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Henry Stapp's Blatant Distortion of the Copenhagen Interpretation


Werner Heisenberg, "Philosophical Problems of Quantum Physics", p. 97:

"Pure Being contracted to a point, but it could repeat itself any number of times; it became indivisible and indestructible and hence it was called 'atom'. The world was reduced to atoms and the empty space between them."

Niels Bohr, "Atomic Theory and the Description of Nature", p. 98:

"...In particular, the apparent contrast between the continuous outward flow of associative thinking and the preservation of the unity of personality exhibits a suggestive analogy with the relation between the wave description of the motions of material particles, governed by the superposition principle, and their indestructible individuality."

These two quotes together, from the two principal founders of quantum theory, establish beyond the shadow of any doubt that the Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum mechanics is profoundly ontological and metaphysical in character. The physical world comprised of aggregates of atomic particles cannot be primary, because the atomic particles are not primary. Rather they come into being by a descending process of emanation from a non-physical realm of "Pure Being". They can also, therefore, pass out of being, which means that the creation and destruction operators of quantum field theory describe real processes of unfolding and enfolding, as David Bohm has claimed. This is nothing new, however - it was precisely the view of the founders.

The second quote, from Niels Bohr, makes clear that the material particles are not just figments of our imagination - they possess, in contrast to our description of them an "indestructible individuality", which is like Kant's noumenon insofar as it is essentially unknowable, and yet the implicit basis for what we can know. Similarly, we are not figments of our own imagination. Our "unity of personality" is in contrast to "the continuous outward flow of associative thinking", which is precisely our "stream of consciousness". Although our unity of personality can become a content of the stream of consciousness, insofar as we can know who we are and insofar as all of our perceptions have a self-referential possiblity, the unity of personality is *in contrast* to the outward flow of the "stream of consciousness" and it cannot therefore be reduced to it or to a content of it.

Henry Stapp, who was an intimate student of both Heisenberg and Pauli, argues against the crystal clear logic presented here, and by his tortured logic claims that neither the unity of personality of the observer or the indestructible individuality of the observed are anything but features of the stream of consciousness, on the one hand, and the wave description of the motions of material particles, on the other hand. Such is the distortion practiced by one of the greatest of living physicists, to say nothing of the hacks, who haven't even got a clue.

Stapp has for years been teaching that the Copenhagen Interpretation is non-ontological and merely pragmatic. This confusion stems from an unfamiliarity with modern phenomenology, ala Descartes and Husserl, wherein the foundation of all existence is found in absolute self-existent consciousness, rather that in a self-existent material or physical world. More profoundly, the confusion stems from ignorance due to lack of experience of absolute self-existent consciousness. Bohr's denial of the existence of a self-existent material or physical world is by no means a "non-ontological" stance - rather it is the profound affirmation of the only ontological system that passes muster, namely that associated with the phenomenological philosophy of Descartes and Husserl. Bohr's actual words only make sense in that context - they do not make sense in the context of the tortured logic that Stapp attempts to apply to them.

What is at stake is not just the correct interpretation of the present quantum theory, but what the founders felt to be the key to the next generation of quantum theory, which will be stillborn unless the truth comes out about what the Copenhagen Interpretation really is.

[Bruce Africa]
Dear Peter,
With all due respect to your work, and to the group of luminaries with whom I am listed in your E-mail distribution list, I do not have the intelligence, the discipline, the patience or the desire to wade through the logic of quantum physics. The one human related anecdote I will share with you is that I had a beloved mentor in psychiatry, Jurgen Ruesch MD, who died a few years ago. When I first met Dr. Ruesch, I truly wondered if he were Asimov's model for Hari Seldon in the "Foundation Trilogy", my favorite opus of science fiction, but Ruesch knew nothing of Asimov or his work. Dr. Ruesch, whose work applied systems theory to human communication, told me that during WWII he served on a committee in Washington, which, among other things, tried to draw up the capabilities of what would be an ideal computer of the future. John von Neumann was on that committee, and Dr. Ruesch, who spent his life holding his own with brilliant people, said of von Neumann "He was the smartest man I ever met in my life". Dr Ruesch was probably the smartest, and certainly the most broadly educated and knowledgeable, person I have ever met in my life.

[Peter Mutnick]
Dear Dr. Africa,
Please allow me to share this with my list, since all stories about von Neumann are indeed interesting. I spoke with Irving Segal, one of von Neumann's closest colleagues, just before Segal's recent death, and Segal put von Neumann's work on quantum theory into perspective: Segal claimed that von Neumann only searched for a new ring of operators and did not address the question of the reduction or its meaning, similar to Heisenberg's preoccupation in his later years with the nonlinear spinor theory, aka, radically unified quantum field theory, to the apparent exclusion of the more deeply philosophical questions. Segal felt that Heisenberg's radically unified quantum field theory could turn out to be correct, i.e., it was not absolutely ruled out by any of the work that either von Neumann or Segal had done. However, he thought that there were other more likely candidates for a nonlinear unified field theory (such as along the lines of Skyrmie's sine-Gordon equation) [my conjecture]. Segal also felt that von Neumann's work on the new ring of operators was "inconclusive".

Let me also turn the discussion toward something that you might be eminently qualified to address, if you care to enter into the realm of science fiction a bit yourself. I had a spiritual experience in the late 60's in which I went up through the centers of the body, experiencing first a strong transcendental energy in the hara, then a weak or gentle energy in the heart center, then a brilliant spiritual luminosity in the head center, and finally a seeming out-of-body transport via the light into a fully awake state of absolute consciousness aware *only* of itself, i.e., it was like infinite space, infinite consciousness, nothingness, and neither being nor non-being. Now it was later revealed to me that these centers corresponded to the primary excitory neurotransmitters in this order:

hara = dopamine
heart = acetylcholine
head = serotonin
heaven = out-of-body state = noradrenaline

The only sense I can make of this is that the coherent excitation of the circuits of these various neurotransmitters could lead to the awakening of the various corresponding centers in the CNS.

My question to you is: do you think this is possible? Do you have any ideas at all about what I have suggested was the case?

This question may turn out to have some profound relevance to the quantum-mind issues being raised (but not resolved) in many circles today.

Thank you very much for your time and interest in responding to this.


From: "Bruce Africa"
To: saint7peter
Subject: Neurotransmitter localizations
Date: Sat, 02 Mar 2002 18:01:04 -0800

Peter,

I never doubted that you had had that experience, and it fits with the pattern described by William James in his "Varieties of Religious Experience", which, I believe, remains as good a reference as anything which has appeared in the subsequent century. The question is how to explain it in relation to our more modern knowledge of neurotransmitters (NTs), etc. The correlations you mention of specific NTs with specific bodily organs is not particularly true,

[Peter]
Oh no! I was not suggesting that there was any correlation with bodily organs. You notice I said "heart center" rather than heart. I am obviously talking about centers in the psychic body, which are often claimed to have correlations to plexus in the CNS (Central Nervous System) - these are sometimes called chakras. Now, the traditional system of chakras is sevenfold and thought to correspond to the glands. That is obviously not the case here. The fourfold system I experienced has been described by John Lilly as the Gurdjieff system. So, with this clarification, I resubmit the question.

[Bruce, cont.]
e.g., even the heart, which is a rather simple pump, has neuroreceptors for the NTs acetylcholine, epinephrine, and nor-epinephrine, and it is their over all balance at any given time that determines the rate and strength of the heart's contractions (I will leave the heart's romantic functions to Shakespeare, but I do not think that you would find even Arvid Caarlson, who recently got a Nobel Prize for his work with dopamine, to be willing to touch that one with a ten foot piece of spaghetti ). It is also true that correlations of NTs with specific psychological functions, which used to be made, are considered much less certain now. As knowledge has become more detailed, straightforward pictures have become less tenable, and most descriptions are in terms of a brain in which multiple areas are activated at any given time as a given process takes place. The model I like best, just as a metaphor, not as a real explanation is that space craft in "Close Encounters of a Third Kind", when it begins by communicating, first with just five tones, but then with an increasingly complex series of pulsations of light and tone. I think that, come the day when we have whole brain functional PET scans of physiological activity, not just localized structure, the pictures will look like that.

[Peter]
Yes, but what I am talking about is likely to be precisely the first four chords in the metaphysical language. It is the basis for the experience of absolute self-existent consciousness aware only of itself, which is obviously the precursor to the stream of consciousness with its particular contents. The descent into bewildering complexity that you describe is following the pattern established in physics with respect to the elementary particles, and in physics this is considered problematical by almost everyone, even those who are not interested in the unresolved foundational issues - hence they are searching for a unified theory.

BTW, what was the essence of Caarlson's discovery?

[Bruce, cont.]
I have a favor to ask, and that is, if you have specific questions for me, please send them in a freestanding E-mail. You have a habit of burying new questions in the midst of long essays which I have seen before. I understand why the essays are valuable and need to be kept on file, but they do not need to be sent each time. There are times when less is more, and a continuous flood of unedited writing will be ignored.

[Peter]
Sorry, last time I was having problems with the computer format and corrections - always delete all but the last message with the same title, and I understand what you are saying about length, although if you go back and look I think you will find that there were many issues that were relevant to the very foundations of psychology - the two quotes I gave are quintessential to establishing our true orientation as subjects in an ostensibly objective universe. Without a proper foundation, it seems to me that only confusion can follow - like the Tower of Babel - whether in physics or in psychology. Niels Bohr, you know, was an avid student of William James, through his teacher Harald Hoffding (who is mentioned in "The Principles of Psychology"), long before he became an experimental physicist or the guiding spirit of the quantum revolution.



Peter Joseph Mutnick 1949 - 2000


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