Some Comments On Subhash Kak’s Paper: The Universe, Quantum Physics, and Consciousness

The Universe, Quantum Physics, And Consciousness

Human consciousness, and that is the only consciousness we know of at this time, is a sum total of sensory data, memories, and ideas. While we have some familiarity with sensory data and memories there exists some vagueness about the nature of ideas. The brain of primitive mammals reacted to the physical threats and pleasures they encountered. As their brain evolved further it could recreate the sensations it had received earlier. Even further development attached a “symbol” to each experience. The brain also was able to recreate sensations without an external stimulus. This re-creation is like a recall of an experience in our memory system. This was one of the very significant developments in the evolution of the human mind. Logical reactions (“thinking”) developed first out of the concern of survival but after some time
the “logical thinking” that the brain developed it found could be used beneficially in other situations. Over eons human mind developed from the basic survival aiding machine of the brain to a thinking facility. Ideas are generalized experiences in symbolic forms which the brain is able to play with. Brain can also create nonsensical idea but the mind will reject them. While the brain is a machine but mind is based on reason.. Reason comes from experience, plausibility, and the established principles. Brain can scan the “universe” (the totality of its awareness) for an idea. To see the development of human brain: thousands of years ago the ideas of human beings were generally religion-related or fantasy-related but today’s ideas are a lot more sophisticated. So, the fundamental facility of brain to recreate the sensations it remembers developed into the whole edifice of logic and ideas. Ideas have a field restricted by our awareness. We do not have an infinite ground, although it seems like that we have. The brain has a fallacious aspect that it thinks that its awareness is infinite. This “infinity” has expanded considerably over time. If there were other living and thinking beings in the universe their ideas would be different, although they might come to discover the same physical laws of universe. So, reasoning, and ideas initially were developed from the survival concerns of man but the brain’s ability to re-create turned them into sophisticated tools.

Let us drop the big mystique-laden word “consciousness” in favor of the more realistic word “mind.” Man’s mind has changed over vast stretches of time through a process we call evolution, although we do not understand its details as yet.

If there were other brains in universe it is highly plausible that they would be different than our brains and therefore the consciousness associated with them would be different. So, we should not be talking about universal consciousness.

The idea that a human observation affects universe is wrong. As Einstein said if an insect made an observation of a microscopic part of universe close to it how much would it change the universe a few light-years away. Wheeler’s ideas about the universe are misguided. Modern man is just a few million years old and the universe about 13 billion years old. If man had never been created would that have made any difference to the universe?

Yes, information is relative (which was brilliantly expounded by Einstein) but material universe stands by itself, no human thinking can change it. We may not be able to fully configure it, fine, but it exists by itself. Using anthropomorphic thinking to understand nature in this age and day is a mental suicide.

“… it is meaningless to speak of universe without observers.” Well, what has universe to do with us. It has always been there and will always be there in one or the other form. But it has nothing to do with us. When a man dies the things he leaves behind still remain. Universe was what it was before man came and it will remain what it is when he leaves (assuming that he will leave)

The freedom of mind is much misunderstood. Mind is free in the sense that it can train itself not to be attached to anything, although that will take a herculean effort, while obviously keeping the body attached to it fed and healthy. But man is not free intellectually. Intellect is based on sensory data, logic, ideas, experiences, and established principles. One is not free to think anything that one wants to.

“………consciousness as emergent on matter it is also tempting to see it having a more fundamental existence. To claim that consciousness is emergent and therefore…..deny it ontological reality is not reasonable.” “…evolution of consciousness could not have been in vain.” “….consciousness itself is the ground stuff of reality…’ Comment: anthropomorphism at its peak.

Consciousnesses can not see itself because it is the creation of a brain and a brain is constructed in such a way that it does not allow us easily see the consciousness. But we know what consciousness is and how it has developed through indirect ways. Lot of science is based on understanding developed not on direct observation, where it is impossible to do so, but through other ways.

It is a supreme tragedy that the Uncertainty Principle which was created in 1932 on the model of Einstein’s reasoning in the development of the Relativity Theory that if you can not observe something then we did not have to be concerned with that thing. Hisenberg used Einstein’s idea wrongly but nevertheless he created a theory that has been useful but it has also been very harmful to science in that it has engendered a whole class of pseudo thinkers who believe the Uncertainty principle leads to religious ideas of God ,eternity, and super-consciousness . That the position and momentum of a micro particle can not be simultaneously measured should not imply that a chaos reigns in the micro world. What is more devastating is that people have taken man’s inabilities in the micro world to imply that universe depends upon what man thinks about it.

Some brilliant discoveries that have been made with very little of the usual steps taken and in some cases without apparently any steps taken at all is nothing but the processing of the remarkable minds and their associated brains. We know of some remarkable dreams that have foretold of some unexpected events . Not all brains and not all minds are the same. There are some extraordinary ones.

Conclusion: Human consciousness is created by human brain but is vastly expanded by the facility of ideas. Ideas are the work of thinking, which in turn has evolved, for each mind, from experience, existing knowledge, established logic and principles of the field under consideration, and other people’s ideas. There is nothing spiritual about them. Human consciousness is very limited by the factors just described, although it fallaciously makes one believe it is totally free and infinite in its scope . Human consciousness can not be a factor in any physical theory of universe. Although it may impose limitations on how much we can know about universe , as we have limitations imposed by Uncertaininty Principle in micro world.

Maharaj Kaul

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