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325 thoughts on “Demonizing “Big Pharma”

  1. JMB on psychotherapy:
    “Alison, after my limited training in psycotherapy, I can unequivocally state I would rather find peace in art, literature, philosophy, religion, or riding my motorcycle.”

    After my limited torture by psychotherapy, I can heartily agree. I should have said, “even a psychotherapist….”

    Does religion help you find peace in a way that art, literature, philosophy and riding your motorcycle do not?

  2. BillyJoe “That is a question religion can answer???”

    You are changing the goal posts. You asked “what questions are open to religion but not to science?” You did not ask what questions religion could give a correct answer to. I am saying that questions that have no answers or which aren’t provable, are out of the realm of science. Why? because, if you find an answer to one of these questions with science, you have misused science to do it.

    There are many such questions. Some of those questions can be left unanswered, but other, you must make a choice and as Alison pointed out, then figure out how to live with it. When I observe people, I find that whether they turn to something like psychotherapy, religion, nature or social contact has a lot to do with how their mind works and what they find compelling…not correct or incorrect. If they are a functioning human being who is not doing more harm than average, then their religious answer was just as good as their answer arrived at through psychotherapy.

    Alison – Yes, I think we have a similar view on religion. IMO – Religion has no supernatural knowledge that makes the right choice. It is only a series of compelling lessons and mental devices that guide someone’s choice. But I think of religion as a sort of social/anthropological history showing what may have worked for people in the past. I also know that doesn’t mean it will work, now or in the future.

    I also tend to think of the world, as we observe it, as a fantasy that we have created to survive. Those lovely crab apple trees outside. My eyes and senses evolved to tell me “fruit tree good”. Beauty is a functional fantasy. A hero created today by some current standard of good is as fantastic as a hero created 2000 years ago. FiFi mentioned evil upthread. Was evil created by religion or did people just include the concept of destructiveness, cruelty and greed when they created their religions? The thing about stories, beauty, delight, fear, they are often more compelling than reason. I know that can be a bad thing, but it also can be a good thing too. Even when reason leaves us temporarily due to stress or temptation, those emotional responses may stay.

    Arrk-there’s a quote about this…”There can be no knowledge without emotion. We may be aware of a truth, yet until we have felt its force, it is not ours.” – Arnold Bennett – Playwright. The wonders of google.

    But, I don’t think that religion is for everyone by any means. To me, individuals seem to have “belief” needs ranging from intense to not at all. But, that’s just one of my pet ideas, I have no proof.

  3. well, MY eyes and sense didn’t evolve, to be exact our species eyes and senses evolved.

    MY eyes have recently evolved to discourage reading, obviously an adaptive response to middle-age telling me I need to exercise more. How’s that for shredding the concept of evolution.:)

  4. micheleinmichigan on goalposts:

    “BillyJoe “That is a question religion can answer???”

    “You are changing the goal posts. You asked “what questions are open to religion but not to science?” You did not ask what questions religion could give a correct answer to. I am saying that questions that have no answers or which aren’t provable, are out of the realm of science. Why? because, if you find an answer to one of these questions with science, you have misused science to do it.”

    No, he’s not changing the goalposts. Neither science nor religion can tell you whether to accept a kidney from an executed prisoner. Science might be able to tell you why natural laws exist but religion most certainly cannot. Because neither of these are examples of questions that religion qua religion can answer, they are by definition not examples of questions that are in the religious non-overlapping magisterium.

    Religion can help you cope with choices you’ve nade that you aren’t comfortable with, but to the extent that the coping methods are specific to religion, they are based on fantasy. Fantasy is not knowledge. To the extent that they are not specific to religion… um, they aren’t religion. They are stories, or practices, or feelings. But not religion.

  5. Systems thought vs Story thought:

    “To ask why a character happens to be right and good when everyone else isn’t is a strange question to story thought. He’s good and right because he wants to be, and they all don’t want to be. Specific characters are to blame.”

    Perhaps relevant.

    http://meteuphoric.wordpress.com/2010/04/23/systems-and-stories/

  6. “No, he’s not changing the goalposts. Neither science nor religion can tell you whether to accept a kidney from an executed prisoner.”

    I’m beginning to think this is one of those times where my viewpoint is so different than the person I’m conversing with that our minds are just not going to meet in the middle. I am probably to blame, since it’s not unusual for me. I get the “what the heck are you talking about?” look alot.

    Anyway, I think I see what you are saying. Neither science or religion has an answer, so the question is closed to both.

    But, my rationale is this. If science answers, it has defied it’s internal structure and so is no longer science. If religion answers, it has been consistant with it’s inner principles (just making shit up, as needed) and it is still religion. Therefore, unanswerable (unprovable) questions are open to religion and closed to science.

    For what it’s worth. But, I accept that I may have entered a dark neck of the woods with no one else in sight in this rationale.

    I took a peek at the story vs system post. Interesting, but it was slipping of my brain like water off a desert. I may have to try again another time.

  7. Um, ok. I propose as a provisional definition of religion: “Making shit up and deciding to believe it.”

    Does this work for you?

  8. If I were being picky it would be “making shit up (with history and possible insight into human instinct) and deciding to believe it (or parts of it, as needed).

    But generally, yes that works for me. And if you (possibly/probably) think that’s strange, then you’d just have to know how important “making shit up” is to me. :)

  9. JMB says:

    If you define art as any drawn/pasted together/performed work, then you are just not very discerning. If you define religion as made up shit, then you are not very discerning (or just playing at being provocative, lesson learned from Dr Tuteur).

    Most would say the method for gaining religious knowledge is through the study of what others have written in the past, as well as discussion.

    “That is a question religion can answer???”

    I think there have been many good religious answers to that question, from the writings of one who believed in a personal God, Thomas Aquinas, to the brief analogy from one who believed in an impersonal God, Einstein.

    “Does religion help you find peace in a way that art, literature, philosophy and riding your motorcycle do not?”

    I can find peace from the bottled up emotions of acting professionally by riding my motorcycle, art, or literature (I haven’t studied much philosophy lately, but sometimes I think physicists like to practice philosophy). If I need peace with the grieving of from the loss of family, then I need to find peace in religion.

  10. So we agree that Jenny McCarthy’s conviction that vaccines are shit is a religion, and therefore answers questions outside the scope of science and expands the field of human knowledge?

    It’s possible to make shit up that offers insight into the human condition without believing it. (Kind of like the invisible string that suspends ballet dancers can be an effective image even if you don’t actually believe there is a string.)

    And as Fifi points out, it’s possible to make shit up that distorts the human condition.

  11. JMB says:

    Vaccines are the province of science. Any religion trying to supplant the scientific process is pseudoscience (and not very well thought out religion). Jenny McCarty seeks peace about her child’s condition. I feel sorry for her that she put faith into pseudoscience. She is clinging to an answer she thought she had found (possibly with the help of her pediatrician). One reason not to put faith in any scientific concept is that it can be proven wrong. You can put faith in scientific method because God has created a universe (or multiverse, if you prefer) with rules we can discover. Or, you can just choose scientific method because it gives you lots of neat technology, and leave faith out of the choice.

  12. BillyJoe says:

    micheleinmichigan,

    The problem with religion is that it starts with the answers. So the ready made answers have to be somehow fitted to the questions. That is exactly the wrong way of course. Science, on the other hand, starts with the questions and progresses relentlessly towards the answers.

    If you say that there are questions that have no answers, you need to do the seemingly impossible and prove that those questions do, in fact, have no answers? Otherwise, how do you know they have no answers? Again, science goes the right way about it. Science assumes there are answers to all questions and goes about looking for them.

    Sure there are questions that presently have no answers. And, yes, we have to live with that fact. But, there are very few unanswered questions where a possible way towards an answer cannot be seen. The laws of physics and the universal constants are examples of this. We don’t have the answer. But there are ways in which answers to both questions could possibly be found. It could turn out that the universal constants are mathematically constrained to have to be the values they have. And the existence of a multiverse could circumvent the problem of the laws of physics.

    I think what you may be saying is that “answers” people find in religion help them live happier lives. Well, if they live happier lives, and harm no one, with the ready made “answers” of religion, that’s fine. But, when I talk about answers, I’m not talking about “answers” that make people happy, I’m talking about truthful answers. If religion’s ready made “answers” are true they are only true by chance. Science seeks to remove or reduce the element of chance.

    You mentioned evolution. In effect, we like and hate things because we evolved to like and hate them, more or less, because there is a survival advantage in doing so. Good is necessary because we often have to rely on help from others to survive. Evil is necessary because sometimes we need to kill competitors and prey in order to to survive. This hopefully gives you a clue as to how science can help answer ethical questions for which religion has only ready made, wrong, incomplete, and often out of date, “answers”.

    “”There can be no knowledge without emotion. We may be aware of a truth, yet until we have felt its force, it is not ours.”

    Good quote. It is wrong to think science is a cold-hearted beast. Most scientist are passionately involved with their work. That’s how they get their results. But there is another side to that coin. There also has to be a dispassionate analysis of the results. And, unfortunately, most answers turn out to be wrong. Those who stick with their passionately derived conclusions despite evidence to the contrary are what we call pseudoscientists and cranks.

    I like Alison’s extended definition of religion: Making shit up and choosing to believe it. There’s no problem about making shit up. That’s called fantasy. Enjoy it. It’s the choosing to believe the made up shit as if it’s real that is the problem.

    But generally, yes that works for me. And if you (possibly/probably) think that’s strange, then you’d just have to know how important “making shit up” is to me.

  13. BillyJoe says:

    JMB,

    How is religion not made up shit.
    History tells us that is so. Don’t understand how waves are formed? Answer: Neptune. Don’t understand how hurricanes form? Zephyrus. Whence these lesser gods? The one true god. Waves and hurricanes get explained and so the lesser gods fall by the wayside, leaving the one true god. The one true god. Except there’s thousands of one true gods. Every one with a ready made set of rules. Religion. A thousand one true religions.
    A thousand bits of made up shit.

    Relying on what others have written in the past is just adopting their particular made up shit. That is not truth. What about all the others and their made up shit. Why is their made up shit any less true than your made up shit. Or any less wrong.

    Thomas Aquinas and the personal god? The personal god is dead. Look at history. Many gods give way to the one true god, but take your pick. Look at the bible, or the torah, or the koran, take your pick. The bible? Written hundreds of years after the event, historically inaccurate and factually wrong. And self contradictory. Flayings. Stonings. Slavery. Genocide. Morally bankrupt.

    “You can put faith in scientific method because God has created a universe (or multiverse, if you prefer) with rules we can discover.”

    So, when all the lesser gods have been put to rest, and the holy books have been burned, the one true god rises from the ashes as the answer to the question: “how did something come from nothing?”

    Science has been finding simplicity in complexity for 500 years. From the complexity we see around us today to the simple beginnings in the big bang. But, at the start of it all, you place god. How about…um…I don’t know…yeah, that’s it!….how about I DON’T KNOW.
    You can live with that can’t you?

    “Or, you can just choose scientific method because it gives you lots of neat technology, and leave faith out of the choice.”

    There is faith in science also. Faith that the scientific method brings results. This faith is grounded in the fact that science is self-correcting through the peer review process. We can see it in action. And we see the results everywhere around us. Not blind faith in a fantasy. That’s reserved for religion.

  14. BillyJoe says:

    …sorry, the last paragraph in my response to micheleinmichigan is a quote from her post that I forgot to delete.

  15. “In effect, we like and hate things because we evolved to like and hate them, more or less, because there is a survival advantage in doing so. Good is necessary because we often have to rely on help from others to survive. Evil is necessary because sometimes we need to kill competitors and prey in order to to survive. This hopefully gives you a clue as to how science can help answer ethical questions for which religion has only ready made, wrong, incomplete, and often out of date, “answers”.”

    BillyJoe – Do you think that religion functions independent of evolution? How many groups of human’s have existed without a religion? Do you genuinely believe that religions started with the answers? Do you believe that those answers are consistent throughout time? Have you studied religion? I’m beginning to feel like someone is telling me that birds don’t need their colorful feathers only because they don’t understand the function of the colorful feather.

    “This hopefully gives you a clue as to how science can help answer ethical questions for which religion has only ready made, wrong, incomplete, and often out of date, “answers”.

    Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi were their methods ready made, wrong, incomplete or just out of date? And yup, in my book, they were just making things up and deciding to believe it (within the influence of evolution and history).

    I think BillyJoe you could take a more scientific look at religion. You are writing like a scientist who sees that algae is unsightly and decides it’s worthless without analyzing it’s place in the eco-system.

    I think most people would say it’s a real leap to call Jenny McCarthyism a religion. Just because fuzzles are blue, does not make all blue creatures fuzzles.

    As to distortions, fantasies distort, our facts distort with an emphasis on what is known or more easily understood. We are never looking at a true picture. Our brain is picking and choosing constantly based on it’s own criteria. We are no more in control of it than we are our heart valves.

    Someone might believe that science will bring them to a better ethical answer than religion will. I see no proof of that, only conjuncture, basically, making it up and deciding to believe it.

  16. JMB says:

    Back when many people had the religion incorporating Zeus and Neptune, science wasn’t in much better shape. If you dismiss religion because of all the mistakes made in the past by different religions, then why don’t you dismiss science for all the mistakes made in the past? Your answer will be that science incorporates a process to correct itself. Is it not possible for religious beliefs to be corrected over time?

    Mistakes in religion has resulted in some very bad consequences in the past and present. Science now has the power to result in some very bad consequences, and has in the recent past and present. If you reject all religion because of genocide, then why not reject science because of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? At least you can use the test of consequences for evolving religious thought. You cannot change science because we have used it for warfare and environmental disasters. Will science alone prevent us from making those choices that will result in bad consequences?

    If you put your faith in science, then you are failing to heed the warnings about making science a religion. I think we will more likely survive if we reach a balance of religion and science. I would still suggest that we shouldn’t answer questions of faith with science, and we shouldn’t answer questions about the physical world with religion.

    Jenny McCarty put her faith in science, and probably found some peace by campaigning for something to end autism. Unfortunately, the causal link was wrong, which must result in all the turmoil she originally felt coming back to disrupt the peace she had found.

    I have never suggested that either science or religion can answer all questions, even when they are combined. There will always be, I don’t know. I am not driven to religion because I can’t accept, I don’t know. Even with my own religious beliefs, I don’t know. But I have faith and I am not so worried when I don’t know.

    In regards to the multiverse, since I am a pathetic amateur physicist, I would offer these interpretations. Multiverse refers to the idea of different dimensions that we are not capable of directly sensing. The speculation is that universal constants may vary depending on where you exist in the fifth (or higher) dimension (nice tie in to the hippies and LSD). With variations in the universal constants, the other universes may look quite different than the one we can directly observe. If string theory with eleven dimensions correctly predicts multiverses, then there is likely to be some physical law that transcends the multiverses. Then we are still back to the question, why is there a law of physics that transcends all multiverses?

    In support of the theism of Einstein’s statement that God does not play dice with the universe, I would often the following mix of religion and science. Schrodinger’s wave equations are the result of interactions between the particle nature of energy and matter, and the wave nature of space-time-gravity. The Heisenberg uncertainty principle is a reflection of the Nyquist sampling limitation based on the frequency of the space-time-gravity wave. The wave particle duality observed in the double slit experiment is the result of the wave function of the clock associated with the particle, with the interference of the waves of the clock through two slits, resulting in the distribution of the location of the particle (a particle is bounded by its own time space, until it is interfered with). Observation has an effect on the distribution of the particle because we cannot eliminate having a second particle travel in the same experiment (to communicate information), thus changing the interference pattern of the time-space-gravity clock of the first particle. Wave function collapse is the result of imposing a second (or higher number) of clocks on the clock of the entangled particles (which do share coherent clocks). The interference of clocks results in the first observed property being coherent, but the others become incoherent because of interference. Therefore, reality does exist beyond the observer, so there must be a God, personal or impersonal.

    I think I have abused this blog space too long. So I had better sign off of this argument. Somebody else can have the last word. Hopefully, there are no quantum physicists or quantum chemists following this discussion, or I will take a lot of heat.

  17. BillyJoe says:

    JMB,

    The point of my very brief recounting of the history of religion wa to support the view that religion has always been “made up shit”. Made up shit for stuff that people didn’t and don’t understand – before science came to the rescue. Religion has advanced only in the sense that it has been forced to give up shit that has been proven to be false by science, and often decades and centuries too late. What’s left is still “made up shit”. There is no proof of god, and there almost conclusive proof that he does not exist. Certainly the personal interventionists god who promises heaven and threatens with hell has been completely discredited. This is the basis of most religions and religion falls with it.

    Apart from god based religions that depend on revelation, there are those that depend on mysticism, which means that so called enlightened individuals sit around making shit up but admitting that it’s them and not god who’s to blame.
    And I’ll add again that the morals and ethics contained within their holy books bear no resemblence, for the large part, with the mortals and ethics that people live by today. Moral and ethical people do not stone adulterers, they do not keep slaves, they do not kill their sons and daughters for disobedience, they do not show their obedience to god by sacrificing their only son.

    You misunderstood my meaning of multiverse. Sorry I though the context would make it obvious that I meant the idea that rather than just our single universe there is a multiverse consisting of and almost infinite number of universes each with it’s own set of physical laws and constants. Ours, then, is the one (or one of several) universes with the physical laws and constants that is conducive to the evolution of intelligent life. If this multiverse exists – and, as I said, there is only one piece of unconfirmed evidence for it – we can explain the problem of the laws of physics and the constants being what they are. It’s just the anthropic principle.

    As for quantum physics: I am not a physicists, but what I do know is that there is no effect from the observer. That is a common fallacy that seems too hard to break despite the fact that the reason for the error is so straight forward that is a travesty that the idea even got a hearing in the first place. The observer has absolutely no effect on the outcome of an experiment in quantum physics. Period.
    Also the wave/particle duality consists purely of the fact that quantum “wavicles” seem to travel as waves and interact as particles, and this is counterintuitive because our everyday experience does not encompass the world of quantum physics just as it does not encompass the high speed world of relativity where time and space contract and dilate to keep the speed of light constant in all reference frames.

    Also, there is absolutely no need to mix religion in with science. In fact, it is an error. The two are incompatible. Science has been busily eliminating religion – not as its purpose but as its unintended consequence – since its inception five hundred years ago. All that remains is how something arose from nothing and what happened during the first 10^-42 seconds of the universe’s existence. You can posit god if you wish but history is against you. Science continues to assume a physical cause and continues looking for such a cause. Hey, it’s worked so far!

    Finally, the fact that science has wrecked havoc in the form of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, is not a discomfimation of the truth of science but a direct confirmation of it, however sorry the lesson. And what we actually do with our scientific question is a moral and ethical decision which is not informed by religious dogma in its mutitiude varieties, but by science-based morals and ethics such as secular humanism with its abiltiy – like the science on which it is based – to change according to the evidence.

  18. BillyJoe says:

    micheleinmichigan,

    It seems to me you are not arguing for religion as such, but for religion getting up to scratch. I, on the other hand, suggest we ditch the lot and start from scratch. Too much baggage. Well, not from scratch, because secular humanism has been around a few decades now. Secular humanism is just ordinary human beings, unfettered by religion and dogma, thinking about how we can best live together and resolve ethical issues whilst being properly informed in this process by the scientific evidence.

    It’s not good versus evil. We are good and evil because of our evolutionary past. That is a fact we need to come to terms with and somehow overcome. Dawkins called it “the tyranny of the genes”. Individual genes want to survive and they have made alliances in the form of, amongst other things, human bodies. Now human bodies, through the evolution of self consciuousness (thank you genes!), can overcome the dictates of the genes that gave rise to us. But first we must understand them. On that basis we can move forward.

    That is, of course, just one example of science informing ethics.
    Choosing between this and religion is a no brainer in my opinion.

  19. I think that JMB may have been hinting that the loss of a family member can be too much to bear without the possibility of a reunion in the afterlife. Neither art, philosophy nor secular humanism offer this option. (Interestingly, the New Testament quotes Jesus as explicitly denying this possibility, so strictly speaking neither does Christianity.)

  20. micheleinmichigan,
    “It seems to me you are not arguing for religion as such, but for religion getting up to scratch. I, on the other hand, suggest we ditch the lot and start from scratch.”

    BillyJoe – Although I have a lot of beliefs, I don’t have a religion, so I can’t change mine. Unless you believe that you can have a religion of one, in which case mine is changing constantly. I believe that alot of harm has been done in the world by trying to give other people a “better” religion. So I don’t try to do away with religions or convert people to a “better” one, even if it is secular.

    But, I believe I have a human right and responsibility to demand a standard of behavior of all people. So if a religious (or other) organization is pushing something I think is wrong I say it and try to put pressure on them to stop it. If they are doing good I give them credit and see if there is something I can learn from that.

    It is beyond me how one can peaceful co-exist and be productive with people of a different belief system without looking at that belief system, seeing it’s positive attributes, how the culture may be dependent upon that belief system and trying to understanding how it is an expression of human development. I’m not saying it’s not possible, but I don’t see how to do it,myself.

    As to Secular Humanism. I don’t know alot about it, but from what I do know, I agree that’s a very good approach. I attended (once) a Universal Unitarian Church that could be considered to have a secular humanist approach. Bit too far to drive, it wasn’t my husbands cup of tea, and I’m not much of a big group kind of person, so we didn’t go back.

    Also, I am by nature easily bored. I think some people say great things about “diversity” because they should. Mostly I see all the variations of religions, spirituality, science as really cool. So, I think I said before, my views are kinda self-indulgent. But, for me it’s like visiting a rain forest, only you can pick and choose whether you want a long colorful beak and a short fanning tail…you don’t have to just watch. It’s outside my keen that people can see that and think, everyone should just have black feathers with a red spot and a chisel beak (so, everyone should follow science, or this religion or that religion, philosophy, etc).

    But of course, I usually keep this train of thought to myself, because it’s quite patronizing and kinda offensive to many religious groups. :)

    And also weird. I get alot of “looks”. So it’s not too surprising that you and I don’t see eye to eye on this.

    But, I appreciate that you and JMB and Alison have taken the time to discuss it with me. It’s been a very thought provoking conversation, for me. Thanks!

  21. JMB says:

    I apologize, I’m not trying to have the last word, I just can’t quite shut up.

    BillyJoe,
    “The observer has absolutely no effect on the outcome of an experiment in quantum physics. Period.”

    Try,

    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v391/n6670/full/391871a0.html

    for a scientific article (you can read the abstract for free).

    Otherwise, try google “Copenhagan interpretation”, “dual slit experiment”, “Schrodingers’s cat”, “many world’s interpretation”, “observer effect physics”, “EPR paradox”, ad infinitum.

    In my amateur interpretation, I propose that observation effects and superposition of states relates to differences in time-space-gravity between particles that are moving relative to one another. So if you do not like observer effects and superposition of states postulated in most interpretations of quantum theory equations, then you can come over to my side… and along with Einstein, assert that God does not play dice with the universe.

    “The two are incompatible.” In many religions, science is the way of discerning God’s natural laws. Thomas Aquinas (a saint in the Roman Catholic church), may have correctly speculated about both evolution, and that time did not exist before Creation (or the Big Bang, or Big Bubble in the Multiverse sense). They are not incompatible in many religions, they may be incompatible in your belief system.

    Allison,
    “I think that JMB may have been hinting that the loss of a family member can be too much to bear without the possibility of a reunion in the afterlife. ”

    The afterlife is something that I don’t know about, and am not worried about. I am on the correct side of Pascal’s wager – which interestingly enough, I found the comment that it was the first formally published use of decision theory. It was more about… when they died, can we look back and say that their life had meaning (other than contributing to the surviving population genome).

    michelleinmichigan,
    “But, I appreciate that you and JMB and Alison have taken the time to discuss it with me. It’s been a very thought provoking conversation, for me. Thanks!”

    I thank you all, Michelle, Billy Joe, Allison, wales, and weing, for the interesting discussion. I apologize to SBM for using your blog space, and besmirching your scientific reputation with the JMB interpretation of Quantum Physics and Relativity.

    I promise I will shut up now.

  22. wales says:

    Such eloquent farewells. I’ll sign off by quoting those more articulate than myself.

    “All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree.” Albert Einstein

    “Believe those who are seeking the truth. Doubt those who find it.” Andre Gide

  23. Yes, I’d like to add thanks to wales and weing as well (and the Acadamy) :) . Thought they were gone, but in case they check back.

  24. BillyJoe says:

    JMB,

    Regarding the effect of consciousness:

    The extract you reference does not make the situation clear, but I suspect that the view expressed is no different from mine – which is the scientific view, not the discredited pseudoscientific “quantum consciousness” view. But I’m not paying to find out.

    The fact is that the phrase “the observer” is simply a synonym for “the detection device”.
    That’s it.
    And it’s not my opinion, it is a fact.

    In the double slit experiment, if the detection device at the slits is turned off, a interference pattern is seen. If the detection device at the slits is turned on, a scatter pattern is seen. The result is completely predictable. Having set up the experiment, the experimenter can drop dead for all it will matter to the outcome of the experiment. Or he can try as hard as he likes to alter the result with his mind but it will not change the completely predictable outcome of the experiment.

    The Observer plays no role in quantum physics.
    Consciousness plays no role in quantum physics.
    The mind plays no role in quantum physics.
    Those are the facts.

    The quantum consciousness, change-reality-with-your-mind crowd has simply translated “observer” literally and manufactured a whole industry based on that misconception.

    Here is a reference which I just found by googling and for which you don’t need to pay:

    http://www.colorado.edu/philosophy/vstenger/Quantum/QuantumConsciousness.pdf

    The quantum reference starts on page 7, but the whole article is worth reading. It discusses Einstein’s ideas as well.

  25. wales says:

    BJ: Still promoting “your” truth as “the” truth I see. Why can’t you just admit that there are different opinions among physicists on these matters? Stenger is notable for his materialist philosophy, and so brings his own biases to bear in his 1992 paper. It appears “true” to you because it coincides with your own materialist viewpoint.

    Rosenblum and Kuttner, authors of “Quantum Enigma”, Richard Conn Henry of JHU and Anton Zeilinger of The University of Vienna are just a few of those whose opinions differ from Stenger’s on the observer issue and the nonlocality (or quantum entanglement) issue in quantum physics.

    http://seedmagazine.com/content/article/the_reality_tests/

    http://henry.pha.jhu.edu/The.mental.universe.pdf

    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/bell-theorem/#3

  26. wales says:

    Moderation kicks in, well I posted my final response to Billy Joe, hopefully it will pop up soon.

  27. wales says:

    A lot has happened in the world of physics since Stenger’s 1992 paper. Zeilinger’s work has been noted of late.

    http://www.quantum.at/news/detailview/article/7/anton-zeilinger-receives-wolf-prize-in-physics-201-1.html

    Here’s another interesting interview with Zeilinger.

    http://www.signandsight.com/features/614.html

    Here’s an excerpt from that interview:

    “Entanglement – we should imagine this as…

    …there is no way of imagining it. The Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger coined the term in 1935 and also said that the twist in the phenomenon of quantum physics is that it forces us to bid farewell to all our dearly held ideas about the world.

    Help us do this!

    When two particles collide like billiard balls at a quantum level, then they are immediately linked or “entangled”. Neither of the two particles has a clearly defined position or a clearly-defined momentum: location and speed are uncertain, as we say.

    Heisenberg’s famous uncertainty principle.

    Exactly. But then I can go and measure, say, the momentum of one of the entangled particles. By way of this measurement, the momentum which was previously uncertain can now be determined. The peculiar thing is that in the same instant, the second particle also gains a clearly-defined momentum. No matter how far away it is.

    Albert Einstein called this effect “spooky action at a distance”

    Right. But the truly strange is yet to come.

    I can’t wait.

    The result of my measurement of the first particle is completely random. There is no way of predicting it, on principle. But as soon as I have the result, I can deduct the momentum of the second participle.

    So I can accurately measure the momentum of the second particle, even if it is hundreds of billions of kilometres away.

    Theoretically yes. The effect has so far been proved across a distance of a hundred kilometres. The amazing thing is that there can be no exchange of information between the two particles. They react absolutely in synch, although they could never know anything of each other’s existence. You can think of it as two dice far away from each other that always land on the same number, without there being any kind of mechanism which connects them. Absurd!

    Uncertainty, coincidence, spooky effects – doesn’t it make you dizzy sometimes?

    It’s all pretty crazy. The spooky effect at a distance is a process outside time and space that even I can’t really imagine. But I believe that quantum physics tells us something very profound about the world. And that is that the world is not the way it is independently of us. That the characteristics of the world are to a certain extent dependent on us.

    That almost has a New Age ring.

    You have to be careful not to be cubby-holed. I mean it’s like this: an experimenter can determine through his choice of measuring equipment which physical size becomes reality. Take a particle with an uncertain location and an uncertain velocity. When you look at it through a microscope and locate it, the particle gives you an answer: “Here I am.” That means, the location becomes reality at that moment. Beforehand, the particle had no location at all. With the choice of the measuring equipment we’ve had a major impact on reality. But the answer that nature gives is completely random.”

  28. wales says:

    Well that last comment posted before my previous one. Stay tuned.

  29. wales says:

    This may be a duplicate, if so sorry. BJ: Still promoting “your” truth as “the” truth I see. Why can’t you just admit that there are different opinions among physicists on these matters? Stenger is notable for his materialist philosophy, and so brings his own biases to bear in his 1992 paper. It appears “true” to you because it coincides with your own materialist viewpoint.

    Rosenblum and Kuttner, authors of “Quantum Enigma”, Richard Conn Henry of JHU and Anton Zeilinger of The University of Vienna are just a few of those whose opinions differ from Stenger’s on the observer issue and the nonlocality (or quantum entanglement) issue in quantum physics.

    http://seedmagazine.com/content/article/the_reality_tests/

    http://henry.pha.jhu.edu/The.mental.universe.pdf

    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/bell-theorem/#3

  30. BillyJoe says:

    wales,

    We’ve been through this before.

    There is nothing that I would argue with in your Zeilinger links and nothing in those links refutes what I have said.

    If you disagree, please analyse the quotes below the dotted line and show me how they refute “observer=detector”.

    —————————————————

    From this Zeilinger link:
    http://seedmagazine.com/content/article/the_reality_tests/
    (In brackets are my comments)

    “Quantum mechanics fundamentally concerns the way in which we observers connect to the universe we observe. The theory implies that when we measure particles and atoms…”
    (Note the ambiguity between observe and measure)

    “We do not observe the tiniest bits of matter, nor the forces that move them, individually through our senses.”
    (what does this say about what is meant by observe)

    “The properties that define particles—mass, spin, etc.—are also thought to exist before we measure them.”
    (measure? observe?)

    “Before a measurement those states exist in superposition”
    (here it’s measure, not observe)

    “Heisenberg discovered the uncertainty principle, which placed a fundamental limit on certain measurements. Pairs of specific quantities are incompatible observables; momentum and position, energy and time, and other measurable pairs cannot be known together with absolute accuracy.”
    (ditto)

    “every measuring device affects what it is used to observe”
    (a measuring device used to observe! – what could be clearer?)

    “when one electron’s momentum is measured, the value of the other’s is instantly known and the superpositions collapse.”
    (here he decided to use the word “measure”)

    “It didn’t matter if particles might affect one another over vast distances, or that particles had no observable properties before they are observed.”
    (but here he decided to use the word “observe”, get the picture?

    “photons should have measurable polarizations that exist before they are measured.”
    (back to “measure”)

    “Though they could never observe it, the polarizations truly did not exist before being measured.”
    (and back to using both again)

    “In space there is enough distance to exclude communication between the detectors (humans), , and the lack of other particles should allow most entangled photons to reach the detectors unimpeded.”
    (here “humans” are “detectors”)

    “The reason we see our world as we do is because of what we use to observe it. The human body is a just barely adequate measuring device. Quantum mechanics does not always wash itself out, but to observe its effects for larger and larger objects we would need more and more accurate measurement devices. We just do not have the sensitivity to observe the quantum effects around us. In essence we do create the classical world we perceive..”
    (I really do hope it is getting clearer now)

    ———————————————

    Nowhere in that link to Zeilinger, is there any nonsense about mind over matter, quantum consciousness, creating reality with our minds.
    As Zeilinger says (paraphrasing), the experimenter decides which quantity to measure, but the quantum decides what value it will have.
    The quantum world is weird, but it’s not stupid.

  31. wales says:

    BJ said “The quantum world is weird, but it’s not stupid.” Well we agree on something, I doubt if the “quantum world” is “stupid”, but perhaps humans are a bit dense in understanding it (except of course for those who think they have it and its implications nailed down).

    You have hand-picked a few comments from the Zeilinger interviews with which you agree. I assume then that you do not agree with these comments by Zeilinger?

    From the 2008 Seed interview cited above:

    “But on the quantum level we do have to give up realism.”

    And this from the 2006 interview cited above:

    Interviewer: But just now you spoke of a world that exists independently of us.

    AZ- That’s right. But this world is not directly ascertainable or describable. Because every description must be done in terms of the information, and so you inevitably get into circular reasoning. There’s a limit we can’t cross. And even a civilisation on Alpha Centauri can’t cross it. For me that’s something almost mystical.

    Interviewer: In your last book you wrote: “Laws of nature should make no distinction between reality and information.” Why?

    AZ: We’ve learnt in the natural sciences that the key to understanding can often be found if we lift certain dividing lines in our minds. Newton showed that the apple falls to the ground according to the same laws that govern the Moon’s orbit of the Earth. And with this he made the old differentiation between earthly and heavenly phenomena obsolete. Darwin showed that there is no dividing line between man and animal. And Einstein lifted the line dividing space and time. But in our heads, we still draw a dividing line between “reality” and “knowledge about reality”, in other words between reality and information. And you cannot draw this line. There is no recipe, no process for distinguishing between reality and information. All this thinking and talking about reality is about information, which is why one should not make a distinction in the formulation of laws of nature. Quantum theory, correctly interpreted, is information theory.”

    Zeilinger does make the interesting point that American physicists do much less philosophizing about the meaning of quantum mechanics than European physicists. I think the American viewpoint is more pragmatic, “shut up and calculate” as coined by David Mermin. I find the European search for meaning much more interesting.

  32. wales says:

    BTW Billy Joe, upon further thought, it is becoming more clear to me, as you had hoped. It is clear that you cannot see the forest for the trees. You separate and splice sentences in these two comments from the Zeilinger interview. In your zeal to differentiate between “observer” and “measurement” you miss the point entirely:

    “photons should have measurable polarizations that exist before they are measured.”

    and

    “Though they could never observe it, the polarizations truly did not exist before being measured.”

    But when they are read together, in the context of the entire article, they say something rather mysterious is going on. Here are the full sentences:

    “The only assumption Leggett made was that a natural form of realism hold true; photons should have measurable polarizations that exist before they are measured.” and then the results of the experiment : “Though they could never observe it, the polarizations truly did not exist before being measured.” Leggett’s assumption of “natural realism” was violated by the experiments. Where does that leave “natural realism”????

    Don’t you see how your extreme reductionism (i.e., splitting apart comments and taking them out of context) “creates” the reality you want to see?

  33. wales says:

    Correction, make that ” in your zeal to focus on the meaning of “observe” and “measure”…..” I understand that you were not trying to differentiate. That’s what I get for talking on the phone while typing. But that does not change the points I have made. You don’t find it odd that “objects” don’t have properties until they are “measured”?

  34. BillyJoe says:

    wales,

    “You have hand-picked a few comments from the Zeilinger interviews with which you agree.”

    I picked all the comments form the article that relate directly to the “observer = detector” question. That was my intention since you are denying it and offered Zeilinger up in support. I was trying to demonstrate to you that Zeilinger does not support your view. Of course he does not do this directly because the article is not about that specifically but I have demonstrated that he uses the words “observe” and “detect” interchangeably, meaning that observe = detect. His reference to a “human detector” was particularly pleasing.

    “I assume then that you do not agree with these comments by Zeilinger?”

    I have no argument at all with what you quoted from Zeilinger. I don’t know why you should think so.

    Of course we have to let go of realism at the quantum level (and only at the quantum level). That’s the meaning of Heisenberg Uncertainty. Quantum particles do not have a specific position before they interact. But how does this relate to the “observer=detector” question?

    And he said “almost mystical” not “mystical”. I do think he should drop the word “mystical” altogether especially since he doesn’t really mean it (almost mystical =/= mystical). It just causes a particularly biased reader to mistake what he is saying. It’s like Einstein when he use sthe word god and christians think he is talking about their god.

    “You don’t find it odd that “objects” don’t have properties until they are “measured””

    It is weird. When I said the quantum world is not stupid, I was referring to the stupid misunderstandings that people who don’t have a clue about quantum physics make. Like when they think that experimenters using the word “observe” means that we can alter reality with our minds, rather than what they actually mean which is simply to “detect”.

    Anyway, you are determined to stick with your misunderstanding.
    As I said, we’ve been through this before. I don’t think I’m going to make any difference this time around.

  35. JMB says:

    Complementarity principle, not quantum consciousness.

  36. wales says:

    BJ: I just think it’s interesting that you believe I have the misunderstanding, not yourself. In the world of binary thinking, someone has to be “wrong”, because some things are just not possible, correct?

    I assume you believe that physicists Henry Stapp and Roger Penrose are barking up the wrong tree as well? Far greater minds than mine have not dismissed out of hand the possibility of some kind of quantum effect of consciousness.

  37. BillyJoe says:

    wales,

    A quote form Steven Novella’s most recent article which I believe is relevant here:

    On SBM we have documented the many and various ways that science is abused…One such method is to take a new, but reasonable, scientific hypothesis and run with it, long past the current state of the evidence…

    This type of medical pseudoscience is particularly challenging to deal with, because there is a scientific paper trail that seems to support many of the claims of proponents. The claims themselves may have significant plausibility, and parts of the claims may in fact be true. Efforts to educate the public…are frustrated by the mainstream media’s lazy tendency to discuss every study as if it were the definitive last word on a topic, and to site individual experts as if they represent the consensus of scientific opinion.

  38. wales says:

    Thanks BJ. There are many ways to abuse science. One way is to espouse philosophical speculations as if they were “scientific facts”, ala Dawkins and his “proof” that god doesn’t exist.

    As physicist Heinz Pagels said in “Perfect Symmetry”: “We can have confidence in the provisional truth of scientific knowledge. But we must distinguish carefully between scientific knowledge and those world views of reality which, although consistent with our scientific knowledge, represent extrapolations that go beyond it.” Note the use of “provisional truth” rather than “absolute truth”.

    Dawkins bases his god hypothesis on the “extremely low probability” that god exists (deistic or theistic god). Physicist Roger Penrose has calculated the probability that the big bang would have happened just the way it did , leading to our universe and life on our planet as 1 in (10^10)^123. Sorry for the awkward notation, don’t know how to implement the superscript format here. As Penrose says “If I were to put one zero on each elementary particle in the Universe, I still could not write the number down in full. It is a stupendous number.” Highly improbable events seem to be the basis of our existence.

    When it comes to questions of ultimate truth, as we were discussing, I am less interested in consensus than in possibilities.

    From Max Jammer’s “Einstein and Religion”: In 1929 sociologist Harry Elmer Barnes suggested “that the time has come for science to give a new definition of God,”. J. Murphy informed Einstein that in the course of public discussion of this remark, “the general contention of the preachers was that the introduction of God into scientific discourse was quite out of place; for science has nothing to do with religion.” In 1930 Einstein commented that in his opinion “both attitudes [that of Barnes and that of the preachers] disclose a very superficial concept of science and also of religion.”

  39. BillyJoe says:

    wales,

    If you look at what the actual physical evidence shows, there is no role for consciousness in quantum physics. It’s only when certain physicists interpret the evidence that they come up with a role for consciousness. And then it requires extrapolating beyond the evidence to find consciousness determining reality. In other words, it’s pure fiction. Made up stuff.

    As I have said before, if you disagree, please reference an experiment in quantum physics that demonstrates that consciousness influences the result of the experiment. Then, if you can fulfill this minimum requirement, please link to an experiment that demonstrates that you can use consciousness to actually determine the outcome of the experiment.

    You won’t be able to do so, because there is no experiment that does this. So then you have to ask yourself: why? The answer is that it’s all just hot air. It’s all just interpretation and extrapolation by certain physicists with an axe to grind. Nothing more.

  40. wales says:

    I’ll be happy to do so BJ, as soon as you have done the same for your “scientific proof” that god doesn’t exist. (As I already asked you to do repeatedly.)

    If the physicists who speculate on the matters of consciousness (and at least they are intellectually honest enough to state that they are speculating, unlike some other famous scientists speculating on matters of spirit/god) are “making stuff up” then I don’t mind being in their company.

    You also don’t appear to mind being in the company of scientists who “make stuff up” regarding scientific proof of the non-existence of spirit/soul/god.

  41. wales says:

    BJ: On April 20, on Harriet’s “Nine Breakthroughs” post, I said there was no tangible, scientific proof of a spiritual reality.

    You responded with this on April 21 “Of course, then there is proof of non-existence, but let’s not spoil a good delusion.”

    I still haven’t seen your “proof” of non-existence. I won’t hold my breath.

  42. wales says:

    BJ: Here you are again on April 23 “I’m sorry, but god, in any meaningful sense of that word, has been disproven. This is not a delusion. It is a scientific and logical fact.”

    Proof of the “scientific and logical fact” please.

  43. wales says:

    BJ said “It’s all just interpretation and extrapolation by certain physicists with an axe to grind.” Substitute “scientist” for “physicists” and you have an apt description of a person who used to be my favorite evolutionary biologist – Dawkins.

  44. BillyJoe says:

    The answer then is no?

  45. wales says:

    BJ: Answer to what?

    Remember, it is you who claimed scientific proof for your hypothesis, yet failed to produce that proof. I have claimed that their is neither proof nor disproof for the philosophical speculation of physicists and for the existence of a spiritual reality.

    I am fascinated by the speculation of some physicists on the nature of reality, especially those honest enough to admit they are speculating. Consensus and herd mentality don’t matter to me on this subject, it’s all speculation.

  46. wales says:

    BJ: Back on April 26 I explicitly asked you for proof of your hypothesis. “Where are the published results of rigorous, controlled, repeatable empirical testing proving theories about the non existence of a spiritual reality? ”

    Your answer contained yet more opinion, no facts or proof. Turning the tables and demanding some sort of “proof” from me when I have stated all along that these matters are not provable by scientific means is a lame strategy.

    And by the way, I disagree with your claim that “Everything you use every day is practically al the result of science working on the basis of that *assumption*” (The assumption being that everything is physical.)

    The thing that I use most, the thing that filters my awareness and knowledge of all other things, is consciousness, and that has proven to be a very slippery subject for scientific proof.

  47. BillyJoe says:

    wales,

    “Answer to what?”

    Can you link to a single experiment in quantum physics that demonstrates that consciousness influences or is essential to the outcome; and, then, having fulfiled that minimum requirement, can you link to a single experiment in quantum physics that demonstrates that consciousness can actually alter the outcome?

    Without this physical evidence, there is no basis for the claims for, or speculation about, quantum consciousness.

  48. wales says:

    This is becoming extremely tiresome. I have made no claims to proof of anything, on the contrary I have explicitly stated repeatedly that all hypotheses about the existence/non-existence of spirit/god are speculation.

    You however made a strong statement that it is “logical and scientific fact” that “god has been disproven”. Proof?

  49. BillyJoe says:

    wales,

    “I have made no claims to proof of anything…”

    I didn’t say you did.

    But you have been seriously considering the hypothesis that consciousness affects events at the quantum level and, conversely, you have been seriously considering the hypothesis that quantum events play a role in consciousness.

    Valid hypotheses are not pulled out of thin air. Valid scientific hypotheses must be based on prior scientific research. In other words, there must be scientific research that leads you to think that these hypotheses is worth considering and exploring. I am simply asking you what scientific research the above two hypotheses are based on.

    What reason do you have to take those hypotheses seriously?

    “You however made a strong statement that it is “logical and scientific fact” that “god has been disproven”. Proof?”

    I was trying to avoid addressing this question again because it is allowing you to avoid the question we have actually been addressing here (the meaning of “observer” in quantum physical experiments).

    But I will answer as I have done before: In order to answer your question, I first need you to define “god” for me. And, as I have hinted before, the specific and detailed definition of your chosen “god” will contain the seeds of its own destruction. So far, no one has offered a definition.

    Nevertheless, I would rather address the validity of the consciousness->quantum and quantum->consciousness connection as this is what we were discussing at this point.

  50. BillyJoe says:

    wales,

    As an example, here is a simple discription of the double slit experiment:

    It’s necessarily simplistic, but one key point is that quantum entities, like photons, travel as waves and interact as particles.

    Detectors off:
    A photon travels as a wave towards the barrier and passes through both slits as a wave. The part of the wave that passes through one slit interferes with the part of the wave that passes through the other slit as they travel towards the photographic plate. When it reaches the plate the interaction with the plate causes collapse of the wave into a particle which causes a dot to form on the plate. The result of millions of these photons passing through the experiment is an interference pattern.

    Detectors on:
    A photon travels as a wave towards the barrier. As the wave passes through the slits it interacts with one of the detectors (the only way a detector can detect the photon is to interact with it). The result of the interaction is that the wave collapses into a particle situated at the slit where it is detected. It then continues towards the photographic plate as a wave originating fromn that slit. There is no other wave to interfere with it on its way towards the plate. When it reaches the plate, the interaction with the plate causes the wave to collapse into a particle which causes a dot to form on the plate. The result of millions of these photons passing throught the experiment is a scatter pattern.

    The only time consciousness entered this description, is when the experimenter chose to switch the detectors on or off. Once that decision is made, the consciousness of the experimenter is irrelevant. Beyond that point, the consciousness of the experimenter cannot change the pattern into something other than what is determined by whether the detectors are switched on or off.

    It is quantum interaction that causes collapse of the wave function, not consciousness.
    It’s as simple as that. Of course there are more complicated experimental setups (single detector double slit esperiment; the delayed choice double slit esperiment) but it all boils down to the same thing. Once the experiment is set up, consciousness is irrelevant to the outcome.

    Consciousness is not an essential ingredient in quantum interactions and they cannot change the outcome of quantum interactions.

    And, finally, quantum interactions can play no role in the genesis of consciousness, because they have no effect on macroscopic systems like the brain.

  51. BillyJoe says:

    Last chance.
    ….this topic is about to fall off the front page!

  52. wales says:

    BJ: You and I will never see eye to eye on this. Experimental results are results. Odd, mind-bending results like those found in quantum physics require interpretation, at least that what many eminent physicists believe, and I agree with them.

    I have read too many subtly different interpretations of the double slit experiment by physicists to conclude that yours is the only possible or the correct version. Henry Stapp’s interpretation in “Mindful Universe: Quantum Mechanics and the Participating Observer” (2007) is one that I find particularly interesting, check it out sometime.

    As for the imaginary division between the microscopic and the macroscopic, as Einstein said “But the macroscopic and the microscopic are so inter-related that it appears impracticable to give up this program [of basing physics on the “real”] in the microscopic domain alone.” (as quoted in Mindful Universe).

    It’s been fun. Adios.

  53. wales says:

    PS: as for this “as I have hinted before, the specific and detailed definition of your chosen “god” will contain the seeds of its own destruction.” I don’t have a specific and detailed definition of god.

  54. wales,

    Aren’t you even a teensy bit curious about the meaning of quantum results? BillyJoe asks you a straightforward question. He understands his question, he understands his answer to it, and he is prepared to discuss your answer to it.

    You make no attempt to answer and do not even demonstrate that you understand the question. You wave him off, responding that smarter people than you disagree with Billy Joe and you like these smarter people’s answers better.

    Aren’t you curious about how BillyJoe diverges from these smarter people, and why? If you like these smarter people’s answers better, wouldn’t you like to be able to identify the point of divergence? Wouldn’t you rather be able to show BillyJoe where he is wrong? Science is not a matter of opinion. If BillyJoe is wrong, you can explain why. BillyJoe will then agree with you. Science is cool that way.

  55. wales,

    Do you have a nonspecific and undetailed definition of god?

  56. wales says:

    I already know Billy Joe’s opinion, he has explained it several times. I already know why Billy Joe diverges from some other opinions, it starts with his philosophical “assumption” that everything is physical. There are philosophies leaning more toward the materialist end of the spectrum of reality, and philosophies leaning more toward the idealist end of the spectrum of reality, with both scientists and non-scientists at either end. I lean toward the idealist, Billy Joe leans toward the materialist. We differ in our philosophical opinion. I have neither the time nor the inclination to continue repeating different versions of the same philosophical discussion. Regarding quantum mechanics, of course I am interested, which is why I continue to read books and papers on the subject. I have read philosophical treatments of the double slit experiment (and other quantum weirdness) by both scientists and philosophers leaning toward materialism and those leaning toward idealism. For me the materialistic extreme leaves too many question unanswered.

  57. The materialist assumption is simply the beginning. We assume that everything is material until proven otherwise. Scientists spend their time trying to prove otherwise. That’s just how science works and it has nothing to do with underpinning philosophies.

  58. wales says:

    “Scientists spend their time trying to prove otherwise.” Really? I was under the impression that scientists (most anyway) do not spend their time trying to prove the possibility or the validity of the immaterial. Most work under the assumption that the material is all that exists and that all questions will eventually be resolved by material solutions. Some mathematicians are perhaps different, those devoted to pure mathematics and Platonic ideals anyway.

    I disagree that science has nothing to do with underpinning philosophies. Science is grounded in the philosophical assumption that observable material subject to empirical methods is the basis of reality.

  59. JMB says:

    Sorry I broke my promise, but I ran across this recent physics reference that I thought BillyJoe might find interesting.

    Just to state my position, I am not a physicist, I know very little about quantum physics, and it is worthless for me to be one to argue about what it means. I would point out that IMHO the scientific conclusions in physics are the equations. Interpretations of those equations bears more than a passing resemblance to philosophy. I think arguing about quantum consciousness is more like arguing about philosophy. In my original statement, I was not referring to quantum consciousness, but superposition and complementarity. Superposition and complementarity are observations that must be addressed by the different interpretations.

    So here’s a quote from an interesting peer reviewed article, I have no idea of how prestigious the journal is.

    “We anticipate that our paper will be a starting point for experimentally addressing fundamental questions, such as the role of life and consciousness in quantum mechanics. ”

    The reference,

    New J. Phys. 12 (2010) 033015
    doi:10.1088/1367-2630/12/3/033015

    Toward quantum superposition of living organisms

    Oriol Romero-Isart1,4, Mathieu L Juan2, Romain Quidant2,3 and J Ignacio Cirac1

    1 Max-Planck-Institut für Quantenoptik, Hans-Kopfermann-Strasse 1, D-85748, Garching, Germany
    2 ICFO-Institut de Ciencies Fotoniques, Mediterranean Technology Park, Castelldefels, Barcelona 08860, Spain
    3 ICREA—Institució Catalana de Recerca i Estudis Avançats, E-08010 Barcelona, Spain

    The URL,

    http://iopscience.iop.org/1367-2630/12/3/033015/fulltext

    Enjoy.

    By the way, my definition of God is, the Creator.

    Unless I find another interesting reference, I will refrain from abusing this blog space.

  60. JMB says:

    Rats. One other thing I forgot to throw in. I think the basic assumption of science is causality, not physicality. Physicality smacks of Euclidean geometry, how we classically experience reality.

  61. BillyJoe says:

    wales,

    In the beginning there was only philosophy. Philosophers divorced themselves from reality and just “sat back in their armchairs” and thought about how things must be. The problem was that every philosopher had a different version of what must be. Obviously, they couldn’t all be right. Philosophy then spawned science. The idea was to build up some verifiable facts upon which the various philosophical ideas would rise or fall. Philosophy must now start with the scientific facts. It must account for the facts as derived by science and show areas in which further scientific research might prove useful.

    So, unless there is a scientific fact that suggests a role for consciousness in quantum processes, all the philosophising about quantum consciousness is all just sound and fury signifying nothing. How many versions of quantum consciousness have you come across in your reading. They can’t all be right. In fact, they’re all wrong as far as we can tell – because there is no fact of the matter on which they are based.

    It is telling that you cannot, after all the reading you’ve done on this topic, point to a single experiment in quantum physics that suggests a role for conscious. Even after outlining for you the classic double slit experiment, you are unable to tell us where exactly it is that consciousness plays a role.

  62. BillyJoe says:

    JMB,

    “I think the basic assumption of science is causality, not physicality.”

    Better tell the quantum physicists, then, that their probabilistic particles are not part of science.
    And what about supposed supernatural causes?

    The natural/physical/material assumption is the working assumption of science. This is because it is possible to prove that phenomena have natural causes (for example the natural cause of thunder has been proven, displacing the supernatural idea that thor’s clapping hands are the cause). But it is not possible to prove that phenomena have supernatural causes (some just choose to use it as a default position when a natural cause has not been found). Therefore is seems reasonable to make the natural assumption because that’s the way of progress, whereas the suprenatural assumption is the end of enquiry.

  63. wales says:

    Billy Joe: “Philosophy must now start with the scientific facts. It must account for the facts as derived by science and show areas in which further scientific research might prove useful.” The philosophy of science and quantum theory that I have read and continue to read is primarily written by physicists. So much for your “armchair” theory. My failure to cite specific experiments is no more a “failure” of the theory than is your failure to cite specific experiments disproving the existence of a spiritual reality. We both have theories, not directly supported by any empirical evidence.

    JMB: I used to think the same thing about causality, but after reading Mario Bunge’s “Causality and Modern Science” I have a different opinion. Bunge explains how causality itself is subject to trends in science and that the randomness and nonlocality found in quantum theory have changed the concept of causality, starting with physicists and slowly spreading throughout the sciences and social sciences. In the preface to the fourth edition he comments on changes in the concept of causality from classical physics through the discovery of quantum theory to the present: “When this book first appeared in 1959 most experts believed that causality was a dead subject. In fact, it was widely believed that the quantum theory had killed the hypothesis that every event is caused by a preceding event.”

    This was rather surprising to me. I believe that the concept of material realism is the foundation of the sciences, more so even than causality.

  64. BillyJoe says:

    wales,

    You should try reading what is written.

    Quote from me: “In the beginning there was only philosophy. Philosophers divorced themselves from reality and just “sat back in their armchairs” and thought about how things must be.”

    Your response: “The philosophy of science and quantum theory that I have read and continue to read is primarily written by physicists. So much for your “armchair” theory.”

    So how did you miss the introductory phrase, “In the beginning”?

    But, hey, if the shoe fits…
    Unless you can show evidence for a role for consciousness in quantum physics it is, as I said, all sound and fury signifying nothing no matter who spouts it.

    The invitation is still open though.

    “My failure to cite specific experiments is no more a “failure” of the theory than is your failure to cite specific experiments disproving the existence of a spiritual reality.”

    Quantum consciousness is not a theory.
    It is an unscientific hypothesis (meaning, it has no basis in scientific fact) and without a shred of evidence in support.

    For the sake of argument I will concede that the non-interventionist deistic god is one of those undisprovable supernatural hypotheses. I am happy with that in any case.

  65. wales says:

    I did not miss your introductory phrase. It was rather biblical and I could not discern what time frame you referenced with “in the beginning”, so I skipped on to the next subject.

  66. wales says:

    BJ: You habitually make sweeping pronouncements that upon close examination prove to be inaccurate. “Quantum consciousness is not a theory. It is an unscientific hypothesis (meaning, it has no basis in scientific fact) and without a shred of evidence in support.”

    Regarding the idea of the possible role of consciousness in quantum theory, there’s plenty of science behind it, be it hypothesis or theory.

    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/qt-consciousness/#Rel

  67. wales says:

    Ah moderation raises its ugly head. Oh well.

  68. BillyJoe says:

    wales,

    “Regarding the idea of the possible role of consciousness in quantum theory, there’s plenty of science behind it, be it hypothesis or theory.

    http://arxiv.org/ftp/physics/papers/0312/0312115.pdf

    Seems you didn’t read this part of your linked paper:

    “rather than using the observers conscious response as the dependent variable, we use the early brain responses as measured by EEG. These early responses cover a period where the observer is not yet conscious of the quantum event.”

    So the experiment described in this article could not possibly show that consciousness can affect quantum events.

    In addition, the Hall experiment which stimulated this experiment did use consciousness, and it demonstrated that consciousness had no effect on the quantum events:

    “The results of this experiment were precisely at chance…It was concluded that the experiment does not provide support for the hypothesis that it is the interaction with consciousness that causes the wave packet to collapse.”

    Better luck next time.

  69. wales says:

    Ah yes, mea culpa, I’m becoming very lazy at searching for web citations for you. Most of the support for the consciousness hypothesis comes from books I’ve read, though I have cited a few. But after all, we’re only discussing “ironic science” anyway, to use a phrase coined by John Horgan. All in good philosophical fun.

    So, it’s your turn BJ. For weeks you have evaded providing any proof of something you claim has been scientifically proven. Where’s your scientific evidence for your ironic hypothesis? You also made a statement to the effect that any definition of god, theistic or deistic, would contain the seeds of its own destruction (which sounds ironically like biblical prophecy). JMB gave an example of his belief of god as creator. Let’s go one step further and assume god the creator merely set up the big bang and left all the rest to “nature”. How does one disprove the hypothesis of a non-interventionist creator god?

  70. wales says:

    Oh the moderator gods, they are interventional beings! Let us bow down before them and perhaps they will relent.

  71. wales says:

    Ah yes, mea culpa, I’m becoming very lazy at searching for web citations for you. Most of the support for the consciousness hypothesis comes from books I’ve read, though I have cited a few. But after all, we’re only discussing “ironic science” anyway, to use a phrase coined by John Horgan. All in good philosophical fun, right?

    So, it’s your turn BJ. For weeks you have evaded providing any proof of something you claim has been scientifically proven. Where’s your scientific evidence for your ironic hypothesis? You also made a statement to the effect that any definition of god, theistic or deistic, would contain the seeds of its own destruction (which sounds ironically like biblical prophecy). JMB gave an example of his belief of god as creator. Let’s go one step further and assume god the creator merely set up the big bang and left all the rest to “nature”. How does one disprove the hypothesis of a non-interventionist creator god?

  72. JMB says:

    BillyJoe,

    The following quote from the paper,

    http://arxiv.org/ftp/physics/papers/0312/0312115.pdf

    “The results of this experiment were precisely at chance…It was concluded that the experiment does not provide support for the hypothesis that it is the interaction with consciousness that causes the wave packet to collapse.”

    comes from the discussion of the preceding Hall experiment and the conclusion from the previous experiment. That quote was the statement of Hall’s conclusion and is included under the header,
    “1.2 Hall’s experiment” (introduction)
    not the header,
    “5 Discussion”.

    Under the header, “5. Discussion”, the following statement can be considered the conclusion of the current author’s (Bierman) experiment,
    “The results of these experiments do support a solution of the measurement problem that gives a special status for conscious observation in the measurement process.”

    The author of the current experiment “improved” Hall’s experimental design to fix some of the discussed weaknesses in the previous experimental design. One of the reported weaknesses was that the second observer’s response depended on the second observer becoming conscious of the quantum event, thereby causing collapse of the wavefunction. Since the intent was to measure the effect of the consciousness of the first observer, the measurement would have to be obtained before the second observer consciousness could also cause collapse of the wave function. That is the meaning of the quote,
    “rather than using the observers conscious response as the dependent variable, we use the early brain responses as measured by EEG. These early responses cover a period where the observer is not yet conscious of the quantum event.” The experimenter wanted only the consciousness of the first observer to have an effect on the wavefunction collapse.

    Perhaps we should agree to discuss this on some physics forum, if the discussion really needs to continue. But we might end up looking like Th1Th2 to them.

  73. wales says:

    JMB: I like your suggestion to take this to a physics forum. I sometimes follow this one, and here they are discussing what causes collapse of the wave function. Some think it’s best to just shut up and calculate and not interpret “meaning” to physics, others not so much. They seem to be receptive and friendly to neophytes, as long we they announce themselves as such.

    http://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=244597&page=4

    If you’re interested in Henry Stapp’s papers, here’s a link

    http://www-physics.lbl.gov/~stapp/stappfiles.html

  74. wales says:

    JMB: If you’re still reading, this is a very thorough examination of the Copenhagen Interpretation, including Stapp’s correspondence with Heisenberg.

    http://www.physics.princeton.edu/~mcdonald/examples/QM/stapp_ajp_40_1098_72.pdf

  75. wales says:

    I fear Billy Joe has nothing to say, no proof to offer. I’ve thought long and hard about which book I would recommend to Billy Joe that might give him some insight as to how and why some scientists and non-scientists can believe in something other than scientific materialism. Bernard d’Espagnat’s “On Physics and Philosophy” is the most comprehensive explanation of the strangeness of quantum theory and its implications that I have read. He also gives a clear explanation of why most working physicists shy away from discussing (at least publicly) the implications of quantum mechanics for our concept of reality. It is a long book, but it is well written for educated laypersons.

    Thanks to sbm for tolerating the long digression from the topic here.

  76. JMB says:

    @wales,
    Thanks for the references. I’m still trying to work through them. I’ll probably just watch for any more discussion in the Physics Forum.

  77. BillyJoe says:

    wales,

    “How does one disprove the hypothesis of a non-interventionist creator god?”

    You must have missed where I said that, for the sake of argument, I am happy to accept that the non interventionist deistic god is nondisprovable.

    But consider:

    - a god whose absence is no different from his presence is a god not worth entertaining.

    - as someone once said, “a claim made without evidence can be dismissed without evidence”

    - existence of such a god does not say anything about the existence or non existence of an afterlife.

    - simplicity is explained by complexity which is the reverse of a scientific explanation.

    - such a god has no explanation and cannot have an explanation.

    - such a god is indistinguishable from a technologically advanced alien which begs the question of where did the alien come from. Ditto god.

  78. BillyJoe says:

    JMB,

    “Since the intent was to measure the effect of the consciousness of the first observer, the measurement would have to be obtained before the second observer consciousness could also cause collapse of the wave function. That is the meaning of the quote”

    I understand what you are saying and I agree. :)

    However, I was confident that wales did not and, of course, he did not as his subsequent post shows. I think it’s disingenuous to link to a paper that you don’t understand and probably haven’t actually read – except perhaps for the heading and conclusion – and expect someone else to plough through the details to criticise it.

    The actual criticism of the paper is more along the lines of criticism of any research that sees significance in anomalies. It’s about as useless as the PEARS research that purported to show that consciousness has an effect of random number generators. We are talking here about effects that just reach statistical evidence and that, if repeated, might show the reverse, who knows, and who cares. It’s just noise.

    Even homoeopathy will show an apparent effect about 4% of the time.

  79. wales says:

    BJ: Nice list of opinions. I read that paper a few years ago. Too lazy to re-read it for your sake. Try some of the books I cited. Takes a little more effort though, huh?

    Where are your papers by the way?

  80. wales says:

    The point of citing that paper was, if you read through the comments again, is that there are scientists studying the possibility of a consciousness/quantum link. You had made a sweeping statement that there is “no science whatsoever” behind the hypothesis/theory. I have made no claims to be “right” about any of this, merely shown that there are physicists who take it seriously. My stance is that, like the god hypothesis, it will never be proven/disproven.

    You however have made a statement that god has been scientifically disproven. You now concede that a creator god cannot be disproven, though your opinion is that such a concept is worthless. So for the “sake of argument” as you say, why don’t you divulge your “scientific proof” that any other type of god does not exist? Be specific now, opinions are merely opinions.

  81. wales triumphing over BillyJoe:
    “You now concede that a creator god cannot be disproven, though your opinion is that such a concept is worthless.”

    BillyJoe has said this over and over from the beginning. This is not a last-minute attempt to escape when cornered. You appear not to be a careful reader.

  82. wales says:

    I probably am becoming a sloppy reader of BJ’s entries, they are so repetitive. But Alison you need to sharpen up your reading skills as well. Billy Joe did not concede the impossibility of disproving a creator god until three days ago. What he has been saying, “over and over again” is that by all definitions god has been scientifically disproven.

    BJ stated god was proven non-existent on April 20 and 23. On May 8 he went so far as to say that any definition of god has been disproven. “And, as I have hinted before, the specific and detailed definition of your chosen “god” will contain the seeds of its own destruction.”

    It wasn’t until May 12 that he conceded a creator god could not be disproven. I keep asking the same question, for proof of BJ’s statement that “I’m sorry, but god, in any meaningful sense of that word, has been disproven. This is not a delusion. It is a scientific and logical fact.” Of course if we acknowledge that the word “meaningful” is completely subjective, BJ can still wiggle out of his statement.

    BJ keeps moving the goal posts. So I am moving along with him, looking forward to his “scientific proof” that a personal god does not exist. (Peer reviewed journals please.)

  83. wales says:

    Also, on the use of “meaningful” BJ seems be saying that a creator god cannot be “meaningful” in any way to anyone. I think that is a mistaken assumption.

    By the way Alison, you have a strange idea about “triumphing” in this discussion. It is not about who is right or wrong, it will most likely never be proven/disproven that a spiritual reality exists. The reason for my insistence in this discussion is that BJ seems to think that something unprovable has been disproven, in other words, that he is right and those who differ with him are wrong. My point all along has been that there is no proof of right or wrong in this matter.

  84. BillyJoe on the non-interventionist creator god:

    http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=4792&cpage=3#comment-50034

    Science and logic has shown that the only tenable god is the non-interventionist deist god, and logic tells us that such a god is unnecessary. It replaces one unanswered “how” question: “How did something arise from nothing?” with another unanswered “how” question: “How did the deist god come to be?”

    That was April 25th. I believe he has made this point in other, earlier threads as well.

  85. wales says:

    I see your point. I skimmed that long post as it wasn’t addressed to me. But it still doesn’t jibe with BJ’s claim on May 8 that any specific definition of god is disprovable. So BJ conceded prior to three days ago that a creator god is tenable, yet he subsequently made a statement that ANY definition of god carried the seeds of its own destruction. I guess we were all supposed to have remembered his qualification from last month, assuming we read that post.

    What about scientific disproof of other definitions of god, a personal one for example? Still haven’t seen any proof of that.

  86. BillyJoe says:

    wales,

    On the other hand, I’m still waiting for the link to an experiment in quantum physics that demonstrates that consciousness can alter the outcome. This would only be the starting point of course. Because, what most proponents of quantum comsciousness claim is that consciousness is an essential element in wave collapse.

    You are right that I have not read their books. Give me a reason to do so because, as it stands now, it seems it would be a complete waste of time and effort. I have read articles from proponents of that point of view and have found the question not worthy of further exploration. There are only so many hours in a day. I’m not going to read a book on energy medicine either.

    For me, quantum consciousness has all the hallmarks of pseudoscience. Prove me wrong. Find that one experiment that proves that consciousness can effect the outcome. Results that just reach statistical significance do not count I’m afraid. In a hundred throws, I can throw seven or eight heads in a row. That does not mean I am psychic.

    “What about scientific disproof of other definitions of god, a personal one for example?”

    You are asking me to write a book.

    The disproof of god is not a simple one, but I have sketched the outline of such a disproof before. Maybe you missed it. The actuall full disproof with all the evidence presented would take an entire book if not several books. An analogy is evolution. I cannot write down the full proof of evolution but I could give an outline of what such a proof would look like.

    But, consider this, it took only one line of evidence for Darwin to come up with his evolutionary idea, which then took over twenty years to flesh out and another century and half for many others from many different fields of science to establish as scientific fact.

    So, whilst you’re asking me to write a book about god, all I’m asking you to do is to provide that one piece of evidence that would convince me to take quantum. consciousness seriously.

  87. wales says:

    “You are asking me to write a book” The complexity you claim is required to disprove a spiritual reality can also be claimed in defense of proving such. Besides, books have already been written, but they boil down to opinion, not fact.

    Max Born said “The belief that there is only one truth and that oneself is in possession of it, seems to me the deepest root of all that is evil in the world.” Max Born, from Natural Philosophy of Cause and Chance, 1964

    And Born said this of his good friend Einstein “he had no belief in the Church, but did not think that religious faith was a sign of stupidity, nor unbelief a sign of intelligence.”

    I do not ask you to write a book, I ask for honest acknowledgment that your opinions about metaphysical matters are opinions, not scientific fact.

  88. wales says:

    To clarify, as I have said before, proof of evolutionary theory doesn’t disprove a spiritual reality. It only disproves a particularly literal interpretation of certain religious texts.

  89. weing says:

    “It is not about who is right or wrong, it will most likely never be proven/disproven that a spiritual reality exists.”

    I disagree. This will be proven one way or the other. After crossing over the event horizon, ie, death.

  90. wales says:

    Weing you are correct, unfortunately those who cross the event horizon don’t seem to be able to reliably communicate their findings to the rest of us (at least not in a scientifically provable manner).

    Again, my point in pursuing this conversation is that I believe science cannot answer all the important questions. Like Max Born, I believe that “There are metaphysical problems, which cannot be disposed of by declaring them meaningless. For, as I have repeatedly said, they are “beyond physics” indeed and demand an act of faith. We have to accept this fact to be honest. There are two objectionable types of believers: those who believe the incredible and those who believe that “belief” must be discarded and replaced by “the scientific method.”

    The two types of believers, the religious fundamentalists and the militant atheists, have something in common here. They both have what I consider to be facile and over-simplistic answers to what are metaphysical questions.

    I also like what Born says about physics and philosophy ““I am now convinced that theoretical physics is actually philosophy. It has revolutionized fundamental concepts, e.g., abut space and time (relativity), about causality (quantum theory), and about substance and matter (atomistics). It has taught us new methods of thinking (complimentarity), which are applicable far beyond physics.”

    And about the limitations of the scientific point of view “It is true that many scientists are not philosophically minded and have hitherto shown much skill and ingenuity but little wisdom. “

  91. BillyJoe says:

    wales,

    “I do not ask you to write a book, I ask for honest acknowledgment that your opinions about metaphysical matters are opinions, not scientific fact.”

    They are based on scientific fact, just like evolution is based on scientific fact. Same process.
    So, it comes down to this: do you go with the scientific facts derived through the scientific method or do you go with intuition and what you would like to be true.

    “proof of evolutionary theory doesn’t disprove a spiritual reality”

    It’s one cog in the machine that powers a steamroller.

    “I disagree. This will be proven one way or the other. After crossing over the event horizon, ie, death.”

    That is called begging the question. ;)

  92. wales says:

    “do you go with intuition and what you would like to be true.” This describes your extrapolation of scientific fact into metaphysical conjecture.

  93. BillyJoe says:

    wales,

    “There are metaphysical problems, which cannot be disposed of by declaring them meaningless. For, as I have repeatedly said, they are “beyond physics”

    Go ahead knock yourself out, but if a god is claimed to intervene in nature then that is a scientific claim and amenable to scientific investigation, whether you like it or not.

    “The two types of believers, the religious fundamentalists and the militant atheists, have something in common here. They both have what I consider to be facile and over-simplistic answers to what are metaphysical questions.”

    The truth is rarely somewhere around the midpoint between opposites. Again, whether you like it or not. If the evidence points to one of the extremes, then it points to one of the extremes and that is the fact of the matter. I don’t understand your insistence on the correctness of the average. It’s where the evidence leads that is the correct position.

    “I also like what Born says about physics and philosophy”

    Again, it is not about what you like, but where the evidence leads.

    “I am now convinced that theoretical physics is actually philosophy. It has revolutionized fundamental concepts, e.g., abut space and time (relativity), about causality (quantum theory), and about substance and matter (atomistics). It has taught us new methods of thinking (complimentarity), which are applicable far beyond physics.”

    I don’t understand why you find this nonsense appealing.

    Physics IS the relativity theory and physics IS the quantum theory. Going beyond the physics is philosophy. They are not the same. And this is fine, provided the philosophy is still based on the physics and that you use it to further your scientific inquiry, to show useful paths for science to follow.

    The problem comes when you believe the actual philosophy.

    “And about the limitations of the scientific point of view “It is true that many scientists are not philosophically minded and have hitherto shown much skill and ingenuity but little wisdom.”

    In my opinion, wales, you are far too fond of quoting famous physicists. They are often misquoted or quoted out of context and often the nuance is lost in the quotes. And they are not infallable. Some are long dead and haven’t the advantage of our present state of knowledge.

  94. BillyJoe says:

    “This describes your extrapolation of scientific fact into metaphysical conjecture.”

    I have no interest in metaphysical conjecture.
    The disproof of god is a book. I’m sorry I can’t present it.

  95. wales says:

    “I have no interest in metaphysical conjecture.” Your actions speak louder than your words.

  96. wales says:

    Or should I say, your words speak louder than your claimed intention.

  97. wales says:

    “Some [physicists] are long dead and haven’t the advantage of our present state of knowledge.”

    Actually Born’s comments are from 1964, post-atomic age. As J. Robert Oppenheimer’s doctoral advisor this comment from Born is illuminating: ““The practical applications of science have given us the means of a fuller and richer life, but also the means of destruction and devastation on a vast scale. Wise men would have considered the consequences of their activities before starting on them ; scientists have failed to do so, and only recently have they become conscious of their responsibilities to society.”

    But I get the point BJ, you prefer to read today’s shining stars, not yesterday’s. Stick to your Dawkins, it’s trendier.

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