The Nature of Consciousness

Piero Scaruffi

(Copyright © 2013 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions )
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These are excerpts and elaborations from my book "The Nature of Consciousness"

Quantum Self Theory

The British psychiatrist Ian Marshall (“Consciousness and Bose-Einstein condensates”, 1989) showed similarities between the holistic properties of condensates and those of consciousness, and suggested that consciousness may arise from the "excitation" of such a Bose-Einstein condensate.  In Marshall's hypothesis, the brain contains a Froehlich-style condensate, and, whenever the condensate is excited by an electrical field, conscious experience occurs. The brain maintains dynamical coherence (i.e., the ability to organize millions of neural processes into the coherent whole of thought) thanks to an underlying quantum coherent state (the Bose-Einstein condensate).

Furthermore, Marshall thinks that the collapse of a wave function is not completely random, as predicted by Quantum Theory, but exhibits a preference for "phase difference".  Such "phase differences" are the sharpest in Bose-Einstein condensates. This implies that the wave function tends to collapse towards Bose-Einstein condensates, i.e. that there is a universal tendency towards creating the living and thinking structures that populate our planet.  Marshall views this as an evolutionary principle inherent in our universe.

In other words, the universe has an innate tendency towards life and consciousness. They are ultimately due to the mathematical properties of the quantum wave function, which favors the evolution of life and consciousness.

Marshall thinks we "must" exist and think, in accordance with the strong anthropic principle (that things are the way they are because otherwise we would not exist).

Marshall offered a solution to the paradox of "adaptive evolution", discovered by the British physician John Cairns (“The origin of mutants”, 1988): some bacteria can mutate very quickly, way too quickly for Darwin's theory to be true. If all genes mutated at that pace, they would mostly produce mutations that cannot survive. What drives evolution is natural selection, which prunes each generation of mutations. But natural selection does not have the time to operate on the very rapid mutations of these bacteria. There must be another force at work that "selects" only the mutations that are useful for survival. Marshall thinks that the other force is the wave function's tendency towards choosing states of life and consciousness. Each mutation is inherently biased towards success.

His wife, the US philosopher Danah Zohar, expanded on his theory. Zohar views the theory of Bose-Einstein condensation as a means to reduce mind/body dualism to wave/particle dualism: the wave aspect of nature yields the “mental” (conscious experience), whereas the particle aspect of nature yields the material.

Zohar is fascinated by the behavior of bosons. Particles divide into fermions (such as electrons, protons, neutrons) and bosons (photons, gravitons, gluons). Bosons are particles of "relationship", because they are used by other particles to interact. When two systems interact (electricity, gravitation or whatever), they exchange bosons. Fermions are well-defined individual entities, just like large-scale matter is. But bosons can completely merge and become one entity, more like conscious states do. Zohar claims that bosons are the basis for the conscious life, and fermions for the material life.

The properties of matter arise from the properties of fermions. Matter is solid because fermions cannot merge. Likewise, she thinks that the properties of the conscious mind arise from the properties of bosons, because bosons can share the same state and they are about relationships.

This would also explain how there can be a "self". The brain changes all the time and therefore the "self" is never the same. I am never myself again.  How can there be a "self"? Zohar thinks that the self does change all the time, but quantum interference makes each new self sprout from the old selves. Wave functions of past selves overlap with the wave function of the current self. Through this "quantum memory" each new "quantum self" reincarnates past selves.


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