God May Not Play Dice, But Human Observers Surely Do


We investigate indeterminism in physical observations. For this, we introduce a distinction between genuinely indeterministic (creation-1 and discovery-1) observational processes, and fully deterministic (creation-2 and discovery-2) observational processes, which we analyze by drawing a parallel between the localization properties of microscopic entities, like electrons, and the lateralization properties of macroscopic entities, like simple elastic bands. We show that by removing the randomness incorporated in certain of our observational processes, acquiring over them a better control, we also alter these processes in such a radical way that in the end they do not correspond anymore to the observation of the same property. We thus conclude that a certain amount of indeterminism must be accepted and welcomed in our physical observations, as we cannot get rid of it without also diminishing our discriminative power. We also provide in our analysis some elements of clarification regarding the non-spatial nature of microscopic entities, which we illustrate by using an analogy with the process of objectification of human concepts. Finally, the important notion of relational properties is properly defined, and the role played by indeterminism in their characterization clarified.

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  1. 1.

    Clearly, for non-uniform elastic bands, the “scissor-RNG” procedure (Def. 6) cannot anymore be considered as equivalent to the original procedure (Def. 5).

  2. 2.

    What a suitable number exactly means should of course be specified, but this would unnecessarily complicate the discussion. Let us simply assume that we possess a criterion, which we don’t need to specify here, to determine the exact number of stacks of paper and human beings to be used in a given location, considering for instance its dimensions.

  3. 3.

    In Sassoli de Bianchi (2013b) we have remarked that the positions measured in Aert’s quantum machine Aerts (1998, 1999a, b) are not relational properties. This may appear in contradiction with our present analysis, considering that positions are observed by means of observational processes that contain a random selection mechanism and an irreducible invasiveness. However, a closer analysis reveals that the surface of the three-dimensional Euclidean sphere on which the particle lives, plays in fact a double role, as it is also part of the measuring apparatus. Therefore, one cannot in this model completely separate the measuring apparatus from the entity, which is the reason why at the end of the observation the property remain actual and can be re-observed with certainty.


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Correspondence to Massimiliano Sassoli de Bianchi.

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Sassoli de Bianchi, M. God May Not Play Dice, But Human Observers Surely Do. Found Sci 20, 77–105 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10699-014-9352-4

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  • Observation
  • Quantum measurement
  • Creation
  • Discovery
  • Quantum probabilities
  • Localization
  • Non-spatiality
  • Control
  • Concepts
  • Relational properties