Quantum Entanglement and the Soul
In many religious and philosophical systems, the word "Soul" denotes the inner essence of a being, immortal and without a body. As science deals with observations and objective, measurable data this concept of a soul is clearly not part of that. Or could a phenomenon called quantum entanglement bring the two together?
Since the era of quantum physics began over a century ago, invisible things and fleeting events have entered science, so subtly that the realm from which they emerge is almost a matter of faith. One example of this is quantum entanglement which suggests that acting on a particle can instantly influence an entangled particle far away, perhaps even on the other side of the Universe, something Einstein called "spooky action at a distance."
The concept of the soul as a life giving spirit comes natural to anyone pondering the difference between dead things and living creatures and has probably been with us for a very long time. The ancient Egyptians believed that a human soul was made up of five parts: "Ren" is your name, "Sheut," your shadow or silhouette, "Ka" your vital essence or life spark, "Ba" your unique personality and "Ib" your heart, the seat of emotion, thought and will and the key to the afterlife.
In the “Bhagavad Gita,” an ancient centerpiece of Hinduism, it says that: "The Spirit, which pervades all that we see, is imperishable. Nothing can destroy the Spirit. The material bodies which this Eternal, Indestructible, Immeasurable Spirit inhabits are all finite." In Buddhism, however, our “self” is simply a sense, belonging to the ever-changing entity that is us. The delusion of a permanent, abiding spirit is thought to be one of the main root causes for human conflict.
In the “Phaedrus,” one of Plato's dialogues written in the 4th century BC, Socrates describes the soul as the immortal, self-moving beginning of everything that comes from nothing, reminiscent of the way physicists describe the origin of the Universe as a quantum fluctuation: "The beginning is unbegotten, for that which is begotten has a beginning; but the beginning is begotten of nothing...But if unbegotten, it must also be indestructible; for if beginning were destroyed, there could be no beginning out of anything, nor anything out of a beginning; and all things must have a beginning. And therefore the self-moving is the beginning of motion; and this can neither be destroyed nor begotten, else the whole heavens and all creation would collapse and stand still, and never again have motion or birth."
In modern times, there are some scientists who are willing to venture into the incomprehensible territory of the soul, attempting to extract a theory that will allow for its existence. Redefined by the new field of quantum biology, the soul could be the link that connects individuals to the Universe.
Recent studies have shown quantum coherence and entanglement between the states of different pigments in the light-harvesting stage of photosynthesis, the process used by plants and other organisms to convert sunlight into chemical energy. Such phenomena could also underlie animal capacities like avian compass and the communication of bees, as well as something as controversial as telepathy.
But, can there be a biological system inextricably intertwined with consciousness, and yet that is governed by a soul that is separable from the body? Dr. Stuart Hameroff has a theory, named quantum consciousness, that says so. Let’s go 25 orders of magnitude smaller than an atom to a place called Planck Scale Geometry, at the smallest level of stuff we know about. The tiny, single bits of information at this level give rise to irreducible features in physics, like mass, spin and charge.
Hameroff’s theory is that things in our world contain information at the quantum level, and that we, as conscious beings, have not just biological, but also quantum processes in our brains which allow us to process that information. Thus, quantum entanglement could be a plausible scientific explanation for “interconnectedness among living beings and the universe" and the possibility of afterlife or consciousness after death: Consciousness occurs at the level of Planck scale geometry, and may remain unified after bodily death by quantum entanglement.
Hameroff explains that, with quantum consciousness, even if the body dies the quantum information connecting it to space-time wouldn’t be destroyed. So the information could remain entangled in space-time, and something, perhaps a soul, could survive after the body is destroyed.
Science or fantasy? Nobody knows, but still, there's nothing wrong with asking: “What if?”