Monday, January 17, 2011

The Galileian Paradigm

The Scientific Revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries was grounded in a new way of asking questions about the physical reality and found one of its most eminent representatives in Galileo Galilei.
The Galileian Paradigm discussed within this abstract consists of a picture of the world where the domain of science coincides with and is entirely reduced within the domain of measurement and quantities. For Galilei, “Whatever cannot be measured and quantified is not scientific,” and according to this worldview quantities are objective, impersonal and absolute. In post-Galileian science this statement has shifted further, as Laing stated, as: “Whatever cannot be quantified is not real.”
Beginning in the 16th century, the invention of new measuring instruments (telescope, microscope, thermometer, accurate clocks, etc.) brought forth and materialized the paradigm of an absolute measurability of reality. In the 300 years that followed, this paradigm dominated every instance of thought that aspired to be “scientific.”
It is with the third-class patent office clerk Albert Einstein that the new science started and the Galileian Paradigm began to fade. Einstein proved that measurement, the cornerstone of Galileian science, is not an impersonal event that occurs with impartial universality, but “a human act carried out from a specific point of view in space and time, from the one particular viewpoint of the observer.” After Einstein’s first contribution in 1905-06, Niels Bohr, Werner Heisenberg and the Copenhagen interpretation opens, in the mid ’20s, the road for a universe that is neither determinable nor quantifiable in any absolute way. It is the end of absolute measurement from the subatomic to the cosmological universe. Times are then mature for the passage from the matrix interpretation of Heisenberg to the wave interpretation of Schrödinger where the universe “exists” only as a series of indefinable approximations and within the limits of our relationship with it. As Heisenberg simply stated: “Natural science, does not simply describe and explain nature; it is part of the interplay between nature and ourselves.” In quantum mechanics the whole universe is considered not anymore as the sum of measurable quantities, but as an emerging property of the relationship between the observer and the observed. It is within this framework of the formulation of the Quantum Theory and the birth of this new science that we see the beginning of the separation of modern science from what we call here the Galileian paradigm. The aim of this paper is to discuss some of the aspects of the Galileian Paradigm, its breakdown in modern science, and how the new science on the large scale defines its validity against the conceptual categories of the so-called Galileian Paradigm.

(Abstract from: Sergio Caldarella, The Galileian Paradigm, in AA.VV. Physics in Context, Princeton 2011, pp. 136-49)