Alain Aspect is the physicist who performed the key experiment that established that if you want a real universe, it must be non-local (Einstein’s “spooky action at a distance”). Aspect comments on new work by his successor in conducting such experiments, Anton Zeilinger and his colleagues, who have now performed an experiment that suggests that “giving up the concept of locality is not sufficient to be consistent with quantum experiments, unless certain intuitive features of realism are abandoned.”
Be clear what is going on here. Quantum mechanics itself is not crying out for such experiments! Quantum mechanics is doing just fine, thank you, having performed flawlessly since inception. No, it is people whose cherished philosophical beliefs are being threatened that cry out for such experiments, exactly as Einstein used to do, and with exactly the same hope (we think in vain): that quantum mechanics can be refined to the point where it requires (or at least allows) belief in the independent reality of the natural world it describes.
Quantum mechanics makes no mention of reality (Figure 1). Indeed, quantum mechanics proclaims, “We have no need of that hypothesis.” Now we are beginning to see that quantum mechanics might actually exclude any possibility of mind-independent reality and already does exclude any reality that resembles our usual concept of such (Aspect: “it implies renouncing the kind of realism I would have liked”). Non-local causality is a concept that had never played any role in physics, other than in rejection (“action-at-a-distance”), until Aspect showed in 1981 that the alternative would be the abandonment of the cherished belief in mind-independent reality; suddenly, spooky-action-at-a-distance became the lesser of two evils, in the minds of the materialists.
Why do people cling with such ferocity to belief in a mind-independent reality? It is surely because if there is no such reality, then ultimately (as far as we can know) mind alone exists. And if mind is not a product of real matter, but rather is the creator of the illusion of material reality (which has, in fact, despite the materialists, been known to be the case, since the discovery of quantum mechanics in 1925), then a theistic view of our existence becomes the only rational alternative to solipsism.
Hat tip: Alex.