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European Journal for Philosophy of Science

, Volume 4, Issue 3, pp 409–423 | Cite as

Quantum causal explanation: or, why birds fly south

  • Sally ShrapnelEmail author
Original paper in Philosophy of Physics
  • 240 Downloads

Abstract

It is widely held that it is difficult, if not impossible, to apply causal theory to the domain of quantum mechanics. However, there are several recent scientific explanations that appeal crucially to quantum processes, and which are most naturally construed as causal explanations. They come from two relatively new fields: quantum biology and quantum technology. We focus on two examples, the explanation for the optical interferometer LIGO and the explanation for the avian magneto-compass. We analyse the explanation for the avian magneto-compass from the perspective of Woodward's interventionist theory and provide a causal model. Furthermore, we show how worries expressed by Woodward about quantum causation are circumvented in these cases, concluding that these kinds of explanations are most naturally construed as causal.

Keywords

Interventionist causation Causal modelling Quantum mechanics Avian magnetoreception 

Notes

Acknowledgments

I am very grateful to Phil Dowe for his helpful comments, proof reading of the manuscript (in its various forms) and for many informative discussions regarding causation. I am also very grateful to Gerard Milburn for clear discussions regarding the concept of quantum coherence, additional proof reading of the manuscript and for many informative discussions regarding the newest developments in quantum technology.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of History, Philosophy, Religion and ClassicsUniversity of QueenslandSt LuciaAustralia

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