Quantum Mechanics and the Soul

We don’t know what to make of this, so we’ll post about it and let you decide. The headline in London’s Daily Express is: LIFE AFTER DEATH: Shock claim of evidence showing consciousness may continue as a SOUL. They have a comments section with more than 140 comments already. They also have a video of an interview with Roger Penrose, whose name comes up later. Here are some excerpts from the news story, with bold font added by us for emphasis:

The possibility of life after death is one of the greatest mysteries of humanity, but now experts are claiming that there is no death of consciousness – just death of the body. According to some well-respected scientists, quantum mechanics allows consciousness to live on following the body’s eventual demise.

We’ve encountered something like this before, and we wrote New Book Claims There Is No Death, in which we said: “Quantum mechanics can have a strange effect on some people.” Let’s see what else the Daily Express says:

While scientists are still unsure about what exactly consciousness is, the University of Arizona’s Stuart Hameroff believes that it is merely information stored at a quantum level. British physicist Sir Roger Penrose agrees and believes he and his team have found evidence that protein-based microtubules – a structural component of human cells – carry quantum information – information stored at a sub-atomic level.

Roger Penrose is the real deal. According to Wikipedia:

[He is] an English mathematical physicist, mathematician and philosopher of science. He is the Emeritus Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics at the Mathematical Institute of the University of Oxford, as well as an Emeritus Fellow of Wadham College. Penrose is known for his work in mathematical physics, in particular for his contributions to general relativity and cosmology. He has received several prizes and awards, including the 1988 Wolf Prize for physics, which he shared with Stephen Hawking for their contribution to our understanding of the universe

Okay, back to the Daily Express, which tells us:

Sir Roger states if a person temporarily dies, this quantum information is released from the microtubules and into the universe. However, if they are resuscitated the quantum information is channeled back into the microtubules and that is what sparks a near death experience. Sir Roger added: “If they’re not revived, and the patient dies, it’s possible that this quantum information can exist outside the body, perhaps indefinitely, as a soul.”

Amazing, huh? But wait — there’s more. Then we’re told:

Researchers from the renowned Max Planck Institute for physics in Munich agree and state that the physical universe that we live in is only our perception and once our physical bodies die, there is an infinite beyond. Dr Hans-Peter Dürr, former head of the Max Planck Institute for Physics, has said: “What we consider the here and now, this world, it is actually just the material level that is comprehensible.

We know your mind is reeling, dear reader. Here’s one last excerpt:

Dr Christian Hellwig of the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen, added: “Our thoughts, our will, our consciousness and our feelings show properties that could be referred to as spiritual properties. No direct interaction with the known fundamental forces of natural science, such as gravitation, electromagnetic forces, etc. can be detected in the spiritual. On the other hand, however, these spiritual properties correspond exactly to the characteristics that distinguish the extremely puzzling and wondrous phenomena in the quantum world.”

In other words, they have no data to confirm the existence of all the souls that may be out there. As we said at the start, we don’t know what to make of this. What do you think, dear reader?

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17 responses to “Quantum Mechanics and the Soul

  1. We are all obviously headed toward the Omega Point 🙂 “The Omega Point is a spiritual belief that everything in the universe is fated to spiral towards an Omega Point of divine unification. The term was coined by the French Jesuit priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881–1955).” And I might add, embraced by physicist/cosmologist Frank J Tipler.

  2. Dave Luckett

    That a thing may be hypothetically possible, given the current state of knowledge, is not evidence that it is possible, or that it actually happens. And I say this, wanting most strenuously for it to be so – which is, I submit, a reason for doubting it.

  3. This is interesting, as in a number of fields the Max Planck folks are cutting-edge.

  4. Then if we capture some of those microtubules as we develop in the fetal stage, wouldn’t that give rise to reincarnation? Nah, I think Penrose is falling off the deep end.

  5. Derek Freyberg

    “No direct interaction with the known fundamental forces of natural science, such as gravitation, electromagnetic forces, etc. can be detected in the spiritual.”
    So how do we know any of this woo-fulness exists?

  6. So, in essence, our souls are uploaded to the cloud upon death. It won’t be long until someone will figure a way to hack into it and bring back Jefferson, Franklin and Darwin if we’re lucky, and Jack Chick if we aren’t so lucky.

    Seriously though, quantum storage of information could explain some mysteries such as monarch butterfly migration. We currently have no idea how the needed navigational information is passed forward across four generations and then is apparently stored in the infinitesimally small brain of the insect. And yet, it happens. Millions of monarchs migrate from all across North America to a few acres in the mountains of Mexico, when their great grandparents (or even great-great grandparents!) were the last to be there.

  7. Does the quantum information from mouse brains go wondering off into space when the mice die? Or is it only people who get the magical mystery tour?

  8. michaelfugate

    Given that microtubules are in all eukaryotes and some bacteria, almost everything must have a soul.

  9. Sir Roger Penrose”
    Sir Roger”
    Dr. Hans-Peter Dürr”
    Dr. Christian Hellwig”

    Given that creationist and other pseudo-scientist writings tend to over emphasize credentials in an effort to bolster their evidence-free claims, I’m of the opinion that any article written as such, needlessly and relentlessly repeating credentials, tend to be of the pseudo-scientific bent.

    Actual professionals demonstrate their knowledge without cheap recourse to labels to wow the rubes.

  10. I’m trying to keep an open mind here, but it’s difficult, considering that the “souls” of both my parents disappeared as a consequence of senile dementia before their bodies did. Months before in one case, years in the other. Then consider the victims of stroke or other brain lesions that lead to personality changes, so that the post-trauma character is very different from the one it displaced. Which “soul” would live on? Which one is the authentic one?

    Color me skeptical.

  11. Mike Elzinga

    Many years ago, when I was a PhD student at The University of Michigan, I heard seminar given by Nobel laureate, Brian Josephson, on his theory of “The Wave Function of Life.”

    About half way through the talk, several of us in the Physics Department walked out; the talk was so weird. One of the professors commented to me as we walked down the hallway that having a Nobel Prize apparently allows someone to ramble on and on with complete bulls**t and people will politely sit and listen for the entire time.

    Quantum “weirdness” gets exploited for all sorts of reasons that have nothing to do with the physics of living organisms.

  12. Rubbish! More Woo-Woo, with a lot to do with nothing.

  13. Dave Luckett

    Conventions regarding honorifics in the UK:

    Persons holding a doctorate from a recognised University are entitled to use and be referred and addressed by the title “Doctor” in the professional work in which the degree is relevant, that is, not socially. The anomaly is medical doctors, who are always addressed as Doctor, despite the fact that most of them don’t actually hold a doctoral degree at all – merely two baccalaureate degrees. (Dentists aspire to this distinction too, with less recognition.) Weirdly, if the doctor further qualifies as a surgeon, he or she goes back to being plain Mister, Mrs, Miss or Ms. So if the learned gentlemen reported here hold doctoral degrees relevant to this subject, it is perfectly correct of the newspaper to give the honorific.

    Knights of the Realm, however, receive the honorific Sir (first given name)(surname) as if it were part of their name. (The equivalent for women is Dame). Not only is it not out of place for the paper to call Sir Roger Penrose that, it would be remiss of it not to.

  14. Dave Luckett – “Dentists aspire to…”
    As a dentist, may I say that it would be more accurate to state “Dentists inherited a social convention to which most of us are utterly indifferent.”

  15. Dave Luckett, now you’ve got me thinking about honorifics. I may even post about the subject.

  16. Dave Luckett:
    “So if the learned gentlemen reported here hold doctoral degrees relevant to this subject, it is perfectly correct of the newspaper to give the honorific.”

    IS there a university that confers a doctorate in Quantum Woo?

    And while on the subject of honorifics, shall I be known as Junior High Science Teacher Emeritus? (On second thought, no — that would be a horrific honorific.)

  17. Woo. Woo and woo.
    Woo squared. Not quantum woo, but giga-woo
    (Well, you asked for our opinion.)
    To those for whom I wasn’t clear enough: woo.