Friday, June 8, 2007

Quantum illusions

A quick scan through several search engines demonstrates that the “e-ther” net is replete with ever more sites claiming a holistic world view based on, and in the name of “quantum” holism. The discussions range from fairly benign, albeit, misrepresented banter to truly fantastical descriptions of universal proportions.

Indeed, a common mind set in the world of alternative philosophies, is the idea of a universal continuity or holism that lies at the root of many holistic theories describing a “quantum” consciousness. They provide, on the surface, a “scientific” framework for a broad swath of complementary and alternative medical practices (acupuncture, homeopathy, reiki, bioenergetics…).

Its times like these when it benefits the skeptical to sit down and peruse the refreshing air of measured reason by reviewing some familiar basic concepts of the observable universe. The fact that many of these holistic theories rest on a monumental quagmire of seminal misunderstandings, misrepresentations, non sequitors, false assumptions… on and on of physics (and all of the basic sciences for that matter) makes them essentially meaningless illusions (except for possible placebo benefits- if any). This does not, however, diminish the need to take them to task for shoddy reasoning. There are people who actually stake their lives on many medical therapies based on these faulty foundations.

One big misrepresentation is the idea that holistic theory, medicine, and therapies treat the whole animal or person whereas “traditional” science and medicine are too fragmented and reductionist thereby missing out on the true concept of healing by not taking into account the “whole” picture. Though science based methods indeed take large systems and studies there make up often fragmenting them into smaller sets and delving deep into their microcosm, it does so to better understand the broader workings and global functions. Therefore by definition, science is a completely holistic methodology taking into account as many details of a phenomenon as possible.

Contrast this to the “holistic” view that tends to describe fuzzy “energies” that “support” and “feed” the “life force.” These are claimed vital forces that permeate all living things and the universe itself. That they are not detectable, measurable, or have been demonstrated to exist does not seem to faze supporters. Holistic treatment modalities in medicine are often fairly nondescript in this way; treating the symptoms rather than searching for the cause of a disease-the exact reverse of what is claimed.

Victor Stenger states: “Of course it is still possible that a life force might someday be found, but this is not what is claimed in the literature that promotes much of CAVM (Complementary and Alternative Veterinary Medicine). It would seem that the effects of these mysterious forces would easily be detectable, given the great precision with which physical phenomena can be measured.”

The leap of faith and vacuum in reason is all well and good with regards to a person’s right to believe or think what ever they want. The problem is when it is used to affect others, or create unsupported delusions that can lead to inappropriate therapies from a medical stand point (the sociological, cultural, and religious issues are other huge topics intensely discussed by luminaries such as Dawkins, Harris, Sagan and others).

It is helpful, especially for those of us not intensely schooled in the nuances and mathematics of physics to have those who are communicate to us these wonders such that we comprehend the general concepts as they truly are.

Physicists such as Victor Stenger provide us with a clear and concise description of the standard model of physics that many choose to twist and shape into unrecognizable contortions. The standard model is a fully developed and successful theory in which the fundamental constituents of matter and energy are grouped whereby their relationships and interactions can be exquisitely predicted.

The standard model describes matter as being composed of atomic constituents that, in turn, are composed of quarks and elementary particles that are logically grouped into families of subatomic particles. Further these particles interact with each other through forces and this is what makes up the complex forms of matter such as the stars. It is the exchange of particles that results in these forces and no Elam vital or continuous ether is required. Quantum fields in quantum theory describe these forces in detail.

According to Stenger: “ Quantum fields are strictly theoretical objects, like the density field that describes the average behavior of particulate matter. They do not describe a continuous energy that pervades space. Since every particle is the quantum of a quantum field, no fields exists independently from other particles. Furthermore, quanta do not act instantaneously over space. Their effects propagate no faster than the speed of light.”

Additionally he adds: “According to energy medicine proponents, quantum mechanics is said to provide a basis for a mind/matter connection. This notion appears to arise from the fact that… the act of observation interferes with what is being observed, as expressed in the Heisenburg uncertainty principle…However…it is not a statement about the inaccuracy of measurements, nor is it a reflection on the quality of experimental methods; it arises from the wave properties inherent in the quantum mechanical description of nature. Even with perfect instruments and technique, the uncertainty is inherent in the nature of things.”

The uncertainty principle is twisted and deformed by some to imply that reality determines consciousness somehow because of this quality. Again Stenger replies: “Such an interpretation is quite simply wrong. There is no such implication inherent in the Heisenburg principle, nor in quantum phenomena or quantum theory."

Living and nonliving matter are comprised of the same material and there is no evidence for the existence of a permeating ether of energy or consciousness pervading the universe. There is little or no actual foundation in quantum physics from where many holistic claims can be supported.

Ref: Complementary and alternative veteinary medicine considered. Ramey R, Rollins B. Blackwell Publishing Co. Iowa. 2004

Victor J Stenger

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