What is True About the World (was: new to list)

From: Lee Corbin (lcorbin@tsoft.com)
Date: Wed Aug 29 2001 - 00:33:18 MDT

Tim Maroney writes

> What is gravity? It's a theoretical construct which is known to be
> incorrect, since its descriptions in quantum physics and relativity can't be
> reconciled. How can an incorrect theoretical construct be an inherent part
> of reality?

I really think that the categories "correct" and "incorrect" don't
serve us well here. In science, the degree to which something is
correct relates very strongly to the degree to which it can be used
to make successful predictions. So you will see in a majority of
books that discuss the topics, that relativity theory is taken as
a correction to Newtonian theory. Newtonian celestial mechanics
is used exclusively in many kinds of trajectory calculations to
this day.

On the other hand, even if we tried to cling to your rigid notion
of "correctness", then we'd be in no position, really, to announce
that QM or GR is correct; in fact, (as you say), we know that they
don't cover each other's realms.

Approximate assertions, e.g., "the planets orbit the sun in ellipses"
should be taken as (a) true, and (b) a correct description of reality.
Even calling such assertions "approximate" is misleading, because it
carries the implication that there are assertions that are "certain",
which is also nonsense. (FYI, there are only a very few unchallengable
assumptions, e.g., "Some people have been to Hawaii", which I proudly
call The Great Hawaiian Truth :-)

Eternal Truth #2: Every statement must be further modified.


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