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Visiting professor lecture Wednesday: Does Science Mix with Free Will?

November 9, 2010

Theoretical physicist and author Henry Stapp to lecture at Chapman University.

 Henry Stapp, Ph.D., Distinguished Visiting Research Professor in Quantum Physics at Chapman University and theoretical physicist at the University of California’s Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, will give a special guest lecture titled “Foundations of a Science-Based Discussion of Free Will” Wednesday, Nov. 10, at 4 p.m. in Argyros Forum 208.  The lecture is free, and light refreshments will be served. 

The basic scientific theory that prevailed from the time of Isaac Newton until the beginning of the 20th century is called “Classical Mechanics”. Its core precept is that the evolution of the physically described aspects of nature is fully determined by these physically described aspects themselves, acting alone with no reference to any mentally described aspects of conscious human observers. During the 20th century, classical mechanics was found to be incompatible with a large amount of empirical data, and was replaced by quantum mechanics. The most radical of the changes wrought by the shift from classical mechanics to quantum mechanics was the injection of the knowledge of human observers into the physical dynamics. 

This change in the basic dynamics permits our conscious minds to play in the determination of our physical actions, an essential role that is neither reducible to, nor determined by, the physically described aspects of nature. And this indeterminateness goes essentially beyond the uncertainties introduced by the infamous element of quantum randomness. The scientific and philosophical advantages of pursuing this “free will” option will be discussed in this lecture. 

At the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, Dr. Stapp specializes in the conceptual and mathematical foundations of quantum theory, and in particular on the quantum aspects of the relationship between our streams of conscious experience and the physical processes occurring in our brains. He is author of two books on this subject: Mind, Matter, and Quantum Mechanics and Mindful Universe.

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