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Limits to quantum mechanics and spiritual freedom

I’ve been reading Creative Evolution: A Physicist’s Resolution Between Darwinism and Intelligent Design, by Amit Goswami. I’m impressed, the chemist in me (I was taught some quantum physics in college) doesn’t find fault. Nor does the biologist or the philosopher (I took biology and philosophy of religion classes in college too).

But I do have some reservations with the implications of Amit Goswami’s quantum spirituality for our every day lives. And I have quantum physical reasons to back them up too. I hope you all don’t mind a little chemistry lesson today.

Electron orbits

Electron orbits

Above you’ll find an image of a carbon atom – as chemists think of it. What you see – the big red balloons – represent the four ‘free’ electrons that carbon has. The other electrons are so close to the carbon core they can’t be shown here.

The electrons shown have some freedom of movement. They have a space of probability where they can be – for each represented by a specific red balloon and a smaller white balloon opposite it.

These four electrons are called ‘free’ because they can pair up with electrons from other particles, other carbon atoms, or oxygen, nitrogen or something else entirely. Carbon is so good at uniting with other elements to form molecules that make up – ultimately – life.

But while those electrons are called free, they still have only limited freedom. It’s precisely their place in the atom that makes the whole thing work. They can combine with other electrons (indeed have to) to form molecules or something, but they are not free to go out of their orbit. The balloon shown here is there space. In quantum terms it’s not clear whether the electron has a place somewhere specific within the balloon, or whether it’s spread out. Indeed, the answer to that question depends on how you measure it (sound familiar?). But for today the main point is something else: that electron has a space to dwell in, and that’s all the freedom it has. Most of its fellow electrons are even more limited: closer to the core they are limited to orbits as circular as most of you have been taught in school, though even in their case it’s a probability orbit, not an ordinary one.

But probability doesn’t mean complete freedom.It’s a freedom within the laws of physics. Freedom within those balloons in my picture.

My point for today is that we’re similarly constrained.

I’ve looked up some videos from Goswami and he sort of agrees. Let’s look at what he says about separateness:

Goswami says here that the dictum is true that we create our own destiny. But in the seventies it became clear that merely creating cadilacs was a bit hard. It became clear that the place from which we CAN create our own destiny is not an ordinary state: it’s in fact satori or moksha or however you want to call it. There is no free lunch. We have to meditate BEFORE we can create our own reality.

I’m saying – even in satori this freedom isn’t total – we still are constrained by the laws of nature.

This of course doesn’t deny the other things Goswami says here: that in the process of reaching Satori or Enlightenment a person becomes much more loving, much more creative, transformed, capable of experiencing reality at a much more subtle level.