The Central Role of Consciousness in Physics

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  • #1
Thanatos
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this is a very nice forum, though I'm slightly disappointed that there's no neuroscience or philosophy of mind board, given the central role of consciousness underlying all theories of physics.
 

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  • #2
hypnagogue
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Welcome to Physics Forums, Thanatos!

I agree with the sentiments of your post. In the meantime, anything you want to say could probably be said in one of the current philosophy forums, though a philosophy of mind forum would be fantastic indeed. Greg? Splurge on one more? :smile:

Interesting site, btw. If you stick around these here parts, I think you'll find you and me have a lot in common.
 
  • #3
quantumdude
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Originally posted by Thanatos
this is a very nice forum, though I'm slightly disappointed that there's no neuroscience or philosophy of mind board, given the central role of consciousness underlying all theories of physics.

Hi Thanatos,

Although it is not true that consciousness per se has any role in any physical theory, we do welcome neuroscience topics in the Biology Forum (under Other Sciences) and we welcome philosophy of mind topics in the Metaphysics and Epistemology Forum (under Philosophy). In the event that those two topics grow to warrant their own Forums, then they we can talk about expanding the Forums further.
 
  • #4
Jeebus
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Could quantum information be the key to understanding consciousness? Could consciousness enable future quantum information technology?

Just a little antidote to think about.
 
  • #5


Originally posted by Tom
Although it is not true that consciousness per se has any role in any physical theory,
Relativity? Quantum physics?
Laws pertaining to the former are dependendent upon the subjective distortion of spacetime, as perceived by conciousness. Laws pertaining to the latter do so with the knowledge that a particle only behaves like a particle, when observed by conciousness.

Let's not forget that physics is derived by reason - a facet of human conciousness - and that mathematics itself was borne of the mind.

I feel that you do conciousness an injustice. Not the first physicist to do so... and certainly not the last. You're a product of your era and culture. But times are moving on...
 
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  • #6
quantumdude
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Originally posted by Jeebus
Could quantum information be the key to understanding consciousness?

Perhaps, because the modern scientific view is that consciousness is an epiphenomenon that emerges from quantum processes.

Could consciousness enable future quantum information technology?

I don't understand this question, but feel free to start a quantum info thread in the Quantum Physics Forum.

Just a little antidote to think about.

Antidote to what?
 
  • #7
quantumdude
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Originally posted by Darrenicus
Relativity? Quantum physics?

Yes, I know both of those theories and I stick by what I said.

Laws pertaining to the former are dependendent upon the subjective distortion of spacetime, as perceived by conciousness. Laws pertaining to the latter do so with the knowledge that a particle only behaves like a particle, when observed by conciousness.

Absolutely false.

First, relativity is not dependent on any subjective interpretation of anything. The results of relativistic calculations return the actual spacetime coordinates of events in a particular frame. To recover the subjective perception of those events, one must correct for the travel time of the speed of light. But that last part is not part of relativity at all.

Second, observations in quantum mechanics have no reference to either consciousness or knowledge. A quantum mechanical observation can be made with a lifeless detector.

Let's not forget that physics is derived by reason - a facet of human conciousness - and that mathematics itself was borne of the mind.

I think that Thanatos was referring to consciousness in theoretical physics as a subject of the theory, not the means by which theories are formulated. If so, then the above is not relevant.

I feel that you do conciousness an injustice. Not the first physicist to do so... and certainly not the last. You're a product of your era and culture. But times are moving on...

?

First, this connection between the theories of physics and consciousness that you believe exists is really just a result of your misunderstanding of the concepts of "relative" (in SR) and "observation" (in QM). That is the only thing holding your thesis together. Second, I also think you do not have a very good handle on the scientific view of consciousness. As I said in my last post, it is an emergent property. That is, material processes (as described by QM and SR) are primary, and consciousness is secondary, but you and Thanatos seem to have it exactly backwards.
 
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  • #8
Nereid
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Tom: ... material processes (as described by QM and SR) are primary, and consciousness is secondary, but you {Darrenicus} and Thanatos seem to have it exactly backwards.
I.e. "Consciousness is primary and material processes are secondary"
Suggestion to Thanatos and Darrenicus: please start a thread in Theory Development, in which you will show that material processes arise from consciousness.
 
  • #9
Originally posted by Tom
First, relativity is not dependent on any subjective interpretation of anything. The results of relativistic calculations return the actual spacetime coordinates of events in a particular frame.
Yes they do. But those predictions are derived from Einstein's work, which in turn was derived by the way we perceive the universe.
So how do we perceive the universe?
Lots to discuss there... but it's easy to argue that the predictions you discuss are just evidence of how perception is ordered within the mind's eye. Nothing else.
Second, observations in quantum mechanics have no reference to either consciousness or knowledge. A quantum mechanical observation can be made with a lifeless detector.
It has been shown that a singular electron has acted as a wave until observed, when it then acts as a particle.
And we should speak at-length about what a "lifeless detector" acually is. Later perhaps.
Second, I also think you do not have a very good handle on the scientific view of consciousness. As I said in my last post, it is an emergent property. That is, material processes (as described by QM and SR) are primary, and consciousness is secondary, but you and Thanatos seem to have it exactly backwards.
Well, given the opportunity we would argue the opposite case. We'd also like to see someone give some reason for asserting your established conclusions, rather than just listen to the assertion and be forced to accept it.
Such is philosophy.
 
  • #10
Nereid
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So what's this thread doing in "Physics Forum Feedback & Announcements?"
 
  • #11
quantumdude
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Originally posted by Darrenicus
Well, given the opportunity we would argue the opposite case.

OK, post something in the Metaphysics and Epistemology Forum.

edit: Never mind; I'll just move this one.
 
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  • #12
quantumdude
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Originally posted by Darrenicus
Yes they do. But those predictions are derived from Einstein's work, which in turn was derived by the way we perceive the universe.
So how do we perceive the universe?

With our senses, and by extension, man-made instruments.

Lots to discuss there... but it's easy to argue that the predictions you discuss are just evidence of how perception is ordered within the mind's eye. Nothing else.

It's a lot easier to argue that SR is more than that.

Who's mind's eye? Yes, we all have our subjective experience of reality, but those experiences are all related by one simple theory, namely relativity. The theory itself transcends anyone's personal experience, and indeed it relates them all.

It has been shown that a singular electron has acted as a wave until observed, when it then acts as a particle.
And we should speak at-length about what a "lifeless detector" acually is. Later perhaps.

A "lifeless detector" can be a geiger counter, a photometer, a current loop, etc.

Well, given the opportunity we would argue the opposite case. We'd also like to see someone give some reason for asserting your established conclusions, rather than just listen to the assertion and be forced to accept it.
Such is philosophy.

The original comment you objected to is the one in which I said that consicousness does not play a role (as in subject or object) in the theories of modern physics, and that is correct.

You may not like the current scientific viewpoint, but the simple fact is that both QM and SR are consistent with it, and that includes the viewpoint that minds are epiphenomena that emerge from more basic interactions. Saying that consciousness plays a role in QM is like saying that chemistry plays a role in QM. It gets the primary players (quantum particles and interactions) and secondary players (consciousness and chemistry, respectively) exactly backwards.
 
  • #13
Thanatos
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thanks everyone for the warm welcome. I get more impressed with this forum the more I explore... really quite remarkable that a physics forum can be so popular and thriving.

My sentiments seem along the lines of Darrenicus.

As such, I take issue with the following (naturally)

Originally posted by Tom
Perhaps, because the modern scientific view is that consciousness is an epiphenomenon that emerges from quantum processes.

(Tom, I realize you've been here awhile, and constitute an important part of this forum. I don't mean any disrespect in the following)

This is incorrect, and in fact seems rather presumptuous. The view of most neuroscientists is that mind is a function of the brain... that it's identical to a special type of activity involving populations of interacting neurons. As such, the mind is not caused by the brain, nor does it emerge from anything, but rather involves an identity. It's similar to an electromagnetic field appearing purely electric in one moving frame of reference, but also purely magnetic in a different frame of reference... they're just different perspectives of one and the same electromagnetic field. So too with consciousness and neuronal activity... they're simply different perspectives of one and the same thing.



Originally posted by Tom

The original comment you objected to is the one in which I said that consicousness does not play a role (as in subject or object) in the theories of modern physics, and that is correct.

so you presume to know what is conscious and what is not? Maybe you can elaborate on this. Maybe you can demonstrate why activity in the cerebellum is not brought to a subject's consciousness whereas activity in the cerebrum is. By all means, please use a quantum mechanical explanation if you care to. The fact of the matter is that you can't, and so your interpretations and beliefs, which you're trying to hand-wave and present dogmatically, are unwarranted.


As for whoever attributed to me that "Consciousness is primary and material processes are secondary", I would say that this attribution is overly-simplistic and amounts to little more than a straw-man. We are all limited by our states of consciousness. For those of you who have experienced little of the vast range of consciousness, then it's easy to believe that what you experience is some accurate reflection of the 'objective world'. The 'objective world', as you perceive it, is merely a figment of your imagination. If you alter your state of consciousness, you will perceive different things, different truths, and in general, you will realize how small-minded and limited your previous conceptions of the 'objective world' are. I don't care how advanced your understanding of unified quantum field theory, string theory, or differential topology is... what you must understand is that understanding is relative. Einstein said that "All of mankinds thoughts are an insignificant reflection", and what do you suppose he meant by that? In a similar manner, all of mankinds highest states of consciousness yet experienced are like nothing compared to what is yet to be experienced and realized. I'm sure you're all familiar with the notion of a consciousness singularity, and so I won't belabor the point... the point being that those who dismiss the centrality of consciousness are, imho, ignorant.


namaste
 
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  • #14
hypnagogue
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Wait... so this Darrenicus fellow got banned (already)? 3 strikes and you're out? [?]
 
  • #15
Thanatos
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banned?

really? how can you tell?
 
  • #16
hypnagogue
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Thanatos, I'm on your side but I'd suggest being a little more diplomatic in the tone of your argument. Being vehement or acerbic to any unwarranted degree can only turn people off to your ideas. I like what you have to say and I can understand your frustration, but you should also be wary of becoming as needlessly dismissive as some of our more textbook-oriented physics friends can sometimes tend to be. In the end those types of people only undermine their own cause, and the ideas you're talking about are too important to fall prey to so petty a fate.

Peace.
 
  • #17
Thanatos
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thank you, hypnagogue.
:smile:

I've toned down the msg a bit and will exercise greater precaution here.
 
  • #18
hypnagogue
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Originally posted by Thanatos
really? how can you tell?

The subtext under his/her screen name reads "Cracker"... means s/he's been banned. S/he was probably a previously banned user who used a new screen name from the same IP, or at least I hope so given the hastiness of it all.
 
  • #19
Thanatos
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Originally posted by hypnagogue
The subtext under his/her screen name reads "Cracker"... means s/he's been banned. S/he was probably a previously banned user who used a new screen name from the same IP

that's interesting, and unfortunate. It would've been easy to change IP though...
 
  • #20
Iacchus32
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Originally posted by Thanatos
this is a very nice forum, though I'm slightly disappointed that there's no neuroscience or philosophy of mind board, given the central role of consciousness underlying all theories of physics.
Although consciousness doesn't impact the outcome of any physical law per se' (even if gone unrealized), it is the only means we have by which to ascertain and measure it, in which case I would agree.

In fact, I would take it a step further and say that consciousness is the very means by which the Universe gets to "know" itself.
 
  • #21
Iacchus32
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Originally posted by hypnagogue
The subtext under his/her screen name reads "Cracker"... means s/he's been banned. S/he was probably a previously banned user who used a new screen name from the same IP, or at least I hope so given the hastiness of it all.
Anyone here familiar with the term Lifegazerism? ... Well, it could have been ...
 
  • #22
Thanatos
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Originally posted by Iacchus32

In fact, I would take it a step further and say that consciousness is the very means by which the Universe gets to "know" itself.

I would concur and think this is a brilliant observation. Or, another way of putting it: "We are the Universe conscious of Itself".
 
  • #23
Iacchus32
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Originally posted by Thanatos
I would concur and think this is a brilliant observation. Or, another way of putting it: "We are the Universe conscious of Itself".
Of course this also suggests that life doesn't exist independently from the Universe, that indeed, the Universe exists to support life. In which case the Universe becomes a living organism (entity?) unto itself, and that it's main "purpose" is life.
 
  • #24
quantumdude
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Originally posted by hypnagogue
Wait... so this Darrenicus fellow got banned (already)? 3 strikes and you're out? [?]

No, it's not like that. Darrenicus is Lifegazer under a different username.
 
  • #25
quantumdude
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Tom: Perhaps, because the modern scientific view is that consciousness is an epiphenomenon that emerges from quantum processes.

Thanatos: This is incorrect, and in fact seems rather presumptuous.
This is incorrect, and in fact seems rather presumptuous. The view of most neuroscientists is that mind is a function of the brain... that it's identical to a special type of activity involving populations of interacting neurons. As such, the mind is not caused by the brain, nor does it emerge from anything, but rather involves an identity.

Well, I admit that all I know of cognitive science is what I read at Cog Prints, as well as from PF members who study the subject. As far as I have read, the "mind as an emergent phenomenon" is still alive and well.

But in any case, my main point that quantum phenomena are more fundamental than neural processes seems intact.

Tom: The original comment you objected to is the one in which I said that consicousness does not play a role (as in subject or object) in the theories of modern physics, and that is correct.


Thanatos: so you presume to know what is conscious and what is not? Maybe you can elaborate on this.

No, I presume to know what modern physics says and what it does not.

Maybe you can demonstrate why activity in the cerebellum is not brought to a subject's consciousness whereas activity in the cerebrum is.

I don't claim that I can explain consciousness with quantum mechanics, I claim that quantum processes are more fundamental than any cognitive function of the brain, and I further claim that consciousness does not play a role as the subject or object of any physical theory.

By all means, please use a quantum mechanical explanation if you care to. The fact of the matter is that you can't, and so your interpretations and beliefs, which you're trying to hand-wave and present dogmatically, are unwarranted.

You're right, I can't show you any of that. What's more, I don't have to. The central role of consciousness in modern physics is *your* thesis, remember? I don't need to have a complete mapping of the brain to the mind in the most fundamental degrees of freedom to object to that.

So, back to your thesis, tell me: In what way does consciousness play a central role in modern physical theories? And let's try to keep the hand waving to a minimum, please.

As for whoever attributed to me that "Consciousness is primary and material processes are secondary", I would say that this attribution is overly-simplistic and amounts to little more than a straw-man.

I said to Darrenicus that "you and Thanatos seem to have it exactly backwards". If that is not true of you, then I'm sorry I misunderstood.

We are all limited by our states of consciousness. For those of you who have experienced little of the vast range of consciousness, then it's easy to believe that what you experience is some accurate reflection of the 'objective world'.

I don't claim to have any handle on the Objective Truth. What I do claim is that Darrenicus' use of the words "observation" and "relative" are not the same as the usage of those words in quantum mechanics and relativity, repsectively. His argument is based on that misequivocation.

The rest of the post (about relative understanding and centrality of consicousness) doesn't shed any light on the connection between consciousness and modern physics, so I'll skip it.

edit: fixed a quote bracket
 
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  • #26
Les Sleeth
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Originally posted by Thanatos
This is incorrect, and in fact seems rather presumptuous. The view of most neuroscientists is that mind is a function of the brain... that it's identical to a special type of activity involving populations of interacting neurons.

I will venture a guess why Tom says consciousness emerges from quantum processes. The materialist view, ultimately, is that all is determined by what matter's composition is . . . and the bottom line there is quantum processes. If you try to make mind a "function of the brain," you haven't gotten around the fact that the brain is composed of atoms and therefore is grounded in quantum processes.

You cannot objectively demonstrate anything more present there than the brain or neural interactions, so if one simply looks at materiality (and that's all one can observe with the senses alone), then the only thing to be observed is material processes. Since sense experience is the basis of empiricism, that is why devoted empiricists correctly state quantum processes are what have been solely demonstrated at work behind the human mind.

Originally posted by Thanatos
As such, the mind is not caused by the brain, nor does it emerge from anything, but rather involves an identity. It's similar to an electromagnetic field appearing purely electric in one moving frame of reference, but also purely magnetic in a different frame of reference... they're just different perspectives of one and the same electromagnetic field. So too with consciousness and neuronal activity... they're simply different perspectives of one and the same thing.

Boy, I really do not understand this analogy. First you say the mind is not caused by the brain, and then you analogize it with a purely physical process. If neuronal activity and consciousness are the same, which is the defining factor? Since we know neuronal activity is physical, but we don't understand consciousness, it seems to me that we should be more inclined to call consciousness physcial, and therefore the result of quantum processes, just as Tom claims (by the way, I don't agree with Tom, I just don't think you are arguing your point effectively).

Originally posted by Thanatos
We are all limited by our states of consciousness. For those of you who have experienced little of the vast range of consciousness, then it's easy to believe that what you experience is some accurate reflection of the 'objective world'. The 'objective world', as you perceive it, is merely a figment of your imagination.

Well, what else do we have but what we experience? Personally, I find it a huge waste of time doubting my ability to achieve objectivity. I don't mind admitting I have lots to learn to perfect my reflecting "mirror" of objectivity; but since it is the only tool I have to participate in reality, I accept it as potentially capable.

Originally posted by Thanatos
If you alter your state of consciousness, you will perceive different things, different truths, and in general, you will realize how small-minded and limited your previous conceptions of the 'objective world' are.

Hmmmmmmm . . . but, if one gets older and wiser, one finds "previous conceptions" less and less further from the objective perception. It doesn't have to be that one's ability to conceptualize must be far from how objective reality is . . . one can learn and develop objective conceptualizing skills.

Originally posted by Thanatos
I don't care how advanced your understanding of unified quantum field theory, string theory, or differential topology is... what you must understand is that understanding is relative.

Why should anyone accept your assertion that materialist understanding is "is relative"? Just because you say so? Don't you think you should explain to us why that is so?

Originally posted by Thanatos
. . . of mankinds highest states of consciousness yet experienced are like nothing compared to what is yet to be experienced and realized

Proof, examples please.

Originally posted by Thanatos
I'm sure you're all familiar with the notion of a consciousness singularity,

I was not aware this idea is floating around out there . . . but I like the concept. Tell us more.

Originally posted by Thanatos
... the point being that those who dismiss the centrality of consciousness are, imho, ignorant.

What does that mean? Consciousness may be central to us, but what is it's role in physics? Do you mean that in the investigation of physical processes consciousness is central? Or do you mean consciousness has somehow played a role in the development of the physical world? Do you mean consciousness right now is part of physics?

No matter what you mean, I still think you have to make your case. You can't just say something is so without demonstrating to us how/why it works the way you say.
 
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  • #27
Mentat
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This problem was the reason for Tiberius' "Clarification on QM" in the Archives of the Philosophy Forum. Of course, QM is not completely understood, and thus one cannot completely clarify it for someone else. However, it can be said with certainty that consciousness has not role in quantum effects.

In the most basic of Physics textbooks, one learns that an atom is the smallest unit of a certain element that portrays the characteristics of that element. In the most basic of Biology textbooks it is understood that cells (including neurons, which are what the brain works with) are composed of many different kinds of molecules which the basic Physics textbook has already explained to be collections of more than one atom.

Thus, the most basic building block of life and consciousness is the cell, and the cell is not distinguishable at the subatomic level from anything else.

So, how could a cell, or collection thereof, have any special effect on the quantum world when they are no different at the subatomic level than a rock or a pile of dung?
 
  • #28
Fliption
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Originally posted by Mentat
This problem was the reason for Tiberius' "Clarification on QM" in the Archives of the Philosophy Forum.

And then Tiberius just traded one untruth for another.:smile:
 
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  • #29
Mentat
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Originally posted by Fliption
And then Tiberius just traded one untruth for another.:smile:

Not for another "untruth". It may be unverified, but there is nothing scientifically or logically wrong with his approach.
 
  • #30
clicky
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The understanding of consciousness is linked to the structure of matter, revealed in a complete picture of the universe /1/.

1. Savov, E., Theory of Interaction, Geones Books, 2002.
 
  • #31
Fliption
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Originally posted by Mentat
Not for another "untruth". It may be unverified, but there is nothing scientifically or logically wrong with his approach.

It is no truer than the approach he was denouncing. Scientifically, it was wrong.
 
  • #32
Mentat
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Originally posted by Fliption
It is no truer than the approach he was denouncing. Scientifically, it was wrong.

Actually, my dear fellow, though I hate to dredge up old arguments that we agreed to leave alone, there is no scientifically possible way to postulate consciousness' interacting at the subatomic level. In fact, most of the sciences that ever deal with either phenomenon (subatomic particles or consciousness) give clear reasons (though not directly, since this is not their purpose) why this cannot be the case.
 
  • #33
Fliption
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Originally posted by Mentat
Actually, my dear fellow, though I hate to dredge up old arguments that we agreed to leave alone, there is no scientifically possible way to postulate consciousness' interacting at the subatomic level. In fact, most of the sciences that ever deal with either phenomenon (subatomic particles or consciousness) give clear reasons (though not directly, since this is not their purpose) why this cannot be the case.

I am not referring to Tiberius' point about consciousness. I am referring to his further elaboration that quantum physics is nothing more than classical billard ball physics. His assertion that the uncertainty principal is nothing more than the measuring object making physical contact with the measured object, hence affecting the measurement, is just not accurate. The uncertainty principal is more fundamental than that.

I would have thought you'd have figured out by now that my problem with Tiberous' post had nothing to do with the objection to consciousness. It was more his writing quantum physics off as nothing more than classical physics and therefore completely "explained". I thought you and I agreed that there was much to learn in quantum physics. It was clear that Tiberious did not think this was true.

Also, on the consciousness topic, if you can point to text that makes the claims you are talking about above I'd like to see it. I haven't seen such things in my readings. Thanks
 
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  • #34
Mentat
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Originally posted by Fliption
I am not referring to Tiberius' point about consciousness. I am referring to his further elaboration that quantum physics is nothing more than classical billard ball physics. His assertion that the uncertainty principal is nothing more than the measuring object making physical contact with the measured object, hence affecting the measurement, is just not accurate. The uncertainty principal is more fundamental than that.

I would have thought you'd have figured out by now that my problem with Tiberous' post had nothing to do with the objection to consciousness. It was more his writing quantum physics off as nothing more than classical physics and therefore completely "explained". I thought you and I agreed that there was much to learn in quantum physics. It was clear that Tiberious did not think this was true.


Tiberius was (AFAIK) well aware of the superposition of quantum particles, and other such implications of quantum uncertainty. The fact that he used "billiard-ball"-ish illustration is no more a flaw in his argument than Schrodinger's "cat" analogy was a flaw in his (since wave/particle duality is utterly negligble in macroscopic objects like cats).

Also, on the consciousness topic, if you can point to text that makes the claims you are talking about above I'd like to see it. I haven't seen such things in my readings. Thanks

What claims?
 
  • #35
Fliption
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Originally posted by Mentat
Tiberius was (AFAIK) well aware of the superposition of quantum particles, and other such implications of quantum uncertainty. The fact that he used "billiard-ball"-ish illustration is no more a flaw in his argument than Schrodinger's "cat" analogy was a flaw in his (since wave/particle duality is utterly negligble in macroscopic objects like cats).
I'm not sure I understand your point because to me when he says this:

"On the macro level wave functions are collapsed automatically by all of the particles bouncing into them"

...he is incorrect. Particles bounce into non-collapsed wave functions as well. So whether a particle bounces into it or not is not the determining factor, only a necessary condition. The only thing in the experiments I posted that correlated perfectly with collapse is a "potential for knowledge". Keep in mind that whether this is true or not is not the issue. The issue is that at least one group of scientist don't believe that Tiberius is correct which directly contradicts what he was claiming i.e. that his view was established knowledge.


What claims?

These...
there is no scientifically possible way to postulate consciousness' interacting at the subatomic level. In fact, most of the sciences that ever deal with either phenomenon (subatomic particles or consciousness) give clear reasons why this cannot be the case.

Would love to read these views if you can reference them.
 

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