The Skeptics’ Guide to Quantum Physics

Skepticism, Critical Thinking, and Quantum Physics

Neil Degrasse Tyson quote for Skeptics' Guide to Quantum Physics: imageI have decided to expand this website a little and address quantum woo and quantum mysticism more directly.  Quantum woo is the justification of irrational beliefs using confused, vague, and ambiguous references to quantum physics.  Many people do not understand quantum physics.  But, they know that it predicts and explains some weird things.  So, con-artists dupe their audiences by stringing together a series of terms and phrases from quantum physics and asserting that it explains whatever it is they are pushing.  Ignorant and credulous consumers are eager to buy their quantum healing, or quantum self-help programs, or their “proof” of an afterlife.  It’s much easier to simply believe them than to try to comprehend the mathematical and experimental constraints that science requires you to understand.

Examples of quantum woo include quantum healing, quantum touch, healing through “frequencies” or “energies”, claims of a “one-ness” with the universe or a consciousness that pervades the universe, or the ability to shape one’s destiny with your mind (specifically, they mean directly influencing and manipulating your world with your thoughts, not by your thoughts motivating your actions which then influence your surroundings).  Products such as The Secret or What the Bleep Do We Know!? are excellent examples of this.  Also, just about anything written or said by Deepak Chopra.  Any claims that quantum physics proves the existence of an afterlife or a universal consciousness also fall into this category.

The Challenge of Being Skeptical About Quantum Woo

Over the years, many authors have written books that claim evidence for some deep role of consciousness in guiding the universe, or a connection between quantum physics and Eastern Mysticism, for example.  Some of these authors have even been credentialed scientists.  That, along with the vague interpretation and description of quantum mechanics adopted by its creators in the first half of the twentieth century (i.e. the Copenhagen Interpretation), makes it difficult to convince the casual reader that this quantum nonsense should be dismissed out of hand.  However, these individuals were mistaken; their claims or conjectures were wrong.  Using them to justify continued support for nonsense that has since been theoretically and experimentally de-bunked makes no more sense than using the fact that Isaac Newton studied alchemy to justify someone’s claim that he or she can transmute anything into gold just by touching it.

So why worry about the perpetuation of quantum woo?  The potential harm includes:

  • Financial exploitation of gullible audiences.
  • Health risks for those that decide to rely on “quantum healing” or similar nonsense in place of proven treatments.
  • Encouraging people to avoid dealing with the real sources behind their problems.
  • Encouraging political or educational complacency (why work hard to solve “real” problems; why work hard to learn “real” science).
  • Misdirection of research funds, resources, and priorities, towards dead-end claims.
  • Wasted careers for those that pursue “research” in these areas; making no contribution to furthering our understanding of the universe; no contribution to improving the quality of life for mankind.
  • Misleading of the public about the nature and limits of science.
  • Erosion of public confidence in the scientific process and legitimate scientific results.
  • A waste of time and a distraction for those who want to learn real science, but who may not yet be able to distinguish the difference between science and pseudoscience.

First and foremost, the best defense against quantum woo and the charlatans that promote it, is knowledge and a proper conceptual understanding of quantum mechanics.  So, I will continue to write about quantum physics theory and experiments; providing background knowledge as well as separating myth, misconception, and fact.  I will also expound on the history of quantum physics and it’s portrayal in the classroom and in the media.  Additionally, I will be adding some additional pages to this website, pages with information and resources for skepticism and critical thinking.

Armed with this knowledge of what quantum physics is and is not, my hope is that people can use the tools of skepticism and critical thinking to help make the world safe for science and reason.  My goal is not to convert the likes of Deepak Chopra.  Rather, I want to give people the tools to recognize BS when they see or hear it, and to apply skepticism and critical thinking to myths, misconceptions, and deceptions involving quantum physics.

The Prototypical Quantum Woo-Master

Deepak Chopra is the poster child for the quantum woo movement.  He has made millions of dollars from people too ignorant and too gullible to realize that his books and speeches are nonsense.  One example is the Nightline Face-off debate: Chopra and Houston versus Shermer and Harris, Does God Have a Future?   You can watch the entire debate at that link.

An example of the word salad that Chopra likes to mix together is this: “Today, science tells us that the essential nature of reality is non-local correlation. Everything is connected to everything else.  But there is hidden creativity. There are quantum leaps of creativity. There’s something called the observer effect where intention orchestrates space-time events.”

First of all, the so-called observer effect in quantum mechanics has nothing to do with intention orchestrating space-time events.  And non-local correlations are present only in very specific systems and circumstances.  Moreover, the intrinsic randomness in quantum mechanics precludes us from using non-local correlations in any sort of “intentional” way.  Before you start catapulting from non-local correlations to speculations about “hidden creativity” or what exactly it means to be “connected to everything else”, you need to understand what the words used by scientists actually mean.  Chopra’s assertions are completely baseless and unsupported.

During the question/answer session of that debate, Sara Mayhew (illustrator, writer, and skeptic) asked an insightful question. I encourage you to check out her webpage and blog.   Her question to Deepak Chopra was:

“Deepak mentioned that there are deeper ways of knowing, …based on intuition and the subjective.  …If we don’t use the objective scientific method, how do we distinguish what is true from what we simply want to be true?”

Chopra does not answer the question but makes it painfully obvious that he does not understand the vocabulary of science, much less the concepts of science.  His response includes “nature does not decide that this is the subject, that is the object…”  He doesn’t understand the meaning of subjective versus objective claims, hence he cannot possibly understand the scientific process nor why it succeeds where hope, faith, and feelings do not.

subjective: based on or influenced by personal feelings, tastes, or opinions; dependent on the mind or on an individual’s perception for its existence.

For example, if I believe that I am connected with the universe through a universal consciousness because it makes me feel good or because I fear the alternative, that does not make it true.  If I believe that all super models would love to date me if only they had a chance to meet me, the idea may make me feel good, but it is nonetheless delusional.

objective: not influenced by personal feelings or opinions in considering and representing facts; not dependent on the mind for existence; actual.

This includes repeatable and verifiable experimental evidence.  For example, we use the scientific method to figure out what medications or treatments actually work, based on data and not based on opinion, wishful thinking, or desire.  Some subjective claims can be made objective by quantifying them, or making testable predictions based on them (rendering them falsifiable).

Apparently, Chopra does understand the meaning of obfuscation, because he is so effective at it: to render unclear, or unintelligible; to hide the intended meaning, to make communication confusing, willfully ambiguous, and harder to interpret.  One thing is certain.  If a conscious universe wants to be taken seriously, he/she has to find a better spokesperson, someone who understands the scientific process and understands why it works so well (when used correctly).

About Warren Huelsnitz

Former submariner, now high energy physicist. Neutrino physics and astrophysics, quantum physics and other mysteries of the universe. Engaged in life-long learning and pursuit of knowledge. Blogging about quantum mechanics and other issues at www.thefunisreal.com.
Tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.
3 comments
orlandog
orlandog

sorry pal if u actually watch remote healing vids on youtube , they have a very profound effect on SOME people - like me...for example I can close my eyes and u can play ANY remote healing video and I can tell you which part of mt body is being influenced...my sister can do the SAME...whether u play a healing vid for the spleen, the heart, the eyes, the liver, thre back etc...I can close my eyes and I can TELL YOU 100% of the time where im feeling influence...this mny friend is Quantum Entanglement - once u develop a relationship and consent to the healer in the video to send u the healing, u open u. rself up to entanglement. What the Healer does to manipulate his/her energy, is felt by me on me with my eyes shut I can tell you which body part is moving ie where the energy or Chi is moving and spinning.  Ive had an awakening of consciousness so my energetic body is open and sensitive. I was a HUUUUUUUUGE SKEPTIC but 100% of the healing vids I watch work 100% of the time...it cannot be PLACEBO since I can close my eyes and if its a spleen vid or a gallbladder vid etc...I can tell u with 100% accuracy which organ or body part is being worked on. When u develop the ability to Watch ur mind. Observe ur mind moment to moment to moment and u observe ur mind and thoughts NON judgementally, you are experiencing Unconditional lovie. If ive never been IN LOVE, you cannot prove to me what LOVE is. Coz ive never felt it. Well SAME SAME with Unconditional love. Lets just say that when u learn to experience Unconditional love by learning to be the Non Judgemental Observer or Watcher of ur thoughts, you open up the gateway to diff levels of consciousness occurring from the SEED of Unconditional Love and u understand everything holistically frm a very high level. Ur body goes thru intense changes etc...all part of an awakening of consciousness. Everything becomes ALIVE 30-40% more. The whole world is ALIVE. Coz ure more Conscious. Healing vids likewise can be felt non locally in this higher state of awareness. It cannot be PLACEBO if it works 100% of the time with eyes closed ;) Lookup on youtube "remote energy healing videos' ...if u cannot feel anything its coz ur consciousness isn't strong. Isnt open. I can watch and observe my thoughts and feelings and transmute those lower frequencies to neutrality or neutral energy all the time. Furthermore I can watch my mind from ANY COORDINATE within my body eg the stomach or the heart or my third eye, OR, I can do high high level Buddhist stuff by watching my thoughts from ANY COORDINATE outside my body in the empty spaces al round me. I can neutralize physical PAIN by being the non judgmental observer or watcher of the pain. I can neutralize emotional pain by being the watcher or observer of my Egos Emotional pain. The mind can be watched and Observed moment to moment to moment in non judgment. Whose Observing and Watchinh??? If im my Mind , if im my thoughts and Feelings m how can I observe and watch and be the Witness of those thoughts and feelings moment to moment to moment in non judgment ;) I AM CONSCIOUSNESS, im not my thoughts or feelings...Im their Watcher, their observer, their Witness,,,I am NOT them! Once u SWITCH IDENTITY and u know Wholheartedly that you are the Obseving Consciosness of your thoughts and feelings and u can observe them in NON JUDGEMENT moment to moment to moment, u are ENLIGHTENED in that state...u rose ABOVE ur Mind. I go in and out of Enlightment all the time. Unconditional love changes ur entire bodies hormones and chemistry over time as u RELEASE old dense frequencies ie lower vibrating energy in ur Human energetic field ..Consciousness BURNS these old energies ie it Converts low vibrating frequencies to Higher Faster Vibrating frequencies and hence theres an energetic entropic release of massive amts of energy. AWAKENING is real  - its a Purification Process where the new awakened energy of consciousness in you (neutral energy ie non judgment) burns away and converts older darker denser slower moving vibrating energies to faster. IN all awakening cases the person feels like theyre on speed or cocaine coz theres such a HUGE RELEASE of energy. Unconditional Love as an energy ie neutral energy or zero point I dare say,,,is REAL. Awakening Purifies ur HEF field withere ur soul or HEFs darker denser slower energies get burnt converted and realeased to higher frequencies... it changes the body and the hormones. Many ppl call this 'DNA Activation' ie a lot of charletons. Its really just Awakening of Consciousness. And u cannot FORCE it like the DNA Activation charletons and gurus say they can. U can receive a transmission from a guru or healer but u have to be able to receive It fully. I can tell u what every healer is doing to my body sinmplhy coz my consciousness at every coordinate inside and outside my body has OPENED. Its all very real. Any YOGI in Nepal china japan the east will tell u they've seen 1000s of cases like mine year in year out. U can MANIPULATE chi with ur mind , U can INFLUENCE others thru chi manipulation too like the videos show and u can manipulate and influence them REMOTELY. My explanation is QM entanglement.

huelsnitz
huelsnitz moderator

@orlandog  Hi, thanks for the comment.  We can have a science-based discussion about what you experienced, if you like. But it is not quantum entanglement.

gabrielaacolombiana
gabrielaacolombiana

Brilliantly written! And yes, these pseudo scientists are polluting minds...

Trackbacks

  1. […] Skepticism, Critical Thinking, and Quantum Physics I have decided to expand this website a little and address quantum woo and quantum mysticism more directly. Quantum woo is the justification of irrational beliefs using confused, vague, and ambiguous…  […]