Vlatko Vedral, a physicist at Oxford, argues that reality is made only of waves and that the obsolete wave-particle dualism must be completely abandoned. This position is eliminatory reductionism. It denigrates the existence of the complex dimension of reality. I will show how it reintroduces a dualism, that of reality and spirit.
The reductionist discourse
Vedral’s statement is correct if we limit it to the most fundamental level of reality currently known: quantum fields. Particles are mere excitations of these wave fields and do not require their own ontological description—they have no existence independent of the field. Particles are only useful in our representations of things, especially to support the idea that matter is indeed substantial, made of tiny but irreducible ingredients.
Only the waves being real, Vedral thus makes all other levels of reality, including the matter of his own mind, pure illusions. Vedral solves the place of the spirit in that way:
« There is no need to think of ourselves as special observers, as something outside of physics. We are an integral part of it. So when we perceive something, it’s really just one quantum wave interacting with another! »
A double abyss opens
The problem created is twofold:
1) The notion of illusion is not defined. It cannot be done in terms of waves, or by mathematical equations. It is a philosophical notion that implies the presence of something to which the illusion is presented.
2) Any qualitative aspect disappears from reality, which is only described in quantitative terms. Why is one interaction of one quantum wave with another part of a representation included in our mind, and why is another interaction not? No answer of course possible to find in the wave function.
The real is thus reduced to a salad of information devoid of the slightest flavor, as if a mountain and the city built on it with its inhabitants were reduced to a vast expanse of sand that you are told: “Here is the mountain and all it supported, that is nothing else. »
Thinking and conscious waves?
But there is still something left to look at this stretch of sand. This thing is not experienced like sand itself, is not just sand. How could it move away? Similarly, the mind does not experience itself as an assembly of quantum field waves. Where does this impression come from?
Radical reductionism thus leads either to denying one’s own experience of reality or to expel it in a parallel continuum, which would strangely marry each interaction between waves with a specific experience. Nihilism or dualism are the outcomes of this way of thinking.
There is an abyss between the universality proposed by waves in the level of quantum reality, and the universality proposed to minds endowed with an intimate experience. I do not encourage you to cross it, at the risk of reducing your identity to an elementary equation. But how do physicists manage not to see any abyss when it is under their feet?
The mind swallowed up by the sign “=”
They are simply trapped by the “=” sign. This mathematical symbol manages to conceal any qualitative emergence and flatten the world as a vast expanse of information. You can install on either side of the sign “=” things of the same nature, such as atoms, apples, neurons; or things qualitatively foreign to each other, for example in Boltzmann’s formula macroscopic entropy on the one hand, on the other the number of microscopic configurations. The “=” sign completely ignores what the ‘nature’ of a thing is.
You understand what is going on in the physicist’s head. His mathematical language about reality tells him that there is no ‘nature’ of things that could differentiate them. “Qualities” do not exist. It’s just a convenience—for whom? The language code takes precedence over the larger experience of the mind. The consciousness invaded by the code considers itself entirely constituted by it.
A case of self-digestion of the prime experience by secondary language? I would say: spiriticide.