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On what grounds does one draw the line between quantum physics/mechanics and pseudoscientific claims about the powers of consciousness? I’m naturally skeptical of claims like the following that purport to be supported by quantum physics/mechanics:
– Healing yourself with your mind, etc.
I don’t know enough about quantum physics to understand where the reasoning goes south, though. When I read skeptical articles, they usually dismiss the claims by saying “they misunderstand the science,” but they don’t go into detail. That’s what I’m looking for.
If it’s helpful, these sort of things tend to take the idea that your consciousness acts on everything it observes and extrapolates from there.
Does it have something to do with the idea of a “conscious observer” not necessarily meaning “a human being with a conscious,” depending on your interpretation of quantum mechanics? Is it conflating superposition with observer effect? Something else?
Are these claims actually possible in some “legitimate” interpretations but we’re doubtful those interpretations are true? Or are all the claims based on misunderstanding?
I feel like I have a very vague grasp of these concepts, and whenever I try to pinpoint the flaw in reasoning my mind can’t process it.
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IANAS (I am not a scientist)
However, I do think I can answer this one.
Generally, the consensus is that quantum behavior occurs only at the quantum level. This means that anything larger than atomic particles, atoms themselves, or some molecules cannot exhibit quantum-level behavior.
In that sense, in the Schroedinger cat experiment, the cat is a perfectly adequate observer of a quantum state, and while we may scratch our heads and ponder on the half-deadness of a cat, the cat itself has no such illusions on that point.
On the other hand, the idea that the observer affects the observed is still a valid claim to some extent. The idea is basically this: if in the observation you send a signal to the observed that they are being observed, they will behave differently. On the quantum level, particles are sufficiently tiny that doing something like shooting a photon at them is going to have a measurable effect. However, simply looking at a tiger (assuming it cannot see you) is not going to change its behavior because you do not need to shoot photons (or anything else for that matter) in order to passively observe it. However, if you went up and poked it I guarantee you its behavior would be affected by this form of observation. On a social level, if you have a researcher sit in on a classroom to observe unruly behavior, they may be disappointed as the class might behave better since they know they are being observed.
And on the social level, I think that there can be effects by "changing your consciousness" but they have nothing to do with quantum physics. If you are more cheerful, this can rub off on people. When you smile, they may feel better and act more positively towards you than if you were frowning.
The fact that these effects occur, and that there are sort of similar things going on in quantum physics, does not mean that there is any relationship between the two.