Consciousness Driven Reality. Fact or Speculation?
To make something a reality one has to translate desire into action. Not just any action either. If we really want to accomplish anything we have to turn desire into actions which might bring it about. I’m talking about using real processes that conform to the laws of physics.
In the past, that didn’t stop our imagination from deciding we could make things happen with the right magic words or potions or rituals while invoking the supernatural. We were trying to bypass or influence earthly cause and effect by appealing to more powerful beings to do it for us. But we never had much real success with that, which is why we turned to reason. We probably never saw people with heads like a lion. But that didn’t prevent some of us from believing that since we could imagine them, they must exist somewhere.
This idea that the imagination has power by itself is still prevalent among many people. Superstition is still rampant. Even some interpretations of science seem to endorse the idea that imagination by itself. Or consciousness alone, plays a key role in creating the universe. Many religions seem to believe it as well; particularly Eastern religions.
But the premise that science is actually based on, is that there is an objective (factual) reality. So who do we believe and which version of reality is correct?
Some say that we make our own reality through thought alone. It’s a poetic way to look at things. But if that were so we would all be millionaires. We would have our heart’s desire be it money or good health or ultimate happiness, wouldn’t we? But we don’t. We have to work for everything. Observing or thinking don’t cut it on their own. We know that from experience.
When the model you use does not reflect observation, your model has failed. But we have two models that both fail and are accurate at the same time, but not in the same way. We have classical reality which works very well on the macro level but doesn’t work on the micro level, and we have QM that predicts perfectly for us on the micro level but not on the classical level. Can’t we use both for what they are worth? Well we do.
But there is a philosophical difference between the objective reality of the classical model and the seemingly subjective reality of the quantum reality. We have a problem here; a contradiction of sorts.
One of the reasons modern mystics claim that we manufacture our own reality with our perceptions or faith alone, is that some interpretations of physics imply the idea that scientists themselves decide what the result of an experiment will be. This comes from the fact that if they test to see if atoms are particles they get results that give credence to the idea that they are particles, If they test for waves they get results that show that atoms are waves. This is known as wave/particle duality. It is a problem in logic.
How can an atom be both particle and wave at the same time? It seems to be a contradiction. But it isn’t. They are not both at the same time. The Copenhagen interpretation tells us quanta can manifest as particles or waves depending on the circumstances. Note that the current popular idea that they are both at the same time is myth. But the facts are the facts. The duality exists. Is it a fact that when we measure for one or the other we get what we test for? No.
If you do a single slit experiment you get particles every time. If you do a double slit experiment you get waves every time. The people that originally did the double slit experiment were looking for particles not waves. But they found waves. So how does the fact that they were wrong make reality subjective?
It doesn’t. Every time you fire a particle at a single slit you get a particle. Every time you do a double slit experiment you get a wave. That’s pretty objective if you ask me. The trouble is that if you put a sensor close to the double slits to actually sense the particle going though them, suddenly you get particles again. Now that’s a head scratcher. It is also the basis for the current idea of observer driven reality. Scientists have interpreted this to mean that when we observe the act of a particle going through the double slits we destroy the wave we got when we weren’t observing. It’s called collapsing the wave function.
From this we are to infer that observing alone collapses the wave and makes it become a particle again. Some scientists then infer that the observer determines the outcome of the experiment simply by observing. But wait. No human observed anything. The particles can not be observed by a human eye. A device detected a particle which apparently collapsed the wave the scientists were expecting.
How exactly is that the same as observing? What it really means is that when we try to detect what is going on with a photon detector, we get a particle instead of a wave. No human minds were involved. A device was added to the equation.
Remember also that since the beginning, this wave function has been controversial, with some scientist admitting that it may not exist at all. Feynman didn’t think so.
The observer driven reality we are getting so inundated with these days is not fact. It is an interpretation of the facts. There are many such interpretations. Some require observer driven wave function collapse to be real, for their interpretation to work, like the Copenhagen interpretation. Some say it is just a by product of another underlying process. Most Many Worlds theories take that view.
In the macro world we live in, probabilities reflect a lack of knowledge. But according to the Copenhagen interpretation, the micro world is pure probability. The probabilities are in the form of a “wave of probability”. That’s the upshot of the Uncertainty Principal. According to the Copenhagen interpretation the double slit experiment supposedly showed that the wave of probability can be collapsed simply by observation, and thereby produce a single actualized out come.
Contrary to popular belief, Schrödinger wasn’t advocating that position when he created his puzzle. He was observing how absurd the ramifications of observer driven reality are. In our macro world the cat is either dead or alive before you even notice it is there. Our reason for going to the cat is to find out what the facts are. But on the quantum level it seems not to work that way. I say seems because there are many other possible explanations. No explanations are proven false and none are proven true as yet.
Observed on the macro level there is no obvious observer driven reality. So even if there is on the micro level, that phenomenon has been somehow filtered out by the time it gets to the macro level. So true or not it doesn’t really affect us much if at all, right?
Another interesting finding of quantum mechanics or “QM” is that of Super Symmetry. Einstein actually predicted it due to QM but wasn’t happy with it. He called it “spooky action at a distance.” What it concerns is the idea that particle pairs appear to be able to talk to each other or communicate with each other at faster than the speed of light, through vast distances.
The setup is something like this: You create twin particles. Then you send them off in opposite directions at the speed of light. At one end the scientists change the spin of one, and instantly the twin changes its own spin.
This is not what one would expect, but it has been taken from theory to fact via several very good experiments, and it is the basis of what is known as quantum computing. The name of the phenomenon is: Entanglement.
Entanglement is interesting because it is where the idea of superposition comes into play. The cat is both alive and dead because it is in superposition, just like the twin particles in entanglement. In quantum computing it means a switch can be on, off, or both on and off at the same time. But cats do not live in the quantum world and are not in superposition because the strangeness of the quantum is filtered out in the macro world. Schrödinger was comparing apples to orange quarks.
He was making the point that the findings of QM regarding the uncertainty principal, entanglement, and the double slit experiment with an observer, are as logically absurd as saying the cat in his box is both alive and dead at the same time till we look inside.
We could assume that all this means that the scientists think particles or waves into existence on their whim, though scientists aren’t saying that. Or we could say that scientists are responsible for mentally changing a particles spin, even though they aren’t saying that. Or we could say that twin particles really can communicate faster than light, even though experiment proves that’s not true. Or we could say any combination of the above added to many more. We could say that probably the quantum fluctuates between energy and matter, energy being the wave and matter being the particle. Or we could stop assuming and accept the findings as they are without attempting speculation until we have farther evidence. But people don’t like to do that. Never the less.
That leaves us with; atoms act as if they are particles and/or waves of probability under different circumstances. It seems that when we add a sensing device it alters the outcome of the double slit experiment; and entanglement is strange but it’s a fact. In other words we have to accept the facts, but we don’t have to jump to speculative answers. One could safely say there is likely a lot of information we are missing on this subject. Until more facts are found, why interpret or tie yourself to any one interpretation just because it sounds cool?
Feynman devised a way to solve the issue. He says that there is no particle wave duality. The problem is that when you shoot a particle at a target, it doesn’t only fly straight toward it, it takes every possible rout to get there. If there is one slit open you get what looks like a particle. If you leave two slits open you get a wave effect due to the particle causing interference with itself. He also half jokingly postulated that there is only one big electron. You can bet the calculations he uses to provide evidence for this idea is impeccable, but the fact remains it has not been proven yet.
There have been many interpretations on the findings of QM and there are more to come, we can be sure. One famous interpretation is called “Many Worlds”. This one has been the result of several interpretations of QM and there is not just one Many Worlds theory. There are many. Feynman’s interpretation leads to one version of it, and Hawking's to another version. Bell said it was a bifurcating universe and Hawking says there are millions of universes all bound to different physical laws created at the Big Bang. There are likely at least half a dozen different Many Worlds theories out there, and all contradict each other in specific ways. It is needless to say that all of them create a lot of problems in logic all on their own.
There are also theories that do not include Many Worlds at all, like the Holographic Universe. But that one postulates some kind of cosmic mind at work in the universe, though ironically it is said to be an objectivist theory. Go figure. Physics does not always use the same meaning for words as most of us do.
Albert Einstein wasn’t happy with any of the interpretations he heard in his life time and I have to agree. We now actually have an embarrassing plethora of them, very much like the embarrassing plethora of religious denominations we have. They can’t all be right.
Each Interpretation tells a different story. But there is one very important fact: No interpretation at all is required in doing the math that makes those amazingly accurate predictions about the behaviour of atoms
Because of that we have to accept only the facts we can find, and chalk up the rest to degrees of interesting and uninteresting speculation. We can’t base our understanding of existence on any of them. But we can very accurately predict the behaviour of the quantum world with a tool called Quantum Mechanics.
The only reason to study reality is because there is one. If no objective (factual) reality existed we wouldn’t be able to learn anything about anything. Science might as well pack up its bags and go home. There would be no objective truth.
A consciousness driven reality is no a new idea. It’s actually very old. Hinduism says the universe and everything in it, including us, is god’s dream. This means life is meaningless and we are not real. I think it’s a depressing philosophy. Most consciousness driven reality is.
Then came Perspectivism as described by Nietzsche. It suffers from one major flaw from which it can not recover. It states that there are no objective facts. One is left to assume that his statement is meant as a statement of objective fact, or it is meaningless. You can see how problematic and self contradictory that stance is.
If observer reality is true, doesn’t that mean there would always have had to be an observer? A god or a cosmic consciousness of some sort would have to exist. Ok. Let’s just say everyone has freewill, or for the sake of clarity: that the universe is not objective and that the subjective universe is all there is.
Well that’s a lot of power to give to an individual. But we are not individuals.
That is to say there are billions of individuals. So if each of us were to have that power (free will to change the universe subjectively through perspective or observation alone) then no one can fully exercise that power because each individual impinges on the power of the next.
See what I mean? Equal and opposite subjective perspectives then cancel out. What you would be left with is a new order: An objective reality where subjectivity is a contributing factor; order from chaos. That does reflect the world of chaos theory very nicely, and it agrees with observation.
All this controversy is over the wave/particle duality. But it gets worse. Every theory of subjectivism fails due to the fact that they are all looking for a way to show it objectively. Ironic, isn’t it? If there is absolute subjective reality then one has to find another way to look at it without looking for an objective explanation. We need to see what the ultimate subjective reality would look like.
That’s very hard to do, which is strange for a universe that is subjective. But the fact is there are many forms of this theory. Some Many Worlds theories postulate a universe where every possibility exists, and when we make a choice or observation, the universe bifurcates or splits into all the possible universes, fulfilling all possible choices. This either creates billions upon billions of universe per day, or in some theories all the possibilities fall back in on themselves, so to speak, leaving just one actuality and one universe again. But science doesn’t talk about souls or a cosmic consciousness. It just tells us that events are influenced just by observing them. It goes no farther in any scientific interpretation.
In the traditional religious theories we all have souls. They are eternal. Our consciousness is our soul. We are individual bits of consciousness trapped in a body. We have will and thereby are free to choose our path. There are a lot of different ways the soul is described by different religions and I needn’t get in to them all here. They all relate to the idea that soul is who we really are. Of course, souls are not proven to exist. But at least this model recognizes a subjective element to the universe and an objective one, even be it base and secondary.
In eastern philosophy there is a cosmic consciousness. Our soul is part of it and goes back to it in the end. Individuality is not always something that lasts for eternity. In some forms of eastern philosophy you eventually meld back with totality or god, and lose your individuality when you have perfected yourself through countless incarnations. Again, the subjective is the prime reality and eternal. The objective material world is secondary. It’s all s test. The cosmic consciousness seems to be trying to perfect itself one soul at a time.
Let’s look at absolute subjectivity in its ultimate form. What it actually amounts to is that instead of: all that exists is energy/matter (as I have said here before) we have to say: All that exists is consciousness. This leads quickly to the idea that there is but one consciousness. The universe is a dream within a consciousness. Your mind is not within your body. Your brain and body are in the consciousness and created by it. There are no individuals, you are the consciousness. There is nothing but the consciousness. All other individuals and things are within the consciousness. They are not real and they do not exist outside it, like they do in objective reality.
Nothing is real or objective. Wow. You don’t exist. Your consciousness is not your consciousness. It is the one and only consciousness. Not even just part of it. You are a complete fabrication and figment of the universal imagination. I don’t even know if you can say universal as the universe itself would be inside consciousness. Talk about depressing. It’s worse than existentialism. But depressing to whom; to the universal consciousness?
Now, if it is true that absolute subjectivity is the truth of the matter, then that’s an objective fact. Isn’t it? What is also a fact then is that I am god. I am the consciousness. What a messed up god I would be if that were true. Why would I be having this ridiculous dream? A dream filled with horrors and violence and death and rotting decay with at least one world of suffering, where everything must kill just to eat and survive. I can never be forgiven for making all this stuff up; and what about you?
If you and I are the universal consciousness why do I not know what you know? You and I are one and the same thing. It makes no sense. It’s an absurdity.
It derives from a human being’s isolation and inability to perceive others as they perceive themselves. It comes from being locked out of everyone else’s being. In science the idea that in the micro world there is some observer influence is based on two interesting observations, with at least a dozen explanations that have not been proven true. But what ever the interpretations say, they are based on factual observations which can not be ignored. Yet at the same time it seems silly to want an ultimate answer right now and be willing to give up science itself as a way to tell us about the world. If subjective reality in its ultimate form is true, science is out of a job. We are living in “The Matrix.”
Having realized all this, if I am god, then I want to end this charade right now. You are about to disappear and we as god are about to wake up.
No? It didn’t happen? I must be one heck of a sorry excuse for a consciousness. What a crock.
Existence is both objective and subjective. Any theory that does not include both is missing half the picture and, worse than that, not reflecting what we actually experience. Early materialism did not include the subjective aspects of our lives and didn’t explain them. Ultra subjectivism doesn’t include the objective aspects of reality and says they don’t exist. But each time they say it, they are telling us it is an objective fact, which means the theory contradicts itself.
Even if one of the subjective reality theories proves true, it changes nothing. I don’t have the power to stop the totality with my mind and wake up. I still have to eat so I still have to make a living. Thinking I am god doesn’t seem to come with powers and doesn’t help me in any way. So I still have to work within the dream. I have to work within the myth. And if the myth is objective reality, and I get things done with it, and I make others part of me through love, then what’s the difference? Nothing changes. I still am bound by a universe of cause and effect even if the universe doesn’t exist.
It is clear from experience and observation that objective facts can be gathered. It is clear that the universe is both subjective and objective. To what extent the subjective alone alters objective events is yet to be determined. There is one underlying reality and your perception of it is irrelevant except to you. It is Irrelevant in that it does not alter the underlying reality itself.
We can not get what we want by just thinking. We have to do something. We can’t change the world by just observing, that’s a fact we all experience. It is clear from experience and observation that we can not alter reality by wishing or praying. The scientists that say we alter the outcome of an experiment by observing it don’t say they can choose an outcome. They only say we influence the outcome, but it’s obviously not through our will. They didn’t simply choose to see waves collapse and then they did. They were surprised. So if the observer does alter reality it isn’t on purpose and it isn’t intentional. Trying to intentionally alter the universe through your mind alone doesn’t work.
So if the observer does not control the outcome of an event intentionally, how is it observer dependent reality? It isn’t.
All in all this new idea of completely consciousness dependent reality is just speculation. There are so many contradictory forms of it that it is not to be taken seriously. Take it for what it is; on the same par with I.D.
Don’t let anyone sell it to you as if it is proven fact. It isn’t.
Until more evidence is presented and a coherent factual mechanism is found for it, it has no more merit than bigfoot.
Thanks for reading.
scrampy on February 24, 2012:
No probs... I've shared it around on my facebook a bit too. :)
Ron Hooft (author) from Ottawa on February 24, 2012:
Thanks for reading it.
scrampy on February 24, 2012:
Awesome article. thanks!