By Vexen Crabtree 2001
Quantum consciousness is a type of spirituality/soul theory derived from the terminology of Quantum Physics and theory. It is an example of "pseudo-science", where scientific terms are used without genuine understanding of their meaning, but in a way that makes out-there theories look reasonable at first glance. Quantum Physics terminology and paraphernalia is often used as a basis for postulating how there might be 'souls'1. The eminent physicist Victor Stenger (now deceased) was a vocal critic of the abuse of quantum physics done by spiritualists of various kinds: "A new myth is burrowing its way into modern thinking [...] that the principles embodied in quantum mechanics imply a central role for the human mind in determining the very nature of the universe. Not surprisingly, this idea can be found in New Age periodicals and in many books on the metaphysical shelves of book stores"2. Aside from the "observer effect". The Observe Effect and Quantum Entanglement are two the prime areas where non-scientific minds can often allow their imaginations to distort the science. However strange it may be, quantum physics is not a doorway to magic, even if peddlers of pseudoscience litter their works with scientific-sounding terminology.
Quantum Physics is a vastly important area of physics for philosophers. The interconnectivity of all things relies primarily on faster than light communication, specifically the effect on one wavicle of another wavicle at speeds which, when measured in a bee line, appears to be faster than the speed of light. Quantum Tunnelling, some theoretical (and occasionally dodgy) black hole physics, some big bang models and a few other quantum "effects" including plurality and Schrodinger's Cat theories can all be interpreted to include faster than light mechanics.
Most of these elements are under dispute and there are multiple variations and differing interpretations of quantum effects. For example, there are some Quantum Tunnelling explanations (especially in Super String Theory) that do not require faster than light travel to explain the phenomenon. In short, quantum theory is still unstable and we continue to make sudden or unexpected discoveries, both in theory and practice.
“David Bohm, who died in October, 1992, had been the foremost proponent of a new holistic paradigm to take the place of reductionist quantum physics.3 The failure of his related hidden variable theory did not cause the proponents of the new continuity to loose faith. Rather they have turned the experimental confirmation of conventional quantum mechanics on its head by arguing that a basis has been found for the superluminal signals needed in a holistic universe.
Einstein's principle that no signals can move faster than light implies that separated events in the universe, even those an atomic diameter apart, cannot be simultaneously connected. This fundamentally contradicts the holistic view of an instantaneous interconnectedness among all things. Rather, relativity paints quite the opposite picture: a universe of localized particles that at any instant depend only on the other particles with which they are in direct contact. What is going on elsewhere in the universe at that instant can have no effect until the particles carrying the necessary information can get there, moving no faster than the speed of light. This is a far more complete form of reductionism than is present in pre-Einsteinian mechanics, where motions at superluminal or even infinite speeds were not ruled out by any known theory. Incompatible with the claims of the new holists, relativity not only supports the reductionist view - it makes it mandatory! [...] Relativity has passed every experimental test that has been put to it since being introduced in 1905, so it cannot be casually discarded.
Similarly, the interpretation of quantum mechanics to which Einstein objected, and which Bohm sought to replace, still reigns supreme after being subjected to a similar period of rigorous experimental test, including the tests of Bell's theorem. The EPR paradox thus would seem to suggest that quantum mechanics and relativity cannot be made compatible, and so one or the other must go. Before the experimental results confirming conventional quantum mechanics came in, Bohm and his supporters had argued that conventional quantum mechanics should be discarded. Now that the results are in, the new holists argue that relativity must yield, since quantum mechanics provides a mechanism by which signals can move faster than light. [...]
Quantum mechanics is called on further to argue that the cosmic field, like Newton's aether, couples to the human mind itself. In Robert Lanza's view, that field is the universal mind of all humanity - living, dead, and unborn. Ironically, this seemingly profound association between quantum and mind is an artifact, the consequence of unfortunate language used by Bohr, Heisenberg and the others who originally formulated quantum mechanics. In describing the necessary interaction between the observer and what is being observed, and how the state of a system is determined by the act of its measurement, they inadvertently left the impression that human consciousness enters the picture to cause that state come into being. This led many who did not understand the physics, but liked the sound of the words used to describe it, to infer a fundamental human role in what was previously a universe that seemed to have need for neither gods nor humanity. [...]
The overwhelming weight of evidence, from seven decades of experimentation, shows not a hint of a violation of reductionist, local, discrete, non-superluminal, non-holistic relativity and quantum mechanics - with no fundamental involvement of human consciousness other than in our own subjective perception of whatever reality is out there. [...] The myth of quantum consciousness should take its place along with gods, unicorns, and dragons [...].”
Victor Stenger (1992)
William Bloom calls the elements of the New Age that take modern science and interpret them spiritually as "New Science/New Paradigm". "The inter-connectedness of everything informs New Age attitudes to health and healing [...] in place of the medical-science treatment"4. Quantum Consciousness is based on the concept that all things are interrelated and can affect each other at speeds greater than the speed of light; and that consciousness is derived from this almost-spiritual effect of information flow. It is derived from wave/particle Quantum Physics, Quantum tunnelling, black hole physics.
Anyone into Forteana or scientific spiritualism absolutely loves this stuff. I'm a bit sceptical about it all. But also it is exciting because if Quantum theory proceeds further in this direction it does provide a source of "qualia", based on a quantum mathematical model of consciousness.
Some articles on "Quantum Consciousness":
Proponents of this theory see room for free will and a concept of 'spirit' at the quantum level. But I'll be sceptical with you and say this much. No one fully understands quantum physics and this type of philosophizing is generally being done by those on the sidelines rather than by scientists. We can say that we observe "randomness" but this is description and not comprehension. To apply quantum theory to consciousness is a bit redundant....there's not really any new information being added. At least it seems so to me.
Quantum Consciousness is based on the concept that all things are interrelated and can affect each other at speeds greater than the speed of light; and that consciousness is derived from this almost-spiritual effect of information flow. There exist theories that this is the beginnings of a scientific understanding of spiritualism, mysticism and some occultism.
People can sense each other, basically as if people had souls. Additional sensory input from electromagnetic radiation caused by neuronal activity could be augmented via Quantum Consciousness to form kinds of psychic ability, extra sensory perception etc.
The Quantum Soul is derived from Quantum Physics, and is material in essence, even though the effect of it is spiritual. The material aspects of Quantum Soul control the soul itself, there is no "sky hook". Which means that Souls can exist, according to this theory, and no god is required.
Those who believe in souls but not religion par se are drawn to this theory, and followers of Forteana, mysteries or the unexplained are dead excited about Quantum Souls.
Most the individual elements of Quantum Consciousness are under dispute. For example most of the supporting maths behind the Interconnectivity of all things is doubted, dubious, with many other theories in circulation that if true do not permit Quantum Souls to exist. But nonetheless, the Quantum Soul theory is presently the best theory of soul that we have.
Current edition: 2001 May 13
Last Modified: 2015 Mar 14
Parent page: Soul Theory and Skepticism: Science Versus Spirituality
Emotions Are Biological: How Biochemistry and Neurology Account for FeelingsThe Limbic System: The Source of Emotions in the Human BrainSouls do not Exist: Evidence from Science & Philosophy Against Mind-Body DualismWhat Do Religions Say About Souls?Quantum Physics Pseudo-scientific Theory of SoulOut of Body Experiences (OBEs): Astral Projection or Soul Travelling?Split Brain Studies: One Mind per Hemisphere
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(1996) Religion in the Modern World: From Cathedrals to Cults. Paperback book. Published by Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK.
Stenger, Prof. Victor J.
(1992) article "The Myth of Quantum Consciousness" published in The Humanist (1899 Dec 30), vol. 53, no. 3, pp. 13-15.
(2007) God, the Failed Hypothesis: How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist. Published by Prometheus Books, NY, USA. Stenger is a Nobel-prize winning physicist, and a skeptical philosopher whose research is strictly rational and evidence-based.