Shermer and Stenger say

As promised, from Victor Stenger’s Quantum Gods (Prometheus 2009).

First, from the Foreword by Michael Shermer. On a book tour in the spring of 2004 he met the producers of the documentary (although I would call it a “documentary”) What the Bleep Do We Know?

What the Bleep Do We Know? went on to become one of the highest grossing documentary films of all time…The explanation is to be found in the fact that the film is not really about quantum physics. The documentary’s central motif is that we create our own reality through will, thought, and consciousness, which, according to the “experts” who appear as talking heads throughout the film (most of whom are not scientists, let alone quantum physicists), depends on quantum mechanics, that branch of physics so befuddling even to those who do it for a living that it can be invoked whenever something supernatural or paranormal is desired. [p 7]

He quotes University of Oregon physicist (ret’d) Amit Goswamy saying the material world is nothing but movements of consciousness and that he chooses moment by moment his experiences.

I publicly challenged Dr Goswami to leap out of a twenty-story building and consciously choose the experience of passing safely through the ground’s tendencies. [p 8]

He cites Deepak Chopra and J.Z. Knight, Roger Penrose and Stuart Hameroff. He asks Victor Stenger if the Penrose-Hameroff conjecture (about microtubules and stuff) has any merit.

Stenger explained to me that the gap between sub-atomic quantum effects and large-scale macrosystems is too large to bridge. [p 9]

In other words, no.

Stenger explains in the preface what “quantum spirituality” is.

The primary theme of the quantum spirituality movement is that “we make our own reality.” This principle is the subject of many book in which the authors grandly claim a new “paradigm” in our understanding of the nature of reality, with the human mind somehow tuned into a “cosmic consciousness” that pervades the universe. [pp 14-5]

Ok, now I get it. When I say that I too think I’m part of something much bigger than my own self, and cite the species, and animals, and living organisms, and the cosmos, and history, I’m not talking about what quantum spirituality people are talking about when they say they are part of something bigger than their own selves. They’re talking about something else; they’re talking about being somehow tuned into a “cosmic consciousness” that pervades the universe.

Yes. I don’t think we make our own reality, and I don’t think I’m somehow tuned into a cosmic consciousness that pervades the universe.



  1. Andrew G. says

    The only thing that disappointed me about Quantum Gods is that I hoped for more stuff dealing with “quantum theology” – the idea that god does stuff by messing with quantum-level events.

  2. sailor1031 says

    The only person I know of who successfully made his own reality was Calvin who, let’s hope, may still be roaming the cosmos in his alter ego of space man Spiff. But I don’t think Calvin realised reality via quantum mechanics, rather it was by some subjective fiat that no one else was aware of.

    Perhaps that’s it: people are creating their own realities all around us and we’re just unable to see it because our subjective reality is not their subjective reality….gee; I dunno!!

  3. A. Noyd says

    One thing I never understood about the “we make our own reality” deal was how do we protect ourselves from others making us into puppets in their preferred reality? Or do others not really exist?

  4. trog69 says

    Bleh. Why do people demand that there be something “more” to their consciousness? Isn’t the fact that we’re here right now, enough? It sure is for me. I can’t get my head around much of the tangible world, much less some ethereal “Other-ness”.

  5. Brother Yam says

    All this reminds me of the “deep” conversations we’d have in the dorm after finishing off a joint. It was dumb then and it hasn’t aged well…

  6. Godlesspanther says

    This is one that I am enthusiastic about reading.

    I found it appalling how so many people bought into the What the Bleep… bullshit. Many people who, in my opinion, really ought to have known better.

    I rented that movie when it came out. It did look interesting based on the cover. In the beginning I was aware that some of the science was correct. Then the guy who talks to water and froze it to demonstrate — ??? I wondered why they were including this stuff that is obviously bullshit.

    Then I recognized Ramtha. I knew about J Z Knight and her cult well before the movie came out. (Years ago Garry Trudeau did some Doonesbury strips in which Boopsie is channeling “Hunk-ra.” That was a direct parody of J Z Knight.)

    Ramtha told us about the native people and the approaching of Columbus’ ships. The high technology of the ships were so far out of the experience of the natives that they could not even see them. — aewgrlkjhgr5po5h!!! –ae4kjghdgruhipurvsa!!! –sdarflihgrd!!! If I remember correctly, that is what I shouted at that point.

  7. F says

    Too many people read things like The Crack in the Cosmic Egg back in the day. Maybe too much Ram Dass as well. Now it’s Chopra and references to Penrose while he was way out of his element. Gah. All because “observation” effects the outcome of quantum measurement, where people assume “observation” or measurement necessarily includes a conscious observer when really it just means that every measurement at the quantum level is necessarily a direct interaction between what is being measured and the detector. Of course measurement changes what is being measured, just as light doesn’t keep passing right on through your body unchanged as it warms your skin or excites pigments in your retina.

    Regardless, it is stupid to believe you create your own reality when there is never any evidence of such a thing. Just like talking at your DNA does not cure genetically related ailments. Cranks are constantly retarding the intellects of people who are susceptible to their idiocy, and it really pisses me off.

  8. InfraredEyes says

    The primary theme of the quantum spirituality movement is that “we make our own reality.”

    How does this differ from old-school solipsism? (Semi-serious question).

  9. says

    Stenger says on p 39 that he accused Goswami of solipsism when the latter gave a talk at the Univ of Hawaii, and that Goswami vehemently denied that that was his position. But, Stenger said (I paraphrase), that’s certainly what it sounded like.

    So in Stenger’s view, it doesn’t.

  10. bad Jim says

    Bertrand Russell wrote,

    I once received a letter from an eminent logician, Mrs. Christine Ladd-Franklin, saying that she was a solipsist, and was surprised that there were no others.

    Apparently, she wasn’t joking.

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