Discussion of Zeh's
"The Problem of Conscious Observation
in Quantum Mechanical Description"
[Hans Dieter Zeh]
from his webpage at http://www.zeh-hd.de
These problems in formulating a process of observation within quantum theory arise as a consequence of quantum nonlocality (quantum correlations or "entanglement", characterizing generic physical states), which in turn may be derived from the superposition principle. This fundamental quantum property does not even approximately allow the physical state of a local system (such as the brain or parts thereof) to exist . Hence, no state of the mind can exist "parallel" to it (that is correspond to it one-to-one or determine it).
The problem here is the false assumption that the brain is a local system in the quantum mechanical sense. Niels Bohr, et al., emphasized that quantum mechanics could NOT be applied directly to the brain, by which they meant precisely that one could NOT assume that it was a local physical system within the quantum mechanical conception of the physical world. Rather, what one must assume is that the microscopic elements of the synaptic junctions are local quantum systems in the physical world, while the whole brain exists in the mental world. Then neurons and networks of the brain exist in the emotional world, between the physical world and the mental world. In the extended sense, the physical, emotional, and mental worlds comprise von Neumann's I, the actually observed system, so this conception of the whole brain in the mental world is in one sense a quantum brain, but it is NOT physical and does NOT therefore obey the Schrodinger Equation, nor could one even begin to implement such a description even if one wanted to.
Von Neumann's principle of the psycho-physical parallelism, which Zeh misappropriates along with Einstein's *ganzer langer Weg*, only states that one can find some correlative of the brain, designated as its psyche (indicating its function), which CAN be regarded as an element of the physical world. The whole brain is a kind of ground, and only certain types of figure that may emerge from this ground can be regarded as physical according to von Neumann's principle of the psycho-physical parallelism. Von Neumann's use of the principle only maps mental, emotional, and physical onto a III, II, and I within the physical world. One has to know something about the structure of the vertical sub-worlds within the physical world in order to understand how this is possible. Such a I always obeys the Schrodinger Equation, while II can be regarded as obeying it or not, as von Neumann showed. III never obeys it, but one can always move the cut in such a way as to include more and more of III in II or even I. Finally one is left with a III entirely emptied of materiality, which can be regarded as an "ego sum" of Descartes (in a non-phenomenologically reduced sense - this is a physical reduction rather than a phenomenological reduction). This "ego sum" corresponds to the abstract "ego" in the true metaphysical realm of the observer, which is the seventh or meta-physical (classical) world. So, the conclusion is that the whole quantum brain, because of its holistic character as primary mental matter, is a kind of hidden variable with respect to quantum theory. It is neither physical nor reducible to the physical.
Now, the quantum brain is most certainly not the only description of the brain that we need, because the brain in many respects functions classically and this is essential for quantum measurement theory. In fact, the real meaning of von Neumann's abstract "ego" is that it is the classical brain in the seventh or meta-physical (classical) world of the observer. As David Bohm postulated in his 1951 textbook, liked very much by Wolfgang Pauli, one can go beyond this classical portion of the brain to an interior quantum region, characterized by feedback and feedforward circuits around the *amygdala* (according to Karl Pribram) that can be interpreted as the opening of the classical brain into the quantum mind of true wholeness, which is the quantum implicate order. This then is the connection of the brain to the mind, but it is not within the physical world governed by the Schrodinger Equation. Rather it is within the meta-physical world, which is the seventh world removed from the physical. All these "extra-physical" worlds are exactly the ones spoken of by von Neumann when he postulated that they could be reduced, for the purposes of science, to the physical or to correspondence with physical elements. However that postulate is by no means unconditional nor was it accepted uncritically by Wolfgang Pauli, who interpreted the principle of the psycho-physical parallelism, which von Neumann admitted that he got from Bohr, differently, namely as expressing psycho-physical unity, not a reduction to the physical.
[Hans Dieter Zeh]
from his webpage at http://www.zeh-hd.de
Heisenberg once recalled that Einstein had told him (my translation): "Only the theory may tell us what we can observe. ... On the whole long path (*ganzer langer Weg*) from the event to its registration in our consciousness you have to know how Nature works."
Now the presumption that Zeh will foist upon us is that we already know how Nature works, i.e., that all of Nature on all levels obeys the Schrodinger Equation, which *in fact* has only been established by science upon a very limited domain of applicability, pertaining for the most part to atomic and sub-atomic systems. Zeh's presumption is, IMHO, entirely unwarranted, and I am almost certain that it is not at all what Einstein had in mind.
Zeh is somewhat contradictory and even insincere in admitting that there *is* a *ganzer langer Weg* from the event to its registration in our consciousness and then attempting to collapse that metaphysical complexity into a mere physicalist interpretation in which there is no essential separation between the physical noumenon and the non-physical phenomenon. I believe that the essential purpose of Einstein's statement was to emphasize such a profound distinction between noumenon and phenomenon, between Einstein and Heisenberg.
The specific context for Einstein's remark, quoted above, was the question of electron orbits. Einstein queried Heisenberg why, if particle tracks could be observed in cloud chambers, a sufficiently refined method might not disclose electron orbits. This in fact points to a profound difference between the noumenal atoms and the phenomenal tracks of particles in cloud chambers. I do not think Einstein intended to minimize the difference, but only to draw attention to the difference. Viva la differance!
What Einstein did intend by his statement was to draw attention to the need to develop noumenal methods in science, which only he, as the embodiment of them, could do. In fact Bohr, et al., never used the word "noumenon", but only the word "phenomenon". However, that is only because Heisenberg was an embodiment of the phenomenal methods in science and Bohr was an embodiment of the Observer's true Mind, which is the quantum implicate order associated with the classical order of the Observer and later "discovered" by Bohm. They spoke about what they knew most directly, out of profound humility born of self-realization.
In any case, the much more humble and natural presumption of Niels Bohr, et al., was that the Schrodinger Equation was applicable in precisely the realm that it had been successfully applied, namely to the atomic and sub-atomic elementary constituents of the physical world. Without making any absurd claims for the newly discovered law, they assumed that classical physics would continue to apply to the realm in which it had been so successful, namely the macroscopic lab-scale world of the observer.
However, the question certainly arises then: does Nature obey two laws or one? The correct resolution of this has not been grasped by hardly any of the mainstream physicists. The correct resolution is that the quantum law has superseded the classical law as a description of the physical world, but the classical law continues to be necessary for the algorithmic application of the quantum law. This was the view taken by Bohm in "Quantum Theory" (1951). The classical law must now be regarded as applying to a meta-physical world, which is related metaphysically to the physical world. As mentioned earlier, von Neumann acknowledged *extra-physical* elements of the observational process, and yet most physicists continue to be physicalists, even though the advent of quantum theory has made such a view not only not compelling but not even tenable.
It used to be thought that it was obvious that everything around us was physical and we lived in a physical world. But that was, and still is, the classical world - it is NOT the quantum world that we now know governs the physical world of nature. It is the discontinuity between these two hypostatic realms that generates not only the oroboric "abyss" between them, often mentioned by Bohr, but the *ganzer langer Weg*, mentioned by Einstein. And yet, in the atomic conception of nature, which is assumed by quantum theory, only the elementary atomic elements need be regarded as physical. There is absolutely no reason to believe that the world of our phenomenal experience is physical. On the contrary there is now every reason to believe that it is NOT. And yet most physicists persist in the physicalist view based on naive realism, contrary to science and contrary to the phenomenological philosophy of Descartes, Husserl, Heidegger, Sartre, etc.
The correct quantum view of Niels Bohr, et al., is perfectly consistent with phenomenological philosophy, so it is a question of who you want to believe - the avante guarde of the human race or the laggards who continue to cling to physicalism based on naive realism. I contend that it can be shown that the advanced view can lead to rapid and dramatic progress, while the retarded view leads nowhere. The advanced view implements certain metaphysical structures, discovered long ago by Plato and Aristotle, which turn out to be entirely correct and indispensable. It is to the details of these structures that Einstein referred by his statement about the *ganzer langer Weg*.
[Hans Dieter Zeh, cont.]
Einstein did thus *not* suggest that the theory has to postulate "observables" for this purpose (as the first part of the quotation is often misunderstood). Formal observables are useful only since the subsequent part of this chain of interactions can *for all practical purposes* be described in terms of classical variables, after initial values have been stochastically *created* for them somewhere in the chain. However, most physicists would now agree on what to do (in principle) if quantum effects should be relevant during some or all intermediate steps: they would have to calculate the evolution of the corresponding series of entangled systems, taking into account decoherence by the environment where required. There is then no need for genuine classical variables anywhere, since Tegmark's decohered neuronal (quantum) states form an appropriate "pointer basis" for the application of quantum probabilities. These probabilities need not characterize a stochastic dynamical process (a collapse of the wave function), but would describe an objectivizable splitting of the (state of the) mind if the Schrodinger equation were exact. In Bohm's quantum theory, on the other hand, states of the mind would be related to "surreal" classical trajectories which are guided by - hence would be *aware* of - a branch wave function only.
Henry Stapp has recently proven that these conclusions are not correct. In fact the Schrodinger Equation by itself cannot produce a set of local orthogonal basis states, capable of corresponding to our experiments or experiences, and no one, including Tegmark and including Zurek, has shown how it can.
This is critical in undermining the claims of Zeh to a physical determinism based on the universality of the Schrodinger Equation. Zeh allows relative indeterminism to arise but only as determined by the Schrodinger Equation. This whole program is in fact mathematically untenable, because one cannot recover the probability calculus, and it is based on an irrational allegiance to the Schrodinger Equation, exalting it to a universal law, which it is not. Nor is the physical realm that it governs the whole of reality.
[Hans Dieter Zeh]
from his webpage at http://www.zeh-hd.de
The branching of the global state vector PSI with respect to *two* different conscious observers (A and B, say) may be written in the Schmidt-canonical forms,
PSI = Sum over n_A | c_n_A (A) Chi_n_A (A) Phi_n_A (A)
= Sum over n_B | c_n_B (B) Chi_n_B (B) Phi_n_B (B),
where Chi(A,B) are states of the respective physical carriers of consciousness (presumably small but not necessarily local parts of the central nervous system), while Phi(A,B) are states of the respective "rests of the universe".
In this interpretation, the physical world is completely described by Everett's wave function that evolves deterministically (Laplacean). this global quantum state then defines an indeterministic (hence "branching") succession of states for all observers. Therefore, the world itself appears indeterministic - subjective in principle, but largely objectivized through quantum correlations (entanglement).
There is a fundamental error here, IMHO. The Schrodinger Equation DOES NOT govern the global quantum state, or the state vector of the universe. It was designed to describe elementary microscopic systems, which constitute the physical world in an atomic conception of nature governed in part by bottom-up causation. It describes the objectivized reality of the observed system and NOT the non-dual unity of all reality, both subjective and objective, which the state vector of the universe should describe.
My information is that the state vector of the universe, PSI, should be a unified field along the lines of Skyrmie's conception, obeying something like the Sine-Gordon Equation. The relative, objectivized states, Phi(A,B), should obey the Schrodinger Equation, while the equation for the observer states, Chi(A,B), is not yet known.
Peter Joseph Mutnick 1949 - 2000