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September 12, 2010


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The problem with arguments like those in QE is:

1) CONSCIOUSNESS (whatever that is) is not observing the quantum phenomena, a carefully designed set of experimental devices are. The "observer" is not a human being.

2) All of these arguments imply that "consciousness" (again, something that hasn't been defined), is somehow independent of all quantum phenomena, that it stands on its own and is an untouchable objective event. Ironically, since those positing this argument have no trouble with the notion of self-reflexive awareness, they should be arguing that our very own consciousness doesn't exist until we look at it or for it (which, clearly, puts us in a bit of a loop)

3) The wave function is PURELY mathematical. It's a description of what we're able to observe given the tools (both mathematical and mechanical) at our disposal. Nobody has ever seen a wave function, nor have they seen it collapse. They've seen events consistent with the mathematics of a collapsing wave function... when using devices that are also consistent with the theory. None of that means the math is accurately describing reality. If, for example, the LHC reveals new information about the sub-atomic world, we may need an entirely new type of math, where wave functions are no more relevant than Netwonian equations.

4) The other implication is that the entire universe NEVER existed until the first human being with self-reflexive awareness came into being (and it's impossible to pick the date on which that happened). The "until we look for it, it's not there" notion is absurd. Let's run the same thought experiments that they use, above, but add another observer -- if YOU pick Hut #2 and I pick Hut #1 at the exact same time, and then both doors open at the exact same time, what happens? What if we add a third person who hasn't picked yet? (this highlights that it's the experimental design we're watching, not "reality")

Yes, the quantum world is weird and confusing and next-to impossible to understand with linear thinking... according to the models and the brains we have now.

At least QE doesn't seem to be (at least not from your review) straying into the realm of What The Bleep... and implying that quantum phenomena happen at non-quantum scales, that "you" REALLY exist in all places at all times, for example.

Steven, soon I'll write a post about "Biocentrism," which, as I said, goes much further than "Quantum Enigma" in directions you properly are skeptical about.

Such as consciousness bringing the universe into existence. I've been trying to wrap my admittedly limited mind about this notion, but can't get it to work.

If there was no universe before the first conscious entity observed it, how did that being come into existence? And one would have to assume that only a human could bring the universe known to humans into existence. But a monkey could bring a monkey universe into existence, I assume.

Regarding the simultaneous picking of hut doors, the Quantum Enigma authors make clear that quantum theory deals with objective, not subjective, probabilities. Meaning, once the wavefunction collapses, it collapses for everybody -- not just the observer.

Maybe quantum objects are so sensitive, there always is a minute difference in time between when two conscious beings observe the same wavefunction. First observation gets to collapse it.

My opinion is that the everyday world is created from the inside out. This means that we acquire some kind of sensory input ( it is not even input but it is an undiscribable something) and we construct a reality from it. The way this reality is constructed has to do with evolution. The human that constructed a reality seeing all the differences and maybe the quantum reality had a disadvantage over the one that constructed it with all similarities and simple causality. I mean it is necessary to recognize a rabbit in the wood and not focus on the millions of differences between rabbits. If however more accurate investigation shows that strictly the laws with which we construct reality are approximations than that is of no importance to survival except when you build an atom bomb :)
To go even further we perceive reality as working in on us, subject versus object light hitting our eyes etc. Schopenhauer thought this was the first intuitive way the causality is introduced in our reality construct. He thought that the world on its own is a place of free will in everything. He said: If I could ask the stone why he is falling the stone would say out of his free will.

But I believe we don't have to look this distant (quantum physics) for an example of mathematics versus our perceived reality. Look at continuity that was introduced with Leibniz. The Zenos paradox goes that we will never be able to move from a to b at all because there are infinity points between a and b. I conclude from this that the moments that we think that are in between a and b are creation of the mind. In reality there is continuous movement but it is easier to think of continuity made up out of moments while on close observation this is impossible. The same goes for causality, on close observation it leads to the question what was the first cause that is unanswerable. So much of the concepts and laws that make up our reality are our own constructions.
That we don't perceive the complementary nature of time and space is another one. When I want to be at an exact time somewhere than the place where I will be (lets say a door) is getting more and more insecure ;)
Our mind is a tool to life in reality, not to understand the true nature of the infinite everlasting life.

How about this implication:

Does quantum indeteterminancy mean there is no free will?

Thanks Brian, for a post on a subject I've been reading and discussing for a little while of late.

I find myself being tossed this way and that by interpretations of what quantum physics "means".

Stephen Hawking seems to have moved from a belief in a Mind behind things in "A Brief History of Time" to a lack of belief.

I'm sure you're aware of Victor Stenger's firm position that quantum stuff does NOT imply anything about consciousness affecting the world, eg http://www.csicop.org/si/show/quantum_quackery/

I like the final quote - when experts disagree you may choose your experts. Still, I'd really like some agreement here, oh great arcons-of-science ;)

Jonathan from Spritzophrenia

I am not sure we create reality so much as reality has created us with a unique perception of reality.

Also the ability to affect reality itself by perceiving it appears to be confined to the microlevel in which our instruments of measurement affect what is being perceived.

These ideas have fascinated me for years. I agree with the commenters who have a problem with any loosy-goosy use of the word "consciousness." People assume that consciousness means human consciousness, but perhaps we need to be a bit more humble and consider that every living organism exhibits some degree of "consciousness" -- response to the environment as well as response to oneself. What I would like to see are quantum experiments testing the perception/response of lower animals...I think it could be shown that they are just as capable of initiating quantum "collapse" as a human experimenter. To commenter Steven, who added the variation of the "huts" thought experiment, you've just described an exact parallel to the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen (EPR) thought experiment and its associated paradox. The modern solution (from a relational point of view) is that there still needs to be a classical information channel between the two observers, in which they interact to compare results, for any meaningful conclusions to be drawn. Before that interaction takes place, they are entangled with the systems they observed.

that book would be pretty impressive if it had been written 80+ years ago.

i have known kuttner in person and never seen him actually contribute much that was useful. furthermore he should not be writing a book on anything remotely relating to consciousness since he incessantly complains about how physics is totally different and separate from biology.

he is also the absolute last who should be teaching physics. i could get colorful, but suffice to say he is the diametric opposite of richard feynman...

anything at all intriguing in the book is more than likely rosenblum's doing, but i won't comment on rosenblum since i've never really met the man

Giving consciousness a special role in QM is absurd. What is the brain? Matter arranged in a certain way, still governed by the known laws of the Universe. What part of the brain (consciousness) does the wave collapsing? Every part of it.

Because *everything* is an observer in the Universe. An atom, a rock, plant, chair... Doesn't matter if it's conscious or not.

Though by your reasoning maybe everything IS conscious, because everything IS an observer. From the humble rock all the way to the most advanced being in the Universe, consciousness is everything, as everything is an observer. We're nothing special in this regard.

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