Chapter 3

The Copenhagen Interpretation

Of Quantum Mechanics



Evil witnesses are eyes and ears for men if they have souls that do not understand their language. Heraclitus



The architect of the third fall is called “The Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics” (CIQM). And it is a formidable drama. The actors are very real and represent both the revealers and concealers of “the top secret of the physical universe.” It's the cosmic joke at its absolute best, where the actors threw out the proverbial baby in order to keep the bath water. It's the ultimate act of cowardice, selfishness, refusal and concealment. For the victories and successes of this science along with the technologies it has spawned – virtually, the entire information revolution – has been at the expense of the vulnerable consciousness of the entity on which it's been so vigorously perpetuated. This is the third and most dramatic fall of the genus man.  

The CIQM is a doubly blinded alley. It sees things that aren't there and doesn't see what is there.  They state that only observed phenomenon are real phenomenon, and then fill the atomic void (Ψ) with physical, that is, material probability:

It is probability that is causally determined into the future, not individual is probability that we can measure and observe...1

And from Born:  "...the probability itself propagates according to the law of causality":

It is necessary to drop completely the physical pictures of Schrödinger which aim at a revitalization of the classical continuum theory, to retain only the formalism and to fill it with new physical content.2

Born's "new physical content" amounts to replacing the wave function with the probability function; an incredible situation is replaced with an impossible situation:  all for the sake of maintaining a finite realm.

The CIQM then rejects as unreal what can be calculated, predicted and then observed. It rejects a spreading electron, neutron and proton and thus a spreading atom. It rejects what takes up a volume of space and exerts an observable force on its environment. A science based on observation replaces effects it can observe with what it most definitely cannot observe: statistical probabilities. It then retreats to the refuges of uncertainty and complimentarity to protect and promote its own model of expediency. It rejects the model based on two of the most natural precedents imaginable, music (rhythm) and growth. And it perpetuates an artificial, mathematical model lacking any natural precedent whatsoever. Then, like a modern evangelist calling his detractors Satan, they label their critics as "determinists"; the followers and adherents to the old fashioned "classical" school of thought. It is no great wonder that Einstein was led to this conclusion:

The Heisenberg-Bohr tranquilizing philosophy – or religion? – is so delicately contrived that, for the time being, it provides a gentle pillow for the true believer from which he cannot very easily be aroused.3

The Copenhagen interpretation is not a formal doctrine so much as a collection of very complex ideas, theories and perhaps most importantly, philosophies. It is a reflection of the vast confusion and anxiety brought about from the results of all these new theories and experiments. It's "an anthology of concepts contributed piecemeal by the young physicists of the 1920s and 1930s...":

Essentially the Copenhagen interpretation represents an admission by the scientists gathered at the Fifth Solvay Congress in Brussels in 1927 that a complete understanding of reality was beyond the capacity of rational thought...physicists...would never be able to consider the nature of reality itself.4 (J.H. Weaver)

It was Niels Bohr, the patriarch of the Copenhagen school, who did the most to combine these new ideas by using his principle of complementarity mentioned earlier. And nothing symbolizes the "delicately contrived" nature of this new philosophy any more than the implications of this harmless sounding word. What complementarity means is that waves and particles are two complimentary aspects of a system that must exclude one another. Combined with Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, it means that certain aspects of knowledge, which are complimentary, like position and momentum or energy and time, must also exclude one another. If this sounds a bit confusing it's because it is. For if two attributes are complimentary, then they are related in some manner. If these relatives are mutually exclusive, then only one can be real or true (which is borderline logical non-sense). 

In the case of the uncertainty principle, only one relative can be true at a time, depending on what experiment is being performed.  But in the case of waves and particles, only one can be real period:  "As Bohr pointed out, the wave and the particle pictures are complimentary aspects of the same physical entity; one exists at the expense of the other."5 And once Born's material probabilities are factored in, the trilogy is completed. Because when one aspect is actual, the other is reduced to a statistical probability.  See how it all fits?  The whole of the CIQM can be summed up and expressed with one, single, innocent sounding word: complementarity.

If quantum mechanics has any peculiarity, it is that it does not decide between two modes of presentation (corpuscles and waves) which previously were equally possible, but after the seeming victory [?] of one, reinstates the other and combines both in a higher unity.6 (M. Born)

Obviously, Born's "unity" does not mean equality. The Holy Grail may have complimentary aspects (faces and the chalice), but the Grail itself is made – at all times and in all instances – of Copenhagen particles:

Born's view was that electrons were particles – distinct entities – but their behavior was described by a probability wave...  The electron is always a true particle and its Schrödinger wave function only [?] specifies the probability for finding it at some point in space [emphasis added].  Born realized the waves are not material, as Schrödinger wrongly supposed; they are waves of probability...7 (Heinz Pagals)

Complementarity doesn't sound very complimentary does it?  After the “victory” of the particle, the wave is seen as "only" a supplementary aid in locating it. And they no longer have to “decide on two modes of presentation”, for the wave no longer even exists. This is a far cry from an entity that could at one time (and still can) explain the very existence of the particle.

The CIQM draws two self-referring conclusions that have had profound consequences on how they and we view the physical world. Determinism (an effect is a measure of its cause) is out, and randomness is in. Nature, at its most fundamental level, is random.  Even God is random:

This indeterminism was the first example of quantum weirdness. It implied the existence of physical events that were forever unknowable and unpredictable. Not only must human experimenters give up knowing when a particular atom is going to radiate... but these events are even unknown in the perfect mind of God...  Even an all knowing mind must support its knowledge with experience...  There is no randomness like quantum randomness.  Like us, God plays dice – He, too, knows only the odds.8

(Pagals, who was an avid fan of the Copenhagen view, watered this statement down, somewhat, by defining God as "cosmic order".)

The other concept that must go in order to make the pieces fit snugly is something dear to us all, our objective reality! We are forbidden to construct models of that which cannot be directly observed. Because, at the fundamental level, the unobserved reality does not physically exist. The unobserved reality is the spreading wave-world; therefore, it cannot and must not exist. And this is the conservative view insisted upon:  "The essence of the Copenhagen interpretation is that the world must be actually observed to be objective"9  Add to this comment that at this same mysterious level, "any property of an object becomes observable only by the object's losing that property",10 and you have, finally, a physical reality that is inherently random, ambiguous, uncertain, more potential than actual, and all described by a wave function spreading multi-dimensional, physical probabilities throughout the universe until you decide to observe it.  Then poof..."A miracle occurs."

Now why is it that for the first time in the history of modern science, the scientific establishment – the epitome of conservatism, skepticism, and de-mystification – has embraced the most liberal, illogical, complex, radical and mystifying interpretation of scientific data that could possibly exist?

mutually exclusive, complimentary duality cannot be proven. Inherent randomness cannot be proven. The existence of a point-particle cannot be proven. The existence of observable, physical probabilities cannot be proven. And a reality that blinks on and off according to the whims of an observer is equally beyond proof. In fact, none of these proclamations can be proven beyond the self-limiting and narrowly defined epistemology that they exist in (i.e., I can prove God exists if I define God as myself.).

All of these concepts illustrate the state of confusion that came about because of the inherent limitations in our method of observation.  And these limitations carry over into our methods of measurement, which are simply observational extensions. Thus these limitations carry over to the scientific method itself. Because observation is the heart and soul of our inductive sciences.

But rather than conceiving of them as our limitations; that our method of observation has limitations due to, for instance, the relatively short wave-length of light, they have transformed these limitations into philosophical principles or laws that anchor themselves on nature itself. This wouldn't be so bad except that one of the oldest and grandest assumptions of all the physical sciences is that nature is distinct from the mind of man. That the natural world "out there" is separate from the thoughts and extensions (artifacts) of man.

It's not that these ideas have no truth-value. It's that they don't always belong in scientific interpretations and especially not in philosophical proclamations. At times, it may be advantageous to arbitrarily adopt a narrow point of view, but there is no justification for elevating it to universal status. For instance, Heisenberg says:

To begin with, it is important to remember that in natural science we are not interested in the universe as a whole, including ourselves, but we direct our attention to some part of the universe and make that the object of our studies.  In atomic physics this part is usually a very small object, an atomic particle or a group of such particles, sometimes much larger--the size does not matter; but it is important that a large part of the universe, including ourselves, does not belong to the object.11

This is how you lose the forest for the trees.  Because "facts" are meaningless until they're related to something and ultimately irrelevant unless they're related to the whole.  As Einstein said, "...the scientific method can teach us nothing else beyond how facts are related to, and conditioned by each other."12

Now philosophy is most definitely interested in the universe as a whole and especially man's role within it. And it baffles me to no end why the field of philosophy, or what's left of it, has allowed (and in some cases, encouraged) such a narrow point of view to go unchallenged.

In this century the professional philosophers have let the physicists get away with murder.  It is a safe bet that no other group of scientists could have passed off and gained acceptance for such an extraordinary principle as complementarity, nor succeeded in elevating indeterminacy [uncertainty] to a universal law.13 (James R. Newman)

This becomes more obvious when one looks at the pursuit of science from its traditionally philosophical and now opposite viewpoint:

The highest wisdom has but one science – the science of the whole – the science explaining the whole creation and man’s place in it.14 (Tolstoy)

And as Spinoza uttered on deaf ears:

Before all things, a method must be thought out of healing the understanding and purifying it at the beginning...  From this...I wish to direct all sciences in one direction or to one end, namely, to attain the greatest possible human perfection.15

This only goes to show how much has changed in the present century.  For the most emphatic certainty that twentieth century science and philosophy subscribes to is that the world is fundamentally uncertain.

...the atom of modern physics...has no immediate and direct physical properties at all, i.e., every type of visual conception we might wish to design is eo ipso faulty.16 (Heisenberg)

And finally...

Heisenberg's uncertainty principle is a fundamental, inescapable property of the world.17 (Hawking) 


The sole remaining task for philosophy is the analysis of language.18 (Wittgenstein)

The child science has outgrown and rejected its parent, natural philosophy, which languishes in a slow death.19 (Jones)

...our losses to science should not be taken lightly.  And what we have lost is our psyche, our very soul.  Mass psychosis, sickness of the soul is the price we are paying for...letting a tool become master.20 (Pierce)

...the more we know about the universe, the more it is evident that it is pointless and meaningless.21 (Weinberg) 

That man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the labours of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man's achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins--all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain, that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand.22 (Russell) 

Before we can evaluate what has just transpired, we must expose its true perspective.  Then seek a new one.