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Thursday, March 29, 2012

In response to pseudo-science peddling based on purposefully misinterpreted quantum mechanics

To quote the description of a book that someone referenced the emptiness of materialism by through quantum mechanics on a number of issues they thought quantum mechanics was related: "God Is Not Dead [the title of the book in question] will change how readers think and experience the nature of reality, the existence of souls, the power of dreams, the universality of love, the possibility of ESP, and the very mind of God." This is the kind of peudo-science peddling that really bothers me, not to mention many of my colleagues.

(That book: http://www.amazon.com/God-Is-Not-Dead-Quantum/dp/1571745637)

1) Quantum mechanics "provides a mathematical description of much of the dual particle-like and wave-like behavior and interactions of energy and matter." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_mechanics)This means it merely is trying to explain the behavior of sub-atomic particles. It is extremely dishonest to peddle the weirder findings of this science as dealing with anything with consciousness, god, ethics, or emotions. For instance, the posited effected of observation on subatomic particles is the counter-intuitive effect measurement has on collapsing particles into a state. Consciousness never really plays a role (though I am disagreeing with some theorist who think that brain states somehow cause subatomic states, but I think I am safe in that disagreement).2) One argument pseudo-scientists peddle is that it requires an observer for the universe to exist. This would mean something would have to exist in order to observe the universe. The issue being how does this observe exist. They might claim that it is god, but that is just making an exception to the rule that things need observers to exist. It is safer to say that we cannot know sub-atomic happenings beyond our consciousness of them, but we can easily say that existence persisted long before conscious organisms evolved.

3) It is often said that you cannot get an 'ought from an is' because no matter how the world is, that does not demonstrate how the world ought to be. Quantum mechanics is a descriptive account of sub-atomic happenings. It is hardly a perfect theory and scientists are still trying to figure out a better one that unifies observations on the large scale with the small scale. Being descriptive and restrictively about microscopic events that do no bubble up to anything relevant to the daily lives of humans, there is no way for quantum mechanics to feature into a substantive theory about right and wrong.

4) Souls do not exist. All major theories that are attempting to flesh out the relationship between psychology and neuroscience have long ago abandoned dualism as being too dubious a theory, especially in the realm of causation. The main reason that I reject dualism beyond the usual examples of being radically misleading to the nature of relevant phenomena like mental illness is that since materialism relies on what we know exists and has found that strong neuro-corelates to our mental reports that a project of at least a functional account is possible if not an eliminative materialist. Dualism depends on the positing of an unobservable substance that is immeasurable as a way of explaining away problems in the observable (in this case, mental phenomena). Just like the god hypothesis which is used to explain away any problem we do not know the solution to and are not curious enough or incapable of knowing, dualism has been rejected.(functionalism: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/functionalism/)(eliminative materialism: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/materialism-eliminative/)

5) The universality of love depends one on your definition. Greeks had many words that roughly translate into the English word. Even if every human organism had the brain functions associated with the love you are speaking of, the strange occurrences of sub-atomic particles does not bubble up to the neural level, so it irrelevant to the cognition of 'love'. Of course, you can probably make a ethical hypothesis along the lines of care ethics that is based on instances of whatever you want to count as love, but there are important objections to care ethics one should take into account whenever formulating the hypothesis no matter how sound it seems to the theorist. I have not come to a conclusion on what I think morality is, but if I were to incorporate love, I would probably reduce it into special kinds of desires concerning the states of affairs of others.

6)...You could win a million dollars if you could prove ESP from the James Randi Education Foundation (JREF). They are better suited for debunking ESP claims than I, but I doubt those skeptical of skepticism with their conspiracy-like over-thinking would appreciate anything JREF or I had to say about this. (JREF: http://www.randi.org/site/)

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