Critical Thinking, Quantum Physics & what we might Infer about Dharma

Proposed continuation of the Critical Thinking thread:

out of respect for the OP (original post) of that thread.

Salient to crticial thinking and to a understanding of the relevance of quantum physics to philosophy, society and Buddhist practice is a distinction between imply and infer.
I remember the difference as: “I imply, you infer” or “You imply, I infer”.

When it comes to some hypothesis, interpretations (the multi-world interpretation for instance) or theory of physics one can infer various meanings.
The assertion that quantum physics implies those meanings gets quickly messy.

It’s important to note that most of these inferences come from theoretical physics including theories that arise out of an attempt to infer a mechanism that explains certain experiments.
Furthermore, understanding the experiments is frequently complicated by Heisenberg uncertainty and the like.

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@Javier is asking the questions that arise in my mind re @dxm_dxm comments about the philosophical implications of quantum physics .

Quantum mysticism is a set of metaphysical beliefs and associated practices that seek to relate consciousness, intelligence, spirituality, or mystical world-views to the ideas of quantum mechanics and its interpretations.

A Historical View

History “teaches” (I infer) a general skepticism about philosophical implications of scientific theories. This has been an ongoing issue since before Charles Darwin.

Ken Wilber, science major turned philosopher and meditator wrote: Quantum Questions: Mystical Writings of The World’s Great Physicists by Ken Wilber (Editor)

In his introduction to the mystical writings of some of the greatest 20th century physicists, Wilbur makes clear that the ‘new physics’ cannot be used to legitimate the mystical vision. These physicists, to a person, made the case that their equations were an attempt to model the world, not a description of ultimate reality.

The mystic vision, on the other hand, is understood as the direct consciousness awareness of reality. In Platonic terms, the 'new physics, is describing the shadows on the cave wall while the mystic vision is seeing the source that creates the shadows. The difference between the ‘old physics’ (Newtonian physics) and the ‘new physics’ (quantum physics) is that the ‘new physics’ tends to be more conscious that it is not describing reality.

Wilber’s presentation of the writings of these great 20th century physicists is a wonderful corrective to the supposition that the ‘new physics’ is somehow legitimating the mystical vision.
– ‘plagiarized’ from a review found on

These days, not many people say they are believers in materialism. They will sometimes say they are believers in physicalism.

It’s hard to see how quantum mechanics could refute physicalism, since quantum mechanics is a branch of physics. So any principles , conjectures or ontological categories physics needs to incorporate to explain quantum mechanical observations are, by definition, physical.

Sorry I realised my answer didn’t make sense so I deleted it

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Although the Von Neumann interpretation assumes something non physical is operating in wave function collapse, doesn’t it?

If wave function collapse is construed as a real physical process, and not a purely subjective appearance, then any theory that says that process is caused by some non-physical event or entity, with no testable model provided, is just a way of throwing up one’s hands and saying, “and then a miracle happens.” It can’t be regarded as something physics has proved or established - or even provided a plausible case for.

The period of speculating all kind of funky stuff about that double slid experiment have been over for quote some years. There have been many new, more complicated experiments like the double slit ERAZER experiment. As I said, understanding what exactly was discovered and checking it from multiple sources will take a day or two or three. Therefore, those who are living 10 years in the past, in the days of the old double slit experiment should start reading.

To put it short: If there is a chair in a room and nobody is looking at it, no consciousness is perceiving it, the chair still exists. Why ? Because of the possibility of a consciousness perceiving it into the future. For example a person can enter that room one day and see the chair. Yet, if there is no possibility for a consciousness perceiving that in the future, it does not exist. The wave function is not collapsed.

If you measure the wave function and put that information into an atom impossible to read by a person, the wave function is still collapsed. Why ? Because there is the possibility of a person taking a machine and reading it into the future. It is that possibility itself, not the act of a consciousness perceiving it, that collapses the wave function. If you destroy that atom with no-one reading it, the wave function will behave like it was never collapsed in the first place. It has been found that this rule surpasses time, it could not care less about the problem of time. The only rule that it respects is “coherence” meaning conditionality. What conditionality ? The conditionality descibed above.

And I have not even started to speak about the double erazer experiment. There are a lot more interesting things that were discovered through it and through other similar experiments.

To put it short, both materialism and solipsism have been destroyed by recent findings. This is why in order to be a materialist today, you need to believe in the many worlds theory. That is the only response the few quantum physicist that stubbornly continue to believe in materialism were able to come up with. All who still believe in materialism believe in that many-words-theory cause there is just no other way to continue believing in it in the face of recent scientific findings.

Claiming materialism was not refuted, that there is just not enough evidence, is like claiming there is not enough evidence that the world is not flat. The evidence is there, all are free to google it. The fact that one is unawere of the evidence and is living 10 years in the past doesn’t mean the world also stopped 10 years ago.

Nothing about the delayed choice experiments such as the Eraser experiment entails any conclusions about consciousness or the impact of actual consciousness (or potential future consciousness) on wave function collapse. As far as I know, no experiment has ever been devised to test such a phenomenon, and nobody has any idea yet how to model consciousness and it’s interaction with the physical world in a way that would generate testable predictions about experimental results. All of the delayed choice experiments involve the interactions of a quantum system with a physical measuring apparatus. They do yield some pretty cool results about violations of standard causality.

Yes, according to Von Neumann–Wigner interpretation - Wikipedia

The use of the word “interpretation” in this case is significant and apt. Interpretation … as in very hypothetical, speculative, educated guess.

There are many elements of theoretical physics that are so speculative / not testable that it has many philosophers of science thinking it doesn’t make sense to call it science.

Simple Science Mischief
It seems to me a mischief to use the word science without further qualification. There is for instance an interpretation that we are all simulations on a computer of advanced capability. To put that interpretation on the same footing as everyday observations about gravity seems to me in the realm of just not serious, careless or uninformed.

:open_mouth: And that hold true even if we are all simulations. (Have some respect for the simulation software designer!)

Today, there are just 2 big interpretations that exist: The Copenhaga one (which is the orthodoxy) and the Many Worlds Theory. All other theories are either too insignificant or they are just variations of these 2.

In short, it boils down to this: The orthodox view is that consciousness has a role to play in the double measurement problem. The only way to work yourself around this is the Many Worlds Theory. It’s not like that helps too much with other problems, but at least it saves materialism from being refuted from the start.

I’ve done some more reading today and appearantly the ridiculous Many World Theory is not as insignificant as I made it look in this topic. There is a decent number of quantum scientist believing in it, including of course the most famous materialist, Stephen Hawkins. This is the only way a person can defend against materialism being refuted by quantum physics. It’s not like that solves the problem of not understanding anything about consciousness and having materialism refuted by a couple of other discoveries there, but at least you don’t have it refuted from the start through quantum physics.

The fact that a more significant number of scientist that I thought believes in this stuff in now way makes it more correct or course. For thirty years string theorists peremptorily dismissed any theory with a tachyon until, in 1998, they came face to face with a tachyon in string theory that stubbornly refused to go away. And of course scientist believing in Many Worlds theory are and will always be a minority, due to the extreme ridiculousness of such a theory.

It’s never good to dismiss a theory just because it looks too ridiculous to be true. But in my opinion, in the case of the Many Worlds Theory, I think we can do an exception.

The way things work in quantum physics and in science in general is like this: You need something that can create accurate predictions. In quantum physics you have quantum theory, a theory so powerful that you can build quantum computers based on it. Many consider it to be the most accurate discovery of them all, much more accurate than even normal physics.

Starting from this theory, you then have interpretations. These interpretations should not be contradicted by what is know about reality through the empirical discoveries that you already have. For example if you are a materialist, you can’t simply go around believing in the pilot-wave theory or things like that when that stuff was refuted, you need something NOT REFUTED. So if you are a materialist, you will be pushed towards this Many Worlds Theory, something totally ridiculous that is not refuted by any empirical findings that exist today.

This is different than buddhist forums where you can just go around believing in whatever funky stuff you want and then defend with childish postmodernist cliches like “that is just your opinion and I have a different opinion. Besides, all science is trash” or “logic and reasoning have no value in the first place, except when it comes to my own ideas of course, so I can believe in whatever the heck I want”. In science, being refuted or not actually matters, otherwise there would be no progress. And it is the same when in comes to buddhism, otherwise we will never traverse the jungle of views and never make too much progress.

In science, when you are refuted, you need to find something not refuted otherwise you will be labeled a “crackpot”:

There are dozens of other approaches, all generating active research programs. In addition to the Everett many world’s approach, there are the GRW and other stochastic “collapse” interpretations of QM that modify the dynamics to allow for wave function reduction to an eigenstate - or something approximating it. There are also hidden variables theories, building on Bell’s work on the requirements for a viable hidden variable theory, which include the Bohm-deBroglie pilot wave approach, and modal theories.

The Copenhagen interpretation does not claim consciousness causes wave-function collapse. It doesn’t interpret wave function collapse as a real process in the first place, but instead views the wave function as a purely mathematical instrument for predicting measurement results.


The track record of religious people wheeling out quasi-scientific fads or current open problems in physics or cosmology in order to defend their favorite scripture-based world-picture is not a good one.

Scientology seems to be doing well :laughing:

I don’t know too much about GRW cause these are small and unpopular theories

There are also hidden variables theories, building on Bell’s work on the requirements for a viable hidden variable theory,

This is considered a Many Words Theory in disguise.

The Copenhagen interpretation does not claim consciousness causes wave-function collapse. It doesn’t interpret wave function collapse as a real process in the first place, but instead views the wave function as a purely mathematical instrument for predicting measurement results.

Not really. Most scientist in the field have a “shut up and calculate” approach to the problem, not bothering too much with the philosophical implications and focusing on empirical results. But this is simply an attitude that they have. The Copenhagen inrepretation does claim consciousness has an active part in collapsing the wave function. In the copenhagen interpretation, if a tree falls in a forest and no consciousness perceived it, it did not make a sound.

This should not be interpreted wrongly like it was in the past. It was shown that it is not consciousness observing something at a particular moment that causes the wave function to colapse, but it is the simple possibility of a conscious observer noticing that in the future, like 10 years from now, causing it to colapse. It’s the existence of that possibility itself that causes it to colapse. So if a tree falls into a forest, the tree does exist cause a person can go and check that up 3 years later. As for the sound, the sound of the tree falling did not exist if there was no conscious observer observing it whatsoever. But even this is difficult cause animals too are conscious observers. So probably it did make a sound.

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I want to point out that not all who believe in the Many Worlds Theory do so because of some clinging to materialist ideas. Most scientist in this field have a honest desire to figure out how quantum physics works. Not to mention the indoctrination that is going on is into the Copenhagen interpretation, not into the Many Worlds One. Dogmatism is influencing things in the other direction.

The problem is, scientist in the field have a “shut up and calculate” attitude. Also, they tend to be concerned about things not being refuted by empirical research. For them, if a theory is perfectly consistent with the empirical results that we have, then it’s nothing wrong with the theory. They don’t concern themselves with philosophical problems cause many big discoveries were counter-intuitive at first. If the Many Worlds Theory is perfectly consistent with empirical results, this means it might very well be true regardless of how ridiculous it’s implications sound.

This is a very healthy approach, this is why science was able to progress in the first place. Let’s not forget a round earth is also counter-intuitive. It’s intuitive for it to be flat.

But over-focusing on not being empirically refuted and ignoring all implications of your theory also has some problems. For example how about the Spaghette Monster theory ? It can never be proven or refuted through empirical research. It has been dismissed soley on the grounds of being too ridiculous and not being able to provide any meaningful predictions about the world.

You will see believers in MWT say things like “The MWT is perfectly consistent with empirical research, it has never been refuted even the slightest. All that have a problem with it complain about this theory being impossible to prove or disprove, but that doesn’t refute it in any way”. Sure, while that might be true, that is also true when it comes to the Spagghete Monster.

The Many Worlds Theory not only has the problem of being impossible to prove or disprove, but is even more ridiculous than the Spaghette Monster one. Why should we not dismiss it on the same grounds as we did with the Spaghette Monster ?

No I really don’t think so.

You’re offering very tendentious readings of QM, I think.

A good link. You should read it too. :wink:

The ultimate troll trick. Claiming the source that refutes you actually refutes the other person. How? Well… umm… just ‘because’, I suppose. No need to cite it or anything.