Does mysticism have a place in quantum mechanics today, or is the idea that the mind plays a role in creating reality best left to philosophical meditations? Harvard historian Juan Miguel Marin argues the former - not because physicists today should account for consciousness in their research, but because knowing the early history of the philosophical ideas in quantum mechanics is essential for understanding the theory on a fundamental level.
Lisa Zyga - June 8th, 2009
In a recent paper published in the European Journal of Physics, Marin has written a short history, based on a longer analysis, of the mysticism controversy in the early quantum physics community. As Marin emphasizes, the controversy began in Germany in the 1920s among physicists in reaction to the new theory of quantum mechanics, but was much different than debates on similar issues today. At the turn of the last century, science and religion were not divided as they are today, and some scientists of the time were particularly inspired by Eastern mysticism. In his analysis, Marin lays out each player’s role and perspective in the controversy, and argues that studying the original interpretations of quantum mechanics can help scientists better understand the theory, and could also be important for the public in general.
“Becoming aware of this subject would help general audiences realize that there are many other alternatives besides the ones offered by the disjunction between science and religion,” Marin told PhysOrg.com. “Science vs. religion is a very recent forced choice that the founders of quantum mechanics would have never recognized, much less accepted.”