Tuesday, October 16, 2007
The New Science of Consciousness
One of my colleagues, Laurie Nadel, PhD, has written a series of thought-provoking articles. This is an excerpt: "Much has been written about 'the physics of consciousness,' which applies the quantum theories of subatomic physics to attempt to explain mental phenomena, including intuitive perception and synchronicity. Such sophisticated interpretations are helpful to those who understand quantum mechanics, but those in the vanguard of the new science believe that, ultimately, physics cannot explain mind — including its intuitive aspect — because mind cannot be quantified, physically observed, and reduced.
For example, Bell's Theorem of Nonlocality is often cited by New Age teachers as an explanation for the occurrence of intuitive phenomena in which no sensory-based precedents are apparent. Bell's Theorem states that two electrons that are joined and then separated from each other will vibrate at the same frequency even when they are in different locations. Many people who teach New Age philosophy cite this as scientific evidence for the belief that minds, too, can vibrate at the same frequency when physically separated.
However, physicist John Stewart Bell, who developed his theorem in 1964, did not intend for his theorem to be applied to mental phenomena. In an interview published in Psychological Perspectives, Bell said, 'I was never so ambitious as to assume that such a comprehensive description would also cover the mind. There is clearly some fundamental difference between mind and matter. If science is sufficiently comprehensive at some point in the future to discuss both those things intelligently at the same time, then we will learn something about their interaction.'
The majority of those working in the hard sciences (physics and chemistry) would challenge Bell's open-mindedness, because they are committed to the positivist, objectivist, and reductionist model of reality. The new science, on the other hand, rejects the use of quantum physics to explain the mind because it does not believe that everything can be explained in physical terms. That belief is, in itself, a revolutionary idea. In looking at mind in all its complexity as a biological fact, the new science asks us to reexamine our own thoughts, feelings, values and beliefs, and to take them seriously as agents of change. Dr. Sperry believed that "the new beliefs are a way out of our human predicament.'"