Pharyngula

Mike Adams, the cranky quack naturopath, has been exploring “the field of quantum physics” and “consciousness”. He says this in his silly pseudo-documentary, “The God Within”, after praising physicists and their selfless search for the truth, all while ghostly equations float by in the video. He does this a lot, panning over equations or showing stock photos of people standing in front of transparent sheets of glass with illegible scribbles all over them; but it’s obvious that he doesn’t actually understand math, knows nothing about physics, and is just holding this stuff up in front of his face like a witch-doctor’s elaborate mask. Ultimately, it turns out, he hates physics and wants to run away as fast as he can from its damnable consequences, all the while pretending to be a scientist.

The video isn’t really about quantum physics. What it’s about is that he read Hawking and Mlodinow’s book, The Grand Design (sorta — as he babbles about it, it becomes clear that he didn’t actually read much of it at all), and he’s very, very unhappy that Hawking is satisfied with the sufficiency of science and sees free will as an illusion. So his video is more like the bad book report by the sixth grader who skimmed a few chapters the night before it was due, only in this case the sixth grader also has video editing software and has stolen a lot of sciencey-looking clips to gussy up his pathetic efforts.

He claims that “conventional” physics is just like “conventional” medicine—its practitioners are all in a conspiracy of silence to refuse to admit the existence of anything beyond, like god or the mind. What he ends up doing is rejecting all of physics while parading about in his ignorance.

For instance, he defines the Copenhagen Interpretation as “Shut up and calculate, but don’t ask anything too spooky”, which I’m sure will be a surprise to the physicists. The theory of everything is trotted out as an example of hubris — apparently, Mike Adams think it is such an exhaustive goal that it will allow physicists to calculate the contents of hot dogs, rather than integrating all of physics.

The real distortions, the active lies that go beyond mere ignorance, take place later in the video, where Adams expresses his revulsion at the idea that there is no free will. Hawking does not believe in free will (neither do I, for that matter), but Adams goes further and claims that Hawking argues that there is no mind and no consciousness, either. I’ve read The Grand Design. I’ve got it on my iPad, and even did a search for those contentious terms. Mike Adams is making crap up.

Further, Adams claims that physics is all about enforcing an idea of absolute determinism, which will lead to a dystopian society in which all crimes are justifiable with the excuse that “we are just robots”, and all actions are absolvable…all said over a shot of a young thug pointing a handgun at the viewer.

He also claims that technology could allow us to try people for “pre-crime” — we’d just plug their brain into a machine and it would predict everything they would ever do, and you could get sent to jail for something you haven’t done. At the same time, life would be so cheap and valueless, that we could commit genocide without remorse — we’re mere biological animals, after all. And we’d do this while “calling it all scientific, and clutching Hawking’s books as if they were Bibles”.

As you might guess, Adolf Hitler makes an appearance, with The Grand Design crudely photoshopped into his hand.

None of this nonsense is in the book. There is no denial of consciousness or the mind, and there is no advocacy of the kind of cartoon determinism Adams invents. Here’s a relevant quote direct from the book that rebuts Adams’ bizarre claims.

It is hard to imagine how free will can operate if our behavior is determined by physical law, so it seems we are no more than biological machines and that free will is just an illusion.

While conceding that human behavior is indeed determined by the laws of nature, it also seems reasonable to conclude that the outcome is determined in such a complicated way and with so many variables as to make it impossible in practice to predict. For that one would need knowledge of the initial state of each of the thousand trillion trillion molecules in the human body and to solve something like that number of equations. That would take a few billion years, which would be a bit late to duck when the peron opposite aimed a blow.

Because it is so impractical to use the underlying physical laws to predict human behavior, we adopt what is called an effective theory. In physics, an effective theory is a framework created to model certain observed phenomena without describing in detail all of the underlying processes.

That’s near the beginning of the book, at the 14% mark, which also gives us an upper limit on how far Adams read.

Adams also claims that “Stephen Hawking is a strong proponent of denying people their humanity”, which again is nowhere in the book, is not even a reasonable interpretation of anything in the book, and sounds like blatant slander to me — and coming on top of outrageous assertions that Hawking’s ideas would be used to justify another Jewish Holocaust, is particularly vile.

But then, that’s Mike Adams all the way: a vile, lying moron.