Why Quantum Mechanics Can't Explain Consciousness
    By Ginger Campbell | March 19th 2007 06:37 PM | 3 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Ginger

    I am an emergency physician with a long-standing interest in neuroscience. I also enjoy reading about other scientific disciplines.



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    Quantum mechanics can't explain consciousness and I am going to explore why.

    The reason I bring this up is that many people seem to be worried that the mounting evidence that the brain generates the mind implies that free will can not exist. Of course, most of us feel strongly that we do have free will. Various arguments are put forth to "save" free will. (I am not going to tackle the claim that it needs saving in this post.) One recent approach has been to use the uncertainty inherent in quantum mechanics as a potential location for free will. John Searle has observed that this only gives us randomness, not free will, but that doesn't seem to reduce the appeal of such an approach.

    Today I wish to argue against using quantum mechanics to explain any aspect of consciousness by considering and entirely different point of view. My argument is simple: I think trying to use quantum mechanics is taking the argument in the wrong direction.

    Consciousness is clearly an emergent property. The latest evidence is that there is no master site of consciousness or control in the brain. If that is the case, then looking to the subatomic level is clearly a move in the wrong direction. It makes as much sense as trying to understand the properties of water by studying hydrogen and oxygen. Because water emerges from the combination of the two, studying its components tells us little about water.

    Just a brief thought to keep in mind the next time someone tells you how much they enjoyed "what the Bleep to we know?" Personally, I turned it off with disgust but we have to realize how vulnerable non-scientists are to pseudo-science masquerading as science.


    The concept of ree will is ill defined. It can however be defined as will derived from inner thought and emotional processes and not dictated directly from ouitside. One might also argue that free will must contains some element of randomness. If so, quantum mechanics might give a source of that randomness.

    The properties of water clearly depend on the fact that it is composed of oxygen and hydrogen, and not anything else. Otherwise, it would not be water!

    Gerhard Adam
    There can be no free will.  In fact, the concept makes no sense.  This doesn't mean that we don't have flexibility in our choices, or in the decisions we make, but we cannot plausibly assert that something can originate from our minds that wasn't already there.
    Mundus vult decipi