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Monday, January 28, 2008

Books: New Physics takes on the human mind

Here's a book I am just about to go and order, New Physics and the Mind by Robert Paster:

The Mind and Physics

The mind has played a role in physics since the earliest days of quantum physics. The Fifth Solvay Conference in 1927 featured a debate between Niels Bohr and Albert Einstein about whether the mind and consciousness are (Bohr) or are not (Einstein) part of physics. Einstein's position has dominated mainstream physics for decades, but the battle simmered on for the entire twentieth century.

Author Paster's challenge to readers is
List every phenomenon of new physics that you can think of. Add "consciousness" and "the mind." See what theories of physics you can find.

Very few, I would think. The field has largely been left to overly imaginative psychologists who believe in God switches, genes, and helmets, and Darwinian philosophers who claim that the mind isn't real. (And if there is no self, whose arthritis is this? - The Jewish Zen.)

There's a bit of stuff out there on the mind that addresses physics, actually. Have a look at Schwartz, Stapp, and Beauregard, for example, free online, for one model of mind-matter interaction.

I won't say anything more about Paster's book until I read it, but he is certainly correct in thinking that a valid theory of mind needs to address the data from physics. That does NOT mean that it needs to be a materialist theory, in fact, it probably should not be a materialist theory. But it does need to address the data from physics.

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