Scientist looks at the Creator
Kuldip Dhiman

God is not Dead: What Quantum Physics Tells us About our Origins and How We Should Live
By Amit Goswami.
Pages 310. Rs 295.

Aristotle showed us that whenever we ask the "why" question, four explanations or causes could be given. They are: material cause, formal cause, efficient cause, and final cause. If we take the example of a chair, wood is its material cause. Formal cause shows us what a thing is; in other words, it identifies it—we might think in terms of the shape of the chair. The efficient cause is the reason for the object to be. In case of the chair, the efficient cause is the carpenter. And the final cause explains why the chair was made, or what was the purpose (teleology) behind making it. Chairs are made so that people can sit on them.

With the rise of modern scientific thinking, the last two causes are no longer considered because they would suggest that the world was created by a supreme being. This is not acceptable to modern materialistic science. As scientific thinking began to hold the imagination of thinkers, Friedrich Nietzsche made his bold proclamation a century ago: "God is dead".

Amit Goswami declares the opposite in God is not Dead, and he uses the presuppositions of quantum physics to justify his claim. To be sure, Goswami is not a saffron-clad swami dabbling in quantum mechanics to pass off his religious beliefs by using scientific terminology. He is a theoretical nuclear physicist and member of The University of Oregon Institute for Theoretical Physics for the last 40 years.

Goswami argues that scientific materialism cannot give us a complete explanation of the world as there are aspects of the phenomenal world that are impossible to address within the materialist framework of science. Where, then, lies the solution? The solution, says Goswami, could be found in quantum physics — the science of the subatomic realm.

Very briefly, in Newtonian physics, objects are determined things, but in quantum physics, objects are possibilities from which consciousness chooses. The stress in Newtonian physics is on objectivity, that is, the person conducting the experiment is just an impartial observer; he does not interfere in the experiment in any way. But when we enter the world of subatomic particles, subjectivity becomes important as it influences the physical processes.

For instance, light waves sometimes act like particles and particles sometimes act like waves depending upon how they are observed, this is called wave particle duality. Further, matter can go from one spot to another without moving through the intervening space—this is called quantum tunnelling. Instead of the certain world of macro level physics, in quantum mechanics, the entire universe is nothing but a series of probabilities that depend upon a sentient observer. And once subjectivity enters, consciousness cannot be treated as mere by-product of biological processes, because it actively shapes the outcome of the experiment.

In the micro realm, objects remain as waves of possibility until they are brought into manifestation through the act of observation. Quantum objects are waves of possibility of consciousness. "Consciousness, not matter," says Goswami, "is the ground of being, in which matter exists only as possibilities. Through the act of quantum measurement or observation, consciousness converts possibility into actuality, by collapsing waves into particles or things, at the same time splitting itself into a subject that sees and objects that are seen `85. In other words, quantum thinking allows us to treat mind and matter, internal and external experiences on equal footing, extending causal efficacy and importance of both."

But how does this prove the existence of God? When we observe the world, our consciousness chooses among the quantum possibilities to collapse an actuality of experience. This way, we create our own reality. It must, however, be remembered, that we do not create reality in our ordinary state of consciousness, but in a non-ordinary state of consciousness called unified consciousness or universal consciousness. And it is this unified consciousness that could be called God, but this God is not some patriarchal figure sitting up in the sky controlling the affairs of the world.

Goswami further argues that neither Darwinian random evolution nor Creationism can explain the origins of life, but the evolution guided by unified consciousness. There are the fossil gaps, for instance, which cannot be understood in any other way but by thinking of intelligent design through quantum evolution. Evolution is not a gradual process, rather it undergoes quantum leaps at times. The missing links prove that in the past, we have had epochs of evolution in which quantum leaps of creativity took place.

Using these basic assumptions of quantum theory, Goswami shows us that we can answer questions relating to soul, mind, creativity, reincarnation, paranormal phenomena, ESP, dreams and more importantly, mystic experience. In fact, he interacted with several mystics to understand the mysteries of reality.

This book is an interesting addition to scientific literature. Goswami writes clearly and argues intelligently, and is among a handful of Indians who can write on science. But without belittling the author’s effort, it must be said that the concept of applying quantum theorising to understand the metaphysical and spiritual realm is not altogether new.