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Foundations of Science

, Volume 19, Issue 4, pp 403–422 | Cite as

Beyond Physics? On the Prospects of Finding a Meaningful Oracle

  • Taner Edis
  • Maarten Boudry
Article

Abstract

Certain enterprises at the fringes of science, such as intelligent design creationism, claim to identify phenomena that go beyond not just our present physics but any possible physical explanation. Asking what it would take for such a claim to succeed, we introduce a version of physicalism that formulates the proposition that all available data sets are best explained by combinations of “chance and necessity”—algorithmic rules and randomness. Physicalism would then be violated by the existence of oracles that produce certain kinds of noncomputable functions. Examining how a candidate for such an oracle would be evaluated leads to questions that do not admit an easy resolution. Since we lack any plausible candidate for any such oracle, however, chance-and-necessity physicalism appears very likely to be correct.

Keywords

Physicalism Chance and necessity Computability  Supernaturalism Intelligent design Hypercomputation  Randomness 

Notes

Acknowledgments

The authors would like to thank Peter Verdée for sharing his expertise on computability and oracles, and Yon Fishman as well as two anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments on an earlier version of the manuscript. The research of the second author was supported by the Research Foundation Flanders (FWO).

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhysicsTruman State UniversityKirksvilleUSA
  2. 2.Department of Philosophy and Moral SciencesGhent UniversityGhentBelgium
  3. 3.Konrad Lorenz InstituteViennaAustria

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