It starts with this observation:
That is a strange thing to say, because the laws which govern the movement of sub-atomic particles are far from simple. Unlike Newton's laws, which are simple, and which govern the movement of larger objects, the 'laws' of the sub-atomic realm, such as Schrodinger's Wave Equation, are probabalistic, that is, they are not strictly predictive. There are many profound philosophical and conceptual problems associated with the implications of such laws, such as the 'entanglement' between remote 'particles' (Einstein's 'spooky action at a distance') and even the basic question as to whether such particles really exist in the same way that common objects of perception do. Some of these problems have lead to speculative ideas such as the so-called Everett many-worlds theory, which posits an infinite number of parallel dimensions in which infinite replicas of ourselves participate in infinite variations of our activities. (Indeed Tegmark himself is a noted proponent of 'multiple universes' and 'many worlds' ideas.)Different people mean different things by 'consciousness', including awareness of environment or self. I am asking a more basic question of why you experience anything at all. ...
A traditional answer to this problem is dualism - that living entities differ from inanimate ones because they contain some non-physical element such as an 'anima' or 'soul'. Support for dualism amongst scientists has gradually dwindled. To understand why, consider that your body is made up of about 10^29 quarks and electrons, which as far as we can tell move according to simple physical laws...
Matter itself is currently described in terms of 'the standard model' of particle physics, which is far from simple, and which, besides, is under constant review and may indeed be modified or abandoned altogether in future. RIght now, the precise composition of matter is the reason for the construction of the largest and most complex apparatus in the history of the world - the Large Hadron Collider - but there are still many enormous gaps in the account, and leading physicsts are muttering that 'a bigger one is needed' ('Larger Hadron Collider' )
Many of these things are understood very well by physicists in a practical sense, but their philosophical implications - which, one might think, are significant in regards to the question at hand - are still a source of intense controversy and speculation.
This just seems grotesquely mistaken to me. As mentioned above, your 'particles' - if indeed they are 'particles' - are not predictable in the first place. But, more to the point, it seems to make the assumption that an array of particles can form anything whatever - whether it be a living organism, or the information on a hard drive for that matter - and that this is something that physics, in principle, understands.Imagine a future technology which tracks all of your particles: if they were found to obey the laws of physics exactly ( ) then your purported 'soul' is having no effect on your particles. ...
..If your particles were instead found not to obey the known laws of physics because they were being pushed around by your soul then we could treat the soul as just another physical entity able to exert forces on particles.
But how can that be? As I noted above, physics doesn't actually fully describe even matter at this point (let's not even mention the Dark Matter problem.)
But there is something else radically the matter with this idea, which I would like to try and put my finger on. Why would 'the soul' or 'the mind' be understood as being on the same level as the so-called 'particles' which are 'pushed around'? So say that 'the soul' causes things to move, in the mechanical sense, is implicitly to claim that it is simply another example of the kinds of things that atoms are: that it is physical.
Consider the arrangement of letters that constitute 'a book'. Certainly if you know the position and sequence of all the letters in that book, then you can re-constitute it - computers do that every day. But the question will remain, where does the story come from? Why is it meaningful? What makes it a good book? How come it contains information? And is that information identical with the letters that comprise it?
And surely these questions are not something that, for the sake of analogy, a typesetter or layout artist is equipped to answer.
What makes a story? Why is something meaningful? Surely that is at least as important in the understanding of the human mind, as understanding the precise location and vector of 10^29 'particles', even if it could be done, which is still far from clear.
And questions of that nature are on a completely different level to anything that Max Tegmark, or any other physicist, is qualified to answer, as far as I can see.