Deepak Chopra and Berkeley Physicist Claim the Universe is One Giant Mind

Monday, 14 July 2014 - 1:54PM
Monday, 14 July 2014 - 1:54PM

"Nothing in Nature rules out a super-mind at the foundation of the cosmos."


Physician and religious theorist Deepak Chopra and physicist Henry Stapp released an article in the Huffington Post which asserted that many mysteries of the universe can be solved by understanding the mind as separate from matter, and that the mind is essentially a micro version of our universe.


In their article, Chopra and Stapp ask, "In what way does the universe display mind-like behavior? Once you admit that this is a legitimate question, the answers are many." They justify this claim by discussing the shift in predominant theories of physics from Newtonian physics to quantum mechanics. Since quantum mechanics essentially makes the claim that events in the universe are determined by conscious observation, they argue, the mind should be central to a unifying theory of the universe. They claim that the universe is analogous to a mind because, just as a mind has an imagination, the universe according to quantum mechanics has "potentialities" that exist in some kind of cosmic imagination: "Probability distributions of particles are not the same as real distributions of particles. They are in some sense imaginary. They can be distributions existing in the imaginations or minds of some human beings, or perhaps in an imagined-to-exist cosmic mind...


"Whereas Newton's physical universe was an actual 'thing,' in QM the physical aspect represents a mere 'potentiality" for what can become actual.' The universe doesn't behave like material stuff. There are abrupt jumps, leaps, and changes of state at the heart of quantum behavior. These sudden responses to increments in knowledge make the material aspect more mind-like than matter-like."


Many well-respected physicists, such as Steven Hawking, have vehemently opposed any and all attempts to use quantum theory to formulate a theory of consciousness or vice versa, and deride Chopra's "quantum mysticism" as pseudoscience. According to RationalWiki, which dubs quantum mysticism "quantum woo," thinkers such as Chopra tend to use buzzwords from quantum mechanics in order to explain events in everyday life that are not immediately understandable. They sum it up as follows: 


"The logical process runs something like this:

1) I want magic to exist.

2) I don't understand quantum.

3) Therefore, quantum could mean magic exists."


Similarly, physicist Murray Gell-Mann coined the term "quantum flapdoodle" to describe "stringing together a series of terms and phrases from quantum physics and asserting that they explain something in our daily experience." He also specifically cited Deepak Chopra as a practitioner of quantum flapdoodle.


However, the article was co-written by Henry Stapp, who is a legitimate physicist and received his PhD in particle physics from UC Berkeley. On the other hand, the article itself does seem to open itself to the accusation of mystical and possibly wishful thinking. For example, they assert, "The beauty of accepting that mind is fundamental in Nature is that it obliterates the powerful visual image of the universe as a cold, empty void. Instead, we come back to a universe that human beings belong in, our rightful home." This is indeed a beautiful sentiment, but not an especially scientific one.

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