Quantum Theory Won’t Save The Soul – Neuroskeptic | DiscoverMagazine.com

Could quantum mechanics save the soul? In the light of 20th century physics, is free will plausible?

Such as been the hope of some philosophers, scientists (and pretenders to those titles) – but neuroscientist Peter Clarke argues that it’s just not happening, in an interesting new paper: Neuroscience, quantum indeterminism and the Cartesian soul

via Quantum Theory Won’t Save The Soul – Neuroskeptic | DiscoverMagazine.com.

In my post the other day about the mind being completely contained in the brain, I briefly mentioned why quantum effects were probably not significant in mental processing.  Well, this post by the Neuroskeptic discusses a paper that apparently goes into the gory details that squash this idea.

As I mentioned the other day, if quantum uncertainty were significant in synapses, it would also be significant for transistors in modern computer chips that are now getting down to the same size scales, which if true, wouldn’t function properly.

10 thoughts on “Quantum Theory Won’t Save The Soul – Neuroskeptic | DiscoverMagazine.com

  1. what quantum uncertainty really tells me is that I’m made of a whole lot of billions of particles that like to wave about too — so, anyway, besides the brain there is the heart and it creates more interaction with the outside world really in mere minutes than the brain can manage in a month

    Happy Holidays Mike
    ~ Eric


  2. Earlier this month Deepak Chopra disseminated across the web an essay titled ‘The Mystery of God and the Brain’. The crux of the piece is that since science can’t explain everything *The Mystery* is still alive. I think that for many believers(of any stripe) *The Mystery* is, if not *the* source, a major source of the awe and wonder we all experience in response to various aspects of existence, each in our own unique way.

    Christopher Burris, St Jerome’s University, has been involved in 2 studies that I think important in coming to understand why some of us believe and some of us do not:

    ‘Atheists and believers may differ in emotional processing’

    ‘Video games: they have what atheists crave’

    The abstracts are available at the links provided – unfortunately the journals are not open-access. The following is something of a summation:

    ‘Differences in cognitive style, emotional processing, and ideology as crucial variables in understanding meaning making’, Haque/Shenhav/Rand 2012

    So, to me, this says that believers tend to give priority to their intuitions and experience more intense emotions but are insufficiently able to process and understand them. This results in *The Mystery*. Another more unfortunate effect is the anti-science/anti-reductionism(eg your science is killing my mystery) so often evidenced.

    My question/thought is: Does this capacity for more intense/vivid emotional experience demand more intense/vivid stimuli and thus the need for the maintainence of *The Mystery*? The studies, to the best of my knowledge, are the first in this direction. I’m hoping we’ll see more.


    1. John Keats famously accused Isaac Newton (lightheartedly) of destroying the poetry of the rainbow. I suspect there was some of what you describe going on in that comment.

      Personally, I love a good mystery as much as anyone. But I’ve always seen them as something to solve rather than revel in. Yes, the satisfaction of solving it is fleeting, but there are always new mysteries beyond those solutions.

      That said, I suspect it’s not the mystery that people want to preserve, but the possibility of their preferred answers to them. Those answers are often much more comforting or exciting than the ones science uncovers.


      1. First and foremost, I forgot to credit Michael Graziano for my paraphrasing “your science is killing my mystery”. At least I think that it was in reading the previews to a couple of his books that I came across it put that way.

        Yes, the preferred answers are those based on our intuitions of a god, a soul, and an after-life, and they are without a doubt more comforting, such that I find it difficult to fault people for having those beliefs especially with the cultural/societal support such beliefs enjoy. You mentioned the spectrum of belief/non-belief recently and I commented how no two of us occupy the exact same spot on that spectrum. It’s exactly that spectrum that allows natural selection to operate for without it we’d be much more similar to the eusocial insects if we all thought and believed alike.

        On that note I think I’ll turn my attention to your ‘Memories of memories of memories…’ post – another fascinating/enigmatic topic – and enjoy a Rusty Nail(2 parts scotch, 1 part Drambuie) to both ward off the chill and lubricate the cognition 🙂


          1. It did take off the chill, but the effect on my cognition was more sedative in nature – slept very well 🙂

            … and a Merry Christmas to to you!


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