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"Quantum" Arguments Can't Explain Consciousness or the Supernatural PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Harriet Hall   

Victor Stenger is a fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and an accomplished quantum physicist who has written numerous books explaining physics, analyzing religious claims, and debunking popular ideas supposedly derived from quantum physics.

In the foreword to Stenger's latest book, Quantum Gods: Creation, Chaos, and the Search for Cosmic Consciousness, Michael Shermer writes,

Either there is evidence for the supernatural and the paranormal, or there isn't. There isn't. Victor Stenger explains why there isn't. Read this book to find out why.

Some Christians have unwittingly morphed into Deists, believing that God created the Universe but does not intervene in human affairs.  A recent survey shows that almost half of Americans do not believe in a personal God who answers prayers and performs miracles. In previous books, Stenger has argued that a personal God is ruled out by the data. In this book he goes even further, using arguments from physics to show that a Deist God is also highly improbable.

Some apologists think there is a way God could intervene in the world by manipulating quantum events; others think quantum mechanics can explain free will and consciousness, allow for a unified cosmic consciousness, and even allow us to create our own reality. Stenger shows that such speculations are based on wildly inaccurate misappropriations and misunderstandings of the concepts of advanced physics.

There is a lot of physics in this book. It's hard to understand, but well worth the effort of trying to understand as much as we can. And it's very reassuring that someone who really does understand it has gone through all the philosophical, theological, "energy medicine," and New Age spirituality arguments based on "quantum" concepts and can explain in detail why they are wrong.

Why is there a Universe? He calculates from standard equations that "something" is about twice as probable as "nothing." He concludes,

We appear to have good evidence for a universe that came about spontaneously, without cause, from nothing. The laws of physics also came from nothing. The structure of the universe emerged from nothing. Indeed, we can view that structure, including Earth and humanity, as forms of frozen nothing.

A challenging, thought-provoking book. Well worth reading.

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written by Skeptigirl, August 18, 2009
A Universe from nothing or an infinitely old something that existed before the Big Bang are equally incredible concepts. Adding the god layer to the explanation of how/why the Universe came into existence does nothing for me. Maybe some people find comfort in the meaningless answer that a Deist god explains our existence. My view is the Deist belief is a remnant of our (the human race's) emergence from primitive thinking. IE, some people just can't accept the fact that all gods are fictional characters.

I am fascinated by the quantum world but it's too late in my life to learn with any kind of deep understanding, a new science that is as mysterious and complex as quantum theory. But that doesn't stop me from exploring it from a distance. If there is an audio version of the book, I may just try it on my upcoming road trip to Yellowstone and Burning Man.
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So much needed
written by Dr.Sid, August 18, 2009
This referencing to QT must stop. Problem is that so few people knows what it really is about, and even fewer what it implies. For example large portion of educated physicists who do QT for their living are complete lunatics who support these consciousness/free will/any woo woo theories !
So if you are physicist, and if you are QT authority, every time you say 'quantum' also say 'and no, it has nothing to do with free will or consciousness or any woo woo you might like'.
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written by Quantum Monkey, August 19, 2009
The funny thing is, if you argue that the randomness of quantum mechanics can save free will from determinism, all you're doing is arguing that you behave randomly rather than predetermined. There's still no point where a "you" comes in to control your behaviour.
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written by GeekGoddess, August 19, 2009
Putting in a plug for the JREF Library, if you order this book and go to Amazon by way of this link, JREF gets a small commission on everything you order.
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*rockin*
written by Jakse, August 19, 2009
"Money from nothing and chicks for free" is twice as likely as not smilies/cheesy.gif (i honestly don't know why those lyrics made me write them.. ohwell... Maybe godidit) smilies/wink.gif
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written by MadScientist, August 19, 2009
Oh well, so much for "nothing comes from nothing", or as Foghorn Leghorn put it: "Two nuthin's is nuthin'!"

Given a choice between a god who was not created by a sentient being vs. a universe which was not created by a sentient being, I'd choose the godless alternative.
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written by EdipisReks, August 19, 2009
I love the TM wankfest in the Amazon review section.
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As for creation
written by Dr.Sid, August 19, 2009
I especially like one idea. There is no beginning. Therefore the problem does not exist.
First you must prove that there was nothing before big bang. And we don't know that. smilies/grin.gif
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written by Walk, August 19, 2009
I have a friend who believes all this "manifest your own reality" stuff, as described in the book "The Secret". He weighs over 350 pounds, and I don't have the heart to say, "either this method is bunk, or you are purposely 'manifesting' an obese body".
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written by magpiechuck, August 19, 2009
"Form is emptiness, emptiness is form". - The Heart Sutra smilies/cheesy.gif
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So...
written by Zen66, August 19, 2009
does this mean James Bond did not receive his quantum of solace? Who are we to deny this fictional character his subatomic particle of comfort? And what of god. Does god not deserve a misappropriation of science? Just in case, you know.

The Creation Museum has its mutations of scientific thought (ironically). Why not a Particle Accelerator for Jesus? Walking on water? quantum physics, just because. Crown of Thorns or hidden model of an atom? We report. You, general public, decide. O.K. we'll decide for you, no effort on your part necessary. Actually, Simcha Jacobovici (the Naked Archaeologist) will do all the deciding. He has a show at the 'A' pavilion at 6:00, don't miss it. Funny, funny stuff!
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blog on qm
written by jackmallah@yahoo.com, August 19, 2009
Looks like an interesting, and perhaps important book. It's often hard to find accurate information on interpretation of quantum mechanics, especially at an introductory level.

I'm writing a 'blog' that attempts to explain a lot of things about it in an easy to understand way. Eventually it will cover more advanced topics especially regarding the many-worlds interpretation. http://onqm.blogspot.com/
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written by bosshog, August 20, 2009
"We appear to have good evidence for a universe that came about spontaneously, without cause, from nothing. The laws of physics also came from nothing."
I freely admit that I know "nothing" whatever about quantum physics. Still I believe the above statement shows how we can become autointoxicated by our own thought processes. "Nothing" has by definition no existence in itself. It is a synthetic concept like "zero" that we manipulate as a tool for thought. It has meaning and relevance only in relation to "something" which does exist in itself. Since "nothing" does not have an independant existence the notion of "something" proceeding from "nothing" is absolutely absurd. "Something" is the predicate of "nothing". "
As for the "laws" of physics, there are no independent, pre-existing laws that the physical universe "obeys". The universe simply does what it does and we speak of laws in order to (once again) give our thoughts objects to manipulate in order to increase our ability to predict what we observe taking place around us.
If quantum physics declares that "everything" was created by a big "nothing" floating in the void of non-existence then quantum physics simply believes in a god called "Nothing".
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written by bosshog, August 20, 2009
PS: Please forgive the superabundance of quotation marks in my last entry. They just appeared out of nowhere.
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written by NewCoaster, August 20, 2009
Sounds like a good book, perhaps one JREF's lone deist, Hal Bidlak, should read.
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Arguing quantum mechanics
written by Griz, August 20, 2009
I just listened to an audio book of several lectures by Stephen Hawking titled "The Theory of Everything." There were lots of interesting tidbits in it, including how the uncertainty principle of quantum mechanics makes possible a model of the universe which is infinite in space but has no boundaries, including in time, meaning it has no beginning and no end. The one thing that I learned for certain, though, was that it's absolutely pointless for people such as ourselves (unless you're a physicist specializing in quantum mechanics) to argue about this stuff because it goes way deeper than our ability to casually understand (much as Skeptigirl said initially) and make any meaningful conclusions. Not only that, these lectures were several years old and I understand that things have changed a great deal in physics just since then. He mentioned string theory, for instance, but only briefly and didn't sound too enthused about it.

Another interesting thing was that one of the problems with one of the current theories at the time was that it didn't get much support simply because the calculation were so complex that it would take four years for someone to do them even with the aid of a computer. Even then, the conclusions could not be considered accurate until someone else did them again and got the same answer. He said no one would pursue this because no one wanted to spend four years falling behind current thought while performing calculations that might prove to be completely erroneous. He also said that cutting edge thought in physics was so complex that one could not fully understand the implications of any particular aspect without being a specialized expert in that aspect.

Since we know that Hawkings will admit when he's wrong, I'm inclined to take his word for all this.
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Nothing
written by The SkepDoc, August 20, 2009
bosshog misunderstands what quantum theory says about nothing. Nothing is not really nothing in quantum physics. It is a potential something. I am not qualified to explain it, but Stenger is. Please read his explanation. It is based on science and equations, not on speculation; and it is certainly not interpretable as believing in any kind of god.
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written by Skeptic Doug, August 20, 2009
"We appear to have good evidence for a universe that came about spontaneously, without cause, from nothing."

Can someone help point me to a reasonably understandable website or source that describes what this evidence is? I do not need a website that debunks religious views, just one that shows good evidence that the universe came about spontaneously, without cause, from nothing.
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written by Willy K, August 20, 2009
Oh come on now folks, we all know that the magic sky fairy is there surfing the quantum foam in spaces smaller than the Planck length! smilies/wink.gif

And he's been doing it for the entire 10,000 years of the Universes existence. smilies/tongue.gif
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