quantum consciousness … what the heck is that?

mind-conscious-130814Stuart Hameroff has a HuffPo article within which he writes an open letter to Richard Dawkins and Michael Shermer, and having looked, I really can’t resist the urge to plug in a few additional thoughts …

Dear Richard and Michael,

I read your lament that some people leave religion for ‘something worse,’ Deepak Chopra’s spirituality. 

I would say that in the areas of (1) evolution, (2) consciousness and (3) the nature of reality, Deepak’s view is closer to scientific truth than is yours.

… and so with that one opening sentence, Mr Hameroff nails his colours to the mast of a complete kook. I do also confess that it is more than a tad bizarre for somebody who is not an evolutionary biologist to tell an evolutionary biologist that a well renowned pseudoscientific nut such as Mr Chopra, whose grasp of scientific truth is demonstrably elusive,  is far more knowledgeable about evolution, and so you know that having started out with that claim, it can only get worse.

I’ll save you the effort of reading it all, Mr Hameroff is basically a chap who is quite convinced that consciousness is a function of quantum physics within our brains. Now while it is true that Quantum Biology is real, there is a huge “but” here, because to make a leap from a controversial hypothesis of quantum consciousness to a claim that Deepak Chopra has been right all along, is in effect to step way outside the scientific methodology (hint: the stuff you test and verify with observational data). We are basically off into Narnia.

It is of course wholly appropriate to explore the idea, but this is going way beyond simply proposing a hypothesis, and is instead declaring it to be true on the basis of no real evidence at all, and then using this unverified truth to declare this – a pseudoscientific figure is right (the guy who has no evidence for his claims), and a well-respected evolutionary biologist wrong (the guy who does have evidence).

Mr Hameroff has been riding the quantum consciousness train for over 20 years now, and yet today we still do not understand what consciousness actually is. Orchestrated objective reduction (Orch-OR) is in essence his gig, and while it is of course interesting, it is not beyond criticism, and has not just not been demonstrated to be true, but has actually been falsified …

Until we have some solid independently verifiable evidence, then all we really have is an interesting hypothesis, and so that simply leads us to an article that can logically be broken down into the following steps …

  1. I don’t understand consciousness.
  2. I don’t understand quantum physics.
  3. Therefore, consciousness must be a function of quantum physics.

.. er no, …No.3 might (or might not) actually be true, but today many that make this claim often do so on the sole basis of No.1 and No.2 alone (not that Mr Chopra would ever actually admit that), and so you simply can’t claim it to be “scientific truth”.

Then again, if you are familiar with Deepak Chopra you will perhaps already appreciate that anybody endorsing him as the keeper of “Scientific truth” is more or less announcing in public that that are promoting BS.

2 thoughts on “quantum consciousness … what the heck is that?”

  1. Orch is a proposition – neither Penrose nor Hameroff say it is more. Dawkins et al offer no explanation of consciousness at all. The above is, as I understand it, about as far as we have got

  2. Pseudoscience is so infuriating. And they are becoming better and better at sounding sciency, fooling more and more everyday. Complicated science findings are a fertile ground for con artists.

    But I wouldn’t say they are more dangerous than religion. Woo healing usually act as a complement to real medicine, not a substitute. So it’s just like taking a placedo after taking the real drug. You would be making con artists rich, but that isn’t necessarily putting your life in danger. There are cases where people take woo instead of real medicine, but I don’t see that happening so often.

    Religion, on the other hand, activelly commands the death of people. That’s more dangerous.


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