By Deepak Chopra, MD, Menas Kafatos, PhD, Bernardo Kastrup, PhD, Rudolph E. Tanzi, PhD
Science often makes strides by contradicting what we take for granted, and the biggest thing everyone takes for granted is the physical world. Our senses wrap themselves around tangible objects so naturally that it's difficult to believe that they may be misleading us completely. This is true of working physicists as well, so when any prominent theorist states the evidence of a different view of reality, one in which the mind creates the properties of what we call "the physical world," it's more than intriguing.
The possibility of a mental universe has a strong lineage going in the quantum era, but present-day physicalists (physicists who accept the physical nature of reality as a given) feel free to dismiss or ignore figures as towering as Max Planck, Werner Heisenberg, and John von Neumann. We discussed them in our last posting. Physicalism holds sway with the vast majority of cosmologists, and yet Andre Linde of Stanford University made some important points in an article on the most current theories of the inflationary universe: "...carefully avoiding the concept of consciousness in quantum cosmology" may artificially narrow one's outlook." ( http://scienceandnonduality.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/UNIVERSE-LIFE-CONSCIOUSNESS-Andrei-Linde.pdf)
As a result, Linde points out, a number of physicists have replaced "observer" with "participant" when describing how humans interact with the universe. Others use the phrase "self-observing universe." It's startling when an important authority on the inflationary cosmos opens the door for human participation as a key element. Linde asks the same question posed by many quantum pioneers a century ago: "Is it really possible to fully understand what the universe is without first understanding what life is?"
Linde stops at the threshold of entering the mental universe, merely pointing out that the assumptions of materialism are questionable when reality is examined at deep levels. Every theorist has a right to be as cautious as he wants. But the fact is that quantum pioneers arrived at those deep levels of reality long ago, while scientists using the very same modern physics ignore them as if physicalism will triumph in the end. Given enough subatomic particles, advanced mathematics, a zillion other possible universes to toss into the equation, and an ever more sophisticated version of cosmic inflation, all the answers will pop up--so the standard thinking goes.
Here are our reasons for why this must be questioned and why the choice between a physical universe and a mental one is urgent and necessary.
10 Clues to the Mental Universe
- The assumption that a physical world exists "out there" can't be proven by mathematics--the language in which physics describe nature--or empirical observation. All of reality is known only through human experience, and experience depends on how our species is set up to perceive reality. The universe cannot be separated from how the particular structure of our brain relates to the experience of light, sound, color, texture, taste, etc. Our brain brings us our world through the action of the senses. This must be the starting premise of any debate on this topic.
- Science tries to achieve objectivity through mathematical models and careful observations, yielding measurements and experiments, but these do not escape the basic fact that even science is an experience in consciousness.
- The ultimate argument for reality "out there" is that mathematics and the laws of nature do not depend on personal human consciousness. However, this misses the point: mathematics may not be personal, but it is still clearly (What else could it be?) The possibility that presents itself to us is that mathematics, as well the laws of nature it describes, are transpersonal archetypes of a universal mind, expressing themselves in human awareness.
- Since consciousness cannot be escaped, it must be considered a central factor in everything we call real.
- The elaborate constructs of cosmology, which can become Matrix-like in their fancifulness, are only models, simulations of reality. They are both man-made and mind-made. Vast regions of reality are virtually unreachable by human conjecture, such as the state of creation before spacetime appeared, the actuality of superstrings, the dimensionless state of the quantum vacuum, the state of the wave function and its supposed collapse, the end of the universe, and the true nature of matter.
- It has become clear that what we conceive of as real is based on the inconceivable. Because the usual tokens of physics (spacetime, matter, energy, physical laws) are all traceable to a source that has none of them, everyone must accept that the inconceivable underlies everyday reality. It is here, there, and everywhere. (Linde puts this in the form of a question: "Is it possible that we are making a conceptual mistake at the moment when we are making an obvious assumption that the universe is real, and that it encompasses everything?")
- Physicalism cannot account for consciousness, and its insistence that the mind is a secondary phenomenon of physical processes (the "matter first" assumption) has no proof or even a coherent articulation. It is just an assumption. In fact, at a certain point material explanations run out of steam, most crucially when they try to account for how the universe emerged from a pre-created state that wasn't physical to begin with. Linde again: "The mystery of [the] creation of everything from nothing could seem to be too great to be considered scientifically."
- If physicalism is totally stumped in its search for origins, there is a level playing field for other approaches. To say that consciousness is the foundation of creation (the "mind first" assumption) is no less credible than any current scientific explanation. Contrary to popular belief, widely held in the scientific community, physical explanations don't occupy a privileged position. In fact, the opposite is true. Physicalism has been undermined for over a century by a host of quantum behaviors. Even though they came at it from different directions, Planck, Bohr, Schrödinger, Heisenberg, von Neumann, and others all contended that consciousness-mind is fundamental.
- The acceptance of a mental universe doesn't, as physicalists warn, mean that fickle personal subjectivity will depose rational objectivity. This is a straw man. In reality, what we call subjectivity is one aspect of consciousness while what we call objectivity is another. A bridge can be built, mathematically first and subsequently scientifically, between the two.
- The physicalist argument that the brain "obviously" creates the mind also has no proof. The brain belongs, like all physical objects, as an experience that cannot be divorced from consciousness. The fact that our brains are constantly pulsating with electrical signals and chemical reactions doesn't prove that the mind is being created, any more than the electrical activity in a radio playing a Mozart symphony indicates that the radio is composing the music. Clearly Mozart is not in the radio, but the radio is needed to play Mozart. Likewise, the brain is the apparatus needed to manifest consciousness in a human being.
Physicalism is on its last legs philosophically, which means little to nuts-and-bolts scientists but a great deal to the theorists who must explain reality before any nuts-and-bolts science knows what to work on. All the quantum evidence points in one direction, that no observation of reality--whether we mean a glance out the window at the morning sun or a high-speed particle accelerator smashing protons--is complete until a human observer examines the results. Consciousness is ever-present. On that simple basis alone, the choice of a mental universe becomes more compelling every day. This is the inescapable consequence of quantum mechanics, the most accurate scientific theory of all times.
Finally, for skeptics who assert that nothing we've been proposing is "real" science, here's some very real scientific reading. Prof. Richard Conn Henry cogently argued in Nature, 10 years ago, that quantum entanglement proves that the universe is "entirely mental": http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v436/n7047/full/436029a.html. He alluded to Renninger negative-result thought experiments (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Renninger_negative-result_experiment) as evidence that the environment in itself cannot cause collapse through decoherence alone cannot account for the reality we observe every day.
Some more bibliography:
- Kim, Y.-H. et al. (2000). A Delayed Choice Quantum Eraser. Physical Review Letters 84, pp. 1-5. The authors show that observation not only determines the reality observed at present, but also retroactively changes the history of what is observed accordingly. This is entirely consistent with the notion that reality is fundamentally a story playing itself out in mind.
- Gröblacher, S. et al. (2007). An experimental test of non-local realism. Nature 446, pp. 871-875. The authors show that reality is either entirely in consciousness or we must abandon our strongest intuitions about what objectivity means. Physicsworld.com, in a related article, went as far as to claim that 'quantum physics says goodbye to reality.'
- Lapkiewicz, R. et al. (2011). Experimental non-classicality of an indivisible quantum system. Nature 474, pp. 490-493. The authors show that, unlike what one would expect if reality were independent of mind, the properties of a quantum system do not exist prior to observation. Renowned physicist Anton Zeilinger, in a related New Scientist article suitably titled "Quantum magic trick shows reality is what you make it," is quoted as saying that "there is no sense in assuming that what we do not measure about a system has [an independent] reality."
- Xiao-song Ma et al. (2013). Quantum erasure with causally disconnected choice. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 110, pp. 1221-1226. Again, the authors show that no naively objective view of reality can be true, which is consistent with the notion that reality is fundamentally subjective. A less-technical explanation of the experiment in this paper, as well as its results, can be found here.
Deepak Chopra MD, FACP, founder of The Chopra Foundation and co-founder of The Chopra Center for Wellbeing, is a world-renowned pioneer in integrative medicine and personal transformation, and is Board Certified in Internal Medicine, Endocrinology and Metabolism. He is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians and a member of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists. Chopra is the author of more than 80 books translated into over 43 languages, including numerous New York Times bestsellers. His latest book is Super Genes co-authored with Rudi Tanzi, Ph.D. www.deepakchopra.com
Menas C. Kafatos is the Fletcher Jones Endowed Professor of Computational Physics, at Chapman University. He is a quantum physicist, cosmologist, and climate change researcher and works extensively on consciousness. He holds seminars and workshops for individuals and corporations on the natural laws that apply everywhere and are the foundations of the universe, for well-being and success. His doctoral thesis advisor was the renowned M.I.T. professor Philip Morrison who studied under J. Robert Oppenheimer. He has authored 300+ articles, is author or editor of 15 books, including The Conscious Universe (Springer), Looking In, Seeing Out (Theosophical Publishing House), and is co-author with Deepak Chopra of the forthcoming book, The Creative Cosmos (Harmony). He maintains a Huffington Post blog. You can learn more at http://www.menaskafatos.com
Bernardo Kastrup has a Ph.D. in computer engineering with specializations in artificial intelligence and reconfigurable computing. He has worked as a scientist in some of the world's foremost research laboratories, including the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) and the Philips Research Laboratories (where the "Casimir Effect" of Quantum Field Theory was discovered). Bernardo has authored many scientific papers and five philosophy books: Rationalist Spirituality, Dreamed up Reality, Meaning in Absurdity, Why Materialism Is Baloney, and Brief Peeks Beyond. He has also been an entrepreneur and founder of a successful high-tech start-up. Next to a managerial position in the high-tech industry, Bernardo maintains a philosophy blog, a video interview series, and continues to develop his ideas about the nature of reality. He has lived and worked in four different countries across continents, currently residing in the Netherlands.
Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D. is the Joseph P. and Rose F. Kennedy Professor of Neurology at Harvard University and Vice Chair of Neurology at Mass. General Hospital. Dr. Tanzi is the co-author with Deepak Chopra of the New York Times bestseller, Super Brain, and an internationally acclaimed expert on Alzheimer disease. He was included in TIME Magazine's "TIME 100 Most Influential People in the World".