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October 4, 2000 LBNL-44712
From Quantum Nonlocality to Mind-Brain Interaction
Henry P. Stapp
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory University of California Berkeley, California 94720 
Orthodox Copenhagen quantum theory renounces the quest to un-derstand the reality in which we are imbedded, and settles for practicalrules that describe connections between our observations. However,an examination of certain nonlocal features of quantum theory sug-gests that the perceived need for this renunciation was due to theuncritical importation from classical physics of a crippling metaphys-ical prejudice, and that rejection of that prejudice opens the way to adynamical theory of the interaction between mind and brain that hassignificant explanatory power.
This work is supported in part by the Director, Office of Science, Office of High Energyand Nuclear Physics, Division of High Energy Physics, of the U.S. Department of Energyunder Contract DE-AC03-76SF00098
“Nonlocality gets more real”. This is the provocative title of a recentreport in Physics Today (1998). Three experiments are cited. All threeconfirm to high accuracy the predictions of quantum theory in experimentsthat suggest the occurrence of an instantaneous action over a large distance.The most spectacular of the three experiments begins with the productionof pairs of photons in a lab in downtown Geneva. For some of these pairs,one member is sent by optical fiber to the village of Bellevue, while the otheris sent to the town of Bernex. The two towns lie more than 10 kilometersapart. Experiments on the arriving photons are performed in both villages atessentially the same time. What is found is this: The observed connectionsbetween the outcomes of these experiments defy explanation in terms of ordinary ideas about the nature of the physical world
on the scale of directly observable objects.
This conclusion is announced in opening sentence of thereport (Tittle
et al.
1998) that describes the experiment: “Quantum theoryis nonlocal”.This observed effect is not just an academic matter. A possible appli-cation of interest to the Swiss is this: The effect can be used in principleto transfer banking records over large distances in a secure way (Tittle
et al.
1999). But of far greater importance to physicists is its relevance to twofundamental questions: What is the nature of physical reality? What is theform of basic physical theory?The answers to these questions depend crucially on the nature of physicalcausation. Isaac Newton erected his theory of gravity on the idea of instantaction at a distance. According to Newton’s theory, if a person were tosuddenly kick a stone, and send it flying off in some direction, every particlein the entire universe would
begin to feel the effect of that kick.Thus, in Newton’s theory, every part of the universe is instantly linked,causally, to every other part. To even think about such an instantaneousaction one needs the idea of the instant of time “now”, and a sequence of such instants each extending over the entire universe.This idea that what a person does in one place could instantly affect1
physical reality in a faraway place is a mind-boggling notion, and it wasbanished from classical physics by Einstein’s theory of relativity. But theidea resurfaced at the quantum level in the debate between Einstein andBohr. Einstein objected to the “mysterious action at a distance”, whichquantum theory seemed to entail, but Bohr defended “the necessity of a finalrenunciation of the classical ideal of causality and a radical revision of ourattitude towards the problem of physical reality”(Bohr 1935).The essence of this radical revision was explained by Dirac at the 1927Solvay conference (Dirac 1928). He insisted on the restriction of the appli-cation of quantum theory to our knowledge of a system, rather than to thesystem itself. Thus physical theory became converted from a theory about‘physically reality’, as it had formerly been understood, into a theory abouthuman knowledge.This view is encapsulated in Heisenberg’s famous statement (Heisenberg1958):“The conception of the objective reality of the elementary particles hasthus evaporated not into the cloud of some obscure new reality concept, butinto the transparent clarity of a mathematics that represents no longer thebehaviour of the particle but rather our knowledge of this behaviour.”This conception of quantum theory, espoused by Bohr, Dirac, and Heisen-berg, is called the Copenhagen interpretation. It is essentially subjective andepistemological, because the basic reality of the theory is ‘our knowledge’.It is certainly true that science rests ultimately on what we know. Thatfact is the basis of the Coperhagen point of view. However, the tremendoussuccesses of the classical physical theory inaugurated by Galileo, Descartes,and Newton during the seventeenth century, had raised the hope and expec-tation that human beings could extract from careful observation, and theimaginative creation of testable hypotheses, a valid idea of the general na-ture, and rules of behaviour, of the reality in which our human knowledge isimbedded. Giving up on that hope is indeed a radical shift. On the otherhand, classical physical theory left part of reality out, namely our conscious2
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