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Updated -- 1 April 2005

The validity of causality is not a provable proposition.  Lothar Schäfer, in his book In Search of Divine Reality [1], has said that: “all propositions about reality and all techniques of establishing facts take a lot for granted, and the means of observation and reason that we employ in deriving facts are not as clearly and distinctly factual as the feeling of certainty that they evoke.

Schäfer goes on to note that “our views of reality effectively shape our moral convictions and form a basis for making decisions in our daily lives.”  “As to the alleged objectivity of a fact, it is a complication that stating a truth is a satisfying act, with a feeling quite different from the sensation that we have in telling a lie.  Moreover, discovering an unexpected fact is an exciting experience.  Thus the subject is emotionally involved in the process, and expressions of facts often are not purely rational and objective, but biased by emotions.”

To be true is also to be “loyal and faithful.”  Establishing truth involves faith.  As Pascal (1623-1662) is reputed to have said, “The heart has many reasons that reason does not understand.” Schäfer writes: “Faith is essential to the process of deriving facts, because a number of principles of inference are involved which are non-rational and non-empirical in the sense that they themselves cannot be derived from reasoning nor established by observations.  Whereas the processes used in deriving facts must be rational and empirical, the principles used in these processes are not.  Among them we find the Assumptions of object permanence, induction, and causality.”

We assume, for example, that objects continue to existence and have identity.  This is a basic assumption which is no longer entirely viable.  Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, for example, states unequivocably that, “In essence, object permanence is unobservable.  Similarly, the principle of induction involves the moving from the particular to the general.  “Induction in science is contingent upon the proposition that the future resembles the past, an assumption which cannot be derived by any process of reasoning nor verified by experience.”  Bummer!

Causality as a principle of nature requires that nothing happens without a cause.  And yet as Hume (1711-1776) has argued, “we have no experience of any causal event.  We always observe temporal conjunction, but infer necessary connection.”  Causality is thus more of a habit than a principle.  Furthermore, “the principles we use in deriving knowledge cannot derive themselves.”

The essential element, as quoted by Schäfer, is:  “‘If there is no causality,’ Eddington (1930) wrote, ‘then there is no clear distinction anymore between the Natural and the Supernatural.’”  Aye.  That’s the rub, isn't it?

Implicit in the idea of causality is the necessity of a time buffer between cause and effect. Simultaneity -- or coincidence of events at different spatial locations but at precisely the same exact time -- challenges our notions of what causality is all about. It's as if the timing of both cause and effect are coincident and thus there is no real distinction between the two concepts. Such a temporal symmetry of cause and effect creates strange possibilities -- the same sort of thing that occurred at the funeral of the great philosopher, Rene Decartes, when the horse was used to push the funeral cart instead of the more traditional way. [It was the first example of putting Decartes before de horse.]

This is in fact the crux of the problem with the EPR Experiment. [Not the Decartes bit, but the simultaneity of cause and effect.] Quantum Mechanics requires a simultaneous event in order to prevent a violation of the revered Pauli Exclusion Principle. The fact that the effect is experimentally observed and theoretically required to be simultaneous with the cause is highly disturbing to many scientists. This is too much like the effect anticipating a cause by being ready to manifest at the exact moment of the cause. It's like there's just too much of an intimate connection here. Clearly our notions of casuality have much room for additional understanding.

Another timing aspect of causality concerns the probability or likelihood of a specific cause resulting in a particular effect at what amounts to a coincidental moment of time. This is the realm of synchronicity. But that's another story.



[1] Lothar Schäfer, In Search of Divine Reality: Science As a Source of Inspiration, University of Arkansas Press, 1997.


Connective Physics         Assumptions         The Laws of Physics

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