Naturalism & the Laws of Nature.

Theoretical physicist Paul Davies wrote:

But what are these ultimate laws and where do they come from? Such questions are often dismissed as being pointless or even unscientific. As the cosmologist Sean Carroll has written, “There is a chain of explanations concerning things that happen in the universe, which ultimately reaches to the fundamental laws of nature and stops… at the end of the day the laws are what they are… And that’s okay. I’m happy to take the universe just as we find it.”

Assuming that Davies is correct, I find it odd that there is little interest for understanding the laws of nature. There are some interesting questions to be answered, such as: Where do the laws come from? How do they cause things to happen?

Physicist Neil Turok once posed the question:

What is it that makes the electrons continue to follow the laws?

Indeed, what power compels physical objects to follow the laws of nature?

The question I would like to focus on is: what would a naturalistic explanation of the laws of nature look like?

Frankly, I don’t know where to start. What I do know is that a bottom-up explanation runs into a serious problem. A bottom-up explanation, from the level of say bosons, should be expected to give rise to innumerable different ever-changing laws. Different circumstances, different laws.

But this is not what we find. Again, Paul Davies:

Physical processes, however violent or complex, are thought to have absolutely no effect on the laws. There is thus a curious asymmetry: physical processes depend on laws but the laws do not depend on physical processes. Although this statement cannot be proved, it is widely accepted.

If laws do not depend on physical processes, then it follows that laws cannot be explained by physical processes. IOWs there is no bottom-up explanation for the laws of nature.

But what does it mean for naturalism if there is no bottom-up (naturalistic) explanation for the laws of nature? How does the central claim ‘everything is physical’ make sense if there is no physical explanation for the laws of nature? What if it is shown that the laws of nature control the physical but are not reducible to it?

 

 

 

155 thoughts on “Naturalism & the Laws of Nature.”

  1. keithskeiths

    Origenes,

    Put another way: if the moon produces a cosmological constant, and the earth produces a cosmological constant, and the sun, and Jupiter, and so forth, then it cannot be the case that we arrive at one single immutable universal cosmological constant. That’s what I mean when I say that “a universal cannot be caused by local matters of particular fact”.

    The cosmological constant represents the energy density of the vacuum. It isn’t associated with objects like the earth, sun, and Jupiter.

    And in case you’re tempted to argue that different volumes of space should have different vacuum energies under naturalism, the same question arises as before: Why on earth would you expect that?

    What is it about naturalism that demands a non-uniform vacuum energy density? Nothing. That would be just another weird, unsupported Origeneal assumption.

    “Origenes is confused, therefore naturalism is false” is not a persuasive argument.

  2. keithskeiths

    Origenes,

    (C) Each of those conglomerations is to be expected to produce its unique value.

    You’ve said this again and again, but you’ve never answered my question: Why do you expect each of those ‘conglomerations’ to produce a unique value under naturalism?

    Note: Repeating your assertion ten more times will not answer the question. I’m asking “Why do you believe this?”, not “What do you believe?”

  3. OrigenesOrigenes Post author

    keiths: Why do you expect each of those ‘conglomerations’ to produce a unique value under naturalism?

    Because I assume there to be a relationship between cause and effect.

  4. keithskeiths

    keiths:

    But you are the source of that incoherence, because you are the one insisting that different ‘conglomerations’ should produce different ‘constants’. Knowledgeable folks understand that constants are in fact constant, so unlike you, they wouldn’t expect to get different values for different conglomerations…

    Why do you expect each of those ‘conglomerations’ to produce a unique value under naturalism?

    Origenes:

    Because I assume there to be a relationship between cause and effect.

    “A relationship between cause and effect” does not imply that different conglomerations must produce different values. Do you seriously think that if naturalism is true, we should measure a different value for the density of lead if we use a one-pound sample versus a ten-pound sample?

  5. keithskeiths

    Looks like Origenes has given up on defending his thesis.

    It’s just as well. Things were going pretty badly for him.

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