Quantum mechanics and consciousness

Renowned British physicist Roger Penrose and the University of Arizona’s Stuart Hameroff have a theory for consciousness. According to them, consciousness is information stored at the quantum level in microtubules. Microtubules are biopolymers in cells that have varied functions. They are enriched in neurons and are critical for trafficking of proteins from one part of the cell to another through the action of specialized motor proteins that ‘walk’ on them.

The Penrose theory has attracted much interest from the religiously inclined. Here is one quote from an article on their theory that might explain their popularity:

“Penrose argues that if a person temporarily dies, this quantum information is released from the microtubules and into the universe. However, if they are resuscitated the quantum information is channeled back into the microtubules and that is what sparks a near death experience. “If they’re not revived, and the patient dies, it’s possible that this quantum information can exist outside the body, perhaps indefinitely, as a soul.”

As we have seen before, according to Sri Jiva Goswami, the ātman cannot store any information. Information is stored in the mind, not in the ātman. Consciousness is the property of the ātman, not the mind. While information may (or may not) be conserved in the universe, the ātman is not information.

There is no evidence that quantum phenomena are involved in the storage of memory and the function of consciousness. However, even if Hameroff and Penrose were correct, their theory does not prove the existence of the ātman as defined by Sri Jiva Goswami. Unlike quantum fantasies, Sri Jiva Goswami’s teachings as explained in the Paramātma Sandarbha, are very clear on the nature of the ātman.

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