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Does quantum mechanics in any way proove the theory of the collective consciousness?

  1. Apr 20, 2004 #1
    I was wondering if there is any real evidence within the field of quantum mechanics to support the idea of a universal collective consciousness?

    any ideas.... :cool:
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 20, 2004 #2

    chroot

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    Quantum mechanics is physics, not metaphysics or neuroscience or philosophy. It answers questions about the outcomes of physical experiments. It doesn't deal with minds or consciousness.

    - Warren
     
  4. Apr 21, 2004 #3
    Well, Chroot, I would argue quite vigorously that the interpretation of QM (or any science in general) is a philosophical issue.

    I would also argue that QM does raise very striking ontological and epistemological questions, as a theory of reality in primitive form.
     
  5. Apr 21, 2004 #4

    ZapperZ

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    No.

    And I strongly support chroot's comment. There is a distinct difference between the physics and the interpretation of the physics. Most practicing physicists can get by very well without delving very deeply (or even delving at all) into the philosophy of the things they encounter or use. Metaphysical ideas that appears to originate out of solid physics principles often involve wild speculations. And when one starts speculating, then all bets are off. One might as well speculate whatever one wants without justification. This then is no longer physics.

    Zz.
     
  6. Apr 21, 2004 #5
    Quantum mechanics definately definately does not 'prove collective consciousness'.

    Quantum mechanics is a brilliant theory to use in support of any philosophy that is classically implausible. Unfortunately, many such philosophies exclude each other. You can produce a compelling arguement using some of the ideas in quantum mechanics but they can't all be right.
     
  7. Apr 21, 2004 #6

    DrChinese

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    I agree with chroot, zapperz and jackle. The absolute MOST you could say is that QM does not per se exclude "collective consciousness."

    The obvious problems with such a question start with the definition of "consciousness" which has thus far eluded a reasonable description. Further, the notion of "collective consciousness" is itself speculation without any scientific basis that I am aware of.
     
  8. Apr 21, 2004 #7
    You have a point.... :tongue:


     
  9. Apr 22, 2004 #8
    I'm of the mind that - while yes, we can grasp at straws of an ontological nature based upon the findings of quantum physics these guys are, for the most part, correct. It's the same problem we find with relativity theory being interpreted as a way of stating that different points of view are plausible - and must be taken into consideration. This may or may not be true, Special Relativistic physics doesn't say one way or the other - it's merely a model of our physical universe based upon the constancy of the speed of light. It demonstrates that inertial frames of reference are not consistent when it comes to time and space measurement at high velocities, but light will always be - it's a mechanics, nothing more. While QM has given us a huge glimpse into the principle that probabilities may be all we have in this universe, both from a physical and a metaphysical standpoint, (i.e. - we can never truly know anything, we can only take our best educated guess from a statistical standpoint) it is a science - not a philosophy. I think, at this point, we've just got to take Jung's empirical evidence - most of which is a priori - that there is a good indication that a collective consciousness exists. Until we get to the point where we can point to some form of energy and say - through experiment - there it is, there's consciousness - QM doesn't have any room for true thought on the subject. Now I'm still learning the basics, so I don't have a lot of room to talk - but one thing I do know is how to differentiate science and philosophy. I'm on your side - I'd like to find some experimental evidence beyond a priori empiricism that there is a collective consciousness - and perhaps one day QM will point to something that indicates just that, and even then all we can do is measure specific states of the particles or energy or both using quantum theory - it won't grant us any real proof - it will only point to it by means of watching the interactions. Until then, I don't believe we can say one way or the other, and we certainly can't say that QM verifies it in any way, shape or form.
     
  10. Apr 22, 2004 #9

    LURCH

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    Although...

    I don't believe a word fo this, but it would probably form the best link between quantum mechanics and the idea of a universal "collective consciousness". There is some discussion of consciousness being a quantum phenomenon. If we take this idea (and the Big Bang cosmological model) to be correct, and apply to it the concept of the entanglement of particles of the quantum level, a suggestion does arise. If all matter within the universe was once compressed into an area smaller than the plank length, all quanta should have emerged from that area entangled. This of course would include whatever events take place at the quantum level within the neurons that result in human consciousness. Throughout the universe, then, there would still be entangled particles from the original cosmeg that are still entangled to this day. These could operate as a single mass, as though they were still in the original state.

    Not at all plausible, IMHO, but it is a way in which quantum mechanics could imply collective consciousness.
     
  11. Apr 22, 2004 #10

    ZapperZ

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    I was wondering when someone would finally bring this up! :)

    I know you said you don't believe in it, so this is not exactly a rebuttal aimed at you. In any case, if someone has an inkling to extrapolate "collective conscousness" from the entanglement aspect of QM, I only have one thing to say: DECOHERENCE.

    If QM entanglement is THAT easy to maintain over distance and time, we would have seen quantum phenomena easily in the macroscopic regime of our world. QM phenomena then would not have been "strange". Effects of entanglement would have been common. Yet, as we can clearly see, they aren't!

    This is because to be able to notice the effects of entanglement, one must maintain the coherence of the entangled properties either over the length of macroscopic distances, and/or over sufficiently long time scales. This isn't easy because it takes almost no effort for the system to interact with larger and larger degrees of freedom. This easily destroys the coherence. Thus, when decoherence sets in, no more evidence of entanglement.

    To use entanglement to support the idea of "collective conscousness" is really grasping at virtual straws.

    Zz.
     
  12. Apr 22, 2005 #11
    While I agree with this, from a certain point of view - this is the crux of the problem as I perceive it. We're not holding our own here. As Quantum Physicists - we are not taking the next logical step.

    I mean, consider this - Dr. Carl Gustav Jung pointed out, most enthusiastically, at the end of his life, that the psyche must be studied. It wasn't long after that statement that Relativity and Quantum Theories both came of age to the point where they could be rationally used as pure scientific models. But to say that metaphysics shouldn't be involved in science is a fallacy! Science should explain everything!

    And we don't take that seriously enough today. The implications of quantum theory, while they do not prove a collective consciousness yet - as Dr. Chinese pointed it, that is mostly due to the fact that we do not have a consensus of a supporting model for consciousness - and who's fault is that? We still insist that it's up the bilologists to determine what consciousness is - basing it upon the quantum model if necessary - I disagree entirely. It is completely within OUR jurisdiction - not theirs. Why? Because - until you show me how to disregard the observer in the experiment - it is an essential piece of the system. And that being the case, what's the implication here? You tell me! Why are we ignoring it? I'd really like to know - why it's so easy for you guys to just shrug it off as occultist metaphysical philosophical babbling, when it's obvious that it is not. It's part of the system we're investigating. You find me a hidden variable system that works, some atomic or subatomic mechanism causing these jumps outside of the observer, outside of consciousness as we currently understand it, make M-Theory work without the stings fraying, and I'll retract this statement happily - until then - we need to start defining consciousness - in terms of - the systems we're investigating, for a complete model. And won't it be interesting if all string theory proves to be is yet another level of observational maneuvering? Why are we putting it off and setting science back to the stone age after 100 years of Occidental Quantum Theory?

    Jason
     
  13. Apr 22, 2005 #12
    Being a lowly pre degree student, I'm studying the pre degree maths to take a course in Physics, although I am fairly well read in the ideas behind quantum mechanics I don't presume to have the basis to truly question them, I usually read with interest but steer clear of the quantum world in as much as when the conversation turns to maths I'm left standing saying huh?

    Consciousness, well that's interesting, I've often asked myself the question about the experimenters conscious perceptions in experiments and about the way we interpret data, whether these could be clouded by our own inabilities to see what is really there, I see that it's intrinsic to all understanding in experimentation is the Consciousness and understanding this key factor I think could only expedite further discoveries, but I also understand it's impossible to truly take it into account without solving that holy grail that is the 'hard problem', bravo for trying to explain the problems with forming ideas based on any aspect of Consciousness though, I will read this post with interest I think.

    I happen to know a Dr of neuropharmacology and his comments on finding chemical biological rationals for Consciousness are that we really have no real grasp yet of the biology or the chemistry of the brain as it applies to a theory of Consciousness, it's possible to say when we do a to receptor b we get c which may influence the series of neurons to produce d, the problem is of such a scale though as to be monumental, for example we don't even know exactly how many drugs work? And to scale this lack of understanding of even basic biochemistry up as has been said leads to speculation and nothing more, how do we have a thought an idea or even a collective Consciousnessif it exists, it's impossible to say; some say we may never know what makes us conscious?

    Let's hope we someday know the answers to the Consciousness, it is as relevant to physics as it is to all science, it just eludes us all, at some point we have to get beyond the philosophical idea of 'what is truth' though, what do we really see behind the veil, and produce some absolute data if that is possible.I have sometimes asked where's the evidence and got some great answers on this forum, doesn't stop me from saying yeah but why? Like a kid asking his parents why and why and why over and over until they say it just is or they produce something that makes me go, oh yeah cool.

    Let's hope in a few hundred years someone is standing where we are now and winking at our notions of the universe and how primitive were our concepts, 'ah they were on the right track' they say but he he not quite right, just as we do now at some of the notions of the last few millennia.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 22, 2005
  14. Apr 22, 2005 #13

    reilly

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    I strongly suspect that Jung was right about a collective unconscious, The reason he was right is that we are all wired the same -- or close enough. Dragons and monsters, and scary sounds, and shadows in the dark, all, on first encounter a least, scare the hell out of us in a purely involuntary way. Jung's primitive archetypes are created from neural processes (probably well defined ones) given the right inputs and context.
    In other words, the collective unconscious processes mental data in much the same fashion as do other processes governing, say, speech, or movement, or ...

    While the process of human vision is dependent upon quantum processes, most other physical aspects of mental phenomena appear to be well described by classical concepts. The mysteries of QM are, I think, more likely to be better understood as we learn more about human capabilities and concepts -- as epistemology turns into science.

    Regards,
    Reilly Atkinson
     
  15. Apr 22, 2005 #14

    Tom Mattson

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    Yes, but scientific theories comprise what is known as natural philosophy, which is a far cry from being a philosophy of mind. This mind-QM connection exists in the pages of books of men such as Frijtof Capra and his ilk, and those who listen to these new-age gurus. You cannot start from the axioms in any QM textbook and deduce anything about the mind or consciousness.
     
  16. Apr 22, 2005 #15

    DrChinese

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    If someone can come up with a useful theory to connect the two, then more power to them! To do this, you will need to identify variables which are shared between the two views (QM and consciousness). That ain't gonna be so easy...

    :)
     
  17. Apr 22, 2005 #16

    Nereid

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    If there is, please let's see it! (the consensus of posts so far seems to be 'NO!')
    Ideas are good; pointers towards specific, concrete, testable predictions (etc) are better. :smile:
     
  18. Apr 24, 2005 #17

    vanesch

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    Although I know it is a slippery domain, especially because in the culture of physicists it is not politically correct to talk about "minds" and "consciousness", as some will have observed here, I think there might be a connection in the resolution of the measurement problem in a MWI setting.
    Let's say that things become clear if you make an association between a "mind" and one of the states of the Schmidt decomposition of the wavefunction of the universe, when considering it as a tensor product of H_mybody x H_restofuniverse. If you now stochastically associate the "mind in my body" with ONE of these states, according to the Born rule, then my "mind" will be associated with a body state which has all the necessary properties of "a good observer according to von Neumann" WITHOUT the problem of having to distinguish between "physical processes evolving unitarily" and "measurement processes".

    So it are the successive associations of "my mind" to "one of my body states" which gives me the impression of living in a world in which the Born rule is true.

    In this view, the "mind" is the ultimate observer which applies the Born rule, and the funny thing is that there are some parallels between this view, and some philosophical ideas about "mind" (like the "hard problem": namely that it is observationally impossible to know if something has a consciousness or not, except by redefining the concept into something observational).

    But, having said this, I repeat: I think that this is a kind of reasoning that can build a consistent interpretation of QM, and that's it. It doesn't "prove" anything about minds or consciousnesses and one cannot say that QM says this or that about it. Also, as has been pointed out here, we're talking about interpretations, and not about hard physics. However, I DO think that it is important for physicists, to think about the interpretation of their theories and not just "shut up and calculate". But often the interpretation has some personal aspects, although I think it also enhances comprehension of the theory at hand. It is very slippery, and you're indeed easily drawn into new age stuff, something I would like to avoid at all costs.

    cheers,
    Patrick.
     
  19. Apr 24, 2005 #18

    selfAdjoint

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    If there were a clarification of "relative state" that avoided "MWI" I would jump at it. But as it is, it leads sensible people like vanesch to bring back the "mind of the observer" and that gets us back again to "does the Moon exist when nobody is looking at it" and "How do nuclear processes go on in the heart of the Sun when there is no mind there to observe them? Unless you bring in God, as in the limerick. Fooey!

    I will remain agnostic about measurement and hope for a successful completion of the decoherence program. Next year in Stockholm!
     
  20. Apr 24, 2005 #19
    Amen to that!
     
  21. Apr 25, 2005 #20

    vanesch

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    Well, the moon DOES exist even if "no mind" is looking at it. It even exists in several entangled states. You just have to pick out one, that's all there is to it. The same with nuclear processes. Sooner or later, you WILL observe something that is somehow related to it, which will make you choose one or another "interaction history" completely compatible with an "objective reaction".
    In fact, your remark is more to the point concerning "parts of the universe outside of the visible universe", say, at 500 billion lightyears from here. Does that part of the unobservable universe "exist" or not ?

    I'm convinced the decoherence program IS already "completed". It did what it could": it indicated that interactions with the environment lead to Schmidt decompositions which turn out to be "classical" states.
    But there's something that Decoherence, nor ANYTHING can solve, within strict unitary QM: that is: at the end of the day, you end up with a sum of terms, and you have to pick one of them. Because of the linearity of the time evolution operator, you cannot do anything to do so.
    What you can hope to do is that there is some *natural* way of assigning probabilities to each of the terms which turns out to be equivalent to the Born rule (I'm convinced you cannot even do that because I know of OTHER ways to "naturally assign" probabilities, but that's something else).
    But THE VERY FACT that you have to pick out one term, and not all together (even if there is a "natural way" to pick it out), means that this is *an extra postulate* which is NOT included in quantum theory itself. After all, nothing stops me from being entangled with something else, and _experience_ that entanglement !
    I agree that my "mind" stuff is only a shortcut to "the observing something that must somehow pick out ONE term to be observed". But given CURRENT STATE of quantum theory, embracing strict linearity, I don't see another way out.
    My real hope resides infact in gravity. Gravity might somehow induce a genuine probabilistic (or even deterministic ?) collapse in an objective way, and then all that mind stuff can go in the dust bin.
    But that would then imply true non-local interactions (EPR...), GR and SR would fall on their faces in one way or another etc...
    If the superstring approach to quantizing gravity holds, then I think we're stuck with strictly linear quantum theory. And then I don't see any other way out, honestly.

    cheers,
    Patrick.
     
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