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how the methods of emergence and reduction operate, as
discussed in Chapter 2. In short, emergence fails as an approach
to the mind-body problem because is it powerless to explain
what must be explained.
Our last approach is Quantum Mechanics, a topic so
intriguing that we will give it its own section.

Quantum Mechanics
Quantum Mechanics deals with the world of the very small.
Scientists began investigating this area during the first few
decades of the 20th century (see Fig. 5-4). They found that atoms
are composed of three smaller entities, the electron, proton, and
neutron. Other residents of this subatomic world were also
discovered, and given names such as the photon, muon,
neutrinos, and quarks, to name just a few. But just what
exactly are these things? Conventional science knows about
two types of phenomena. First, there are waves, including
sound waves, radio waves, waves on the surface of water, and
so on. Second, there are particles, which are just chunks of
matter, such as specks of dust, cannon balls, planets, and
raindrops. Scientific commonsense tells us that the inhabitants
of the subatomic world will also fall into these two categories;
they must be either waves or particles.
Fortunately, waves and particles have very different
characteristics and simple experiments can tell them apart. To
start, we need a source of the subatomic entity that we want to
test. For instance, this might be a radioactive material that emits
neutrons, a light bulb that produces photons, or a glowing hot
wire that gives off electrons. In this example we will arbitrarily
assume that we are using electrons, just to give us a name to
refer to. However, other subatomic particles would produce the
same result.
Figure 5-5 shows the apparatus we will use. We will force
the electrons being emitted from the source to pass through a
Chapter 5: Defining the Problem 73

Werner Heisenberg (1901-1976) and Niels Bohr (1885-1962).
[Left and right, respectively]. Pioneers in Quantum Mechanics.

small aperture, such as a hole in a thin plate of metal. The
electrons that exit the aperture are then detected by a sheet of
photographic film, which is sensitive to electrons in the same
way that it is sensitive to light.
If electrons are particles, as illustrated in Fig. 5-5a, they will
travel in a straight line from the aperture to the photographic
film. The developed negative will therefore show a group of
dots in a circle about the same size as the aperture, with each
dot corresponding to a single electron being detected.
In contrast, Fig. 5-5b shows what will happen if electrons
are waves. After passing through the aperture, the waves will
expand many times in size before striking the photographic
film. Also, they will form into a series of smooth concentric
circles, a pattern referred to as an “Airy disk” (named after
George Biddell Airy, a British astronomer who first explained
the pattern in 1835). By “smooth” we mean that there is a
gradual change between the dark and light regions in the
pattern, without sharp edges or discontinuities. This behavior
of waves is well known in science and completely understood.
The Inner Light Theory of Consciousness

Particle and wave behavior. As shown in (a), particles move in
a straight line and interact as individual events. In contrast, (b)
shows that waves expand as they travel, and interact as a series
of smooth concentric rings, a pattern called an Airy disk. These
behaviors are well known in science and fully understood.

Now we come to the moment of truth; we turn on the
electrons, run the experiment for a short time, develop the film,
and look at the photograph. Do we see a large Airy disk with
smooth rings, or a small circle of dots?
Chapter 5: Defining the Problem 75

Quantum behavior. Quantum entities move as a wave, but then
abruptly collapse into a particle when they are measured. The
location that the particle comes into existence is random and
totally unpredictable (except in a probabilistic sense). If you
don™t understand how this could happen, don™t worry; nobody
understands how this could happen.

Much to our surprise, we find a mixture of these two results.
As shown in Fig. 5-6, the photographic film records an Airy disk
that is formed from individual dots.
To understand just how strange this is, pick an individual
dot in one of the rings and try to analyze how it could have been
produced. In order for the photographic film to be exposed at
this location, the electron must have moved as a wave between
the aperture and the film. However, the individual dot means
that the electron interacted with the film as a particle. In short,
the electron behaves as a wave, but then suddenly turns into a
particle when it is measured. This strange transformation is
referred to as the “collapse of the wave function.” As
previously mentioned, this wave-particle duality is seen in all
entities of the subatomic world, not just electrons.
The Inner Light Theory of Consciousness

This aspect of Quantum Mechanics bewilders scientists to
this day. Consider this passage from one of the founders of
Quantum Mechanics, Werner Heisenberg (Fig. 5-4):

“I remember discussions with Bohr which went through
many hours till very late at night and ended almost in
despair, and when at the end of the discussion I went alone
for a walk in the neighboring park I repeated to myself
again and again the question: “Can nature possibly be as
absurd as it seemed to us in these atomic experiments?”

Quantum Mechanics has now been around for nearly a
century, has been experimentally verified beyond all doubt, and
is mathematically expressed in fine detail. Even so, the nature
of the wave collapse is still as mysterious and puzzling today
as it was to Heisenberg and his colleagues. What is the nature
of the wave before it is measured? What causes the wave to
collapse? Where exactly does the transition from wave to
particle occur? These questions strike at the very heart of our
ability to understand the reality we exist in. And the more one
looks at these questions, the stranger they become.12
Einstein was a great skeptic of Quantum Mechanics, in spite
of making many contributions to its success. For decades he
presented Niels Bohr with thought experiments designed to
show that Quantum Mechanics was incorrect, or at the very
least, incomplete. In his heart, Einstein continued to believe
that the quantum world must consist of ordinary waves and
particles. Bohr closed Einstein™s loopholes one by one, but in
the minds of these two giants the issue was never settled. On
the day that he died, Bohr had a drawing of one of Einstein™s
thought experiments on his blackboard. This great intellectual
exchange is now referred to as the Bohr-Einstein debates.

12. Quantum Reality, Nick Herbert, 1985, Doubleday, 255 pages.
What Quantum Mechanics says about the nature of our reality. For a
general technical audience. Well written; highly recommended.
Chapter 5: Defining the Problem 77

What does this have to do with consciousness? At the most
basic level, Quantum Mechanics and consciousness are both
frustrating mysteries. The question is, are these two mysteries
connected in some way? Many renowned scientists believe that
such a connection does exist. Unfortunately, their reasons are
highly speculative and poorly defined, to say the least.
For instance, John Von Neumann (Fig. 5-7) worked out the
formal mathematics of Quantum Mechanics in 1932. As part of
this, he tried to determine where the wave collapse occurs.
Finding no special location, he concluded that it must be at the
one place he did not understand, the interface between the mind
and the body. The logic of the situation forced him to
reluctantly accept the idealist view that reality is created by our
minds. It must be remembered that Von Neumann is often
regarded as the greatest mathematician of the 20th century. If he
concluded that something was true, you had better think twice
before disagreeing!
Von Neumann™s reasoning is simple:

Since Quantum Mechanics cannot be understood by
itself, something like consciousness must be involved.

John Von Neumann (1903-1957).
Hungarian-American John Von
Neumann is often considered to
be the greatest mathematician of
the 20th century. If it was new and
exciting, Von Neumann was there
to lend a hand! His concept of a
stored program is the foundation
of modern computers. He is also
known for his work on the atomic
bomb and his development of the
formalized mathematics used in
Quantum Mechanics.
The Inner Light Theory of Consciousness

Now we want to look at the flip side of this, a view that is
expressed in the work of Roger Penrose.13 Penrose enters this
debate with the claim that humans are capable of solving certain
mathematical problems that cannot be solved by computers. For
instance, consider the statement: “This sentence is unprovable.”
After a considerable amount of thought, a human will judge this
statement to be true. The reason is, judging that the statement
is false results in a logical contradiction. However, Penrose
claims that this conclusion cannot be reached by computational
means; something more is required. In other words, the human
mind has mathematical abilities above and beyond what can be
explained by neural activity. To account for this extra ability,
Penrose suggests that quantum effects may be at work. Simply
Since consciousness cannot be understood by itself,
something like Quantum Mechanics must be involved.

In conjunction with Stuart Hameroff,14 Penrose speculates
that the underpinnings of consciousness arise in microtubules,
tiny tube-like structures contained within nerve cells. Quantum
effects in the microtubules influence synaptic activity, thereby
linking the operation of the brain with the quantum world. A
particularly interesting part of this view is that the wave
function collapses because of a natural process, a new physical
principle called quantum-gravity. In the Penrose-Hameroff
model, quantum effects cause consciousness, not the other way
around as seen by Von Neumann.
In summary, theories about quantum-consciousness come
in two general varieties: (1) consciousness causes the wave

13. Shadows of the Mind, Roger Penrose, 1996, Oxford University
Press, 457 pages. Very difficult reading. Penrose is a prominent
mathematical physicist, well know for his work on black holes.
14. “Quantum coherence in microtubules: A neural basis for an
emergent consciousness?” S.R. Hameroff, 1994, Journal of
Consciousness Studies 1:91-118. Search the web for current work.
Chapter 5: Defining the Problem 79

function to collapse, and (2) the wave function collapse causes
consciousness. Taken separately or together, these possibilities
lead to a variety of different scenarios about the nature of the
mind and its relationship to reality.
While a connection between consciousness and Quantum
Mechanics is intriguing, there is little evidence that it is true.
Experts are very skeptical of the arguments presented by Von
Neumann and Penrose. Even if they are true, there is an
enormous gap between seeing a few dots on a photographic film
and explaining introspective experiences such as qualia, free-
will and semantic thought. If there is a connection between
Quantum Mechanics and consciousness, it must be shown by
hard evidence, not just the possibility that an answer is hiding
in the unknown. To date, this evidence is not there, not in the
In addition, there is a colossal reason to believe that
Quantum Mechanics and consciousness are not related.
Quantum effects generally occur at very small distances, far
smaller than nerve cells and synapses. This makes it very
difficult to believe that neural activity is affected by the
quantum world. It is much like trying to imagine how birds
and insects could affect the path of a hurricane. The vast
majority of scientists dismiss the possibility that Quantum
Mechanics is related to brain activity. And if it doesn™t affect
brain activity, it is difficult to understand how it could be
related to consciousness.
Whether consciousness is involved or not, the mysteries of
Quantum Mechanics will continue to intrigue scientists and
philosophers alike. This is one of the great puzzles of our time.

Moving Forward
These brief descriptions of the previous approaches only
capture their flavor, not their full substance. There are many
variations and subtle issues that we have ignored altogether.
Nevertheless, this short presentation demonstrates the wide
variety of approaches that have been used, and the equally wide
The Inner Light Theory of Consciousness

variety of ways that they have failed. But from these failures
we can learn what is required of an acceptable solution to the


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