The Consiousness, Free Will and Quantum Physics

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richrf
 
Reply Sun 16 Aug, 2009 07:59 pm
Hi all,

I thought I might provide two links that describe the Consciousness Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics and the possible role of Free Will. This is great stuff for those who have the desire to wade through it.

Rich


Wigner's Interpretation

Wigner's interpretation of quantum mechanics - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The rules of quantum mechanics are correct but there is only one system which may be treated with quantum mechanics, namely the entire material world. There exist external observers which cannot be treated within quantum mechanics, namely human (and perhaps animal) minds, which perform measurements on the brain causing wave function collapse.[1]

Von Neumann/Stapp Interpretation

Quantum Consciousness

Stapp describes Von Neumann's view of Quantum Theory through a simple definition: "the state of the universe is an objective compendium of subjective knowings". This statement describes the fact that the state of the universe is represented by a wave function which is a compendium of all the wave functions that each of us can cause to collapse with her or his observations. That is why it is a collection of subjective acts, although an objective one.

A Subjective View of the Knowledge


Stapp follows the logical consequences of this approach and achieves a new form of idealism: all that exists is that subjective knowledge, therefore the universe is now about matter, it is about subjective experience. Quantum Theory does not talk about matter, it talks about our perceiving matter. Stapp rediscovers George Berkeley's idealism: we only know our perceptions (observations).

Henry Stapp - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Stapp sees a global collapse of superposed brain states as in the process of choosing between alternatives. Stapp postulates more global collapse via his 'mind like' wave-function collapse that exploits certain aspects of the quantum Zeno effect within the synapses to explain attention.
According to Stapp, each increase in human knowledge is associated with a wave function collapse, which is an 'act of creation' that is a step along the arrow of time. Thus, free will could be seen as directly instrumental in the evolution of the universe.
 
prothero
 
Reply Sun 16 Aug, 2009 08:09 pm
@richrf,
Well, intuitively, I have always felt quantum mechanics was supportive of a non deterministic view of the universe. The universe is the result of both chance and necessity. Philosophically chance provides an opportunity for freedom, novelty and creativity and necessity provides order and predictability. They both seem to be required to make the world meaningful.

The difference between a universe with a little bit of chance and freedom and a universe operating under mechanistic determinism is all the difference in the world.
I far prefer the former and see no scientific, rational or experiential reason to embrace the latter.
 
richrf
 
Reply Sun 16 Aug, 2009 08:35 pm
@prothero,
prothero;83670 wrote:
Well, intuitively, I have always felt quantum mechanics was supportive of a non deterministic view of the universe. The universe is the result of both chance and necessity. Philosophically chance provides an opportunity for freedom, novelty and creativity and necessity provides order and predictability. They both seem to be required to make the world meaningful.

The difference between a universe with a little bit of chance and freedom and a universe operating under mechanistic determinism is all the difference in the world.
I far prefer the former and see no scientific, rational or experiential reason to embrace the latter.


Yes, we are very much in agreement. Quantum theory apparently undermines determinism in a way that used to drive Einstein crazy. He once, purported to exclaim: Do electron have free will? - referring to the quantum probability wave collapse into particle.

In any case, the more I read about quantum theory, the more interesting the universe gets. Thanks for your comment concerning necessity. I really enjoyed it.

Rich
 
prothero
 
Reply Sun 16 Aug, 2009 09:14 pm
@richrf,
I have just been puzzled at how since relativity theory and quantum mechanics so many intelligent people still cling to a materialistic, mechanistic and deterministic view of reality (the view of reality intiallly inspired by Newtonian mechanics). Even Einstein who corrected Newton (showed it to be a special case of a more general theory) could not escape the deterministc worldview inspired by Newton mechanics.

Newton himself however remained a deepley religious man and did not embrace the kind of materialistic mechanistic worldview his discoveries later inspired.
Go figure:Glasses:

For my part if I have a choice between freedom, novelty and creativity on the one hand and mechanistic determinism on the other. The choice is clear.
 
richrf
 
Reply Sun 16 Aug, 2009 09:40 pm
@prothero,
prothero;83688 wrote:
I have just been puzzled at how since relativity theory and quantum mechanics so many intelligent people still cling to a materialistic, mechanistic and deterministic view of reality (the view of reality intiallly inspired by Newtonian mechanics).


Yes, I agree. Einstein could never come to grips that thought may actually affect and effects events in the universe. I think when one devotes his/her whole life to finding laws of nature, it is difficult to acknowledge that such laws are subject to the choice. It seems irreconcilable.

Rich
 
prothero
 
Reply Sun 16 Aug, 2009 09:59 pm
@richrf,
richrf;83690 wrote:
. It seems irreconcilable.
Rich


It seems irreconciliable to Newtonian mechanics but not necessarily to quantum mechanics. We are alll victims of our worldviews even so great a genius as Einstein (mechanistic determinism) and Newton (religous deism).
 
richrf
 
Reply Sun 16 Aug, 2009 10:15 pm
@prothero,
prothero;83692 wrote:
It seems irreconciliable to Newtonian mechanics but not necessarily to quantum mechanics. We are alll victims of our worldviews even so great a genius as Einstein (mechanistic determinism) and Newton (religous deism).



I think the mind sees things as it wants. If a mind is devoted to finding laws, it must be very difficult to break away from world views. Nowadays, I find myself devoted to very little, which makes it easy for me to break away from any world view. However, being without a stake in the ground feels a bit uneasy at times. Smile

I think goals do help to stabilize though they inhibit change. Einstein, appears to have been so focused on finding immutable laws, that he couldn't embrace any notion to the contrary - though he does suggest that for practical purposes he embraces the notion of free will - e.g. holding criminals responsible for their actions. It is amazing!

Rich
 
prothero
 
Reply Sun 16 Aug, 2009 11:23 pm
@richrf,
I am a little more devoted to a particular worldview. Primarily a process philosophy Whiteheadian view. I am afraid I am a romantic idealist and promote both panexperientialism (panpyschism) and a process theology form of religious conception.

I freely acknowledge these are subjective truths but they are not in conflict with science, reason or my experience. I do not mind adhering to views beyond the scientific but I try to incorporate the evidence of science into my worldview
 
richrf
 
Reply Mon 17 Aug, 2009 12:09 am
@prothero,
My roots are in Daoism which in many ways dovetails Heraclitus. So, my views are similar to yours.

Though I read quite a bit, I have adopted an experiential approach to understanding life. I practice Tai Chi, Yoga, dancing, sports, singing, music, writing, art, etc. I triangulate all that I learn from these experiences in order to find the common ground of life. In this way, I hope to re-experience everything that early Greek and Eastern philosophers discovered.

It is a pretty interesting path that I have chosen. Smile

Nice to meet you,

Rich
 
xris
 
Reply Mon 17 Aug, 2009 07:15 am
@richrf,
If im determined to be random, am i proving or disproving a randome event by being determined. This is too much for me to even start debating, could someone simplify whats being claimed. Thoughts change the universe:perplexed:
 
richrf
 
Reply Mon 17 Aug, 2009 07:59 am
@xris,
xris;83740 wrote:
If im determined to be random, am i proving or disproving a randome event by being determined. This is too much for me to even start debating, could someone simplify whats being claimed. Thoughts change the universe:perplexed:


Hi there,

Within the quantum mechanics framework there lies what is called the measurement problem. When not being measured, fundamental particles such as electrons and photons behave as though they are waves. But the waves are not ordinary waves as you might conceptualize. They are probability waves which describe the potential that an event will occur. Schrodinger's equation is the basic quantum mechanics equation that describes the potential.

However, when measured, the electron probability wave collapses into a definite state, that is not governed by the Schrodinger equation. There are many solutions/interpretations on how this collapse happens. Some physicists such as Stapp and Wigner have proposed the role that consciousness plays in this collapse event.

Amazon.com: Mindful Universe: Quantum Mechanics and the Participating Observer (The Frontiers Collection) (9783540724131): Henry P. Stapp: Books

The classical mechanistic idea of nature that prevailed in science during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was an essentially mindless conception: the physically described aspects of nature were asserted to be completely determined by prior physically described aspects alone, with our conscious experiences entering only passively. During the twentieth century the classical concepts were found to be inadequate. In the new theory, quantum mechanics, our conscious experiences enter into the dynamics in specified ways not fixed by the physically described aspects alone. Consequences of this radical change in our understanding of the connection between mind and brain are described.

Rich
 
xris
 
Reply Mon 17 Aug, 2009 08:14 am
@richrf,
Do they say how consciousness can influence these collapses and what exactly is collapsing?Sorry but its not very clear what is being proposed?
 
richrf
 
Reply Mon 17 Aug, 2009 08:30 am
@xris,
xris;83753 wrote:
Do they say how consciousness can influence these collapses and what exactly is collapsing?Sorry but its not very clear what is being proposed?


Hi there,

Stapp goes into a deep discussion in his book.

My views do not have to be so subtle or scientific, since I am a philosopher not a scientist.

When I look at the quantum problem, I see very subtle forces at work in the deepest levels of nature. Besides the quantum collapse there are events such as the Bose-Einstein Condensate:

"Condensates" are extremely low-temperature fluids which contain properties and exhibit behaviors that are currently not completely understood, such as spontaneously flowing out of their containers.

Within this phenomenon there is an adhesion between the fluid and the container that is not understood that allows the fluid to overcome gravity.

So, my sense is that consciousness acts with very minute but pervasive force throughout the universe, causing the quantum collapse of possibilities into actual events. It is exactly what we are experiencing every day, in every moment of our lives.

David Bohm, a preeminent quantum physicist has a similar take:

Implicate and Explicate Order according to David Bohm - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The implicate order represents the proposal of a general metaphysicalconsciousnessmatter, entities such as atoms may represent continuous enfoldment and unfoldment which manifests as a relatively stable and autonomous entity that can be observed to follow a relatively well-defined path in space-time. In the case of consciousness, Bohm pointed toward evidence presented by Karl Pribram that memoriesbrain, cells, or atoms). concept in terms of which it is claimed that matter and might both be understood, in the sense that it is proposed that both matter and consciousness: (i) enfold the structure of the whole within each region, and (ii) involve continuous processes of enfoldment and unfoldment. For example, in the case of may be enfolded within every region of the brain rather than being localized (for example in particular regions of the of the brain, cells, or atoms).

This is a thread I started on David Bohm's views which provides a brief description:

http://www.philosophyforum.com/philosophy-forums/branches-philosophy/metaphysics/5443-david-bohms-metaphysical-views-quantum-physics.html
 
prothero
 
Reply Mon 17 Aug, 2009 06:33 pm
@richrf,
Quantum mind - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Nice review of quantum mind theories on wikipedia.
Since no convincing or adequate materialist theory of consciosness or mind exists, one might as well. consider quantum mind. Mind is mysterious, quantum mechanics is mysterious: might be some connection?
 
richrf
 
Reply Mon 17 Aug, 2009 07:00 pm
@prothero,
Here is a nice passage written by the preeminent quantum physicist John Stewart Bell which I am pulling from a book I am reading:

"We look forward to a new theory which can refer meaningfully to events in a given system without requiring observation by another system. The critical test cases requiring this conclusion are systems containing consciousness and the universe as a whole. Actually, the writers share with most physicists a degree of embarrassment at consciousness being dragger into physics, and share the usual feeling that to consider the universe as a whole is at least immodest if not blasphemous."

However these are only logical test cases. It seems likely to us that physics will have again adopted a more objective description of nature long before it begins to understand consciousness, and the universe as a whole may well play no central role in this development. It remains a logical possibility that it is the act of consciousness which is ultimately responsible for the reduction of the wave packet [in other words, "the collapse of the wave function] ...

What is much more likely is that the new way of seeing things will involve an imaginative leap that will astonish us.
 
 

 
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