Casting Shade on Bohr

The semi-famous philosopher Tim Maudlin takes on a couple of books in a review entitled
The Defeat of Reason.  One of the books, What Is Real?: The Unfinished Quest for the Meaning of Quantum Physics by Adam Becker, is concerned with Bohr and the Copenhagen interpretation of Quantum Mechanics, and I won't discuss the other one.  I first heard of the book, the review, and an apparent comment on the review by linguist and evolutionary psychologist Steven Pinker via a critique by Lubos Motl.  Lumo's review, as usual, was long on invective but short on fact and logic, but it did pique my interest.

If I recall correctly, I once wrote a post entitled "Tim Maudlin is an Idiot", so I'm not a member of his fan club.  He is, however, a philosopher who knows a lot about quantum mechanics and history, so my dismissal was perhaps a bit harsh.  That said, I am not impressed by his review, and, based on that review, unimpressed by the book.

The basic argument appears to be that Niels Bohr and colleagues sold physics on an illogical and anti-rational interpretation of quantum mechanics whichs obscures the fact that quantum mechanics is fundamentally incomplete.  With Bohr as villain, the heroes are Einstein, David Bohm, and John Stewart Bell, with the heroes having been persecuted and driven into obscurity by the prevailing propaganda.

Of course it's true that Bohm was persecuted, but that was for leftist/Communist politics, not physics.  Fundamentally, though, I find Becker's story to be nonsense.  Becker and/or Maudlin have mustered a few quotes that they think promote their case:
Einstein on Copenhagen:  “The theory reminds me a little of the system of delusions of an exceedingly intelligent paranoiac.”
Robert Oppenheimer is reported to have said, “If we cannot disprove Bohm, then we must agree to ignore him.”
According to Rudolf Peierls, Bohr would often say, “truth and clarity are complementary.” This sentiment is the death of Enlightenment rationality. 
When the Copenhagen interpretation got imported to the pragmatic soil of the United States, Bohr’s incomprehensible nonsense was replaced by the more concise “shut up and calculate.”
Philosophers might profit by developing an understanding of irony.

Many physicists have pondered the various mysterious aspects of quantum mechanics, and been bothered by it, but physicists aren't like philosophers, willing to debate the same pseudo puzzles for millennia.  As long as the world has mysteries to explore, we need to get on with it. That was Bohr's answer to Einstein and Oppenheimer and Feynman's answer to physicists generally.

Many smart guys have attempted to go beyond Copenhagen, and perhaps some have made progress, but for most we are faced with Feynman's "Quantum mechanics is not only stranger than you imagine, it's stranger than you can imagine."  Those who wander off to ponder its terra incognita are seldom heard from again.


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