What I am presenting here is just philosophy. It isn’t hard but it is based on quantum mechanics but no math below. Christians, however, have missed one of the most amazing arguments for our world view by ignoring this area.
I had toyed with this idea for years but it wasn’t until a week after my cancer reached my bones, and I was a wee bit depressed that I read the passage in a Scientific American article which confirmed that there is indeed strong evidence for the existence of the soul and there was no escape from the argument. . I viewed this as a divine cheer up message to me. This issue destroys materialism so even though it is not the easiest reading, it is well worth the effort. Nobel Laureate Steven Weinberg wrote:
“Fundamentally, I have an ideal of what a physical theory should be. It should be something that doesn’t refer in any specific way to human beings. It should be something from which everything else–including anything you can say systematically about chemistry, or biology, or human affairs–can be derived. It shouldn’t have human beings at the beginning in the laws of nature. And yet, I don’t see any way of formulating quantum mechanics without an interpretative postulate that refers to what happens when people choose to measure one thing or another.” Steven Weinberg cited by Tim Folger, How Does the Quantum World Cross Over?, Scientific American, July 2018, p. 32
If this is true, and no one can doubt Weinberg;s expertise in this field, then humans are something integral to quantum mechanics. Humans make choices that affect the material world. When we observe a quantum system, we obtain one answer for, say, where the electron is in space. But the math of quantum says that the electron is in all possible places at once, prior to the observation. This state is called superposition. While the system is in superposition, the electron is everywhere at once. Our observations, however, will see the electron at only one spot; we see the electron in one place, not everywhere at once. This difference between what quantum math says is happening and what we see is called the collapse of the wavefunction to one of the possible answers. It happens when we observe the system according to the still quite popular Copenhagen interpretation.
In order to understand it, one first needs to understand the von Neumann chain. Rosenblum and Kuttner explain:
"In his rigourous 1932 treatment, The Mathematical Foundations of Quantum Mechannics, John von Neumann showed that quantum theory makes physics’ encounter with consciousness inevitable. He considered a measuring apparatus, a Geiger counter, for example. It is isolated from the rest of the world but makes contact with a quantum system, say, an atom simultaneously in two boxes. This Geiger counter is set to fire if the atom is in the top box and to remain unfired if the atom is in the bottom box. Von Neumann showed that if the Geiger counter is a physical system governed by quantum mechanics, it would enter a superposition state with the atom and be, simultaneously, in a fired and an un fired state. (We saw this situation in the case of Schrodinger’s cat.)"
“Should a second isolated measuring apparatus come into contact with the Geiger counter-for example, an electronic device recording whether the Geiger counter has fired-it joins the superposition state and records both situations existing simultaneously. This so-called “von Neumann chain” can continue indefinitely. Von Neumann showed that no physical system obeying the laws of physics (i.e., quantum theory) could collapse a superposition state wavefunction to yield a particular result.”
“However, when we look at the Geiger counter, we will always see a particular result, not a superposition. Von Neumann concluded that only a conscious observer doing something that is not presently encompassed by physics can collapse a wavefunction. Though for all practical purposes one can consider the wavefunction collapsed at any macroscopic stage of the von Neumann chain, von Neumann concluded that only a conscious observer can actually make an observation.” Bruce Rosenblum and Fred Kuttner, Quantum Enigma, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), p. 184
Von Neumann showed that anything subject to the laws of quantum will go into superposition with the quantum system it interacts with. Wigner’s friend paradox asks what happens when one uses a friend to observe a quantum system and you are eagerly awaiting the answer? Does the friend go into superposition with the quantum system? If it does, it creates a paradox.
Wigner’s friend is a paradox which got its name from Nobel Laureate Eugene Wigner who presented it in the early 1960s, but the first appearance of this paradox in the literature is found in Hugh Everett’s dissertation in 1957. A friend looks to see if Schrodinger’s cat is alive or dead. He has observed the system. For him the wavefunction has collapsed to a particular state or answer. But Wigner, not having observed the cat doesn’t know whether the cat is alive or dead. This gives rise to a paradox. Two observers describing the same event (the friend’s observation of the cat), describe it differently. They don’t see the same thing using a rigorous application of quantum mathematics. Remember, according to von Neumann, anything subject to the laws of quantum will go into superposition when it interacts with a quantum system. This is important for IF the laws of quantum mechanics apply to his friend’s consciousness, then before Wigner’s friend tells him whether the cat is alive or dead, the friend is in a superposition state of friend knows cat alive plus friend knows cat dead. Wigner doesn’t know whether the cat is alive or dead so Wigner is forced to use quantum math to describe his friend in this superpositional state. But to the friend, he sees no superposition at all. He sees either a cat that is alive or a cat that is dead. ONLY when the friend gives an answer to Wigner does the quantum math collapse to one state or another–cat is alive or cat is dead, and the observers then can describe the event in similar terms.
“However, even in this case, in which the observation was carried out by someone else, the typical change in the wave function occurred only when some information the yes or no of my friend) entered my consciousness. It follows that the quantum description of objects is influenced by impressions entering my consciousness.” Eugene Wigner, Remarks on the Mind-Body Question , Eugene Wigner, in John Wheeler and Wojciech Hubert Zurek,Quantum Theory and Measurement, , (Princeton: Princeton University Press 1983), p. 176
After mathematically proving his position, Wigner states:
“It follows that the being with a consciousness must have a different role in quantum mechanics than the inanimate measuring device.” Eugene Wigner, Remarks on the Mind-Body Question , Eugene Wigner, in John Wheeler and Wojciech Hubert Zurek, Quantum Theory and Measurement, , (Princeton: Princeton University Press 1983), p. 180
Wigner goes on to make two very important points about his friend paradox. First, materialism is false. he says:
“The principal argument against materialism is not that illustrated in the last two sections: that it is incompatible with quantum theory. The principal argument is that thought processes and consciousness are the primary concepts, that our knowledge of the external world is the content of our consciousness and that the consciousness, therefore, cannot be denied.” Eugene Wigner, Remarks on the Mind-Body Question , Eugene Wigner, in John Wheeler and Wojciech Hubert Zurek,Quantum Theory and Measurement, , (Princeton: Princeton University Press 1983), p. 176
Secondly he states that consciousness is a fundamental aspect of reality.
“It may be premature to believe that the present philosophy of quantum mechanics will remain a permanent feature of future physical theories; it will remain remarkable, in whatever way our future concepts may develop, that the very study of the external_world led to the conclusion that the content of the consciousness is an ultimate reality” Eugene Wigner, Remarks on the Mind-Body Question, in Eugene Wigner, Philosophical Reflections and Syntheses, Springer, 2012, p. 172
In my next post, in a day or two, I will discuss an extension of Wigner’s friend paradox that has been tested experimentally. Further the experiment shows a fundamental logical paradox which, if you believe in the multiverse, requires a privileged observer for its solution–that is, a God.
My friend Gordon Simons and I have written up a comprehensive and understandable (we have tested it) paper which I have placed on my blog. http://themigrantmind.blogspot.com/2019/05/quantum-soul.html