This is the website of the author Deal Rasmussen.
Excerpts can be viewed via the menu. Book descriptions are below. Click here for the introductory paragraphs to Selected Posts.
All books are available (from Amazon) here.
BOOK DESCRIPTION, The Energyists (2014)
Modern philosophy tends to take its inspiration from how science describes forces, to arrive at philosophical notions such as causation. But it is also possible to take our inspiration from how science describes energy. When a boulder rolls down a hillside, physicists can calculate its impact by summing all the forces working on it as it bumps its way to the bottom, but they can also get the same answer simply by subtracting its energy at the bottom from that at the top. So why does it work to ignore all the cause-and-effect? (Energy does not even have a direction to it, as do forces and causation).
This book explores how scientists think in terms of energy and how a philosophy based on that might appear. It describes Lagrangian dynamics, which solves even problems in mechanics in terms of energy rather than forces. (The book might be considered a primer on Lagrangian approaches for students of the humanities). And whereas most accounts of how the world works start with the notion of the essences of things and with laws being carried out, this book starts with Brownian motion and with how things move randomly from having energy in them. Then it shows how the world works because of how biasing enables the random motions to become organized into complex structures and actions.
Finally, the book explores the paradoxes of Lagrangian mechanics which, although not the same as the more famous paradoxes of quantum mechanics, are in many ways just as mysterious.
BOOK DESCRIPTION, Inverse Atomism: describing the simple in terms of the complex (2017)
This book can be understood in terms of latest theories in mathematics, where numbers are defined by their relationships with other numbers rather than being what they are in their own right, absolutely, regardless of anything else. The mathematicians claim that science, being about physical objects rather than pure mathematical logic, has nothing like it. But this book makes the case that science does have a different yet comparable approach. Science describes simple events in terms of complex qualities, such as describing molecules as being in equilibria (and the equilibria, like numbers, do have a logic to what they “are,” even though the equilibria, unlike numbers, are physical).
The book shows how science routinely describes events in this manner—-it is a different way to see the “scientific method”—-so that what a thing even “is” in science depends on how it relates with others, not just depend on its physical traits. The argument is that science doesn’t so much define objects by their relationships (as in math) as it describes them in terms of having expansive qualities which, like numbers, have a logic to what they are.
Then the bulk of the book explores the many philosophical implications of that, for our conceptions of science, truth, causality, absolutes, and other applications.
NEW BOOK NOW AVAILABLE: Causality in a World of Random Actions (2019)
This book describes a second methodology used by science for handling random events, other than with statistics and probabilities. Then the book elaborates how causality fits into this methodology.
Science is increasingly revealing a world that is full of random actions. And yet science clearly is also capable of making precise predictions and formulations. But why is that not a contradiction? How can science combine random events, precise predictions, and descriptions of regularity?
Continuing the arguments in The Energyists, this book reiterates how complexity can be derived starting with the random actions of energy rather than beginning by assuming that physical laws and essences preexist complexity-formation. Both books show how equations can be derived by using this second non-probabilistic approach to randomness. But in this book that approach is extended to include the derivations of mechanisms, statistical relationships, and functionalities, again starting with the Brownian motion of energy. Then finally, the same is done for causality, so that causality can take its place among the other formal expressions of science: equations, mechanisms, probabilities, functionalities (as in biology), and yes, causality.
Yet such a causality, as used in science, is radically different from Enlightenment era depictions of what it entails. And these differences are explored in this book
An example of this second methodology, showing how science deals with randomness besides with statistics and probabilities, is here.
NOTE: There are over 20 faces pictured in the rocks on the cover of The Energyists. Explanation of site title is in About.
Specific examples of the above themes are integrated into the posts on this website. So far they include nontechnical essays on photonic crystals, MRI’s (medical imaging), category theory in math, mathematical structures, form fits function in biology, superorganisms, group selection in evolution, and discussions of scientific parsimony and causality, plus an exploration of culture as per my time living with the Navajos.