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  • Is a Mind-Element Needed to Interpret Quantum Mechanics? Do physically undetermined choices enter into the evolution of the physical universe? Part 2

    Posted on: July 28, 2014

    By Deepak Chopra, MD and Henry Stapp, PhD

    dropThe time is ripe for a theory of cosmic mind to be seen by all scientists, not as a speculative notion that conflicts with basic scientific principles, but as a necessary part of a rational science- based understanding of ourselves and nature. The earlier idea, cemented into science by the work of Isaac Newton, was that mind belongs to subjective reality “in here” while physics deals with objective physical reality “out there” and that latter by itself was the proper subject of physical science. The undoing of this separation is one of the fascinating sagas of modern quantum theory. Yet even if you are an outsider to the intricate mathematics of quantum mechanics, you can sympathize with the frustration of scientists who use their minds every day without really knowing what the mind is or where it came from.

    Some physicists attempted to bypass the thorny issue of mind by dividing Nature into two physical realms, the microscopic (the small scale where quantum mechanics has been triumphant) and the macroscopic (the large scale where everyday objects obey the laws of classical physics). The microscopic description is designed to include all of the micro-physical elements from which all physical things are made. To assert that this description fails for large things and is replaced by another needs careful explaining. The standard answer, in brief, is that the macro-description is not a description of physical reality itself, but is rather a description of our perceptions of that reality, and that the laws of nature entail that the act of perceiving it not only informs us, but also alters the world itself in a way that brings it into concordance with our collective experience. These alterations are the famous quantum “collapses”.

    But these reactions of the world of physically described micro-elements to our acts of perceiving mean that the micro-physical (quantum) part of nature is more mind-like in its behavior than matter-like. When new information is acquired, or appears in an observer’s stream of consciousness, the world of micro elements makes a sudden global jump to a new structure compatible with the new information. But that kind of jump is how “ideas” behave: they suddenly acquire a new form compatible with the new information. Thus the physically described micro-structure is fundamentally “idea-like” in character.

    This sudden jump is “global”: it extends in principle over all of physical space at an instant of time. The behavior of the micro world is therefore more “idea-like” than matter-like also in this global sense. In the standard interpretation of quantum mechanics this sudden change in the physical state is due to an action made by “nature”. It is as if the global micro-world is an idea in nature’s mind, and that nature, in response to the observer’s probing of the physical world, changes her mind.
    A second problem pertains to another “instantaneous” aspect of quantum mechanics. Within that theory one can consider a class of well defined and often actually performed experiments in which two experimenters working in far-apart labs can each arrange to have last minute choices made as to which of two alternative possible measurements will be made in their respective labs. It can rationally argued that these choices of what to measure can be considered “free”, in the sense of not depending upon the system being measured. The two experiments are performed at the same time in the two far-apart labs. Then it can then be proved that the truth of these empirically verified predictions of quantum mechanics cannot be reconciled with the demand that, for each of the two regions, the outcome there cannot depend on the free choice made at essentially the same instant in the faraway region about which experiment will be performed in that faraway region.

    This conclusion is incompatible with the idea that the physically described systems are essentially matter-like, with the velocity of transfer of information therefore limited to less than or equal to the speed of light. Once again the behavior of the quantum mechanical features of the physically described world is incompatible with the idea that that those physical features reside, in and are carried by, matter. These features behave is as if they were ideas in a globally cognizant mind that can instantly know, when choosing an empirical outcome in one region, which experiment is being performed at essentially the same instant in very far away region.

    There is, of course, strong resistance in science to jumping from these “as ifs” to the serious alternative of building a contemporary-science-based theory of nature on a conjunction personal minds carrying our conscious experiences and an objective mind carrying the quantum mechanically described properties, with the detailed properties of these minds specifically tailored to explain empirical data. Such a theory is, in fact, apart from choice of words, what quantum mechanics already is!

    Another problem with dividing Nature into microscopic quantum-physics parts and macroscopic classical-physics parts is that classical physics assumes the observer is passive. As you watch snow fall or a tree grow, your observation supposedly doesn’t influence those processes. Yet this seemingly simple assumption has a hidden dimension. How do you know that snow is falling or a tree is growing? Through your mind, which delivers the only version of reality that human beings can possibly know and experience. Trees and snow, along with everything else in the perceived macroscopic world, exist as experiences created mentally, although we don’t know how. We know only that the idea that our perceptions match an unperceived reality is unprovable. So unless physics includes a theory of mind it can’t declare some reality “out there” is somehow connected to our experience “in here.”

    The dual aspect of quantum behavior, both physical and psychological, is included in the orthodox interpretation of quantum mechanics devised by the brilliant Hungarian-American theorist John von Neumann. The fact that the known physical laws for the physical state of the particles can’t explain how they behave is critical here. Something beyond the physical state is involved.

    Von Neumann’s quantum mechanics is explicitly dualistic. But the trouble with a conception of nature composed of two fundamentally different parts is the resulting impossibility of understanding the connection between the parts. The fact that in orthodox quantum mechanics the physical part turns out to be basically idea-like converts the nominal dualism into an idealistic monism. This conclusion, which has been reached by many if not most of the greatest philosophers of the past, but which had been hard to reconcile with science, now appears to be entailed by the orthodox principles of quantum physics.

    (To be cont.)

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    Deepak Chopra, MD is the author of more than 80 books with twenty-two New York Times bestsellers including” Super Brain,” co-authored with Rudi Tanzi, PhD. He serves as the founder of The Chopra Foundation and co-founder of The Chopra Center for Wellbeing. Join him at The Chopra Foundation Sages and Scientists Symposium 2014.

    Henry Stapp is a theoretical physicist at the University of California’s Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, specializing in the conceptual and mathematical foundations of quantum theory, and in particular in the quantum aspects of the relationship between our streams of conscious experience and the physical processes occurring in our brains. Stapp worked closely with Werner Heisenberg, Wolfgang Pauli, and John Wheeler, and is author of two books on the quantum mechanical foundation of the connection between mind and matter: “Mind, Matter, and Quantum Mechanics;” and “Mindful Universe: Quantum Mechanics and the Participating Observer.” These works lay the foundation for a science-based approach to the question of human free will.

  • Getting Zombies Excited (It Takes a Million-Dollar Challenge)

    Posted on: July 9, 2014

    By Deepak Chopra, MD

    390 - Zombie Front   In science, problems get solved faster when the pot begins to boil. Dormant questions need motivation, which is why I posed a million-dollar challenge to anyone in the materialist camp who could demonstrate how matter turns into mind. (Please see the two preceding posts, which set up this provocative issue.) In the wake of the challenge, a stir was indeed created. The general public isn’t aware that 99% of neuroscientists, biologists, and physicists interested in the mind-brain problem assume without question that the brain creates the mind. This is one of those assumptions that, once exploded, seems ridiculous in hindsight. It’s not exploded yet, but we’re getting closer. Consider what it means to say that your brain creates your mind. Somewhere in the fabric of time, floating molecules of hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon, the basic elements in organic chemistry, organized a complex clump of molecules that learned to think, to take in the three-dimensional world, and finally to become aware of what they were doing. This seems like a totally untenable position to me, and to a growing body of scientists who are adopting a far different view, that mind came first, bringing with it the organizing power to evolve the structure of the human brain.

  • AspenBrainLab: Explore Your Brain

    Posted on: June 11, 2014

    Join Deepak Chopra, Rudy Tanzi, and others at the Aspen BrainLab at the Paepcke Auditorium, Aspen Institute, Aspen, Colorado.  Topics to be covered:

    • Creative Brain
    • Impaired Brain
    • Healthy Brain
    • Future Brain
    • And special discussion on genes

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  • A Spiritual Mystery: Does God Listen to Prayers? Part 3

    Posted on: June 11, 2014

    By Deepak Chopra, MD.


    It may sound odd at first, but there are ways to improve the chances that God will answer your prayer. In the first two posts we saw that the whole subject of prayer is filled with assumptions and preconceptions. Once they are cleared away, a prayer turns out to be a special kind of intention. Therefore, the rules that apply to intentions, which are rules about consciousness, apply. Your prayer will be answered, or not, depending on events happening out of sight – but not out of mind. The mind furnishes the mechanics of making any intention come true.

    This quick summary will raise eyebrows if someone denies that the inner and outer worlds are connected. (See the two previous posts for the reasoning behind the union of these two domains of reality.) The world’s wisdom traditions don’t run into this obstacle, which is peculiar to modern materialism. Yet in a way it’s good to start with a blank slate. What makes any intention come true? Three vital elements are at work, as mentioned in the first post of this series:

    1. How deep into the mind is the intention coming from?
    2. How steady is your focus?
    3. How fluid is your intention?

  • Will the “Real” Reality Please Stand Up?

    Posted on: April 21, 2014

    By Deepak Chopra, MD

    In the pursuit of knowledge about the universe, recent discoveries have pushed earlier than the Big Bang, bringing physics to the point when the early universe was doubling in size every hundredth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second.  Such fine-scale measurement is awe-inspiring. The technicalities of how a Cold Little Swoosh preceded the Hot Big Bang was lucidly presented in a New York Times article by the noted cosmologist Max Tegmark. He explained for us laymen why physicists are so excited about the discovery of gravitational waves that originated so early in cosmological time, another victory for the predictive powers of quantum field theory.

    One is left with the impression that science has now delved much deeper into reality, getting closer to the origins of the universe and therefore our own origins.  However, there’s an analogy that seems relevant here. If you wanted to know the reality of music, would you study a radio as it broadcasts a Mozart symphony, taking it apart and delving into the atomic and subatomic structure of its transistors, or would you study music as a creation of the human mind?

    The answer seems obvious, and yet by dismantling the cosmos down to trillionths of a second, physics is basically dismantling a mechanism, like a radio.  This leaves aside the unassailable fact that like music, our entire knowledge of the universe arrives through subjective experience.  We are immersed in reality, not detached from it. The exciting discoveries of cosmology keep advancing along an objective track when it’s well known in quantum physics that objectivity has definite limits. Whatever cosmology is discovering, it may very well not be reality itself.

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