In physics, especially quantum physics, there exists the idea that the consciousness of an observer creates or at least influences external realities. Because physics is an established experimental science, one has to sit up and pay attention to the claims that this "Observer Effect" is in fact an established reality in its own right. Unfortunately, there are no known theoretical mechanisms than can account for this. But if this "Observer Effect" is so then it is strong evidence that we exist as virtual reality beings in a computer simulated landscape.
THE BASIC PREMISE IN REVIEW
In both physics and in relatively New Age philosophy, there exists the idea (established in physics – waffled about in philosophy) that the consciousness of an observer creates or at least influences external realities. Because physics is an established experimental science, one has to sit up and pay attention to the claims that this "Observer Effect" is in fact an established reality in its own right. The two main experiments that support this "Observer Effect" are the Double-Slit Experiment where waves remain waves unless observed in which case waves turn into particles, and in the Quantum Zeno Effect where observations can inhibit the decay of radioactive particles, apparently the only known thing that can accomplish this physical sleight-of-hand. Unfortunately, there are no known theoretical mechanisms than can account for this. Yet, despite this, the "Observer Effect" rules the roost, or at least in quantum physics / mechanics it does.
MY BASIC PREMISE IN RESPONSE
Hogwash! I say there is no "Observer Effect"; physicists say there is an "Observer Effect" and have the experimental runs on the board to prove it. If this is so it is strong evidence that we exist as virtual reality beings in a computer simulated landscape – that's the Simulation Hypothesis.
A SPOONFUL OF LOGIC
Premise: There are no paradoxes, contradictions or inconsistencies 'out there' in Mother Nature's realm. Nature might be puzzling but she isn't either malicious nor a joker. Mother Nature tells Her story like it is with all of Her cards face up on the table.
Premise: All paradoxes, contradictions or inconsistencies arise within the mind. If one observes paradoxes, contradictions or inconsistencies 'out there' in Mother Nature's realm then they are ultimately a product of intelligence and not of nature.
Premise: There are many paradoxes, contradictions and inconsistencies observed in Mother Nature's realm.
Therefore: The game is afoot and intelligence is in operation.
Premise: Modern physics acknowledges that there is an "Observer Effect".
Premise: The "Observer Effect" has been established as a fact by actual experiments including the Double-Slit Experiment and the Quantum Zeno Effect.
Therefore: Observers observing something alters the state of affairs of that something.
Premise: Observation cannot create reality. The idea that reality does not exist if you're not looking is screwy *. If an observer cannot change reality in the Macro World then an observer cannot alter reality in the Micro World, or even in the realm that straddles the Macro and the Micro.
Premise: There's experimental evidence that observation determines reality, especially within the Micro (Quantum) World.
Therefore: Somewhere is screwy somewhere.
Premise: If we could create our own reality via observation – mind over matter – our own reality would be wonderful – the best of all possible worlds!
Premise: Our own reality isn't the best of all possible worlds.
Therefore: We can't create our own version of reality just by observation.
Premise: An observer is passive and sends no signals or information that prods whatever it is that is being observed.
Premise: Signals or information travel from what is being observed to the observer.
Therefore: The observer is what is being prodded by what's being observed, not the other way around.
Premise: What's past is past and what's happened in the past cannot be changed.
Premise: Any observation (via any of the five senses) is an observation (perception, awareness, etc.) of something that is now in the past tense (because any signal has to travel at a finite speed) and therefore cannot be altered.
Therefore: Any observer observing something cannot now alter the state of affairs of that something.
Premise: How people perceive reality has no effect on the reality itself perceived.
Premise: That one's perception of reality somehow has an effect on that reality itself is as logical a fallacy in logic as you are ever likely to get.
Premise: Human consciousness can only have a direct effect on the surrounding environment if you invoke magic or some sort of similar supernatural or paranormal power.
Premise: Some things cannot be fixed no matter how much you might will it to be otherwise.
Therefore: You cannot bend reality to your will, or on a whim.
Premise: Any observer observing something cannot now alter the state of affairs of that something.
Premise: Observers observing something alters the state of affairs of that something.
Therefore: So, we have a paradox, contradiction or inconsistency in that something cannot both be and not be. Therefore, to repeat myself, something is screwy somewhere!
That's enough Premises and Therefores for now at least. I think you get the gist of the state of affairs – I hope.
The first central issue here is how can a passive observer effect or prod what is being observed, especially in the micro realm of quantum or particle physics? What are the 'bullets' coming off or emanating from the observer and how are these 'bullets' different from the rest of Mother Nature's 'bullets' that are also present and accounted for but which seem to have no effect? Or, as some suggest, is an observation actually an irreducible violent process?
The second central issue is that if observers are random and observational behavior is random why are experimental results consistent?
The third central issue here is how can a particle or a wave KNOW or be AWARE that it is being observed?
The "Observer Effect" seems highly selective (1): You get the "Observer Effect" in the Double-Slit Experiment that turns waves into particles regardless of the 'bullets' used. Waves are never observed to turn into particles in the natural realm of Mother Nature. So we have different rules for quasi-identical situations, in this case observers and wave / particle behavior.
The "Observer Effect" seems highly selective (2): It exists within the Quantum Zeno Effect but not otherwise. Now you may well argue that people observe radioactive stuff all of the time, from medical technicians to particle physicists, from miners to manufacturers of munitions, and there is no change in rates of decay. And this is so. So we have different rules for quasi-identical situations, in this case observers and unstable (radioactive) nuclei.
So it would appear that just being an observer isn't quite enough. You've got to be an observer WITH INTENT. Your intention, your goal / objective is to alter that rate of decay (and save Schrodinger's Cat). This again implies that somehow or other consciousness plays a key role in determining reality. Now I don't like that idea but I am forced to confront and consider that possibility, a possibility that many millions already accept as a given. That is, you can have mind-over-matter. The Placebo Effect is the best known example. You may have also heard of the phrase "the power of positive thinking".
Human Consciousness: It's very easy just to say consciousness and / or observation has a direct bearing on reality as long as you don't have to actually explain how and what the actual mechanism is. You can consciously observe a lead bar from now until you kick-the-bucket and it won't ever change into a bar of gold despite the fact that ultimately the lead bar is just composed of micro realm particles.
So does consciousness explain the "Observer Effect" and thus the Quantum Zeno Effect and the wave-particle duality inherent in the Double-Slit Experiment? Probably not. First there's the issue with mechanical devices as 'observers' doing the actual observations to which the property of consciousness is not usually attributed. Secondly, there's no known mechanism by which an immaterial mind can have an effect on a material object (which is not to say it can't happen as the Placebo Effect adequately demonstrates). Finally, each human observer is a different human observer with a different consciousness and collectively all have differing mind-sets. The consciousness of no two (or more) people is the same yet the experimental results of the QZE and the DSE are uniform and consistent.
God Done It: Of course theists say that the "Observer Effect" is just the ever omni-presence of God. It's our supernatural God doing all of the observing all of the time of the whole Universe. The whole Universe maintains its existence in a non-superposition-of-state because of the existence of God who maintains the status-quo (ie – one Universe present and accounted for). And God works in mysterious ways! However, what can be asserted without evidence can be rejected without evidence.
Special Effects! If there is no "Observer Effect" (passive observation cannot influence what's being observed) then the Double-Slit Experiment (wave-particle duality) and the Quantum Zeno Effect (observation can alter radioactive decay) cannot be possible. Yet, both have been experimentally verified. One resolution (ie – my resolution) is to propose that all of this is just some sophisticated special effect, the result of computer software programming. This implies that we 'exist' as virtual reality in a simulated universe.
* The Moon exists even if no one is looking at it. The Moon continues to exist, undisturbed, even when nobody is watching it. The Universe existed even before the concept of observers was thought of in Mother Nature's philosophy. The Universe can create an observer but an observer cannot create the Universe. This is NOT a chicken – egg scenario. If quantum theory is unable to explain this basic fact, it means that it is, quite simply, an incomplete theory.