Quantum Flapdoodle, Part N

Somebody just found my site by Googling for quantum model in social studies. I’m the ninth hit, one notch below Stuart Hameroff himself; leading the hit parade was a conference presentation abstract by a certain A. Wendt, entitled “Quantum Mind and Social Science.” The abstract itself follows below the fold. It’s not quantum feminism, but it does have a certain charm.

IR scholarship in both its positivist and post-positivist forms is based on the metaphysical assumptions of classical physics. Positivists assume that human beings are essentially machines and as such can be studied like any other material object, in an objective, third-person manner that has no need to take consciousness into account.

Really? I would have figured that anybody who tries to study people “scientifically” would treat consciousness as a thing to be understood and explained, which certainly involves taking it “into account.”

Post-positivists reject the machine model of man and its deterministic implications in favor of a first-person perspective that makes consciousness central.

“Machine model of man” necessarily implies determinism? Is that a false dichotomy or just a non sequitur?

However, their approach too is subtly indebted to classical physics, which they have taken as their reference point for what it means to study society scientifically. This has led many post-positivists implicitly to accept a problematic Cartesian dualism of mind and matter, and even to reject the idea of social science altogether. Although seemingly far removed, this debate within IR comes down to the mind-body problem. Themselves taking the classical worldview as their frame of reference, modern neuroscientists and philosophers have struggled for over three centuries to explain how consciousness could exist in a purely physical world. In the past decade the continuing failure to solve this problem has led a growing number of scientists and philosophers to suggest that consciousness might not be a classical physical phenomenon at all, but a macroscopic quantum mechanical one instead.

Growing number? Well, in the sense that one or two is greater than zero — but Hameroff has long since departed for the land of fractured ceramics, and even grad students are sighing over Penrose these days.

The details of this hypothesis are still being worked out, and the evidence for it is controversial, but if it is correct then the classical model of man and scientific inquiry that has informed so much IR scholarship in the past will prove to be inadequate. In this paper I consider the positivist/post-positivist debate in light of this debate, and suggest what a quantum model of man, society, and social scientific inquiry might look like.

If you can’t recognize this as quantum flapdoodle, you haven’t been paying attention. The “evidence” isn’t “controversial” — it’s nonexistent. This “Quantum Mind and Social Science” babble was supposedly “peer reviewed”; these are the sort of “peers” which make me worry about jury trials.

The second hit for that Google query, by the way, was “Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity.” Yep, that one.

Personally, I wouldn’t trust anybody pontificating about quantum mechanics unless they could estimate, say, the temperature at which the Universe turned optically transparent, describe in the Heisenberg picture the time evolution of a harmonic oscillator coherent state, and explain why states of the hydrogen atom with the same n but different angular momentum number l are degenerate. But that’s just me: always caring about the physics, and not the charming conference fodder of sociology.

6 thoughts on “Quantum Flapdoodle, Part N”

  1. I would also like to say that I would trust anyone to pontificate on computer science who couldn’t explain the three broader asymptotic notations, explain why you should avoid attempting to factor large integers, and why you should usually restrict Boolean SATs to 2-CNF’s.

    Unfortunately, that may exclude too high a number of people with CS degrees.

  2. At the very least, the bare minimum, they ought to be able to pick the Schroedinger wave equation out of a line up.

    But, pah, equations are for microfascists anyway.

  3. You people are all a bunch of reactionary Western cultural supremacists; you are driven by nothing but the desire to repress the societal downtrodden with your regressive demand that “truth” be synonymous with “accuracy”.

    How’s that? Decent parody?

  4. Personally, I’m excited to see what revelations this new theory can bring to light. I wonder if they’ve thought of examining the new Quantum Society from a perspective of Foucauldean power dynamics, or perhaps invoked Deleuze in an attempt to discover how quantum man relates to his quantum space and environment?
    And I daresay I could come up with any number of ways to use a post-positivist approach to study how, when entering the Symbolic order a la Lacan, women come to terms with their “lack” of a quantum phallus. But perhaps I’m getting in over my head here…

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