3quarksdaily: Who knows What

3quarksdaily links today to a two year old article by Massimo Pigliucci objecting to a 1998 book by E.O.Wilson.

But anyone who could say “Epistemic reductionism is obviously false”, at least on the basis of only the feeble grounds provided by Pigliucci, apparently doesn’t understand what such reductionism should reasonably be expected to claim.

The simplest model that shows his error is perhaps the reduction of thermodynamics to statistical mechanics wherein our inability to keep track of all the 10^26 odd microvariables (representing positions and momenta of all the particles in a sample of material) is overcome by identifying suitable combinations of them as macrovariables (such as volume, temperature, pressure etc) with the rules or axioms of the macrotheory being “explained” as theorems of the microtheory. We don’t yet have a satisfactory quantum theory of gravity but there is no known logical obstruction to finding one, and if we do then one of the constraints on it will be that its classical limit *does* provide a “quantum theory of planets”.

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