1-Marco, tell us something about your background
I've got a Ph.D. in Solid State Physics in 1996 and I am author of several scientific papers in the most important international journals of Physics.
2-What did motive the creation of the Center of the Scientific Divulgation about Consciousness (CSDC)?
Basically the purpose was to expose many wrong ideas and beliefs about the relation between consciousness and the brain, and to propose a rational analysis of our scientific knowledges which allowes to draw important conclusions about the nature of consciousness.
3-How would you define consciousness? Is it the same than the soul?
I consider consciousness as a synonymous of psychical life, consisting of sensations, emotions and thoughts. On the other hand, I define the soul as an unphysical element strictly connected to the individual identity. So consciousness is defined as a set of many different psychical experiences while the soul represents a unique element for each person.
4-What do quantum physics and quantum electrodynamics tell us about consciousness?
Quantum physics tells us nothing about consciousness, and this fact tells us much about the nature of consciousness: it tells us that consciousness is not a physical process. Before the advent of quantum mechanics, no explanation of chemical and biological processes could be given in terms of fundamental natural laws; quantum physics has instead provided a consistent mechanicistic explanation of all molecular and biological processes; since consciousness transcends the laws of physics, the cause of the existence of consciousness can no longer be identified with the brain and the materialistic view is then unteanable. I think quantum mechanics is involved in the problem of consciousness in another respect: during history, the existence of a strict relation between mathematics and natural laws has become more and more evident. With quantum mechanics such a relation has become even stronger since it is no more possible to describe matter through concrete images coming from our sensorial experiences (such as particles moving along definite trajectories), and the non-local character of quantum physics destroys also our intuitive concept of space. The laws of quantum physics consist of a system of mathematical equations in abstract matematical spaces and therefore consciousness becomes a preliminary necessary condition for the existence of such laws; the intrinsic conceptual nature of the laws of physics is in my opinion the most direct rational argument supporting the existence of a conscious intelligent God, since a concept cannot exist independently from a conscious intelligent mind conceiving it.
5-A very common and standard materialistic objection to dualism is the so-called "problem of interaction", namely, the problem of explaining how a non-physical entity (the soul) can interact with a purely physical brain. What do you think of this objection?
I have never found any valid arguments proving that two entities with different nature (physical and unphysical) cannot interact. So I do not think that the “problem of interaction” is a valid argument against dualism since it is based on the arbitrary unproven assumption that two entities with different nature cannot interact. However I would like to point out that dualism can be avoided through Berkeley's approach. The irish philosopher Berkeley denies at all the existence of the physical reality, and he consideres God as the direct cause of our perceptions: in a dream we can perceive material objects, but these perceptions are generated by our mind and not by real physical objects. The hypothesis that there must be a physical reality as a cause of our perceptions is then not necessary, and Berkeley believes that it is God who creates our perceptions in our souls. In this view, all the physical reality, including our brain, is only the representation of a conceptual universe existing in the mind of God, and projected into our minds through our sensorial images. This interpretation accounts also for the intrinsic conceptual nature of the laws of physics.
6-Some physicists have posed another scientific objection to dualism: They argue that dualism is incompatible with physics, specially with the physical law known as the principle of energy conservation. For example, energy would be actually created if a decision to take a walk or read a book or write an e-mail were an event in the nonmaterial soul with effects in the physical world, and the principle of energy conservation precludes such creation of energy. What do you think of this scientific objection?
There is no valid arguments proving that energy should be created to make a decision; consider that energy has a well defined mathematical expression in physics and it applies only to physical systems; the error is to apply physical properties such as energy to unphysical entities such as consciousness.
Besides, in quantum physics we can have systems which do not have a definite value of energy, and therefore for these systems the energy conservation principle cannot be applied.
7-Materialists have argued that the existence of the soul and non-physical consciousness is a hypothesis experimentally irrefutable (and hence unscientific) since one cannot manipulate a nonmaterial thing, as the soul or consciousness is assumed to be by dualists, with material implements, such as lancets and pills. Which is your opinion about this objection?
Since consciousness is unphysical, there is of course no way to prove experimentally its unphysical nature; we can however prove the unphysical nature of consciousness through a rational analysis of our scientific knowledges. Such a proof is indirectly scientific, since it is based on scientific elements.
8-A common objection to your scientific arguments for dualism is that you have an unjustified extreme reductionistic view of physics (assuming that everything what is physical is explainable in terms of physics alone), as evidenced by your explicit rejection of the existence of emergent properties (like temperature and entropy) and laws governing macro-physical objects and systems. Critics say that quantum physics and electrodynamics applies only micro-physical entities (e.g. atoms, sub-atomic particles and molecules), not to macro-physical objects like biological brains, animals, towers or planets, so your extreme reductionism is scientifically unjustified and tends to undermine the macro-physical or holistic properties and laws studied by other sciences like biology, economics or psychology. How do you respond the these critics?
All macro-physical properties are a consequence of quantum mechanics, and this can be easily proved. I do not think these critiques can be considered as valid arguments; they are simply false statements proving a fundamental misunderstanding of the laws of quantum mechanics.
It is easy to prove that all the examples of the so-called emergent properties are not objective properties of the physical reality, but only concepts used to describe or classify, according to arbitrary criteria, a given succession of microscopic processes. So, there is no real emergent properties in biology; of course since economics and psychology depend on the human psychical life, which is un unphysical event, neither economics nor psychology can be considered emergent properties of physical systems.
9-You have said that physical laws are intrinsically mathematical-abstract objects. However, critics say that you're conflating physical laws with their conceptual and abstract representations. In other words, they argue, you're conflating the objective pattern or regularity existing in nature (patterns or regularities wholly independent of our minds) with the human conceptual and theoretical reconstruction of such patterns (abstract concepts that only exist in the human mind). You're conflating the map with the territory. How do you answer to this critique?
First of all the map is a geometrical representation of a geometrical entity(the territory).
It is not possible to draw a map of a smell because the smell has no geometrical features. The representation (the map) must be of the same nature of the represented object. Therefore the fact that the natural physics are representable as mathematical equations implies that they have an intrinsic mathematical nature. Besides, the example of the map is inadequate; in fact the map simply describes a static entity and it cannot predict the future evolution of the territory; on the contrary the laws of physics allowes to predict the evolution in time of the physical systems, and therefore they cannot be considered as a mere description of the reality. I think that the most serious problem for materialists is to explain the mathematical representability of the natural laws; the fact that through a system of mathematical equations it is possible to predict sistematically the results of all mechanical, chemical, electromagnetic, optical and thermal processes makes it unreasonable to suppose that nature hasn't an intrinsic mathematical structure. There is in fact no reason to expect that a non-mathematically structured universe could be sistematically described by a system of mathematical equations. I would like to point out that the first scientists (Galileo and Newton) who began to use mathematical equations to express the natural laws, were christians and they justified their choice because they believed that the universe was a creation of an intelligent God. Their intuition has certainly revealed one of the most fruitful intuitions in history and all scientists now accept the idea that the natural laws can be expressed through matemathical equations, even if some of them (atheists and agnostics) seem not to understand the theological implications of this fact.
Besides I think that the term "pattern or regularities" (or equivalent expressions) are vague and indefinite concepts: they are not true concepts, but only empty rethoric figures, without any real meaning. The point is that it is not possible to describe the laws of quantum physics through well-defined concrete terms, and this is a direct consequence of the intrinsic abstract and conceptual nature of the natural laws.
10-You have argued that observation causes the so-called "collapse of the wave function". However, critics have posed at least 5 scientific objections to this view: 1-The mathematical axiomatization of the quantum theory shows that it doesn't contain any variables denoting mental/psychological properties or entities (like consciousness, thoughts or experiences) 2-The collapse of the wave function is nowadays conceived by some physicists as the decoherence resulting from the interaction between a quantum particles and its macrophysical environment, which need no be manned by any observation: So the state-function collapse would be a purely physical process independent of any observation at all. 3-Your view doesn't explain what collapses the wave function in places occurring far beyond any laboratories (and hence beyond the reach of any empirical observation), such as the nuclear reactions ocurring inside the stars or in remote galaxies where there is not observer at all. 4-Your view assume uncritically the Copenhagen (or subjectivist) interpretation of QM, which is only one of at least 10 different interpretations of QM. 5-If the collapse of the wave function is caused by observation, how are you going to explain the collapse of the wave function which existed previous to the relatively recent emergence of human observers?
First of all, I disagree with those physicists who claim that the decoherence results from the interaction between a quantum particles and its macrophysical environment; I think that such interpretation does not follow from the formalism of quantum mechanics, since the collapse of the wave function represents a violation of the time dependent Schrodinger equation. Besides, I do not follow the Copenhagen interpretation, but I am closer to Berkeley's view: I do not consider the universe as an objectively existing entity, but as an abstract matemathical theory, existing as a concept in the mind of God, and projected into our minds through the sensorial images we perceive. So both the wave function and its collapse represent the way God conceive the universe; the collapse of the wave function is then neither caused by the mind of the observer nor by nature itself, but it is only a part of the mathematical theory of the universe. Also space and time, in my view, are not objectivelly existing, but they are only another part of the mathematical theory of the universe, which makes the non-local character of quantum mechanics completely understandable
11-Do you think that the existence of a non-physical soul conflicts with contemporary evolutionary theory?
No, because evolutionary theory deals only with biological elements; no fossils of psyche can be found, and therefore no claims about consciousness can be made in any evolutionary theories.
12-Some contemporary atheists have argued that God is an unnecesary hypothesis to explain the origin of the universe, because quantum physics have demostrated the existence of "virtual particles" which come from the quantum vacuum and therefore "out of nothing". So the universe is actually uncaused from nothing. What do you think of this scientific objection to God's existence? Do quantum virtual particles provide evidence against God?
Virtual particles are a consequence of the laws of physics; so they do not come out of nothing, but they come out of the laws of physics. The laws of physics are a necessary condition for the existence of the universe, and their intrinsic conceptual nature implies the existence of an intelligent God.
13-Other physicists and cosmologists don't appeal to virtual particles but to the Universe's "self-creation" based on natural laws. For example, in his lastest book The Grand Design, Stephen Hawking has argued "Because there is a law like gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing". In other words, something (natural laws) created the Universe, therefore the Universe created itself from nothing. Do you think it is a good logical and scientific argument for the self-creation of the Universe?
As I said above, the laws of physics are the necessary condition for the existence of the universe, and the laws of physics are not “nothing”. The problem for atheists is to explain the existence of the laws of physics and of their intrinsic conceptual and mathematical nature.
14-Do you think there is scientific or at least rational arguments for God's existence? Can you share with us the best ones?
As I have said, I think that the strongest rational argument for God's existence is the mathematical representability of the natural laws. I think that also the unphysical nature of consciousness is a strong rational argument for God's existence; unless you believe that your soul has always existed (in this case you would consider yourself a kind of god), you can define God as the necessary cause of the existence of your own soul.
15-Do you think that there is good historical and rational evidence supporting Jesus' Resurrection as an historical fact?
I think that Jesus' resurrection is first of all a matter of faith.
Jesus 'resurrection cannot be proved because He appeared only to some people, and of course unbelievers would question their accounts. On the other hand, the miracle of sun of Fatima has been witnessed by a crowd of 70000 people, and nevertheless unbelievers do not accept such evidence.
Personally I think that the most convincing argument for christianity is Jesus' message: through christianity, an absolutely new concept of divine love has come into history: the concept of a God who loves us so much that He makes himself man and accepts an atrocious suffering and death in order to save us from our sinful and unhappy existence and lead us to the true and eternal happiness. Of course many unbelievers rejects this concept of divine love and claim that God could have saved man without any sufferings. I believe instead that, in order to trust God, every man need know that God is willing to accept such a terrible suffering. Every man need that proof of love, and God, who knows this, has accepted to give man what he consciously or unconsciously asked to Him. Jesus had to suffer and die that way to convince us about God's goodness and God's love towards us. By His death on the cross, Jesus destroys our distrust and our doubts, and He gives us the strength to believe in Him and trust Him.
16-Do you think that intelligent extraterrestial life in other planets and UFOs (from extraterrestial origin), if proved to exist, would conflict with Christianity?
No, I see no conflicts between christianity and the existence of aliens, but personally I do not think any intelligent aliens exist. I have never found any convincing evidences and I am not interested at all in the problem of the existence of aliens. Even if some intelligent aliens existed somewhere in the universe, this would imply no changes either in my life or in my philosophy.
17-Do you think that if reincarnation were empirically proved to exist, it would prove that Christianity is false?
Reincarnation is absolutely incompatible with christian theology. By the way I think that the concept of reincarnation is totally equivalent to the one of eternal death of materialists and atheists; in fact, if a person loses his self-awareness when he is born again in a new body, then that person has definitively died and somebody else is alive in his place. At most you can define this new person as a twin brother, but he is not yourself.
Link of interest: