When I'm not writing fiction I'm often out walking and pondering the nature of consciousness. This video makes the point that Quantum Physics proves that consciousness brings material reality into being. It then hodge-podges its way into a discussion of how the brain creates consciousness. So how can material reality and consciousness mutually create each other?
Here's a dilemma: Most psychologists are materialists and consider thoughts and consciousness to be epiphenomena. An epiphenomena is one that occurs parallel to the phenomena under study. It's there, but psychologists can't measure it like behavior, or treat it like a physical object. It's ephemeral, and undescribed. Materialists deal with matter, and thoughts aren't that. Whatever thoughts may be, they are not something that materialists are comfortable with examining.
Quantum physics presents a picture of reality that is very different than the one presented by classical, Newtonian physics. Although quantum physics was born over a century ago, some scientists cling to the materialism that grew out of pre-quantum, Newtonian physics. This works well for describing reality most of the time, but occasionally it biases what we consider possible, or restricts our methods of inquiry.
Quantum physics has called traditional materialism into question, and Amit Goswami questions materialist explanations of consciousness as well. Quantum physics proves that observers can't be separated from observations. Before an observation is made, little can be said about atomic particles--they only exist as probability waves. Only when observation collapses a probability wave, creating a measurement, can anything certain be said about particles. This finding has baffled many and continues to do so. Goswami believes it implies that consciousness is a force in nature. As such, consciousness is unitary in nature, however people experience themselves as individuals and only occasionally become aware of the One that they are expressions of. For hundreds of years religious mystics have sought direct experience of the One through prayer, meditation, fasting, sitting vigils, etc. For mystics, direct experience constitutes proof. For scientists, experimental results are required.
Goswami provides no experimental proof. He doesn't even suggest an experimental path to test his theory. Physicists critical of String Theory acknowledge its elegance, but complain that it lacks testability. Goswami's theory is likewise elegant but lacking testability. He suggests that proof may come through paranormal research, but much of that research is highly controversial. Too many paranormal-leaning scientists have accepted results that stage magicians have easily refuted. In the end, Goswami's ideas are more suggestive than explanatory. I'd recommend another book with a more convincing explanation of consciousness, but I haven't found it yet.
Focuses heavily on the Schrodinger Equation but don't let that make you think it's gonna be easy; the hydrogen atom is covered in great detail and that's where I first met the amazingly versatile method called Perturbation Theory, which can be found in classical mechanics, plasma physics, every formulation of quantum mechanics, General Relativity and even String Theory, besides a zillion others I've never come across, no doubt.
There's considerable merit to focusing initially on the Schrodinger Equation; students are invariably familiar with wave equations and therefore can focus on the conceptual peculiarities of quantum mechanics without the distracting confusion of the more abstract and alien formalisms.
Just as an electron leaps from an atom's inner orbital ring to an outer one, creative ideas occur just as suddenly. Such quantum leaps inspire this book's title.
But it's a mish-mash. True, there's some physics in it. There's also ideas from Hinduism, Jungian Psychology, and some others that are the author's own. However, the book lacks a coherent theory or argument. And that's why it doesn't work for me.
I didn't finish this book, but I did read enough to know it wouldn't provide the answers I sought. This is the paradox I want to solve: Quantum Physics proves that observers can't be separated from observations. This implies, as Goswami believes, that consciousness is a force in nature. Yet psychologists treat consciousness as an epiphenomena. An epiphenomena is one that occurs parallel to the phenomena under study. This means one can study activity within the brain and the behavior it creates, but one can never say anything about consciousness. So, what is consciousness?
Goswami addressed this more thoroughly in a previous book, The Self-Aware Universe: How Consciousness Creates the Material World. When I initially read this book I knew less about physics than I do now. I'm currently re-reading it. I wasn't convinced by Goswami's argument the first time. I'll let you know if a second reading changes my mind.