Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Ontological implications of Morhoff’s PIQM are earth-shattering

20 zephyr 05/18/2010 6:15 am
I’m glad to see UD mention Morhoff, he needs to be given attention by those interested in the ID debate, never mind QM and philosophy. His own interpretation of the Quantum Paradox, the Pondicherry Interpretation (PIQM) is original and important and may account for certain inexplicables in QM that otherwise remain loose ends or at least very much misunderstood. The PIQM is fully explicable and compatible from a religious context/dimension (at least a Hindu one), and Morhoff is explicit on this. In fact what is interesting about Morhoff’s PI is that he considers the whole consciousness problem in QM which has been raging for decades (does consciousness/observation collapse the wave function?) as a pseudo-problem and based on a misunderstanding of the measurement problem in wave mechanics. An irony here is that those of a religious/mystical bent have, based on an extension of the Copenhagen Interpretation of QM, used this notion of consciousness collapsing the wave function – the work of Eugene Wigner and Henry Stapp notably and others – to advance the notion that a religious or a mystical/animist philosophy is justified by findings in QM.
One sees this in popular books and academic articles on QM where the authors are sympathetic to Oriental mysticism/Buddhism and associated philosophies. Famous popular books would be physicist Fritjof Capra’s 'The Tao of Physics’ and Gary Zukov’s ‘The Dancing Wu-Li Masters’, also the late Michael Talbot wrote extensively on this. Plenty others of course. In fact such thinking is a mainstay within parapsychological and mystical circles since it is perceived as offering theoretical underpinnings to parapsychological phenemona such as PK (whether these phenomena exist or not is of course another whole controversy). See for example Evan Walker’s hypthothesis on Quantum Tunnelling and numerous models and hypotheses on the mind/brain from a dualist perspective.
Morhoff says this is all misguided and wrongheaded, even though he is sympathetic to mysticism and parapsychology. In fact he has been highly critical of Henry Stapp’s ideas here and there has been a fair bit of back and forth on that front – this gets into meaty stuff on probability algorithms, the measurement ‘problem’, mathematical formalism and the debate on whether QM is an epistemic theory or not. The ontological implications of Morhoff’s PIQM are earth-shattering and would shake up more than QM if valid, but other scientific disciplines too, not just religion and philosophy. Like most everybody, I have no adequate competence in this arena (QM) to offer an opinion that matters one way or the other, but it is worth recognising Morhoff’s important contributions to QM and even potentially overhauling much of our supposed “understanding” of what is going on here. His papers on QM and his espousal of the Pondicherry Interpretation are a must-read to anybody interested in Quantum Mechanics and consciousness and the scientific, philosophical and theological implications thereof. Morhoff is very much a physicist apart. One may not agree with him but he is an outstanding physicist, and his work, like that of ID scholars, deserves a wider audience.
Timeaus brings u some interesting points but several things need to be mentioned, Hindu philosophy like numerous Western religious philosophies and cosmogony itself cannot be summed up or understood in a few comments on a blog thread, without grossly oversimplifying things. It is all very staggeringly complex and one really needs to read up on say the mystic Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy (Morhoff’s religious inspiration in many ways) in order to get where Morhoff is coming from and thus offer a more accurate critique of his philosophy, whether one is sympathetic to his outlook or not. Indeed the journal Anti-Matters features regular expositions by Morhoff and others on the philosophy of the Hindu sage Aurobindo and these expositions need to be read and digested in order to appreciate where Morhoff is coming from. Personally I do not think there is any substantial philosophical and scientific disagreement between Aurobindo’s philosophy and Vedantic philosophy in general and ID, in fact I don’t see any even minor disagreement or contradiction whatsoever.
I think Morhoff is in error here and this error may be rooted in a misunderstanding and conflation of ID with its contemporary Western religious context and background and general support. Rather than recognising ID for what it is and what ID scientists and scholars say it is, Morhoff appears to confuse the personal philosophies of prominent ID figures for ID per se. There is an irony here (if I am right and of course I may be wrong in my notion on this front), that Morhoff gets caught up perhaps in a similar kind of error that he accuses physicists like Stapp of doing re QM, namely getting caught up in a pseudo-problem, and it is this pseudo-problem that is wrestled with rather than the respective factual matters. I cannot explain what I mean here without getting into nitty gritty details that I do not have the time for, and so will leave it at that. I do want to stress though that I do not see any incompatibility with ID as a scientific programme and Morhoff’s philosophy, Vedanticism and Hinduism in general for that matter, and even animism and shamanism. In fact there are other Hindu scholars, in both the West and the Orient who share my opinion here, this is a whole other topic though.
On this front though it should be mentioned in passing that a reading of much Western mystical religious philosophy, including Jewish Merkabah mysticism and Hassidic Kabbalah, the philosophy of famous Kabbilists like Moses ben Jacob Cordovera and Isaac Luria is not dissimillar to the independent Oriental philosophy of which Morhoff is enamoured. Note that there are considerable differing strains of thought among Jewish theology and within Kabbilistic theology itself that engendered considerable feuds over the centuries and still do, as is the case with the considerable feuds within Christian theology and within and amongst Catholic and Protestant factions/affiliations themselves, as we all know. Hence why one cannot type out a few quips that sum up what Morhoff is saying and where he is right or wrong on ID, they are both very meaty subjects that cannot be done justice to short of a book-length treatment. Otherwise we are speaking past one another and the noise to signal ratio remains too high.
As far as the editorial board at the Anti-Matters Journal goes, they include Stephen Braude, one of the most heavy-weight philosophers of our age (at the University of Maryland). He has written extensively and deeply on numerous cutting-edge scientific and philosophical issues that have great bearing on ID, including NDEs and parapsychology and other topics. Also Mae-Wan Ho is a biologist who is preeminent in criticising GMOs from a perspective that is compatible with a religious outlook, that complements either ID or theistic evolution, depending on your own personal philosophy. Indeed anybody interested in the GMO controversy cannot ignore her writings in this regard.
There is also Roger Nelson who did and continues to do important leading-edge work on cognitive perception and the possibility of a collective unconscious and the necessity of establishing and testing for physical parameters in this regard. Nelson and others are trying to establish what has been universally regarded as an abstraction in psychology (the collective unconscious) on a more solid and falsifiable scientific footing (this isn’t as odd as it may sound, and grew out of the Princeton PEAR lab work, a whole massive controversial topic beyond the scope of my post). Right or wrong he should be commended for going where most fear to tread, IF he is right the implications to ID on this front are considerable. Then there is Benny Shannon at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, who is a leading world authority on hallucinogenic drugs esp DMT related and their implications for human consciousness studies and religion. ID as a scholarly endevour is considerably buttressed by taking into consideration the serious ID implications of the work of Morhoff, Shannon, Nelson, Braude and Mae-Wan Ho alone.
Whatever the personal philosophies of the above mentioned (even if not ID friendly themselves, that is in a personal capacity), their body of work in seperate but overlapping disciplines all have very important implications to ID as a whole that are rather incredibly neglected by the self-described ID community itself, academics and scientists included. I have much to say on this front but this is not the time nor is this thread itself the place for it.
What I am getting at is that Anti-Matters is an important high-quality journal that should be read by all those interested in the debate over religion and science.
Btw Morhoff himself has reviewed Berlinski’s ‘The Devil’s Delusion’ and Mike Gene’s ‘The Design Matrix’ in Anti-Matters, and has given favourable reviews to both (available on-line for free). They are worth checking out, and show that Morhoff’s input and critiques are valuable to those interested and sympathetic to ID even if Morhoff does not count himself as an IDist. 
21 zephyr 05/18/2010 6:33 am
Ilion, the idea that our existence in the cosmos is an illusion, that you attribute to Buddhism and Hinduism is in fact a mistaken assumption that appears to come from a Western superficial new-agey take on Oriental philosophy more than anything else. The whole idea of maya as illusion is more complex than your typical Castaneda and Deepak Chropa reading hippie in Berkeley would be aware of. In fact the concept of maya appears largely misunderstood in the West and even in the East.
One needs to study Oriental philosophy in a serious way if one is going to give a knowledgeable opinion on it, just like everything else. Otherwise knocking down straw-men comes to the fore. 
22 Granville Sewell 05/18/2010 6:48 am
Thanks for your insightful comments, I agree with your assessments of AntiMatters, and Mohrhoff as a scientist. By the way, Mohrhoff also has a nice review of Beauregard and O’Leary’s “The Spiritual Brain” in AntiMatters, which incudes quotes from Dembski.

No comments:

Post a Comment