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Does quantum mechanics entail the existence of an immaterial human mind?

In “Does Quantum Physics Make it Easier to Believe in God?” (Big Questions Online, , July 10, 2012 ), physicist Stephen Barr offers an interesting argument:

That’s why, when Peierls was asked whether a machine could be an “observer,” he said no, explaining that “the quantum mechanical description is in terms of knowledge, and knowledge requires somebody who knows.” Not a purely physical thing, but a mind.

But what if one refuses to accept this conclusion, and maintains that only physical entities exist and that all observers and their minds are entirely describable by the equations of physics? Then the quantum probabilities remain in limbo, not 0 and 100% (in general) but hovering somewhere in between. They never get resolved into unique and definite outcomes, but somehow all possibilities remain always in play. One would thus be forced into what is called the “Many Worlds Interpretation” (MWI) of quantum mechanics.

But only in 70 percent of the resulting universes, in which case 30 percent of the resulting universes are … oh heck, von Neumann was right. There IS a backstop to all this and the mind is real. .  More.

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4 Responses to Does quantum mechanics entail the existence of an immaterial human mind?

  1. I found this paper a few days ago:

    The following physicist shows that allowing a conscious observer to be given an ‘ontologically complete’ role in Quantum Mechanics eliminates ‘bizarre speculations’:

    Quantum brains: The oRules – Richard A. Mould – 2004
    Department of Physics and Astronomy, State University of New York,
    Excerpt page 9: Traditional quantum mechanics is not completely grounded in observation inasmuch as it does not include an observer. The epistemological approach of Copenhagen does not give the observer a role that is sufficient for him to realize the full empirical potential of the theory; and as a result, this model encourages bizarre speculations such as the many-world interpretation of Everett or the cat paradox of Schrödinger. However, when rules are written that allow a conscious observer to be given an ontologically complete role in the system, these empirical distortions disappear. It is only because of the incompleteness of the epistemological model by itself that these fanciful excursions seem plausible3. note 3: Physical theory should be made to accommodate the phenomena, not the other way around. Everett goes the other way around when he creates imaginary phenomenon to accommodate traditional quantum mechanics. If the oRules were adopted in place of the Born rule, these flights of fantasy would not be possible.

    I strongly agree with him, because for one thing, it was impossible to geometrically maintain centrality for radically different points of observation within the ‘sphere of the Cosmic Background Radiation’ unless the observer was granted a ‘ontologically complete’ role in the collapse of quantum wave functions:

    Centrality of Each Individual Conscious Observer In The Universe and Christ’s Very Credible Reconciliation Of General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics

    quotes of note:

    “It was not possible to formulate the laws (of quantum theory) in a fully consistent way without reference to consciousness.” Eugene Wigner (1902 -1995) from his collection of essays “Symmetries and Reflections – Scientific Essays”; Eugene Wigner laid the foundation for the theory of symmetries in quantum mechanics, for which he received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1963.

    “It will remain remarkable, in whatever way our future concepts may develop, that the very study of the external world led to the scientific conclusion that the content of the consciousness is the ultimate universal reality” -
    Eugene Wigner – (Remarks on the Mind-Body Question, Eugene Wigner, in Wheeler and Zurek, p.169) – received Nobel Prize in 1963 for ‘Quantum Symmetries’

    “No, I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness.”
    (Max Planck, as cited in de Purucker, Gottfried. 1940. The Esoteric Tradition. California: Theosophical University Press, ch. 13).

    “Consciousness cannot be accounted for in physical terms. For consciousness is absolutely fundamental. It cannot be accounted for in terms of anything else.”
    (Schroedinger, Erwin. 1984. “General Scientific and Popular Papers,” in Collected Papers, Vol. 4. Vienna: Austrian Academy of Sciences. Friedr. Vieweg & Sohn, Braunschweig/Wiesbaden. p. 334.)

    Of somewhat related note: It can even be strongly argued that the presupposition that man has a ‘mind’, a mind made in ‘the image of God’, was one of the foundational presuppositions which led to bringing of modern science to a sustainable level of maturity in Judeo-Christian cultures:

    Epistemology – Why Should The Human Mind Even Be Able To Comprehend Reality? – Stephen Meyer – video – (Notes in description)

    Why should the human mind be able to comprehend reality so deeply? – referenced article

    Philosopher Sticks Up for God
    Excerpt: Theism, with its vision of an orderly universe superintended by a God who created rational-minded creatures in his own image, “is vastly more hospitable to science than naturalism,” with its random process of natural selection, he (Plantinga) writes. “Indeed, it is theism, not naturalism, that deserves to be called ‘the scientific worldview.’”

    Modern science was conceived, and born, and flourished in the matrix of Christian theism. Only liberal doses of self-deception and double-think, I believe, will permit it to flourish in the context of Darwinian naturalism.
    ~ Alvin Plantinga

    etc.. etc..

  2. OP: There IS a backstop to all this and the mind is real

    Well, only a zombie without consciousness would ever think that in the first place. :)

    I’ve always found it curious that any conscious human would deny the primary status of their own consciousness for the mere products of logic.



  3. OP,

    Ooops, I meant to say that “only a zombie without consciousness would ever DENY that in the first place.”

  4. Does QM entail the existence of an immaterial human mind?

    Short answer, YES, with absolute proof.

    1. The brain occupies a finite physical space and has finite energy. Thus it has available to it only a finite set of physical states.
    2. The set of allowable thoughts is an uncountable infinity, because the mind can think of not only all physically possible states, but also all impossible and improbable states.
    3. There can be no mapping from a finite number to an uncountable infinity, so there can also be no mapping from brain state to thought.
    4. So the mind can only have access to the uncountably infinite set of possible thoughts if it also lives in an unphysical domain not restricted by the limitations of QM.
    5. The mind is immaterial. QED.

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