Physics and the Mind

Like those involved in the organisations referenced elsewhere on these pages, I have doubts as to whether our present orthodox science is as all-embracing as some would claim. For example, psychic phenomena (see relevant pages here; I will not try to argue in favour of the existence of such in these pages as people come to the subject with prejudices sufficiently strong as to make that not a useful activity) are currently believed by many to suggest that the hypothesis of the nonlocality of mind be taken seriously. Thanks to Bell, some forms of nonlocality have to be taken seriously in any event, and Fotini Pallikari-Viras and I have argued in a Foundations of Physics paper that the two nonlocalities may be connected (Valentini (reference list) has come to similar conclusions).

But let us leave this delicate issue and look in a more conventional domain. Niels Bohr over half a century ago raised the question "will the uncertainty principle interfere with our ability to see the mechanisms of life?". Delbruck replied (excuse the paraphrase) "Don't be silly, Niels, life is just chemistry and we'll soon understand it all!". Bohr retreated. How unfortunate! Up to a point, yes, biology can be understood in terms of chemistry and classical physics. But at all levels? In physics, subtle quantum effects occur that can't be understood in such terms; why should biosystems be immune?

A colleague answers to this question that biosystems have amazing design features that insulate them from nasty things such as quantum fluctuations. But what if there are some situations where quantum effects are useful, for example by way of providing mechanisms for information processing? I am afraid I don't buy the argument. Let me however move on and provide links to papers where I and collaborators discuss the point of whether QM is in reality a full theory. The first is a detailed critique of the Bohr-Delbruck argument (version in Estonian also available), arguing that we hide from ourselves the way the methodology prescribed by QM feeds back on to the physics. A more recent video lecture follows up this idea further. Other papers:

  1. The non-locality paper again
  2. Paper given at the Urbino conference on Microphysical Reality and Quantum Formalism
  3. a conference report discussing the possible role of consciousness in acquiring knowledge
  4. "Beyond Quantum Theory" revisited (UK mirror)
  5. Biological Observer-Participation and Wheeler's 'Law without Law'

consider the possible existence of descriptions or ways of knowing complementary to the orthodox ones. My guess is that the physics (and science) of the 21st. century will revolve very much round the insight that current orthodoxy is far too restrictive in how it views reality, and will entail serious attempts to get to grips with the problem of "subtle energy". This is a cue to provide a link to a paper on the 'Elusivity of Nature'. In this connection see also the papers on the subject of music.