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Dr. Quantum “Proves” Existence of Soul!

Dr. Quantum Proves Existence Of Soul 5252185
In his book, The Spiritual Universe: How Quantum Physics Proves the Existence of the Soul, Fred Alan Wolf narrates a story about a wanderer who visits the Buddha and asks if there is a soul; the Buddha remains silent. The wanderer asks if there is no soul; again the Buddha remains silent. After the wanderer leaves, Ananda, the Buddha’s disciple, inquires about the master’s silence. The Buddha replies that if he had answered yes, he would be siding with brahmanas who hold to the eternalist theory, and if he had answered no, he would be siding with those who hold to the annihilationist theory. Then on page 176 of the book Wolf quotes Robert Oppenheimer (when a student asks him about the existence and movement of an electron in an atom) as saying: “If we ask, for instance, whether the position of the electron remains the same, we must say ‘no.’ If we ask whether the electron’s position changes with time, we must say ‘no.’ If we ask whether it is in motion, we must say ‘no.’ If we ask whether it is standing still, we must say ‘no.’  Wolf then concludes that Oppenheimer’s remarks and the Buddha’s answers “point to the same thing. For in both Buddhist logic and QT [quantum theory], it is necessary not to hold any fixed opinion but to see things as they are without mental projections.” J. Robert Oppenheimer is known mostly as the “father of the atomic bomb,” but among physicists, he is known for his great contributions to physics such as the prediction of the collapse of a large star into a black hole. What is less known about him is his strong belief in mysticism and Eastern Thought. His close friend Isidor Rabi said of Oppenheimer “… [he] was overeducated in those fields, which lie outside the scientific tradition, such as his interest in the Hindu religion, which resulted in a feeling of mystery of the universe that surrounded him like a fog. He saw physics clearly, but at the border he tended to feel there was much more of the mysterious and novel than there actually was … [he turned] away from the hard, crude methods of theoretical physics into a mystical realm of broad intuition.” It is this mysticism which turns the naturally mathematical and probabilistic – and therefore indefinite and uncertain – nature of the quantum theory into the kind of mystical answer that you saw above. A physicist, unfettered by spiritualism, would have told the student to “Shut up and calculate [the probabilities]!” as Feynman famously did to one of his students.
On page 224 of the same book, there is a quote from Einstein: “As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.” Wolf takes this profound statement, and through an ambiguous and meandering argument involving order and chaos and the ancient Chinese system of thought and ch’i, connects it to how the soul talks to us! And Wolf is not alone in such twisted disfigurement of great quotes.

In their desperate quest to find a parallelism between modern physics and Eastern mysticism, all New Age gurus have a knack for taking a profound statement and turning it into a mystical balderdash.

But New Age gurus are spiritual people, so they must have found a way of connecting modern physics to spirits. Indeed Wolf has found the connection on pages 124 to 126 of his book! The connection takes us to the beginning of time: “… about 15 billion years ago, … the physical universe was created from nothing. It seems there was a big bang and some time later … the universe will come to an end in a big crunch. … How about the spiritual universe? Did it have a beginning? Will it come to an end? … What about Aristotle’s concept of the soul’s being a physical substance? Is the soul a physical process? Does the universe gush forth soul as it brings forth matter and energy? Does the soul require energy? Or is the soul some form of energy itself?…. If it turns out that the soul is physical, a new vision of the universe may appear – nature not only produces matter and energy from nothing, but also creates soul. But where is the soul? And how could nothing just produce something, anything at all? … Perhaps it’s because nothing is really something after all. … According to quantum theory, a vacuum … is not empty, but consists of a vast amount of positive and negative fluctuating energy. Thus, out of a vacuum can be derived  a number of unusual phenomena, including matter, antimatter, energy, and now, as I suggest, even spirit and soul.” Wolf then goes on to introduce the concept of zero-point energy, quantum vacuum, and the fact that vacuum, in quantum field theory, contains (virtual) particles and antiparticles. All these become a seemingly convincing tool to prove the existence of soul. Let’s see how convincing the argument really is. First, the universe did not come about from nothing. Once you say from nothing, even if you mean vacuum, you are implying that space and time existed before the big bang. It did not!

Big bang not only created matter and energy, but also space and time.

So, the notion of “before big bang,” even if only implied, is wrong! Present physics is incapable of describing the very moment of big bang. So, any statement made about the moment of creation or before it, is pure speculation.

Second, the positive and negative energy that Wolf talks about are all virtual in the context of Feynman diagrams. For example, the photon exchanged between two electrons is virtual. Virtual photons are merely mathematical entities whose pictorial representations are found to be convenient in theoretical calculations. Virtual particles and processes could have observable effects only if they interact with an external field. And this observable effect is not seeing particles and antiparticles or positive and negative energies, but a small perturbation in an existing physical quantity. One such effect, called Lamb shift, resulting from vacuum polarization and its interaction with the Coulomb force between the electron and proton of a hydrogen atom, is measured as a very small contribution to the energy levels of the hydrogen atom. Third,

All the theoretical discussion in the quotation above is only a distraction for the insertion of the last six words. We could replace the words “spirit” and “soul” with any other pair of words, and nobody can tell us that our choice is less appropriate than “spirit” and “soul,” because, ultimately, they are all “suggestions.”

Drq Draft 213x300 4105893One of the crafty tricks of the mystics is to concoct similarities between quotations by famous scientists and Eastern mystics to convince their gullible readers that there is a connection between science and mysticism. Sometimes the scientists’ quotations are genuine, as the philosophical outlook of even the most brilliant physicist could be some kind of mysticism. This philosophical outlook is, however, completely detached from the great contributions they made to physics. Neils Bohr, Werner Heisenberg, Max Born, Wolfgang Pauli, Robert Oppenheimer, John Wheeler, and Brian Josephson are only a few of the more famous physicists with mystical inclinations. And they are notoriously quoted by mystics in their endeavor to find parallelism between modern physics and Eastern mysticism. Fred Alan Wolf received his Ph.D. in physics from UCLA.  After teaching at San Diego State College – now San Diego State University – for several years, he left the academia and decided to spend his time writing popular books on the connection between quantum physics and spirituality, the Yoga of time travel, alchemy of science and spirit, the unity of psyche and physics, shamanism and physics, and the physics of mind-body and health. He has also appeared and reappeared on the Discovery Channel and PBS. He calls himself Dr. Quantum, insinuating an expertise in a field in which hundreds of brilliant physicists, including many Nobel Laureates, from premier universities and research institutes are actively participating. In his book, The Spiritual Universe: How Quantum Physics Proves the Existence of the Soul, Wolf narrates a story about a wanderer who visits the Buddha and asks if there is a soul; the Buddha remains silent. The wanderer asks if there is no soul; again the Buddha remains silent. After the wanderer leaves, Ananda, the Buddha’s disciple, inquires about the master’s silence. The Buddha replies that if he had answered yes, he would be siding with brahmanas who hold to the eternalist theory, and if he had answered no, he would be siding with those who hold to the annihilationist theory. Then on page 176 of the book Wolf quotes Robert Oppenheimer (when a student asks him about the existence and movement of an electron in an atom) as saying: “If we ask, for instance, whether the position of the electron remains the same, we must say ‘no.’ If we ask whether the electron’s position changes with time, we must say ‘no.’ If we ask whether it is in motion, we must say ‘no.’ If we ask whether it is standing still, we must say ‘no.’  Wolf then concludes that Oppenheimer’s remarks and the Buddha’s answers “point to the same thing. For in both Buddhist logic and QT [quantum theory], it is necessary not to hold any fixed opinion but to see things as they are without mental projections.” J. Robert Oppenheimer is known mostly as the “father of the atomic bomb,” but among physicists, he is known for his great contributions to physics such as the prediction of the collapse of a large star into a black hole. What is less known about him is his strong belief in mysticism and Eastern Thought. His close friend Isidor Rabi said of Oppenheimer “… [he] was overeducated in those fields, which lie outside the scientific tradition, such as his interest in the Hindu religion, which resulted in a feeling of mystery of the universe that surrounded him like a fog. He saw physics clearly, but at the border he tended to feel there was much more of the mysterious and novel than there actually was … [he turned] away from the hard, crude methods of theoretical physics into a mystical realm of broad intuition.” It is this mysticism which turns the naturally mathematical and probabilistic – and therefore indefinite and uncertain – nature of the quantum theory into the kind of mystical answer that you saw above. A physicist, unfettered by spiritualism, would have told the student to “Shut up and calculate [the probabilities]!” as Feynman famously did to one of his students. On page 224 of the same book, there is a quote from Einstein: “As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.” Wolf takes this profound statement, and through an ambiguous and meandering argument involving order and chaos and the ancient Chinese system of thought and ch’i, connects it to how the soul talks to us! And Wolf is not alone in such twisted disfigurement of great quotes.

In their desperate quest to find a parallelism between modern physics and Eastern mysticism, all New Age gurus have a knack for taking a profound statement and turning it into a mystical balderdash.

But New Age gurus are spiritual people, so they must have found a way of connecting modern physics to spirits. Indeed Wolf has found the connection on pages 124 to 126 of his book! The connection takes us to the beginning of time: “… about 15 billion years ago, … the physical universe was created from nothing. It seems there was a big bang and some time later … the universe will come to an end in a big crunch. … How about the spiritual universe? Did it have a beginning? Will it come to an end? … What about Aristotle’s concept of the soul’s being a physical substance? Is the soul a physical process? Does the universe gush forth soul as it brings forth matter and energy? Does the soul require energy? Or is the soul some form of energy itself?…. If it turns out that the soul is physical, a new vision of the universe may appear – nature not only produces matter and energy from nothing, but also creates soul. But where is the soul? And how could nothing just produce something, anything at all? … Perhaps it’s because nothing is really something after all. … According to quantum theory, a vacuum … is not empty, but consists of a vast amount of positive and negative fluctuating energy. Thus, out of a vacuum can be derived  a number of unusual phenomena, including matter, antimatter, energy, and now, as I suggest, even spirit and soul.” Wolf then goes on to introduce the concept of zero-point energy, quantum vacuum, and the fact that vacuum, in quantum field theory, contains (virtual) particles and antiparticles. All these become a seemingly convincing tool to prove the existence of soul. Let’s see how convincing the argument really is. First, the universe did not come about from nothing. Once you say from nothing, even if you mean vacuum, you are implying that space and time existed before the big bang. It did not!

Big bang not only created matter and energy, but also space and time.

So, the notion of “before big bang,” even if only implied, is wrong! Present physics is incapable of describing the very moment of big bang. So, any statement made about the moment of creation or before it, is pure speculation. Second, the positive and negative energy that Wolf talks about are all virtual in the context of Feynman diagrams. For example, the photon exchanged between two electrons is virtual. Virtual photons are merely mathematical entities whose pictorial representations are found to be convenient in theoretical calculations. Virtual particles and processes could have observable effects only if they interact with an external field. And this observable effect is not seeing particles and antiparticles or positive and negative energies, but a small perturbation in an existing physical quantity. One such effect, called Lamb shift, resulting from vacuum polarization and its interaction with the Coulomb force between the electron and proton of a hydrogen atom, is measured as a very small contribution to the energy levels of the hydrogen atom. Third, all the theoretical discussion in the quotation above is only a distraction for the insertion of the last six words. We could replace the words “spirit” and “soul” with any other pair of words, and nobody can tell us that our choice is less appropriate than “spirit” and “soul,” because, ultimately, they are all “suggestions.”

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If a listener is hopelessly unfamiliar with the Chinese language, an impersonator can draw some nonsensical lines slightly resembling Chinese characters, utter some nonsensical words remotely sounding like Chinese, and convince the listeners that he/she is reading Chinese poetry from a text. On Wolf’s website are some links to certain articles claiming to affiliate quantum field theory with spirituality. One such article has the catchy title Is the Mind of God Found in Quantum Field Theory? The first thing that catches the eye in the article is a long complicated equation – written no doubt to impress the readers, most of whom are as hopelessly unfamiliar with theoretical physics as the listener of the impersonator above was with Chinese – reminding its readers of the genuine equations they encountered in the books they studied in high school, or browsed in a library. Wolf is telling his readers “Remember how impressed you were by all those equations that you did not understand, but knew that they contained a lot of valuable scientifically proven information? Well, here is another such equation that I have come up with. Even though you don’t understand it, believe it, and have faith in its validity just as you did with the other equations.” However, the equation is taken from a typical quantum field theory book, but slightly modified by Wolf to incorporate nonexistent superluminal particles called tachyons. Of these tachyons Wolf says “I speculate that mind/soul exists as a field embedding itself in space time that communicates with ordinary matter through the intermediary of physical imaginary-mass objects – tachyons. … I speculate that this mind field may be an information field – the tachyonic quantum field – possibly what the ancients called the Akashic record.” The two sentences above start with the word “speculate;” a word which gives the “speculator” the freedom to throw in any arbitrary notion. The quote reads equally well if one replaces “mind/soul” with happiness, anger, desire, wealth, war, peace, politics, or any other word one can come up with. Since they are all speculations, they all lead to equally wrong conclusions! What about tachyons? What exactly are they? The theory of relativity does not allow any observable particle to go faster than light. This theory has been tested on innumerable occasions ever since it was proposed by Einstein in 1905. In fact, every time you use your GPS, you are testing the validity of relativity. In the 1960′s a few physicists speculated some particles that would go faster than light, and they called these particles tachyons. No mainstream physicists took the idea seriously, and the idea has not left the stage of speculation! In fact, real physicists have had to abandon theories which predicted the existence of tachyons. Here is what three prominent string theorists have to say about tachyons:  “In 1974, such dreams were brought down to earth by the fact that even the so-called ‘consistent’ dual models of that day had at least one fault: they all predicted a tachyon.” (Green, M. B., J. H. Schwarz, and E. Witten, Superstring Theory vol. 1, Cambridge University Press, 1987 p. 16) So, as far as real physics is concerned, tachyon is a curse to be avoided. Revolutionary claims – such as Wolf’s finding the mind of God in quantum field theory – demand comparison with revolutionary achievements of the past. When groundbreaking physicists introduce an equation in an article, they, at a minimum, find some specific solution for it, and that solution usually contains a significant prediction. For example, when Maxwell introduced the equations that now bear his name in 1865, he solved them for a specific situation and predicted the existence of electromagnetic waves, which travel at the speed of light. When Einstein wrote down his famous equation in a 1916 paper on the general theory of relativity, he partially solved it and, among other things, predicted the bending of light in strong gravitational fields. When Dirac introduced his equation in 1928, he solved it for a specific case, and predicted the existence of antimatter.

Wolf, does nothing but babble on about the various symbols of his equation. Then, at the end of his article, he expatiates on his speculative hypotheses about mind and soul and Akasha, in complete detachment from the equation with which he began his article!

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