X-Message-Number: 13036
Date: Sat, 01 Jan 2000 14:15:41 -0700
From: Mike Perry <>
Subject: *The Self-Aware Universe*

George Smith, #13029, asks for comment about *The Self-Aware Universe* by
physicist (and mystic) Amit Goswami. I obtained the book as background for
my own book some years ago, and still haven't read most of it, but I
more-or-less dismissed it as one more misguided attempt to inject paranormal
ideas into materialistic physics. The starting mistake that I think Dr.
Goswami and so many others make is to assume that scientific materialism is
*necessarily* cold, unfeeling, unable to address what is really most
important in life, implies that life is fundamentally meaningless, etc.
Materialism instead is only supposed to offer us things like nuclear war,
environmental depletion and destruction, other miseries without number or
measure, or superficial enjoyments that make us question the value of life.
My own book is an attempt to argue that this whole position is utterly
wrongheaded, and that solid, materialistic science, technology, and
reason-based approaches in general offer the best hope we have of realizing
an ancient dream--becoming immortal and more than human. (And all this fits
very well with cryonics too, which is highly materialistic and assumes that
people are machines made of atoms.) Looking at Goswami's book in more detail
(though I'm not in the best position to comment yet--but will give it a
try), I notice that one of the major points seems to be that quantum
nonlocality is well-established in physics and is important because it could
account for such paranormal effects as telepathy (instantaneous
communication between subjects). As it happens, the many-worlds theory
explains the apparent non-locality without invoking any instantaneous
influences whatever. Goswami considers many-worlds but like some others
makes a fundamental error that glosses over its refutation of non-locality.
On p. 139: "A measurement here of a correlated electron still splits the
world of its partner over there at a distance and yet instantly." Not so.
There is no reason to assume instantaneous splitting. Instead, the split in
worlds, like other effects, travels no faster than light. (Note that
verification of the correlations of particles cannot be done faster than
light.) There is no reason to assume any nonlocality. This is something I
discuss at length in my book (others having noted it too). Another respected
authority who makes the mistake of assuming that many-worlds implies
instantaneous splitting is Nick Herbert, in the mostly excellent but not
perfect book *Quantum Reality*. Herbert has another book, *Elemental Mind*,
which seems very much along the lines of Goswami's book, i.e. that there is
some kind of "cosmic consciousness" and also seems to depend rather a bit on
the supposition of quantum nonlocality. (Unfortunately I haven't read very
far into this book either--I had to pick and choose due to time constraints
and my finite reading speed.)

All that said, I am not opposed to the idea that different worldviews could
have validity. As with the wave-particle duality, we sometimes find that
seemingly contradictory views turn out to be complementary, and actually
equivalent. A consciousness-based view of reality as a whole might well be a
possibility, but I think it would ultimately be found equivalent to a
materialistic view.

Mike Perry

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