I have yet to see a coherent formulation of naturalism. The Stanford encyclopedia article you refer to on this point, admits it directly : "The term ‘naturalism’ has no very precise meaning in contemporary philosophy." It is remarkable to see that still after quite a long time that a majority of physicists and philosophers who care about metaphysics are trying to defend and develop naturalism, no clear formulation of its actual meaning could even reach a status of notability without being also loaded with big troubles (such as those of Bohmian mechanics); while I would explain the lack of well-known coherent formulation of idealism by the lack of serious tries by competent physicists and philosophers, a gap I care to fill by my essay.Excerpt of my comment to Lee Smolin's essay in the FQXI essay contest which tried to defend naturalism (ifever he has any proper understanding of theoretical physics, he hides it well in his essay which displays an explicitly pro-crackpot ideology full of distortions with respect to the current state of physics ! Would it be a form of social intelligence in a world where obscurantism is so popular ?) :
One thing I was puzzled with when reading some naturalist views, is how they dismiss any idea of considering consciousness as fundamental, by calling this an "explanation by a mystery" and thus no explanation at all. Indeed it may look like this, in the sense that consciousness escapes all mathematical description. So if your condition to call something "non-mysterious" is to have a mathematical, deterministic description of it then indeed consciousness is "mysterious" in this sense. Which does not mean that noting can be said about it (as I did express some important features of consciousness for its connection with physics). However, on their side they claim to explain everything as "Nature". But what the heck do they mean by "nature", and, in lack of a clear definition for this kind of stuff and its working principles, how is an "explanation" of the world by an undefined "nature" assumed to be primary, any less mysterious than the view taking consciousness as primary ?The view I propose, Mind/mathematics dualism, is a rather clearly defined position, because : we naturally have an intuition about the nature of mind, as we are conscious beings; we can also study mathematics and analyze the nature of the mathematical universe. So it makes rather clear sense to specify that consciousness is not mathematical, and to claim that reality is a combination of both. Especially as I precisely described what kind of combination is this, and how it makes quantum physics natural.
I once saw an "argument" that if a miracle is real then by definition it must be part of nature because nature is "all what exists" so that nothing can be meaningfully called "supernatural". Then well, if "all what exists" is the definition of "nature" then it makes naturalism tautological, but no more informative. To be informative we need to specify what kind of stuff is "nature" supposed to be. It seems supposed to mean "physical stuff". Well if we were in the 19th century, and still with General Relativity, it could indeed look like there was such a thing as "physical stuff" that the universe could be made of. However, quantum physics broke that.
Allan Steinhardt wrote :What the heck can I do of that "argument", if not take it as a spectacular demonstration of dumbness, more precisely ignorance of one of the most basic facts of elementary logic : the possibility to prove something by contradiction ? Of course there would be one correct idea that can be found related with his "argument", that is : if consciousness escapes mathematical description then we would be short of ways to precisely express and experimentally verify more details about it, distinguishing one non-mathematical idea from another non-mathematical idea. However this actually is another topic : the topic here is not about distinguishing possible non-mathematical views from each other but about drawing the line between the mere 2 sides : the mathematical vs. the non-mathematical. And this distinction is actually clear.
I hereby present a logical proof that the answer is no
My proof does not require any knowledge of either quantum or consciousness
It requires common sense logic and an understanding of what the word “science” means
- Quantum mechanics is a proper subset of science. This is so obvious that it doesn't require much discussion, and is in fact implicit in the OP question
- Consciousness it not a proper subset of science. We really have no clue whatsoever what makes me “feel” like I am me. I know I am not you and you know you are not me. I can't feel like anyone but me and I can't stop feeling I am me. This is deeply mysterious and has nothing to do with science. How can it? Science assumes things are fungible, every atom has the same property. Consciousness is about the one thing we know of in the universe that is not addressable by science. It is by definition a thingy that is not interchangeable. If you doubt that consciousness is outside science tell me what measurement/experiment would validate one and invalidate another of several opposing theories of consciousness? You can't ! There is no theory of consciousness that can be empirically debunked, not one! And science only deals with debunkable theories!
- It follows immediately irretrievably and irrevocably that science does not prove quantum requires consciousness. Why? Because if A is a proper topic of science and B is outside of science it is nonsense (in the sense of not making sense) to state that scientifically A implies B. You may as well ask if science proves Miranda Lambert is a better singer than Carrie Underwood!
To prove soul by logic, here it goes.followed by the reference to the above linked articles by Marc Séguin and William T. Parsons.
Clarify the concept of “soul” as : something not physical.
Clarify “physical” as : describable by mathematical laws; thus ultimately reducible to a mathematical object. “Mathematical” means fully describable by logic.
So, by these definitions, logic cannot describe the soul if it exists; however it can investigate the opposite view. Therefore, it is possible to look for logical proofs of the soul, in the form of reductio ad absurdum : assume that there is no soul, i.e. the mind is a mere computation, then look for logical consequences, and see how it enters in conflict with a number of things we can know about the nature of mind, about ourselves...
Do we exist ? What means “existing” ? Is “existence” as we know it, reducible to mathematical existence ? What makes things “exist” in a state more than in any other state which is equally conceivable, thus also “mathematically exists” (for example: a universe where I would be walking on Mars) ? Can I know that I already existed 5 minutes ago and really did this or that which I remember, and could I know it under the materialistic hypothesis, according to which all my memory consists of data stored in some material stuff, itself preserved by the virtue of some laws of physics which I have no way to directly verify to exclude the risk that my memory may have been fully re-written 2 minutes ago by some high-tech experimenter ? If a machine produced an exact copy of my body, would it make me exist twice ? Could I then safely die knowing that I would keep existing in the form of the other copy ?
Namely, an important question I would have, is whether "nature" is supposed to be finitely or infinitely complex, or maybe just locally finitely complex, in case it could be considered locally (which you seem to reject as you seem to favor non-locality in interpretations of quantum physics). So for example if it is locally finitely complex but not locally causal then, finally, it is infinitely complex if the universe is infinite (in hope that the dependence of local stuff on the rest of the universe converges). Quantum physics makes the physical world locally finitely complex indeed. I consider consciousness infinitely complex. But if "nature" was physical and infinitely complex, how could it have definite causalities that depend on infinitely complex stuff ? Bohmian mechanics describes things as infinitely complex, but I suspect its laws to diverge when considered in their globality....so that physical laws like those of Bohmian mechanics can harldly be any logically well-defined law at all... but if on the other hand we wished to take the hypthesis of finite complexity seriously (and anyway we come down to it when considering the phenomenon of consciousness as contained in the finite amount of chemical information contained in brains) we would run into troubles as described in
A scientific materialism was indeed conceivable before the discovery of quantum physics. Many physicists had, and still have, a strong faith in that the physical universe is the ultimate reality, so they did everything they could to discover that Physical Reality. The result sounded like this mystical experience of James Huber having this conversation with God :
"I asked if I was speaking with God. I got the answer "Yes".(...) I asked if He existed. He said "No." "
So by force of theory and experiment, physicists finally had an encounter
with Physical Reality, which revealed itself to them in the form of
Quantum Theory. So they asked this Quantum Theory : "Are you the
By its countless experimental verifications, Quantum Theory answered "Yes". So they examined it theoretically, for the question "Do you exist (as a physical reality) ?", and the answer was No.
It can happen for a physicist to change his mind in face of that answer, but many have just too strong metaphysical prejudices to be able to accept this rational evidence that the material things have no nature other than as mathematical structures. Einstein and Bell are among the last dinosaurs of scientific materialism. Some physicists still try to persevere in this tradition in spite of its hopelessness: insofar as they keep pretending that science supports naturalism, they are actually more and more unscientific by their very way of claiming so. Physicalists usually going nuts at the idea of a connection between quantum physics and consciousness, believing that such a view must be irrational, but the fact is that they are usually the ones getting totally irrational when entering the topic, as shown with some examples in the below Review of arguments for physicalism.
However, even if the answer is clear and the evidence is there, it is still a hard answer to swallow. So they have to venture into irrational ways to deny the facts. Which facts, you may ask ? Indeed, it is not exactly clear at first. However, naturalists also play with this lack of clarity of the topic, a lack of clarity which they contribute to feed with their own mess. They love "physical reality" so much that even if this physical reality, when revealing itself in all the amazing light of its mathematical wonders, happens to contradict their belief in her reality, they won't believe her. When they ask her "Do you exist ?" the only answer they can understand and accept is "Yes". As long as they get a "No" answer, they will keep searching for ways to imagine that the answer was not clear yet, and they will keep faithfully prophesying that it is just a matter of insistence to keep studying the equations hard enough so that a "Yes" answer will ultimately be found hiding behind the current "No".
This is the whole project of the research field called "Quantum Foundations": the project of trying to twist the interpretation of the "No" answer of Nature to the question of the fundamental reality of matter, so as to understand it as a "Yes".
But, I'd return the ball : which lack of clarity do you exactly mean to refer to, seriously ? Isn't that just a demonstration of laziness to come and claim that things would really be unclear ? If you think things are unclear, let me help you a little bit with the following:
Theorem. One of the following views is true.
The negation of 1. is all we still need nowadays to confirm the news of the overwhelming success of quantum theory as description of the physical universe. Now for each measurement of a physical system which quantum theory describes as undetermined, we may ask:Now anyone willing to both endorse the scientific quest and reject spiritualism as above defined, would have to develop and defend the plausibility of at least one of these naturalistic interpretations of quantum physics.
Clearly we have:
- Does only one of "possible results" get reality status after measurement ?
- Is the "choice" of which result is going to get this reality status, already fixed before measurement (namely, before decoherence: while the physical system is still in the same kind of "superposed state" from which those possibilities may interfere if the appropriate circumstance are provided, thus, it seems, "showing" their "coexistence") ?
- No-No gives Many-worlds
- Yes-Yes gives Hidden variables
- Yes-No only leaves us the choice between spiritualism and spontaneous collapse.
- No-Yes would not make any logical sense, or would it ?
"The central claim that understanding quantum mechanics requires a conscious observer, which is made made by B. Rosenblum and F. Kuttner in their book "Quantum Enigma: Physics encounters consciousnes", is shown to be based on various misunderstandings and distortions of the foundations of quantum mechanics."Problem : if "metaphysical" questions should be dismissed as illegitimate objects of scientific inquiry, then why is there any physicist working on any issue of interpretation of quantum physics, and getting paid for such works ? If there was no problem in considering things without consciousness, then why is it that no single other interpretation could be found as satisfying for everybody, to such a point that people defending one or another interpretation are often well aware that they cannot do it positively as really satisfying interpretations, but only as what seems relatively not too bad compared to other interpretations ? If the need of consciousness was "demonstrably false", why is he not giving the reference of a genuine refutation instead of just repeating his belief that it would be demonstrably false, like a mantra ?
The question can be asked as to where a particle is located in between observations, but this question is metaphysical, and lies outside the realm of scientific inquiry. The claim that it requires consciousness to make the location of an object an “actuality,” which is repeated like a mantra throughtout QE, is not supported by any evidence, and it is demonstrably false.
"The “facts” that have been demonstrated are correlations"This remark is out of subject to what it claims to reply, that is, the idea of instantaneous effect of an observation on a distant one. If you have any objection to this idea of instantaneous action at distance by observation, then you are excluding Bohmian mechanics as well. Go try arguing with the proponents of Bohmian mechanics that they are wrong for this reason, and see if you can convince them.
"A particle can be localized by an appropriate recording device, a Geiger counter, a photographic plate, etc., independent of any particular hu man observer."Where is the proof that the Many-Worlds interpretation is false ? Isn't he mistaking collapse with decoherence ?
"the different interpretations of quantum mechanics, those that are based on the collapse of the wave function by the mind when this participates in a measurement give rise in some cases to a defense of freedom of will. This idea was proposed by Compton (1935, 1981), von Neumann (1932) and Wigner (1961, 1967) and other authors such as H. P. Stapp (1991, 1993, 1995), L. Bass (1975), W. Heitler (1963), P. J. Marcer (1992), R. Penrose (1994).So, purely emotional reaction to ideas which this person decided to reject by principle, but no beginning of a rational argument here. Of course the fundamental role of consciousness to collapse the wavefunction is logically incompatible with the materialistic assumption that consciousness was the product of the brain function and could not exist outside it, so that it would indeed be ridiculous to keep them both. What is ridiculous here is to keep that materialistic assumption as if it was unquestionable, to pretend that the problem must be coming from the other side of the contradiction.
"Indeterminism is not an absence of causation but the presence of non−deterministic causal processes (...)we
can understand "causality" in a more general sense: causality as "explanation" or "reason"
"contemporary physics has not succeeded in approximating further to acknowledge of an autonomous consciousness that freely governs the body.
We have a baby without mind, it is just a piece of matter. One second later, we have a baby with a mind that can produce the collapse of the wave function in the systems which he observes. Absurd!
The most difficult question to solve is the paradox of the Universe before the existence of any mind.
Further ridiculous ideas were proposed to explain this paradox (e.g., Kafatos & Nadeau 1990) by arguing that some Universal Mind (God?) was present before the existence of life on the earth to collapse the wave functions, but this pantheist solution does not explain why human mind is now responsible of the collapse instead of God ́s Mind. Did He take a holiday after our appearance? Absurd !"
" Therefore, we argue that the kind of experiment proposed and discussed in the present paper, for which the results are completely predictable by the known properties of quantum mechanics, is the only kind of experiment that can be in principle proposed. "Well, no, first because only dumb people could propose this particular experiment as if it had anything to do with the subject at hand, while any reasonable physicist would dismiss it as irrelevant since its expectable results are clear predictions of quantum theory regardless of interpretation ; second, because very different kinds of experiments with different expectable outcomes are possible and even already well-known, so that the ridiculous experiment here might merely be "the only" stupid kind that some pseudoskeptics can figure out as they cannot imagine anything else. Namely, their proud declaration of impossibility to figure out anything else may just correctly qualify their own impossibility in principle to figure out the need to go inform themselves about other kinds of experiments that have already been done, such as those made in parapsychology, which seemed to actually prove the influence of consciousness to collapse the wavefunction.
In your physics site, one detail looks unclear : the meaning of decoherence. You let it seem as if it destroys the superposition. In fact it is only the phenomenon of destruction of the practical measurability of the superposition, and this destruction is progressive (making it harder and harder to reverse until it becomes practically impossible ; and/or progressively reducing the difference of probabilities of measurement results between the cases of superposition and non-superposition). It only reduces the quantum state into a classically probabilistic superposition. It does not actually provide the transition from the coexistence of possibilities to the selection of only one result. (...)
Now reading http://www.argumentsforatheism.com/arguments_atheism_naturalism.
As you can see in my site I do not really agree there. More precisely, the main error I see in your page is in the implicit assumption in this phrase : "...the sort of universe we would expect to observe under current scientific knowledge of the natural laws" The error I see here is in assuming that the known laws of physics are compatible with naturalism. On the contrary, by the arguments I developed about the diverse interpretations of quantum physics, I found quantum physics to be strongly in conflict with naturalism (maybe except if following the many-worlds interpretation). I just wrote a page about this debate:
And in a more sarcastic mode : http://settheory.net/
Hi Sylvain,My reply:
I am probably meddling in things I don't really understand here (as I hope I make clear in my websites, I am not an expert, just an interested bystander). My understanding of decoherence, from all that I have read, is that it is indeed the destruction of the superposition, and not the "destruction of the practical measurability of the superposition". I think if I try to describe it that way in an entry level website like mine, I am just going to confuse other entry level people (as well as myself). I have deliberately tried not to be too pedantic and not to get too far into semantics. I also don't understand what "classically probabilistic superposition" means - that is a contradiction in terms as I understand it - either it is classical or it is probabilistic (i.e. quantum). And finally, I still don't see how the known laws of physics can be incompatible with naturalism, but then I didn't really understand your article either). So, basically I think you are probably operating at a higher level than I am, and I don't understand your objections well enough to make any changes to my own works. Sorry,
You have been misinformed by similarly careless sources, so that you are spreading a false rumor here. Telling things as I said would make it look a slight bit harder to read, with the difference that it would be a correct information instead of a false one. The feeling of clarity which you are now providing by hiding the truth, is a lie. Please inform yourself more carefully and you will see. I'm just now having a look at the wikipedia article about it, and it makes things directly clear in its introduction in the way I told you, thus directly refuting what you claim to understand from "all that (you) have read".
" I have deliberately tried not to be too pedantic and not to get too far into semantics."
It is not a matter of semantics. It is a matter of not spreading false rumors and incorrect information, which concretely results, as I noticed, in proudly declaring scientifically wrong information in guise of arguments for atheism. This is no more any good approximation.
"I also don't understand what "classically probabilistic superposition" means"
Classically probabilistic superposition, is what the Many-worlds interpretation of quantum physics is describing at a macroscopic level : that different possible measurement results keep coexisting in parallel universes, with respective weights.
So you are spreading lies by your inability or refusal to learn about what you are talking about and still refusing to shut up. I have a long experience that religious people, when preaching the Gospel, are continuously doing just that, since they refuse to understand my testimony of what I found wrong with religion, and to stop preaching their harmful Gospel as a result. So I see you are not really different from them.
Inspiringphilosophy and contingency
Refuting "scientific" arguments for free will, Ander Smith
My own other pages on the topic: