Physics is fundamental

Story telling

Is this the most fundamental study in which human beings engage? Picture taken from Daniel’s Bird blog

Fundamental: Pertaining to a foundation

Physics is obviously the most fundamental of sciences, because it studies the smallest structures, from which all matter is composed.


  • But physics is the expression of a series of ideas about the world, and so surely the philosophy underlying such ideas must be more fundamental than physics, which is merely the subject of these ideas?


  • But ideas about the world, are simply our experience of neurophysiological events, so surely neuroscience must be more fundamental than philosophy.
  • But the processes that take place within our brain are clearly biochemical, so chemistry must be more fundamental than neuroscience.
  • But physics is required to underpin descriptions of chemical processes, so physics really is the most fundamental of sciences.


  • But physics is just one example of an activity which is only undertaken by groups of human beings. So surely sociology must be more fundamental than any particular topic of study.
  • But surely one can’t understand the social structures which have given rise to physics without understanding their historical and economic context.
  • But surely the entire existence of civilisation is based on the existence of adequate food. And so the study of agriculture must be more fundamental than the study of any particular detail of a civilisation.


  • But agriculture – is dominated by the geography of the Earth.
  • And the geography of the Earth is a result of action of meteorological and geological forces. So these must be fundamental studies.
  • But Earth is just one planet, and its climate is affected by other planets, so planetary science must be more fundamental than an Earth-focussed study.
  • But the planets are just one small aspect of astronomy, and our bodies – and all matter on  Earth – are composed of stardust! So in a very profound sense, astronomy must be a fundamental study.
  • But the most profound questions about the astronomical universe are really cosmological  – questions about the first few seconds of the universe. So cosmology is definitely the most fundamental subject one can study.
  • But cosmological answers depend on questions of basic physics!  And so physics must be after all the most fundamental study.
  • But would we recognise an answer to a fundamental question if we came across one? Our concept of ‘an explanation’ is driven by our basic mode of acquiring understanding which is based on the concept of a story.
  • So could story-telling and literature be more basic studies than physics or any of the sciences?

Physics is indeed fundamental. But so is everything else. Peace and love


P.S. I accidentally published this before it was finished: sorry if you read it while it was only half-finished.

3 Responses to “Physics is fundamental”

  1. Bernard Naylor Says:

    And you didn’t even mention mathematics!

    • protonsforbreakfast Says:

      Oh Yes I forgot. I meant to slip in engineering somewhere too. I used to genuinely believe that physics was in some way uniquely fundamental. As I have got older I still believe that, but I also believe that everything else is also uniquely fundamental too. These views feel like they ought to be in conflict. It feels like there ought to be a ‘winner’. But in fact there isn’t.

      I feel like I support ‘Physics United’ while someone else might support ‘Geology Rovers’ and our perspectives stem from tribal origins. But that would make ‘Anthropology Wanderers’ nailed on winners of the Fundamental Premiership. Aaaargh. It goes round and round…

      All the best

  2. What Climate Sceptics are Sceptical About: Part 1 « Protons for Breakfast Blog Says:

    […] difficulty in communicating arises because we disagree about what is fundamental. As I understand him, the author adopts the view that all this ‘Climate Change stuff’ […]

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