Spooky Actions At A Distance
There is an extremely interesting article in the Journal Of Alternative And Complementary Medicine (Vol 11, Number 5, 2005) with this title. It was Einstein who first used the phrase “spooky actions at a distance” to describe his unhappiness at some of the ideas of quantum mechanics.
The article by Drew Leader starts by describing how “spooky actions at a distance” – such as telepathy, telekinesis, clairvoyance, distant healing and prayer - have been documented and are now being studied by some scientists. The author says that there is a barrier to this work being taken seriously, because it is seen as being “fundamentally incompatible with the scientific word view”. He goes on to suggest that this should not be the case and suggests four possible “interpretative frameworks” in which these spooky actions at a distance could be incorporated into scientific understanding. He looks at these four models explaining the advantages and problems of each.
It is well worth reading the full article, because it is full of insights and is well referenced, but here is a summary of my understanding of what he is saying about these 4 models:
Healers often talk about sending “healing energy”, and this seems intuitively plausible – the healer transmits and the subject receives an energy. Leader writes that there are lots of objections to this model: the energy is not so far physically measurable, and its effectiveness doesn’t diminish with spatial distance (unlike all other forms of field radiation). There are studies that show “retroactive causation in time”, e.g. that some people can influence the results of a random number generator by thinking about particular numbers after the numbers have been generated. This phenomenon does not fit easily with the idea of energy being sent from one person to another person (or object). Leader goes on to say that we cannot assume that this “psychophysical” form of energy transmission (if indeed it does exist) operates in a similar ways to other known energy.
Gravitational pull is exerted by large objects such as the earth, and can be seen to be a “spooky action at a distance”. Leder writes: “Like a bowling ball lying on a mattress, a star or planet warps the universe around it and draws other objects towards it.” A powerful healer or a group of people focussed on a similar outcome can have an effect akin to the gravitational pull of a very large object. The healer or group facilitate a path to a particular outcome.
He points out that unlike the gravitational pull of the earth, for example, the powerful healer does not affect all who are within his/their range, but only the object of the activity.
Both of these frameworks rest on the principle of locality with people and phenomena existing at precise points in time-space. Leder says there are two other models which are based on quantum mechanics.
In quantum mechanics it has been found that particles can become “entangled”, so that what affects one simultaneously affects the other – there is not time for and no evidence of a signal passing between them. Leder sees remote viewing and similar phenomena as being explicable in these terms – the effect occurring without an intervening signal. He also gives examples from every day life – the mother knowing her child is in danger even though she cannot see the child, and so on. Leder sees the rituals and information gathered by the healer prior to working as a way of bringing about this entanglement between healer and subject.
Leder says this view fits with the idea of consciousness not being located in a particular specific place, and many people have experience of a union with other people or with something divine, but the entangled particles of quantum mechanics do not have any properties or activities that can seen as involving consciousness, but is much more “a random outcome of quantum probabilities”.
Actualization Of Potential
In quantum mechanics the measurer is seen as influencing the outcome: “the particle cannot be said to have a definite location before measurement”. The act of measuring gives the particle a definite attribute rather than a range of possibilities. The healer in this version is acting like the measurer. Lederer uses the example of someone with cancer which typically has a survival rate of 20%. “This is analogous to a particle that has a 20% chance of being found here.” The healer through intention/prayer affects whether the event (death from cancer) will be found here (within this client) – the healer’s work has shifted the balance so that one outcome is more likely than another.
Leder points out that in quantum mechanics the measurer influences the outcome, but cannot direct it towards a specific outcome in the way that healers appear to be able to do. It is also unclear what the mechanism is that allows the healer to have the effect – in what way is he ‘measuring’? It also brings up other questions because there are several people – the healer, the subject, family members (as well as the possibility of God) – involved in this, so whose intention has the most effect, and how do the differing views and feelings of the people involved interact?
The article concludes with Leder saying that he isn’t advocating one particular framework. He believes that the “grand unified theory” sought by physicists to combine the theories of relativity and quantum mechanics will also encompass the mysteries of the mind.
The full article is well worth reading. The Journal Of Alternative And Complementary Medicine have made this article available to read in full. Take time to look at some of the other articles and abstracts that are freely available on the site. If you find them stimulating and interesting, you can pay for access to all the articles.