Friday, April 07, 2006

God and the Sopranos II: Quantum Mechanics and Eastern Philosophy

So besides running into a Young Earth Creationist, Tony Soprano runs into a former Bell Labs worker who combines aspects of quantum mechanics (specifically quantum entanglement) and Eastern philosophy.

Here are my notes, thanks to Comcast OnDemand:
While watching boxers the Bell Labs guy says that viewing the boxers as separate entities is an illusion. Separate entitites is how we choose to perceive them. Tony Soprano points out that he didn't choose anything.

He bases this understanding on physics. We are all part of the same quantum field. Ocean waves, for example, appear to be two things. Everything is connected, nothing is separate.

The universe is a big soup of molecules. The shapes we see exist only in our own consciousness.

I haven't thought about this too long, but the first thing I want to look for is internal consistency.

First, things can be connected in some manner while still being distinct, separate entities. You can talk about each distinct wave while still noting that both belong to the ocean. I would grant that we are all part of the physical universe. But beyond that, is this Bell Labs guy making any sense?

If being separate, in any sense, is an illusion how would the Bell Labs guy ever figure this out? If all the shapes we see are illusions, how did the guy figure out it was an illusion? And as Tony Soprano pointed out, we didn't choose how we perceive things.

If we aren't separate entitities, why is this guy talking to Tony? According to his beliefs, he is talking to an illusion. If you believe everything is one with no distinctions, why would you do anything?

What is your consciousness then? Our perceptions are not only illusory, but the existence of your perceived consciousness must be an illusion as well since it can't be differentiated from anything else. At least if I understand where the Sopranos is going with this. And if our consciousness is illusory why are we perceiving anything let alone different things from one another? A belief that everything is connected and cannot be separated/differentiated would have to be an illusion as well. And if that's an illusion, this belief has been crushed by the law of non-contradiction.

That is unless you argue that we are connected while still being separate and distinct. But I don't think that's what the character is arguing.

It appears he doesn't believe what he is saying. Actually, he can't believe in what he is saying and get through a day. You wouldn't be able to eat food. Hey, that sandwhich is not actually separate from me. That's just an illusion. I'm not separate from the other cars on the road. That's just just an illusion.

The boxer who doesn't think he is a distinct entity from the other boxer will get land his butt on the canvas pretty quickly.

So while we may be connected in some sense, no one truly believes that there is no distinction or separateness between yourself and the rest of the world. And if you try to tell me otherwise, you are knowingly trying to communicate with someone else.

If anyone else would like to clarify the Bell Labs worker's comments, please feel free to drop a comment.

I think that character (who is facing the possibility of a pretty rough diagnosis) is searching for meaning in his own world (in which God does not exist). The idea that we are connected, all part of the same quantum field...floating in a vast sea of molecules is actually quite comforting. I know it comforts me to know that whatever I am WILL continue in other forms. While this is not a conscious existence, I will (as will he) become of other things in this field. In this way we will live on. Perhaps that is what the character is exploring...
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