Quantum Theory In Relation to Consciousness
Did God the create the universe, or was it the after effects of the big bang? These questions arise due to our ability to reflect on the very nature of things; to be aware or conscious. We are conscious; aware that we exist, and we are able to manipulate the environment around us. All we need to change the world is focus, and the will to do so. What if consciousness was tangible, and had two states: Energy, and Matter. The world around us is dependent on our subjective perception; reality is what we make it. Breakthroughs in quantum physics are shedding light in understanding more about the mind. Therefore, Quantum theory may lay a path to discovering how our internal reality; consciousness, effects our external reality; physical surroundings, and once realized may increase the readers capability to influence the real world. It is a common assertion to say consciousness derives from the mind, and the mind is physically located in the brain. Before delving into the philosophical nature of consciousness let’s get a frame on how the brain works:
The brain functions by sending information through electrical and chemical neurons, or cells. These neurons create patterns that are initiated through external stimuli. The activation of a neuronal assembly is necessary to make the encoded content consciously accessible. This activation is considered to be initiated by external stimuli. Mental effort can prolong the lifetime of the neuronal assemblies that represent the templates for action due to quantum effects. A template is the neural correlate of a mental representation and is activated if the neurons forming the assembly fire at a higher rate than the default; exocytosis. A neuron is a cell that transmits information electrically and chemically by using excitable nerve impulses through the brain using the synapse. (Atmanspacher).
In order to understand what a synapse is let us relate it to an old telephone switchboard that is controlled by a local operator. The operator is your mental effort, and the connection of wires, or neurons, are based on the information provided by the one who called, the external stimuli.
Within the brain comes the mental entity; the mind. Mind is the concept of identity and existence. The mind is where we process attention, sensations, emotions, and images. Attention is an intentional state of mind, and is where consciousness comes from, “Consciousness just is intentionality; to be in a conscious state is to be in an intentional state” (Addis 1). Consciousness comes in two parts: conscious by willfully focusing one’s attention, and sub-conscious where the brain runs independently from one’s will.
DeWall conducted an experiment testing the difference between the conscious and sub-conscious states when conducting logical reasoning, and found that being attentive, or conscious, can have a counter-intuitive effect compared to being subconscious when conducting reason:
The results of Experiment 1 favored the view that the impairment of logical reasoning caused by cognitive load is due to interference with conscious (as opposed to non-conscious) processing. Participants in the non-conscious load conditions showed no impairments in logical reasoning, even though their non-conscious system continued to work on thoughts and cues regarding the former relationship (DeWall).
So, the mind does not have to be aware of its process in order to function. This may explain why we need to sleep; to allow our subconscious to take over and create a proper foundation for the following day when we use that information and manipulate it through conscious, or attentive, means. Musicians use the power of the subconscious to create some of their best works, because the lack of attention to specific moments creates a better sound overall.
Now that we have a thorough understanding of consciousness, we will delve further into the secrets of quantum theory and get a better understanding of how internal reality; energy, can transform into external reality; matter. There are two models when dealing with physics: the standard model of physics and the modern model. The standard model was established by Isaac Newton, and it was accurate when it came to measuring matter that can be seen with the naked eye. Albert Einstein helped create the modern model of physics, that was made to measure matter in an atomic, and sub-atomic scale; matter that cannot be seen by the naked eye.
Quantum theory falls into the modern model of physics and has developed radical theories on experiments conducted. We will discuss two: the double-slit experiment, and the Schrödinger cat paradox. The double-slit experiment deals with light particles known as photons. Imagine a light shining through a single slit, and projecting into a wall. The light particles go through the single slit only passing through what is open. When two slits are created the light changes its form from particle to wave diffracting itself, creating a pattern across the wall of dark and bright dots. The observer effect happens when someone consciously focuses their attention on the photons that are passing the slits, inducing a particle like behavior just like the first single slit. The light particles shaped into two slits.
It was when the observer did not consciously focus on the double-slit experiment that the light particles transformed into waves creating a pattern of dark and bright dots. This then leads to the conclusion that the observer’s conscious efforts manipulate the result of the experiment. Pradhan conducted an interesting experiment that expanded from the double-slit experiment observer effect:
The first postulate takes care of the fact that everything physical has a psychic counterpart. The second postulate ensures that a mere passing thought for fleeting moments does not produce the desired effect. It is attention or concentrated thought that is required for the purpose. Thus, the psychophysical parallelism is broken and is now replaced by interactionism or psychic activism (Pradhan).
The experiment had half the observers meditate on one of the two slits, and the other half did not use any means of attention. The results led to the conclusion that the mind can interact with matter by one’s use of free-will; conscious process. Schrödinger devised a thought experiment known as the paradox of Schrödinger’s cat.
In Schrödinger’s experiment, a live cat is put into a box containing a small amount of radioactive material, and a bottle of poison. In the normal world, we would expect there to be a 50-50 chance of finding the cat alive after opening the box:
Quantum physics presents a very different and quite bizarre picture. It asserts that, until we make a measurement (open the box, or even peep through a tiny window), the radioactive atom is in a sort of limbo, and it is neither ‘whole’ nor decayed.
The entire apparatus, including the cat, is described by the superposition of two quantum states — one in which the cat is alive and the other in which it is dead (Rowlands). Superposition is the phenomena where matter can be at two places at once. In the cat experiment it isn’t until the box is opened and observed that the cat dies or survives. Let us revise what has been established:
- The mind is what shapes our concept of identity, and existence.
- The mind physical counterpart is the brain, and the brain transmits information by assembling specific neuronal patterns that are dependent on external stimuli.
- Consciousness is an intentional state of being, subjective perception.
- Consciousness has two parts: The attentive level known as consciousness, and the inattentive level known as the subconscious. Both parts play an important role in logical deduction of what is real.
- Quantum theory proves that internal reality; conscious thought, can manipulate external reality; matter in the form of light wave/particle duality.
- Explained by the double-slit experiment observer effect.
George Musser from Scientific American gives a useful metaphor to help understand this ambiguity in reality:
For a sense of why the ambiguity arises, consider how we experience geography in everyday life. We might suppose there is a unique “real” shape to the landscape—what Google Earth shows—but in practice the shape is defined by the experience of being embedded within that landscape, and that experience can vary. A student running late to an exam, an athlete hobbling on a sprained ankle, a professor walking with a colleague while deep in conversation and a cyclist yelling at pedestrians to get out of the way will perceive very different campuses. A short distance for one may seem an interminable crossing to another. When we eschew the view from on high, we can no longer make definitive statements about what is where (Musser).
Therefore, it is reasonable to conclude that our mental efforts, our conscious, our attention, has a direct influence in the physical realm of reality that we see. A question to ponder is what if we collaborated our mental efforts and fused our consciousness into one. Would the collaborative attention create a stronger interaction with the physical realm? Is consciousness independent of each entity, and or does it play a more uniformed role within the universe. Are all our minds intertwined in some kind of mental mapping, that in turn allows matter to retain its physical shape.
Our attitudes of ourselves are important when living in this world. Our observation of ourselves, of others, and of the physical realm are independent on how clear or distorted our mind perceives reality. If this is the case, then we should be always striving to create a subjective environment where we can thrive. One where laughter, and happiness come often. An environment where tears are shed because of joy, not of sadness. An environment where stress is not detrimental to health but used as an effective tool to in attentive logical reasoning. Hindering our perspective on what’s possible will result in a poor lifestyle. We now know that we are capable of creating a reality that we see fit. We just need to be able to believe, visualize, then apply. Let us end this discussion with an excerpt from Dyson’s book titled Infinite in All Directions:
The universe shows evidence of the operations of mind on three levels. The first level is the level of elementary physical processes in quantum mechanics. Matter in quantum mechanics is not an inherent substance but an active agent, constantly making choices. It appears that mind, as manifested by the capacity to make choices, is to some extent inherent in every electron. The second level at which we detect operations of mind is the level of direct human experience. Our brains appear to be devices for the amplification of the mental component of the quantum choices made by molecules inside our heads. We are the second big step in the development of the mind. Now comes the argument from design. There is evidence from peculiar features of the laws of nature that the universe as a whole is hospitable to the growth of mind. The argument here is merely an extension of the Anthropic Principle up to a universal scale. Therefore, it is reasonable to believe in the existence of a third level of mind, a mental component of the universe. If we believe in this mental component and call it God, then we can say that we are small pieces of God’s mental apparatus (Dyson).
God isn’t necessarily a separate entity, but an extension of the mind; a sort of alter ego per-say, that is you. It may be awkward to believe that we control the universe through thoughts. I mean, we aren’t superhero’s after all and that’s fine because we don’t control the universe through thoughts, but instead the universe controls us through our thoughts. God is the direct communication to the subconscious conscious. Our comprehension may never fully grasp the capacity that it contains for it is not something you can fill in a container. With quantum mechanics the line is only a frame of reference, and that frame of reference only exists once you acknowledge it. So when someone say’s the sky’s the limit in the quantum world, they are limiting themselves.
Addis, Laird. Mind: Ontology and Explanation: Collected Papers 1981-2005. De Gruyter, 2008.
Philosophical Analysis. EBSCOhost, libproxy.csun.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=603698&site=ehost-live.
Atmanspacher, Harald. “Quantum Approaches to Consciousness.” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2015 Edition), plato.stanford.edu/entries/qt-consciousness/.
DeWall, Nathan C., et al. “Evidence that logical reasoning depends on conscious processing.” Conscious and Cognition vol. 17, no. 3, Sep. 2008, pp. 628-645., ScienceDirect, doi: 10.1016/j.concog.2007.12.004.
Dyson, Freeman J. Infinite in All Directions. Harper & Row, Publishers, 1988.
Johnson-Laird, P.N., “Logic, Probability, and Human Reasoning.” Trends in Cognitive Science, vol. 19, no. 4, Apr. 2015, pp. 1-14. ScienceDirect, doi: 10.1103/RevModPhys.81.865.
Lewis, Peter J. Quantum Ontology: A Guide to the Metaphysics of Quantum Mechanics. Oxford
University Press, 2016. OxfordScholarshipOnline, m.oxfordscholarship.com/mobile/view/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190469825.001.0001/acprof-9780190469825.
Rowlands, Peter. How Schrodinger’s Cat Escaped the Box. World Scientific, 2015. EBSCOhost, libproxy.csun.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=942200&site=ehost-live.
Pradhan, Rajat Kumar. “An Explanation of Psychophysical Interactions in the Quantum Double- slit Experiment.”http://dx.doi.org.libproxy.csun.edu/10.4006/0836-1398-28.3.324