A branch of physics that deals with the effects of energy and forces on the
motion of physical objects, based on the work of Isaac Newton and on
three-dimensional Euclidean geometry, also called Newtonian mechanics.
Recall that in classical physics, nature is described as a closed causal
system of matter in motion and governed by
s deterministic equations of motion. This means that the future is, in
principle, entirely predictable as long as we know all the forces acting on a
system and if we obtain an exact knowledge of its initial conditions. This view,
rooted in classical physics, was carried over and applied to all macroscopic
systems in nature, including those described by thermodynamics, geology,
meteorology, evolutionary biology, and even those now studied using chaos
theory. Chance events occur in all these fields, but the notion of chance here
is purely epistemic, the ignorance of underlying causes. There are two distinct
kinds of epistemic chance: i) Random walk: Individual events can occur
along a given trajectory, from the motion of microscopic plankton to tossing a
coin. ii) Crossed trajectories: Epistemic chance also denotes the juxtaposition
of two apparently unrelated causal trajectories, such as a car crash or the
combination of a genetic mutation expressed in a phenotype and the adaptivity of
that phenotype to a changing environment. In either case, even when statistical
methods are used, they are used for practical purposes and do not indicate
ontological indeterminism; indeed the ubiquitous role of the Gaussian
distribution (the bell curve) in classical science underscores this fact.
As Murphy depicts it, the combination of determinism in physics, epistemic and
causal reduction in philosophy, and an ontology of atomism, completed the case
for the mechanistic world view by the nineteenth century.
by: Robert Russell - CTNS
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