Woo physics

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Victor Stenger's 2009 Quantum Gods, discusses how newagers devote considerable time to making "woo woo" using a mixture of physics and quantum mechanics to invent new age "gods", or sell self-help stylized spirituality, reformulated in a semi-scientific sounding guise or dress.[1]

In hmolscience, woo physics, aka “quantum flapdoodle” (Gell-Mann, 1994)[2], “woo woo physics” (Shermer, 2010)[3], “quantum physics woo” (Moriarty, 2013), or "woo salad", among other varieties, refers to mis-presented or misaligned physics, typically of the new age or metaphysics variety, oft-framed upon ontic openings, typically themed in a covert Sokal affair manner, which makes the lay-pubic go “woo”, like they are at a magic show, but is in actuality a brand of physics that is classified by clear-minded scientists as “objectionable nonsense” (Einstein, 1932)

Overview

In the 1990s, the skeptic derogatory term “woo” or “woo-woo” began to be employed as labels of vacuous new age theories.[4]

In the 2000s, James Randi, atheist, magician, and skeptic, began to use the term "woo woo" to denote paranormal, supernatural and occult claims, e.g. in respect to Uri Geller's spoon-bending and “psychic” antics.[5] An obituary (2020), characterized Randi as a "woo-woo catcher".[6]

In 2004, the documentary What the Bleep Do We Know!? was released, framed around the quantum consciousness ideas of Fred Wolf, which generated $16M in box office review, wherein an attempt was made to make a spiritual connection between quantum physics and consciousness.[7] This worked to popularize what was previously an underground "new age" philosophy, mostly confined to the new age section of small book stores, to the mass culture. Michael Shermer (2005) classified the documentary as "quantum quackery".[8] The term "woo" in respect to quantum physics conjectures, as regards spirituality and god, stem, in large part, from this film release.

In 2010, Michael Shermer, a skeptic and associate of Randi, famously defined "woo woo", in respect to Deepak Chopra's quantum spirituality and god infinity mathematics, to a round of audience applause and laughter, as follows:

“You asked: ‘what I meant by woo woo’?’. That [speech by Chopra] is the very embodiment of ‘woo woo’! He said, stringing together, at a rapid patter, of a bunch of scientific sounding words, e.g. ‘non local’, ‘quantum effects’, etc., sprinkled in with some spiritual new age words, doesn’t mean anything.”
— Michael Shermer (2010), response to Deepak Chopra's speech [9]

In 2013, Philip Moriarty, in his “Quantum Physics Woo” video, refers to American geneticist Robert Lanza’s 2007 theory of biocentrism, which is classified by fellow newager Deepak Chopra as “original and existing” (Ѻ), which argues that quantum physics proves that afterlife exists, as “quantum physics woo”.[10]

Woo salad

An example of "woo woo word salad", at least according to some[11], in respect to Karl Heinzen's 1846 atheist views on life and non-life, and how "nothing is dead" (see: abioism), in a universe that is a materially-powered chemically-transforming laboratory. A “Nyarly god” is shown adding some “chaos” to the mixture, using 100% pure “Entropy Extract”, brewed at the "center of the universe".[12]

In c.2012, Sam Harris, in his atheism debates, began to popularize he term “word salad”, in respect to those who mix a bunch of scientific words together, in a sentence, to make a god argument. A typical flavor of Chopra word salad can be found using the Random Chopra Quote Generator.[13]

In the late 2010s, the terms “woo salad” and “woo woo salad”, a play on Harris “word salad” and Shermer-Randi “woo woo” term, were being used online. To exemplify, Thims posted up a long-but-intelligent quote by Karl Heinzen, which borders on abioism:

“The mind is nothing but the result of an organic combination of physical powers. The universe is, as it were, a chemical, magnetical, electrical, etc., laboratory, in which, the material powers (also called vital powers) consummate their unceasing changes and transformations. Where one formation ceases [final state], another begins [initial state]. Even the corpse of man lives; but this is no longer human life, it is only the life of ‘anorganic’ nature [see: inorganic life], to which the human form, after its dissolution, returns, and out of which ‘organic’ nature reproduces itself. There is nothing dead in the world, and dying implies only a retransformation to the material of common life.”
Karl Heinzen (1846), Six Letters to a Pious Man (pgs. 13-15)

Two users characterized this as woo salad:

“It doesn't really ‘just’ anything, the quote was chosen and appreciated by [Thims] because it is in the same vain as all of EoHT in that it's overly convoluted and bombastic bordering on woowoo word salad of fairly simple concepts with redefinitions and expanding. Heinzen was a poet as well as a philosopher so that can excuse or explain it for this quote but Thims just does it to sound deep and smart.”
— Loyal-North-Korean (2020), Comment on Hmolpedia hyper-linked Karl Heinzen 1846 quote, Reddit Atheism, Jan [11]
“While I agree that god does not exist, this is a really roundabout way to get there and the whole thing drifts off into woo salad with that bit about 'there is nothing dead in the world’.”
— Divide-by Zero (2020), Comment on Hmolpedia hyper-linked Karl Heinzen 1846 quote, Reddit Atheism, Jan [11]

Here, we see confused reactions to the Heinzen quote, namely that the not only is the Heinzen quote "woo salad", but Hmolpedia is "overly convoluted and bombastic bordering on woo woo word salad" done so to "sound deep and smart". This highlights ignorance par excellence. Heinzen and Thims are atheists. Life and death are theistic concepts. Hence, a science based atheist who attempt to defend and define "life" and "death" in the language of "exact science", the science of chemical thermodynamics being at the base of this, produces what Lotkean Jabberwocky (1925)[14]. It is open atheistic thinkers like Heinzen and Thims, who are going to great lengths, in precise language and argument, to combat Jabberwock and life-based word salad, not the other way around, nor doing so to "sound deep and smart". It is a simple matter of fact that the hydrogen atom is NOT alive, and that grand confusion abounds between what properties people believe they "have" and what properties they also believe that hydrogen has, most of which are incongruent, to the point of producing absurdities and objectionable nonsense.

Non-woo | Science

A chemical reaction overlay depiction of Goethe's Elective Affinities, wherein each person is an "metamorphosized" (evolved) chemical, whose relationships (reactions and bonds) to others is determined by the force of chemical affinity.

Not all extrapolations of physics, chemistry, and thermodynamics up to the social sphere of operation, to note, is "woo". There is a big difference, e.g. between Deepak Chopra's quantum spirituality and Johann Goethe's human chemical theory, both of which touch on god, spirituality, and soul. The ability to discern woo from non-woo, in respect to distinguishing a Goethe and a Heinzen from a Chopra and a Wolf, correlates to the level of one's education in the physico-chemical sciences, first and foremost, and general philosophy, secondly.

Goethe, in his Elective Affinities (1809), pictured adjacent, to explain, argued cogently, that the nature's of our interpersonal relationships, love, and friendship formations and bonds, is something that is determined by the forces of the chemical affinities A, which in modern terms are defined by the Gibbs energies G of the reaction system:

Now, there is nothing "woo" about this. All of this is basic chemical thermodynamics, as proved by Helmholtz (1882). The question is whether or not one believes that chemical thermodynamics and or affinity chemistry, as it was called in Goethe's day, scales up to and applies at the human social reaction level, as Goethe argued it did? If one gets a "woo" reaction, to having this view explained to them, it is but a repercussion of the fact that they are ignorant of the knowledge that thermodynamics applies throughout the universe, and that Gibbs energy, is the isothermal-isobaric thermodynamic potential, and hence the the measure of the "spontaneity" of freely-running, earth surface attached, chemical reactions, which is what social reactions are.

In 2011, Ryan Grannell[15], an Irish biochemistry student, and open atheist, to go through one example, spent a month reading up on Goethe's Elective Affinities, and Thims' human chemical thermodynamics, coming to the conclusion it was all calculus coated woo:

“Goethe’s 1799 human elective affinities model of existence is a “nutty theory”. It is all just a horrendous analogy. Chemical laws apply to humans, but our behavior is more complex than something that can be modeled with a couple of thermodynamic equations. The reaction A + B → AB is just a pretentious way of stating something we already know; it tells us absolutely nothing new. Thims’ thermodynamic coupling proof that ‘good always triumphs over evil’ is nothing but ‘calculus coated woo’, hidden behind a smokescreen of rhetorical mathematics. Also, enthalpy has nothing to do with the sexual heat of physical attraction.”
— Ryan Grannell (2011), “On Human Chemistry” [16]

Here, the issue we see, in Grannell's gripes, is the result of the fragmentation of human knowledge, in the modern education system. Specifically, to even begin to understand the basics of how Goethe's human affinity theory translates into the modern language of chemical thermodynamics, one has to become familiar with (a) education in calculus up through partial differential equations, (b) the basics of physical chemistry, and (c) the 1876 Equilibrium of Heterogeneous Substances work of Willard Gibbs, which was famously said to be only understood fully by Maxwell, but which has been rendered translatable by Lewis (1923) and Guggenheim (1933).

Hence, trying to explain the basic principles of Goethe's Elective Affinities to a modern biochemistry college student, is like trying to why the sun shines to an a two-year old infant who hasn't learned how to speak yet. This is evidenced by the fact that, historically, fewer than a dozen people (eight to be exact), between Helmholtz (1882) and Thims (2006), who have made the connection between the work of Gibbs and the work of Goethe.[17] To clarify, it was Helmholtz, who, in his "On the Thermodynamics of Chemical Processes" (1882), proved that the measure of the force of chemical affinity, which Goethe uses to explain the forces and bondings of social relationships and reactions, is measured by the system "free energy" change, formulated by Gibbs (1876). Moreover, none of this was distilled down to the level of the typical college physical chemistry professor level, until Lewis published his Thermodynamics and the Free Energy of Chemical Substances (1923). Hence, the majority of the human population, the sub-dozen handfull of independent thinkers mentioned[17] aside, are baby-like blind to the Goethe-Gibbs model of human existence.

End matter

References

  1. Stenger, Victor. (2009). Quantum Gods: Creation, Chaos, and the Search for Cosmic Consciousness (foreword: Michael Stenger). Prometheus.
  2. Quantum flapdoodle – Hmolpedia 2020.
  3. Woo woo physics – Hmolpedia 2020.
  4. Woo – RationalWiki.
  5. Woo woo (disambiguation) – Wikipedia.
  6. Anon. (2020). “The Woo-Woo Catcher: James Randi Died on Oct 20th, The magician, who had a second career as a professional debunker of flim-flam and trickery, was 92”, The Economist, Nov 12.
  7. New age – Hmolpedia 2020.
  8. Shermer, Michael. (2005). “Quantum Quackery” (abs), Scientific American, Jan.
  9. Shermer, Michael; Harris, Sam; Chopra, Deepak; Houston, Jean. (2010). “Does God Have a Future” (YT) (Ѻ) (woo woo, 14:50-15:24), Nightline Face-Off, Mar 23.
  10. (a) Lanza, Robert. (2007). “A New Theory of the Universe: Biocentrism builds and Quantum Physics by Putting Life into the Equation” (Ѻ), The American Scholar, Mar 1.
    (b) Lanza, Robert. (2009). Biocentrism: Rethinking Time, Space, Consciousness, and the Illusion of Death. Publisher, 2016.
    (c) Moriarty, Philip. (2013). “Quantum Physics Woo” (YT), Sixty Symbols, Dec 5.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 (a) Heinzen, Karl. (1846). Six Letters to a Pious Man: Introduced by an Address to Bishop Hughes (translator: American Lady) (quote, pg. 14). Publisher, 1856.
    (b) Thims, Libb. (2020). “If NO ‘god’ exists or can exist beyond mankind or the world, then …” (Ѻ), Reddit Atheism, Jan.
  12. Entropy Hot Sauce – Hmolpedia Forum.
  13. Chopra quote generator – WisdomOfChopra.com.
  14. Lotkean Jabberwocky – Hmolpedia 2020.
  15. Ryan Grannell – Hmolpedia 2020.
  16. (a) Grannell, Ryan. (2011). “Category: Human Chemistry”, Bag of Many Things, WordPress.com (Jun 26 –Jul 22).
    (b) Thims, Libb. (2011). “Thermodynamic Proof that Good Always Triumphs over Evil” (pdf), Journal of Human Thermodynamics, 7: 1-4.
  17. 17.0 17.1 Gibbs and Goethe – Hmolpedia 2020.
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