Monday, July 20, 2015

Idealists Do Not Understand Quantum Mechanics

This is a response to Inspiring Philosophy and his fellow cohorts who seem to think that quantum mechanics somehow supports their theistic conception of monistic idealism.  However, rather than do a detailed analysis of any particular video, I'm just going to get to the heart of the matter by spelling out the foundational failings behind their entire utilization of quantum mechanics.  Because unlike idealists, I've actually studied quantum mechanics.  I've taken college-level courses, both at the undergraduate and graduate level.  I've utilized quantum mechanics professionally in my career to help design real-world devices.  Hell, I've even published original research utilizing quantum mechanics in peer-reviewed journals.  So when I speak on quantum mechanics, I want to make it perfectly clear that I am personally speaking as a real-life authority on the subject; maybe not as a distinguished expert, mind you, but at least as someone with a practical, working knowledge in the field.  That's why I feel compelled to offer the following summary statement of the entire "quantum idealist" philosophy:

Dear Inspiring Philosophy, Raatz, and all quantum idealists on YouTube,

I understand that idealism is important to you and that you must have put a lot of hard work into making your videos. But with all due respect, none of you dumb-asses understand quantum mechanics.  There is nothing about quantum mechanics that even remotely supports any of your arguments.  It is wholly dishonest of you to pretend to be experts in a field that you obviously have zero formal training in. 

Now before you go accusing me of arguing from authority, here is a summary breakdown of everything that's fundamentally wrong with quantum idealism.

Number 1:

The heart and soul of all quantum mechanics is the Schrodinger equation.  Real quantum mechanics is accomplished by modeling some potential function into the Schrodinger equation, applying boundary conditions, and then solving for the corresponding eigenvalues and eigenfunctions.  Everything we know about the nature of subatomic particles is more-or-less expressible within this framework.  Yet quantum idealists make absolutely no effort to express their ideas in the same way.    Quantum mechanics therefore cannot possibly support idealism because idealists are simply not doing quantum mechanics in any meaningful mathematical capacity.

Number 2:

Quantum mechanics is philosophically antithetical to the entire idealist sense of epistemology.  That's because in order to effectively engage in quantum mechanics, you have to embrace several key principles of logical positivism [1].  For example, the analytic/synthetic distinction is a big one, as well as a soft form of verifiability criterion for meaning; principles, I might add, that Christian idealists are all more than happy to reject at almost every opportunity.  So once again, quantum mechanics cannot possibly support a single idealist argument because idealists themselves have already decided, in advance, to reject the core epistemic rules that govern it.

Number 3:

Quantum idealists constantly argue from authority in place of actual argument.  It's so brazen, too, that you can almost make a drinking game out of it.  Every time Inspiring Philosophy reaches some critical junction in his presentation, he almost never backs it up himself with any hard data.  He just splashes some guy's face on the screen next to a self-supporting assertion; as if we're all supposed to simply take that guy's word as gospel on an otherwise highly controversial subject.

I wouldn't even have that much of a problem with this, either, if he at least just stuck with mainstream scientific authorities, like maybe Stephen Hawking or Sean Carroll.  However, several of his most key arguments are supported almost entirely by the abject say-so of completely obscure figures with no authority at all.  For example, one name that Inspiring Philosophy loves to drop in his arguments is Henry Stapp.  I don't know any nice way to say this, but Henry Stapp is a complete scientific nobody - a "Spirit-Science" hack whose only claim to fame is that he co-writes books with Depok Chopra.  The guy has exactly zero technical publications involving any hard, empirical data or rigorous mathematical analysis.  Instead, all of his publications are long-winded rhetorical arguments, with the vast majority of them landing in purely philosophical journals and conferences.  Inspiring Philosophy is deliberately ignoring the entirety of mainstream quantum mechanics, choosing instead to build his entire case on the absurd ramblings of completely fringe crackpots.

Number 4:

The entire idealist argument relies on aspects of quantum mechanics that are known to be unresolved mysteries.  For instance, what is the proper physical interpretation of a wave function?  What constitutes a "measurement?"  Do particles obey local realism or not?  These are all actively debated questions in quantum mechanics with no real consensus beyond the standard Copenhagen interpretation.  So the moment someone comes along and starts pretending to solve all of these difficult issues, you can assume without hesitation that they're not being honest with you.  It's classic God-of-the-Gaps reasoning wherein some current hole in our scientific understanding of the universe inevitably serves as a breeding ground for supernatural explanations.  There are reasons why scientists aren't jumping to accept idealism as a new theory of quantum mechanics, chief among which is...

Number 5:

Idealists deliberately avoid making any hard, falsifiable predictions.  Instead, all they do is accommodate.  They're all more than happy to take prior existing data and then shove it into their preexisting paradigm, but never do they make any effort to predict a single piece of hard, empirical data that we didn't already know.

Even when they're actively trying to make predictions, they still completely fail.  For example, I once placed this exact challenge to Inspiring Philosophy, and his only response was that if idealism is true, then the universe is a hologram. 

Now that might sound impressive to layman, but Inspiring Philosophy doesn't seem to understand that people like me actually study this stuff for a living.  So let's just break this down, shall we?

For starters, it's pretty safe to assume that Inspiring Philosophy has no clue what a "hologram" is in any technical sense.  There's a lot of mathematical baggage that comes with a claim like that, and IP certainly hasn't been formally trained in any of it.  Instead, it sounds more like he just picked it up from a bunch of spirit-science websites, and thought it sounded cool.

Second, his "prediction" isn't really a prediction at all, because he didn't make it.  Professional cosmologists and string theorists are the ones talking about the potential for a holographic universe, and Inspiring Philosophy is apparently just riding on their coattails.  Again, that's not a prediction but accommodation.

Third, nothing about quantum idealism has any logical connection to holography, whatsoever.  Just ask yourself, how does the assumption of an immaterial mind-essence behind all of reality lead us to a universe where magnitude and phase information encode a three-dimensional geometry onto a two dimensional surface?  Where is the mathematical derivation of this principle?  Obviously, there isn't any, because Inspiring Philosophy has no clue what he's talking about.

Fourth, how do I measure "holograph-ness" of the universe?  Where do I point my telescope, and what empirical data am I trying to observe?  What is the predicted power spectral density of the cosmic microwave background?  How much red shift will type-1A supernovas produce and at what distance?  Those are the types of questions that have meaning for empirical predictions, and not some vague allusions to techno-sounding jargon. 

But hey, maybe I'm being too harsh.  Maybe there really is something to this whole "souls cause wavefunctions to collapse" thing.  So here's a challenge for all you quantum idealists out there.  Why don't you put your money where your mouth is and submit your findings to an actual scientific journal?  Not some hack philosophical forum or "Spirit Science" conference, but an actual, technical journal reviewed by experts in the field.  I know that I've personally had no trouble publishing findings of my own in those exact same journals, so what's stopping you?

Honestly, guys.  Who's kidding who, here?  Quantum mechanics is notoriously difficult stuff, and it takes years of training in mathematics and physics just to scratch the surface.  That's why it's so easy to spot a bunch of idiot fakers like yourselves, because you obviously have no formal understanding of the subject.  Unfortunately, that's also why it's so easy to just pretend to be an expert anyway, because none of your fan base has the slightest shred of education in partial differential equations, linear system theory, or stochastic processes.  Everything about your "quantum-idealism" argument is therefore only convincing to an audience that doesn't know any better.
Thanks for reading.

  1. "This philosophical approach of dealing only with questions that can be answered by measurement (or that are purely logical questions within some formal system of logic) and regarding all other questions as meaningless is essentially what is known in the philosophical world as “logical positivism.” It is the most common approach taken in dealing with quantum mechanics, at least at the elementary philosophical level…"  - David Miller, "Quantum Mechanics for Scientists and Engineers," page 7


Anonymous said...

LOL, looks like a lot of childish personal attacks and red herrings.

Number 1, is about practical implications of QM, not the philosophical implications, which is what i talk about it, so that is a red herring.
Number 2, just assumes the Copenhagen Interpretation. Henry Stapp already has explained as exhaustion, one does not need to hold to the logical positivism of that view. You can take the philosophical implciations of that view and hold to the orthodox view. Just assuming there is only one possible interpretation (which is only pragmatic) is abusrd. He should know better, but at typical AntiCitzenX just lies and blurs the truth.
Number 3 is just acknowledging there are other interpretations, which is pretty odd with what he said in Number 2. Plus, he is directly ignoring the fact that I have argued for a specific understanding of the wave function and argued for the interpretation I support. Just saying there are other ways to interpret things is not an argument against my view, nor does it show his pragmatic interpretation is more parsimonious.
Number 4, I'm sorry but this just shows his intellectual level as of a toddler. It is not a rebuttal against any arguments I've made it is just AntiCitizenX screaming like a child, "I am smarter than you, nananbooboo" If that was the case then why not actually use that brain to refute my argument instead of wasting time to talk more about himself? But that is what he does often.
Number 5 is just wrong. I do very well commit myself to falsifiable predictions. Just find hidden variables in quantum theory and the orthodox interpretation will be invalid. In fact I said this too him on my Facebook page a month ago, but AnticitizenX, like he typically does, just wants to lie and distort the truth. He did the same thing in his sad attempt to response to my video on the OA. I also have told him this view predicts more data will come out to confirm the holographic universe. If data came out to challenge this, that would not support the orthodox interpretation.

So it is typical childish AntiCitizenX response, filled with immature insults and red herrings. Notice he doesn't actually attacks any of my arguments, just throws out his philosophical presuppositions as fact, relies on red herrings, insults, and talks about how amazing he thinks he is. His response is a joke.

AnticitizenX said...

What part of "you don't know what you're talking about" was I unclear about? It's obviously you've never studied QM in any formal capacity, and your responses only betrays more of this same problem. Watch:

"Number 1, is about practical implications of QM"

No it isn't. It's about literally "doing" quantum mechanics. You cannot do that without solving the Schrodinger equation. The very nature of your response only further demonstrates how truly incompetent you are on the subject.

"Number 2, just assumes the Copenhagen Interpretation."

Copenhagen is about the interpretation of the wavefunction. It has nothing to do with the epistemic rules by which QM is done. The overwhelming majority of scientists and engineers agree that you must embrace positivism-like rules in order to do QM. It's literally "in the books". Once again, you simply don't know what you're talking about.

"Henry Stapp already has explained"

And the vast, overwhelming majority of PhD physicists say he's wrong. Why do you cite views that have long-since been discredited while ignoring the mainstream consensus? That's completely unethical.

"Number 3 is just acknowledging there are other interpretations,"

And Copenhagen is the "standard" interpretation until you find something that makes testable empirical predictions above and beyond it. No one disagree with this.

"Number 4, I'm sorry but this just shows his intellectual level as of a toddler"

When you claim that topological qubits in neurons are being collapsed by immaterial minds and therefore souls exist, that's barely even a coherent proposition. But hey, you can call me names if it makes you feel better. You're still arguing for gibberish.

AnticitizenX said...

"is just AntiCitizenX screaming like a child"

The projection is strong in this one.

"Number 5 is just wrong. I do very well commit myself to falsifiable predictions."

No, not really. You just make vague, ambiguous predictions with no quantifiable data based on technical jargon that you assume I won't understand. You obviously have no concept of how real science is done.

"Just find hidden variables in quantum theory and the orthodox interpretation will be invalid."

Literally no modern, mainstream textbook advocates for hidden variables. Hidden variables go against the Copenhagen interpretation. You once again demonstrate your abject ignorance on the subject.

"I also have told him this view predicts more data will come out to confirm the holographic universe."

You don't even know what the word "holographic" means. You just shat it out at me in the expectation that I'd be too ignorant to understand what you said. Well, I happen to have my copy of "Fourier Optics" right here, and there's an entire chapter dedicated to holograms. And I'm sorry, but there is no logical connection between your concept of QM and holograms. You just pulled that claim out of thin air so you could pretend to have predicted something, when you really predicted nothing. It is not a "prediction" when the prediction itself is once again incoherent, unquantifiable, and disconnected from your theory.

"AnticitizenX, like he typically does, just wants to lie and distort the truth."

That's funny, because I've actually been published AND CITED in scientific journals while you haven't. So apparently the rest of the scientific community thinks I'm worth listening to and not you. Maybe it's because I've actually studied QM at the graduate-level? I've explained to you the mainstream rules by which QM is governed, and you've categorically rejected them all out of hand. So who exactly is "distorting the truth" by pretending to be qualified in a field he has no formal training in? Or simply refuses to even do properly?

I'm sorry, but this is not an "argument." This is an "education." You are categorically unqualified to even talk coherently about quantum mechanics. Every time you attempt to argue on the subject, you simply betray your abject ignorance on the entire field. Whenever I've explained to you how to properly engage in the subject, you simply double-down and categorically reject those rules out of hand. So I don't know what it is you think you're doing with your arguments, but it ain't quantum mechanics.

Sam Levin said...

AnticitizenX You really should start charging this guy tuition.

Anonymous said...

""AnticitizenX You really should start charging this guy tuition""
Irony says an illiterate ignoramus

Sam Levin said...

LOL. You truly are your own satire, dude. Please keep going.

luis Devoux said...

AnticitizenX you must to do a video about this and demostrate how ridiculus are this dumbass apologethics (apologize of bad grammar)

Johanan Raatz said...

The holographic nature of the universe does not directly connect to the universe being mental. However it does link to it in two very obvious ways.

1.) The ontological obvious starting point: Unless one is a p-zombie, the mind can't possibly be an illusion. However if the outside world is (which the universe being a hologram would entail)an illusion, then it becomes apparent which is more fundamental and which emerges from which. The outside world which is an illusion, must emerge from mentality which can't possibly be an illusion.

2.) Then there is a logical connection with the physics. Holography in itself does not connect to consciousness. However the offspring of holography does. The ER = EPR holographic correspondence in turn leads to the AdS/MERA correspondence which tells us that spacetime emerges from entangled quantum information. Well according to Tononi's Integrated Information Theory, which is the foremost model of cognitive science to date, entangled quantum information counts as integrated since the bits of information can not be treated as isolated from each other. And I have Tononi's quotes on this in fact. Thus if we combined AdS/MERA with IIT we reach the conclusion that spacetime emerges from an integrated information (aka conscious) state in a mathematically precise way.

AnticitizenX said...


1) Do you even know what a "hologram" is? None of what you just said forms any logical connection between idealism and that word. You're just spewing out techno-babble with no coherent rhyme or reason to it.

2) You still made zero empirical predictions that I can test and verify against some null hypothesis.

Sylvain Poirier said...

I do not support all what is in these videos (I am not Christian), but I do support their main idea of an idealist interpretation of quantum physics. Please read my very long reply to your article in this web page : The debate on quantum idealism.

Sylvain Poirier said...

I tried to explain the situation to Johanan, that his defense of idealism is lacking in terms of scientific value, which is a pity because a scientific argumentation is possible as I offered in my site. But he refuses to learn from criticism, he insists that his quotes of popularized stories on the holographic principle together with his philosophical studies should suffice for him to know everything he needs. In particular, he thinks this should suffice for him to assume he is on the side of science, and thus that he can dismiss as an unscientific nut anyone who disagrees (as, according to him, it should mean opposition to these popular physicists which, he thinks, represent the scientific consensus). Now, as he said, he is going to prepare his own video reply to the present article, visibly ignoring the more reasonable way to reply I have offered in the link of my previous message here. So I guess he is going to make still another disaster, which will result in many physicists making fun of idealism once again, for seemingly good reasons. I want to insist that I do not endorse his manners, and that the possible arguments for idealism (I would more precisely speak about mind/mathematics dualism) should not be reduced to the terrible version that Johanan and the IP guys are offering.

AnticitizenX said...


Would it be more to your liking if I changed the title? Maybe just reduced it to "Inspiring Philosophy and Raatz Don't Understand Quantum Mechanics?"

Bri said...

Holograms? are you talking about Bohm's implicate order? Thats a form of pilot wave, totally unrelated to what that youtube guy is saying.

Sylvain Poirier said...

(sorry I forgot to check your reply earlier)
Well that's an idea of possibility, though it would make the claim look much less interesting, since many other people in the world don't understand quantum mechanics either. For example many materialists don't understand quantum mechanics as I pointed out here and there.
But I would not say they are totally ignorant about the topic either, some of their remarks are correct (especially in the video "the end of materialism", as LuboŇ° Motl pointed out in his review which is also incomplete), their main problem seems to be that they cannot make the difference between what they got right and what they didn't, and do not seem ready to learn and accept this difference even if explanations are given.
On the other hand, after more consideration I would not exactly try to save "idealism" since, while close to idealism, my position is more precisely mind/mathematics dualism. Indeed I link scientificity with the acceptation of the fundamental role of maths in physics, i.e. accepting maths as a fundamental reality, not only consciousness; by lack of finding properly rational people in the idealism fb groups, in my table of views I moved the name "idealism" to the "obscurantism" column.