Unpacking Deepak's quantum God

By Phil Plait | October 5, 2010 7:00 am

I really dislike it when people abuse science to promote antiscientific agendas. One particularly popular violator of science is Deepak Chopra, who routinely spouts nonsense to millions of people. He uses scientific words in his sentences, but in such a way that their meaning is either lost or twisted beyond any real sense.

Skeptic Michael Shermer has written another article blasting Chopra, deservedly, IMO. Chopra routinely abuses quantum mechanics to bolster his claims about mysticism and God. To people unfamiliar with science his claims may sound deep, but in fact to those of us who do grok QM we can see right through the babble. Shermer does a great job showing that all Chopra is doing is rehashing age-old concepts with new terms, saying nothing really new.

Of course, the more you try to pin Deepak down, the more drivel he writes on HuffPo and other piffle purveyors. In that sense, at least, there’s some quantum mechanics at play.


Related posts:

Royal Ontario Museum dip deep(ak)ly into nonsense
Deepak impact
Deepak Chopra redefining wrong
Deepak Chopra followup


CATEGORIZED UNDER: Antiscience

Comments (75)

  1. IVAN3MAN_AT_LARGE

    I can’t post this cartoon here of Deepak Chopra because of a rude word in it, but it is rather appropriate in his case. ;-)

  2. Captn Tommy

    My God!(whomever or whatever you believe) Who cares??

    As long as you don’t try to kill me because my belief is different from yours, I respect your God, be it science, or a stuffed purple bunny, this arguement is fruitless because We DON’T Know. Therefore, if somebody wants to believe something and is an Good Person, that’s all that counts.

    Evil is selfish. Good is Selfless. The God does not matter.

    Think about it
    Captn Tommy

  3. cagan

    both you and michael shermer are not even aware of what you’re talking about.

  4. YES! Thank you for this. I have been complaining about his quantum babbling for years. But it’s amazing how many people fall for it.

  5. Jeremy

    @ 1

    I think the reason Phil (and the rest of skeptics) care, is because we don’t like seeing someone taking ignorance for a money ride. If I sold a book that showed that 2+2 = 5 and it’s proves the existence of god, I would stand to make millions from innocent people who just don’t understand basic math and want some kind of mathematical or scientific proof of a deity. That would be wrong of me, and anyone who knows better SHOULD expose me to help protect people who just don’t understand basic math.

  6. When you are doing measurements, 2 + 2 does equal 5 … for large enough values of 2. So go ahead and write the book.

  7. cagan

    @Jeremy, by its definition, existence of a god can not be proven or disproven. I repeat, it can not be proven or dis-proven (scientifically) . Keeping this in mind, all of the commercial content arguing on god’s existence become a fraud. Therefore, Phil and rest of the skeptics should either stop being hypocrites and let people believe what is sound, or if they really do care about other people’s hard earned money, they should give the same crap to the opposite view too.

  8. shawmutt

    This guy blasts him to tiny bits. The whole debate is worth watching, but this is pure gold http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4WkUL_OKLpI#t=2m31s

  9. Mike

    @3 Jeremy:

    Can you explain why exactly is that wrong? I mean, I think so too, but I find it difficult to present the argument in a way that doesn’t require a-priori definition of right and wrong in this context.

    Incidentally, I hit the same problem recently when talking about complementary medicine and why it’s “wrong” to administer treatments that are only as effective as placebo. From my personal perspective, it would be morally wrong to give a treatment that’s based only on placebo, but I couldn’t quite convincingly explain why it is so if even the placebo treatment has positive effects for a great many people.

  10. Oh, come on, nobody takes the Stuffed Purple Bunny seriously.

    When evaluating a belief system, I tend to focus on whether (or how much) it relies on the ignorance of the believer. Rather than a Good/Evil scale, it’s an Inquiry/Ignorance scale. Chopra’s flapdoodle and the Stuffed Purple Bunny both fall at the Ignorance end of the scale.

  11. Bill McElre

    More proof of smart people coming up with really complicated ways of believing total nonsense. What does it matter? Ignorance is a tragedy. Willfully selling ignorance to others is a crime. Standing by watching it happen is a sin.

  12. I care about exposing frauds and liars. And if you really think turning a blind eye to superstition and ignorance won’t affect you, I have to wonder if you are paying any attention to current events.

  13. noen

    “to those of us who do grok QM we can see right through the babble.”

    Really? You understand QM better than Einstein? Better than Feynman? Do tell. I don’t have to accept Deepak’s nonsense to feel that QM is deeply bizarre. The Copenhagen interpretation really does contain “spooky action at a distance” and that’s just for starters. I am unconvinced that anyone “groks” QM.

    “Shut up and calculate!”

    Jeremy Says:
    “If I sold a book that showed that 2+2 = 5 and it’s proves the existence of god”

    That is in a sense what presuppositionalist apologetics does or tries to do. They can sometimes be quite successful.

  14. “As Deepak Chopra taught us, quantum physics means anything can happen at any time, for no reason.” ~The Professor

    ~Rhaco

  15. cagan

    OMG, Deepak is trying to present a yet another viewpoint, for people to see the big picture and live a better life. We all know that this is not about abuse of science or stealing people’s money. Its simply about atheists’ egoes, which can’t accept something opposing their belief systems. Open up people, if you don’t want to believe in intangible abstract entity, that’s OK, replace the lack of that entity with material possessions and not even be aware of it, that’s OK too, No one is forcing you to believe in some divine entity, because beliefs can’t be changed by force. But as soon as you step out and start shouting “this is fraud god does not exist, you are fools for believing this crap”, you are stepping in a domain which you have no right to step in. And you are no different than a blind person who argues that there’s no spoon simply because he can’t see it.

  16. Jeff

    ” Chopra routinely abuses quantum mechanics to bolster his claims about mysticism and God. To people unfamiliar with science his claims may sound deep, but in fact to those of us who do grok QM we can see right through the babble”

    absolutely correct.

    And really, even physicists do not really understand quantum mechanics, it just works, is consistent with experiment. But why the hey the universe works with probabilistic laws like QM is not understood, and you know my views, arrogant mankind may never understand. Ha Ha, the universe can easily baffle us.

  17. noen

    From the article:
    “The hydrogen atoms in the sun are not sitting around in a cloud of possibilities waiting for a cosmic mind to signal them to fuse into helium atoms and thereby throw off heat generated by nuclear fusion.”

    Well if we leave out the cosmic mind part that is exactly what QM says is the case. Electrons really do only exist as a cloud of possible states and according to QM it is completely wrong to imagine them as very tiny billiard balls orbiting the nucleus. It is NOT the case that we cannot know where in it’s probability cloud the electron “really” is because the act of measurement perturbs it. Rather, it is impossible in principle because the electron really is spread around and indeterminate. That is deeply weird.

  18. Nemesis

    It is estimated that up to 90% of the world’s population believes in god or gods. In my estimate, 90% of the people are inconsiderate or evil (if you don’t believe me, leave 5 minutes late for work or go to the Texas State Fair and walk around for a while and tell me how many people actually acknowledge the presence of other beings).
    So, according to my calculations, at most, 10% of the world’s religious people AREN’T selfish degenerates.
    It seems as though the world has suffered more from religion (unless a small fraction of the 10% of the worlds population who are atheist or agnostic are so manipulative they easily control the rest of the docile world [also not a good sign]), than a lack thereof.

    “For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.”
    Carl Sagan

  19. QuietDesperation

    Really? You understand QM better than Einstein? Better than Feynman?

    This whole thing is fraught with peril. Countdown to someone asking for a definition of “understand” in 3… 2… 1…

  20. QuietDesperation

    In my estimate, 90% of the people are inconsiderate or evil

    That’s a bit like saying 90% of people drive a bit over the speed limit or are supervillains.

  21. Nemesis

    @QuietDesperation

    Maybe that’s a stretch, but, honestly, I have more disdain for people who drive too slow than for people who drive too fast, as long as the fast drivers don’t tailgate. I don’t like being cut off either.

  22. TheBlackCat

    @ noen: “I am unconvinced that anyone “groks” QM.”

    There is a word for that: projection.

  23. truthspeaker

    noen Says:
    October 5th, 2010 at 8:30 am

    From the article:
    “The hydrogen atoms in the sun are not sitting around in a cloud of possibilities waiting for a cosmic mind to signal them to fuse into helium atoms and thereby throw off heat generated by nuclear fusion.”

    Well if we leave out the cosmic mind part that is exactly what QM says is the case. Electrons really do only exist as a cloud of possible states and according to QM it is completely wrong to imagine them as very tiny billiard balls orbiting the nucleus. It is NOT the case that we cannot know where in it’s probability cloud the electron “really” is because the act of measurement perturbs it. Rather, it is impossible in principle because the electron really is spread around and indeterminate. That is deeply weird.

    It is deeply weird, but it is not evidence for any god or universal mind.

  24. noen

    TheBlackCat Says:
    “There is a word for that: projection.”

    Really? I wouldn’t know. All I can do is to rely on experts like Richard Feynman (whom I quoted) who have said consistently that QM is incomprehensible. Since you seem to understand QM better than Mr. Feynman did do please enlighten me.

    truthspeaker Says:
    “It is deeply weird, but it is not evidence for any god or universal mind.”

    I never said it was.

  25. EG

    Stuff acts like both waves and particles. Therefore: Odin exists! Valhalla here I come!

  26. Joe Alvord

    “You understand QM better than Einstein?”

    BA very probably does understand quantum mechanics better than Einstein. He’s had the advantage of nearly a century of scientific progress that Einstein didn’t have to lay the foundation of his understanding. Even I understand it some and I am nowhere near his level of training.

  27. truthspeaker

    Noen, I don’t see where you quoted Feynman, and I don’t believe he ever said quantum mechanics was “incomprehensible”.

    All Phil is saying is that he understands QM to the extent that it can be understood with current knowledge and technology.

  28. TheBlackCat

    @ noen: Where did I say that I understood quantum mechanics? You are asserting that nobody understands it.

    And where did you quote Feynman? He did say that, in 1965. Have anything a bit more recent than that?

  29. OMG

    I can’t believe that when I log onto to the Discover site that a thread like this exists. Just proof that ignorance is contagious and stifling. The point of science was to unravel the mystery of the beauty of the Divine all around us, not to disprove it. I would go on, but I’m just too disappointed. Let’s all just remember that science isn’t soulless, just some of the ignorant perveyors who call themselves scientists in one breath and scoff at everyone else in the next. Isn’t it funny how good information can breed arrogance. Science is full of good information, but that doesn’t mean you should discount everyone elses ideas if they’re trying to assimilate and understand someone elses ideas and relate them to their own views. You see it’s this action that sets different religions upon eachother and also apparently science upon religion. You see, we don’t need pay back for years of oppression from the church. You just need to realize the truth. All the different religions are of course pedaling the same thing. It’s just nomenclature. It’s shameful. I know you may want payback as a science minded individual, but rememeber spite is not right, but you might not know that because I don’t recall ever seeing a scientific paper on spite. Maybe ask a spiritually awakened individual. They’ll surely explain it to you if you have the attention span and openness and understanding to be able to relate to what you’re being told. Truly as a scientist you think the answer is out there. I assure you it’s not. The question is OUT THERE, the answer is INSIDE US and the mystery of God or Science or whatever term you coin to describe overly complex notions that need to be understood by following a certain path of explanation to get there is everywhere inbetween. Problem is getting someone to walk the same path and see all the same things along the way to get to the same explanation with the same understanding. But I don’t need to explain that to you, you obviously already know everything. Thanks for being a drag on an overly drained world. If only we could see that we’re all on the same team, then maybe we’d all get along. Peace

  30. Ed

    Personally I find QM to be very intuitive. It is Relativity that makes my mind go all confused, what with time dilation and whatnot.

  31. Yojimbo

    @ Ed – I think it makes more sense if you run really fast.

  32. Román

    @noen Please, before calling QM “weird” because it talks of “spooky action at a distance”, do remember that Newton’s gravity is _also_ an action at a distance. Don’t mistake “I understand it” for “it’s not weird”.

  33. Chief

    No fair, You changed the outcome by measuring it….

  34. noen

    truthspeaker Says:
    “Noen, I don’t see where you quoted Feynman”

    I now see that “shut up and calculate” is not from Feynman but someone else. Oh well, it was an honest mistake. It doesn’t really change what I said.

    “All Phil is saying is that he understands QM to the extent that it can be understood”

    Well isn’t that a thin gruel. Because as far as I can tell many physicists say that QM cannot be understood in principle. So I ask again, please enlighten me.

    Quantum mechanics says that everything from protons to people can be represented by a complex linear vector space called Hilbert space and that QM observables operate on wave functions in the Hilbert space. This make no sense but it does seem to work, hence the “shut up and calculate” remark.

    So do please tell, are wave functions representations of particles or are they particles themselves? Is the wave function of an electron an electron? Since humans are made of particles, atoms, molecules and electrons and they all reside in Hilbert space we must therefore also reside in Hilbert space. Where is it? Why can’t I perceive it in some way?

    Ed Says:
    “Personally I find QM to be very intuitive.”

    Then you don’t understand it.

  35. Tribeca Mike

    I like to think of Mr. Chopra, when I think of him at all, as a never ending April Fool’s joke.

    While on vacation this past summer, I lazily waded through Mitch Horowitz’s book “Occult America: The Secret History of How Mysticism Shaped Our Nation.” Though not a skeptic himself, Mr. Horowitz does a fair, though simplistic, job of laying out the history of the “New Thought” spiritualist movement (many of them infinitely more entertainingly eccentric than the decidedly bland Mr. Chopra), which eventually became the New Age crowd (same old stuff, hipper name).

    On the back of the book is a blurb by Choprah extolling its great truths, which had me wondering if he actually read what is essentially a rundown of our country’s most nefarious charlatans and snake oil pitchmen, and reminded me once again that Choprah may well be one of the most naive and/or self-deluded individuals in the world.

    Or he could simply be a con artist who knows full well what he’s doing. I must remember to ask his publicist, Oprah Winfrey, if she could enlighten me about this matter.

  36. amphiox

    noen, all that is required is that the BA understands QM better than Deepak Chopra.

    Understanding is a relative phenomenon.

  37. Jeremy

    @5 Mike

    I recently had a discussion with someone about the amazing placebo effects and their cost effectiveness. Sometimes a placebo is cheaper, safer, and as effective as some of the medicine out there. If you are doing something as integral as healing people, it just so happens that the government finds it important enough to regulate it. Religion is the exact opposite. It is filled with individuals who are only trying to profit from human ignorance with zero regulation. Even when these people (like Chopra) are shown on many occasions that they are mistaken, they just keep pushing their particular form of snake oil.

    If I truly 100 percent believed colloidal silver can cure cancer, and I sell it to people, I will get thrown in jail. Deepak can 100 percent (I doubt he TRULY believes his stuff) believe that he has found some mathematical proof of a God and all he gets is filthy rich. Someone who does this should be scrutinized heavily (which is what Phil does)

  38. Ed

    @noen

    “Personally I find QM to be very intuitive.”

    “Then you don’t understand it.”

    All I have to say to that is, speak for yourself. Everything that I learn about QM makes *sense* to me on an intuitive level. Does that mean anything to anyone else? No, but I can’t help it that the more I learn about it, the more it feels like pieces falling together in a great puzzle in my mind.

    I have not claimed to understand it all. I am not a physicist (I dropped out instead of continuing with my major of astrophysics). However, what I have never understood is every time I hear someone say “No one can comprehend it. It is unintuitive. It is impossible to understand.” They can only speak for themselves if they want to be intellectually honest. Everyone has different talents, and everyone has a different understanding of things. For example, I haven’t the first clue about music theory. It makes absolutely no sense to me at all, yet there are people who understand it intuitively.

    So, stop relying on several decade old quotes, and start speaking only for yourself.

  39. HvP

    Many of us skeptics call out the fraudulent tactics of Chopra because eventually WE may be on the end of a fraudulent huckster and would like to have someone who can stick up for us too. It’s the “golden rule” or “paying it forward” or basically doing what you think will benefit you because it benefits society as a whole.

    Altruism does have evolutionary benefits. We are a social species that needs cooperation from most of the people we interact with. However, fraud and selfishness at others’ expense thrives in a certain minority who can take advantage of that cooperation. But, the more widespread the fraudsters become the more the system begins to break down and cooperative people stop becoming cooperative.

    This is a fundamental of game theory. I suggest reading Dawkins’ “The Selfish Gene” for a primer.

  40. amphiox

    re #1;

    We live in a democratic society, in which decisions are ultimately made (in principle at least), collectively by the people. The quality of these decisions therefore depends on the effectiveness of the citizenry to function as a collective decision-making entity.

    People who spread falsehoods and ignorance and who encourage others to make choices without reference to reality (even if they do not actually benefit themselves or directly harm others in the process, as Chopra does) degrade this collective decision-making capacity, increasing the risk that choices will be made and policies enacted that do harm to everyone.

    As members of a democratic society, we have a vested interest in the ability of our fellow citizens to make good decisions, so that collective decisions undertaken by our society will not result in harm to ourselves and the people we care about. As conscientious and responsible members of a democratic society, we have in fact a duty to do everything in our power, whenever and wherever the opportunity affords itself, to improve the collective decision-making capacity of our fellow citizens, and/or to prevent that collective decision-making capacity from being eroded.

    That is why I care. That is why we care. That is why everyone SHOULD care. Including you.

  41. Michael Swanson

    People like Chopra try so damned hard to believe in a magical universe, dodging and weaving every which way to keep the light of science and simple reason out of the shadows, to grasp anything, anything at all until it too is blasted apart by science, to say, “Look! See here! You could explain that, but you can’t explain THIS! God is risen!” It’s just depressing, really.

    I grew up in a New Age household, and the world around me was deeply magical. But then I grew up, and I learned about the real world. I learned that there are no monsters under my bed, there is no tooth fairy, there is no Santa Claus (the bastard only like rich children anyway), that I cannot astral project, I did not fight in the Crusades in a past life, and no, as nice as the idea is, my dead father is not one of my guardian angels. But you know what? It’s still a majestically, thought-provoking and frighteningly beautiful universe! You don’t need this god garbage to feel wonder and awe at just about anything you want to take the time to really look at.

    I dip my toes in general science, I play guitar and piano, and I am endlessly fascinated by the behavior of my cats. These simple things are so much more real, so much more present than obscure quantum Jesus ideas. I can embrace them, I can dive deeply into them, and I can enrich my life, my real life with them. The first 28 years of my spiritual life were wasted!

  42. Adam_Y

    “Well if we leave out the cosmic mind part that is exactly what QM says is the case. Electrons really do only exist as a cloud of possible states and according to QM it is completely wrong to imagine them as very tiny billiard balls orbiting the nucleus. It is NOT the case that we cannot know where in it’s probability cloud the electron “really” is because the act of measurement perturbs it. Rather, it is impossible in principle because the electron really is spread around and indeterminate. That is deeply weird.

    Actually they exisist as a vibrating wave.

    “Since humans are made of particles, atoms, molecules and electrons and they all reside in Hilbert space we must therefore also reside in Hilbert space. Where is it? Why can’t I perceive it in some way?”

    There is only two possible answers to this question. Either the fact that we are so large means that if the concepts of quantum mechanics bore out to the macroscale it would be impossilbe to observe the wave nature. The largest macromolecule from with a matter wave was observed was a bucky ball. Now scale that up a bajillion times and well now realize how bloody dam hard it would be to detect that. The other answer is that something else is going on and we don’t like matter waves on the macro scale.

    “However, what I have never understood is every time I hear someone say “No one can comprehend it. It is unintuitive. It is impossible to understand.” They can only speak for themselves if they want to be intellectually honest. ”

    Well remember Feymann’s quote about quantum mechanics is only in reference to the fact we don’t the why. We actually have a phenomonal understanding of what is going on. Even then though on a fundamental level its not that bad to understand.

  43. David

    “Piffle” is an awesome word that doesn’t get used nearly enough.

    The wise man knows what he doesn’t know.

  44. Grand Lunar

    I like this quote from the article regarding other deities;

    ““We’re all atheists of these gods,” goes the denouement, “some of us go one god further.””

    Count me in. :)

    Anyway, it’s ridiculous to see the lengths people will go to justify their belief.
    If someone has to go to such an extent, then they must not have enough faith in their faith.

  45. Tribeca Mike

    David — I totally agree with you about “piffle.” “Codswallop” is also much underused and due for a revival.

  46. Nemo

    There’s a great bit about Chopra in Julia Sweeney’s “Letting Go of God”, which, due to this blog’s rules, I cannot quote here. But I guess I can link it:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0vmnH714aAY

  47. truthspeaker

    noen Says:
    October 5th, 2010 at 11:06 am

    truthspeaker Says:
    “Noen, I don’t see where you quoted Feynman”

    I now see that “shut up and calculate” is not from Feynman but someone else. Oh well, it was an honest mistake. It doesn’t really change what I said.

    “All Phil is saying is that he understands QM to the extent that it can be understood”

    Well isn’t that a thin gruel. Because as far as I can tell many physicists say that QM cannot be understood in principle.

    I have never read or heard a physicist saying that.

    Quantum mechanics says that everything from protons to people can be represented by a complex linear vector space called Hilbert space and that QM observables operate on wave functions in the Hilbert space.

    It sounds like you do understand quantum mechanics, despite your protestations.

    This make no sense but it does seem to work, hence the “shut up and calculate” remark.

    What about it doesn’t make sense?

    So do please tell, are wave functions representations of particles or are they particles themselves?

    Neither.

    Is the wave function of an electron an electron?

    No, it’s a model for representing one.

    Since humans are made of particles, atoms, molecules and electrons and they all reside in Hilbert space we must therefore also reside in Hilbert space. Where is it? Why can’t I perceive it in some way?

    Hilbert space is a mathematical model. You can no more perceive it than you can perceive Euclidean space.

  48. Gary Ansorge

    Deepak is a classic example of the duality of QM,,,when you try to pin down his position, his opinion changes.

    Now, if he would just be in two places at the same time.

    I’m pretty sure he doesn’t understand the math but he’s really good at trying to misapply the words, which of course, are totally inadequate to accurately describe what QM really means.

    He’s just a cloud of improbability,,,( I know, that makes no sense. It’s not supposed to.)

    Gary 7

  49. Yojimbo

    @ Gary “Now, if he would just be in two places at the same time.”

    Sheesh! I don’t particularly want him in ONE place at the same time.

  50. noen

    truthspeaker Says:

    So do please tell, are wave functions representations of particles or are they particles themselves?

    “Neither.”

    Is the wave function of an electron an electron?

    “No, it’s a model for representing one.”

    So…. lemme get this straight. Wave functions neither represent particles nor are they particles themselves but they do model (i.e. represent) particles.

    Do you see the problem here?

    I mean, you people tell me you understand all this and then you either flat out contradict yourselves or else like Ed you tell me over and over it makes total intuitive sense but you never say what that is.

    “Hilbert space is a mathematical model. You can no more perceive it than you can perceive Euclidean space.”

    I experience the reality of which the Euclidean mathematics is but one possible description every moment of ever day. Mathematical descriptions do not exist “out there”. They are human created languages that describe the world. They are not the world itself. The map should not be confused with the territory. In your reply above though that is exactly what you’re doing.

    No one has ever or could ever experience the number two. We experience discrete entities and give them the label two. Numbers are abstractions and as such do not posses an existence independent of ourselves but the physicality on which the abstraction is based does exist independent of ourselves.

    So…. no, I can never experience Hilbert space or Euclidean space but… if these abstractions are based on real physical phenomenon then I should be able to point to something which constitutes that space. (I don’t have to directly perceive it any more than I must directly perceive X-rays. I still know they exist because I can point to something which registers their existence.) Where would I look to find Hilbert space?

    “It sounds like you do understand quantum mechanics, despite your protestations.”

    I can understand basic concepts written in the popular media but I can’t do the math. What I am really trying to do is to bring out just how weird QM is. I sure don’t understand that. I mean, if science is really giving us a model of the world then that model really ought to be free of self contradiction should it not? And yet you flat out contradict yourself trying to explain it to me. I appreciate the effort but what am I to think of all this?

    Y’all sound like Zen masters sometimes. That’s some powerful woo ya gots there. “It is neither this not that, just be one with the quantum grasshopper.” Why is your woo better than Deepak’s?

  51. truthspeaker

    noen Says:
    October 5th, 2010 at 5:20 pm

    truthspeaker Says:

    So do please tell, are wave functions representations of particles or are they particles themselves?

    “Neither.”

    Is the wave function of an electron an electron?

    “No, it’s a model for representing one.”

    So…. lemme get this straight. Wave functions neither represent particles nor are they particles themselves but they do model (i.e. represent) particles.

    Do you see the problem here?

    No. I don’t see a problem at all.

    I experience the reality of which the Euclidean mathematics is but one possible description every moment of ever day. Mathematical descriptions do not exist “out there”. They are human created languages that describe the world. They are not the world itself. The map should not be confused with the territory. In your reply above though that is exactly what you’re doing.

    No, that’s what you were doing when you asked the question. Hilbert space is the map, not the territory.

    So…. no, I can never experience Hilbert space or Euclidean space but… if these abstractions are based on real physical phenomenon then I should be able to point to something which constitutes that space. (I don’t have to directly perceive it any more than I must directly perceive X-rays. I still know they exist because I can point to something which registers their existence.) Where would I look to find Hilbert space?

    You would look at subatomic particles.

    What I am really trying to do is to bring out just how weird QM is.

    We all already know that. You might as well go to a swimmers’ blog and tell them water is wet. “Weird” is not synonymous with “incomprehensible”.

    I sure don’t understand that.

    You don’t understand that it’s weird? Or you don’t understand how something can be weird and still be a good model of reality?

    I mean, if science is really giving us a model of the world then that model really ought to be free of self contradiction should it not? And yet you flat out contradict yourself trying to explain it to me.

    In what way have I contradicted myself? More importantly, what is self-contradictory about quantum mechanics?

    Why is your woo better than Deepak’s?

    Because it has evidence, based on documented, repeatable experiments, backing it up.

  52. Tribeca Mike

    Nemo — thanks very much for the Julia Sweeney link. Golf for Enlightenment? Hah!!!

  53. coyotej

    I’m with Huxley, from the Darwin Memorial:

    Science … commits suicide when it adopts a creed.

  54. noen

    truthspeaker Says:
    “No. I don’t see a problem at all. ”

    “You don’t understand that it’s weird?”

    I am genuinely trying to get my head around it. How can the description of particles, the wave function, also at the same time be a particle? How does that make sense? How can what I say something is also be what that something is?

    Is a wave function real or not? It is also inherently probabilistic, where do the probabilities come from?

    Does consciousness cause the collapse of the wave function? Most here would I guess say no but that is just one opinion. On what objective basis do people say that?

    “Because it has evidence, based on documented, repeatable experiments, backing it up.”

    And that evidence, based as it is on well document experiment, says that things, from particles to people, have no objective reality until they are measured. Full stop. That makes no sense to me.

  55. Michael Kingsford Gray

    But surely Shermer is being a dick, in this instance?

  56. AnUndergrad

    @ 54

    “I am genuinely trying to get my head around it. How can the description of particles, the wave function, also at the same time be a particle? How does that make sense? How can what I say something is also be what that something is? ”
    The wave function is NOT the particle, it is a property that the particle has, kind of like position is a property of a proton, not the proton itself. That was admittedly a bad example that will be misrepresented some way, but good enough for what I was trying to get at.

    “Is a wave function real or not? It is also inherently probabilistic, where do the probabilities come from?”
    Technically, it is isn’t real, it’s complex (meaning it takes the form a+bi), and so cannot describe an observable quantity. It is also not entirely probabilistic either. The square of the magnitude of the wave function. on the other hand, is real and is the probability of finding the particle at a certain time and position.

    “Does consciousness cause the collapse of the wave function? Most here would I guess say no but that is just one opinion. On what objective basis do people say that?”
    I don’t think there is an objective definition of consciousness. Depending on the definition, consciousness might be the cause of wave function collapse, be a result of the wave function collapse, or be completely independent.
    Subjectively, consciousness is probably one of many possible ways to collapse the wave function.

    “And that evidence, based as it is on well document experiment, says that things, from particles to people, have no objective reality until they are measured. Full stop. That makes no sense to me.”
    All particles have an objective reality, it either exists or it doesn’t (I’m not talking about virtual particles or quantum vacuums right now). What don’t exist until it is measured are the properties of the particle (ex: position, momentum), just a probability dictated by the wave function.
    Also, you cannot apply QM concepts to human scale situations (eg: the buckyballs mentioned earlier). It would be like saying something like “since bacteria can reproduce by splitting in half, elephants should be able to as well.”

  57. truthspeaker

    I am genuinely trying to get my head around it. How can the description of particles, the wave function, also at the same time be a particle? How does that make sense? How can what I say something is also be what that something is?

    Because it’s something that’s neither a wave function nor a particle that behaves like both.

    Is a wave function real or not?

    It’s a model to describe how subatomic particles behave.

    It is also inherently probabilistic, where do the probabilities come from?

    I don’t understand the question. Why would probabilities “come from” anything?

    Does consciousness cause the collapse of the wave function? Most here would I guess say no but that is just one opinion. On what objective basis do people say that?

    On the basis that there is no evidence that consciousness has anything to do with collapsing the wave function.

    And that evidence, based as it is on well document experiment, says that things, from particles to people, have no objective reality until they are measured.

    No, it doesn’t say that.

    You seem to be making the mistake of thinking of subatomic “particles” as particles like particles of dust. They’re not. They’re weird little things with properties that seem strange to us because we’re used to dealing with matter composed of molecules. But those molecules are made of atoms, and those atoms are made of weird little things that don’t have a precise position, velocity, and spin all at the same time.

  58. Gary Ansorge

    The one thing we can say about QM is that it works very well to describe how the universe functions on the very smallest scales. Those equations accurately predict what “particles” will do when confronted by a barrier(tunnel thru it) or to be in two places at once(Quantum entanglement).

    They are what make it possible for us to build computers.

    It doesn’t have to “make sense”. It just has to accurately predict what will happen when we turn on our machines.

    Gary 7

  59. Buzz Mega

    Wait till science finally realizes that Dark Energy is the accumulated souls of living consciousness. Of course it’s growing. Of course it’s pushing things apart. Consciousness is argumentative and feisty.

  60. noen

    I appreciate the attempts to answer my questions. Thanks.

  61. Professor Mayhem

    I wonder where people will start hiding their gods when it is universally shown that quantum mechanics has absolutely nothing at all to do with imaginary bronze age supermen. These all-powerful gods have a strange tendency to keep hiding in the gaps of our knowledge.

  62. Cave Man

    Here’s a link to a great series of papers that goes into the basics of QM. It’s not all that deep, but it gives a very good overview of QM and answers some of the questions brought up in this discussion. I recommend a few people here read the entire series.

    http://www.bureau42.com/view/6841/summer-school-2010-1-quantum-physics

  63. Captn Tommy

    I love this Blog, BA. The subjects are great. This episode is outstanding.

    Quantum Mechanics, Interesting, and fun, but a mathmatics exercise (thus far). If the QM boys find something wrong with their math they create a new something and try to prove that. I still like it.

    God, I believe, in spite of all I know, all I understand. Irregardless of all I know, I know there is a god.

    But throw a human ego in the mix, and well… there are 62 responses about one man’s opinion on another’s opinion.

    I believe paraphasing Montgomery Scot’s remark in Star Trek (2009) suits my opinion of BA Blog: “I like this Blog! You know, it’s exciting!”

    By the way, “a Stuffed Purple Bunny” sits in the back seat of my car, since I found Him ten or so years ago, Her name is Worship Me.

    Enjoy
    Captn Tommy

  64. TheBlackCat

    The point of science was to unravel the mystery of the beauty of the Divine all around us, not to disprove it.

    No, the point of science it to find the truth, whatever that may be. If the truth is there is no Divine, then that is fine. You are assuming there even is a “Divine” to begin with.

    Isn’t it funny how good information can breed arrogance.

    It is no where near as good at breeding arrogance as ignorance is.

    Science is full of good information, but that doesn’t mean you should discount everyone elses ideas if they’re trying to assimilate and understand someone elses ideas and relate them to their own views.

    But Deepak isn’t trying to assimilate and understand other ideas, he is trying to abuse and distort them so they conform to his pre-conceived notions when they really don’t.

    All the different religions are of course pedaling the same thing. It’s just nomenclature.

    As I said, ignorance breeds arrogance. Many religions have fundamentally different, mutually exclusive views of the world. This is not just differences in “nomenclature”, issues as fundamental as the existence of an afterlife, the existence of higher powers, and the existence of a soul are not agreed upon by all religions.

    It’s shameful. I know you may want payback as a science minded individual, but rememeber spite is not right, but you might not know that because I don’t recall ever seeing a scientific paper on spite.

    This has nothing to do with payback, it has to do with wanting to find the truth. We value the truth, therefore we get upset when someone says something that is demonstrably false.

    Maybe ask a spiritually awakened individual. They’ll surely explain it to you if you have the attention span and openness and understanding to be able to relate to what you’re being told.

    You would first need to establish that such people actually have something valuable to contribute, some deeper insight or understanding. This is not a forgone conclusion, you need to actually provide some reason we should treat their statements with more weight than we would those of anyone else.

    Truly as a scientist you think the answer is out there. I assure you it’s not.

    We are just supposed to take your word for it? Why should we believe you? Why should we throw away the most effective tool we have every devised for gaining knowledge about the universe just on the say-so of some anonymous poster on a blog on the internet?

    The question is OUT THERE, the answer is INSIDE US and the mystery of God or Science or whatever term you coin to describe overly complex notions that need to be understood by following a certain path of explanation to get there is everywhere inbetween.

    Science and religion are NOT the same thing. Science is a way of testing our knowledge to see if it actually holds water, religion is a way of avoiding any such tests.

    If only we could see that we’re all on the same team, then maybe we’d all get along. Peace

    Ah yes, you spend an entire post insulting and belittling us, but that is all our fault because we aren’t trying to be on “the same team”, then you end with a disingenuous “Peace”. How typical.

  65. TheBlackCat

    God, I believe, in spite of all I know, all I understand. Irregardless of all I know, I know there is a god.

    How, exactly, do you know this?

  66. Gary Ansorge

    63. Captn Tommy

    “I know there is a god.”

    No, you don’t KNOW. You Believe.

    There is a difference.

    I’ve been to the top of A mountain but I have no way of knowing if that had anything to do with a God. No one was around to take measurements and photos, therefore there was no possibility of creating a consensual reality. If I see pink elephants crawling on the walls and my buddy just sees a wall, that doesn’t mean he is blind(though he may be) but it may mean I’m just really tripping.

    Internally generated imagery can be more precise and intense than our “normal” mundane reality but its “reality” may be indeterminate until an independent observer can verify what we’re perceiving.

    Mystics rarely(if ever) have such confirmation. Still, such experiences are “real” to the one in the midst of such experience. That’s how religions get started.

    We really don’t need any more religions. The ones we have provide all the justification anyone needs to rationalize bad behavior. Just ask any ruler who justifies their dictatorial excesses as the “devine right of kings” or a priest who abuses young boys. W/o their religion they would have to accept, they’re just jerks.

    Gary 7

  67. mike burkhart

    Understanding of God is the Churchs job and not sciences.I want to respond to Ampiox You make a good point but who decides what is flasehood and what is fact? and what ideas are good or bad for people? What would you sugest we do to those who preach the precieved falshhood? The church in the middle ages decieded that the idea that the Earth revolved was a bad idea and came down hard on any one who beleve it . and I supoes you whant to slicence thoses who preach falsehoods like round them up and put them in a death camp? Look there are many ideas I don’t like like part of yours do you think I shoule have the power to silence you? Mr Ansorge you are entilted to you oppinon about the church but let me say 1 no dictator in modern times has claimed the “diven right of kings ” to commint atrocitys in fact they have tried to get to get rid of religon 2 I am just as angry about the sex abuse scandel as you are the only diference is I am not trying to use it to ax grind like you 3 all right the church has made mistakes I amit it but so has science, politics , news media, and even Athests made mistakes the fact is humans are imperfect . Oh sorry thats a religous doctren you must not beleve.

  68. Gary Ansorge

    About the only thing Deepak has missed is the emergent property hypothesis as an “explanation” for consciousness and the implication that since our brains create a model of external reality and consciousness arises within that model,,,there may be some form of consciousness implicit within that external reality.

    Oh, darn. Now I’ve put that on the net. I’m sure he’ll stumble across it and his next book will include THAT idea.

    I’m a BAD boy,,,

    Gary 7

    PS: I wonder if he would pay me for that??? Yeah! Right!

  69. Deepak Chopra sounds like a petulant teenager who has read Robert Anton Wilson’s “Quantum Psychology”, beaten it with a magic woo-stick and moulded it to fit his preconceived notions of the universe. Not that he exhibits the grace, humility and humour that Wilson did of course. I wonder how long it will be before Chopra is actually suffocated in his search of the God of the gaps.

  70. TheBlackCat

    @mike burkhart:

    and I supoes you whant to slicence thoses who preach falsehoods like round them up and put them in a death camp?

    What on Earth could possibly have lead you to this conclusion? If you are going to start accusing someone of plotting genocide, you better have some really strong evidence to back it up.

  71. Chet Twarog

    Good arguments, TheBlackCat.
    Gee wheeze, we all live (some on the ISS) on the third planet from a spectral class G2 yellow dwarf star spiral orbiting within the Milky Way with billions of other stars, trillions of other planets, quadrillions of asteroids/planetoids/comets with our local group of galaxies in an expanding Universe of hundreds of billions of other galaxies (known thanks to the sciences of cosmology/astronomy/physics….)
    Yet most Homo sapiens just can’t get this concept into their mind! Yes, we are each a unique (all species are), special biological creation of our own biological parents on a unique biosphere because of the 4.56 billion years of planetary and biological evolution (SCIENCE), stellar evolution, and nucleo-synthesis of elements from H/He/Li.
    The point: just as we created/invented SCIENCE, we also created/invented RELIGION (gods/ goddesses, spirits, angels, ghosts, demons, etc)…the ONLY species to do so on this planet. That’s why there are no gods and why it can be proven–SCIENCE!
    THANKS.

  72. Doug

    Wow, many followers of Chopra-woo immediately lept to his defense.

    Get this: we don’t (or Phil doesn’t anyway) care about him spreading whatever spiritual/mystical/religious message he wants to spread. What we object to, are his attempts to shoehorn his poor understanding of modern physics into this picture. He plainly does not understand the science, and yet writes many books dealing with it. He is a fraud, plain and simple. He is a snake oil salesman, and people deserve to know that he is full of b.s.

  73. Doug

    @70

    Exactly. All we want is to inform people that Chopra is an idiot so they will stop buying his books and giving him money for making crap up and pretending it is based on science that he doesn’t even understand.

  74. Darth Robo

    —“Stuff acts like both waves and particles. Therefore: Odin exists! Valhalla here I come!”

    The Flying Spaghetti Monster, you heathen!!!

  75. Darth Robo

    (63)

    —“God, I believe, in spite of all I know, all I understand. Irregardless of all I know, I know there is a god.

    But throw a human ego in the mix, and well…”

    However we both know that there is no such thing as objective scientific evidence of such an entity. Yet you (think you) “KNOW”.

    You were saying something about human ego, Captain?

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