Until I was furnished copies of their correspondence, I didn’t know that a debate, or more precisely, an intellectual discussion, has been going on between American theoretical physicist Dr. George Weissman of the University of California Berkeley and Dr. Jacqueline Romero, a Filipino physicist, at the University of Glasgow in the United Kingdom.
It all started when Dr. Romero reacted to an article I wrote in this column on June 3, 2014, about quantum physics, Eastern mysticism and extrasensory perception (ESP). Dr. Romero wrote a letter to the editor calling my article “terribly misleading.” I showed her comment to Dr. Weissman, who in turn replied in defense of what I wrote.
It appears to me now that both are right from their respective viewpoints. They are looking at quantum physics from two different perspectives—from a conservative or conventional interpretation of quantum physics, and from a speculative or expanded implication of its findings.
I am not a physicist, nor do I pretend to be one. What I know about it is a result of my rather extensive readings on the subject from a layman’s point of view, and definitely not from the specialist’s.
What Dr. Romero objected to vehemently was my article’s claim that quantum physics somehow explains some psi phenomena which could not otherwise be explained by classical Newtonian physics. She said that in the recent Vienna Conference, attended by leading physicists and marking the 50th anniversary of Bell’s Theorem, there was no mention at all of ESP nor of Eastern mysticism.
Dr. Weissman actually agrees completely with Dr. Romero that the traditional interpretation of quantum theory has nothing to do with psi phenomena. And that is why he was careful to refer to his approach as the “quantum paradigm.”
“Without the quantum paradigm,” according to Dr. Weissman, “we literally don’t know what current science is telling us about reality, just that these theories yield correct predictions for experiments and observations.”
To understand from a layman’s standpoint what these two physicists are talking about, let us start from the beginning. Fundamentally, it begins with the question of what constitutes physical reality and how the physical universe behaves.
Classical Newtonian physics has supplied the pragmatic scientific assumptions which, for centuries, have been held as universally true and valid. We can summarize these assumptions, at the risk of being accused of oversimplifying the issue, as follows:
1) “Strong objectivity”: Classical science assumes that there is an objective world out there which is independent of us. To understand this world, you have to separate the object observed from the observer.
2) “Causal determinism” says this world is fundamentally deterministic, orderly and predictable. If we know what forces are acting on an object, we will know exactly its position and velocity at a given time.
3) “Materialism”: This assumes that nothing exists in the universe except matter, which follows scientific physical laws.
4) “Locality”: This assumes that all interactions between material objects happen in specific positions or localities independent of each other.
5) “Epiphenomenalism”: This assumption says that everything else can be reduced to matter. For example, consciousness and mental processes are regarded merely as an epiphenomenon of the material brain. In other words, matter created consciousness; the brain created the mind.
Then quantum mechanics (or particle physics or modern physics) came along and threw all the above assumptions out the window. It was discovered that, in the subatomic levels, matter, or what we used to consider matter, does not obey the predictable laws of Newtonian physics.
What was making subatomic particles behave in an erratic, unpredictable and schizophrenic manner is still subject to controversy. At the moment, no one has any conclusive or universally accepted answer to this.
The next Soulmates, Karma and Reincarnation seminar will be held on Jan. 10 at Room 308 Prince Plaza I, Legaspi Street, Legaspi Village, Greenbelt, Makati, tel. nos. 8107245 and 0908-3537885.