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Consciousness causes collapse

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Consciousness causes collapse is the claim that observation by a conscious observer is responsible for the wavefunction collapse in quantum mechanics. It is an attempt to solve the Wigner's friend paradox by asserting that collapse occurs at the first "conscious" observer. Supporters assert this is not a revival of substance dualism, since (in a ramification of this view) consciousness and objects are entangled and cannot be considered as separate. Opponents assert that it is unfalsifiable, and that is does not simplify our physical understanding of the universe, and is therefore scientifically uninteresting.

It has been claimed that the theory meshes well with ancient Eastern mysticism and philosophy, including that of Hinduism, Taoism, and Buddhism which includes a belief in the transitory, interconnected nature of all things and the illusion of separation of thought and existence. This is one of the major themes of the book The Dancing Wu Li Masters. It also meshes well with the views of the New Thought movement.


Esse est Percipi ("to be is to be perceived"): The idea of consciousness somehow being related to the creation of reality was first proposed by Bishop Berkeley. With the publication of Die Mathematische Grundlagen der Quantenmechanik, it was Von Neumann however who became the first person to hint that Quantum theory may imply an active role for consciousness in the process of reality creation. Others, such as Walter Heitler, Fritz London, Edmond Bauer, and Eugene Wigner further carried Von Neumann's argument to a claimed logical conclusion that consciousness-created reality is the inevitable outcome of Von Neumann's picture of quantum theory.

There are many variations and differences of opinion on how the collapse becomes involved with functions of the brain and our perception of reality. But among other names that have expressed the belief that a deep connection exists between mind and quantum physics are Henry Stapp, Freeman Dyson, John Carew Eccles, Brian Josephson,[1] David Bohm,[2] Bernard d'Espagnat, and Roger Penrose. Wigner concluded from his own arguments about symmetry in physics that the action of matter upon mind must give rise to, as he put it, a "direct action of mind upon matter".[3] Among the more recent followers one can find Evan Harris Walker, Fred Alan Wolf, William A. Tiller, John Hagelin, Stuart Hameroff, Bernard Baars, David Chalmers, Amit Goswami, Russell Targ, Nick Herbert, Jeffrey M. Schwartz, Menas Kafatos, and the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research Lab in New Jersey. The British Philosopher-Theologian Keith Ward is also a major proponent of this idea.

To say the least, numerous celebrities of science at least at some point or another have hinted to a belief in the existence of some form of connection between contemporary physics and metaphysical concepts related to consciousness, mind, our role as the observer of reality, or a deeper meaning of reality by itself:

"The distress which the reorientation of Quantum Mechanics caused continues to the present day. Basically, physicists have suffered a severe loss: their hold on reality." Bryce DeWitt
"Some physicists would prefer to come back to the idea of an objective real world whose smallest parts exist objectively in the same sense as stones or trees exist independently of whether we observe them. This however is impossible." Werner Heisenberg

This sentiment was similarly echoed by French physicist Bernard d'Espagnat:

"The doctrine that the world is made up of objects whose existence is independent of human consciousness turns out to be in conflict with Quantum Mechanics and with facts established by experiment."[4]

Criteria for consciousnessEdit

Here, the process of "measurement" in quantum mechanics is attributed (directly, indirectly, or even partially) to consciousness itself. However, it is not explained by this theory which animals, living creatures, or objects have consciousness, and thus, the ability to cause the collapse of the wave function ("Can undergraduates collapse the wavefunction?"). It is also not clear whether measuring devices might also be considered conscious, though generally measuring devices are considered simply a "chain of observations" that only ends at a conscious entity. Some even suggest that some beings have a "higher consciousness" and therefore more capability to collapse the wavefunction, whereas others believe all conscious entities have an equal capability. Others believe that "higher consciousness" is inherent in all, but some have tapped into it more fully[How to reference and link to summary or text].

However, regarding the relevance of the theory to animals, some tests have been performed. A study performed by Chester Wildey at the University of Texas at Arlington sought to investigate the Hameroff/Penrose "quantum mind" hypothesis in non-human animals by testing earthworms in 231 trials for presentiment, using skin conductance as a measure. Correlations were reported.[5] Similarly in 2005, physicist Johann Summhammer of Vienna University of Technology proposed that because quantum entanglement is everywhere in nature, it is conceivable that evolution has taken advantage of it.[6]


Most physicists regard this theory as a non-scientific concept, claiming that it is experimentally unfalsifiable, and that it introduces unnecessary elements into physics, rather than simplifying.

See alsoEdit

Notes and ReferencesEdit

  1. Joesphson B.D., Pallikari-Viras F. "Biological Utilisation of quantum non locality", Foundations of Physics, 21, 197-207.
  2. In the Bohmeian interpretation the wave function does not collapse at all. However, to see David Bohm's ideas on how quantum theory suggests the existence of a deeper reality than the one presented by our senses using holographic metaphors and entanglement, see: David Bohm. 1980. Wholeness and the implicate order. London. Routledge Classics.
  3. Wigner E.P. 1967. Symmetries and Reflections. Cambridge MA. MIT Press. p.171-184
  4. Bernard d'Espagnat, Scientific American, Nov. 1979. The Quantum Theory and Reality 158-181
  5. C. Wildey. "Impulse response of Biological Systems." Department of Electrical Engineering. UT-Arlington. Thesis 2001. Also mentioned in: Entangled Minds. Dean Radin. 2006. ISBN-13 978-1-4165-1677-4 p.170.171
  6. Johann Summhammer, "Quantum Cooperation of Insects". Vienna University of Technology. Atominstitut, Stadionallee 2, A–1020 Wien, Austria. Link:

Further links and referencesEdit

Articles and links in support of Quantum ConsciousnessEdit

Articles and links against Quantum ConsciousnessEdit

Related organizations, centers of research, conferences, and further informationEdit

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