Are you listening?
Excellent News About Your Soul
A Tale of 2 Problems
That which we call a soul remains, by any other name that scientists give it, a mystery. For even if they give it another name, they still cannot give it any tangible qualities—nothing to touch or see. So whether philosophers call it “a superseded ontology” or physicists call it “an emergent property” or neuroscientists call it “a single integrated entity with a repertoire of highly differentiated states”, etc., all their abstract and esoteric words are still referring to the same thing: that invisible, untouchable phenomenon summed up in the word you.
“Me?” Yes, you. What are you? Are you just a bag of bones or does someone live inside that body? Is the mind that is using your brain in fact the same thing as your brain and nothing more? That would be, on the face of it and at the root of it, a nonsensical statement—on par with the man who declares that he is a poached egg.
Now, on the one hand, according to a 2019 survey, 75.8 percent of Americans agree with that statement—agree that we are not just our brains but that we also have nonphysical minds (a.k.a. souls).[i] On the other hand, the modern scientific establishment is zealously committed to persuading us that the opposite is true—that our minds are nothing more than gray matter in motion. And yet—and you’re probably not going to believe me until you see it for yourself (I wouldn’t have believed it)—we have overwhelming observable, testable, falsifiable evidence that it is in fact true. The evidence is very subtle—as subtle as starlight—but it is massively confirmed. It’s a gentle whisper, but it very clearly reveals that we are spiritual beings.
What do I mean by subtle? It’s like recognizing that there is more to $100 bill than a piece of paper. After all, even though you cannot see, hear, feel, taste, or smell the value of a $100 bill, you know there is more to it than meets the eye. If you were hungry, it would be pointless to eat it, but you could buy fajitas with it. And if you were cold, it would be worthless to burn it, but you could buy firewood with it. Merchants must simply have faith in what is written on the bill. In fact, in today’s world, we have no choice but to exercise such faith. (Economists call it confidence.) It’s not blind faith in some mysterious symbols but is instead reasoned faith based upon thousands of eyewitness testimonies from people who affirm, “Yes, contrary to your five senses, that piece of paper is valuable.” For the intangible meaning of the words one hundred dollars is just as “real” as the tangible paper on which its printed. (Or just as “real” as the meaning of the word real is “real”.) Although anyone from any country in the world can immediately see, taste, and smell the value of fajitas or see and feel the value of firewood, only someone who can read English and who is familiar with the U.S. economy can comprehend and choose to believe those words.
How do our minds perceive such meaning? That question is literally impossible to answer without concocting vocabulary that is just as abstract as the word soul, for there is more to you than your tangible body. Thus, our ability to use money—to author and use nonphysical meaning—is evidence of our nonphysical nature, a.k.a. our spirituality.
It truly is just that simple. We could define spirit or soul simply as that part of us which is intangible. We may not be able to say what the soul is, but we can say what it is not: it is not flesh. Although it would be easy to speculate on how it likely includes the moral, relational, political, and creative aspects of people, let us set such speculations aside and simply recognize that we have a nonphysical nature. Any understanding beyond that might best be revealed to us by our Creator. Jesus of Nazareth said, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (John 3:6) Many other passages in the Bible teach that our souls are distinct from our bodies.
But to even suggest that such a conclusion could be based on reason—not to mention science—is considered absurd and worthy of scorn by the establishment, which insists that the opposite is true: we are purely physical creatures. Although some scientists will flirt with panpsychism, they still presuppose that the human mind evolved physically, and they scoff at classical notions of spirituality.
Furthermore, to declare that we are spiritual beings is not just scientifically controversial, but also morally contentious. For example, if scientists presuppose that a preborn child is nothing more than an unenlightened collection of molecules, they can rationalize abortion. Likewise, if they assume that the mind is an organ, then when that organ disagrees with the body’s reproductive organs, they can rationalize gender transformation. But if those same scientists lose the presuppositions of materialism, such rationalizations evaporate.
So, suffice it to say that when it comes to the nature of humanity, the stakes in this debate are incredibly high. They’re in the exosphere.
And yet this debate has less to do with the facts of science than the meaning of words. Denying our spiritual nature leads to such monumental dilemmas that scientists must hide a lot of truth under a cloud of relentlessly esoteric jargon, causing the facts to be lost in translation. For example, that example of a $100 bill illustrates two of the greatest scientific problems in the past hundred years.
THE HARD PROBLEM OF CONSCIOUSNESS
The first problem is what scientists call The Hard Problem of Consciousness: how do we perceive immaterial things like value? As another example, why could another piece of paper—such as a love letter—elicit in us a feeling of joy merely through symbols? Or why would most people fear a letter from auditors at the Internal Revenue Service? The meaning of value, joy, and fear are all intangible things that the 3-lb organs in our skulls have no tangible way of interacting with.
This mystery extends to the very nature of science itself. Why can we comprehend sentences like “one plus one equals two” or “energy equals mass time the speed of light squared” in a way that smartphones, satellites, and supercomputers don’t comprehend them? “The eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility,” wrote Albert Einstein. “The fact that it is comprehensible is a miracle.”[ii]
Calling this ability miraculous is not a statement about what we don’t know but about what we do know. It’s not that we don’t know how our brains could comprehend something intangible. Rather, it’s that we know that our brains cannot comprehend—much less create—things that cannot be seen, heard, felt, tasted, or smelled. Therefore, we must consider the possibility that the minds that are using our brains are just as intangible as are the things we perceive. That is to say that you must be just as immaterial as is love, joy, fear, value, or math.
The problem with that conclusion—the catastrophically hard problem—is that Darwinism cannot accommodate it. For as Dr. Richard Lewontin (1929-2021), former evolutionary biology professor at Harvard University, put it, “It is trivially true that human cognition has evolved.”[iii] Therefore, cognition cannot be miraculous or supernatural, for our conscious minds must be physical things…even like fajitas are physical things! “A conscious person is simply food, rearranged,” says MIT Physics Professor Max Tegmark.[iv] Or as Harvard psychology Professor Steven Pinker explained it, “Scientists have exorcised the ghost [i.e., your nonphysical soul] from the machine [i.e. your physical brain].”[v]
But if that is true—if our minds are in fact organs—then Darwinists must also declare that things like love, joy, fear, value, and math are likewise physical (or just not as “real”). As Francis Crick, co-discoverer of the double-helix structure of DNA, put it in 1994, “‘You,’ your joys and your sorrows, your memories and ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules.”[vi]
Why did he put the word you in scare quotes? After years of wrestling with the issues, he realized the utter futility of trying to explain how people could possibly be explained as “food rearranged”. It wasn’t just hard; it was impossible.
So Crick decided to keep the food and lose the people.
That is to say that after spending the last 20 years of his life studying theoretical neuroscience, he finally concluded that we need to erase the very notion of person from our vocabulary altogether. “The view of ourselves as ‘persons’ is just as erroneous as the view that the Sun goes around the Earth,” he said in an interview with The New York Times. ”This sort of language will disappear in a few hundred years.”[vii]
The rest of the establishment has followed Crick on this quest. For example, today the National Institutes for Health presupposes that we are our brains: “The human brain is the source of our thoughts, emotions, perceptions, actions, and memories; it confers on us the abilities that make us human.”[viii] And as for all these seemingly intangible things like love, joy, fear, value, and math? Darwinists bury them under philosophical fog with terms like Platonic Forms, qualia, memes, emergent entities, and ontologies—just to name a few.
“You” are a pregnant state
For example, Christof Koch, former professor of neuroscience at The California Institute of Technology and currently the president and chief scientist of the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle, explained one of the leading theories of consciousness, called Integrated Information Theory (IIT), this way: “To be conscious, then, you need to be a single, integrated entity with a large repertoire of highly differentiated states.”[ix] Although that already sounds quite esoteric and nebulous, Koch is only getting started. He talks of a mysterious “something” that fills the universe—something which he compares to an electric charge. “It is in the air we breathe, the soil we tread on, the bacteria that colonize our intestines, and the brain that enables us to think.”[x]
Koch calls himself a “covert Platonist”.[xi] What’s a covert Platonist? It’s someone who tries to cover all their bases by covertly mixing materialism together with pan-psychism. The result is something not unlike the Force in Star Wars. Koch says this “something” which fills the universe carries “intrinsic causal power,” and yet it is not spiritual in the biblical sense.
Intrinsic causal power is not some airy-fairy ethereal notion but can be precisely evaluated for any system. The more its current state specifies its cause (its input) and its effect (its output), the more causal power it possesses. IIT stipulates that any mechanism with intrinsic power, whose state is laden with its past and pregnant with its future, is conscious.[xii]
So…you’re not a soul (or a fairy); you’re a pregnant state. And that mind-over-matter, free-will power to cause your body to do what you want it to do? It’s intrinsic. Materialists depend heavily on that word. We are just intrinsically, instinctively, innately, naturally conscious.
“You” are an interplay of many processes
Caltech Physics Professor Sean Carroll came to the same conclusion as Koch. He likewise stacks up several layers of abstraction in order to explain away consciousness, calling it “a complex interplay of many processes acting on multiple levels.”[xiii] In his book, The Big Picture, he concluded that we must take consciousness for granted as intrinsic because some complex things “just come into being”:
Consciousness seems to be an intrinsically collective phenomenon, a way of talking about the behavior of complex systems with the capacity for representing themselves and the world within their inner states. Just because it is here full-blown in our contemporary universe doesn’t mean that there was always some trace of it from the very start. Some things just come into being as the universe evolves and entropy and complexity grow: galaxies, planets, organisms, consciousness.[xiv]
What? Just follow the grammar and try to simplify that first sentence: consciousness seems to be a way of talking about the behavior of systems with inner states. In addition to the word intrinsic, there’s also that word state again. Is Carroll’s “inner state” one of Koch’s “highly differentiated states”? Is a state a clump of neurons inside a skull? They don’t say. Carroll calls his worldview Poetic Naturalism.
“You” are a prism…an aspect of matter…a process
Indeed, many Darwinists retreat to poetic metaphors when trying to articulate their worldview. Dr. Alan Jasanoff, a professor of biological engineering and an associate investigator of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT, wrote a book titled The Biological Mind in which he explains scientists’ best understanding of how our bodies become conscious. Yet when it comes to finally articulating what the mind is, what’s the best he can do?
Our brains are not mysterious beacons, glowing with inner radiance against a dark void. Instead, they are organic prisms that refract the light of the universe back into itself.[xv]
You’re not a soul (or a beacon); you’re a prism.
Darwinists are acutely aware that they have no other choice but to say such things. For the alternative to presupposing materialism is nothing less than classical notions of immaterial spirituality. And since evolution evaporates in such light, materialism must be assumed. As linguist Noam Chomsky, Institute Emeritus Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, put it, “Assuming that we’re organic creatures, and not angels, we have certain fixed capacities which yield the range of abilities that we have—but they impose limits as well…[Thought] is an aspect of matter, just as electrical properties are an aspect of matter.”[xvi]
You’re not a soul. You’re an aspect. Notice that, like Koch, Chomsky also compares consciousness to electricity. Many theoreticians try to carry the analogy forward and identify an essential “quantum” of consciousness, just as electricity is essentially electrons moving around.
Now rejecting classical notions of spirituality certainly doesn’t preclude one from embracing religion. Remember, for example, that many of the religious elite who opposed Jesus were devout Jewish teachers, called Sadducees, who passionately argued that there was no afterlife, nor any such things as souls or angels. They were materialists for whom religion was indistinguishable from politics and the aspiration for a moral authority.
Today no one better represents such a stance than Kenneth R. Miller, who is both a devout Catholic and a zealous materialist. A professor of biology at Brown University and coauthor of a major high school biology textbook, he has served as an expert witness in a couple of high-profile court cases arguing that Intelligent Design should not be taught in public schools as an alternative to Darwinism. Instead, Miller insists that scientists must presuppose a materialistic view of humanity. In 2018 he wrote a book titled The Human Instinct in which began his explanation of consciousness this way:
Let’s assume the obvious, which is that human consciousness is a product of the workings of our nervous system as it interacts with the rest of the body and with the outside world. In other words, that consciousness is a physiological function in the broadest possible sense. What that means, of course, is that consciousness, like every other human characteristic, is a product of evolution.[xvii]
The obvious? The only thing that is obvious is that Miller is presupposing materialism because he cannot tolerate the possibility that evolutionary theory could be wrong. Nevertheless, like the others, he inevitably resorts to abstract language to describe the mind: “Consciousness is a process generated by the hugely complex interactions of highly active cells within the brain and associated nervous tissue.”[xviii]
You’re not a soul; you’re a process. Or, as Carroll put it, “a complex interplay of many processes acting on multiple levels”!
These are just a few of many examples of how that which we call a soul remains, by any another name that scientists give it, a mystery. And if this first mystery—this scientific problem—is about what our minds are, the second mystery is about how we use them.
THE MEASUREMENT PROBLEM
This second problem represents what is more generally known as the mind-over-matter mystery. Why can our conscious thoughts cause physical things to happen—whether it is as simple as selling fajitas or as complicated as launching a rocket. By comparison, robots and supercomputers only cause physical things to happen if we program them to cause physical things to happen.
But even if we were open to the possibility that human consciousness is not programmed and is in fact immaterial (i.e. a soul), Darwinists insist that we would still face the exact same problem of explaining how something nonphysical interacts with something physical. How could an immaterial mind ever “push” or manipulate the material neurons in the brain? Isn’t that as nonsensical as asking how the physical brain could use the five senses to perceive something nonphysical? “Whatever we make of the hard problem of consciousness, positing an immaterial soul is of no help at all,” argues Pinker. “For one thing, it tries to solve a mystery with an even bigger mystery.[xix]
And yet quantum physicists discovered the answers to these questions a hundred years ago! They stumbled upon a beautifully plausible and coherent explanation for how an immaterial mind could direct the material brain. As Henry Stapp, a highly published physicist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory who worked with giants like Werner Heisenberg, Wolfgang Pauli, and J.A. Wheeler, put it:
Heisenberg’s discovery was that the process of observation—whereby an observer comes to consciously know the numerical value of a material property of an observed system—cannot be understood within the framework of materialist classical mechanics. A non-classical process is needed. This process does not construct mind out of matter, or reduce mind to matter. Instead, it explains, in mathematical terms, how a person’s immaterial conscious mind interacts with that person’s material brain.[xx]
Although it has become common to talk about quantum mechanics as being incessantly bizarre and virtually impossible to understand, that is only true from a materialistic point of view. But if scientists let go of the presuppositions of materialism, it suddenly makes sense—especially when we consider that The Hard Problem of Consciousness already gives us very good reason to abandon those presuppositions.
So what exactly did Heisenberg and his colleagues discover?
You are a new entity relative to the physical environment
The Measurement Problem specifically refers to the discovery that, in the quantum mechanics laboratory, the simple act of consciously asking a question (i.e., taking a measurement) causes quantum events to happen. Scientists don’t have to do anything other than ask a question. They don’t have to apply any physical force at all. If they ask a question, then they cause different physical results than if they don’t ask a question. That is to say that their questions lead to the creation of answers.
By contrast, if NASA asks, for example, “What percentage of Mars’ crust is iron?”, they can send a robot there to examine the soil and find the answer because the information is just sitting there, like a book on a shelf, available to be read and translated into English (or Chinese, etc.). Not so in the quantum lab: some answers do not exist unless the scientists ask questions.
As Bruce Rosenblum, Professor of Physics, emeritus, at the University of California at Santa Cruz, and Fred Kuttner, a Lecturer in the Department of Physics at the UC Santa Cruz, put it, “Observing an atom being at a particular place created its being there? Yes.” Although many Darwinists desperately debate the meaning of such a result, Rosenblum and Kuttner say the result itself is absolutely undisputed and massively confirmed.
Quantum physics does not tell the probability of where an object is, but rather the probability that, if you look, you will observe the object at a particular place. The object has no “actual position” before that position is observed. In quantum mechanics the position of an object is not independent of its observation at that position. The observed cannot be separated from the observer.[xxi]
Once again, as with The Hard Problem of Consciousness, the original and most elementary understanding of these results was that our conscious minds must be just as immaterial as is the information (the measurement data) that they perceive. As physicists John von Neumann explained it in 1932 in one of the first quantum mechanics textbook—whose teaching is still orthodox—the mind of a scientist taking a measurement in the quantum lab must be a nonphysical entity.
First, it is inherently entirely correct that the measurement or the related process of the subjective perception is a new entity relative to the physical environment and is not reducible to the latter. Indeed, subjective perception leads us into the intellectual inner life of the individual, which is extra-observational by its very nature (since it must be taken for granted by any conceivable observation or experiment).[xxii]
That was a bizarre conclusion—a gargantuan paradigm shift to this day. Yet it was the most straightforward view of the facts. Although materialists might be able to give a dozen reasons why it should not be true, they still cannot give a single reason why it is not true.
Now paradigm shifts are often counter-intuitive. For example, imagine trying to explain heliocentrism to a tenth-century farmer. Similarly, the Big Bang sounded preposterous at first. How in the world could everything come from nothing?! Astrophysicist Fred Hoyle, an atheist at the time, first used the term “Big Bang” derisively because the theory sounded to him like blind-faith creationism. Yet today we simply accept it as the way the universe most likely began.
So also here, this explanation of The Measurement Problem seems incredibly outrageous. For a century, the brightest minds on the planet have tried to figure out a way around it, yet the mystery has only gone fathoms deeper.
Words precede everything
Soon after they confirmed the above results, Heisenberg, von Neumann, Einstein, and their colleagues discovered another mystery: rational, creative words precede everything. That is to say that just as any piece of technology is preceded by a plan, and any government is preceded by a list of agreements, and any game is preceded by a list of rules, and any building is preceded by a blueprint, and any organism is preceded by a genetic “blueprint”, so also every single quantum particle in the cosmos is preceded by rational (immaterial) words—by a breathtaking mathematical process called the wave function. In 1989 physicist John Archibald Wheeler (1911-2008) famously coined the phrase “it from bit” to explain how words precede particles.
Again, when scientists consciously pose a question in the laboratory, the answer instantly materializes. No machine and no other species can cause it to happen—only humans. As Eugene Wigner (1902-1995), a Hungarian-American theoretical physicist who received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1963, put it, “It follows that the being with a consciousness must have a different role in quantum mechanics than the inanimate measuring device.”[xxiii]
Does the modern scientific establishment disagree with this conclusion? They don’t deny that it was, and still is, the most straightforward interpretation of the facts. Nevertheless, that interpretation is unacceptable, according to Philip Ball, an editor for the journal Nature and a columnist for Chemistry World, because it “seems to demand that we attribute to the mind some feature distinct from the rest of reality: to make the mind a non-physical entity.” He goes on: “Perhaps most problematically of all, if [a quantum event] depends on the intervention of a conscious being, what happened before intelligent life evolved on our planet?”[xxiv]
In other words, not only does this original interpretation of quantum mechanics demand that a scientist’s conscious mind be “a non-physical entity” (a.k.a. a soul), but it also requires the intervention of a conscious being (a.k.a. God) in natural history. So it’s not that Ball, Pinker, Lewontin, and others ever had a problem with the science itself. They just cannot accept the conclusions it points to. It changes everything. To say the least, if they were to acknowledge the immaterial nature of our minds, Darwinism would immediately evaporate.
Suffice it to say that the stakes for this debate getting higher. They’re in the heliosphere.
Is their refusal to acknowledge scientific evidence of spirituality really that blatant? Why does the establishment cling so zealously to materialism when they know not only that materialism is false but also that a spiritual explanation makes sense of the facts? As Stapp put it:
It is exactly this problem of the connection between physically described small-scale properties and directly experienced large-scale properties that orthodox quantum theory successfully resolves. To ignore this solution, and cling to the false precepts of classical mechanics that leave mind and consciousness completely out of the causal loop, seems to be totally irrational. What fascination with the weird and the incredible impels philosophers to adhere, on the one hand, to a known-to-be-false physical theory that implies that all of our experiences of our thoughts influencing our actions are illusions, and to reject, on the other hand, the offerings of its successor, which naturally produces an image of ourselves that is fully concordant with our normal intuitions, and can explain how bodily behavior can be influenced by felt evaluations that emerge from an aspect of reality that is not adequately conceptualized in terms of the mechanistic notion of bouncing billiard balls?[xxv]
If the evidence is as overwhelming as Stapp says, why are more people not talking about this? Has there been a conspiracy to suppress the truth about spirituality and God?
Just shut up and calculate
Well, conspiracy or not, there has been a collective drive to ignore the mystery altogether—the mystery about why conscious questions cause quantum events. As spectacular and earth-shaking as it is, The Measurement Problem is very subtle and, unless one listens carefully, easy to miss. So it is also easy to avoid in the classroom As Carroll put it:
What physicists eventually decided was that they didn’t need to know the answer to that question in order to keep doing physics…It turns out you don’t really need to know what’s going on at the fundamental level. So this idea of understanding the measurement problem in quantum mechanics became somewhat disreputable. Thinking about that wasn’t what you were supposed to do.[xxvi]
Nobel Laureate Steven Weinberg (1933-1921), a former professor of physics at Harvard University and The University of Texas, said that he ignored the mystery for decades. “Like most physicists, I have generally been content in my past work to use quantum mechanics without much worry about such controversies.”[xxvii] But towards the end of his career, when in 2012 he was writing a textbook, Weinberg, a devout atheist, was compelled to grapple with the issue.
What then must be done about the shortcomings of quantum mechanics? One reasonable response is contained in the legendary advice to inquiring students: ‘Shut up and calculate!’ There is no argument about how to use quantum mechanics, only how to describe what it means, so perhaps the problem is merely one of words.[xxviii]
Reasonable response? That is a common refrain. “Most users don’t worry too much about these puzzles,” writes Ball. “In the words of the physicist David Mermin of Cornell University, they ‘shut up and calculate’.”[xxix]
That hasn’t been a difficult message to give students. Since the establishment has already indoctrinated them about the materialistic nature of consciousness, it has been that much easier to confound them regarding the enigma of quantum mechanics. They don’t just bury it under a fog of pathologically abstract lingo about emergent entities and superseded ontologies, but also under extremely intimidating mathematical projections. It is easy—as easy as getting a F in physics—to get completely lost in the “it from bit” discussion.
That’s not to say that many scientists, acutely aware of the threat to materialism (what Weinberg called “the shortcomings of quantum mechanics”), have not tried to find an alternative interpretation. Today there are a couple dozen competing theories—including some that try to explain how quantum events create materialistic consciousness—but none of them have come close to displacing the original understanding, which is called the Copenhagen Interpretation because it was largely outlined by German physicist Werner Heisenberg and Danish physicist Niels Bohr at the Niels Bohr Institute for Theoretical Physics at the University of Copenhagen in the 1920s. Many other physicists, including Albert Einstein, von Neumann, Max Born, and Erwin Shrödinger, contributed to the work. And to be sure, they argued about what in the world it all meant. But at the end of the day, the implication that the observer/measurer is extra-physical—that implication was unavoidable.
Nevertheless, as they moved forward, they did their best to avoid it. The Copenhagen Interpretation does an excellent job of explaining how quantum mechanics works while sidestepping the questions about what it all means. Today, although Copenhagen is still orthodox, the zealous drive to squelch the mystery behind it has proven so effective that by the time graduate students learn how to use quantum mechanics, they have also learned not to wonder how an it could come from a bit. For example, listen to Rosenblum as he tells of meeting with Einstein in the 1950’s.
Einstein soon asked about our quantum mechanics course. He approved of our professor’s choice of David Bohm’s book as the text, and he asked how we liked Bohm’s treatment of the strangeness quantum theory implied. We couldn’t answer. We’d been told to skip that part of the book and concentrate on the section titled “The Mathematical Formulation of the Theory.” Einstein persisted in exploring our thoughts about what the theory really meant. But the issues that concerned him were unfamiliar to us. Our quantum physics courses focused on the use of the theory, not its meaning. Our response to his probing disappointed Einstein, and that part of our conversation ended.[xxx]
Since then, the drive to hide the mystery has only gotten stronger. “It is also not well known,” says Stephen M. Barr, professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Delaware, “even among most practicing physicists.”[xxxi]
Einstein would have been appalled. As Ball put it:
How different this is from the attitude of Albert Einstein, Niels Bohr and their contemporaries, for whom grappling with the apparent oddness of the theory became almost an obsession. For them, the meaning mattered intensely. In 1998 the American physicist John Wheeler, a pioneer of modern quantum theory, lamented the loss of the ‘desperate puzzlement’ that was in the air in the 1930s. ‘I want to recapture that feeling for all, even if it is my last act on Earth’, Wheeler said.[xxxii]
No, the establishment said, just shut up and calculate.
THE REAL PROBLEM: THE PRESUPPOSITIONS OF MATERIALISM
Why does the modern scientific establishment insist on the presuppositions of materialism even though those presuppositions sabotage students’ ability to think analytically about both The Hard Problem of Consciousness and The Measurement Problem?
Because they cannot tolerate even the possibility that life has a divine Author. As Lewontin (who was a passionate Marxist) put it:
It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.[xxxiii]
Just as Ball said the need for “a conscious being” behind nature was most problematic, notice the dichotomy Lewontin points to here: either materialism is true, or God exists. This debate is not about the facts of science, but rather about religious beliefs.
Now I’m not a scientist, but I do have some experience with words and with the rhetorical gymnastics people will use to suppress the truth. I once had a stack of death threats—a couple of them ransom-note style—from Neo-Nazis because my newspaper was fighting to prevent them from publishing holocaust revisionism. They wanted to bury the historical facts under a bunch of rhetorical fog when, from 1991-92, I served as editor of The Daily Texan, the student paper at The University of Texas at Austin. For months we had armed guards in our offices and network news cameras at our publishing board meetings because these guys wanted to sell lies.
Now the original purveyors of holocaust revisionism knew that they were lying. However, today millions of people—especially in the Middle East—truly believe that the holocaust is a hoax perpetuated by the Allies, the Zionists, the Soviet Union, or all three.
Similarly, many people today simply accept materialism to be true and have no idea about the massive amount of evidence for spirituality, nor about why the scientific establishment cling’s so desperately to its presuppositions.
In 2008, when I served as a chaplain at Princeton University for a Christian ministry called Cru, and as associate editor for Cru’s faculty ministry website, I challenged atheist philosopher Daniel Dennett, professor of philosophy and co-director of the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts University, to come debate us on the question, “Is this really a material world?” I told him that we did not want to debate the facts of science because we could agree—at least for the sake of argument—on all the facts. Instead, we wanted to challenge the presuppositions of materialism. In response, Dennett cut to the chase—to the dichotomy—by saying, not that he didn’t want to debate about materialism, but that he didn’t want to debate about God: “Thanks, and nice try, but no thanks. I have too many unfinished projects nearer to my heart than debating about God.”
Indeed, materialism cannot be defended. It can only be preached. As Eric Metaxas put it:
Limiting reality to the material is arbitrary and illogical. In fact it is perfectly unscientific. It is also silly, as though a baker were to announce that anything that cannot be baked is not food. It’s utterly subjective, and like all perfect subjectivity, it is meaningless.[xxxiv]
Nevertheless, just as four centuries ago many of the academic elite would not tolerate heliocentrism because it violated their presuppositions, so also today they will not tolerate talk of an immaterial reality because it violates their presuppositions.
But if materialism—the absence of anything nonphysical in the world—can only be presupposed, what about the alternative? If someone wants to believe in the presence of nonphysical stuff, do they also have to do that with blind faith presuppositions? No.
THE EXCELLENT NEWS
The immaterial nature of some things is an objective, testable, falsifiable fact. Furthermore, if we let go of the presuppositions of materialism, suddenly both The Hard Problem of Consciousness and The Measurement Problem are not problems at all. Instead, they are revelations of our spiritual nature. For, as we will see, to the extent that we know anything at all, to that same extent we know that our minds are not physical.
Now some of what I will show you will indeed be counter-intuitive. It might call for a paradigm shift or two in your view of the world. But what it will not call for is a priori adherence to any religious beliefs. That is to say that we do not need to presuppose the existence of God or of spirituality any more than we need to presuppose the laws of gravity or the rules of grammar. They are self-evident. (You can only pretend to doubt them.) Just as someone could be illiterate and not know the difference between a noun and a verb, and yet still communicate fluently and eloquently, so also someone could know the truth of spirituality without being able to articulate the rational arguments for it.
But here we will explore some of those arguments as we seek to tear down the stronghold of materialism. For although it takes faith to believe in the supernatural, it is not blind faith in mystical revelations. Instead, it is reasoned faith in testable evidence—the same sort of faith it takes to believe the symbols written on a $100 bill.
So, let’s look at words—those thing things that scientists use to ask questions in the laboratory and then use to report answers to the public; those things that neuroscientists can’t even begin to explain how our brains perceive; those bits of meaning that precede all its of matter. Let’s ask some excellent questions about the book of nature. Many want to dictate. Let us instead listen. And listen very carefully.
The stakes are in the cosmological horizon.
[i] David Wisniewski, Robert Deutschländer, and John-Dylan Haynes, “Free Will Beliefs Are Better Predicted by Dualism Than Determinism Beliefs across Different Cultures,” PLOS ONE 14, no. 9 (Sept. 11, 2019): e0221617. Quoted from Sabine Hossenfelder, Existential Physics (New York, NY: Viking, 2022) p. 81.
[iii] Richard Lewontin, “The Evolution of Cognition: Questions We Will Never Answer,” An Invitation to Cognitive Science, Volume 4, edited by Daniel N. Osherson, Don Scarborough, Saul Sternberg (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1998) 108.
[iv] Max Tegmark. Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence. (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2017), 284-285.
[v] Steven Pinker, “The Brain: The Mystery of Consciousness”, Time magazine Vol 169 No 5. January 29, 2007. http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1580394-1,00.html
[vi] Francis Crick, The Astonishing Hypothesis (London: Simon & Schuster, 1994), 3.
[vii] Margaret Wertheim, “SCIENTISTS AT WORK: FRANCIS CRICK AND CHRISTOF KOCH,” New York Times, April 13, 2004, https://www.nytimes.com/2004/04/13/science/scientists-work-francis-crick-christof-koch-after-double-helix-unraveling.html.
[ix] Christof Koch, “A Complex Theory,” in Scientific American: The Secrets of Consciousness, November 18, 2013, (Kindle Locations 1310-1316).
[x] Christof Koch, Consciousness (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2012), 132.
[xi] Christof Koch, Consciousness (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2012), 119.
[xii] Christof Koch, “Proust among the Machines,” Scientific American (December, 2019: Vol. 321 No 6), 49.
[xiii] Sean Carroll, The Big Picture (New York: Dutton, 2016), 310-311.
[xiv] IBID, 357-358.
[xv] Alan Jasanoff, The Biological Mind (New York: Basic Books, 2018), 170.
[xvii] Kenneth R. Miller, The Human Instinct (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2018), 150.
[xviii] IBID, 168.
[xix] Steven Pinker, Enlightenment Now (New York: Penguin Books, 2018), p. 428.)
[xx] Henry Stapp, Quantum Theory and Free Will (Springer International Publishing, 2017), 7.
[xxi] Bruce Rosenblum and, Fred Kuttner, Quantum Enigma. (Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 2011), Kindle Edition, p. 84-85.
[xxii] John von Neumann, Mathematical Foundations of Quantum Mechanics, published 1932, translated from the German edition by Robert T. Beyer in 1949 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1983), 418.
[xxiii] Eugene Wigner, “Remarks on the Mind-Body Question”, Quantum Theory and Measurement John Wheeler and Wojciech Hubert Zurek, editors (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1983), p. 180.
[xxiv] Philip Ball, Beyond Weird (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2018), 118.
[xxv] Henry Stapp, “Minds and Values in the Quantum Universe,” Information and the Nature of Reality, ed. by Paul Davies and Niels Henrik Gregersen (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 108.
[xxvi] Sean Carol Explains: what is the measurement problem in quantum mechanics? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-kxmR82QMN8
[xxvii] Steven Weinberg, Third Thoughts (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2018), 125.
[xxviii] Steven Weinberg, Third Thoughts (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2018), 137.
[xxix] Philip Ball, Beyond Weird: Why everything you thought you knew about quantum physics is different (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2018), 13.
[xxx] Bruce Rosenblum and Fred Kuttner, Quantum Enigma. (Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 2011), Kindle Edition, p. 3.
[xxxi] Stephen M. Barr, Modern Physics and Ancient Faith (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2003), 27-28.
[xxxii] Philip Ball, Beyond Weird: Why everything you thought you knew about quantum physics is different (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2018), 14.
[xxxiii] Richard Lewontin, “Billions and Billions of Demons,” a review of The Demon-Haunted World (by Carl Sagan, 1997), The New York Review of Books, January 9, 1997, 31.
[xxxiv] Eric Metaxas. Is Atheism Dead? (Washington, D.C.: Salem Books, 2021) p. 314, Kindle Edition.
First image (Andromeda with the naked eye) by Sojan Janso from Pixabay Second image (Andromeda with a telescope) by Guillermo Ferla on Unsplash