Physics and Philosophy: The Revolution in Modern Science

A review of Physics and Philosophy: The Revolution in Modern Science by Rob Mason

Nobel Prize winner Werner Heisenberg's classic account explains the central ideas of the quantum revolution, and his celebrated Uncertainty Principle. The theme of Heisenberg's exposition is that words and concepts familiar in daily life can lose their meaning in the world of relativity and quantum physics. This in turn has profound philosophical implications for the nature of reality and for our total world view.

Heisenberg cites the famous trial of Galileo and his views on the Copernican system as marking the beginning of a struggle that went for more than a century.  In this controversy the representatives of natural science could argue that experience offers an undisputable truth, that cannot be left to any human authority to decide about what really happens in nature or in this sense God. The representatives of the traditional religion, on the other hand, could argue that by paying too much atention to the material world, to what we perceive with our senses, we lose the connection with the essential values of human life, with just that part of reality which is beyond the material world. These two arguments do not meet, and therefore the problem could not be settled by any kind of agreement or decision. During this period the human atitude toward nature changed from a contemplative one to the pragmatic one.  One was not so much interested in nature as it is; one rather asked what one could do with it.