A second Copernican revolution? New theoretical physics result suggests the universe isn't objectively "real"

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December 21, 2010 (MMD Newswire) -- "I think, therefore..." Senior research scientist Daegene Song of Handong Global University in South Korea has come up with a model of the universe - and reality - that may be at least as paradigm-shattering as Copernicus' (and later Galileo's) pronouncement that the Earth revolves around the Sun instead of vice-versa. Actually, in Dr. Song's view, that heliocentric (sun-centered) model is passe, being a product of the millennia-old "objective universe" model. Dr. Song posits instead a "subjective universe," arguing that the planets, stars, and other heavenly bodies are not a collection of physical objects that would be there even if we didn't exist to observe them. The universe, he asserts, can only be a subjective phenomenon of our experience. And he says he has done the math - literally - to support his assertions.

"Not only does my research offer a mathematical resolution for a subjective universe," he explains, "it also suggests that humans are not mere machines but a unique creation. Furthermore - and I know this will make my work controversial if nothing else does - I believe my findings rebuke the theory of evolution."

Those are pretty big claims, sure to raise eyebrows in the scientific community. Dr. Song is prepared to deal with the controversy, being a serious researcher who obtained his Ph.D. in physics at Oxford and did post-doctoral work at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, Maryland and the Korea Institute for Advanced Study in Seoul. He also admits to being a believer in the Bible, and is forthright about the fact that he was driven in his research by a desire to see if science could actually explain where we come from, why we are here, and where we go after we die.

Dr. Song has published technical papers about the subjective universe, most notably, in the International Journal of Theoretical Physics in July 2008 (see resource list, below), and he has also delivered seminars at conferences of his peers for the last three years. He gave talks about quantum theory and consciousness at three major conferences in Austria, Hungary, and Italy in 2007, and in 2008 he spoke about the subjective universe at the Fourth International Workshop DICE 2008 in Italy.

In recent years, quantum theory has captured the imagination of many laypeople as well as scientists, and that's hardly surprising. For instance, quantum mechanics experiments have demonstrated time after time that particles can appear to be in two places at once. They can also appear to change behavior based on how we observe them. And, it seems, they can even change retroactively, depending on what we later learn about them. This is an aspect of quantum theory that has become so beloved in pop culture for the past couple of decades, with many folks interpreting the strange behavior of particles and waves as evidence, if not outright proof, that we can create the life of our dreams merely by imagining it. (Many physicists have protested, to no avail, that this is an illogical leap.) A less fanciful interpretation is that for all practical purposes our own observations create the universe, or at least a small part of it. Dr. Song has taken some of these discussions to a different direction, showing that in effect the whole universe cannot exist independently of our observations.

The fact that he is actually trained in physics and actively engaged in research sets Dr. Song apart from countless New-Age entrepreneurs and pseudo-scientists who, especially in the wake of popular documentaries such as What The Bleep Do We Know?!? and The Secret, have co-opted quantum theory in order to promote their respective magical-thinking schemes. Some of these folks might even be tempted to claim that Dr. Song's work lends credence to the long-popular New-Age maxim, "We create our own reality." Dr. Song is no magical thinker, though he wouldn't object if his work helped to finally end the age-old battle between science and spirituality. As for the concept of each of us "creating our own reality," however, he wants to make it clear that this is not exactly what he is claiming. "I'm not saying that everything which exists is just consciousness or hallucination," he explains. "Rather than 'observation creates the universe,' I'm saying 'the experience of observing the universe = my existence.' The universe is subjective and real. What I am suggesting is that the object - which includes the universe - and the observer are not separable."

Dr. Song is not the first or only scientist to believe that some problems simply cannot be solved until we are willing to consider the possibility that the universe isn't objectively "real," in the sense that it would exist if there were no one to observe it. Scientists and philosophers alike have been exploring this question for centuries. However, the question always remained as to whether such a worldview could be shown scientifically rather than philosophically. Dr. Song's work represents a step in that direction.

But what does all of this have to do with his other big ideas: the proof of human exceptionalism and the refutation of evolution? Regarding the former, Dr. Song explains that in the view of traditional physics, humans are nothing special, at least not more so than other physical objects such as the Moon and the Sun. "A lot of effort has been put into the study of the human mind from neurobiology, i.e., research on the brain," he says. "However, all these efforts still do not provide a clue to how mind or consciousness emerges out of a physical system such as the brain." He says his work demonstrates that a certain cognitive process - consciousness, to be exact - is not like other physical systems such as galaxies, atoms, or neurons. He believes that consciousness may not be something that arises out of a physical system such as a network of neurons, although they are linked together.

Then what about that scientific sacred cow, evolution? Explains Dr. Song, "In the subjective universe model, unlike the objective model, the universe has not existed for billions of years apart from my own existence. This is the complete opposite of Darwin's evolution theory in which my existence is assumed to result from the process of evolution over a very long period of time. In the subjective universe model, the evolution theory does not even have a remote chance of being true." So does this end the scientific debate about the origin of our species? Not necessarily, says Dr. Song. Instead of the choices being between evolution and creationism, as in the objective model, the subjective model presents two new choices, as Dr. Song explains: "Either (1) I am created by a Creator; or (2) I exist by myself and am the Creator of my own being." That will still make for some intriguing debates.

Given Dr. Song's views, it's not surprising that he refutes the Big Bang along with evolution as an explanation of why we are here. (He has a bone to pick not only with Darwin but also with Stephen Hawking, who has said that the Big Bang and evolution models imply that it is not necessary to have a Creator in order for us to exist.) Still, it would be a mistake to think that Dr. Song is throwing science under the bus. Science, he says, provides us with a rich and full life once we make the right choices. "Logical reasoning is a great blessing once we humble ourselves," he says, "but it doesn't really help us to make a choice in that Creator/Creation quandary - and we need to make that choice."

If some of the implications of Dr. Song's research seem more in the realm of philosophy or theology than hard science, he would be the first to agree; nevertheless the basis of his work is theoretical physics. In any case, he won't be the first trained physicist to stir up controversy in scientific circles. Over the past few decades, physicists-turned-best-selling authors Paul Davies, Fred Alan Wolf and Fritjof Capra have created controversies of their own with their attempts to blend science, philosophy, and spirituality.

As Dr. Song develops and refines his own work, he hopes that his seminars will help spread his message and confirm his research results. And to those who still argue passionately in favor of an objective universe, San Francisco Bay area freelance writer Karl Coryat, whose commentary on Dr. Song's work was recently published in the Korea Herald, points out that it is mainly intuition that tells us the physical universe is objectively "real." However, intuition has also told us that, for example, the Earth is flat, or that an object can have an absolute velocity independent of observers. Science has proven these and many other intuition-based conclusions wrong. Coryat believes the idea that the universe does not exist independently of those who observe it could be the foundation of many exciting new developments in physics and other fields. Dr. Song agrees, saying, "For that and many other reasons, I think this is research well worth pursuing."

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Dr. Song may be reached at subjectverse@gmail.com or +82(10)6309-3267

Dr. Song's home page: http://www.subjectiveuniverse.com/

For more information, see Dr. Song's published works
D. Song, Unsolvability of the halting problem in quantum dynamics, International Journal of Theoretical Physics, Volume 47, pages 1785~1791 (2008).
http://arxiv.org/abs/quant-ph/0610047

D. Song, Non-Computability of Consciousness, NeuroQuantology, Volume 5, pages 382~391 (2007). http://arxiv.org/abs/0705.1617

D. Song, Subjective Universe, http://arxiv.org/abs/1008.2892

arXiv.org listing for Dr. Song:
http://arxiv.org/find/physics/1/au:+Song_D/0/1/0/all/0/1

 

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