Dr. Amit Goswami is professor emeritus in the physics department of the University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon where he has served since 1968. He is a pioneer of the new paradigm of science called “science within consciousness” and founder of The Center for Quantum Activism. He has authored several popular books based on research into quantum physics and consciousness and appeared in the films “What the Bleep Do We Know”, “Dalai Lama Renaissance” and the recently released “The Quantum Activist”.
In his article titled “There is a revolution going on in science: View from a Quantum Physicist” he writes the following:
There is today a fundamental shift-taking place in science. This shift is propelling us from the traditionally divisive (spirituality-denying matter-based) science to one which integrates both science and spirituality; and is founded on the solid theory and fundamental truth of Quantum Physics. The fact that science itself must merge with metaphysics is an essential tenet of the new paradigm which has grown from a marginalized movement to a central debate within science. The arrival of this paradigm is now a foregone conclusion.
Decades ago scientific theory favored holism, a paradigm which best accommodated the spirituality of pantheism (Capra, 1975, 1982). In holism the whole is greater than the parts. Life, mind, consciousness, spirituality, are all are explained as a holistic emergent phenomena of matter. Hardly anyone at the time questioned the fundamental dogma of materialism, the idea that everything is made of matter.
Holism, however, was not the only integrative track. Depth psychologists, starting with Freud and Jung, were openly positing the concept of an unconscious that presupposes an irreducible consciousness. Yet, even Jung (1971) occasionally pondered aloud if his idea of the collective unconscious does not have a genetic basis after all. Then came Abraham Maslow (1971), Ken Wilber (2006), and other transpersonal psychologists who were echoing mostly ancient wisdom, and not blending enough modern science to be wholly credible to the more traditional scientists. The holistic paradigmers dominated the avant garde, new age thinking: Gregory Bateson, Fritjof Capra, Eric Wantsch, Francisco Varela, Humberto Maturana, John Lilly, the Nobel laureate Ilya Prigogine, Karl Pribram, David Bohm, the systems theorist Ervin Laszlo, and Roger Sperry, the Nobel biologist who made major contributions to the big hoopla surrounding the left brain-right brain asymmetry as the answer to everything. The list goes on and is very distinguished.
Many holists such as Capra depended on systems theory for their analysis, however, the scope of this kind of analysis is limited; only generalities can be discussed. Others, including Karl Pribram, David Bohm, and Edgar Mitchell tried the idea of hologram, both literally and metaphorically. But the hologram is an object, whereas consciousness is an object as well as a subject. How does the subject-object awareness come about? This “difficult question” cannot be addressed from a materialist point of view (Chalmers, 1995).
Spirituality is more than pantheism, and an integrative bridge was still lacking between holistic thinking and psychological thinking within consciousness. Such a foundation only came about when quantum physics was properly interpreted in a way free of paradox (Goswami, 1989, 1991, 1993; also see below).
Meanwhile Quantum physicists were not exactly quiet. During these early stages of the paradigm shift there was the work of David Bohm, who used the idea of quantum non-locality to define an implicit order, as well as John von Neumann (1955) who was the first to interject consciousness into physics by positing that consciousness chooses the actual event of experience from all the quantum possibilities. In the seventies Fred Alan Wolf (1970, 1984) popularized von Neumann’s idea with the slogan – We create our own reality. Even today, the book The Secret and the movie by the same name are recycling Wolf’s popularization of von Neumann’s idea.
The seriousness of von Neumann’s idea can be appreciated only when we engage with the so-called quantum measurement paradox, a most disagreeable thorn in the side of the materialist attempt to understand and interpret quantum physics. In the materialist model which is based on reductionism, elementary particles make atoms, atoms make molecules, molecules make cells, cells make brain, and brain makes consciousness. This is called the upward causation model of causality. However, according to quantum physics all objects are quantum possibilities; thus how can a possible consciousness coupled to a possible object ever give us an actual event? Possibility coupled to possibility gives you only more possibility. So the reductive thinking of materialist science about consciousness cannot explain the observer effect called the quantum measurement paradox. Hence, we get von Neumann’s idea that material interactions cannot change possibility into actuality, and therefore, our consciousness must be nonmaterial.
But materialists object to von Neumann’s approach to quantum measurement because it smacks of dualism. How does consciousness, an independent non-material dual object, interact with a material object? Such an interaction must require the mediation of signals which carry energy. But the energy of the physical universe itself is always constant precluding any such mediation.
The breakthrough idea is that consciousness is neither a material brain-product nor a dual object; instead, it is the ground of all being in which material objects exist as possibilities. In the event of quantum measurement, consciousness (in the form of the observer) chooses from all the offered possibilities the actuality that it experiences becoming in the process both subject and object (Goswami, 1989, 1991, 1993). In other words, conscious choice is responsible for manifesting both the proverbial falling tree in the forest, and the you that hears the sound of the fall. No observer, no sound, not even a tree. Consciousness is primary to everything.
Crucial to this breakthrough was the resolution of the classic paradox of Wigner’s friend which presents the case of two observers who are simultaneously choosing among conflicting choices; who gets to choose? The paradox was resolved by three physicists working independently – Ludwig Bass (1971), Amit Goswami (1989), and Casey Blood (1993). They all proposed non-locality, that is, signal-less interconnectedness of consciousness – as the solution. We don’t choose with total freedom from our individual local ego consciousness, but from a nonlocal, cosmic non-ordinary consciousness, termed downward causation by the psychologist Donald Campbell.
The idea of non-local consciousness is a breakthrough on several levels. First, it becomes clear that conscious choice is objective because consciousness, being nonlocal, is objective. This validates why quantum physics is able to predict probabilities. Second, for a single event, the scope of creativity remains. The secret behind the secret is that we must choose creatively in synchrony with quantum consciousness to manifest our intentions. In our ego, our so-called free will is seriously compromised having become a choice between conditioned alternatives: what flavor of ice cream, chocolate or vanilla? Third, the nonlocality of consciousness is an experimentally verifiable idea.
Prior to this breakthrough was the work of Einstein, Podolsky, and Rosen (1935) as well as John Bell’s famous theorem (Bell, 1965) which suggested that nonlocality is involved in quantum measurement, thus offering a means to verify the existence of non-locality itself. In 1982, following Bell’s lead, Alain Aspect and his collaborators did verify quantum non-locality in the laboratory (1982). In the same year, the physician Larry Dossey began making noise about the efficacy of quantum non-locality in healing, an idea that was backed by Randolph Byrd in 1988 (Byrd, 1988) demonstrating nonlocal consciousness and downward causation in prayer healing at a distance.
In 1986 Willis Harman coined the phrase “science within consciousness”, and three years later I published my papers on quantum creativity (Goswami, 1988) and the idealist interpretation of quantum physics in which God, in the form of quantum consciousness, was rediscovered (Goswami, 1989). Besides non-locality quantum creativity reveals yet another important aspect of downward causation – it reveals the idea of discontinuity. Creative ideas come to us via discontinuous events of insight. This is anathema to the old way of thinking in which all phenomena and their interactions are material and continuous. But in the primacy-of-consciousness paradigm, the discontinuity of creativity is explained as quantum leaps similar to the jumps an electron makes from one atomic orbit to another without going through the intervening space.
Last but not least, the physician Deepak Chopra (1989) independently discovered quantum consciousness and the presence of discontinuity in downward causation with his revolutionary idea of quantum healing owing to quantum leaps in consciousness. Quantum healing explains much anomalous data of spontaneous healing (O’Regan, 1997). Science within consciousness had gained real momentum.
I am giving you a flavor, not a history of how the new paradigm, confirming the existence of God, downward causation, and non-locality has come to the forefront of scientific thinking and experimentation once again.
And now the quintessential question. If the data and theory for a consciousness based paradigm of science has been adequately established in the past decades as is demonstrated by my review, then why aren’t the bulk of the scientists (the establishment) accepting the verdict? Why isn’t the quantum message getting through to the mainstream scientists?
To answer this I leave superficial reasons of funding, politics, and career opportunism aside to speak of the challenge and immense responsibility which consciousness based science implies for the personal as well as professional lives of scientists. What does it mean to take responsibility? It means that you become committed to transform yourself according to the need of the evolution of consciousness using the transformative aspects of quantum physics such as discontinuity and non-locality. When you do that you become a quantum activist. An ordinary activist tries to change the world without making any changes himself or herself; the spiritual activist tries to transform believing that the world will take care of itself. The quantum activist undertakes the journey of transformation always with the transformation of the whole in mind.
I assert that materialism is a wound on the body of the evolution of consciousness. And though slow acceptance of the new paradigm is in a sense good; showing that scientists are not naive, for they see what is at issue here, isn’t it prudent to heal the wound as fast as possible?
We must heal the wound before it shows signs of malignancy, and thanks to the influence of Eastern spirituality in the West, and a Western revival of esotericism, many more lay people are ready to take responsibility than scientists. In fact, I fully expect that it is the popular acceptance which will drive scientific acceptance.
So bringing quantum activism to science means that if we cannot convince the materialists to give up their old paradigm, let’s ourselves be supportive of the development of its alternative. We do not compete with one another, we cooperate. We don’t divide, we integrate. Eventually, the science which embraces this integration will become the new paradigm.
© Amit Goswami 2009
(Source: Amit Goswami: There is a revolution going on in science: View from a Quantum Physicist)
Tags: Biology, Bohm, Capra, Change, Chopra, Consciousness, Einstein, Evolution, Goswami, Jung, Laszlo, Life, Matter, Metaphysics, Mind, Paradigm, Physics, Quantum, Science, Spirituality, Transformation