A Flight of Intellectual Fancy
Brief Commentary on Quantum Physics, Intelligence and Religion
I have found the debate on the existence of God a rather fascinating one; not because I believe or don’t believe in such a being – but rather because the debate really opens up the human mind and exposes its character. One’s position and comments on the matter shows one’s objectivity, capacity for trust, faith, emotion and self-restraint.
The specific topic I intend to discuss in this article is the proposition that sapient life is “random”. It’s an interesting proposition with which I don’t agree, being the objective rationalist that I am. But, a couple of years ago, during one of my many extended pensive periods, I discovered that, under the laws of quantum physics, intelligent life is not only not random, but its emergence in any universe with similar laws of quantum physics is inevitable.
In this proposition (or article, depending on where I manage to publish it), I refer to intelligence. However, technically, anything with sensory ability, memory and a capacity to self-modify in response to said memories is intelligent.
However, I refer to something a little more advanced in my proposition. I extend the basic definition in the previous paragraph to “A group of devices with said intelligence which are able to also propagate said memories to other such devices.” The propagation is important: without such capacity of some sort of communication, memories would be lost within a generation.
The Quantum Superposition
So this article is rather steeped in scientific hugamaloo – a lot of definitions that probably won’t make a lot of sense without context. One such definition is the quantum superposition.
Wow – I must be drunk, because that sentence made perfect sense to me. But, internal annotations aside – the quantum superposition is the scientist’s way of saying “Well, something happens where we don’t know what the hell is going on in the background”
Seriously – I’m not making that up! Find a real nuclear or quantum physicist and as him “What is the quantum superposition?” – his answer won’t make much more sense than what I said above.
But, it is an important property – sensical or not. Essentially, it refers to a semi-random state from which all “objects” start, but which is “materialized” into “the real world” through measurement.
Let’s say, for instance, we start with an electron, whose position and momentum are known to within a 99.9% precision; that would mean that its position and momentum, at the next instance, can only be known with a minuscule (less than 0.01%) precision. The remaining precision isn’t a factor of our lack of knowledge, according to quantum physics, but rather a factor of complete randomness to within that [less than] 0.01% degree.
Okay, physicists – I realize that I’m simplifying this far beyond that which you’re comfortable condoning. I promise: I have a point in my simplification. It’s not to pretend that “thought makes reality” or “the world exists entirely as observation”, as Amit Goswami or Deepak Chopra might claim. No – no bleepin’ rabbit hole, here! Just – before criticizing this commentary – please realize that most of your explanations of reality are purely mathematical – something for which the [current] layman simply isn’t ready.
So, for the non-physicists here: The quantum superposition is a state of existence in which a particular object, usually very very very very very very very very small, exists just before it pops into “the real world”. The outcome of this state is random, though mathematically predictable over *very* large periods of time or *very* large numbers of tries. That is to say that, while a particle in such a state will result in an unpredictable state (perhaps a position 7,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 kilometers away or with a momentum 7,000,000,000,000 times greater than that with which it started) – if performed enough times, the overall result will, with an incredibly high level of precision, follow a mathematically predictable formula (see Schroedinger’s equation).
Measurement is a tricky item. No one can really give a proper, objective definition, so far as I’ve been able to determine. Examples of what it is can be given, but not an actual definition. So, for lack of a better description, I’m going to narrow the “measurement” quality of the breakdown of the quantum superposition to this: When a specific interaction between two quantum objects is somehow recorded.
For instance, when the spread pattern on a photo-responsive electron monitor excites photons, which travel to a human eye, which are stored in memory by a human brain; for the layman: when a person sees (and remembers) a recording sheet indicate that an electron has passed through it (a CRT television screen is an example of a similar phenomenon).
The important part to my definition is not the measurement, but rather the recording. Many quantum and nuclear physicists would probably disagree with this minimization; but, I feel it meets the odd behavior of the breakdown of the ever-elusive quantum superposition.
On To the Proposition, Dammit!
“Oh, what are you babbling on about, nerd?” I hear you cry. Well, if you’ve made it this far, I think it’s safe for me to assume that you’re interested enough to follow me to my conclusion.
And, thanks for that, by the way. In fact, I propose you take 15-20 to stand up, right now, and applaud yourself for humoring my ramblings. Go on – you can do it. I promise I won’t go away!
Okay, so you’re back? Awesome.
So, the proposition:
- If nothing is physically manifest until its quantum superposition is broken down by observation, and
- If we, as intelligent creatures exist in the physical world,
- Then nothing in the physical world could exist without the eventual emergence of intelligent observers
Since time is a physical phenomenon, and purely quantum states aren’t particularly affected by it, then it would follow that, no matter how long the stretch of events, at some point, intelligent observers would have to emerge. Otherwise, everything in the universe would exist in giant, pure superposition and nothing physical would ever occur.
This proposition, or perhaps more accurately “posit”, is contingent on an underlying assumption though (one I haven’t seen evidence to dismiss): That an object doesn’t exist in the physical world until its superposition is broken down. So far as I can determine, this is the position of most quantum physicists.