Quantum mysticism

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Quantum mysticism
Claims Quantum mechanics can be interpreted according to paranormal, spiritual, or mystical ideas
Related scientific disciplines Physics, Psychology
Year proposed ca. 1920
Subsequent proponents Fritjof Capra, Deepak Chopra, Amit Goswami, John Hagelin, Nick Herbert, Lawrence LeShan, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Jack Sarfatti, Michael Talbot, Evan Harris Walker, Robert Anton Wilson, Gary Zukav
Pseudoscientific concepts

Quantum mysticism is a term that has been used to refer to a set of metaphysical beliefs and associated practices that seek to relate consciousness, intelligence or mystical world-views to the ideas of quantum mechanics and its interpretations.[1][2][3][4][5][6] An example is the idea that consciousness causes collapse (e.g. the act of observation affects reality directly). Many ideas associated with "quantum mysticism" have been criticized as either misinterpretations of quantum mechanics or as pseudoscience.[7][8][9]

The term originally emerged from the founders of quantum theory in the early twentieth century as they debated the interpretations and implications of their nascent theories, which would later evolve into quantum mechanics.[2][10] The essential qualities of early quantum theory, and the ontological questions that emerged from it, made a distinction between philosophical and scientific discussion difficult as quantum theory developed into a strong scientific theory.[citation needed]

Harvard historian Juan Miguel Marin argues that Albert Einstein, though he claimed belief in Spinoza's God[11] remained opposed to some of the novel "mystical" formulations of other physicists such as Wolfgang Pauli. The debate polarised after World War II, although publications such as Schrödinger's, or Eugene Wigner’s 1961 paper, continued to appear, spiritual interpretations of the new physics became rare and were deprecated among the scientific community.[12]



[edit] History

In the 1920s, with the inception of early quantum theory, Wolfgang Pauli[13] took an active interest in quantum mysticism.[citation needed]

Physicist Roger Penrose wrote in the Shadows of the Mind that consciousness may be a quantum phenomenon. The idea was cuttingly criticised by Stephen Hawking; a summary of his criticisms was added to Penrose's book.[citation needed]

A renewed interest in mystical interpretations and the psychological aspects of the new physics arose in the 1970s with physicists such as Fritjof Capra, whose popularly successful book The Tao of Physics explored parallels between quantum physics and principles of Eastern mysticism. The 1980 book Wholeness and the Implicate Order by David Bohm portrays reality as a unity which can be understood in terms of implicate and explicate orders. The latter book was strongly criticised by Steven Weinberg, a leading campaigner against the introduction of paradigms and ideas involving or suggesting the substantiality of mind, quasi-spiritual interpretations and other such concepts drawn from outside the purview of physics, in the so-called "Science wars". Another well-known contribution was Quantum Reality by physicist Nick Herbert (1985) which dealt mainly with possible interpretations of quantum theory.

The 1979 book, The Dancing Wu Li Masters by Gary Zukav (self-confessedly "not a physicist") again included parallels between Eastern mysticism and modern physics. Michael Talbot's The Holographic Universe developed the ideas of David Bohm in relation to the recent Aspect experiment. In 1990, Robert Anton Wilson wrote a book called Quantum Psychology which explains Timothy Leary’s Eight Circuit Model of Consciousness in terms of quantum mysticism.[14]

Deepak Chopra's 1988 book Quantum Healing explained a theory of psychosomatic healing using quantum concepts and his Ageless Body, Timeless Mind (1993, a New York Times Bestseller that sold over two million copies worldwide) discusses specific claims of healing, reversal of the aging process and immortality, adopting a "quantum worldview" and prescribing specific practices. In 1998 Deepak Chopra was awarded the parody Ig Nobel Prize, in the physics category, for "his unique interpretation of quantum physics as it applies to life, liberty, and the pursuit of economic happiness".[15]

The 2004 film What the Bleep Do We Know!? dealt with a range of New Age ideas in relation to physics. It was produced by the Ramtha School of Enlightenment, founded by J.Z. Knight, who claimed her teachings were based on a discourse with a 35,000-year-old disembodied entity named Ramtha. It made controversial use of some aspects of quantum mechanics—including the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle and the observer effect—as well as biology and medicine.[16] Numerous critics dismissed the film as pseudoscience.[17][18]

[edit] Philosophical claims

Writers on quantum mysticism have made such statements[19][20][21][22] as the following;

  • The observer and reality are not separate and mind and body are indivisibly one. While these ideas are commonly accepted, science does not commonly attribute substantiality to mind and consciousness. David Chalmers, in The Conscious Mind (1996), used the idea of the philosophical zombie to argue in the arena of philosophy that a mechanical view of evolution cannot account for the phenomenon of awareness, while Daniel Dennett has attempted to refute this argument and to assert that the mind is an emergent phenomenon of our bodies.[23] "Quantum mystics" commonly propose the idea that an underlying consciousness or intelligence connects everyone,[citation needed] based on the fact that quantum fields can be interpreted as extending infinitely in space.[citation needed] Swiss psychiatrist and founder of analytical psychology Carl Jung referred to this inherent connection between all life as "the collective unconscious".[citation needed]

[edit] See also

[edit] Notes

  1. ^ Athearn, D. (1994). Scientific Nihilism: On the Loss and Recovery of Physical Explanation (S U N Y Series in Philosophy). Albany, New York: State University Of New York Press.
  2. ^ a b Edis, T. (2005). Science and Nonbelief (Greenwood Guides to Science and Religion). New York: Greenwood Press.
  3. ^ Stenger, V. J. (2003). Has Science Found God? The Latest Results in the Search for Purpose in the Universe. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books.
  4. ^ Edis, T. (2002). The Ghost in the Universe: God in Light of Modern Science. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books.
  5. ^ Crease, R. P. (1993). Play of Nature, The (Indiana Series in the Philosophy of Technology). Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
  6. ^ Seager, W. (1999). Theories of Consciousness: An Introduction (Philosophical Issues in Science). New York: Routledge.
  7. ^ Pagels, H. R. (1982). The Cosmic Code: Quantum Physics As the Language of Nature. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.
  8. ^ Nanda, M. (2003). Prophets Facing Backward: Postmodern Critiques of Science and Hindu Nationalism in India. New Jersey: Rutgers University Press.
  9. ^ Scott, A. C. (2007). The Nonlinear Universe: Chaos, Emergence, Life (The Frontiers Collection). New York: Springer.
  10. ^ Niels Bohr, "Discussion with Einstein," In P.A. Schilpp, ed., Albert Einstein: Philosopher-Scientist, p. 235.
  11. ^ http://www.spaceandmotion.com/albert-einstein-god-religion-theology.htm, quoting Victor J. Stenger, Has Science Found God?, 2001, chapter 3; "I believe in Spinoza's God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with the fates and actions of human beings". (Einstein, letter to Rabbi Herbert Goldstein)
  12. ^ http://www.physorg.com/news163670588.html
  13. ^ "I confess, that very different from you, I do find sometimes scientific inspiration in mysticism … but this is counterbalanced by an immediate sense for mathematics." -- W. Pauli, from [1]
  14. ^ Wilson, Robert Anton - Quantum Psychology 1990
  15. ^ The 1998 Ig Nobel Prize Winners
  16. ^ What the Bleep are they On About?! Australian Broadcasting Corporation
  17. ^ Wilson, Elizabeth (2005-01-13). "What the Bleep Do We Know?!". American Chemical Society. http://pubs.acs.org/cen/reelscience/reviews/whatthe_bleep/. Retrieved 2007-12-19. 
  18. ^ "The minds boggle". The Guardian Unlimited
  19. ^ Chopra, D. (1993). Ageless Body, Timeless Mind: The Quantum Alternative to Growing Old. Harmony. ISBN 0-517-88212-4
  20. ^ Braden, G. (2005). The God Code. Hay House. ISBN 978-1-4019-0300-8
  21. ^ Talbot, M. (1992). Holographic Universe. Harper Perennial. ISBN 978-0-06-092258-0
  22. ^ Braden, G. (2008). The Divine Matrix: Bridging Time, Space, Miracles, and Belief. Hay House. ISBN 978-1-4019-0573-6
  23. ^ TED Lecture, Dan Dennett on our consciousness, Feb 2003 http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_dennett_on_our_consciousness.html

[edit] Further reading

Publications relating to quantum mysticism
Criticism of quantum mysticism
  • Richard H. Jones, Science and Mysticism: A Comparative Study of Western Natural Science, Theravada Buddhism, and Advaita Vedanta (Bucknell University Press, 1986), ISBN 0108387500931 (Paperback ed., 2008), criticism from both the scientific and mystical points of view
  • Richard H. Jones, Piercing the Veil: Comparing Science and Mysticism as Ways of Knowing Reality (Jackson Square Books, 2010), ISBN 978-1-4392-6682-3
  • Michael Shermer, "Quantum Quackery", Scientific American, January 2005 [2]
  • Victor J. Stenger, The Unconscious Quantum: Metaphysics in Modern Physics and Cosmology, (Prometheus Books, 1995), ISBN 1-57392-022-3, an anti-mystical point-of-view
  • Victor J. Stenger, "Quantum quackery", Skeptical Inquirer, Vol. 21. No. 1, January/February 1997, p. 37ff, criticism of the book "The Self-Aware Universe"
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