The Quantum Enigma of Consciousness and the Identity of the Designer
|February 17, 2010||Posted by scordova under Intelligent Design, Creationism, Physics|
In this thread, I will suggest the identity of Intelligent Designer of life. The question of the identity of the Intelligent Designer is outside of ID proper, but if a design is detected, it inspires the question, “who is the Designer?”
If the identity of the Intelligent Designer is outside of ID proper, is it outside the speculations of science? I think not. As Dawkins himself once remarked:
You then realize that the presence of a creative deity in the universe is clearly a scientific hypothesis. Indeed, it is hard to imagine a more momentous hypothesis in all of science.
as reported in Dawkins on the Discovery Institute Payroll?
In that spirit, rather than offer a theological speculation, I will offer a speculation based on inference from scientific observation. And I will argue scientific observation suggests the Intelligent Designer is a Deity of some sort.
To begin, I point out this essay in the prestigious scientific journal Nature in 2005 by physicist Richard Conn Henry:
“The ultimate cause of atheism, Newton asserted, is ‘this notion of bodies having, as it were, a complete, absolute and independent reality in themselves.’”
The 1925 discovery of quantum mechanics solved the problem of the Universe’s nature. Bright physicists were again led to believe the unbelievable — this time, that the Universe is mental.
According to Sir James Jeans: “the stream of knowledge is heading towards a non-mechanical reality; the Universe begins to look more like a great thought than like a great machine. Mind no longer appears to be an accidental intruder into the realm of matter…we ought rather hail it as the creator and governor of the realm of matter.”
The Universe is immaterial — mental and spiritual.
Richard Conn Henry
The Mental Universe: Nature Volume 436
To be fair, Henry is NOT an ID proponent, but some of his further comments in connection with his Nature essay are astonishing. Is Henry arguing that one of the main pillars of atheism has been taken away by quantum mechanics? Is he saying that quantum mechanics has shown that there are no mind-independent realities, therefore the cure for atheism (to paraphrase Newton) has been found?
Now we are beginning to see that quantum mechanics might actually exclude any possibility of mind-independent reality….
Why do people cling with such ferocity to belief in a mind-independent reality? It is surely because if there is no such reality, then ultimately (as far as we can know) mind alone exists. And if mind is not a product of real matter, but rather is the creator of the illusion of material reality (which has, in fact, despite the materialists, been known to be the case, since the discovery of quantum mechanics in 1925), then a theistic view of our existence becomes the only rational alternative to solipsism.
Richard Conn Henry and Stephen R. Palmquist
Journal of Scientific Exploration Issue 21-3
So does Henry posit a Deity? In his review of the book Quantum Enigma:Physics Encounters Consciousness Henry offers the following:
It is more than 80 years since the discovery of quantum mechanics gave us the most fundamental insight ever into our nature: the overturning of the Copernican Revolution, and the restoration of us human beings to centrality in the Universe.
And yet, have you ever before read a sentence having meaning similar to that of my preceding sentence? Likely you have not, and the reason you have not is, in my opinion, that physicists are in a state of denial…
In his Gifford lectures, very shortly after the 1925 discovery of quantum mechanics, Arthur Stanley Eddington (who immediately quantum mechanics was discovered realized that this meant that the universe was purely mental, and that indeed there was no such thing as “physical”) said “it is difficult for the matter-of-fact physicist to accept the view that the substratum of everything is of mental character.” What an understatement! On this fundamental topic, physicists are mostly terrified wimps.
And what are these “terrors” that prevent the acceptance of the obvious? I think it is a combination of the fear of being ridiculed, plus the fear of the religious implications. Does that sound familiar?
When, not so long ago, I grew baffled that there was no concise and clear public statement concerning the most important philosophical discovery, ever, in the history of science; and, I decided, therefore, that I must make such a public statement myself and I did so, in an essay in Nature, “The mental Universe,” I knew that no such negative response could possibly occur in my case, because of the fine character of my great university;
“Quantum Enigma” only mentions the quantum Zeno effect in passing, which surprises me. Despite their timidity, it is quite clear that our shivering authors know darned well that mind is central and nothing shows the truth of that more clearly than does the quantum Zeno effect.
For an atheist such as myself, the result is simultaneously enormous, and minor. I have made the leap of faith that MY mind is not the universe: well, you will not be surprised to learn that I sure don’t accept that YOURS is! So, I am forced to meet the Great omniscient Spirit, GoS. How do you do! Pleased to meet you! I am here not at all joking; as I go for my hour of walking each day, I not infrequently hold hands with GoS.
You can see what I mean by “enormous.” Of fundamental importance to me. But minor at the same time, because that is the end of it. The first ten Presidents of the United States were all Deists, not Christians. As was Lincoln. I join them in that belief.
The authors make the critical point that religious belief flowing out of quantum mechanics does not in any way validate “intelligent design.” (Indeed, in my view ID is insulting to GoS, who is surely not, as the authors emphasize, a tinkerer.)
Richard Conn Henry
Review Quantum Enigma
Henry anticipated a backlash from his colleagues from his essay in Nature, but none came about possibly because of his prestigious affiliations. He disavows ID, but he apparently regards himself as a Deist now, and that would suggest he thinks there is a Supreme Being of sorts since:
Deism is a religious and philosophical belief that a supreme being created the universe, and that this (and religious truth in general) can be determined using reason and observation of the natural world alone, without a need for either faith or organized religion
So Henry believes the Great Omnipresent Spirit (GoS) is the creator, but he thinks it would be insulting to suggest that GoS is also the Intelligent Designer.
Far be it for me to disagree with Dr. Henry, but it’s hard not to think that the Great Omnipresent Sprit is also the Intelligent Designer of the universe and life. But if the Great Omnipresent Sprit, dare I say God, is not the Intelligent Designer of life, He would at least have the proper skill sets to make life.
Henry’s idea has been mentioned indirectly earlier. Here is a photo of an Review in Nature 19 years earlier of a book by John Barrow and Frank Tipler.
In the thread Peer Reviewed Stealth ID Classic I point out Tipler’s comment:
I discovered this the hard way when I published my book The Physics of Immortality. The entire book is devoted to describing what the known laws of physics predict the far future of the universe will be like. Not once in the entire book do I use anything but the known physical laws, the laws of physics that are in all the textbooks, and which agree with all experiments conducted to date. Unfortunately, in the book I gave reasons for believing that the final state of the universe, a state outside of space and time, and not material should be identified with the Judeo-Christian God. (It would take a book to explain why!) My scientific colleagues, atheists to a man, were outraged. Even though the theory of the final state of the universe involved only known physics, my fellow physicists refused even to discuss the theory. If the known laws of physics imply that God exists, then in their opinion, this can only mean that the laws of physics have to be wrong. This past September, at a conference held at Windsor Castle, I asked the well known cosmologist Paul Davies what he thought of my theory. He replied that he could find nothing wrong with it mathematically, but he asked what justified my assumption that the known laws of physics were correct.
The idea is actually simple. It is the physics version of a theological argument often used by William Lane Craig: The Kalam Cosmological Argument.
Barrow and Tipler’s variant of the Kalam Cosmological Argument uses quantum mechanics. The Orthodox interpretation of quantum mechanics is that features of a system which did not previously exist are created through the process of observation. This is described in a college text for physics students:
The orthodox position raises even more disturbing problems, for if the act of measurement forces the system to “take a stand,” helping to create an attribute that was not there previously, then there is something very peculiar about the measurement process.
Quantum Mechanics 2nd Edition
Barrow and Tipler argue that not just features of small quantum systems but ALL the features of the universe come about because some Observer creates all the attributes of the universe. Barrow and Tipler argue that this inference (although speculative) proceeds directly from the laws of physics (independent of any theology). Barrow and Tipler call the Observer who creates the universe “The Ultimate Observer”. Tipler later identified “The Ultimate Observer” as God.
Oddly, Barrow and Tipler’s work has been criticized from ID quarters (partly because they advocate Many Worlds). But I think their work is more ID-friendly than most realize!
On top of that, there is the reasonable inference that consciousness must be somehow at the root of what make quantum observations real. That was the thesis of Quantum Enigma (which Henry references). Here is what the authors Kuttner and Rosenbulm had to say at www.QuantumEnigma.com:
Quantum mechanics is the most battle-tested theory in all of science. It is also practical. (One third of our economy depends on things designed with it.) But, with the advent of quantum mechanics, physicists, unexpectedly, felt the need to talk of reality, connectedness, and even “consciousness.”
Reality: Undisputed experimental results challenge any common-sense view of physical reality. By your free choice you can establish either of two contradictory prior physical realities. What existed before your observation? Experts in the foundations of quantum mechanics still puzzle about and argue about this.
While the creation of physical reality can be demonstrated only for small things, like molecules, or “simple” situations, only technology sets the limit. Quantum theory is seamless. It presumably applies to everything (including us?). Cosmologists apply quantum mechanics to black holes and the Big Bang.
Connectedness: Quantum theory tells that all things that have ever interacted are forever connected. For example, your friend’s freely made decision of what to do in Moscow (or on Mars) can instantaneously influence what you find in Manhattan. And this happens without any physical force being involved. Einstein called such influences “spooky actions.” They have now been demonstrated to exist. So far just for small things, but they are no less spooky.
The facts described in our book are completely undisputed. But mentioning “consciousness” is controversial. The encounter of physics with “non-physical” stuff like consciousness has been called our “skeleton in the closet.” Look at the undisputed facts, and think for yourself about what they mean.
in our teaching of quantum mechanics, we tacitly deny the mystery physics has encountered. We hardly mention Bohr’s grappling with physics’ encounter with the observer and von Neumann’s demonstration that the encounter is, in principle, inevitable. We largely avoid the still-unresolved issues raised by Einstein, Schrödinger, Wigner, Bohm, and Bell. Outside the physics classroom, physicists increasingly address these issues and often go beyond the purely “physical.” Consciousness, for example, comes up explicitly in almost every one of today’s proliferating interpretations of quantum mechanics, if only to show why physics itself need not deal with it. The many worlds interpretation, for example, is also referred to as the “many minds” interpretation, and a major treatment of decoherence concludes that an ultimate understanding would involve a model of consciousness.
The Copenhagen interpretation is, of course, all we need to describe the world, for all practical purposes. And for a physics class, practical purposes are generally all that matter. But a physics student confronting someone inclined to take the implications of quantum mechanics to unjustified places will find Copenhagen’s for-all-practical-purposes treatment an ineffective argument.
Our physics discipline is unable to present a reasonable-seeming picture of what’s going on in the physical world, one that goes beyond merely practical purposes. But a lecture or two can succinctly expose the mystery physics has encountered, admit the limits of our understanding, and identify as speculation whatever goes beyond those limits. It would enable students to effectively confront the quantum nonsense. Such a presentation is possible even in a “physics for poets” class, where it may even be most crucial. Physics’ encounter with the observer and consciousness can be embarrassing, but that’s not a good reason for avoiding it. The analogy with sex education comes to mind.
HT: my good friend and mentor Mike Gene for the Dawkins quote