Friday, October 02, 2009

Quantum Mechanics and Consciousness

This is an excellent video talk on quantum mechanics and consciousness, by astrophysicist Bernard Haisch, given at the Society for Scientific Exploration meeting in July 2009 .


FB said...

Anyone who has ever gotten into a dispute with a Western "realist" philosopher is going to love this video. The claim seems to be that consciousness not only creates the physical universe, it also creates retrocausally.

Apparently von Neumann is the one who coined the term 'entangled' after which this blog is named.

The question mentioning 'superposition' as vindicating 'realism' is pretty dramatic. I'm surprised the lecturer didn't mention that consciousness might be omnipresent, or at least spatially ambiguous.

The spoken words are mostly very accessible to non-physicists such as myself, but I wish the camera had shown more of the lecturer's hand gestures, which might have explained a lot about particle spin.

On the down side, it also mentions astrophysical ideas which I have never seen presented convincingly. I very strongly dislike speculations based on suppositions such as dark matter, parallel universes, and the first 10^-34 seconds of the Big Bang.

Personally, I believe it's possible the Big Bang might some day be disproven, but I don't care much one way or the other. I do care about dark matter, parallel universes, and the like, because I fear that they devote large sums of funding from vastly more practical research topics, such as how to use available tech - such as binaural beats - to produce improved progress in meditation, as measured by gamma waves on an EEG. Meditation is cheap and useful.

About 13 minutes in, the story of "Neils" and the divided penny that requires a conscious choice, is awesome. I had heard of the Bell Inequality and intrinsic spin. I had never heard of Professor Leggett's Inequality and Anton Zalinger. I guess Zalinger's team really advanced the field quite a lot in 2007.

The notion that "consciousness is the ultimate reality" will be pretty familiar to readers of the ancient Vedas and the 1908 book, The Kybalion.

I think the lecturer convincingly argues that Western 'realism' as commonly encountered in universities has, at minimum, 'a lot of explaining to do,' if it wants to maintain its stranglehold.

Jime said...

The video is excellent.

For interested readers, Henry Stapp has just published his second edition of Mind, Matter and Quantum Mechanics. Excellent book.

I'm just begining to read the book Mind, Matter and Implicate Order by Paavo T. I. Pylkkänen. It looks great too, with a different philosophical approach.

For the moment, I'm strongly sympathetic for Stapp's views on these questions.

However, for the sake of discussion and reflection, let me comment on two common realist criticisms to the orthodox interpretation of QM (OIQM for short):

1)The OIQM is phenomenalist, i.e. based only in our sensory experiences. As consequence, it's subjetivist (centered in human subjects, their experiences and the power of their senses).

But there is not reason to think the limits of the human senses impose limits on reality. It would be an extreme case of phenomenalism and empiricism what, if followed consistently, would lead to solipsism.

Moreover, psi evidence suggest that anomalous cognition occur without sensationist perception (this is why some of psi phenomena are manifested as extra-sensory tranference of information). And this refutes again a purely phenomenalist, senses-centered approach.

Also, science in general, like common sense, is objetivist (realist) because it assumes the existence of an external world which is investigated to be known and properly understood.

The whole purpose of science is to know an (assumed to exist) external (metaphysically objective) reality.

Thus OIQM is in tension with every other area of science and its philosophical pressupositions.

A reply could be that QM is more fundamental than other sciences, so the tension affect more the latter than QM. But realists are questioning the interpretation of the theory, not the empirical evidence.

Some realists argue that the phenomenalist character of OIQM is based on the strong influence of logical positivism (it seems some of the ideas of the Vienna Circle influenced the discoverers of QM).

2)The OIQM doesn't properly explain the existence of quantum effects where, presumibly, no human observer is present (i.e. in remote galaxies)

The common reply is that that objection assumes that only "human observation" is needed, when the theory only entails that any observation is needed. However, the theory has been confirmed exclusively in cases of human observation in laboratory experiments, not in cases of non-human observation in general.

In any case, realists argue, that experimental evidence doesn't discard the existence of spontaneous quantum effects not dependent on observation.

Some people, like FB, reasonably suggest that "consciousness might be omnipresent" but, in that case it could be reasonably replied that if FB's suggestion is true then a collapsing of the wave function would occur constantly and everywhere.

There are other objections and their replies, but my comment is too long.

I only want to add that I don't feel qualified to competently judge these technical questions, arguments and replies; but my opinion tend to be sympathetic to Stapp and Von Neumman approach.

Also I think Dr.Haisch gives very important ideas, arguments and concepts in that excelent lecture for further discussion and thinking.

FB said...

'Some realists argue that the phenomenalist character of OIQM is based on the strong influence of logical positivism (it seems some of the ideas of the Vienna Circle influenced the discoverers of QM).'

Logical positivism (and criticisms of it from various angles) is (and are) among my favorite hobbies. From a metamathematical perspective, the combination of Godel and Quine is devastating to traditional logical positivism. There are, of course, counter-strategies, some of which get very mathematical - e.g. paraconsistent logics.

'Some people, like FB, reasonably suggest that "consciousness might be omnipresent" but, in that case it could be reasonably replied that if FB's suggestion is true then a collapsing of the wave function would occur constantly and everywhere.'

If consciousness measures everywhere uniformly, then yes, one would expect wave functions collapsing uniformly at every point in spacetime.

That's why I wrote 'consciousness might be omnipresent, or at least spatially ambiguous.' But my ruminations on that are going to end up copying a lot from Amit Goswami anyway, so I might as well pull out some links from the get-go.

I am not a Philosophy professor, but I agree with Goswami that he has constructed a monistic model that is closer to mental monism than physical monism.

I am a big detractor of Bertrand Russell, and Russell is notorious for his so-called 'neutral monism.' Some of Goswami's detractors appear to be following Russell's style. The following is an example of a critique of Goswami with which I don't agree:

Could a Goswami-style monism suffice for a psi-friendly interpretation of quantum mechanics? There is one more link to consider:

The pdf might be more accessible at:

In the pdf embedded in that post, there was a passage dealing with M1, M2, and M3.


In his book Global Mind Change, former IONS
President Willis Harman discussed three basic ways
of looking at the world. He called the current Western
scientific worldview “materialistic monism,” or “M1.”
Harman’s second worldview, M2, represents du-
alism, ...
The third worldview, M3, is transcendental or mental
monism, ... Evidence in favor of M3 has
been slowly amassing for over a century. Such recent
books as Irreducible Mind, Entangled Minds, and Measur-
ing the Immeasurable ...discuss
the empirical evidence in detail...'

Of course, it might be unfair, even logically inconsistent, to assume M3 can work as advertised to replace Logical Positivism without an appropriately metamathematical formalization of M3 and a discussion to show why our mathematical intuitions square well with accepted mathematical practice. Such a project might be called "Bourbaki Bridges Bishop Berkeley's Booleans."