Classical Views in Science Challenged – A New World View is Evolving

[] In 1982, French physicist Alain Aspect and his team successfully performed an experiment that proved the existence of a phenomenon in quantum mechanics called "quantum entanglement" among particles at the submicroscopic level [1]. In quantum mechanics, two or more particles having the same origins seem to have some kind of entanglement correlation even though they may be spatially separated from each other. This entanglement correlation does not disappear no matter how far the distances between the particles are. If one particle is acted upon, the other particles reflect the effect immediately. Quantum entanglement has been experimentally verified in many labs around the world. Many scientists consider the discovery of quantum entanglement as among the most important discoveries in the past several decades. Although people still do not understand the precise meaning of it, it has already made a deep impact on the fields of philosophy, science, and religion. It is also challenging the current western scientific world’s mainstream views.

I. The Universe Is an Inseparable Whole

The finding of quantum entanglement showed a great limitation in the current mainstream view of the western science world. Since the times of Descartes, Galileo and Newton, the dominant world view of western science has been that the universe is like a huge machine. It has no consciousness nor purpose. The interactions among its components are limited by time and space (i.e. they are local activities) and the whole can be understood by studying the individual components, since the whole is simply the sum of all the individual components. This type of science is also known as Newtonian or classical science. Newtonian science was developed in accordance with these views. One divides materials into smaller and smaller micro-objects and, by studying these individual objects, one tries to understand the whole. A typical example is in the manufacture of machines, in which a whole machine is composed of all its components. This type of scientific view even considers human bodies as machines. Western medicine is based on this method – "treat the head if one has a headache; treat the foot if the foot is in pain."

Quantum entanglement supports the existence of "spooky action at a distance," which was considered suspect by Albert Einstein. Quantum entanglement surpasses the four dimensional space we live in and is not limited by it. It is nonlocal and tells us that, in some dimensional spaces in the universe, there exists the possibility of some kinds of interaction among all things.

The nonlocal property of quantum entanglement shows that everything has the properties of the whole. In simple terms, the nonlocalness of quantum entanglement basically means that if you have two objects in a system (in physical models they are called "particles") and separates them, putting object A here and object B very far away (let’s say tens of thousands of light-years away), then, whenever object A is disturbed, object B will also react. This reaction is instantaneous. It surpasses our four dimensional space and it does not need to wait for a long time until some signal is transmitted. It does not matter how far two particles are separated; one particle will react whenever the other particle is moved. This is to say that what happens at one place will immediately affect what happens in a faraway place. It tells us that some things that seem to be independent of each other, like the two particles, actually have some kind of relationship of unknown origin.

The nonlocal property shows that there is some internal relationship among objects that has yet to be discovered by modern science. The entirety of a thing is greater than the sum of its components. This disagrees with the hypothesis of classical science. Thus there is an opinion that classical western science can only see each point, but not the entire plane; it only sees the trees but not the forest. However, in traditional Chinese philosophy, science, and medicine, the whole is always highly emphasized.

Quantum entanglement shows that the universe is an inseparable whole, that things are related intrinsically by unknown factors, and that the whole is greater than the sum of the component objects. These all contradict the starting point of classical Western science and impose serious questions about the validity of the mainstream western world view.

II. Consciousness is a Fundamental Attribute of Matter

The world view of classical western science considers the moving universe as a machine and all the humans and other beings as machines. The scientists, who have consciousness, study nature and the universe with this rigid and mechanical world view. They have tried for several centuries but their results so far have shed no light on the nature of consciousness and they still have no clue what consciousness is. Consciousness, to western science, is still a mysterious thing.

When western scientists study consciousness, the difficulty they meet is that they can not use the familiar terms of time, space, mass, and energy to measure it. However, each one of us knows clearly that our consciousness exists. How can one study consciousness if it cannot be measured by any ordinary means, though we know it exists?

As people today put together the lessons learned in different disciplines, and as scientists and researchers constantly encounter difficulties when studying life’s phenomena, more and more of them have realized that consciousness, which has been ignored by western science for a long period of time, must be taken into consideration when trying to understand these phenomena. The wholly materialistic world view must change fundamentally.

1. Difficulties Met When Studying Consciousness

In recent times, there have been many broad and in-depth studies on the brain and the nervous system. However, although people have quite some understandings about many functions of the brain, there is almost no understanding of consciousness itself. People still cannot solve the hard problem of consciousness. The hard problem of consciousness asks how one experiences things, such as the experiences of color, taste, brightness, etc., as well as how one makes judgments, determines values, etc. Recently, these hard problems of consciousness have again triggered the long-debated question in philosophy of whether consciousness appears suddenly from matter or it exists intrinsically in all matter (known as "everything has consciousness" in ancient Chinese philosophy).

Since the time of Descartes, the mainstream of the western world view says matter determines consciousness and that consciousness is a byproduct coming out of matter. This materialistic standpoint has challenges and difficulties that are almost impossible to resolve. For example:

(1). Many scientists have realized that getting consciousness out of matter that had no consciousness originally would require a miracle. However, materialism does not allow supernatural phenomena. In other words, consciousness is impossible.

(2). Over the many years of studying the brain, many understandings of the functions of the brain have been described, but many people doubt that "the hard problem of consciousness" will ever be solved under the materialistic world view [2,3].

(3). Some researchers have been trying to analyze consciousness from the point of view of quantum measurement. They came to the conclusion that consciousness is something that cannot be further simplified and that it is not something that appears from matter all of a sudden. This is because if consciousness is only a byproduct of matter, then the "hard problem of measurement" in quantum mechanics cannot be solved. Quantum mechanics considers matter prior to measurement as probability densities. Measuring will make the probability "collapse" in on a single value and that’s how one gets a fixed measurement. That’s where the problems come. If consciousness appears from matter then, since the brain itself is also a probability density arising from those of its atoms, electrons, protons, and neutrons, how can the brain’s probability density make the probability density of the observing "matter" collapse? How can the measured also be the measurer? If we talk about the greater universe, does this imply that there is an observer outside of the universe? This is known as the measurement paradox in quantum mechanics. In order to resolve this paradox, physicists have came up with many solutions, but none of them can completely answer the question. Nobel Prize winner Eugene Wigner said that consciousness is fundamental to the problem of quantum measurement. Although today’s physics has realized that consciousness exists on the quantum level, quantum mechanics itself cannot solve the problem of consciousness. Consciousness has been a big problem for quantum mechanics ever since it was established, but for all this period of time, physicists have been avoiding it – it is a hard problem that embarrasses the subject of physics. [4]

Due to all these difficult problems in studying consciousness, more and more people in the fields of philosophy, neuroscience, psychology, and physics began to realize that, just like time, space, mass, and energy, consciousness is a basic property of matter and it is an inseparable part of the universe. Recently, there have been serious discussions on this topic by researchers in mainstream research journals and research conferences [5, 6, 7, 8]. It is a developing trend in research.

Also, due to all the reasons above, more and more scientists and researchers have realized that studying consciousness with a Cartesian materialistic world view will not get them anywhere. They, including many westerners, have realized that the views of classical western science must be changed. Thus they have turned to the eastern philosophical world view. However, since the traditional Chinese culture has been destroyed by the Communist Party in China, many western scientists and researchers have turned to India. This is one reason that Indian yoga and mystical views have been so popular in the western world.

2. One Must Study Consciousness on the Quantum Level

Today’s critics of the neurosciences say that, for a long time, neuroscientists, consciously or unconsciously, have studied the functions of the brain and consciousness with the theories and viewpoints of Newton’s classical physics. Newtonian physics considers physical systems as sums of independent subsystems; all these subsystems can only interact with the neighboring subsystems and their motions are predictable. However, quantum mechanics long ago pointed out the fatal error in Newtonian physics. More and more researchers have realized that, since the base point of Newtonian physics is wrong for studying the functions of the brain and consciousness, the viewpoints of Newtonian physics are not appropriate for studying consciousness. However, the world view of this classical physics is very deeply rooted in many people’s minds, so it still affects many people’s ways of thinking.

More and more scientists have realized that one can not understand consciousness on the level of the brain and the nervous system. Consciousness is something that already exists at the submicroscopic level. Thus, in order to truly study consciousness, one must be searching at the submicroscopic level, at the quantum level [9]. We all know that the submicroscopic world is the domain that quantum mechanics describes, but quantum mechanics itself has not answered the hard problem of consciousness (the problem of measurement). Therefore, both physics and biology have the same target at the quantum level.

We know that the theories in physics are different from the ones in biology. Physical laws are based on logic and experiments; they are in some sense mandatory laws. On the other hand, biological laws are based on selection and observation; they are nonlinear. Then how can one unite the theories of physics and biology? Although their characteristics are very different, both have encountered the hard problem of consciousness. It seems that uniting the two fields has something to do with the topic of consciousness.

At the same time, if we agree that consciousness is a basic property of matter, then consciousness also exists in submicroscopic particles. This is to say that consciousness naturally exists at the quantum level and the submicroscopic level. This will also lead physics and biology to study consciousness at the submicroscopic quantum level.

3. Quantum Entanglement as the Consequence of Submicroscopic Particles’ Consciousness?

Consciousness cannot be seen or touched, nor can it be measured in terms of time, space, mass, or energy. However, it does have some familiar characteristics. If consciousness can be viewed as a basic property of matter, then submicroscopic particles will also have consciousness and, therefore, will show characteristics of consciousness. If these characteristics are shown in laboratory experiments, then can we conclude that, at least in one aspect, submicroscopic particles might possibly have some form of consciousness?

We have previously mentioned the phenomenon of quantum entanglement. From it people have realized the intrinsic relationship of components within matter but still cannot completely understand the meaning of quantum entanglement. The main reason is that people are thinking about particles with their traditional ways of thinking about matter.

Experiments have shown that once quantum entanglement occurs, it shows characteristics of being "remembered." The submicroscopic particles differentiate and recognize the particular particles which have the "entanglement relationship" with them. They can "remember" and recognize this specific entanglement relationship without any restriction or limitation by space or time. This cannot be understood with the materialistic point of view. Actually these characteristics of the behavior of submicroscopic particles are very similar to what we see with human consciousness.

There is a western saying goes "if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it’s probably a duck". We may say that what quantum entanglement shows is a consequence of the consciousness of two submicroscopic particles. This viewpoint can give a reasonable explanation for quantum entanglement [10]. Quantum entanglement is evidence for the existence of consciousness in submicroscopic particles. It also provides very good evidence for consciousness being a fundamental property of matter. Its significance is extraordinary.

III. Matter and Mind Are One and the Same

The world view of traditional Chinese philosophy is very different from the western materialistic world view. Traditional Chinese philosophy, science, and medicine all consider everything as a whole and talk about "heaven and earth as one." Quantum mechanics indeed has proven experimentally that the universe is an inseparable whole.

In today’s western philosophical and scientific worlds, more and more people have realized that consciousness is actually as important as mass and energy. It is a fundamental property of matter and it exists in submicroscopic particles. Everything in the universe not only has its materialistic aspect, but also its conscious aspect. Quantum entanglement could be evidence to support the idea that submicroscopic particles do have consciousness. What quantum mechanics describes is the materialistic aspect of the submicroscopic particles, but the conscious aspect cannot be described with quantum mechanics.

If we realize that consciousness is a fundamental property of matter, then perhaps we will soon be able to better understand reported observations such as the ability of water to sense messages, the curative effect of prayer, the apparent responses by plants to events in their environments, reincarnation, and many others. These are all phenomena that cannot be explained by classical Newtonian science.

Traditional Chinese science fundamentally recognizes the importance of the effects of consciousness and says that everything has a mind. The new world view that the western philosophy and scientific world is now getting to know was known long ago by traditional Chinese science as well as in the world of spiritual cultivation. In Falun Gong’s main book, Zhuan Falun, it is clearly pointed out that "matter and mind are one and the same" (Zhuan Falun, 2003 Translation Version). Matter and mind (consciousness) exist simultaneously within everything in the universe. Matter and mind (consciousness) are unified and cannot be separated. Consciousness is something that surpasses the four dimensional world that we can see and sense. If humans could perceive the reality of the submicroscopic world, then we might be able to perceive the existence of consciousness.

Many people have predicted and hoped that the period of a new world view, with fundamental changes in science, will come soon. The barriers between scientific and spiritual beliefs will then disappear.


[1] Alain Aspect et al (1982), "Experimental Tests of Bell’s Inequalities Using Time-Varying Analyzers", Physics Review Letters 49, 1804-7

[2] Chalmers, D. (1996), "The Conscious Mind" (Oxford: University of Oxford Press)

[3] Chalmers, D. How Can We Construct a Science of Consciousness? In (M. S. Gazzaniga, ed) The Cognitive Neurosciences III. (MIT Press, Cambridge, 2004)

[4] Rosenblum, Bruce & Kuttner, Fred: QUANTUM ENIGMA (Oxford University Press, 2006)

[5] Strawson, G.(2006), "Realistic Monism: Why Physicalism Entails Panpsychism" Journal of Consciousness Studies, 13(4)

[6] Strawson, G. et al. (2006), Consciousness and its Place in Nature: Does Physicalism Entail Panpsychism? (Exeter, UK: Imprint Academic).

[7] e.g. The international academic conference "Toward a Science of Consciousness", Budapest, Hungary, July of 2007.

[8] Gao Shan, "Quantum Collapse, Consciousness and Superluminal Communication", Foundations of Physics Letters, 17(2), (2004) 179.

[9] e.g,Penrose, R., A theory of everything? Nature 433, 259 (2005).

[10] July of 2007, academic conference"Quantum Mind 2007" , University of Salzburg, Australia, quantum entanglement and consciousness were also discussed.

Translated from an edited version of: [2]

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