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The Why of ThingsCausality in Science, Medicine, and Life$
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Peter Rabins

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780231164726

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231164726.001.0001

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The Physical Sciences

(p.80) 6 Empirical
The Why of Things

Peter V. Rabins

Columbia University Press

This chapter discusses three concepts, developed during the twentieth century, that have significantly influenced the current conceptualization of causality: relativity theory, quantum mechanics, and the incompleteness theorem. It also examines how a series of discoveries in the physical science of geology led to the development of plate tectonic theory and how it became widely accepted as the primary causal explanation for geologic phenomena such as continental drift. In addition, it covers three key concepts: first, there are limits to the knowledge one can gain no matter what techniques are used; second, more than one approach or vantage point is sometimes necessary to identify causal influences with as much accuracy as possible; and third, in many complex physical systems, causality results from the interaction of multiple elements rather than from the interaction of two individual events. Finally, it considers Werner Heisenberg's uncertainty principle and the wave/particle duality of light.

Keywords:   causality, relativity theory, quantum mechanics, incompleteness theorem, geology, plate tectonic theory, continental drift, knowledge, Werner Heisenberg, uncertainty principle

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