Stye In The Third Eye: Quantum Mysticism and Misunderstanding

Pax Christi everybody!

How wrong is Quantum mysticism? I’m not familiar with the subject, so I can’t really debunk the claims of New Agers like Deepak Chopra, but for those of you familiar with Quantum Mechanics, could you explain what the double-slit experiments mean and why New Agers like Chopra are wrong?

He’s not even wrong.

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Wait really?

Don’t wait. Read the link. You haven’t yet.

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Oh sorry I didn’t know it was a link.

Yikes just read it. I can practically hear Erwin Schrodinger spinning in his grave!

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Grateful that Wikipedia generally has not yet been hacked by Chopra and other alternative quacks–I’m amazed, actually. it’s a good one. Thanks.

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I would be happy to give you the physics point of view, but I think you need to be more specific about what claim(s) of Chopra you would like a comment on. I have never paid a whole lot of attention to him. What pops up in the Wikipedia article is his “quantum healing” and I would put that in the same category as healing crystals, homeopathy, witchcraft, psychics, UFOs, and my own religious beliefs (i.e. Christianity) – things we have subjective reasons for believing in but no objective evidence to provide any reasonable expectation that others should agree.

Oh… here we go… later on in the same Wikipedia article…

In this view, consciousness is both subject and object. It is consciousness, he writes, that creates reality; we are not “physical machines that have somehow learned to think…[but] thoughts that have learned to create a physical machine”. He argues that the evolution of species is the evolution of consciousness seeking to express itself as multiple observers; the universe experiences itself through our brains: “We are the eyes of the universe looking at itself”. He has been quoted as saying “Charles Darwin was wrong. Consciousness is key to evolution and we will soon prove that.” He opposes reductionist thinking in science and medicine, arguing that we can trace the physical structure of the body down to the molecular level and still have no explanation for beliefs, desires, memory and creativity. In his book Quantum Healing, Chopra stated the conclusion that quantum entanglement links everything in the universe, and therefore it must create consciousness. Claims of quantum consciousness are, however, disputed by scientists arguing that quantum effects have no effect in systems on the macro-level systems (i.e., the brain).

  1. consciousness creates reality: No it does not. Certainly quantum physics does not prove any such thing. When physicists talk about observation they are talking about measuring devices and consciousness has NOTHING to do with it. At most I would only agree that there is an irreducibly subjective aspect to reality in addition to an objective aspect of reality.
  2. evolution of species is the evolution of consciousness: Since I think consciousness is an innate property of all living things then I would agree with him on that one.
  3. Charles Darwin was wrong: About what? He was proven quite correct about most things. But yes I can think of some things he was wrong about. Contrary to a claim I heard attributed to him, dogs come from a single species of wolf and not from many different species – all their variety comes from breeding. Just means he guessed wrong on that one – an exception which very much proves the rule that he was RIGHT.
  4. Consciousness is the key to evolution and we will soon prove that: Could be consciousness is the key to something, but I very much doubt that any such thing can or will be proven.
  5. Opposition to reductionist thinking: On this we certainly agree.
  6. and still have no explanation for… People expect very different things from explanations, certainly what science demands from an explanation is rather different than what a lot of people want from one.
  7. quantum entanglement links everything in the universe: Yep. That very minimal statement is certainly true.
  8. and therefore it must create consciousness: This does not follow.
  9. refutation that quantum effects have no effect in systems on the macro-level: Science itself has refuted this with the advent of chaotic dynamics. Quantum effects can and do alter the course of event on a macro-level. Doesn’t mean that we can heal people with mind and crystals… doesn’t mean that we can’t either.

Well the double-slit experiments mean that photons and electrons can behave more like a particle or more like a wave depending on their interaction with measuring devices. Use a measuring device to find out which slit the photon or electron goes through and it behaves more like a particle with no interference pattern. Without the measuring device, the photon or electron goes through both slits at the same time like a wave to interfere with themselves and create an interference pattern.

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Quantum mechanics exposes a fundamental rift between the way scientists think and the way New Agers think.

Scientists see that quantum mechanics is weird, and devise careful experiments and studies to try and figure out exactly how the weirdness works.

New Agers see that quantum mechanics is weird, and take it as a free pass to make things up.

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They really don’t need it, they just make stuff up anyway. Similarly, panpsychists and panentheists.

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A few others:

He thought that the phanerozoic had lasted about 2.5 billion years (about evenly split between the three eras), though that is about equally accurate compared to his contemporaries (vaguely guessing ~100 million for the geologists, and confidently less for many of the physicists that the geologists didn’t like). He tended too far into hyper-uniformitarian nothing-of-greater-magnitude-than-current-can-ever-happen sort of ideas, the same way Lyell did. Other than that he was mostly right, scientifically. Ignoring things of the “we found more stuff since then” line.

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To what? Links everything to what?

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Were you intending this reply for me, or for @mitchellmckain?

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Yes, that should be explained, for it can be taken to mean far more than is the case. Entanglement certainly does not constitute a causal connection (or communication of information) faster than the speed of light. But it does mean that distant events are not necessarily entirely independent either. Thus you can say that there is a link, but certainly not in the way this word “link” is usually taken to mean.

Oh and perhaps “everything in the universe” is also an exaggeration. We don’t know whether the universe is finite or infinite and even if the entire visible universe is in principle linked by the possibility of entanglement we do not know that everything in the universe is linked in this way.

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My apologies @Paraleptopecten. For… technical reasons I don’t see @mitchellmckain directly.

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If you read most theoretical physicists, they don’t have much regard for people like that. They show how the ideas are just appropriated to try to serve the particular religions views. This doesn’t just go for New Agers, other groups (such as Jews and Christians) have also done similar things.

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Good point. If my memory serves me well, Inspiring Philosophy has a whole video series about Quantum stuff and changing the world through observation, though this would be on the part of God.

Sometimes it’s best to leave things to the experts.

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