DOI: 10.14704/nq.2010.8.1.272

Pseudoscience and Victor Stenger’s Quantum Gods: Mistaken, Misinformed and Misleading

David Scharf

Abstract


Quantum spirituality—the idea that some aspect of consciousness plays a fundamental role in the universe and that advanced physics should be interpreted as having to some extent already incorporated this principle—has had distinguished representation among both physicists and philosophers. It has generated an upsurge of grassroots enthusiasm because of the widespread sense that science and spirituality, rather than being fundamentally separate or even opposed, are in fact deeply connected and mutually reinforcing. Victor Stenger’s purpose in writing Quantum Gods: Creation, Chaos, and the Search for Cosmic Consciousness is to “debunk” this idea—but attention to the details shows that it is actually Stenger’s arguments that need the debunking.

Stenger—a retired physicist who is leveraging his scientific background to try to discredit anything and everything that smacks of spirituality—doesn’t respect his intellectual opponents enough to get their positions right; in some instances he appears to deliberately misrepresent their views; and, most important, his own reasoning is characterized by unremitting carelessness. Moreover, there is a method to his carelessness—it enables him to systematically avoid addressing the tough arguments of his opponents. Hence we find him frequently setting up a straw man by misrepresenting the debate as a simple matter of science and reason versus superstition. Once having defined this as the issue, all he needs to do is assume the attitude of an outraged scientist and heap on the ridicule. But if he had done his homework and taken the trouble to really understand the science and logic supporting quantum spirituality, he would have discovered that it is harder to dismiss than he had imagined. Indeed, the more carefully—and yes, critically—one considers the issues, the more one finds quantum spirituality to be eminently worthy of serious consideration, as a plausible and measured approach to the most long-standing and intractable questions at the basis of science.

In my view, quantum spirituality will prove to represent a phase transition in the history of science of immense proportions. In this context Stenger’s books, and those of like-minded debunkers, represent a futile rear-guard action, intended to forestall what will come to be seen as the inexorable progress of science toward a more profound understanding of natural law.

Keywords


Quantum spirituality; Quantum mind; Victor Stenger; pseudoscience

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