The Observer Effect

The Observer Effect

Paul J. Dejillas, Ph.D. – March 16, 2021


Wherever we are and wherever we go, we are always surrounded by a beautiful scenery of nature. Wherever we look--up, below, left, right, or in front--we are always engulfed in a panoramic natural scenery.

Our scenery can be our home, alone or with our loved ones. It can be our place of work with our work mates, or a gallery of art paintings.

This breathtaking scenery is the context that envelopes our life. We won't exist and evolve without it. It is alive and it gives us life, in the same manner that we give it life to make it all the more alive.

Our scenery is moving at all times. It is always changing from moment to moment. But we go with it as it goes with us, as in the case when we travel from one place to another.

Whether in a state of rest or motion, it is the matrix that can give meaning and purpose to our existence.

We are one with our scenery. We are the scenery and the scenery is us. There's no distinction between us and the scenery.

Whatever your scenery is, find the meaning of your existence and your purpose in life there, not elsewhere. As Joseph Campbell admonished us: "The goal is to match your heartbeat match with the beat of the universe, to match your nature with nature."

The Observer Effect

March 2, 2021


In the process of observing the micro-cosmos, physicists are becoming certain that the observer and his or her observing instrument have direct and immediate effects on the nature and behavior of the observed fundamental particles. Since matter can now be viewed as either solid particles or waves and energy packets, or even as a combination of both, the ultimate description of reality becomes largely dependent on how the conscious observer (the subjective aspect, in this case) views the object being observed (or the objective reality). This act of observing and using the instrument, in view of the physicists, entails the exercise of the human mind, consciousness, and free will. American physicist John Archibald Wheeler (1911-2008) advances that the universes would then be “real” only if they contained observers: the status of the Cosmos would depend fundamentally on whether it could harbor a conscious observer of any kind (quoted by Martin Rees, 1997).

In his “Bohr, Einstein, and the Strange Lesson of the Quantum,” Wheeler states that “the observing equipment …, through the elementary quantum processes that terminate on it, takes part in giving tangible ‘reality’ to events that occur long before there was any life anywhere” (1981:18). George Greenstein (1988:223) is more direct in positing that “the universe brought forth life in order to exist … that the very cosmos does not exist unless observed.” Thus, the conscious “observer,” by his or her free will of utilizing the instrument, is also being transformed as a “participant,” or in the words of John A. Wheeler and his colleagues, a “participator” (1973:62). In the ultimate analysis, while the Cosmos creates humanity, humanity through its observations also brings the Cosmos into reality. In the view of quantum world, the objective reality only exists because of the observer; without the observer reality does cannot exist at all.

Corollary to this, the external reality is meaningful only in relation to the observer as well as in the context of the conditions and arrangements obtaining between the observer and the observed. What is sublime and puzzling here is that the observer, in observing the quantum system, interferes with the behavior of the particles inside the system. The “observer” no longer becomes passive since he or she influences in shaping reality. By the active participation and involvement of the conscious observer, the quantum world is elevated to another dimension that goes beyond the physical plane. In what manner do the human consciousness, mind, and free will influence reality and, even more importantly, how these human faculties emerge from the physical reality are a subject that will be dealt elsewhere below. At this stage, it is simply worthwhile noting the importance and significance that humans play in shaping the world. As Paul Davies and John Gribbin (1992) put it:

Unlike the mechanistic paradigm, the Cosmos began to be seen as a world of probabilities and uncertainties that now gives importance and significance to the role the human mind, consciousness, that opens the way to the discussion of such metaphysical concepts as free will, soul, spirit, and even God.

Going back to our main discussion, the subject-object relationship now gains a new perspective. Unlike before when a distinction between subject and object is strictly made, the findings drawn from the quantum world now strongly indicate that this division is no longer necessary and in fact it ought to disappear; for both the subject and the object become one interconnecting and interacting parts of the entire cosmic system. Neils Bohr explains that events occurring outside no longer become objective since their occurrence is very much influenced and colored by the subjective elements of the observer. Or in his words (as transcribed by Heisenberg, 1958:88):

… splitting this reality into an objective and a subjective side won’t get us very far. That is why I consider those developments in physics during the last decades which have shown how problematical such concepts as ‘objective’ and ‘subjective’ are, a great liberation of thought. The whole thing started with the theory of relativity. In the past, the statement that two events are simultaneous was considered an objective assertion, one that could be communicated quite simply and that was open to verification by any observer. Today we know that ‘simultaneity’ contains a subjective element, inasmuch as two events that appear simultaneous to an observer at rest are not necessarily simultaneous to an observer in motion.