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Integral World: Exploring Theories of Everything
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Joe Corbett has been living in Shanghai and Beijing since 2001. He has taught at American and Chinese universities using the AQAL model as an analytical tool in Western Literature, Sociology and Anthropology, Environmental Science, and Communications. He has a BA in Philosophy and Religion as well as an MA in Interdisciplinary Social Science, and did his PhD work on modern and postmodern discourses of self-development, all at public universities in San Francisco and Los Angeles, California. He can be reached at [email protected].
Bohmian Quantum Mechanics and Transdarwinian Evolution
In other words, the organization of matter is very much determined by a hidden order of non-linear complexity.
Quantum mechanics (QM) has something called the measurement problem. Briefly, the Schrodinger equation describes the state of a system, say a particle, in terms of probabilities spread-out infinitely into every point of space in a quantum field. This is called the wave function of the system, and when it interacts with the environment (specifically, the measuring apparatus of the scientist) the wave function appears to collapse into a single measured value. The problem arises when we ask what happened to all those other probable states of the system, since they too were all real states of the system before it collapsed (randomly, within an infinite set of probabilities) into a single state. And these other states must be as real as the one that collapsed, otherwise the Schrodinger equation and all of QM wouldn't work, which it clearly does as the most successful predictive theory, ever.
Given that the system before collapse was in a state of superposition, where all its possible states existed simultaneously prior to collapse, what happened to all the other states? The standard Copenhagen interpretation of this problem is to dismiss it by saying we can't know what happens behind the veiled curtain of the quantum world, we can only know what the results of our interactions with it give us, in the form of the value of the collapsed wave function. Anything else we say about what happens in the quantum world is meaningless, as the two worlds of the micro-quantum and macro-material world are forever separate. Einstein did not like this indeterminate universe or blind watchmaker interpretation, saying that quantum mechanics was incomplete, and inspired Bohm to come-up with an alternative, which will be discussed shortly.
Alternatively, the many-worlds interpretation of the measurement problem says the wave function never collapses, so we don't have to wonder what happened to all those other probabilities of the wave function that are equally as real as the one that collapsed in our experimental measurement, because all of those other probabilities branch off into their own universe, into a separate reality, ad infinitum, for each and every newly branched wave function moment to moment at nearly every point in spacetime. In this interpretation, reality is an infinitely branching and chaotically exploding fractal megaverse of an inconceivably large number of alternative realities, much as in the case of inflationary cosmology where there is an inconceivably large number of alternative universes branching off from one another. This may be why the many-worlds interpretation has gained considerable recognition among physicists, cosmologists and astrophysicists.
The Copenhagen and many-worlds interpretations of QM are the traditional and more recently popular interpretations of the measurement problem, but another interpretation gaining favor among physicists after many years of being politically and professionally suppressed is David Bohm's pilot-wave theory of QM. In this interpretation, the state of a system represented by its particle-aspect is guided by the quantum potential of its wave-aspect, which extends infinitely into space as a field like the wave function. The particle or state of the system at the surface of reality depends on how the quantum potential or wave-aspect of each particle interacts with itself and with the wave-aspect (quantum potential) of every other particle in the system. So in this interpretation its not only particles interacting on the surface of reality but also their wave functions in the form of the quantum potential interacting at an underlying subquantum or hidden level of reality that determines what we see at the surface of reality. Bohm called this hidden subquantum reality the implicate order.
Ultimately, in the Bohmian pilot-wave interpretation of QM the state of any one quantum system or particle depends on the totality of relations in its local and non-local environment from moment to moment, extending all the way out to the furthest reaches of the universe, indeed, as do quantum fields in quantum field theory. There is no collapse of the wave function here, because the wave function is a constant unfolding and enfolding of the relation between the particle and its quantum wave potential interacting with all the underlying wave potentials of all the other particles in the environment, which in turn is determined by the totality of particle-wave-potential interactions in the entire universe in an undivided holomovement (or flowing and self-transforming rather than collapsing wave function). This is a description of reality that is a dynamical interaction between the immaterial quantum wave potentials at the subsurface of reality (in the implicate order) and their particles at the surface of reality (the explicate order), which are deterministically guided into their positions according to the non-linear interactions or interference patterns of their quantum wave potentials.
This alternative, non-standard interpretation of QM is not fundamentally in conflict with any of its predictions, as it gives the same results as the standard interpretation in its calculations. What is different is its radically new vision of how the universe works, which in turn can lead to radically new interpretations for how other things within the universe work. And one such alternative interpretation is a Transdarwinian view of evolution.
Summarizing Bohmian QM, we can say that a quantum field or wave is shaped by (or its quantum potentials are determined by) its interaction with other quantum fields or waves, and the particles at the surface of or within those waves are guided into their positions according to the shape of those waves, which is a function of their interaction with other waves or quantum fields. The structure of matter or the relation between particles at the surface of reality is therefore shaped by the underlying interference patterns created by the waves in the subquantum field of potentials, where the waves have their immaterial or hidden (but very real) existence.
In other words, the organization of matter is very much determined by a hidden order of non-linear complexity between the quantum potentials of the waves underlying the particles of matter that shape our bodies and other complex systems. And this may constitute the “hidden architecture” of information that biologists and complexity theorists seek in their holy grail of explanations. As matter interacts at the surface it sends out ripples of energy and information that are enfolded into the movement of the waves supporting them, and the quantum potentials of these waves are thereby altered within an ensemble of wave potential interference patterns, altering, adjusting, or guiding the positions of the matter-particles at the surface of reality accordingly, sometimes in unexpected, unpredictable, and mysteriously complex ways not visible at the surface of things. In this case, how particles at the surface interact are not guided by the particles themselves, neither by Newtonian billiard ball mechanics nor by indeterminate randomness, but by the underlying patterns of information (quantum potentials) enfolded into the whole of which they are a part. This could be very significant in how genomes and biomolecular complexity is organized.
How the quantum systems of atoms and molecules in one part of the cell/body receive information about how to coordinate with other parts of the cell/body, and in turn how to coordinate with the larger environment, could be to some degree organized from the top down rather than only haphazardly from the ground up. Thus, assuming the quantum potentials have non-local influence, which we must assume to be consistent with QM, information from the whole (the ensemble of quantum wave potentials at the subsurface of reality) may in-form, coordinate, and guide the parts into actions and positions that will organize and shape the organism internally in relation to itself as well as externally in relation to its environment, according to principles and processes governing the whole at a deeper subtle and causal level of reality rather than the parts at the gross surface level of reality.
The crucial aspect to this Bohmian-Transdarwinist interpretation is that the intricate complexity and self-organization of life is explained by an underlying field of wholeness, if not unity, which provides an alternative to the accidental “oops” theory of the origin and evolution of life.
Environmental selection would ultimately decide which forms of living systems survive and which ones don't. But the crucial aspect to this Bohmian-Transdarwinist interpretation is that the intricate complexity and self-organization of life is explained by an underlying field of wholeness, if not unity, which provides an alternative to the accidental “oops” theory of the origin and evolution of life, despite the neo-Darwinian protestations that no supplemental explanation for the complexity of living systems is necessary. It also provides an evolutionary theory consistent with a physical theory of the universe that is every bit as robust as the standard quantum model, which fails miserably as a complete explanation of what is actually going on in the model of reality it attempts to describe, just as the standard evolutionary theory fails in giving us a complete picture as well. To paraphrase Einstein, it's not that evolutionary theory is wrong, it's just not complete, because God/Kosmos does not (simply) play dice with the universe.