Voting for the 2006 Medical Weblog Awards is now open

i-6e4b485297ea602785110059ff8a6de9-award_lr.gifBetter late than never, I guess.

I should have announced three days ago that the polls are now open to vote for the 2006 Medical Weblog Awards. Polls will close at midnight on Sunday, January 14, 2007 (PST), and the winners will be announced on Friday, January 19, 2007.

I happen to be nominated for Best Medical Weblog, but the competition is fierce, with other deserving nominees including fellow ScienceBlogs Aetiology, The Examining Room of Dr. Charles, and Effect Measure, plus worthy non-ScienceBlogs such as Surgeonsblog, Flea, Kevin, MD, and the ever-skeptical Unintelligent Design. Unfortunately, as much as I'd like to, I can't reveal which blogs I endorse for each category (other than endorsing myself for Best Medical Weblog, of course), because I happen to be one of the judges. (Medgadget is using a system where both judges and the readers vote for each weblog category, and the two vote tallies weighted 50-50 in determining the winners.) Sadly, that also means that I can't vote in the category in which I'm nominated. Curse that wretched fairness!

Oh, well.

But you can vote for me if you like. Or vote for a different blog. Just head over to Medgadget and vote!

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Reading through Shermer's essay, the image which comes to mind is a steamroller crushing a rotten egg. For example, Deepak makes a big deal about "quantum consciousness", so Shermer describes the time he saw an advance screening of What the Bleep Do We Know?!

The film's avatars are scientists with strong New Age leanings, whose jargon-laden sound bites amount to little more than what Caltech physicist and Nobel laureate Murray Gell-Mann once described as "quantum flapdoodle." University of Oregon quantum physicist Amit Goswami, for example, says: "The material world around us is nothing but possible movements of consciousness. I am choosing moment by moment my experience. Heisenberg said atoms are not things, only tendencies." Okay, Amit, I challenge you to leap out of a 20-story building and consciously choose the experience of passing safely through the ground's tendencies.

More seriously, he continues,

In reality, the gap between sub-atomic quantum effects and large-scale macro systems is too large to bridge. In his book The Unconscious Quantum, the University of Colorado particle physicist Victor Stenger demonstrates that for a system to be described quantum mechanically the system's typical mass m, speed v, and distance d must be on the order of Planck's constant h. "If mvd is much greater than h, then the system probably can be treated classically." Stenger computes that the mass of neural transmitter molecules, and their speed across the distance of the synapse, are about three orders of magnitude too large for quantum effects to be influential. There is no micro-macro connection. Subatomic particles may be altered when they are observed, but the moon is there even if no one looks at it. So what the #$*! is going on here?

Physics envy. The history of science is littered with the failed pipedreams of ever-alluring reductionist schemes to explain the inner workings of the mind — schemes increasingly set forth in the ambitious wake of Descartes' own famous attempt, some four centuries years ago, to reduce all mental functioning to the actions of swirling vortices of atoms, supposedly dancing their way to consciousness. Such Cartesian dreams provide a sense of certainty, but they quickly fade in the face of the complexities of biology. We should be exploring consciousness at the neural level and higher, where the arrow of causal analysis points up toward such principles as emergence and self-organization. Biology envy.

Thanks, once again, for nominating me, Orac. Suffering frequentluy from the "imposter syndrome" I haven't mentioned it on my site, and I guess I'm not going to; but I really do appreciate it.