Saturday, August 28, 2021

How the Non-Physical Influences Physics and Physiology: a proposal

Expanded from talk on July 24 at SSE-PA Connections 2021:
A combined meeting of the Society for Scientific Exploration and the Parapsychological Association. 

Prerecorded video at 

The causal closure of the physical world is assumed everywhere in physics but has little empirical support within living organisms. For the spiritual to have effects in nature, and make a difference there, the laws of physical nature would have to be modified or extended. I propose that the renormalized parameters of quantum field theory (masses and charges) are available to be varied locally in order to achieve ends in nature. This is not adding extra forces to nature but rescaling the forces which already exist. We separate metric time in 4 dimensions from process time as the order of actualization of potentialities. This is to allow iterative forward and reverse steps in metric time to influence intermediate variations in the vacuum permittivities to move charged bodies towards achieve specific targets at a later time. Then mental or spiritual influx could have effects in nature, and these should be measurable in biophysics experiments. With this proposal, we see after some centuries how ‘final causes’ could once again be seen active in nature.

PhilPapers link

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Details of How Spiritual Influx into the Natural Shows Itself in Physics

A group of us gave a talk on this subject at Bryn Athyn College on Oct 12.

All the talks together can be seen at

My two talks, which focused on how the spiritual and mental can affect nature, are:

Expanding the idea of Discrete Degrees
Slides: powerpoint and pdf.

A mechanism for spiritual influx into the physical
Slides: powerpoint (including movies), and pdf (no movies).

A longer article is being written to appear next year.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

How Spiritual Influx into the Natural Shows Itself in Physics

At this meeting there is a presentation of our new ideas for the interface between the mental and the physical. More specifically: How Influx into the Natural Shows Itself in Physics.
These are new ideas based on inspiration from the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg, who seems of all history to have the best lead-in to these issues.
How Influx into the Natural  Shows Itself in Physics.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Breaking The Shell: Connecting the Spiritual Cascade to the Physical with New Church Science

There will be a Theistic Science Symposium, Oct. 12, 2019 at the Bryn Athyn college, PA.

The Swedenborg Scientific Association (SSA) and the Theistic Science Group (TSG) are pleased to extend an invitation to the Theistic Science Symposium, Oct. 12, 2019 at the Bryn Athyn college. This event is free for everyone. Sure to be a very fascinating day, please see the agenda for details. Registration requested at
For me this will be very important.  It will be an opportunity to explain in more details my idea for Can minds have effects in nature? How? as described in the previous posting.
The first part of the day will be taken my talks from my colleagues to lay the groundwork, so we can understand how spiritual influx into the natural can and must make sense even within science.  We are discussing our ideas every week in a group Skype call, and we will coordinate the details of our talks to make them easier to follow.
So many people think that materialism is inadequate to understand how minds and spirits might exist and live in relation to the world, but have no good ideas how this might take place. Some think that revealing the quantum physics is important for physical measurements and/or biological operations is the important step to going beyond materialism. In a sense that is true, but the effects of quantum physics are either absolutely essential for even ordinary processes (e.g. in sub-atomic and nuclear physics - my day job), or make only extremely small differences compared with classical physics.
So now I want to show how electric processes of attraction and repulsion could themselves be modified and managed by influx coming from outside the physical.  These effects are much larger than quantum effects, and could well be very important for producing the detailed molecular reactions that occur in cells -- or at least the timing of the molecular processes that need to be managed for the successful life of a cell.

So my talk, and the end of the day, will give more details of what I have in mind for how spiritual and mental things can influence the physical. And do so in a way that minimizes the number of laws of physics that have to be changed to allow this to occur. If you come, you will see!

The event will be live streamed and later available on youtube. Details of that to come.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Can minds have effects in nature? How?

Some questions:

  • If you have God and/or our minds acting in nature, as every basic purpose and volition demands in reality, do you think this is directly, or both directly and via intermediates?
  • If there are intermediates, then there might be something specific and regular behaviors that science could connect with (at least from one side!).
  • For telos and purpose and volition (etc) must have observable effects.
  • Do you think that evidence and theories about the influence on the world of spiritual or mental things would help? Could they be intermediates here? 

By ‘intermediates’, I am thinking first of humans, and then all animals and plants as well as each living cell. These are all living creatures, and we presume that they all have at least some primitive kind of mental life: at least some will or motivation or telos, along with instinctual responses that reflect some implicit wisdom for good ways of responding to enhance and continue life.

There may well be spiritual beings of some sort as well, but they would be intermediates between all us living creatures and what is greater than us spiritually, so I should think: angels, saints and all who have lived who want to do what is good and useful (and maybe also those who want the opposite). Direct divine influence is possible as well, of course.

Because these things above are all intermediates, they are ‘riders’ or ‘modulators’ on the pathways of life from the Divine that the Lord uses to enliven and influence us in the world. All the good spiritual beings, for example, would be saying saying ‘not my will but thine’ when they do something.

For intermediates, I just refer to our abilities to feel, think and do things from feeling and thinking. That is, I assume we have minds that do these things, and hence have causal effects on body and world. This applies to all living creatures to varying degrees of fullness and detail. Any plausible account of the world has to take minds in some sense as essential part or being of mental lives. The substance of minds is love/desire, and their form is their thinking. This is just applying Aristotle’s common categories to some things very obvious. The substance gives the mode of its persistence through time, and the form gives its structure at present. Naturalism might want to call these esoteric and unbelievable, but they are really what we are all very close to, namely our minds.

Visible Effects!

I now insist that, in all our bodies, there must be influences from these intermediates that give results not as predicted by the laws of physics. They must be able to have some effect: able to make a difference to physics (otherwise, why bother?). The modulation from intermediates results in a kind of ‘final cause’ in physics, since it directs physical bodies towards some end or target or lure.

And now I think that these differences in physics ought be observable even to physicists. They are much larger than resolving quantum uncertainties or probabilities, since the effects of motivation and telos happen in every minute in our living bodies, and so cannot be just biasing some remote probability. I agree that it might be difficult, since this is to distinguish agency from chance. But it is only the chance of ignorance, not of quantum physics.

Some new ideas 

I even have a more specific idea for what these differences might be in physics, which I will explain more in the next few months when I work out a bit more detail. Sometimes, at least, the patterns should be repeated.

It maybe can be seen in protein folding, where there has been persistent ignorance of the causes of rapid in-vivo folding for the last 50 years?

I am beginning to see a way to change physics to allow final causes to have effects from causes originally in minds. I will explain (in more detail soon, somewhere) my idea for some of the ways ‘supporting efficient causes’ may assist final causes to operate in nature. The idea is some local modification of specific physical properties in order to reach some kind of target or lure or end from the final causes. If physical properties are changed, then something should be measurably different.

The physical variations needed to reach targets are much larger (by many orders of magnitude) than the range required by the Heisenberg uncertainty principle in quantum physics.  Given that, however, I want in reality to work on targeting with quantum fields. So the HUP will be still taken into account.  But in the meantime, Newtonian mechanics will be a very good approximation.

Is the physical world causally closed?

We are admittedly breaking the causal closure of the natural world, and breaking some conservation laws in some particular circumstances, so it’s a bit of a conjecture. Materialists may say that this makes it all impossible, since conservation laws are ‘known to be satisfied to high accuracy’. I reply: have you tested conservation laws where processes like this may well be occurring? That is, testing where we expect volition (etc) to be important?

If course, if you can already see the limits of naturalism, then the failure of the causal closure of the physical will not be a great surprise.

There might not be new energy or matter, but local fluctuations of (say) the unit of charge in specific regions. For the physicist: this amounts to local fluctuations of the permittivity of space in the region where molecular objects need to be guided.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Must the Physical Universe be Causally Closed, or not?

The question has equivalent forms:

  • Is the physical universe is causally closed?  
  • Does nothing that goes on in the brain violate the predictions of physical science?
  • Does every physical event that has a cause have a physical cause?
  • Does no natural change violate a prediction (or outcome) in physical formulas?

William Hasker, in a recent book review, discuss why the answer must be 'No' to all these questions, despite what modern scientists (and, more frequently) philosophers claim.

He will be referring to "Premise 1", namely
1.     Nothing that goes on in the brain violates the predictions of physical science.
"The first point to be made is that, in spite of frequent assertions to the contrary, premise (1) is not known to be true. What is in question is whether an immaterial mind may be exerting a causal influence on what happens in the brain at a micro-level. Influence on this scale is far below the limits of our present capacity to detect. Furthermore, we have only the vaguest notion of what it is we would be trying to detect because we know little about how the brain actually works at this level. I am tempted to say that we don't know the "machine code" for the brain, but this understates the case. We don't even know how the basic hard­ware (rather, wetware) functions with regard to giving rise to particular kinds of conscious experience. We don't know, in spite of many proposals, the neural correlate of consciousness, the minimum neural functioning that is required for any kind of conscious experience to occur. We are roughly in the position of a member of a primitive society who, confronted with a transistor radio, reasons that since there is no human being speaking in the vicinity, the radio must be speaking to him on its own. He simply lacks the equipment that would be required to detect the electromagnetic waves that are carrying the signal to the radio, as well as the knowledge to appreciate their significance. Under these circumstances, the claim that we have experimental verification of premise (1) can't be made out. One might, to be sure, affirm (1) as a plausible extrapolation from the scientific knowledge we do have, in the light of one's own overall (probably naturalistic) worldview. Understood in this way, however, the argument no longer has any compelling force against mind-body dualism. Furthermore there is an important objection to (1) even taken in this non-dogmatic way.
This leads to the second point: there is strong reason to think that premise (1) is false. Here's the argument. We humans are able to engage in conscious rational thought, resulting in a reasonably accurate apprehension of the world in which we live. This can be taken as a datum; clearly, anti-survivalists cannot afford to challenge it, relying as they do on scientific knowledge of many different kinds. This datum, however, is a fact which requires explana­tion. There is, furthermore, one particular sort of explanation which will be accepted by most readers of this review, probably including all anti-survivalists. That expla­nation is found in evolutionary epistemology. The basic idea is familiar: the sorts of mental functioning which lead to a generally accurate apprehension of the world lead thereby to behavior which is conducive to survival and reproduction, and so those sorts of mental functioning tend to prevail over others in the course of evolution. This may or may not be the complete explanation for human rational capabilities (I doubt that it is), but it does seem to be an important part of the explanation.
Now, here is the crucial point: If premise (1) is true, that is, if causal closure obtains, then evolutionary epistemology cannot be the explanation for human rationality. The reasoning is simple and compelling. If causal closure is true, then everything that happens in the brain has its complete explanation in prior physical events, no doubt mainly earlier brain-events. But this means that prior mental events play no role in determining the state of a person's brain -- and therefore, they play no role in the organism's behavior. It follows, furthermore, that mental events and processes are irrelevant to behavior and are thus invisible to natural selection, which can only operate on physical structures and physical behavior. So natural selection cannot select for superior mental processes, nor can it play any role in explaining the effectiveness of the mental processes we actually employ in getting to know the world. This enormously important fact -- that we are able to reason about the world and gain know­ledge of it -- is left completely unexplained. I predict, furthermore, that within the generally naturalistic framework that is presupposed in this discussion, it will not be possible to find a promising alternative explanation.
It is sometimes thought that this problem can be surmounted by adopting mind-body identity theory. If the physical brain-event is also a mental event, then the mental event is after all causally relevant to behavior, and natural selection can operate to select superior mental processes. This however is a mistake. We have, it is proposed, a single event, which has both physical characteristics and mental characteristics. Notice, however, that only the physical characteristics of the event are causally effective. The causal consequences of that event will be those, and only those, that flow from it as determined by physical forces, as recognized by the true laws of physics. The mental characteristics of the event, whatever they may be, have no effect whatever in determining the subsequent behavior. Once again, natural selection is unable either to select for superior mental function or to explain the efficacy of the mental processes we actually employ. We are left completely without any explanation for the fact, if it is a fact, that mental events that lead to evolutionarily successful outcomes generally coincide with those that involve an accurate representation of the world. The general effect­iveness of our reasoning processes is still entirely unexplained. I submit that any view of the mind and the self that has this consequence is at a severe disadvantage. The price for accepting premise (1) of the argument is extremely high.
Well put!

I have listed many other papers discussing this issue at .

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Quantum mechanics and consciousness - Part 8/8: Origin of these ideas

8. Origin of these ideas

I have presented these ideas as worth of consideration on their own, but they really have a long history in a variety of contexts. The basic idea that causation only truly works from the mind into the brain (and not vice versa) is not a popular one today. However, it can be traced back to ‘non-standard’ insights of people such as Plotinus (b. 205), Boehme (b. 1575), Swedenborg (b. 1688) and some other traditions. Swedenborg was well educated as a physicist and then physiologist, so I find his accounts the most detailed and useful. Of course, he knew nothing of quantum mechanics (only Newtonian mechanics), so I have had to ‘re-apply’ his principles in the light of what we now know about the physical world. He has the clearest presentation of the idea of ‘conditional forward causation’ (he calls it ‘influx into uses’), and he gives the most complete account of the ‘correspondences’ that exist between mental and bodily things. For a brief summary of his ideas, see [15]. 

My References

[8] I. J. Thompson, "Discrete Degrees Within and Between Nature and Mind," in Psycho-Physical Dualism Today: An Interdisciplinary Approach, A. Antonietti, Ed., Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2008, pp. 99-125.
[13] I. J. Thompson, "The Consistency of Physical Law with Divine Immanence," Science & Christian Belief, vol. 5, pp. 19-36, 1993. 
[14] I. J. Thompson, Starting Science from God, Pleasanton, CA: Eagle Pearl Press, 2011. 

[15] I. J. Thompson, "Swedenborg and Modern Science," Scientific and Medical Network Newsletter, vol. 26, pp. 3-8, 1989. 

Previous post here.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Quantum mechanics and consciousness - Part 7/8: Connections to Theism

7. Connections to Theism

In theology, there has long been a tension between the transcendence and the immanence of God. To avoid a deism which has only transcendence, to avoid pantheism which has only immanence, and thus to see how theism may be a coherent belief, it is necessary to give some rational account of how God may be both transcendent of and immanent in the world. One common account [12] has been to see God as the ‘Author, Sustainer, and Finisher’ of all natural processes. For thinkers ranging from Aquinas to Descartes “the action of divine conservation is construed to be an ‘extension’ of the action of divine creation”, but the means of this conservation is rarely explained further. Such accounts leave uncertain the question of exactly how, in an effective as well as in an abstract sense, the Divine is immanent in nature. They do not describe the actual relationship between the immanent Divine and the causal powers determined by physical investigation.

I suggest [13] that even the Divine and creation together can be considered two generative levels, by analogy to all the other kinds of generative levels we have seen to exist within physics, within psychology, and between physics and psychology. The Divine would be the ‘A’, the first in the sequence, as the ‘deepest underlying principle’, ‘source’, or ‘power’ that is fixed through all the subsequent changes to in created beings. This is in agreement with the fundamental concept of theism, where the Divine is the source of changes, but in itself is constant in essence. This essence or underlying power would thus be the Divine Love, and could reasonably be called the Substance of the Divine. Consciousness is therefore not the divine source itself, but an essential aspect of operations from that source. More details are in [14].

The existence, powers and changes in all finite beings follow the rule that the dispositions of an object are those generated derivatives of Divine Power that accord with what is actual about those beings. Consider two analogies. God provides life as the sun shines on the earth. The sun shining on the earth is constant, but the energy received by the earth varies by days and seasons. We know, however, that this variation is according to the earth’s distance and orientation: according to something actual about the earth, not because of variations in the sun. A second analogy is that God provides life as we are provided with food. Consider the way animals consume food in order to live. What an animal is capable of doing after eating depends on its digestive system and how it has assimilated the food. Different species will respond quite differently to the same food, according to how they are constituted. 

[12] J. Newman, Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent (1870), London: University of Notre Dame Press, 1979. 
[13] I. J. Thompson, "The Consistency of Physical Law with Divine Immanence," Science & Christian Belief, vol. 5, pp. 19-36, 1993. 
[14] I. J. Thompson, Starting Science from God, Pleasanton, CA: Eagle Pearl Press, 2011. 

Previous post here.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Quantum mechanics and consciousness - Part 6/8: Conservation laws and closure

6. Conservation laws and closure

One purported strong indication against mind-body or mental-physical dualism is that the physical world appears to be causally closed. The total of energy and total momentum appear to be conserved whenever they have been measured in modern physics. There does not seem to be any room for minds to make a difference to evolution of the physical world. We should first note, with Meixner [9], that there is little or no experimental evidence to prove this within living bodies and especially within brains. The universal application of conservation laws is an assumption of the physical sciences, not a result as it is commonly presented. Arguments for causal closure have turned out to depend on some assumption that is almost identical to the result to be proved [10] [11].

Suppose that physicists found that energy and momentum were not conserved in some instances. How would they react? First, they would note that the laws apply only to isolated systems, so they would examine whether the object really was isolated or not, and whether they should look for something further (like a hidden planet) that was producing the effects. Secondly, they would generalize the conservation laws so the new law was satisfied but not the old one. It used to be thought, for example, that total mass and total energy were separately conserved, but, after many subatomic experiments showing the annihilation and creation of massive particles, those separate laws were quietly dropped in favor of a general law of conservation of mass-energy in combination. If, therefore, the non-conservation of energy and/or momentum were found in certain biological or psychological processes, science as we know it would not collapse. Either the influence from other kinds of beings would be ascertained, or a further generalization of the conservation laws would be sought. The only novelty in the proposals here, is that these ‘other kinds of beings’ would not be ‘physical’ in the traditional way.

[9] U. Meixner, "Physicalism, Dualism and Intellectual Honesty," Dualism Review, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 1-20, 2005.
[10] U. Mohrhoff, "The Physics of Interactionism," J. Consciousness Studies, vol. 6, pp. 165-184, 1999.
[11] W. Hasker, "How Not to be Reductivist," PCID, vol. 2.3.5, pp. 1-16, 2003.

Previous part 5

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Quantum mechanics and consciousness - Part 5/8: Mind and Physics as Levels Themselves?

5. Mind and Physics as Levels Themselves?

I have argued that there are multiple generative levels within both the physical and mental realms. The next hypothesis is that the physical and psychological are themselves generative levels linked together, so that physical dispositions as a whole are derivative from mental dispositions within living and/or thinking organisms. We entertain [8] the view that the dualism of mind and body is not an ad hoc division, but one that logically follows from the kinds of causation that exists within a universe in which there are both minds and bodies as distinct ontological substances connected as generative levels.

To see whether this works in practice, we have to consider the detailed requirements of any theory of psychology. At the simplest level of generalization, minds must be able to
  • implement intended functions by feeling and thinking, then using motor areas,
  • establish permanent memories, presumably by means of permanent physiological changes,
  • form perceptions using information from the visual and auditory (etc.) cortexes,
  • follow ‘internal’ trains of thought/feeling/imagining without necessarily having any external effects.
One way that these requirements can be accomplished is by means of the ideas presented so far, formulated in the following three principles:
  1. I. Some physical/physiological potentialities (both deterministic and indeterministic according to quantum physics) are derived dispositions from minds as their principal cause. That is, minds predispose the dynamical properties of some physical objects.
  2. II. The dispositional capacities of the mind are consequentially restricted (and hence conditioned) by their actual physical effects, by means of occasional causation.
  3. III. The pattern of I and II is repeated for individual stages of more complex processes.

These principles together give what has been called conditional forward causation, or ‘top-down causation’. Note that we do not have a fourth ‘bottom-up’ principle that neural events directly cause events to occur in the mind. We do not have general matter → mind causation, although something resembling this does arise, namely selection. This is not causation in the sense of principal causation as producing or generating the effect, but is occasional causation as being a necessary prerequisite.

A strong argument for these three principles is that they are already similar to what is known already to happen in physics. According to quantum field theory we saw how virtual events predispose the ordinary quantum wave function. These virtual events operate deterministically and describe the operation of the electric, magnetic, nuclear and gravitational forces. They are not the actual events of quantum mechanics, as those are the definite outcomes of events like observations. Rather, they are a ‘prior level’ of ‘implicit events’ whose operation is needed in order to derive or produce the potentialities for events like observations. The principle (I) states the analogical result that mental events themselves are a ‘prior level’ of ‘implicit events’ whose operation is needed in order to produce the potentialities for physical events.

The argument for the principle (II) is more general. This principle can be seen as the law according to which your future life is restricted and influenced by your past actions (by selection). Physical events are in this way the necessary foundations for permanent mental history and structure.

Principle (III) has an important corollary connected with the observations of the above section on correspondences:
  1. IV. The mind predisposes the brain to carry out those functions which ‘mirror’ or ‘correspond to’ the mind’s own functions.
Mental functions involve intermediate steps, and these intermediate mental steps predispose suitable intermediate physical steps (by I), and are in turn conditioned or confirmed by them (by II). Thus, the sequence of physical steps follows the sequence of mental steps, and the overall function of the physical process is analogous (in some sense) to the overall function of the mental process.

[8] I. J. Thompson, "DiscreteDegrees Within and Between Nature and Mind," in Psycho-Physical Dualism Today: An Interdisciplinary Approach, A. Antonietti, Ed., Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2008, pp. 99-125.


Sunday, April 16, 2017

Quantum mechanics and consciousness - Part 4/8: Generative Levels in Psychology

4. Generative Levels in Psychology

It is easier to understand this downward causation pattern within psychology. There are many examples of derivative dispositions in everyday life, in psychology, in particular in cognitive processes. The accomplishment of a given disposition requires the operation of successive steps of kinds different from the overall step. The original disposition on its operation generates the “derived dispositions” for the intermediate steps, which are means to the original end. An original “disposition to learn”, for example, can generate the derived “disposition to read books”, which can generate further “dispositions to search for books”. These dispositions can then generate dispositions to move one’s body, which in turn lead to one’s limbs having (physical) dispositions to move. These successively generated dispositions are all derived from the original disposition to learn, according to the specific situations. 

Another example of sequential and derivative dispositions is the ability to learn. To say that someone is easy to teach, or that they are musical, for example, does not mean that there is any specific action that they are capable of doing. Rather, it means that they are disposed to learn new skills (whether of a musical or general kind), and that it is these new skills that are the dispositions that lead to specific actions.

In this I follow Broad [7]: that there are “levels” of causal influence. Particular dispositions or intentions are not the most fundamental causes, but rather “intermediate stages” in the operation of more persistent “desires” and “motivations”. The intention to find a book could be the product or derivative of a more persistent “desire for reading”, and need only be produced in the appropriate circumstances. Broad would say that the derived dispositions were the realization of the underlying dispositions.

The pattern of “underlying propensity / distribution / result” for “mental sub-degrees” shows the steps by which deep motivational principles (purposes) in an “interior mind” lead to action. These purposes come to fruition by means of discursive investigation of ideas, plans and alternatives in what can be called a more exterior “scientific discursive mind”, as constrained by existing intellectual abilities. The actions of the sensorimotor mind select one outcome among many, as constrained by bodily conditions. Psychologists who have investigated perceptive and executive processes within the sensorimotor stage realize that these are far from simple. What we see is very much influenced by our expectations and desires, as well as by being constrained by what is in front of our eyes. There are subsidiary degrees of expectation, presentation of alternatives and resolution even during “simple” sensations. 

Consciousness enters into this picture whenever actions occur. All actions of desire or love are conscious actions, and part of the conscious awareness of at least some personality or person. Consciousness is therefore not a mental source itself, but an essential aspect of operations from mental sources.

[7] C. Broad, Mind and Its Place in Nature, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1925. 

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Quantum mechanics and consciousness - Part 3/8: Conditional Forward Causation

3. Conditional Forward Causation

From our examples, we may generalize that all the principal causation is ‘down’ the sequence of multiple generative levels {A ➝ B ➝ ... }, and that the only effect back up the sequence is the way principal causes depend on previous events or occasions to select their range of operation. Let us adopt as universal this asymmetric relationship between multiple generative levels: that dispositions act forwards in a way conditional on certain things already existing at the later levels. This as a simple initial hypothesis.  We will see whether all dispositions seen as existing in nature can be interpreted with this pattern of generation and selection.

We may surmise that A, the first in the sequence, is the ‘deepest underlying principle’, ‘source’, or ‘power’ that is fixed through all the subsequent changes to B, C, etc. Conditional forward causation is the principle we saw from physics. It implies that changes to B, for example, come from subsequent operations of A, and not from C, D,.. acting in ‘reverse’ up the chain. We surmise, rather, that the subsequent operations of A are now conditioned on the results in B, C, D, etc. The operations of A are therefore the principal causes, whereas the dependence of those operations on the previous state of B is via instrumental causation, and the dependence on the results in C, D,... is via occasional causation. I suggest that this is a universal pattern for the operation of a class of dispositions in nature, namely those that do not follow from the rearrangement of parts of an aggregate object.

Part 2

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Quantum mechanics and consciousness - Part 2/8: Substances and Multiple Levels in Quantum Mechanics

2. Substances and Multiple Levels in Quantum Mechanics

A substance is defined as what exists over the finite duration between measurement events. The problem in quantum mechanics of understanding how substances exist has been long-standing. Some like Everett have suggested it is the wave function which exists continuously, but wave functions are mathematical entities and not physical. Others like Bohr have said that only events are real and hence denied that there anything which could be a continuous substance. 

My proposal is use the idea of propensities [5]. These are the underlying dispositions or causes which give rise to events when the conditions are appropriate. The event production may be deterministic or probabilistic. The important feature of propensities is that they are present continuously between events, at least according to the Born Law of quantum mechanics.  Propensities, therefore, can be identified as the substance of which quantum particles are made. The wave function is then the form of those substances, in particular their form as spread out in space and time. Quantum objects are thus substances that manifest themselves in some kind of form. The form of something tells us what its present structure is, and the substance of something tells us how it would behave in all future hypothetical circumstances (even if only by probabilities).

We can develop a theory of multiple levels, each with different kinds of objects and each existing in their own kinds of spaces.  We can show how objects interact between levels [6]. We can begin to understand this using the principles of quantum mechanics. Consider, for example, how the Schroedinger equation makes predictions for the wave function, which in turn predicts the probabilities of future events. The Schroedinger equation uses a combination of kinetic energy and potentiality that acts to evolve the wave function through time, based on the initial conditions. The wave function then acts to produce further discrete selection events based on previous selections.  In each case, objects of kind of A are producing further objects of kind B(n) based on previous objects B(n-1). The produced B(n) outcomes select what kind of outcomes are next possible.  Furthermore, this same pattern is repeated on multiple levels {A ➝ B  C}.  Quantum physics has the levels  {energy   propensity forms  actual selections}.  Such patterns are familiar, since in classical physics we have a similar structure with the levels {potential energy  forces  acceleration}.  The pattern is also familiar to us from psychology in the sequence {desire  thinking  action}, as will be discussed later. 

When we start digging into quantum physics, we discover even more levels. The potential energy and kinetic energy that we started with in the Schroedinger equation are not themselves fundamental, but are generated by the virtual processes of quantum field theory. Potential energy is produced by the exchange of gauge bosons: of photons of electromagnetic energy, of gluons for nuclear energy, etc. And kinetic energy comes from mass, which is mostly not ‘bare mass’ but is the collection of the energies of virtual substances in a cloud around a given center.   This means that we have an even longer chain of multiple generative levels in quantum physics, something like {variational Lagrangian  virtual fields  virtual events  potential and kinetic energies in the Hamiltonian  propensity fields described by wave functions  selection events for actual outcomes}. 

These kinds of levels are generally acknowledged to exist within quantum field theory, but with differing opinions about their significance. Many physicists and philosophers of physics want to assert the particular ‘reality’ of one of the levels and say that the prior levels are ‘merely calculational devices’ for the behaviour of their chosen real level. The question of simplicity, to be answered in order to apply Occam’s razor, is whether it is simpler to have multiple kinds of objects existing (even within multiple generative levels) each with simple dispositions, or simpler to have fewer kinds of existing objects, but with more complicated laws governing their operation. 

      Allowing the multiple generative levels all to exist in ‘their own way’ has fruitful consequences for generalizing quantum physics to include new kinds of causation. Admittedly this is going beyond standard quantum mechanics, but at least this is yielding predictions for possible new science which can be confirmed or falsified as all science should be examined.

[5] I. Thompson, "Real Dispositions in the Physical World," Brit. Jnl Phil. Science, vol. 39, pp. 67-79, 1988.
[6] I. J. Thompson, "Derivative Dispositions and Multiple Generative Levels," in Probabilities, Causes and Propensities in Physics, Dordrecht, Springer, 2008, pp. 245-257.

Part 1 here.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Quantum mechanics and consciousness - Part 1/8 of thoughts on a causal correspondence theory

Which way does causation proceed? The pattern in the material world seems to be upward: particles to molecules to organisms to brains to mental processes. In contrast, the principles of quantum mechanics allow us to see a pattern of downward causation. These new ideas describe sets of multiple levels in which each level influences the levels below it through generation and selection. Top-down causation makes exciting sense of the world: we can find analogies in psychology, in the formation of our minds, in locating the source of consciousness, and even in the possible logic of belief in God.

1. A quantum viewpoint

Over the last 100 years the study of quantum phenomena has shown that there is more than the material world of matter, force and motion. The experts have often speculated about a role for observers, even for consciousness, in an understanding of quantum measurements [1] [2]. More recently many [3] have speculated that quantum physics itself reveals consciousness. There are now many cottage industries seeking to develop ideas of ‘quantum consciousness’, even of ‘quantum spirituality’. It has become popular to say that ‘quantum theory shows that consciousness creates physical reality’, and that this fits into an advaita non-dualist framework where only the Godhead is real while everything else is a generation of consciousness.

For many, however, such a monism where all beings are numerically identical does not seem to be the ultimate answer. People generally consider unselfish love to be superior to selfish love. If all persons were identical in being, then unselfish love between distinct persons would be impossible. The reality of unselfishness disposes many of us to dualist views in which people are ontologically distinct and in which God and worlds are distinct [4, p. 18]. It is important for theorists to explore theories in which minds and god are distinct. If mind and matter are distinct then many philosophical problems with materialism may be resolved.

I here present some ideas to help interpret quantum mechanics, mind and theism in a non-reductive approach. These ideas describe a set of multiple levels which all exist simultaneously in their own manner. Rather than everything being a system of objects at one fundamental level, we can develop a theory of multiple levels, each with different kinds of objects existing in their own kinds of spaces. The first challenge is to see how quantum substances exist on a single level. A second challenge is to show how objects interact between levels.

E. Wigner, "Remarks on the Mind-Body Question," in The Scientist Speculates, N.Y., Basic Books, 1962, pp. 284-302.
H. Stapp, Mindful Universe, N.Y.: Springer, 2011.
E. Lazslo, "Quantum and Consciousness: In search of new paradigm," Zygon, vol. 41, no. 3, pp. 533-541, 2006.
E. Swedenborg, Divine Love and Wisdom (1763), West Chester, PA: Swedenborg Foundation, 2010.
Part 2 here.