RE: [asa] Quantum Physics and Consciousness

From: Dehler, Bernie <>
Date: Fri Nov 06 2009 - 17:44:22 EST

"George was of course totally unable to explain what made him do it, but of course in doing so he had saved six months worth of work. Nobody's ever been able to explain this, other than invoke coincidence"

It also doesn't take into account all of the negative evidence of people having intuitions of all kinds of things... and being wrong.

Also- about the 911 airplane story... yay, someone was saved! But did someone else get on the plane who was in standby? Oops. It is like the old well told and re-told stories of airplane crashes where everyone is killed but a few. It was a miracle someone could survive from such a severe and violent accident!!! Really... a miracle? The dead ones and their families likely aren't impressed.


-----Original Message-----
From: [] On Behalf Of Iain Strachan
Sent: Friday, November 06, 2009 2:29 PM
To: Ryan Rasmussen, P.E.
Cc:; George Murphy
Subject: Re: [asa] Quantum Physics and Consciousness

This is certainly a fascinating area, which I have been thinking about
recently. I have a Christian friend who has a PhD in high energy
physics, and is one of the brightest mathematicians I know, who
believes (after reading some of Roger Penrose's writings) that there
will in the next few decades be a fundamental paradigm shift in
physics. The current paradigm regards consciousness as an "emergent"
property coming from a sufficiently large neural network, and the
properties of matter as being fundamental. However, some believe that
it may turn round the other way; that consciousness is the fundamental
property (that at the bottom level, the fabric of existence is a
conscious entity), and that the properties of matter are emergent from
this. Atheists certainly don't like this idea - pointing to the
fundamental consciousness as being suspiciously like God; and on the
other hand it doesn't seem to bear much resemblance to the Christian
God, but more in line with Eastern mysticism.

There is one bizarre effect of the idea of Quantum consciousness that
could have interesting theological implications, which is the
possibility that consciousness can be associated with presentiment;
that future events can somehow affect the past. I think there is
something about this in Penrose's book "The Emperor's New Mind", but I
was reminded of it a week or so ago in a TV documentary presented by
Marcus du Sautoy (who is Dawkins's successor as Oxford professor of
public understanding of science). The program investigated the nature
of consciousness by use of various techniques, notably fMRI scanning,
which du Sautoy took part in. One of the experiments involved him
having to make a conscious decision (which of two buttons to press),
while the scientists observed his brain activations. Du Sautoy was
most alarmed at the result, which showed that apparently each time he
made a decision, the patterns of brain activity "predicted" the
decision he would make around six seconds before he made that
conscious decision. He found this most disturbing, as it implied that
his brain had (subconsciously) made the decision a while before he
actually made it, and that in effect he didn't have free will, or any
conscious control over the decision made.

However, on Stuart Hameroff's website there is a report of a study with
even more bizarre, possibly alarming consequences. The basic set-up
was much the same; an fMRI scanner, or other physiological measurement
(skin resistivity), but this time the subjects were not required to
make decisions, but were instead shown pictures on a computer screen
in random order, which were supposed to elicit emotional responses of
different degrees. One set of photos were neutral, one set depicted
extreme violence, and one set were images that were sexual in nature.

Once again, there were physiological changes that preceded the display
of the picture by a few seconds. One might expect there to be some
anticipation of the event if the subject knows roughly when the
picture is displayed ( the sequence was to have a blank screen for a
while to get a "baseline" followed by display of the picture followed
by blank again). However, the surprise was that the strength of the
anticipatory response (prior to the picture) correlated with the
expected emotional response. The change before the picture was
displayed was weakest for the neutral, calm images, stronger for the
violent images, and strongest of all for the sexual images.

The proposed explanation for this was that the collapse of a
wave-function can supposedly throw information backwards in time,
leading to the different responses prior to the event. I don't know
how this can happen, but am aware that the fundamental laws involved
are time-symmetric, and that the "arrow of time" is another big
mystery - why we perceive only a fowards passage of time.

However, that was only the beginning. The same study noted apparently
much longer term presentiments (which is where it gets very
controversial). It cited a story of a woman who was in the queue for
one of the flights that turned out to be one of the 911 hijacked
planes. It described how she was stricken by a violent stomach cramp
while in the queue, forcing her to rush to the toilet, where she
recovered. When she got back to the queue, she had lost her place,
and the flight closed without her getting on. Just one example like
that might well be put down to coincidence, or a lucky escape, but the
paper claimed that many stories like this started to circulate after
911, of people who had decided not to travel that day because of
feelings of unease. It was claimed that all four of the 911 flights
were carrying unusually few passengers (apparently around half the
normal number). Since this occurred to all four flights, it seems
more than coincidence, but I don't know how well-corroborated these
claims are. Another study looked at the number of passengers on
trains that turned out to have crashed, and also found that fewer
passengers than normal were present, in a statistically significant
way (though such studies could be so prone to cherry-picking that one
is naturally inclined to take them with a pinch of salt).

But I can also report several instances of this kind of thing
happening in my own family (on my wife's side). The most remarkable
was an incident that happened to my father-in-law, and one that has
puzzled the family ever since, not least because my father-in-law
wasn't the least bit superstitious, and if you'd told him this story
about someone else, he'd have said "Don't be so stupid!" (one of his
favourite expressions). This is the incident. He worked as a
chartered surveyor for the Oxford council. It occurred the night
before a court case involving rates evaluations for an Oxford college.
 He was the last to leave the office, and they had laid out on the
office floor a large number of surveyors' drawings, representing about
six months of work, ready to take to the court the next day. As he
left the office and was about to get into his car, he was suddenly
overwhelmed with a feeling that he should go back into the office,
pick up the drawings and pile them on the desk. He had no idea why he
should do this (and he also wasn't a strongly religious man - more an
adherent), but the feeling was so strong that he felt compelled to do
it (feeling extremely foolish in the process). He then went home.
Overnight there was a burst water main in the office, and the next day
his astonished colleagues turned up to find the floor under six inches
of water, and the drawings piled up on the desk. George was of course
totally unable to explain what made him do it, but of course in doing
so he had saved six months worth of work.

Nobody's ever been able to explain this, other than invoke coincidence
(or perhaps Divine Intervention - but that opens lots of questions -
why not intervention in something that mattered a lot more - why
didn't everyone have a bad feeling before 911 and not fly instead of
only half of them?)

But if all this Quantum consciousness stuff is true, then there is
approaching a possible scientific explanation for my father-in-law's
experience, but also a possibly disturbing theological implication.
Of course the Bible has many prophecies, which are deemed miraculous
predictions of the future (e.g. Isaiah 53:6, or the surprisingly
accurate description of a crucifixion in Psalm 22). I wonder what
would the the theological implications if there turned out to be a
scientific explanation of these phenomena?



I have to say I cannot report any instances of this kind of bizarre
phenomena occurring to me. The nearest I got to it was when Southgate
missed the penalty in the penalty shoot-out in England vs Germany in
the 1996 European Soccer championships. I was watching with a large
crowd in a pub at the time, who were all chanting "Eng-er-land
Eng-er-land". I kind of had this feeling that Southgate was going to
miss the shot (he did, with a pathetic shot, which subsequently became
notorious - an emblem of England's apparent inability to ever win an
penalty shoot-out), and also at the time, knew the word the crowd in
the pub would be chanting afterwards (beginning with a "W" ...). Both
these "predictions" came true, but I don't think it required much
prophetic foresight to make that prediction!

On Fri, Nov 6, 2009 at 5:45 PM, Ryan Rasmussen, P.E.
<> wrote:
> I have recently stumbled on to a lot of discussions of QP and consciousness
> lately as I have been trying to increase my understanding of QP.  In
> particular, on one of my all-too-frequent rabbit-trails, I was reading up on
> Polkinghorn's influences and was directed to Michael Polanyi and his work on
> transcendence-
> Then with Bernie's claim of there being no real 'soul' it led me into Glenn
> Millers work (which I was already reading because of the OT/NT morals
> argument) and found this
> Can I just say that this stuff is absolutely fascinating??
> What have ASA members found to be some of the favorite/best references
> addressing the combined fields of study?  Anything with particular theistic
> input/relevance?
> Thanks,
> Ryan
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Received on Fri Nov 6 17:44:53 2009

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