Quantum Mechanics or Quantum Mythology?

Don Watson


I'm delighted that Dean Radin's new book, Entangled Minds, will appear in April. My experience with his first book, The Conscious Universe, led me to expect to learn much from his exemplary scholarship and expertise in experimental science. I first assumed that the title of his new book was a metaphoric characterization of psi, but I was disappointed when I realized he used "entangled" in its literal, technical sense.

In the IONS Shift in Action website, Dean wrote that he expects the concept of "entangled minds" to transform the paranormal to the normal. He further predicted that "researchers will discover that under certain conditions, living cells also exhibit properties associated with quantum entanglement. Then the idea of bioentanglement will emerge."

By this language Dean is referring to a paradigm shift, a term introduced by science historian, Thomas Kuhn, to identify a cultural revolution in science. These revolutions are rare, but when they occur, they produce pervasive changes in the beliefs, language, folklore, icons, methods, rituals, and customs of scientists and non-scientists alike.

Cultures and subcultures embody shared world-views that reflect specific belief systems. Scientific cultures differ from other cultures by centering on theories that are sufficiently general and parsimonious to predict a very wide range of testable hypotheses. Quantum theory, which Dean expects to sustain the consciousness paradigm shift, falls far short of this.

It's true that psi and quantum entanglement share the common attributes of non-locality and atemporality, but it does not follow that quantum theory predicts psi. A paradigm shift requires a theory that explains both.

From my perspective as a theorist, Dean's expectations are unrealistic because they are based on untestable beliefs generated by the indefensible beliefs and unbridled conjectures of quantum mythology. Prominent among these beliefs is that quantum physics is the most fundamental science, as if the sciences of biology, psychology, and parapsychology derive from it. Quantum physics might be the science of the most fundamental particles, but it is not the most fundamental science. Its theories can't predict the emergent properties and behaviors of complex systems. In contrast, the Theory of Enformed Systems (TES) is a theory that addresses systems of all levels of complexity. As such, TES achieves Dean's objectives and is sufficiently general, parsimonious, and rich in testable predictions to support the cultural revolution.

The following four specific points related to quantum mythology illustrate why quantum theory cannot underpin the consciousness paradigm, as well as indicating why TES can do so:

First, it's an error to extrapolate quantum theory beyond its logical and empirical limits. Quantum theory applies only to extremely simple systems of exceedingly small objects and a severely limited number of processes, e.g., the states of photons, electrons, and other fundamental particles. It can't predict the behaviors and properties of systems that are larger and more complex than atoms. For instance, quantum theory can't even predict the boiling point of water. Given its limited scope, we can't expect quantum theory to predict the states, properties, or behaviors of living systems, including life itself, psi, or consciousness. Yet TES predicts all of these, and much more-including quantum entanglement.

Second, for the "entanglement" concept to apply to minds, then minds would have to be equivalent to electrons. Electrons interact with physical objects, but according to philosophic traditions, minds can't interact with physical objects (e.g. brains). That's the basis of the classical "mind-body problem." Philosophic traditions notwithstanding, there's no reason to think that minds exist in the first place. That is, my mind doesn't perceive, think, learn, remember, and so forth. I do these things. It is the person, the self, that performs the operations traditionally attributed to "mind." In fact, TES applies to the "self"-technically, the SELF-and its behaviors for electrons, atoms, molecules, and all living organisms, including humans.

The third error is in following the academic fad of resolving the mind-body problem by considering minds and brains to be the same. Dean adopts this fashion by using the words "brain" and "mind" interchangeably when he asks, "I wonder what it would feel like when my brain is entangled with the outside world? Are mind fields bioentangled with the rest of the universe?" The mistake here is that equating mind and brain solves the mind-body problem by eliminating the "mind," but ignores the subjective experience of the person. In contrast, TES explains the subjective experiences of the SELF and its relationship with the brain. Moreover, Dean uses the term "mind fields," but doesn't explain their origin or nature. Under TES, the SELF is a four-dimensional field itself.

The fourth fallacy resides in the notion that "bioentanglement" is a valid analog to quantum entanglement. It isn't. A conspicuous problem is that quantum entanglement applies only to particles that have previously interacted. Thus, for neurons to be entangled, there must be some process of prior physical interaction of neurons in pairs of brains that are separated in time and space-and no prevailing theory even allows this, much less predicts it. Under TES, however, one of the fundamental behaviors of SELFs is connecting with one another in space-time, which explains, among many other anomalies, telepathy, psychokinesis, and precognition.

These mistakes in applying quantum theory to consciousness are sufficient to rule out quantum mechanics as a theoretical foundation for psi. Beyond this, there are fundamental reasons that quantum mechanics can't support the cultural sea-change necessary for a paradigm shift. First among these reasons is the extremely narrow scope of quantum theory. Simply stated, it is not general enough to provide the broad base necessary for a paradigm shift. In its century of existence, it hasn't even produced a paradigm shift in the physical sciences, which remain dominated by Newton's mechanics and Maxwell's electromagnetics.

Further, instead of changing the culture of physics, quantum mechanics relies on the same world-view as the existing scientific cultures. Like these, it's founded on the materialistic premise and relies on the method of reductionism. These cultural characteristics have proven barren for predicting or explaining life and consciousness.

This raises the question, "What sort of cultural change is necessary for a paradigm shift?" I expect it will comprise two radically different ways of thinking: (a) conceptualizing systems as wholes, rather than the sum of their parts; and (b) viewing non-material ("spiritual") processes as fundamental to the material world. These perspectives, in turn, will require radical changes in the ways we do science.

TES provides the foundation for these perspectives, because its scope extends far beyond psi and quantum entanglement. It predicts life itself-including afterlife and aforelife-and all elements of consciousness, including telepathy, remote viewing, precognition, and familiar psychological phenomena such as self-awareness, memory, perception, curiosity, and social bonding. It also predicts phenomena as diverse as psychic healing, the evolution of species, the collective behaviors of social insects, and the homing behavior of pigeons and other animals.

I've prepared two tutorials for readers who want to glimpse into the future of science. The first, "Introduction to the Theory of Enformed Systems," provides a broad context for TES by comparing reductionistic and holistic thinking. It also describes the myth of reversible reductionism-the basis of quantum mythology-in terms of the possum principle: "Two half-possums do not equal one whole possum."

The second tutorial, "Are Living, Conscious Robots Possible?", shows how the prevailing paradigms can't account for life or consciousness, and suggests ways readers can incorporate TES into their world-views.

It's important to note in passing that the consciousness paradigm shift won't occur in our lifetimes. For comparison, the Copernican revolution required 140 years to unfold, beginning with Copernicus's heliocentric theory and ending with Newton's theory of universal gravitation. Because the consciousness revolution is far more culturally pervasive than that one, it will likely require even more time.

Part of the reason for the delay is the inability of established scientists to incorporate new ideas into their world-views. This problem can't be overcome for most scientists because we humans interpret new material through our existing world-views, and we can't understand radical new ideas such as TES this way. However, the main reason for the delay is that scientific revolutions are, in fact, political revolutions. We can expect the consciousness revolution to be opposed by everyone who has something to lose by it, whether it be a cherished belief, social standing, professional prestige, funding, or any combination of tangible and intangible assets. And that's nearly everyone.

Finally, I'm eager for April to arrive so I can read Dean's new book. Its unfortunate misapplications of quantum theory notwithstanding, I expect to be enriched yet again by Dean's exceptional scholarship.

February 14, 2006