Consciousness Encounters Quantum Physics: A Scientific Argument for Panpsychism

May 5, 2014
author |
Shan Gao
year published |

Consciousness is the most familiar phenomenon. Yet it is the hardest one to explain. Even today, it is still unclear whether and how consciousness emerges from mere matter or whether consciousness is a fundamental property of matter. The crux of the issue is to decide if consciousness has causal efficacies in the physical world, which is not classical but quantum at the deepest level. If consciousness is fundamental as panpsychism holds, then the fundamental consciousness property should take part in the causal chains of the quantum world and should present itself in our investigation of the world. Is consciousness causally efficient in the quantum world then? How to find the quantum physical effects of consciousness if they indeed exist?

This book will propose a promising solution to the hard problem of consciousness by investigating the possible quantum effects of consciousness. Admittedly, it has been a hot topic of debate whether there is a subtle connection between quantum physics and consciousness. Different from the existing speculations, the analysis of the book is based on the well-accepted assumption that quantum processes such as quantum measurements are objective physical processes, independent of the consciousness of observers. To our great surprise, however, this banal assumption may have profound implications for the nature of consciousness. For it implies that a conscious being can distinguish definite perceptions and their quantum superpositions under certain conditions, while a measuring system without consciousness cannot distinguish such quantum states. The existence of this distinct physical effect of consciousness further implies that consciousness is not emergent but a fundamental feature of the universe. This provides a convincing scientific argument for panpsychism.

The main ideas of this book have been published in professional journals such as Minds and Machines, and will soon be introduced in the prestigious Journal of Consciousness Studies. Although the book places priority on the rigor of the scientific arguments, its contents are basically comprehensible to general readers. This little book will appeal to all those who have been looking for a real understanding of the mysterious universe.

Book Excerpt:

Consciousness cannot be accounted for in physical terms. For consciousness is absolutely fundamental.
— Erwin Schrödinger

The stuff of the world is mind-stuff.
— Arthur Eddington

We do not find obvious evidence of life or mind in so-called inert matter…; but if the scientific point of view is correct, we shall ultimately find them, at least in rudimentary form, all through the universe
— J. B. S. Haldane

Mind or something of the nature as mind must exist throughout the entire universe. This is, I believe, the truth.
— Julian Huxley

The laws of physics leave a place for mind in the description of every molecule… In other words, mind is already inherent in every electron, and the processes of human consciousness differ only in degree and not in kind.
— Freeman Dyson

That which we experience as mind… will in a natural way ultimately reach the level of the wavefunction and of the ‘dance’ of the particles. There is no unbridgeable gap or barrier between any of these levels… It is implied that, in some sense, a rudimentary consciousness is present even at the level of particle physics.
— David Bohm