In a recent SF Gate article, Drs. Deepak Chopra and Menas Kafatos state the quantum vacuum is the source of energy, space, and time. This is a bold statement that runs contrary to the traditional view of the quantum vacuum as a particular state of a physical field - the state with no particles. How can these two views be reconciled?
Chopra/Kafatos have suggested in other articles that consciousness is the substratum of the universe. (If it is, consciousness cannot be a subtype, such as human, animal, or plant consciousness. It must be something more fundamental that is imbued with awareness and intelligence, capable of expressing as subtypes of consciousness and the universe itself.) Such a fundamental consciousness must be closely related to the Chopra/Kafatos vacuum since both consciousness and the vacuum give rise to energy, space, and time. By bringing in the idea of consciousness as fundamental, Chopra/Kafatos also make room for mental experience in their model.
If we integrate a mental model of the universe with the traditional physical model, we can see how they may be reconciled:
consciousness or the Chopra/Kafatos quantum vacuum ->
mental field/mental spacetime/mind ->
physical spacetime ->
a particular physical field (such as the EM field)/traditional quantum vacuum ->
Note that the quantum vacuum appears twice in the above sequence. The mental vacuum is first and the physical vacuum is second. Which one of these is the real vacuum? That's a matter of your perspective. The experimental data fit either definition (or both definitions). If I recognize the physical universe and its corresponding data as a reflection of the mind, it is just as valid to see those data as supporting a consciousness-based perspective. Physical fields and physical spacetime are partial observations. The full story is that the mental and the physical overlap.
A consciousness-based perspective assimilates the traditional materialist perspective and is able to continue building on what has been discovered so far. It also provides a more comprehensive model of the universe since mental experience is accounted for. Finally and most importantly, it recognizes mind and consciousness as much-needed fertile ground for scientific breakthroughs.
-Anoop Kumar, MD, MM
Anoop Kumar is the author of the upcoming book The Three Bodies: How redefining the human being can transform your health and reinvent healthcare. He is a practicing emergency physician in the DC Metro area.