In writing Quantum Enigma: Physics Encounters Consciousness, authors Bruce Rosenblum and Fred Kuttner seemed to have two goals. First to provide an honest, straightforward understanding of the fundamental aspects of the quantum world as opposed to the classical world. Second, to graciously and even-handedly explain why these aspects both seem to 'encounter consciousness' and why, despite this, there is a strong tendency for physicists to prefer the matter remain downplayed – if it needs to be mentioned at all.
They've succeeded. What's more, their book is uniquely useful not only to better understand what could be called the foundational weirdness of quantum physics (and in a way pleasantly free of overt mysticism or exaggeration) but also to get a glimpse of what happens when scientific research doesn't return results friendly to the reigning metaphysics.
What to expect: Kuttner and Rosenblum provide a brief sketch of the history of physics up to the discoveries that would lead to quantum physics as we know it, along with a more detailed discussion of the controversies that played out once the micro-world seemed to play by different rules than the macro-world. Also highlighted, however lightly, are the roles metaphysical concerns played and plays with regards to quantum physics in particular – right in the first chapter the authors claim that their book is going to be controversial not because of the experimental results or reports of quantum theory (those, they insist, are undisputed) but because they openly acknowledge the seeming connection the quantum enigma has with consciousness. I'm reminded of David Chalmers' "Moving Forward on the Problem of Consciousness" where it's mentioned "It is interesting that philosophers reject interactionist dualism because they think it is incompatible with physics, whereas physicists reject the relevant interpretations of quantum mechanics because they are dualistic!" This isn't discussed in detail, but the anecdotes are interesting.
The appropriate experiments and results of quantum physics are in large part illustrated by stories about the fictional village of Neg Anhe Poc (Copenhagen anagram, of course) and what's demonstrated to curious scientists who visit. I had trouble enjoying these stories, primarily because I experienced so much misleading nonsense when trying to learn about the quantum world to begin with that I'm immediately distrustful of all but the most dry and humorless analogies in order to explain the data. That's certainly not the fault of Rosenblum and Kuttner, however, so others will likely enjoy these illustrations and find them helpful and entertaining. The drawings they attached to the characters in these portions are simple and cute.
The real point of the book – and the bulk of its delivery – is devoted to providing a basic understanding of the counter-intuitive results of quantum physics experiments, why those results are counter-intuitive (and why they seem to involve an 'encounter with consciousness' no matter how we view those results), what the reaction has been to them, and a brief sketch of nine interpretations of those results (as well as why physicists are generally able to continue doing their jobs without having to commit themselves to any particular interpretation.) In that regard it performs admirably, and I cannot stress the value of this book when it comes to aiding such an understanding. Indeed, it indirectly explains why it can be difficult for someone trying to learn about the quantum world to do so: Due to the metaphysical concerns typically in play, there exists a tendency to exaggerate or misreport the results of QP-level experiments, or perhaps worse, unjustifiably minimize the strangeness and philosophical relevance of those experiments. Deepak Chopra isn't the only one guilty of making learning about QP difficult.
Relevance to ID: So, even admitting that the topics Quantum Enigma raises are interesting, why should someone interested in Intelligent Design pick it up?
First, because ID discussions have a habit of turning into discussions about materialism versus the alternatives. Uncommon Descent expressly throws down the gauntlet to materialism, and I think most of the Telic Thoughts contributors take a skeptical view of what passes for materialism nowadays. Kuttner and Rosenblum hardly spend any time talking about materialism (indeed, they seem to spend more time talking about George Berkeley and Idealism), but it's not hard to see why. The number quantum physics did on the reigning conception of the material was anything but kind.
Second, because ID often requires an understanding of minds at least in the abstract, and it's hard to find a topic more related to minds than consciousness itself. Even though Quantum Enigma does little more than admit to there being a seeming relation between minds and reality – though doing so in a very conservative way, stressing that said realm leaves the scientific and enters the metaphysical quickly – the questions they raise are worth serious consideration.
Third, and most importantly, is this. As I mentioned at the start of the review, Kuttner and Rosenblum strongly imply that part of the reason for writing their book is because they aren't satisfied with a perceived downplaying of quantum physics by their peers due to worries that the laity (those poor, common folk) may come to the wrong (as in, opposing) metaphysical conclusions. The authors contend that they are writing their book in part to combat unwarranted manipulations of scientific data by the irresponsible – such as (I would assume) the movie What The Bleep Do We Know, at this point rather legendary for its mixing of quantum physics with New Age mysticism in what's viewed as (and I'd personally agree) an irresponsible way.
To their credit, the authors go out of their way not only to explain the basic strangeness of quantum physics, the experiments which demonstrate such, and the 'encounter' with consciousness – but also to avoid pushing any particular interpretation or understanding on the reader. They give a brief overview of nine interpretations of the results, explain why they find them either unsatisfactory or reinforcing the encounter they discuss, but otherwise push nothing. If only this standard were adhered to, I truly believe there would be no ID controversy.
But let's say we acknowledge the types of experiments mentioned in Quantum Enigma. Let's say we even acknowledge that there is, or may be, a link between the quantum world and questions of mind and consciousness. Then what? In honor of what I see as the spirit of the book, I'm happy to tell you: Decide for yourself.
Maybe John Hopkins Professor and astrophysicist Richard Conn Henry is right when he claims we live in a Mental Universe, echoing George Berkeley.
Maybe physicist Henry Stapp is right to insist on what he calls 'Quantum Interactive Dualism', and that philosophers and scientists outside of physics have been operating under a false view of reality (classical mechanics, apparently) for decades.
Maybe Roger Penrose and Stuart Hameroff are on to something about the link between quantum physics and the mind. For my part, I can't even figure out if Alexander Wendt's meanderings about teleology qualify as an intelligent design perspective.
Of course, you can't mention Penrose/Hameroff without Max Tegmark – not just because he's the most well-known critic of P/H's theory, but because of his suggestion that mathematical formulas create reality, or something along those lines.
Of course, as theoretical physicists John D. Barrow mentions, once you're dealing with so many universes you have to wonder if you're in the real thing, or a simulation. Philosophers Nick Bostrom and David Chalmers admit it's a possibility.
Or maybe information is the fundamental building block of reality. Or physicist Casey Blood is right that there are no particles. Or physicist / almost-mystic David Bohm was right about non-locality, implicate order, and other things or none of the above or multiple of the above or…
Really, who knows. With so many possibilities, conjectures, and suggestions, maybe those intellectuals were right to not want to let the cat out of the box/bag.