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SCIENTIFIC MODELS AND A COMPREHENSIVE PICTURE OF REALITY
This Special issue of La Nuova Critica contains papers based on the presentations given in the two-day workshop Scientific Models and a Comprehensive Picture of Reality, arranged by the Finnish Society for natural philosophy together with the physics Foundations Society on May 21-22, 2016 in Helsinki. The workshop called for philosophers, physicists, and cosmologists to bring forth novel aspects about scientific models and the challenge of making nature understandable. Contemplation about the postulates of the models, their testability, and criteria for evaluating them was encouraged in the workshop. The first day of the Workshop was dedicated to the status and philosophical foundations of theories in physics and cosmology. In his review on the status of theories of cosmology prof. Jayant narlikar stated his concerns about the high degree of hypothetical entities in standard cosmology, and the general lack of interest towards relevant alternatives. Dr. Heikki Sipilä reviewed applications of the zero-energy formulation of the conservation law of energy as a fundamental law of nature behind observed physical reality. Dr. Julian Barbour presented his ideas of the nature of time and its connection to the development of structures. Dr. Tuomo Suntola introduced the holistic Dynamic universe Model which discloses the linkage between local and the whole and describes the observable physical reality in terms of absolute time and distance. Lic. phil. Avril Styrman introduced the principle of Economy as an evaluation criterion of theories, which compares the accuracy of predictions and the magnitude of metaphysical commitments of theories, and applied it in evaluating the Standard Cosmology Model and the Dynamic universe Model. The second day of the workshop was focused more on philosophical aspects of the picture of reality – complemented with prof. Ari Lehto’s presentation on his findings of the period Doubling (or Frequency Halving) process as a universal mechanism behind the buildup of stabile structures starting from the planck dimensions – extending to elementary particles and celestial and cosmological structures. prof. Ilkka Niiniluoto focused on the concept of truthlikeness, i.e., on the distance between predictions of a theory and observations reflecting the true state of nature. prof. Atocha Aliseda contemplated logical systems and argued for a schema set of structural rules as a demarcation criterion to distinguish logical systems from those which are not. this question was then exported to physics as the following one: what counts as a cosmological system? this view allows arguing for a comprehensive picture of reality while giving space to a plurality of systems. Dr. Mikael karimäki focused on connections between fundamental physical constants as links between the three legs of physics: Quantum physics, Statistical physics, and relativistic physics. A general conclusion of the discussions in the Workshop is that both physicist and philosophers appear to accept the metaphysical bases of the present theories for granted and limit the evaluation of the theories mainly to their internal logic and the accuracy of predictions. There are two major problems with the metaphysical postulates of the present paradigmatic theories. First, theories of different branches of physics are mutually contradictory and thus cannot be unified. Second, the theories do not open up an understandable picture of reality – which should be a primary challenge of physical theories. the problems are intimately interrelated: a comprehensive and understandable world-view cannot be built on mutually contradictory foundations. it looks like empiricism and mathematics have captured the role of metaphysics. The basic assumptions of the theories are not acknowledged as metaphysical postulates but considered as “empirical facts” and mathematical necessities. Further, to save the theories from falsification, they are complemented with free parameters to match the predictions to observations. Accepting this, theories obtain the role of mathematical descriptions of observations instead of serving as real building blocks for a comprehensive picture of reality. For a real step forward, we should identify and acknowledge the metaphysical commitments implicit in the theories and extend the philosophical evaluation to the metaphysical choices and the coherence of theories – not only for each theory separately but for a unifying framework for theories covering all branches of physics.