THE IMPACT OF QUANTUM MECHANICS
As discussed in regard to research by Jahn and Dunne (1997), one of the most powerful ways of connecting the objective and subjective realms is to examine recent work in quantum mechanics. The current resurgence of quantum mechanics is quite clear in its premise of stating that the observer is never able to separate from that which he or she observes (Rosenblum & Kuttner, 2006). Quantum mechanics suggests we will always tamper with the object in some way simply by our observation as we assess or measure the research subject. Even Plato asked the question, “Is the physical world shaped in some sense by our perceptions of it?” (Horgan, 1992, p. 1). The advent of quantum mechanics has and will continue to leave its mark on what we now believe to be real, that is, knowing the process of observation without intrusion impacts the observed in significant ways.
An unobserved quantum entity is said to exist in a coherent superposition of all the possible states permitted by its wave function. But as soon as an observer makes a measurement capable of distinguishing between these states, the wave function collapses, and the entity is forced into a single state. (Horgan, 1992, p. 4)
You may be thinking that it will be necessary to ignore quantum mechanics in your view of the world and scientific inquiry. There are good reasons why you might think this way; even Einstein shrank from it because it challenged his sense of reality.
Quantum mechanics conflicts violently not only with our intuition but perhaps even with the scientific worldview we have held since the 1600s. Nevertheless, because quantum theory satisfies Galileo's criterion—that of experimental verification—physicists readily accept it as the underlying basis of all physics and thus of all science. (Rosenblum & Kuttner, 2006, p. 23)
There are some key principles to quantum mechanics that we will return to, but needless to say, it challenges the objectivist view with the best science we know. In the 1970s, an anesthesiologist who had been integrating quantum mechanics into his practice stated something that has shaken me since I first read it. “Doctors and social scientists remain the most adamant and still the greatest exponents of so-called objective studies based on 'empirical' data. The fact is that there is no such thing as objective science in our day” (Yanovasky, 1978, p. 113). More recently, a physician and professor of medicine at the University of California at Los Angeles stated, “Objectivity can make you blind” (Remen, 1999, p. 47). Do you think we can be objective observers?
Can you continue to accept the form of thinking that states a person is being objective about a decision by using blinded or double-blinded studies?
Perhaps there must also be an intersubjective reality as presented by Ken Wilber and reinforced by quantum mechanics, because when we observe a phenomenon we ask it to form a singular place in space. Prior to our observing it, it has the potential to be in many places, or it can even be energy versus matter.
McFarlane (1995) takes the ideas of quantum mechanics even further and integrates the ideas of the first quantum researchers and theorists, Werner Heisenberg and Niels Bohr—both pioneer physicists of the 20th century. McFarlane states:
These people make the outrageous claim that we normally live in the delusion that there is a real objective world. Since this seems to be a blatant contradiction with both our immediate experience and everything most of us were ever taught, our natural response is to dismiss it as ludicrous. . . . If we are to be honest with ourselves, we had better think twice before dismissing what Bohr and Heisenberg have to say and take a closer look. (p. 2)
Two video clips may offer you more than you ever wanted to know about quantum mechanics. However, it is helpful to watch both of them. To ignore what they say means you are willing to stay in the illusion of thinking you know what is real and objective, or not. You may not want to stay in that place. The history of how Bohr's and Heisenberg's theories finally came together is illustrated at youtube.com/watch?v=45KGS1Ro-sc&feature=youtu.be and youtube.com/watch?v=7u_UQG1La1o&feature=youtu.be offers a simplified example of what was really discovered and its impact on what we observe in this universe. Quantum mechanics makes several powerful claims that have never been disproved, and is the science of our time that encompasses all scientific thinking (Rosenblum & Kuttner, 2006). We just don't like to discuss it, as it seems illogical to think that “reality is not fixed, but fluid, or mutable, and hence possibly open to influences” (McTaggart, 2007, p. xx). That does not mean it can be ignored for the sake of objective research methods that we hold to so dearly. If nursing is to be a research-based profession, we must consider what is our best science and how it impacts us as nurses. It is one thesis that quantum mechanics actually helps us integrate the subjective practices we believe in as real science, and this includes spirituality, healing presence, caring presence, the influences of prayer, and relational-centered healing.
The value in studying quantum mechanics is that it enables us to easily see that the world is not always as it seems and that subjectivity has a role to play in determining any outcome. For example, a quantum mechanics clip (found at youtube.com/watch?v=v0v-cvvyc-M&feature=youtu.be) discusses multiple positioning, entanglement, and the “double slit,” or Young experiments, which will certainly challenge the reality of objectivity and inquiry controls for any researcher. Clips from What the Bleep Do We Know: Down the Rabbit Hole (2004), and the text on this subject (Arntz, Chasse, & Vicente, 2005), take everything we thought of as real and place it in the world of an illusion that we create just to make us feel better about what we believe. However, we must learn to live in this world and create a healthy respect for the real science of our day—quantum mechanics.
The double slit experiments prove that particles can turn to energy waves, or stay particles if there is an observer. Particles have the potential to be energy or matter depending on whether they are observed or not (see en.wikipedia. org/wiki/Double-slit_experiment). Silverman (2010) wrote a book dedicated to these quantum mind-bending concepts and discusses the idea that superposition particles or waves can be in thousands of locations at the very same time unless someone observes them. Then they move into a singular position so we can all see the same thing. Where is the objectivity in that?
One might expect that Martha Rogers has a very different view of nursing, as she introduced nursing to the world of quantum mechanics. However, she struggled to use and integrate this new science, as the science itself was still evolving. Statements such as “people are inseparable from the natural world” (Rogers, 1970, p. 49) and her statement that “man and environment are continuously exchanging matter and energy with one another” (p. 54) indicate her use of quantum mechanics in its infancy. However, she too was a theorist looking for objectivity and provided scientific verification of what nurses were up to in her text, leaving us to wonder how much of quantum mechanics she was willing to integrate. Recognizing that the complexities of quantum mechanics may prove challenging to understand does not require you to be an expert in quantum mechanics, but it does raise the realization that there is something seriously flawed in our thinking when we have a need to create higher levels of objectivity as a way to find the best truth. It is important to remember, “Objectivity can make you blind” (Remen, 1999, p. 47).