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Fred Alan Wolf:
MIND INTO MATTER (Moment Point, 2001)

(Copyright © 2000 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )
The American physicist Fred Alan Wolf debates the connection between mind and matter and reaches the conclusion that the source of matter is mind. Mind "invents" a fictitious body and then it starts believing that "it is" the body.
Such a trivial conclusion is reached (in absolute, blissful ignorance of modern theories of mind that state the same) via a tortuous and involuntarily comic journey through all sorts of nonscientific disciplines.
What makes the book a delight, though, is Wolf's discussion of Quantum Theory. Initially, we only get yet another tabloid-level introduction to the problem of the observer, but then Wolf gives it a spin that is novel and intriguing.
Wolf starts out on the wrong foot by outlining theorems that are weak at best and don't really help make his point. Thought and time are the same substance because when we are absorbed in thought we don't perceive the flow of time (We also don't perceive the pickpocket who is stealing our wallet so maybe thought and pickpockets are also the same substance). The senses are about things in space, so our body can be viewed as a space-sensing mechanism (Of course, the body does many other things that have nothing to do with space-sensing, e.g. eating and defecating, i.e. processing energy, but somehow Wolf ignores this). Wolf infers that "if we sense, we become space". Feelings are grounded in two basic "quantum" feelings: the love that comes from the behavior of photons (photons are free light) and the hate that comes from the behavior of electrons (electrons are trapped light, as they become light if they collide against their antiparticle). Therefore "to feel" is to become energy, to transform matter into energy and viceversa. Intuition is movement.
Then the book gets more serious. Wolf makes reality arise from the limitations that Quantum Theory imposes on the human mind: we cannot ever know the exact position of a particle, therefore the particle is a purely mental hypothesis, therefore it exists only because mind cannot ever know all about it. If we extend this line of reasoning to all matter, we reach the conclusion that the entire world that we perceive is an illusion, and that illusion is due to the fact that our mind cannot know the world as it really is. Reality has to do with perception of reality. If nobody observes it, it doesn't exist.
Since reality is created by the observer, Wolf asks: where is the observer? He claims the observer is not in the brain and it is not in the body, because nobody has found it there (by the same token, there are no mushrooms in the woods because I couldn't find any last weekend). His conclusion is that the observer, by observing, becomes the body: the observed and the observer are the same thing. After all, it is the observer that creates the physical world, so that must also include the observer's own body.
The many-verse model states that all the possible alternatives of a quantum system actually take place, one in each possible world, and that the observer splits in as many observers as possible worlds. Each observer in each world observes only of the many possible realities. The world and the observer in it keep splitting as more possibilities arise. So mind and matter get intertwined into story lines. Each story line is a memory of a past. Everything is alive because everything has a story line, which is both mind and matter. The story lines of a complex object form a "braid". The braid of story lines in a human body is a "script". A script is the collection of all the stories told by all the cells of the body. Bodies are scripts. Each cell is both matter and mind. Mind is all over the body.
Wolf does not believe that Darwinian evolution alone can account for the birth of life and the working of natural selection (he is unaware of modern theories on the origins of life, but that's besides the point). He believes additional information is needed to start the mechanism of life, and that information must be coming from the future. Based on the same ideas from Quantum Theory (that reality exists only insofar as somebody observes it, although Quantum Theory is really only about particles and not big objects) Nature produced the right organisms to survive in their environment because information flowed back from the future to the present about which organisms make sense. An observer can change the past by fixing the outcome of an observation: this would determine the past events that led to that outcome. Every time we "fix" the outcome of an observation, we force a certain past on the object of our observation. Our mind can create a past from all the possible pasts. (This is a variation on the well-known Zeno effect: the life of a particle depends on how many times we observe it, because each observation changes its state).
Space, time, matter and mind are tied together by Relativity and Quantum Theory: Relativity binds together spacetime and matter, while Quantum Theory binds together matter and mind.
All of this is fascinating, but Wolf forgets a couple of important details. One is a technicality: Quantum Theory applies at a very small scale, far smaller than anything he deals with in this book. The other one is the nature of the theory he is using to study the illusions created by the human mind: Quantum Theory is an invention of the human mind...
The book is littered with qabalistic and alchemic references that make it look less scientific and deep than it is.
Wolf's biggest limit is his ignorance. It is not only that he is ignorant of basic neurological findings, but he is also ignorant in general. He can't quote other than the Beatles and "Star Trek". There's got to be something more profound in thousands of years of civilization than commercial pop and tv shows, but the doubt never seems to cross his mind. (Suggestions: a few thousand rock musicians have produced better lyrics and music than the Beatles, a few thousand directors have produced better movies than "Star Trek").
Nevertheless, his thought-provoking analysis of Quantum Theory and its implications for theories of consciousness ranks with Henry Stapp's as a milestone. Plus, Wolf is a gifted writer. He knows how to capture the imagination of his audience.

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