Barry Loewer is a Philosopher of Science interested in what physics says about the nature of fundamental reality, especially the nature of time and the metaphysics of scientific laws and probabilities. He received his BA from Amherst College and his PhD from Stanford, and he has taught at the University of South Carolina, University of Michigan and then at Rutgers University, where he has been for the last 25 years. Loewer has published papers on the foundations of quantum mechanics, the direction of time, laws, counterfactuals, and the philosophy of mind. In the last few years he has been working with his friend David Albert on a project in philosophy of cosmology. This has led him to think about the origins and fate of the universe, whether there is a multiverse, and why there is something rather than nothing.
Recently a number of physicists and cosmologists have been discussing what they call “the problem of Boltzmann Brains.” The problem is that certain physical theories and cosmologies which seem to be supported by a great deal of scientific evidence apparently entail that it is far more likely that brains (and their current mental contents) arise as a result of random processes in an otherwise empty or chaotic universe, rather than resulting from what we believe to be the usual causal processes. If so, a Boltzmann Brain’s beliefs and thoughts about its environment are mostly false. It also seems more likely that on the basis of your present brain state you are likely to be a Boltzmann Brain. Thus these theories lead to a kind of skeptical dilemma that arises from scientific inquiry. In his talk, Loewer will explain why the Boltzmann Brain problem should be taken seriously, and he will discuss ways in which philosophical reflection on explanation and probability may help resolve it.
Time: 8:30 pm
Location: Ukrainian Institute of America / Concert Hall