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Approaching Consciousness through “Quantum Physics”

How is ‘Quantum Theory’ Related to Consciousness?

Quantum theory – also known as quantum mechanics or quantum physics – is a branch of modern physics. It focuses on the microscopic aspects of “any objects isolated from their surroundings”, like molecules, atoms and their particles (Mastin, 2009). According to this theory, any phenomenon can be explained with the help of observation of waves and atoms. The larger the issue gets, the smaller the effects. So, what does this science has to do with consciousness?

Some claim that it is a bad idea to explain one vaguely-understood phenomenon with another just as vague phenomenon. After all, how can people understand consciousness with the help of a science that is just as mysterious in nature? However, some researchers believe that this phenomenon occurs thanks to quantum mechanics (Ball, 2017). There is reason that this science and consciousness are closely connected. This is because objects in quantum theory can appear in several places simultaneously (Ball, 2017). Hence, there is no reason why consciousness should not follow this rule. This is not the only reason. Ball (2017) explains that there may be molecular structures in the brain that are capable of altering states upon being stimulated by a quantum event. This would suggest that there are microscopic processes in the brain scientists are not well aware of that need to be further studied. Indeed, it does seem to be so; however, there is not enough evidence to support this statement. Ball (2017) explains that the brain contains microtubules – structures that are found in neurons of the human brain and are involved in quantum cognition. It would seem this supports a certain hypothesis, however, it is unlikely. Consciousness is still an unknown phenomenon; people cannot explain adequately what it is about and what its purpose is. Therefore, it is hard to attribute certain quantum theory findings (a science that is just as mysterious) to the phenomenon of consciousness.

Can ‘Quantum Theory’ Help Reveal Aspects of Consciousness?

Nevertheless, the statement that quantum theory may provide with new findings on the molecular level is indeed, a rather interesting one. It is definitely worth a try to attempt to research the nature of consciousness via the microscopic aspects. The brain consists of thousands of neurons that could hold some answers. It is also an organ that scientists do not know much about. There are many findings that remain unknown when it comes to the brain. However, unlike consciousness, people are aware that the brain is a real tangible thing and it is much easier to study it and come to certain conclusions. This is not the case with consciousness. Therefore, it would be beneficial to apply the principle of quantum theory to the brain in order to research it. Quantum mechanics could provide with answers to the unknown parts of the brain, which, in turn, could provide with some clues on what consciousness is. Maybe, after the brain is studied on a microscopic level in more detail, it will provide researchers closer to find answers to the question why.

References:

Ball, P. (2017). The Strange Link Between the Human Mind and Quantum Physics. BBC. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20170215-the-strange-link-between-the-human-mind-and-quantum-physics

—. (2009). Main Topics: Quantum Theory and the Uncertainty Principle. The Physics of the Universe. Retrieved from http://www.physicsoftheuniverse.com/topics_quantum.html 

  1. Gaspar Arachovitis says:

    “According to this theory, any phenomenon can be explained with the help of observation of waves and atoms.”
    – And particles.

    “Some claim that it is a bad idea to explain one vaguely-understood phenomenon with another just as vague phenomenon.”
    -That is a reasonable remark. If our goal though is not to explain but to infuse some “mystery” from the quantum world in something that we don’t understand, using quantum weirdness is the most efficient and most popular way to do it.

    “This is because objects in quantum theory can appear in several places simultaneously (Ball, 2017)”
    – This is a arbitrary statement. It is an assumption based on a specific, popular quantum interpretation which ignores our inability to evaluate the quality/limits of our measurements. In addition to that we have far more interesting interpretations which offer the same predictions and include our ignorance about the quality of our observations as non local hidden variables.

    “Hence, there is no reason why consciousness should not follow this rule. ”
    – You haven’t described the reason WHY consciousness should follow this rules and what exactly this characteristic would explain about this mind property!

    -“Ball (2017) explains that there may be molecular structures in the brain that are capable of altering states upon being stimulated by a quantum event”
    -Sure, its possible that our ability to direct our focused attention and process environmental and organic stimuli could emerge through a quantum-biological step, an evolved mechanism that contributes to this complex biological function. To reduce though a mind property like consciousness to a single quantum “pulse”, is just unscientific. We already observe the need of specific brain module as the minimum requirement for human consciousness to arise. (ARAS.)

    “Consciousness is still an unknown phenomenon; people cannot explain adequately what it is about and what its purpose is.”
    -These argument is fallacious (personal incredulity). In science we have a general definition and an evolutionary hypothesis on the development of this brain property.
    The fact is that conscious states are a great tool for any organism. It helps it attend important stimuli (environmental/organic)and deal with them before they become threatening for his/her
    survival.

    “Therefore, it is hard to attribute certain quantum theory findings (a science that is just as mysterious) to the phenomenon of consciousness.”
    -On the other hand we can attribute many chemical mechanisms as part of this mind property (ex. homeostasis).

    ” It is definitely worth a try to attempt to research the nature of consciousness via the microscopic aspects.”
    – I am not sure that we can declare the nature of conscious states “quantum” just because a mechanism of that scale contributes to the rest of the chemical/biological mechanisms.

    Consciousness was involved by biological structures (brains) to help organism deal with their “molecular” and classical nature of their environment. Chemistry is the core tool in biology and its irrational to assume mind properties in particles. Its a very simplistic approach to this problem.

  2. David Foo says:

    Consciousness is not mysterious if we are open to embrace the details and structure documented in Buddhism. String theory which is essentially a quantum theory is getting close in providing a mathematical description of the Buddhist theory of consciousness.
    https://heart2264.wordpress.com

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