarithmic measure of uncertainty in a system. So when they talk about the Universe being made of information, that is information they are talking about. To use any other definition to discuss the theory is to be purposefully obtuse.

        Moreover, your statements are arguably contradictory because you are defining information in such a way that it is entirely derivative from matter and yet you are claiming that information is fundamental.

        Information is the uncertainty within a system. Uncertainty is a fundamental attribute of quantum mechanical systems. Information is not derived from matter. Data is derived from matter. You keep confusing the two because you refuse to use the technical terminology correctly in a discussion of a technical theory. Quantum mechanical systems, i.e. reality, cannot function without inherent uncertainty. If uncertainty is an inherent property of a system, then so is information.

        The “it from bit” debate is generally framed as a debate between information as fundamental in that it ontologically precedes matter versus the traditional substantialist/materialist view that matter and energy are fundamental and information/data derivative therefrom.

        That might be how it’s defined in philosophical discussions. This, however, is not a discussion about a philosophical supposition. It is a discussion of a scientific theory. In quantum mechanics, a science, information neither precedes nor follows matter. It is instead a fundamental property of those systems. There can be no information without material substances; and there can be no material substances without information.

        As for the double-slit experiment, your description shows that you subscribe to the Copenhagen interpretation of this experiment. I don’t because I find it non-sensical to claim that a particle is a wave from a different angle. Rather, I find the Bohmian interpretation more compelling, in which there is a particle AND a guiding wave that represents the “quantum potential” as a key component of determining the particle’s behavior.

        The Hidden Variable Theory of quantum mechanics has been rather thoroughly disproven. The majority of physicists hold the Copenhagen interpretation. Considering physicists are the professionals here, I’ll trust their interpretations over yours.

        It’s been shown since Newton that the Universe not only doesn’t adhere to religious doctrine but that it also does not adhere to intuition. The fact that you find something nonsensical in no way impacts on whether or not it is true.

Comments are closed.