In yesterday’s Physics and Reality seminar, the following came up, and I thought that it was important to write it down. It follows on from the ideas in the previous post a bit.
First, let me explain the phrases I’m going to use here. The first is Dasein (plural: Dasein) – this follows on from Heidigger‘s ‘Being and Time’, where he defined the Dasein to be someone or something that thinks about existence – namely, humans (and any aliens and the like that we come across who also ponder existence). The second is the world-view of quantum mechanics – basically that something is in an undecided state (technically, a superposition of states) until it is observed. A popular example of this would be Schrodinger’s Cat.
Now, the worldviews. The first is the standard scientific (or possibly, intuitive) worldview – the universe is in a fixed state, and is evolving from that state over time. So the world that we scientifically measure is the real one. Quantum mechanically, I’d say that this means that every particle can, and does, act as an observer for the rest of them – such that the universe can evolve into superpositioned states, but such states will collapse down into one state pretty quickly. This might not be quite accurate (note to self: read up on the philosophy behind quantum mechanics), but the important thing for this argument is that the thing that’s measuring stuff, hence collapsing the wavefunctions, is something that physically exists.
The second is the ‘personal viewpoint’ – basically, that Dasein force the universe into a specific state when they observe it. So until a Dasein turns his attention to something, it’s in an undecided state. This means that the only ‘observer’ in quantum mechanics is the Dasein.
An example. Take an electron that’s not in a fixed state – i.e. it’s quantum mechanically in a superposition of states. Have some piece of apparatus which can measure the properties of this electron. Have a Dasein sitting at the controls, looking at the output. The electron will collapse down into one of the possible states. What causes this collapse? Is it the apparatus? Or is it the Dasein?
My response would be: the answer is unknowable. You can go either way, and there will be no proof to contradict you. If you say it’s the apparatus that collapses the electron’s state, how do you know for definite that the wavefunction has collapsed without examining the results? (thus, you being a Dasein, you could be the one to force the collapse). Or if you say it’s the Dasein, how do you prove that it is definately the Dasein? Take away the Dasein and watch the wavefunction not collapse?
So basically, there’s no way to determine which world-view is correct: the scientific one, or the Dasein one.
Aside: Kei’s put an interesting post up about the deduction of Quantum Theology in the same seminar.