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Is TRUTH absolute? - A Quantum dilemma

EINSTEIN: Do you believe in the Divine as isolated from the world?

TAGORE: Not isolated. The infinite personality of Man comprehends the Universe. There cannot be anything that cannot be subsumed by the human personality, and this proves that the Truth of the Universe is human Truth. I have taken a scientific fact to explain this — Matter is composed of protons and electrons, with gaps between them; but matter may seem to be solid. Similarly humanity is composed of individuals, yet they have their interconnection of human relationship, which gives living unity to man’s world. The entire universe is linked up with us in a similar manner, it is a human universe. I have pursued this thought through art, literature and the religious consciousness of man.

EINSTEIN: There are two different conceptions about the nature of the universe: (1) The world as a unity dependent on humanity. (2) The world as a reality independent of the human factor.

TAGORE: When our universe is in harmony with Man, the eternal, we know it as Truth, we feel it as beauty.

EINSTEIN: This is the purely human conception of the universe.

TAGORE: There can be no other conception. This world is a human world — the scientific view of it is also that of the scientific man. There is some standard of reason and enjoyment which gives it Truth, the standard of the Eternal Man whose experiences are through our experiences.

EINSTEIN: This is a realization of the human entity.

TAGORE: Yes, one eternal entity. We have to realize it through our emotions and activities. We realized the Supreme Man who has no individual limitations through our limitations. Science is concerned with that which is not confined to individuals; it is the impersonal human world of Truths. Religion realizes these Truths and links them up with our deeper needs; our individual consciousness of Truth gains universal significance. Religion applies values to Truth, and we know this Truth as good through our own harmony with it.

EINSTEIN: Truth, then, or Beauty is not independent of Man?


EINSTEIN: If there would be no human beings any more, the Apollo of Belvedere would no longer be beautiful.


EINSTEIN: I agree with regard to this conception of Beauty, but not with regard to Truth.

TAGORE: Why not? Truth is realized through man.

EINSTEIN: I cannot prove that my conception is right, but that is my religion.

TAGORE: Beauty is in the ideal of perfect harmony which is in the Universal Being; Truth the perfect comprehension of the Universal Mind. We individuals approach it through our own mistakes and blunders, through our accumulated experiences, through our illumined consciousness — how, otherwise, can we know Truth?

EINSTEIN: I cannot prove scientifically that Truth must be conceived as a Truth that is valid independent of humanity; but I believe it firmly. I believe, for instance, that the Pythagorean theorem in geometry states something that is approximately true, independent of the existence of man. Anyway, if there is a reality independent of man, there is also a Truth relative to this reality; and in the same way the negation of the first engenders a negation of the existence of the latter.

TAGORE: Truth, which is one with the Universal Being, must essentially be human, otherwise whatever we individuals realize as true can never be called truth – at least the Truth which is described as scientific and which only can be reached through the process of logic, in other words, by an organ of thoughts which is human. According to Indian Philosophy there is Brahman, the absolute Truth, which cannot be conceived by the isolation of the individual mind or described by words but can only be realized by completely merging the individual in its infinity. But such a Truth cannot belong to Science. The nature of Truth which we are discussing is an appearance – that is to say, what appears to be true to the human mind and therefore is human, and may be called maya or illusion.

EINSTEIN: So according to your conception, which may be the Indian conception, it is not the illusion of the individual, but of humanity as a whole.

TAGORE: The species also belongs to a unity, to humanity. Therefore the entire human mind realizes Truth; the Indian or the European mind meet in a common realization.

EINSTEIN: The word species is used in German for all human beings, as a matter of fact, even the apes and the frogs would belong to it.

TAGORE: In science we go through the discipline of eliminating the personal limitations of our individual minds and thus reach that comprehension of Truth which is in the mind of the Universal Man.

EINSTEIN: The problem begins whether Truth is independent of our consciousness.

TAGORE: What we call truth lies in the rational harmony between the subjective and objective aspects of reality, both of which belong to the super-personal man.

EINSTEIN: Even in our everyday life we feel compelled to ascribe a reality independent of man to the objects we use. We do this to connect the experiences of our senses in a reasonable way. For instance, if nobody is in this house, yet that table remains where it is.

TAGORE: Yes, it remains outside the individual mind, but not the universal mind. The table which I perceive is perceptible by the same kind of consciousness which I possess.

EINSTEIN: If nobody would be in the house the table would exist all the same — but this is already illegitimate from your point of view — because we cannot explain what it means that the table is there, independently of us. Our natural point of view in regard to the existence of truth apart from humanity cannot be explained or proved, but it is a belief which nobody can lack — no primitive beings even. We attribute to Truth a super-human objectivity; it is indispensable for us, this reality which is independent of our existence and our experience and our mind — though we cannot say what it means.

TAGORE: Science has proved that the table as a solid object is an appearance and therefore that which the human mind perceives as a table would not exist if that mind were naught. At the same time it must be admitted that the fact, that the ultimate physical reality is nothing but a multitude of separate revolving centres of electric force, also belongs to the human mind. In the apprehension of Truth there is an eternal conflict between the universal human mind and the same mind confined in the individual. The perpetual process of reconciliation is being carried on in our science, philosophy, in our ethics. In any case, if there be any Truth absolutely unrelated to humanity then for us it is absolutely non-existing. It is not difficult to imagine a mind to which the sequence of things happens not in space but only in time like the sequence of notes in music. For such a mind such conception of reality is akin to the musical reality in which Pythagorean geometry can have no meaning. There is the reality of paper, infinitely different from the reality of literature. For the kind of mind possessed by the moth which eats that paper literature is absolutely non-existent, yet for Man’s mind literature has a greater value of Truth than the paper itself. In a similar manner if there be some Truth which has no sensuous or rational relation to the human mind, it will ever remain as nothing so long as we remain human beings.

EINSTEIN: Then I am more religious than you are!

TAGORE: My religion is in the reconciliation of the Super-personal Man, the universal human spirit, in my own individual being.

The above excerpt, taken from the issue of Modern Review, January 1931, is the exchange of words between Indian philosopher, Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore and one of the greatest scientists of all times, Professor Albert Einstein. The historic encounter of two most stimulating and intellectual minds had led to a renaissance in science and philosophy. The truth of ‘lack of absolute truth’ germinating in the core of Indian philosophy regarding human existence had instigated physicists to explore the bizarre nature of quantum mechanical world. The very particular pervasive notion is the idea of consciousness influencing a quantum system and hence the perception of reality. The profound weirdness of the quantum world had caused intellectually riveting conversations among scientists and mathematicians to propose some outlandish explanations, not straying into the realm of traditional mysticism but predicting the behavior of quantum systems by interpreting rules encapsulated in the mathematics of quantum mechanics.


Survival in universe is based on a process called negative entropy. A system with enough entropy is able to maintain an order and organize its states. The correlation between a quantum mechanical system and negative entropic relation accounts for quantum coherence. It is the ability of electrons or photons to work synergistically and collaboratively to organize complex quantum processes. Coherence theory is linked to extreme sensitivity of a physical system to external inputs, amplification of incoming signals and faster efficient transfer of energy. The idea of quantum particle emission originates from non-linear interaction between weak radiation and collective behavior of particles to provide an optical channel of information. All natural systems including quantum are essentially open systems which are pumped by external energy sources and retain considerably large deviations from thermal equilibrium. Non-linearity involves time evolution of a dynamic system with an unbalanced and aperiodic behavior, where its future state is extremely dependent on present state and shows radical change from small changes inculcated in the present. Transformation potential for evolution of a system is a function of degree of internal disorganization as entropy and level of internal organization as syntropy. All natural actions occurring in either a physical system or a quantum-mechanical system are syntropic in nature as there exists a collective effect of multiple physical subjects through cooperation among different individual subjects. Non-linear systems are bewilderingly versatile in their mode of behavior and are very commonly unamenable to elegant mathematical analysis. Until large computers become readily available, the natural history of non-linear systems was little explored and the extraordinary prevalence of chaos unappreciated. To a considerable degree, physicist have been persuaded, in their innocence, that predictability is a characteristic of a well-established theoretical structure; given the equations defining a system, it is only a matter of computation to determine how it will behave. However, once it becomes clear how many systems are sufficiently non-linear to be considered for chaos, it has to be recognized that prediction may be limited to short stretches set by the horizon of predictability. Matter constitutes the observable universe and forms the basis of all objective phenomena together with universe. Full comprehension is not achieved by establishing firm fundamentals but must frequently remain a tentative process a step at a time, with frequent recourse to experiment and observation in the event that prediction and reality have diverged too far. If the state of coherence in quantum system is lost, the system can enter into a state of positive entropy, losing its organization and balance which enables, the appearance of noise, subsequently causing error in the measurement system.

The idea of the measurement problem was pioneered by the work of physicist Bruce Rosenblum where he pointed out the fact regarding existence of particles with a superposition of mathematical possibilities described by the wavefunction, rather than one actual object. This notion of co-existence in multiple states holds true only under absence of observation. The Schrodinger's equation is the quantum analogue of Newton's and Maxwell's equations of motion used in classical mechanics. The Schrodinger's equation exhibits determinism by stating a fixed motion of quantum state for all future time, given the motion of quantum state for all times prior to present. The idealism of Schrodinger's equation fails when an increment of knowledge occurs as this results in a sudden jump of a quantum superposed state to a reduced state representing the new state of knowledge. This jump involves the well-known element of quantum randomness, according to scientist Henry Stapp. Thus, without supplying an additional physical process like some collapse mechanism or giving a suitable interpretation of such a superposition, it cannot be made clear regarding how to account the definite pointer positions perceived as a result of actual measurement from the composite set of states. The goal controversy was regarding perceiving the pointer to be in one position rather than a superposition of positions.

Observer and Adherence to the Notion of Quantum Decoherence

Collapse of a quantum superposed state to one definite state under observation is well illustrated by scientist Maximilian Schlosshauer in his work on decoherence, the measurement problem and interrelationship between them through interpretations of quantum mechanics. Collapse through interaction between two particles introduces disturbance in the quantum mechanical state coined as decoherence effect. This decoherence is not primarily a solution of quantum measurement problem, as wavefunction of an observed particle cannot be specified separately from the measuring particle causing the collapse mechanism due to entanglement between wavefunction of the particle and external observer used to measure it. This theory is backed up by scientist Neil Bohr's contribution where it is stated that collapsing particle inherits part of the wavefunction it is interacting with. Multiple qubit interactions eventually create a chain of material objects in a superposition of measuring known as Von Neumann chain. Since quantum laws are what truly describe all material objects, some non-local measuring apparatus outside the entire material system is required to escape the Von Neumann chain by not being bounded by the same physical laws and is able to cause final collapse of everything in the chain. Thus the decoherence theory following the idea to be able to cause collapse through physical interactions of particles and the environment without the input of a conscious observer fails to solve the measurement problem. According to scientist E. Joos, decoherence does not solve measurement problem, rather it depicts the classical appearance of certain objects under the influence of an observer necessitating the use of usual probability rules of quantum theory for observation. Decoherence itself is neither an interpretation nor a modification of quantum mechanics and it arises from a direct application of the quantum mechanical formalism to a description of the interaction of a physical system with its environment. 

Unpredictability of Quantum Measurement with respect to Quantum-induced Environmental Decoherence

Initial state environment effects cannot explain the occurrence of definite experimental outcomes. The environment lacks the ability to choose from several possibilities in the wave function. Since the environment is described by the same quantum laws, decoherence in absence of a detailed theory leads to stochastic outcomes with correct properties. Something beyond the physical system as an observer is needed in final, ultimate collapse. The observer is not really describable by physics, otherwise mathematical description of quantum theory to encode set of all intermediate states of measurement from beginning till the point of final obtainable outcome would be able to deterministically predict the specific output. But this is not the reality with quantum probabilistic expressions. Indefinability of physical description makes a quantum operation inherently random through non-persistent correlations. The speciality about the conscious observer that the environment or the measuring apparatus cannot do is the ability of the observer to put the right question into nature. Observer can choose the question to be put to nature to specify the aspect of nature, his enquiry will probe. This property of observer is Heisenberg choice, in contrast to Dirac choice, which is a random choice on the part of nature. According to quantum theory, the Dirac choice is a choice between the alternatives that are specified by Heisenberg choice. Heisenberg choice asks for a Boolean answer regarding the existence of a particular quantum mechanical state from a linear superposition, whereas Dirac choice specifies the definite collapsing position from the alternatives as a classical convergence. These fundamentally theoretical and experimental investigations in quantum mechanics are potential driving factors behind quantum information processing.

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