Thursday, June 23, 2016

Is Michio Kaku A Pseudo Physicist For Accepting A "Universal Intelligence"?

Michio Kaku: A real physicist - or a pseudoscientist?

In a scathing commentary ('The Dangerous Growth of Pseudo -Physics',)  appearing in a recent (May, p. 10) issue of Physics Today, Prof. Sadri Hassani of Illinois State University rails against pseudoscience that is "rapidly growing" and has now made its way into physics - the most refined and majestic of the sciences apart from mathematics.

In his 1 3/4 page piece he cites a number of examples including:

- The 2014 publication of a "manifesto for a post materialist science" published in a journal entitled Explore "which elevates parapsychology and near death experience to the rank of quantum theory"

- The popularity of the book 'The Tao Of Physics' by Fritjof Capra, which purports to establish a parallel between Eastern mysticism and modern physics

- The enthusiasm for the (1979) book 'The Dancing Wu Li Masters' by Gary Zukav which hints at "conscious" or "intelligent" photons which know where they are in classical two-slit experiments.

- The misrepresentation of energy as "non-material" to apply to nonmaterial spirits and souls.

In response to the last the author asserts (p. 11):

"There is no instance in nature in which mass transforms into energy (or vice versa) without some material particles carrying that energy".  There is no connection between soul-matter equivalence of mysticism and energy-mass equivalence of modern physics".

Earlier, Hassani points out that two primary assumptions of quantum theory (QT) have "been the main source of much confusion and abuse since the inception of non-relativistic QT"  These are:

1) That the square of the absolute value of the wave function y  is the  probability of the state of a system, i.e.

P = ½y  y *½

2) The superposition principle: If there are several paths available to the system the total y  is the appropriately weighted sum of the y s   for each path.

However, I'd suggest that Paul Dirac's original definition of superposition ('The Principles of Quantum Mechanics' Clarendon Press Oxford, 1957,  p. 4) might have more to do with incessant perversions toward metaphysics, i.e.

"If a system is small, we cannot observe it without producing a serious disturbance and hence we cannot expect to find any causal connections between the results of our observations"

Thus, the entire notion of "observer disturbed" systems was born. Without adequate training in QT, however, too many extrapolated this to macroscopic systems when technically it only applied to quantum ones. Thereby ignoring Dirac's initial emphasis "IF the system is small".

These misconceptions  were then carried into whackadoodle land when one read, as in Richard Schlegel's monograph Superposition and Interaction:Coherence in Physics (1980, University of Chicago Press, p. 178,) about  the opinion expressed once by Prof. Eugene Wigner (at a QM conference) that "the consciousness of a dog would effect the projection into a single state whereas that of an amoeba would not."

So hell, if a dog like a French Poodle could "effect the projection into a single state" why not a human who observes LeBron James closely enough in an NBA game to make his jump shot bounce off the hoop at the last moment?  Again, the reason is that basketballs are macro sized objects, as opposed to electrons, protons, etc.

To combat these aberrations of mysticism filtering into modern physics Hassani recommends  reading assignments in high school and college physics courses "to make students aware of pseudoscientific nonsense". He also advocates the liberal use of rational wiki as a resource, e.g.

Finally, we come to the recent claims of  Michio Kaku, a theoretical physicist at the City College of New York (CUNY) and co-founder of String Field Theory.  He seriously  believes that the  theoretical particles known as “primitive semi-radius tachyons” are physical evidence that the universe was created by a higher intelligence.

Kaku, after analyzing the behavior of these sub-atomic particles - which can move faster than the speed of light and have the ability to “unstick” space and matter, has concluded that the universe is a “Matrix” governed by laws and principles that could only have been designed by an intelligent being.
According to an article published in the Geophilosophical Association of Anthropological and Cultural Studies.

 “I have concluded that we are in a world made by rules created by an intelligence. Believe me, everything that we call chance today won’t make sense anymore,”

He went on:

To me it is clear that we exist in a plan which is governed by rules that were created, shaped by a universal intelligence and not by chance.”

This is an interesting development given that Prof. Kaku only two years ago advocated a mechanistic model of mind, e.g.

Where I pointed out in criticism:
"where Kaku runs off the rails, as I did,   is in using this ridiculously simple reductionist metaphor to suggest human self-consciousness can result from an indefinitely large macro-assembly of logic elements.  But again, this is what a reductionist would do since he's trapped in a box of his own making, where his very dependence on component reality means he's unable to conceive of emergence.  It is actually emergence - contingent on the brain as a quantum mechanical entity - that leads to a full model of human consciousness"
My point here is that Kaku must have radically altered his take since if one invokes a "universal intelligence" it must embody some kind of consciousness.   This is a conclusion I also arrived at in my 2013 book, 'Beyond Atheism, Beyond God', but by a different route - considering Bell's theorem, quantum nonlocality, and the quantum potential. A synopsis of some of my arguments can be found in this post from 2011:
 The key answer to the question of whether Kaku (or myself) would be regarded as a "pseudophysicist" then would appear to depend on whether one accepts monistic or nonlocal physicalism. The second, as quantum physicist Henry Stapp showed ('Mind, Matter and Quantum Mechanics', 1983) allows for quantum theory to be applied to brain function. The first, based on "particles only"  reductionism, would not.

In the latter case, one would concur with the late Victor Stenger's take ('God and the Folly of Faith', p. 155)  that:

"It does not matter whether you are trying to measure a particle property or a wave property. You always measure particles. Here is the point that most people fail to understand: Quantum mechanics is just a statistical theory like statistical mechanics, fundamentally reducible to particle behavior."

 On the other hand, if one subscribes to nonlocal physicalism he will agree with J.S. Bell (Foundations of Physics, (12,) .989 )

"Although Y is a real field it does not show up immediately in the results of a ‘single measurement’, but only in the statistics of many such results. It is the de Broglie –Bohm variable X that shows up immediately each time."

The danger of too rigidly adhering to Stenger's reductonist viewpoint was articulated by Bernard d'Espagnat ('In Search of Reality'):

"If scientism were correct, or more precisely, if the view of the world it proposes so forcefully, that of a world ultimately consisting of myriads of small localized objects merely endowed with quasi-local properties were correct, then such an evolution of our mentality would admittedly be excellent. It is always good for man to know the truth! But on the other hand, if the ultimate vision of the world which scientism proposes is false, if its conceptual bases are mistaken, then this development is – on the contrary –quite unfortunate."

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