Primacy of Consciousness
A central tenant of quantum physics is that observation somehow causes particles to take on definite states. As though particles magically defy having definite natures but somehow know when they are being looked at and then decide to stop being subject to magic.
Note, that we are not talking about the fact that observation often requires physically interacting with the system.
It is true that if you use light to observe something, the light will interact with the system and potentially cause the system to be in a different state.
This is not a practical issue of trying to observe a system without interfering with it.
Quantum mechanics asserts that the very fact something has been observed somehow causes the indeterminacy in a system to vanish and for the state of the system to take on definite values.
It is not the means by which something is observed which is the issue, but the fact that observation has happened. As though the fact that observation itself somehow magically makes the system behave.
This is simple primacy of consciousness. This view opposes the view that reality is what it is, independent of the consciousness. It does not agree that things are what they are and that consciousness merely observes things.
It asserts that reality does not exist independent of consciousness but that it is somehow created by consciousness or that reality is whatever man wants it to be.
Man can choose things in reality by taking actions in accordance with reality. However, the primacy of consciousness view does not amount to “If you want something, go out and make it so by taking the appropriate actions”.
It amounts to “Reality is created by our minds and is what we say it is”.
Realism, as used in physics, is the idea that physical reality exists independently of the human mind. More specifically, as used in quantum mechanics, it is the (allegedly unreasonable) “assumption” that particles have well-defined properties that exist independently of measurement.
That is, particles have certain properties regardless of whether we measure those properties.
For instance, an electron will always have a certain “spin” direction, even if nobody bothers to check what it is.
Perhaps an example from the macroscopic world would help to make this more clear. Suppose that we consider a ball. It has various properties, even if nobody is currently observing the ball. It has a radius, it has hardness, it has velocity, it has various chemical properties.
These properties exist even if we stop looking at the ball.
This might seem rather obvious and so it should. What we call the “properties” of the ball are simply various aspects of the ball’s nature. The “properties” of the ball simply describe the ball and its nature and/or what it will do under given conditions.
It should be obvious that these properties will exist regardless of measurement. A ball will always have a certain radius or a certain temperature, regardless of whether we are measuring those properties or observing the ball.
The act of observation does not create these properties.
We do not create these properties simply by measuring them. Just as we do not create the ball’s radius when we take a measuring tape to it and measure it.
We do not create its temperature when we measure its temperature. Measuring a property does not create that property.
“Property” refers to some attribute of something and those attributes are simply aspects of something. Such aspects exist whether or not they are being observed.
Now, can we apply this to the quantum world? Of course, we can. We should not expect that just because subatomic particles are very tiny, that they are somehow not subject to basic metaphysical principles.
These entities also have attributes that exist independently of the human mind.
In denying realism, quantum mechanics openly embraces primacy of consciousness by pretending that consciousness itself magically determines the nature of particles, that is, that consciousness magically creates reality!
This is, of course, nonsense. Things are what they are and have a specific nature, including properties, independent of consciousness. Consciousnesses does not create reality, it observes it.
But the founders of quantum mechanics all believed that consciousness creates reality, not the other way around.
This brings us to the end of part one of our introduction to the absurdities of quantum mechanics.
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Please tune in for the next episode. Until then, stay rational!