If Albert Einstein had lived long enough to witness the results of Alain Aspect's experiments at the University of Paris-South in 1982 he would have had to concede that quantum theory is a self-consistent theory and physical reality is non-local. The Aspect experiment, and the 1997 Nicolus Gisin twin-photon experiments, validated John Stewart Bell's non-locality theorem to a substantial distance. These experiments confirmed that the physical universe is holistic and indeterminate, a fact that many physicists call the most profound discovery in all of science.
This is the premise of a thoroughly enlightening book by Nadeau and Kafatos, who by virtue of clear and concise writing, entice the reader into taking a journey into the new world of non-locality. The authors state that in order to embrace their premises one must be committed to metaphysical and epistemological realism. Metaphysical realism assumes that physical reality is real or has an actual existence independent of observation, and epistemological realism assumes that progress in science requires strict adherence to scientific methodology. This seems to be a bit of an inconsistency since one of the main premises of their book is that metaphysical realism is invalid.
Einstein, who was himself a contributor to quantum theory, and whose theory of relativity demonstrated that space, time, and motion are relative concepts, was none-the-less not ready to give up on the idea of deterministic principles and objective reality. His debates with Bohr concerning whether quantum theory was a complete theory was never settled during their lifetimes. In his most famous thought experiment, called EPR, devised with the help of two colleagues, he made his most brilliant effort to once and for all put the matter to rest by saving classical causal reality. The purpose of EPR was to show that both the position and momentum of a particle could be deduced in violation of the indeterminacy principle making quantum theory incomplete.
John Stewart Bell sounded the death knoll to any hope that Einstein could be correct in his effort to save objective reality. Bell's theorem is predicated on two major assumptions: Locality (signals or energy transfers between regions separated in space and time cannot occur faster than the speed of light) and realism (physical reality exists independently of the observer). As Nadeau and Kafatos put it, both of these assumptions may be invalid. While Bell's theorem in no way violated Relativity's ban on information traveling faster than light speed, it did clearly demonstrate that there is an indeterminate and instantaneous connection between systems. Since the connections are indeterminate and subject to the laws of probability, there is no way to transfer information in a meaningful way under these random circumstances; therefore, Relativity itself remains intact. Bell's theorem clearly proved that realism could not exist at the deepest levels or reality. Quite simply, if nonlocality is a fact of nature, indeterminacy is also an indisputable fact of nature.
The demise of realism also puts to rest the paradox of the well-known Schrodinger Cat Experiment. Since there is no one-to-one correspondence between physical theory and reality, and, since only measurement or observation determines reality as Bohr clearly maintained, we cannot assume that systems, either the particle or the cat, have any reality in the absence of measurement. Therefore, nothing can be said about "the cat in a state of limbo." Since no measurement has been made, there exists no reality to this unobserved situation.
Despite the fact that realism has been shown to be invalid, Cartesian dualism, the reigning scientific paradigm since the seventeenth century, remains steadfast among many scientists today. Dualism has found form in the post-modern rationalist ontology of positivism. Adherents of this philosophy believe that certain truth about physical reality resides only in the mathematical description, and contend that a one-to-one correspondence exists between every element of physical theory and every aspect of the reality it describes.
Neither dualism nor positivism can be considered valid in light of the new reality of nonlocality for a variety of reasons: First, as we noted earlier, the positivist contention of an objective reality is inconsistent with principles of indeterminacy. Physical laws and theories have no independent existence and are human creations useful only in coordinating observations with experience. By definition, an objective reality suggests a consciousness separate and distinct from the rest of reality. This arbitrary distinction is invalid in a holistic universe. If nonlocality is a property of the entire universe, then we must also conclude that an undivided wholeness exists at the most primary level of physical reality.
Second, science can claim knowledge of physical reality only when the predictions of a physical theory are validated by experiment. In a non-local universe the indivisible whole cannot be measured or observed, and nothing can be said about the character of this reality. Quantum systems it seems behave in such a holistic state. The wave and particle are the total reality of the situation--they are complimentary. The system is determinate when left alone, but upon observation it behaves indeterminately according to the laws of probability. Only one aspect of the whole can be observed at any one moment in time. Interestingly, as science has progressed in this century, more and more complementarities have been found. In special relativity, mass and energy as well as space and time were found to be complimentary; in mathematics real and imaginary numbers are complimentary; in biology, Bohr himself realized that organic and inorganic matter are constructs that need to be applied in a complementary way to describe the phenomenon of life. Life appears to be holistic, as any attempt to isolate its parts for scientific study tends toward a reductionist approach which only makes for inconguencies in the study of the whole. The whole is not built from the parts; rather, the whole bifurcates into the parts. This new understanding of the relationship between part and whole in biology mirrors nonlocality in physics.
The authors conclude by making the philosophical argument that since consciousness is an emergent process of the brain, and the brain, in turn, is an emergent process of the undivided whole, it is not unreasonable to believe that the universe is conscious.