Quantum mechanics, which developed in the early twentieth century, has been a serious blow to materialism.
There is no way to make sense of it if immaterial entities like information, observation, or the mind are not real. Theoretical physicist Sabine Hossenfelder struggles against the effects of this fact.
In a recent video, she asks, “Does Consciousness Influence Quantum Effects?” (November 19, 2022)
She asks, why did some physicists like von Neumann and Wigner think that consciousness is necessary to make sense of quantum mechanics, and can consciousness influence the outcome of a quantum experiment? (0:33)
Well, they had good reason. Any effort to exclude consciousness from reality fails.
Hossenfelder, a hostile witness, kindly offers an example from the work of Irish physicist John Bell (1928–1990):
John Bell used the following example: “When the Queen dies in London, the Prince of Wales becomes instantaneously king.” No matter where he is. So why wasn’t the speed of light limit broken when the queen died? Because we can update our *knowledge about what happened elsewhere without causing any event elsewhere. And this is how Bohr thought about the collapse of the wave-function. You can update it instantaneously because it just describes what we know. Einstein wasn’t convinced, but Bohr won the argument. (2:14)
But isn’t it reasonable to ask, what does it mean to say that “the Queen” “dies”? On September 8 of this year, Elizabeth II, head of state for the Commonwealth, which includes many countries, including Canada, Jamaica, and Nigeria, died, as is the fate of all mortals.
Now, here is a question that more directly concerns the nature of the consciousness, a topic that has rattled the pioneer quantum physicists, if not Hossenfelder: Did goats or termites in any of those environments notice or care?
The big question is, could those entities have cared? No. They could not. It is not a question of their opinion. They can’t grasp the matter. Something is happening in human consciousness that is not happening in theirs.
Hossenfelder goes on:
So, if you believe Bohr, then the wave-function has something to do with knowing. But who or what knows? Well, the observer does. By this logic, the update of the wave-function becomes linked to the thing that can know something, which is the human brain. Bohr didn’t actually explain what this all means. He was quite content with being incomprehensible (2:38) and a lot of physicists have since followed his example.
What Hossenfelder appears to mean is that an entirely materialist explanation should work and that physicists are at fault for not explaining.
But what if the fault is not theirs but nature’s?
Maybe the problem is that nature is not materialist.
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