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Niels Bohr stated, and Werner Heisenberg reiterated, that “in the great drama of existence we ourselves are both actors and spectators.” Their emphasis stems from the fact that the entry of human beings into physics as actors constitutes the most fundamental philosophical departure of twentieth-century basic physics from its eighteenth- and nineteenth-century forerunners. Those earlier theories claimed that our human conscious thoughts are mere witnesses to, or by-products of, essentially mechanically determined brain processes. In stark contrast, certain conscious decisions that are made by human beings, but that are not determined by any known law, statistical or otherwise, enter irreducibly into orthodox contemporary physical theory. These actions are required to counteract effects of Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, which ordains that the physically described process of nature, acting alone, produces not a physical world of the kind we experience but rather a continuous smear of potential possible worlds of the kind we know. This contradiction between theory and experience is resolved in orthodox contemporary physical theory by bringing certain effects of our conscious human choices into the dynamics in essentially the way that we intuitively feel that our conscious intentions affect the physical world, namely, via the effects of our intentional efforts on our physically described bodies. The moral implications of this profound change in physics are discussed.
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Keywords: foundations of quantum mechanics; human values; philosophy of quantum mechanics; science and religion

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Theoretical physics group of the University of California's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, CA 94720;, Email: [email protected]

Publication date: 2006-09-01

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