Marxism and Sub-Atomic Physics

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baboon
Marxism and Sub-Atomic Physics
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Firstly it's important to say that I am no expert in quantum mechanics. I know very little about the subject and yet have some interest in it to the point of wanting to open a discussion on the question with some underlining arguments. I think that like all questions of science, all developments of science, quantum mechanics has a legitimate interest for the workers' movement. We can see on these boards that interest in questions scientific has produced lively and interesting discussions and I for one defend the usefulness of scientific development for proletarian discussion and theoretical deepening. I think that the closeness of marxism to science has been expressed most clearly in the way that the world-changing radical works of the scientists Darwin and Wallace tie in with the appearance of the proletariat as a historic force and the works of Marx and Engels among others.

But does quantum mechanics pose a problem for marxism? Does the very nature of the phenomenon theoretically undermine the possibility of a communist future given the basic baffling uncertainty and plethora of possibilities that it seems to indicate? What I know about quantum mechanics is probably what most people who are half-interested in the subject have already read: that the movement of the particles appear to contradict physics in the main; that it appears as a wave and as a particle and when observed it stops being the former and becomes the latter and its position can't be certain but predicted by probability; that these particles appear where they shouldn't appear and that they appear (fluctuate) from seemingly empty space. Current scientific models say that a particle like an electron (they become more "exotic" than these) has no precise position and yet, apparently, if you raise a finger one side of the universe, it affects every single particle right to the other side. Whatever the work of the recent BICEP2 reveals, whether it is validated or not, there seems to be an understanding within science  that sub-atomic fluctuations somehow related to quantum waves were responsible for the accretion of matter (and ultimately us) at the time of the Big Bang. And I would say that the Big Bang is a validated scientific fact on a par with the fact of the Earth going around the Sun.

A few years ago, I talked with some ICC members about this question in general and got a mixed response. One comrade thought that this development undermined marxism and another that it confirmed it. The only published comment I've seen on this in the ICC press is one short piece in the International Review that thought quantum mechanics could act as a confirmation of marxism - a view that I tend to agree with as I try to explain below.

When I left school and went into work there was plenty of the latter. I wasn't earning a great deal but became an inveterate gambler. I would go to dog tracks around London six nights a week and play chemmy on Sundays. Mostly I was bootless early in the week. I bet on anything but the game that I liked the most, the most exciting and fun, was dice. It's called craps in the US, where the game was invented by Negroes in Mississippi in the 19th century. Craps itself was based on the age-old dice game called Hazard in Europe. There's evidence that Hazard had an Arab origin but similar dice games (using two dice) go back to Thebes, 3,600 years ago, and relics have been found among most civilisations: China, India, Aztec, American Indians, Celts and Saxons. The common thread to all these dice games is to bet on, or back, combinations in front of other combinations while other combinations remain neutral. These combinations - and their odds  and neutrality - can then change from one throw of the dice to the next. The object is to make a "pass" and go on to the next one. The pure odds for making a pass (against crapping out) appears to be evens but is actually 1.0268 to 1. I used to try to make three passes on the turn which gave me odds of about 30 to 1, but ten passes would give odds of over 1000 to 1 and I've seen it done many times. Over one thousand to one is not bad odds for 10 x 1. 0268 chances. As the run of successful passes increases, one increases the odds in your favour against the possibilities. For example, you can toss a coin a thousand times and if it comes up heads 999 times it is still a 1 to 1 chance to come up heads on the thousandth throw.

 I started my dice at the bottom playing against a wall in a block of flats at Finsbury Park and progressed to an exclusive spieler in Dalston frequented by some serious gangsters and their friends. Dalston was mostly white then but there were some black guys playing. There wasn't much trouble at the club apart from one shooting and a particularly nasty mugging. No alcohol was served but soft drinks and the finest salmon and pickle sandwiches. Games of Kalooki were played at card tables around the room but the action centred around the crowded billiard table as the dice hit the green baize. There's just twelve numbers, twelve points on the scale in two dice, but the permutations and combinations are almost endless, the possibilities legion. If this is the case with just twelve numbers, twelve points on a scale, then what are the possibilities for sub-atomic particles whose numbers are countless and therefore provide an endless number of theoretical possibilities.

There's an idea among some scientists that study quantum mechanics that anything is possible given the number of possibilities inherent in the numbers. That is, that in an infinite universe (or multiverse or multiverses) anything that is likely to happen will, with time, happen - you just need to wait long enough. My argument against these interpretations by some physicists has consequences for the idea of a "multiverse". It doesn't rule out such a concept but gives it a different context. If a multiverse exists - if - then its development will not be identical to the development of human life but will tend to develop in a similar fashion. Let me explain. Bubbles of universes, which make up the multiverse, will develop from their own Big Bangs from singularities that has similar sub-atomic  components to our own universe. They will originate from a similar sub-atomic soup. To be very specific here and look at planets within the multiverse (or our universe): if a planet has developed in the right conditions, atmosphere, water, sunlight, etc., for the evolution of life towards conscious beings, then it's more than likely, in my opinion, that the beings on those planets, will be in a situation that we have existed in, are existing in or, theoretically, could exist in.  It is possible that there is a planet somewhere where, I don't know, bits of wood with a brains run their world. It's possible but it's not likely and it's more likely that any planet that has evolved life would be becoming a class society, is a class society or has gone beyond, one way or another, class society. To think that "anything that can happen will happen", like the Monkey/Typewriter argument, is absolutely baseless.

Some theorists, taking this idea to its conclusion, say that the spontaneous aggregation of matter from sub-atomic particles will eventually create disembodied, self-aware brains, the so-called Boltzman brains. This is exactly the same logic that is used in the Monkey/Typewriter thesis so let's look at this in some detail:
The argument goes that given enough time hitting a typewriter a monkey will eventually write the complete works of Shakespeare. Not in my opinion it won't, not if you mean time as we know it Jim.
If you sat down all the monkeys in the world at specially constructed keyboards; robust key pads, no upper and lower case, no punctuation, no space-bar, and they typed, roughly until the Sun burnt out, it is extremely doubtful that they would type eight consecutive words of Shakespeare. You only need to know your primary school times-tables to work that out. If you add the number of languages in the world - about 700 plus - and the characters thereof, the calculation becomes much more complex and unlikely.

But, quantum mechanics tells us that an orang-outang could sashay into this room, knock me off my seat, sit down and type out Titus Andronicus (a dark tale describing the decomposition of Roman imperialism) in Spanish. That is a possibility. Quantum mechanics also tells us that the entire contents of the room I am sitting in could break down into its sub-atomic particles, fly over the moon and come back down and reassemble themselves (maybe with some bizarre ribald variations). That is more likely to happen than any monkey writing Shakespeare or anything else.

The whole argument breaks down before it starts anyway because a typewriter has to be manufactured, transported and paper provided. And the output can only be measured by the human agency of thought and language. No monkey is going to make a typewriter, no monkey is going to develop a written language. The real Monkey/Typewriter argument is one against marxism and science. It represents some of the crassest thinking of the bourgeoisie: "The Descent of Man"? - a monkey typing at random could produce that - similar for Shakespeare and of course it also applies to the works of Marx and Engels and the workers' movement generally. It is a completely reactionary idea and it's not really a surprise that it turns up once again, put forward by some scientists in the realms of quantum mechanics.

When first being told about the developments of quantum mechanics Einstein said in disbelief that "God doesn't play dice". But I believe that Einstein's "cosmological constant" - a kind of anti-gravity, an energy possessed by a vacuum -, a concept he later abandoned, is a sort of description of "dark matter" and the quantum fluctuations that must exist therein. Large numbers, possibilities, cease to be random and unpredictable where anything can happen, or that anything that can happen will eventually happen, but are, in our understanding of them and their nature, biased towards distinct possibilities. Quantity becomes quality. Numbers of possibilities tend to order in distinct patterns of probabilities that the human brain recognises. The first feature of the earliest human art is patterns and they persist throughout humanities' descent.

I know even less about "Chaos theory" than I do about quantum mechanics. The famous example is a butterfly flapping its wings in South America and a tree falling down in Canada - or something like that. In itself this is no stranger than the spin of one sub-atomic particle on one side of the universe affecting the resonance of another on the other side. But from what I understand of it Chaos theory is that it implies order that affects both the sub-atomic world and the world of thought and development of humanity in the production of distinct patterns of probabilities.
In my opinion the world of quantum mechanics doesn't contradict marxism but reinforces it, while the explanation of some physicists regarding the "Boltzman brain" and the Monkey/Typewriter theses do and represents the reactionary nature of some scientific thought and the ignorance of the bourgeoisie generally.

Quantum mechanics doesn't contradict marxism but I think reinforces it. Some of the explanations by some physicists do though - as I've tried to set out above. There's no predetermination to humanities' descent, no Royal Road to the development of our present (or next) species. But there has been progress, undeniable progress to the point where, we can see what's gone before and brought us to the present and what is necessary, in general, to go beyond our present predicament. Large numbers and the collectivity of humanity have taken us forward particularly where these numbers have coalesced into self-organisation and more or less clearer expressions of minorities among them that have generalised. It's an essence that started out in the sub-atomic world.

baboon, 21.6.14.

Alf
dialectics innit

I know we are not the only ones to say that quantum physics looks remarkably like the 'marxist dialectic', as expounded by Engels in his refutation of the bourgeois materialist vision of the world as a collection of things, of hard irreducable atoms - when he says that the process of universal arising and passing away takes place at a level deeper than  the collision of 'things'.  Some sophisticated Trotskyists, for example,  try to argue that quantum physics validates 'dialectical materialism'. But as far as I am aware, they still try to maintain this 'dialectic' in its vulgar bourgeois materialist deformation, which predominated in both the Second and Third Internationals and reached its ultimate degradation in Stalinism.

What's exciting about quantum physics is that it is part of the philosophical death knell of all these caricatures of the revolutionary method of analysis.  

Fred
no predetermination

I'll try not to go into a rant baboon, but I do like your article very much though understand hardly a word  you say.  That's on the plus side.  Sometimes its a relief not having  to understand, grasp and maybe  suffocate what's new.  Like hearing a piece of music for the first time. The possibilities are endless: at least to start with. 

 

But what what got my attention, a apart from your account of dodgy activities in Finsbury Park and Dalton -  you're not  a Woodberry  Down alumni are you by some quantum freak - is your explanation of how its likely that life could have evolved elsewhere, and might have reached, had to face, been defeated by, or emerged triumphant from, the class struggle.  Because I have a strong  and abiding memory of meeting somebody at a WR meeting circa 1977 who said the same thing, and added that any life form from outside our solar system would inevitably hold off from making contact with us - if they had become capable of it that is - until we had dealt with the class war ourselves and won it.  Then all will be revealed. This remark, this aphoristic quantum leap, lingers powerfully.  The emancipation of the workers would only be ruined for ever should some  all-knowing super beings come to our assistance like gods and thus destroy our evolutionary chances of moving forward for ever.

 

baboon
A good point from Alf about

A good point from Alf about the dialectic and how Engels analysis of classical physics is more than applicable at the sub-atomic level. Also on the way that leftism uses quantum mechanics to justify its own positions in a similar way to the physicists who make a crude interpretion of its possibilities missing out on the real movement underneath.

I was not unfamiliar with Woodberry Down Fred, now being gentrified apparantly. Some pals from there used to join us on a Saturday at the Downbeat club above the Manor House pub. There, for a shilling (5 pence - later increased to 1 shilling and sixpence), you could have a drink and listen to exciting new music from the likes of Jack Bruce, Eric Burdon, Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton.

LBird
Human quantum mechanics or talking nature?

baboon wrote:
Does the very nature of the phenomenon...
[my bold]

I know that I've attempted to discuss these issues before, baboon, and I think that you (and others) have taken some part, and I know that we haven't got very far.

If you don't want the thread to develop in the direction this post could take it, then just ignore this post, comrades!

But, once again, here goes...

The real issue here, in my opinion, is not a narrowly scientific (or physics) issue, but a philosophical one.

I'd argue that the issue is our understanding of the nature of phenomenon, rather than the very nature of phenomenon.

If one speaks of the 'very nature', one is claiming that 'knowledge of nature' is the same thing as 'nature' itself.

Or, in more epistemological terms, that 'knowledge' (of the 'object') is a reflection of the 'object'.

If one rejects this 'mirror' image of 'knowledge' and 'nature', and one accepts that 'knowledge' is a social construct, then, logically, 'the very nature of the phenomenon' (ie. the 'object' itself) is different from 'our understanding of the phenomenon' (ie. 'knowledge' of nature).

Once we accept that our knowledge of nature comes from society (and not simply from 'nature' alone), then baboon's other worry...

baboon wrote:
But does quantum mechanics pose a problem for marxism?

...takes on a very different light.

This is because 'quantum mechanics' is a human creation, a social creation, and thus requires Marxism to understand it. 'Quantum mechanics' is not some reflection of the physical world, or an unbiased account of 'nature', but a creative activity by humans trying to build an understanding of nature.

Whilst we bow down to 'physics' and 'scientists', comrades, we remain under their control. It is at root a question of politics, not physics.

jaycee
I agree that quantum

I agree that quantum mechanics/sub-atomic physics etc seem to open up interesting similarities with 'dialectics' on the one hand and the marxist critique of bourgeois materialism. However I only have enough knowledge on this subject to talk very generally.

 LBird I think to understand your point of view I need to ask a few general questions:

Do you think it is ever possible to have 'objective' knowledge or do you think there is always a gap between knowledge and the 'thing' itself?

how do you see this as relating to alienation?

LBird
Criticism inescapable in knowledge

jaycee wrote:
 LBird I think to understand your point of view I need to ask a few general questions:...

I think I need you (and others) to ask more than 'a few general questions', jaycee!

My 'point of view', because I'm not 'an individual', but a worker-communist, is a product of my socially-stimulated curiosity and reading of the works of others, and so is a social product, not simply 'my point of view'. I openly ask for questions, in an attempt to build our understanding of science and nature. I wish to criticise and clarify, with the help of comrades.

jaycee wrote:
Do you think it is ever possible to have 'objective' knowledge or do you think there is always a gap between knowledge and the 'thing' itself?

By 'objective', do you mean 'knowledge' that is a 'reflection' of the 'object'? If so, then 'no', I do not. I think that all human knowledge is socially-produced, and so there must always be, as you put it, a 'gap' between 'knowledge' and 'object' (or, as you term it, "the 'thing' itself").

Having said that, I think there is such a thing as 'socially-objective' knowledge. Some 'knowledge' is closer to the 'truth' than other, and I think that this applies to classes, of which our society is constructed. That is, I think 'knowledge' constructed by the class conscious proletariat is more 'objective' than that constructed by the bourgeoisie.

But 'socially-objective knowledge' is not a copy of 'the thing itself'. 'Knowledge' will always remain a social construction by humans.

At bottom, this is a democratic theory of knowledge. Humans must determine their 'truths'. The 'scientific method' must be a democratic method. Otherwise, their will always be a separation between 'those who know what nature says' and the rest of us.

jaycee wrote:
how do you see this as relating to alienation?

I've never considered this aspect, because I think I need to clarify 'what is science' first, and I can only do that with help. On the whole, on this site and others, this clarification has not been forthcoming, because it seems most 'communists' are in thrall to Engels, rather than Marx.

I should add that I regard 'alienation' as a social condition, not an individual one, in case you think otherwise, and we discuss at cross-purposes.

Redacted
Re: Marxism & Sub-Atomic Physics
LBird
Proletarian ponies and their trap

Jamal wrote:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Progress_trap

Jamals link wrote:
According to O'Leary, avoiding the progress trap pattern can be achieved by ensuring, through education and cultural vitality, that individuals and societies do not become preeminently technocratic. Citing research into creativity and resiliency theory, he argues that the intuitive, divergent side of the mind/brain must thrive, so that lateral thinking will be an option for seeing and preventing progress traps. Spelling this out in scientific terms may be necessary for policymakers to take notice.

I've never heard of this 'progress trap', Jamal, but if 'education, cultural vitality, creativity and thriving intuitive minds' are part of its 'avoidance', that sounds just like Communism to me!

Redacted
The term was supposedly

The term was supposedly introduced by the Canadian historian mentioned in the link I provided, but you hit the nail on the head LBird.

Problem is we live in a capitalist society with a global working class in almost total defeat, and I got to be honest, these "let's go to space" and particle physics discussions are beginning to seem way out of place to me. Can anyone give one direct link explaining the utility of Moon rockets and particle colliders to the working class today given it's condition?

What is a progress trap, as definied by us communists, and how does it relate to the conception of decadence and decompostion?

LBird
Charlie 'Mr. Blue Sky' Marx

Jamal wrote:
… I got to be honest, these "let's go to space" and particle physics discussions are beginning to seem way out of place to me.

Well, I entered this thread to discuss what I regard as an even deeper question than ‘particle physics’. That is, whether ‘quantum mechanics’ produces ‘The Truth About Nature’ (as perhaps Baboon was suggesting, with the phrase ‘the very nature of the phenomenon’), or whether ‘quantum mechanics’ produces ‘Human Knowledge About Nature’ (as I am suggesting, a ‘knowledge’ that has a social component and is not simply a mere ‘reflection’ of ‘natural phenomena’, which many ‘scientists’ and ‘physicists’ still erroneously suggest that they produce, armed with a supposedly ‘socially-neutral’ scientific method).

At its most fundamental level, this debate has political consequences for the proletariat, as I’ve suggested on other threads, so I don’t consider these discussions to be ‘out of place’ at all, for Communists.

Jamal wrote:
Can anyone give one direct link explaining the utility of Moon rockets and particle colliders to the working class today given it's condition?

Given what we’ve already agreed about human thinking (“'education, cultural vitality, creativity and thriving intuitive minds'”), I don’t think any ‘direct link’ whatsoever has to be provided for the purpose of human creative curiosity. To me, the purpose of Communism would be ‘blue sky’ thinking! This would apply to science, too, which I think is important to stress, since those like me who espouse a non-positivist version of science are often accused of being ‘anti-scientific’, or even encouraging ‘religious superstition’!

Science is a creative human social activity producing fallible human knowledge; science is not a neutral, socially-passive method employed by special individuals which produces objective knowledge of the very nature of phenomena (a mirror image).

Jamal wrote:
What is a progress trap, as definied by us communists, and how does it relate to the conception of decadence and decompostion?

I’ll have to leave this question for others to answer, Jamal, because I’m not sure I even accept the concepts ‘progress trap’ or, indeed, ‘decadence and decomposition’.

Fred
Jamal wrote: Problem is we

Jamal wrote:
 Problem is we live in a capitalist society with a global working class in almost total defeat, and I got to be honest, these "let's go to space" and particle physics discussions are beginning to seem way out of place to me. Can anyone give one direct link explaining the utility of Moon rockets and particle colliders to the working class today given it's condition?
 

I want to support what Jamal says here.  Oh yes I know Marx and Engels were interested in science and the working class should follow suit, and after we've won  the revolution doubtless we will.  But at the moment, given the current condition of the working class...well if we don't wake up  soon they'll be no future and no green planet left and no need for science at all. 

And I realize the same might be said about posts like  "War Songs"  what's the point?  Though MH did try to give it a Marxist relevance.  Perhaps that's what's missing in the physics threads? 

LBird
A revolution includes a revolution in science

Fred wrote:
Oh yes I know Marx and Engels were interested in science and the working class should follow suit, and after we've won the revolution doubtless we will. But at the moment, given the current condition of the working class...well if we don't wake up soon they'll be no future and no green planet left and no need for science at all.

There won't be any "after the revolution", Fred, unless the proletariat is able to take control of 'science' beforehand.

'Science' is a political issue, and whilst there are any human 'powers' outside of the control of the proletariat (parties, priests, physicists, etc.), the proletariat will remain powerless.

'Science' has the incontrovertible status of the 'Market' within bourgeois ideology. Both must be subject to our democratic wishes.

LoneLondoner
Science after the revolution?

LBird wrote:

There won't be any "after the revolution", Fred, unless the proletariat is able to take control of 'science' beforehand.

I won't go into LBird's views on science (unless comrades absolutely insist) because they have already been done to death in other threads and IMHO are more to do with schematism and muddled thinking than marxism.

However, the sentence quoted above raises another issue which is more strictly "political".

Unlike the bourgeoisie, the proletariat cannot gradually take over the control of the productive forces within capitalist society before seizing political power (this was a vision of the cooperative movement which has long since been shown by history to be wrong). Its transformation of society, and especially of the control and orientation of the productive powers of humanity, can only begin after the seizure of political power - hence the need for what marxists have called a "period of transition".

If we consider science as a productive force (and this seems to me correct), then clearly it is impossible for the "proletariat to take control of 'science' beforehand".

LBird
Transition period, again - before or after the revolution?

LoneLondoner wrote:
However, the sentence quoted above raises another issue which is more strictly "political".

Unlike the bourgeoisie, the proletariat cannot gradually take over the control of the productive forces within capitalist society before seizing political power (this was a vision of the cooperative movement which has long since been shown by history to be wrong). Its transformation of society, and especially of the control and orientation of the productive powers of humanity, can only begin after the seizure of political power - hence the need for what marxists have called a "period of transition". If we consider science as a productive force (and this seems to me correct), then clearly it is impossible for the "proletariat to take control of 'science' beforehand".

My apologies to LL if the above quote is incorrect, because I had to reconstruct it from his post, which seems to have been screwed up by a computer somewhere.

LL's perspective on the possibilities for 'proletarian science' is actually a sub-problem based upon his deeper belief in a post-revolutionary 'transition period', to which I do not subscribe.

This is, on both sides, an ideological belief, so our discussion about science must be seen in that light.

Regarding science, we're already on the road to undermining 'bourgeois' science (the belief in 'raw data', objective accounts of nature which produce The Truth which will be eternal, the undemocratic control of science by elite scientists, etc.). Bourgeois philosophers have already begun this process, which is obvious to anyone who reads Popper, Kuhn, Feyerabend or Lakatos (never mind Marx!), and this can open the door for proletarians, class conscious workers and Communists, to continue to criticise 'science'. The building of a counter-culture in science, a Communist-influenced one, can start at anytime. It doesn't need a revolution to take place before it starts; indeed, there are always subversive ideas which come to the surface well before any strong political movement.

Furthermore, the actual experience of scientists of the workings of modern science (its domination by military research, its ignoring of environmental problems, the low pay for science workers, the 'free labour' provided by PhD students to teach undergraduates, the need to pay to read scientific papers, the hiding of research findings under 'commercial-in-confidence' covers, etc.) can offer a 'way-in' for Communist arguments amongst the science community itself. This could lead to scientists actually being at the forefront of arguments for Communism, and our funding of blue-sky research, free education from pre-school to post-PhD research, open publication of all science research papers, etc.

To me, the belief that all this has to await a successful political action is misguided. The shoots of Communism will appear and bloom long before the 'glorious day'. In fact, these ideological factors will play a great part in laying the ground for mass awareness of the need for Communism, and I include scientists in that mass consciousness.

The alternative, to me, seems to be a 'knowing elite' who will lead the unaware masses to the promised land. I'm not a Leninist, so I don't believe this is possible. It will be very clear to all which direction society is heading (Communism or destruction), and the bourgeoisie will become weaker and weaker, starting with their hold over ideas, including scientific ones.

If they remain strong enough to maintain an ideological stranglehold over us, in all spheres of knowledge and culture, then we can't win. A revolution in science will be a part of a wider mass movement.

LoneLondoner
Address the argument, please...

LBird wrote:

LL's perspective on the possibilities for 'proletarian science' is actually a sub-problem based upon his deeper belief in a post-revolutionary 'transition period', to which I do not subscribe.

I have now cleaned up my post so LBird can follow the link to the pamphlet on the Period of transition. I suggest that you address the arguments in this before making catch-all statements like the one above.

LBird wrote:

This could lead to scientists actually being at the forefront of arguments for Communism, and our funding of blue-sky research, free education from pre-school to post-PhD research, open publication of all science research papers, etc.

So "we" are going to fund blue-sky research before the revolution? What exactly is meant here? The working class as a whole is going to fund the €40 billion to build the LHC? And where is the working class organisation that is going to do this? This is either meaningless, or else it is reformism (I'm just old enough to remember Harold Wilson's "white heat of technology" ha ha). Free education? In capitalism??

mhou
Quote:The term was supposedly

Quote:
The term was supposedly introduced by the Canadian historian mentioned in the link I provided, but you hit the nail on the head LBird.

 It sounds like the general idea of the 'progress trap' is the frustrating potential of people next to the impossible demand of putting it to use for anything except value creation (and an indirect comparison of people determined by history to the 'social individual in the human community' of communism).

Capital's best and brightest come up with the same solution to every ecological disaster: bury it, cover it or sink it with concrete (Chernobyl), seawater (Fukushima) and day laborers (BP oil spill, probably every eco disaster). As utopian as it seems, 'infinite human activity' in place of production/science/art after the abolition of everything as a means to explain communism sounds a lot better than all the scientific reasoning we hear today for throwing people, rocks and water at every natural or man made catastrophe. We won't need LHC's or Dnieper Hydroelectric Dams if people will probably do great things if they can eat for free.

 

LBird
Why do I bother?

LoneLondoner wrote:

LBird wrote:

This could lead to scientists actually being at the forefront of arguments for Communism, and our funding of blue-sky research, free education from pre-school to post-PhD research, open publication of all science research papers, etc.

So "we" are going to fund blue-sky research before the revolution? What exactly is meant here? The working class as a whole is going to fund the €40 billion to build the LHC? And where is the working class organisation that is going to do this? This is either meaningless, or else it is reformism (I'm just old enough to remember Harold Wilson's "white heat of technology" ha ha). Free education? In capitalism??

Do you really set out to deliberately 'mistranslate' what I say, LL? It seems to me that this happens every time I post.

Can't you really see that 'being at the forefront of arguments' means arguing for 'blue-sky research, etc.' when we Communist talk to younger scientists, in a ongoing attempt to persuade scientists that any future that they want to see ('blue-sky research, etc.') can only be met by Communism.

My despair at having to constantly reiterate rather simple points (that is, we should try to persuade scientists that their future dreams are the same as ours, and can only be realised by us all together organising) in the face of silly 'mistranslations' is getting me down.

Do you really think that I'm arguing that the proletariat should build a £10bn LHC of their own?

If you can't 'talk' to me, a Communist of some sort, even if not identical, what chance do you have of engaging with workers who are unsure and will make all sorts of really silly claims (based upon their brainwashing by the bourgeoisie). Your real trouble seems to be you won't read what's written, but insist on 'interpreting' posts. If you can't understand my points (and it's entirely possible I'm being unclear), why not just ask for clarification?

I don't mind being criticised, but it has to be for what I write, not what someone else concocts.

Put simply, our 'dream' of Communism has to include elements that attract all sections of present society who are becoming disenchanted with capitalism, and this potentially includes scientists.

LBird
Some reflections

LBird wrote:

LoneLondoner wrote:

LBird wrote:

This could lead to scientists actually being at the forefront of arguments for Communism, and our funding of blue-sky research, free education from pre-school to post-PhD research, open publication of all science research papers, etc.

So "we" are going to fund blue-sky research before the revolution? What exactly is meant here? The working class as a whole is going to fund the €40 billion to build the LHC? And where is the working class organisation that is going to do this? This is either meaningless, or else it is reformism (I'm just old enough to remember Harold Wilson's "white heat of technology" ha ha). Free education? In capitalism??

Do you really set out to deliberately 'mistranslate' what I say, LL? It seems to me that this happens every time I post.

....

Do you really think that I'm arguing that the proletariat should build a £10bn LHC of their own?

....

Put simply, our 'dream' of Communism has to include elements that attract all sections of present society who are becoming disenchanted with capitalism, and this potentially includes scientists.

This 'misreading', of what I wrote earlier, by LoneLondoner has been playing on my mind, because it's not the first time that this has happened, by LL and others.

As I do not think that LL or others are wilfully 'misreading', I've been trying to think of a reason 'why' this should keep happening.

The only reason I can think of at the moment, is that LL and others are using a 'materialist' philosophical viewpoint that 'ideas' can only come from 'material' reality, and so if anyone argues that 'ideas' are present (or possible in the future), they must have a material basis now (or then).

This would make sense of LL's misreading that, when I argue that Communists should use ideas of the need for blue-sky research, etc. to attract working scientists, that I must mean that that 'blue-sky research' must be in being before the idea of it can be possible.

This is the only way I can make sense of LL's allegation that I'm suggesting that the proletariat should build a LHC to attract scientists to work there (and so, presumably, attract them to our 'ideas', because those 'ideas' have already been made 'material').

If this hypothesis of mine is correct, and this is how LL and others think, it would make sense to me of all of their past interventions.

But, it would also make very clear how far we are separated by this 'materialist' philosophy. I've argued often enough that I think that this is 'Engelsism', and not the 'materialist conception of history' of Marx, who clearly saw the need for both ideas and their testing against a material reality: that is, 'theory and practice', as is shown in his Theses on Feuerbach.

To me, Marxism requires 'ideas' as much as 'material', as their interaction is the basis of human knowledge, and so I think that we can appeal to scientists about what we, as Communists, can provide in the future, which can also fulfil their 'needs and wants' as scientists. Indeed, I'd argue that only Communism can satisfy these human needs and wants. I don't think that providing inspirational ideas, to attract people to Communism, is 'idealism'.

This is all a million miles from building a LHC in the back garden, like Maoists and their backyard furnaces during the Great Leap Forward!

LoneLondoner
No need to get complicated...

Here is what LBird wrote:

LBird wrote:

This could lead to scientists actually being at the forefront of arguments for Communism, and our funding of blue-sky research, free education from pre-school to post-PhD research, open publication of all science research papers, etc

(my bold)

I confess that when I read "funding" I assume money, and when I read "free" in this context it seems that it can only be in contrast to "paid". In both cases we are talking about money. Since - like any other marxist - I understand communist society as being without money, then the logical conclusion is that LBird is talking about a society with money, ie capitalism. Hence the misunderstanding.

I strongly agree with LBird that the perspective of a communist society ought to be an inspiration to scientists (indeed if I remember rightly there was a speech by Trotsky on exactly that theme just after the revolution, though I have not been able to find it). But then LBird spoils his case with more muddled language:

LBird wrote:

I think that we can appeal to scientists about what we, as Communists, can provide in the future, which can also fulfil their 'needs and wants' as scientists.

Assuming that there is a victorious revolution in the future, it is not "we communists" who will provide anything, but the whole of a revolutionised, communist, society. But if LBird rejects the idea of a transitional period (on what grounds?) then if I may say so, it is unsurprising that his thinking about the post-revolutionary future is muddled.

Demogorgon
One would hope that the

One would hope that the distinction between scientists and non-scientists would diminish in a communist society in any case.

LBird
Reply

LoneLondoner wrote:

Here is what LBird wrote:

LBird wrote:

This could lead to scientists actually being at the forefront of arguments for Communism, and our funding of blue-sky research, free education from pre-school to post-PhD research, open publication of all science research papers, etc

(my bold)

I confess that when I read "funding" I assume money, and when I read "free" in this context it seems that it can only be in contrast to "paid". In both cases we are talking about money. Since - like any other marxist - I understand communist society as being without money, then the logical conclusion is that LBird is talking about a society with money, ie capitalism. Hence the misunderstanding.

This is what I see as almost deliberate nitpicking, and missing the real point of what I'm posting. I've constantly (for over a year?) said I'm a Communist, and regard that as the end of money. In this context, ie. discussing gaining backing for our ideas from currently bourgeois scientists, the use of 'free' and 'funding' is to emphasise that we (ie. our Communist society, in the future, not now, it doesn't exist) would provide these things to everybody at no charge (ie, 'free' at the point of use).

LL wrote:

I strongly agree with LBird that the perspective of a communist society ought to be an inspiration to scientists (indeed if I remember rightly there was a speech by Trotsky on exactly that theme just after the revolution, though I have not been able to find it). But then LBird spoils his case with more muddled language:

LBird wrote:

I think that we can appeal to scientists about what we, as Communists, can provide in the future, which can also fulfil their 'needs and wants' as scientists.

Assuming that there is a victorious revolution in the future, it is not "we communists" who will provide anything, but the whole of a revolutionised, communist, society. But if LBird rejects the idea of a transitional period (on what grounds?) then if I may say so, it is unsurprising that his thinking about the post-revolutionary future is muddled.

Once again, ironically, if anybody draws a distinction between 'we Communists' and 'the whole of a revolutionised society', then it is those who support a 'transition period'! I don't, I believe that the majority for that society can only come about prior to the revolution, so when I say 'we communists' in relation to future society, it's obvious I mean 'whole society'.

The mixing up of the issue of 'transitional society', with my arguments for propaganda and ideological arguments aimed at bourgeois scientists who are becoming dissatisfied with their own present experiences of 'science', in an attempt to garner their support for Communism, is just ignoring what I write (which can be criticised), and substituting other issues, which just muddies the waters.

LBird
Science for all

Demogorgon wrote:

One would hope that the distinction between scientists and non-scientists would diminish in a communist society in any case.

Well, since I always argue for 'free' science education for all, from preschool to post-PhD research, clearly I'm in favour of the breaking down of that distinction.

'Science' will hopefully just become another social activity, that anyone can choose to engage in, under Communism. No elites, no special access to education, no hidden research papers, no dodgy research into new methods to destroy humans, just democratic controls.

The distinction between 'scientists' and 'non-scientists' would become like the present one between 'DIY-ers' and 'non-DIYers': personal preference, rather than remain an aspect of wider power relationships in a divided society.

I can't see how this 'idea' wouldn't be attractive to scientists, now. Especially as science becomes ever more difficult for scientists to do, under capitalism.

A.Simpleton
Red Sky Thinking

I thought I would attempt a novel use of quotes to consolidate what is agreed () which then in turn may help to define and delineate the issues still in contention, in need of clarification.

mhou wrote:

'infinite human activity' in place of production/science/art after the abolition of everything as a means to explain communism sounds a lot better than all the scientific reasoning we hear today for throwing people, rocks and water at every natural or man made catastrophe.

which both puts self satisfied bourgeois 'scientific reasoning' in its place i.e. not at all rational despite the arbitrary addition of the adjective 'scientific' and broadly aligns with:

LBird wrote:

 the actual experience of scientists of the workings of modern science (its domination by military research, its ignoring of environmental problems..............) can offer a 'way-in' for Communist arguments amongst the science community itself.

LL's strong agreement that the perspective of communist society ought to be an inspiration to scientists similarly. Demogorgon adds a key point: that the communist perspective lifts the crippling restriction on humanity that bourgeois distinctions between all false categories imposes through the division of labour. Of especial relevance here is the division between mental and physical labour of which Marx traced the history, workings and results. The unscrutinised (until he did) and, in the final analysis, unfounded elevation of mental labour to a position of power and precedence both in actual life and in the mind.

An 'expert' geologist is brought into the studio to 'explain' the earthquake in Haiti: well I want to hear from the expert builder who would have no difficulty explaining exactly why all the buildings fell down in Port au Prince killing hundreds of thousands of workers.

So far so good. 

With regard to the period of transition: it's not something arbitrarily prescribed by Marx (or indeed the ICC).  The ICC's article cited above is of substance: it addresses precisely how the other classes stand, relate or not or maybe, to the most monument upheaval ever which is the proletarian revolution. Given the multitude of unevenesses in the global capitalist world and the equally multitudinous forms of resistance that now and will surely confront the proletariat, obviously any inclination, tendency, growing awareness -Marx-consciousness - in other classes could be an immense factor. But we all agree- and LBird resolutely so - that only the proletariat can be the carriers of the revolution because they have nothing to lose, no vested interest either materially or ideologically,are not the victims of any particular injustice but of injustice in general.

You'd have to reformulate for me the idea of a transitional period before: it seems to contradict Marx's radical core : that the abolition of the present state of affairs and the emegence of a new humanity is only on the cards even because the proletariat is the unique oppressed class, which cannot build that new humanity within the 'old society': because the capitalist mode has severed all connection with real human worth. 

AS

(I'll come back to baboons sub-atomic thrust on the quantum level with something on String Theory)

 

 

 

 

mhou
Quote:But we all agree- and

Quote:
But we all agree- and LBird resolutely so - that only the proletariat can be the carriers of the revolution because they have nothing to lose, no vested interest either materially or ideologically,are not the victims of any particular injustice but of injustice in general.

Framing it this way has the benefit of getting to whether human potential and creativity are valid in an alienated society- do we trust or believe that any specific or general thought connected to any established framework existing in the past, now, or until the abolition of capital should survive after the mass chorus erupts ("I have no reserves and no future") and things start moving?

 inclined to agree with Lbird's

Quote:
Whilst we bow down to 'physics' and 'scientists', comrades, we remain under their control. It is at root a question of politics, not physics.

but doubt Lbird would agree that the social experimentation after October suggests an enthusiasm to reinvent the wheel as the old society is progressively swept away - a tendency toward the abolition of science as a 'thing' in rapid consequence of a victorious proletarian revolution.

*Should the theories, devices, systems described by baboon and the LHC and Dnieper dam and every other seeming triumph of human ingenuity and creativity existing today be viewed with the same horror as shadows burned onto the sidewalks in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945- what good can Oppenheimer do as Oppenheimer for communism?

Fred
Somebody said: Quote:

Somebody said: 

Quote:
...only the proletariat can be the carriers of the revolution because they have nothing to lose, no vested interest either materially or ideologically, are not the victims of any particular injustice but of injustice in general.
  And  mhou talks about "the mass chorus" saying "I have no reserves and no future." And LBird said: "While we bow down to 'physics' and 'scientists' comrades, we remain under their control.  It is at root a question of politics, not physics."  Something is is missing here.  It's called class consciousness.  The proletariat are the bearers of the revolution not just because they have nothing to lose - serfs and slaves  had nothing to lose too - but because we are a class capable of developing a consciousness of the way things are now and changing it. We are capable of solidarity.  So the "mass chorus" needs to amend its chant to include  this.  As in:  "I have no reserves and no future unless we the mass of workers get our political act together."  As to bowing down to science experts - we may bow down to them or not,  because we are not actually under their control at all, and "bowing down" doesn't make us so;  just illustrates our foolishness. What controls us and the scientific community is the  the fierce repression and tight control of the bourgeoisie's dictatorship. This is the actual political and economic  root of our enslavement: the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie.   To suppose our liberation will come from some new, improved relationship we develop with regard to science and its current practitioners,  is to see the revolution as being the product of a particular and  very partial and compartmentalized  struggle ie. the struggle to democratize science.  This is a trap like all partial struggles, and will lead us nowhere.   
LBird
Life is the only compartment

I'm not sure what point you're making here, Fred.

I don't think anyone wants any forms of 'compartmentalised struggle'. In fact, I think 'class consciousness' involves precisely the opposite: that is, the 'widening of struggle' to all areas of society, including (but not exclusive to) 'science' and 'ideology'.

It's just that on a thread about physics, these specific areas will tend to predominate in the discussion.

But if you want to reduce the 'struggle' to only a 'political and economic root', I think that that's a mistake.

On the other hand, if you are trying to stress the interaction of economics, politics, ideology and science (and other factors, too, like morals and art), then I'm all for that!

Fred
nice smiley

I'm not sure what point you're  making either LBird. Nobody wants compartmentalized struggle but you appear to insist on it with regard to science. In a thread on physics this mistaken idea still has no justification for being pushed forward.  Neither was I trying covertly to express the interaction of everything with everything else, which of course I take for granted. But that fundamentally, enfin, in the end etc., the struggle is economic and political - with the emphasis increasingly on the latter as consciousness grows and spreads - or it is nothing. 

The only thing I really agree with is your smiley. 

LBird
Ahh..

Fred wrote:
But that fundamentally, enfin, in the end etc., the struggle is economic and political - with the emphasis increasingly on the latter as consciousness grows and spreads - or it is nothing.

Ahh, there we have it, yet again.

The contradiction that, on the one hand, it is claimed that 'everything is interconnected', and, on the other, that 'everything is fundamentally economic and political'.

I've tried many times, without success, to point out that these are contradictory beliefs, and that the belief (and it is that) that 'economics is fundamental' (or, its expression in 'science-talk', that 'the material is fundamental') has its roots in Engels, and not Marx.

Put simply, ideas are as 'fundamental' as material reality. Both, according to Marx, are required by humans in their social practice.

It's a shame that A.Simpleton's valiant efforts to stress 'similarities' between posters has lasted such a short time.

But... this issue really is a point of separation between 'followers' of Engels, and those of Marx.

The stance taken on this philosophical issue will, of course, have ramifications for our discussion about 'physics' and 'particles'.

That is, are we about to discuss 'particles' in themselves or 'our knowledge of' those particles.

Those who wish to discuss 'particles in themselves' (or, 'material reality as it is') must show first how they get knowledge of those external things.

That was beyond the abilities of the human race in the 19th century, as Einstein's ideas have shown.

Here, once again, is the quote from the book by an active physicist, recommended by the ICC:

Rovelli, The First Scientist: Anaximander and his Legacy, wrote:

This reading of scientific thinking as subversive, visionary, and evolutionary is quite different from the way science was understood by the positivist philosophers… (p. xii)

Facile nineteenth-century certainties about science— in particular the glorification of science understood as definitive knowledge of the world—have collapsed. One of the forces responsible for their dismissal has been the twentieth-century revolution in physics, which led to the discovery that Newtonian physics, despite its immense effectiveness, is actually wrong, in a precise sense. Much of the subsequent philosophy of science can be read as an attempt to come to grips with this disillusionment. What is scientific knowledge if it can be wrong even when it is extremely effective? (p. xv)

But answers given by natural science are not credible because they are definitive; they are credible because they are the best we have now, at a given moment in the history of knowledge. (p. xvi)