Wigner's Friend, the existence of the immaterial soul and death of materialism

(GJDS) #21

As a general point, do any of these outlooks impact on the notion of intelligibility of the universe; that is the accessibility of nature to human reason? This imo is part of maths.

(Mitchell W McKain) #22

I think you need to elaborate what you are getting at with your question.

For example… I think your questions runs into problems regarding what is meant by “reason.” I tend equate “reason” with a very mathematical process which is easily imitated by machines without any consciousness. Others seem to practically equate reason with this subjective experience of consciousness. Since you use the phrase “human reason” this suggest to me something more like the latter meaning.

And yet even with that I wonder if I am not missing the point you are trying to get at. here are some other questions…

Which outlooks are you talking about? The three listed regarding consciousness?
What do you mean by intelligibility such that you think these views of consciousness has an impact?
What do you mean by the final comment on this being a part of maths?

(Mark D.) #23

Thank you. Given my limited time at the moment this was very helpful.

(GJDS) #24

I am interested in what this discussion may consider in the following context (I am inclined to consider ‘self-awareness’ instead of consciousness, but this is preference and not rigorous argumentation).

Science is generally understood as laws of nature and includes outcomes to the human senses (and to reason) from nature’s activities, or phenomena - these responses may be quantified by observation and hypothesis and tend to suggest an instrumentalist attribute of a human being in a world of objects. I would argue against instrumentalism, but I believe a non-passionate view, or a sensible one, as an indifferent response to nature, is reasonable. Observations of nature and hypothesis by scientists are activities of a reasoning human being and cannot be law-of-nature; in that a human being measures, weighs, calculates etc., the human being is ‘active’ in thinking and measuring, and thus his activities are within nature. In this way, it is difficult to differentiate between activities of a human being and those of an object; all consist of activity of matter in time and space, (in motion or in a dynamic state) and thus considered explicable via the scientific method. It is thus erroneous to believe that we humans are able to bring a law into existence when providing a theory, a hypothesis, or a formulation. The difficulty faced by us is that of differentiating between ourselves as reasoning beings, and the objects of our inquiry - since both appear to be in the world. However, the subject-object or ‘both are in the world’, arises from a human being, not from the world. This actualises into language activity, which leads to a differentiation between the world of phenomenon/dynamics and that of human reality - although it may be reasoned that both are activities and thus explicable in time and space by the scientific method.

The dynamics of any natural system would be the same whether these were, or were not, understood – even if one were to think to conform to such dynamics. Science attempts to provide explanations or descriptions believed to encompass the universe. A ‘law’ as something that may be considered as arising from reason applied to an object is unnecessary. It may appear, however, that ‘mega-knowledge’ is sought to enable a human being to attain to a complete understanding of the phenomena and its objects, and this may provide an intellectual perception, or inference, that objects behave according to some principle; or, objects are required to be as they are by a ‘something in their being-ness’. This search for an explanation of everything, or a universal, arises from a human being’s intellectual questioning and doubting. A scientific law is an articulation, or combination, of words and symbols, to provide meaning of the world of objects to human beings. It is unnecessary to argue that a law is present (or it has been added by the human being to the universe) to ensure the universe is what it is. We may reason that the universe is ‘lawful’ because it continues to be what it is, and also we may conclude that there is a finality, or that we may ‘finally’ or ‘completely’ understand it; we may also seek comfort from an ideal, suggesting that the universe and our understanding of it may become one and the same, or everything will finally be totally reasonable. The essential question in natural studies is therefore the intelligibility of nature – how is it that human reason and intellect can access natural phenomena and natures ultimate realities? One response to this question is the attribute often termed ‘image of God’ to humanity.

I understand this area can lead to lengthy discussion and I think my remarks may be sufficient to express my point of view.

(Mitchell W McKain) #25

It is because there are measurable quantities that behave according to mathematical equations, demonstrably to a very high degree of accuracy. If that were not the case then we would not be able to discover them. If nature behaved according to the whim of innumerable deities without any consistent pattern or regard for what we do then I don’t see how we could discover anything for certain. In other words, nature is intelligible because it is consistent. We can only find the rules and patterns in nature because it follows rules and the patterns are there.

Because of the way that evolution works, I would say that this is also the answer to why we have the capability to discover those patterns. Every way in which we can predict the behavior of nature gives us an advantage for survival. So it is reasonable to suppose that it is the existence of those equations/patterns which makes it all too likely that evolution will find a way for some of its creatures to discover and understand those equations/patterns.

Probably sounds like I am saying we don’t need God to explain any of that, and you would be right. But that doesn’t mean that God doesn’t exist or that God doesn’t have very good reason for wanting things to work and develop that way.


I am replying to pevaquark but this has application to a lot of the issues including the difference of opinion between me and Mitchell about the nature of consciousness. Pevaquark sending a cartoon, which clearly indicates he might think my position is a loon bag position. I couldn’t sleep so let’s examine who else might be in that loon bag position.

Let’s start with a thing we can all agree on. Nature magazine is one of the most prestigious places in which to publish an article. My guess is 90% of the people on this forum have never had an article published there. Neither have I but I would like to have had one, and I bet most scientists here would like to have had one as well.

Given their reputation for excellence you should know that they published last fall an article by Frauchiger and Renner entitled, Quantum theory cannot consistently describe the use of itself. This paper had circulated for 3 years prior to its publication with reviewers finding nothing fatal. The paper passed peer-review with Nature’s editors, passed and was published. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-018-05739-8 Furthermore, as discussed below, there is experimental support just published for F&R’s position, that trying to model agents using quantum leads to contradictions, just like it did with Wigner’s friend.

The above in and of itself does not make their paper true, but it should make people think of the consequences if it is true.

  1. If a brain using quantum can’t be modeled using quantum mechanics, then that strongly implies that consciousness is something else that doesn’t arise from the laws of physics. It would mean that consciousness isn’t subject to the laws of quantum.

  2. If that is true, then this idea I am presenting is not such a loon bin idea if Nature is publishing something consistent with it.

The article shows that consciousness is not subject to the laws of quantum mechanics. The article extends Wigner’s friend paradox to four friends observing two labs. If you have read my post above, on Wigner’s friend, where one friend causes a paradox, you will not be surprised to see that more friends cause more problems. New Scientist says:

"The Frauchiger-Renner paradox hits a level of weirdness that exceeds the previous feline thought experiments. Previously there was a dead-and-alive cat that you never got to see, leaving room for doubt that it ever existed. In this experiment, all the measurements have been made and it is as if the dead-and-alive cat is right there in front of you. There is no single truth everyone involved in the measurements can agree on. "The resolutions of the old paradoxes of Schrodinger’s cat and Wigner’s friend don’t apply to this one,’ says Renner. That disturbing conclusion is writ large in the title of the paper that, after many refinements, Frauchiger and Renner finally published in 2018: "Quantum mechanics cannot consistently describe the use of itself’. Richard Webb, The Reality Paradox, New Scientist, March 23, 2019, p.31-32.

I will note here that Nature has published an article advocating Bohmian mechanics as the solution to the paradox Frauchiger and Renner present, but it may have as hard a sledding as I am here, since most think Bohmian mechanics has been disproven. Furthermore, Proietti et al, discussed below offer at least partial experimental support for Frauchiger and Renner’s paper.

Noting the controversiality of Frauchiger and Renner’s paper, New Scientist says"

"Since the paradox was first circulated, there has been lively discussion of its significance. Some think the result plain wrong, and that there is a faulty or hidden assumption that renders the thought experiment invalid.

“Scott Aaronson, a computational theorist at the University of Texas at Austin, doesn’t count himself in that camp. He thinks the thought experiment represents a clever new scenario, but rejects the assumption that quantum physics needs to be able to describe itself. ‘We already knew for a long time that quantum mechanics no longer really works in hypothetical scenarios where we ourselves are being manipulated as we try to make quantum-mechanical predictions,’ he says, Sure, the theory doesn’t work when observers are themselves in a superposition. But we aren’t, so who cares?”

"Hardy disagrees. ‘It is a significant theorem and it goes beyond the discussion we had before,’ he says. 'It’s undermining the absolute nature of truth–that is the problem here." Richard Webb, The Reality Paradox, New Scientist, March 23, 2019, p. 32.

Without going into the details of the paradox which would be tedious and I would invite interested parties to read the paper at https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-018-05739-8.pdf Aaronson is correct. Wigner’s friend paradox already showed that quantum doesn’t work if we use it to model a conscious observer, but this work merely makes that conclusion more emphatic.

Frauchiger and Renner lay out the assumptions that go into their calculations:

" It asserts that three natural-sounding assumptions, (Q), (C ), and (S), cannot all be valid. Assumption (Q) captures the universal validity of quantum theory (or, more specifically, that an agent can be certain that a given proposition holds whenever the quantum-mechanical Born rule assigns probability-1 to it). Assumption (C ) demands consistency, in the sense that the different agents’ predictions are not contradictory. Finally, (S) is the requirement that, from the viewpoint of an agent who carries out a particular measurement, this measurement has one single outcome. The theorem itself is neutral in the sense that it does not tell us which of these three assumptions is wrong. However, it implies that any specific interpretation of quantum theory, when applied to the Gedankenexperiment, will necessarily conflict with at least one of them." Daniela Frauchiger and Renato Renner, "Quantum Theory cannot consistently describe the use of itself" Nature, Sept 18, 2018

Let’s look at these assumptions. Assumption Q, Universal applicability of Quantum. Peterhouse says:

If a theory is universally valid in the absolute sense, it does not allow for an observer not described by the theory." Thomas Breuer Peterhouse, "Classical Observables, Measurement and Quantum Mechanics," Ph. D. Thesis, University of Cambridge, Sept 1994, p. 35

Most physicists and other scientists have used the materialistic assumption to assert that QM applies to all things inside this universe, including our consciousness/ mind/ soul. If our minds/souls are expressions of the workings of matter, QM and the other laws of physics and are some sort of epiphenomenon of complex matter, then mental states would be subject to the laws of quantum dynamics. Many suggestions have been made that consciousness is a quantum phenomenon.(Roger Penrose among them) But Frauchiger and Renner prove them wrong.

Others think it is ridiculous to think consciousness is a quantum phenomenon, but think consciousness arises from the complexity of the brain. The problem with this second group is that they don’t show how consciousness arises. We are left with no explanation of consciousness. What Sperry and Henry Stapp stated about consciousness remains true to this day:

In a similar vein R. W. Sperry writes in 1952: 'The comment of Charles Sherrington remains as valid today as when he wrote it more than eighteen years ago: 'We have to regard the relation of mind to brain as still not merely unsolved but still devoid of a basis on which to begin.” Henry P. Stapp, “Mind, Matter and Quantum Mechanics,” Foundations of Physics, V. 12:4(1982), p.366

The problem seems insuperable. Searles puts it well (Qualia being the subjective sensation of pain we feel, the sensation of taste of an apple, the smell of rain or smoke, etc),

“Even for a system of whose qualia I have near-perfect knowledge, myself for example, the problem of qualia is serious. It is this: How is it possible for physical, objective, quantitatively describable neuron firings to cause qualitative, private, subjective experiences? How, to put it naively, does the brain get us over the hump from electrochemistry to feeling? That is the hard part of the mind-body problem that is left over after we see that consciousness must be caused by brain processes and is itself a feature of the brain.” John R. Searles, “Francis Crick, the Binding Problem, and the Hypothesis of Forty Hertz,” in John R. Searles, The Mystery of Consciousness, (New York: A New York Review Book, 1997), p. 28

This mind/body problem is consistent with the idea that our qualia are much more than mere neurons firing. A neural net computer tries to mimic our nerves. So far there is no evidence that such computers feel their existence. This places our consciousness in a special class and indicates that somehow mind/soul is " outside of the description provided by physics."

To me, assumption Q is the weak link in the set of assumptions. Mind is not subject to quantum mechanics, and that means it is something entirely different–something like a soul.

Assumption C–consistency. This is the real sine qua non of science and knowledge. If our theories are inconsistent, then all knowledge is impossible to obtain. If today when I measure the bounce of a ball and the height decreases with every bounce, then I know the laws of physics (friction and energy conservation) as we know them apply. But if tomorrow, the ball bounces higher and higher after each bounce, eventually shooting off into space, inconsistent with what we know of physics, then all we could do is shrug our shoulders and say we don’t understand nature. Consistency is the very touchstone of logic. As a professor once proved in my class, from any inconsistency he can prove that the Pope is protestant, and he did as we students peeled off one inconsistency after another. If C is not valid, shut your science books and start reading Tarot Cards.

Assumption S–singular results. Frauchiger and Renner say " from the viewpoint of an agent who carries out a particular measurement, this measurement has one single outcome" This is totally consistent with our experience. We never experience multiple outcomes of a quantum experiment–it is one or the other, but not both. It is hard to see how this can be the problematical assumption.

This leaves us solely with the idea that quantum is not universally applicable. It isn’t applicable to consciousness. This all says one thing, there is something in the situation to which quantum doesn’t apply.

Maybe it doesn’t apply to macroscopic objects, but already objects large enough to be seen have been placed in superposition. But macroscopic objects with trillions of atoms, which can be seen by the naked eye have already been placed in quantum states, so a possible limit of quantum due to size seems unlikely. Furthermore as Proietti et al observe:

"Notably, the formalism of quantum mechanics does not make a distinction between large (even conscious) and small physical system, which is sometimes referred to as universality." Massimiliano Proietti et al, Experimental rejection of observer-independence in the quantum world https://arxiv.org/pdf/1902.05080.pdf, p.3

But if quantum doesn’t apply to consciousness, then quantum is not a universal theory and consciousness does not arise as a phenomenon of the material brain either. These issues have tremendous implications for the nature of man and the nature of this universe. Materialism has reigned in our secular, technological society, but that doesn’t mean that materialism is true.

Renner sees his work as disproving the Everett multiverse. He says:

Take Renner’s favoured many-worlds interpretation, which forgoes the part about alternative facts not being allowed–they are allowed, just in another universe. Renner initially thought this might work. But further investigation showed that there is no branch of the universe after the measurement where the answers of all four observers are consistent. ‘Before this thought experiment, I was relatively convinced that certain interpretations make sense,’ says Renner. 'Now I think none of them can.’” Richard Webb, The Reality Paradox, New Scientist, March 23, 2019, p.32-33

Amazingly, a recent experiment by Proietti et al has been placed out on arxiv which uses an extended Wigner’s friend model to design their experiment. They too came up with the now familiar problem that quantum predicts that the different observers see different answers. It clearly shows a problem of consistency (Assumption C above). But in almost all cases different experimenters in our world do NOT report different results from similar or identical experiments. So if assumption C is the problem and is real, as Proietti et al suggest, why don’t we see more inconsistency in our observations of nature?

These experimenters seem to be committed many worlds advocates and their conclusion on how to avoid the problems their experiment generates borders on the theological–shoot, it doesn’t border on it, it marches boldly into theology… Proietti et al, assume the universality of quantum theory and when applied to their favored interpretation of quantum, they run into another immaterial being–God.

If different observers of the identical experiments see different things, what is it that rectifies all the different observations in our world, so that we generally see consistent experimental results? They make a suggestion.

" Modulo the potential loopholes and accepting the photons’ status as observers, the violation of inequality (2) implies that at least one of the three assumptions of free choice, locality, and observer-independent facts must fail. Since abandoning free choice and locality might not resolve the contradiction [5] , one way to accommodate our result is by proclaiming that “facts of the world” can only be established by a privileged observer—e.g., one that would have access to the “global wavefunction” in the many worlds interpretation"

other options "…however, requires us to embrace the possibility that different observers irreconcilably disagree about what happened in an experiment ." Massimiliano Proietti et al, Experimental rejection of observer-independence in the quantum world https://arxiv.org/pdf/1902.05080.pdf, p.4

As Lee Smolin says of the multiverse in general but is quite applicable to Proietti et al’s 'privileged observer":

"It seems to me that the only possible name for such an observer is God…" Lee Smolin, The Life of the Cosmos Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 264

It seems that quantum invariably leads to something existing that is immaterial. Some try to avoid this by holding the decoherence view of quantum but as Gordie and I show in our paper, [http://themigrantmind.blogspot.com/2019/05/quantum-soul.html]

So prevaquark, to answer your earlier questions, I get these quotations by reading and paying attention to the literature. And maybe Nature magazine is also hijacking quantum to lobby for the existence of the immaterial. The Nature article has major implications to the nature of humans–and it isn’t just me flapping my arms; Nature magazine is flapping right beside me.

(GJDS) #27

This is a very difficult notion and I cannot help but see circular reasoning. We are able to make sense based responses to objects, but the rest seems to be the result of human intellect, with much trial and error.

I cannot imagine a way for evolution to work in this context, unless you imbue a “something”, or imposed teleology on it, and if so, it is arbitrary and not the theory. Survival is not an inherent aspect in nature as life and death is ubiquitous.

(Mitchell W McKain) #28

Circular reasoning only applies to an argument. To show circular reasoning you have to show that one of the premises includes the conclusion. You cannot do that in this case because there is no premise and conclusion setup at all. It wasn’t an argument but an answer to a question.

How about a metaphor. I can think of dozens. Here is 2.

  1. Why can we get a solution to the following equation? x+2 = 5 Because a solution exists. There is no circularity in that answer especially because I can give you a counter example. x*x + 2 = 0 No real solution can be found because no real solution exists.

  2. Why can we see trees? Because trees exist and interact with light. If trees didn’t interact with light then we might be able to detect them in some other way but not by what we call sight.

We can do things because they are possible. That is not circular. A bit obvious maybe. And perhaps we might want to pursue it further and ask why again. Then we could answer, because we evolved and evolution is a method for finding out what is possible. It really isn’t all that mysterious. We can do it with a computer program using the same technique which simply searches out what is possible, looking for what works.

But perhaps you want to pursue the two year old why-game even further. Why do we evolve? Why are we alive? Why does the universe support life? Eventually you are going to get to a point where there are no obvious answers. And to be sure, maybe at that point you want to invoke something like God. And the reason for that could many: 1) God told you so. 2) You don’t like unanswered question so you make whatever assumptions gets you an answer. 3)… But most likely other people will come up with a different answer if they are even inclined to do so at all.

That is the universal method of learning which is exactly how evolution works too.

Sorry but the capabilities of your imagination aside, it is demonstrable that it does work.

Survival is an inherent aspect of contingent life, which is the only kind of life we observe in nature.

(GJDS) #29

OK Mitchell, you seek arguments: there are measurable qualities because we measure things? If not we would not measure them, therefor there must be things that we measure.

I will leave it for you to decide what that amounts to.

At the risk of descending to absurdity, if a scientific law states survival is intrinsic, then we may anticipate a time when some species will live (survive) forever.

I think we should both cease this pointless exchange. I became curious if this blog would discuss intelligibility. I leave it at this point.


GJDS said:" _The essential question in natural studies is therefore the intelligibility of nature – how is it that human reason and intellect can access natural phenomena and natures ultimate realities? One response to this question is the attribute often termed ‘image of God’ to humanity._"

I think there is definitely something to this. While it has been popular to downplay human unique abilities, and make animals have these characteristics. Humans are the only beings with a symbolic language that is quite different than that of animal communication. Pinker states:

"“Language is obviously as different from other animals’ communication systems as the elephant’s trunk is different from other animals’ nostrils. Nonhuman communication systems are based on one of three designs: a finite repertory of calls (one for warnings of predators, one for claims to territory, and so on), a continuous analog signal that registers the magnitude of some state (the livelier the dance of the bee, the richer the food source that it is telling its hivemates about), or a series of random variations on a theme (a birdsong repeated with a new twist each time: Charlie Parker with feathers). As we have seen, human language has a very different design. The discrete combinatorial system called ‘grammar’ makes human language infinite (there is no limit to the number of complex words or sentences in a language), digital (this infinity is achieved by rearranging discrete elements in particular orders and combinations, not by varying some signal along a continuum like the mercury in a thermometer), and compositional (each of the infinite combinations has a different meaning predictable from the meanings of its parts and the rules and principles arranging them).
"Even the seat of human language in the brain is special. The vocal calls of primates are controlled not by their cerebral cortex but by phylogenetically older neural structures in the brain stem and limbic system, structures that are heavily involved in emotion. Human vocalizations other than language, like sobbing, laughing, moaning, and shouting in pain, are also controlled subcortically. Subcortical structures even control the swearing that follows the arrival of a hammer on a thumb, that emerges as an involuntary tic in Tourette’s syndrome, and that can survive as Broca’s aphasics’ only speech. Genuine language, as we saw in the preceding chapter, is seated in the cerebral cortex, primarily the left perisylvian region.” ~ Steven Pinker, The Language Instinct, (New York: Harper/Perennial, 1994), p. 334

To head off two possible objections to the above, the objection that chimps have sign language, I quote two anthropolotists:

Indeed, Jane Goodall believes that vocalizations are so closely tied to emotional states that 'the production of a sound in the absence of the appropriate emotional state seems to be an almost impossible task for a chimpanzee.’ Even among chimpanzees, the sound production appears to be controlled in the brain by the ancient structures of the limbic system and the brain stem, which we’ll read about shortly and which are involved in emotional response. The ‘higher’ centers of the brain do not appear to be much involved. This is a far cry (sorry!) from language as we humans know it, which is initiated in those higher centers 9the cerebral cortex) and is dependent on production and interpretation of sounds in isolation from the emotional states of the speaker and hearer. It is also dependent upon rules of grammar, syntax and so forth that are totally absent from the sound combinations chimpanzees make. So, no. Not only do chimpanzees not have language; they don’t even have an incipient form of it.” ~ Ian Tattersall, Becoming Human, (New York: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1998), p. 60-61

In a similar incident, when the renowned chimpanzee ethologist Jane Goodall visited the laboratory where Nim Chimsky lived, she said that every sign Nim made was used by chimpanzees in the wild. Apparently the chimpanzee’s natural repertoire of gestures was being interpreted by the researchers as ASL.

Sue Savage-Rumbaugh, whose work we’ll describe in a moment, tells about her own experience with primatologist Roger Fouts and Washoe:

[Roger] turned to Washoe, looked across the island, and noticed that a long rope lay near the center. . . . Roger turned to Washoe and signed, “Washoe, go get string there.” He gestured in the direction of the string. Washoe looked puzzled, but did begin walking in the direction that Roger had pointed. She looked at a variety of things on the island, touching them and looking back at Roger, as if trying to determine what he meant. She walked past the string several times and each time Roger signed, “There, there, there (again pointing), there string.” Finally, as she again approached the area where the string lay on the ground, Roger began to sign “yes, yes, yes” and nod his head emphatically. As Washoe reached the spot, she picked up the piece of string and was praised fulsomely. “See,” said Roger, “she just had trouble finding the string.” I was not convinced.”

“The consensus among scientists these days seems to be that those early claims for language abilities in great apes cannot be substantiated.” James Trefil, Are We Unique?, (New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 1997), p. 58-59

Humans have religion of some sort. Not all humans but even those who don’t have an ability to understand what religion is about

Only humans do science experiments because science pre-requires a symbolic language.

Only humans do higher symbolic math (yes animals can count but they can’t create Godel’s theorem).

And as I have pointed out, while we can’t rule out animals as quantum observers, we most certainly can rule humans in, and our interaction is of a nature that we must be able to alter the unitary Schrodinger equation. The Schrodinger equation is just a wave equation and the time parameter can be carried out as far as one wants, yet that equation will NEVER predict a collapse to one reality. But when a human observes, he doesn’t see what the Schrodinger equations says–an electron spread throughout a large volume of space, he sees an electron at one specific place. This unpredicted result is what is called the observer problem and as a recent popular book says, it doesn’t seem much different than magic.

This difference between what the Schrodinger equation predicts and what consciousness actually sees is the subject of an interesting passage in Euan Squires book. for those who don’t know, the Born rule turns quantum results into a probability of what the observer will see. (As an aside, Max Born was the grandfather of Olivia Newton John, the singer):

Here is something that does not follow from the simple evolution equation of quantum theory, i.e., the Schrodinger equation, which is all we have used so far. In a large set of identical runs of the above experiment the number of times Melinda would see + and − would be in the ratio |a|^2/|b|^2. This is a “rule” which is sort of added to quantum theory. It is called the Born rule (after Max Born who first proposed it), and it has been confirmed repeatably in myriads of experiments. So, where is the problem, and what has all this got to do with consciousness? The complete description of the “physics” in orthodox quantum theory is the state displayed above, which contains both terms, i.e. both “results”. The unique result of which I am aware does not exist in physics but only in consciousness. The Born rule does not have anything to say about physics - it says something about consciousness.” Euan J Squires. “What are Quantum Theorists Doing at a Conference on Consciousness?” https://arxiv.org/pdf/quant-ph/9602006.pdf 1996 p. 3

In other words, the Born rule says something about what the observer sees and how often he sees it in repeated experiments.

Here is another physicist using consciousness in his formulation of Quantum. I really can’t believe anyone would have made the easily falsiviable claim that there are no formulations of quantum mechanics that involve consciousness!

Humans are very unique in nature

(Mark D.) #31

Even successful single celled organisms and earthworms must move through the world making some sense of what can be eaten, what must be avoided to escape being eaten oneself and mating opportunities. Our bodies have chemical processes which get us ready for fight or flight moments. It may be these chemical processes which account for how it all matters to us and how in more complex organisms the first person perspective arises. It isn’t as simple as neurons processing information in a computerlike fashion. While consciousness is largely about neurons it isn’t exclusively so. Hormones play a role in deciding what our cognitive functions attend to. This is still a far way from making our activity a strictly deterministic affair.

I guess you know Searles also makes the analogy that consciousness is to the brain as digestion is to the GI tract. That is my perspective as well but I don’t think either you or Mitchel would entirely agree. I wonder, apart from the desire to keep the supernatural option open, why his analogy doesn’t convince?

(Mitchell W McKain) #32

What kind of physicist are you that you don’t even know the difference between a formulation of quantum mechanics and a quote of some physicist who happens to mention consciousness?

As for the interest quantum physicist have in consciousness, I already said that just because the consensus agrees that consciousness has nothing to do with the measurement problem doesn’t mean that quantum physics doesn’t have anything to do with consciousness.

Have you ever read Shrodinger’s book “What is life?” Do you know what it says and how to counter his argument?

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #33

The mind is in some sense physical, bit not really because what it does, how it functions is rational or mental, not physical. Blue collar jobs involve physical work, white collar jobs involve mental work. Thinking is different from physical. Thinking is real, but it is not composed of matter/energy.

The Rational is the intermediate between the physical and the spiritual. Laws of physics are a part of science and nature, but are Rational. There are spiritual and moral laws which are rational and not physical, but govern humans who are natural and physical.



Mitch, I gotta ask this. If we don’t need God to explain anything, doesn’t God become nothing more than, as the old Talkorigns meme put it, an invisible pink unicorn?

I struggled with whether or not to become an atheist for about 10 years and it was the above treatment of God as an optional epistemological add on who really made no difference in this world that was one of the things that bothered me. I guess, if God left no track of himself in this world, what good is He?

(Mitchell W McKain) #35

No… He just becomes more than just some tool you can use to get what you want.

Like Carl Sagan’s invisible dragon in the garage… even if there is nothing you can do to show the dragon exists to people doesn’t mean the dragon cannot bite your ass if He so chooses.

Not being something to use for your advantage is not the same as making no difference in the world.

People who are just looking for what they can use to their advantage tend to say the same thing of love, goodness, and justice.

This is why the approach to God is generally described as submission rather than acquisition.

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #36

God did leave an imprint in this world. 1) There is no good way to understand the existence of the universe without God. 2) There is no good way to understand the Rationality of the universe without God. 3) There is no good way to understand the goodness of the universe without God.


Mitch, I want to be nice to you, but you are making it hard with your multiple personal attacks. God bless you, man, but in life, no one gets the privilege of having everyone agree with him.

But clearly you haven’t read much of Squires stuff to know where he stands. He wrote a book entitled Conscious Mind in the Physical World. Hmmm wonder what that is about? He was a mathematical physicist at Durham University and died in the 1990s during a cricket match. Since you have closed your mind to any new ideas by refusing to even look at our article, I will bring a Squire quote forward and he is very much talking about an immaterial God and he actually alludes to how Jesus might have walked through the walls to meet the disciples:

" Quantum theory offers at least two possible roles for a ‘God’, where we use this term for a being that is non-physical, non-human, in some sense superhuman, and is conscious. "The first role is to make the ‘choices’ that are required whenever a measurement is made that selects from a quantum system one of the possible outcomes. Such a God would remove the indeterminacy from the world by taking upon himself those decisions that are not forced by the rules of physics. Although expressed in non-traditional terms, this is reasonably in accordance with the accepted role of a God. He would be very active in all aspects of the world, and would be totally omnipotent within the prescribed limits. Prediction of his behaviour from the laws of physics would be impossible (note that we are not permitting any hidden variables in this chapter), although from both the theological and the scientific viewpoint we would want to believe that there were reasons for at least some of the choices: otherwise we would be back with random behaviour and the God would not have played any part. It is interesting to note that this role might even permit ‘miracles’, if we were to regard these as events so highly unlikely that they would be effectively impossible without very specific, and unusual, ‘divine’ choice. For example, according to quantum theory, there must be a small but non-zero, probability that if I run into a wall, then I will pass right through it. This is a special case of the potential barrier experiment and the wavefunction on the left-hand side, corresponding to transmission is never quite zero. Then, however small the probability for transmission might be, a God would be able to select it as the outcome, if he so chose. ” Euan Squires, The Mystery of the Quantum World, 2nd ed., (Bristol: Institute of Physics Publishing, 1994), p.66-67

I might again re-iterate my question to you earlier today, if God left no tracks in this world and is just an epistemological ad on like an option on an automobile one is buying but isn’t really necessary for anything at all, what good is this God?

With all due respect Mitch, maybe you should quit refusing to read new material. So what kind of physicist am I? I am one who actually reads and ponders the issues of this universe. Maybe you should read more. God bless you, I do think it is possible to disagree agreeably. We both should try to keep it that way.

(Mitchell W McKain) #38

The accusation of making things personal is so often the excuse for turning to personal insults. But that whole direction is just waste of everyone’s time so I will ignore it.

It remains an unanswered challenge whether you understand the difference between a formulation of quantum mechanics and quoting physicists.

And I will reiterate my answer… just because God leaves no tracks you can measure and perform tests on doesn’t mean God cannot step on you. Just because God isn’t like a automobile you can buy and control same as love, goodness and justice, doesn’t mean you cannot see the value in them.

This is why the approach to God is generally described as submission rather than acquisition.

I agree. Keep the discussion focused on the issues and don’t waste time with meaningless talk about the other person’s character.


Yes, I understand the difference. And since you haven’t read anything by Squires you wouldn’t know what he says or what his position is. Kindly have the humility to not claim you know what is in a book before you read it. Im not a punching bag you know.

And what about Frauchiger and Renner’s paper that, while controversial, is nothing more than an extension of the problems seen in Wigner’s friend paradox because all they do is add more friends. They suggest that quantum doesn’t apply to consciousness, that quantum isn’t universally valid, and the logical deduction from that is that consciousness can’t be part of the physical world because everything physical is subject to the laws of quantum. And Proietti et al’s paper, which supports what F and R say, tries to maintain universality of quantum, assumption Q by rejecting assumption C (consistency). But when all these observers see different results, Proietti et al ‘solve’ it by postulating a ‘privileged observer’ above the multiverse (which they are adherents of) to rectify the conflicting things all these friends see. Any privileged observer like they describe, sitting above the multiverse by definition can not be material, at least in any way we understand that word because they are not a 3 dimensional being. When one tries to eliminate independent consciousness in one area, Proietti et all inadvertently demonstrate that it pops out somewhere else.

You may not like this conclusion, and may not like a God that might be more than a chrome bumper addon to our epistemological system, but something immaterial keeps trying to show through in quantum. As the Bible says in romans 1:20 “For from the creation of the world the invisible things of Him are clearly seen, being understood through the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead

Maybe that isn’t true in the theology of those here, but it is the official position of Biologos according to their what we believe page: We believe that God also reveals himself in and through the natural world he created,

Again, if God doesn’t reveal himself in Nature how can we be sure he is really God rather than a fictional character living in our minds alone?


Mitch wrote: “just because God leaves no tracks you can measure and perform tests on doesn’t mean God cannot step on you.”

Interesting, Im going into my old crisis of faith kind of questions here. If God left nothing measurable here, how do you know he can step on me? It seems that in your view god doesn’t do much for the material world, and in order to step on me in some way, he would have to be material. Or is your point that my cancer is a punishment from God? But if it is, God then left a track in this material world. I honestly don’t see how he can ‘step on me’ at least this side of Glory without leaving some track, even if it is a set of coincidences designed to lead to my death via a Mack truck.