Is Quantum Theory Naive?

To me, the issue with interpreting quantum systems as real is not that they are not observable or that they contradict naive realism, but that the contradiction is not explained.

Our naive realism might tell us that we are surrounded by empty space rather than a mixture of invisible gases and vaporized particles, but it makes sense that our perception has finite limits, so that particles which are too small for us to resolve visually or tangibly would seem identical to empty space to us. There is no paradox in the nature of air, and we can cool it down to a liquid and see that it is in fact matter.

The nature of quantum theory, however, not only challenges our expectations about what can be detected, it really demands that we relinquish expectations altogether. The idea of a formless, unobservable ‘system’ which takes on paradoxical forms contradicts the ontology of form itself. That doesn’t mean it’s wrong – to the contrary, obviously the model is a complete success – however there are many ways to interpret phenomena which are empirically valid but miss the point entirely. I would imagine that a theory of human personality could be derived from correlating traffic patterns in a city and the make, model, and color of vehicles, and given a certain margin of probability, it too would be compelling. That does not, however, mean that we should attribute human personality to automobiles, or that there is a real but unobservable system which is making determinations about which cars belong to what personalities.

All I’m saying is that for many people, it is too soon to decide that QM is settled science that we will just have to accept on its face. For some, it may indeed just be stubborn habits of naive thinking, but for others, I think that it is an intuition that there can also be a such thing as “naive theoreticism” as well. Just because QM is counter-intuitive and complex does not make it sophisticated or insightful. To me, it makes more sense as a consequence of overlooking the fundamental role that sensory-motive participation plays in the universe. Quantum systems are not only observable, they are observation itself – feeling, seeing, knowing, measuring. Seeing quantum as something outside of that only complicates things unnecessarily. Is it not possible that disembodied probabilities are fictional?

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