Bell’s Theorem – Is Everything Predetermined?

Is quantum entanglement real? When two photons are created at the same time, and then separated over some distance, are they still mysteriously in touch with each other, so that what one photon does affects what the other photon does — instantaneously?

The concept was first quantified by Bell in his 1964 paper, and known as Bell’s Theorem. It has since been demonstrated by many experiments, those of James Clauser and Alain Aspect. But many sceptics remain to be convinced, feeling that there must be some loophole. Something overlooked in the experimental setup may be “tipping off” one photon so that it knows ahead of time what the other photon is about to do. For example, hidden variables, such as suggested by David Bohm, could allow particles to communicate instantaneously with each other over large distances.

Why does this matter? Because at the heart of Bell’s theorem is the concept of super-determinism; the issue of whether free will exists or whether it is only an illusion. Perhaps the photon entanglement can be explained in a non-local way as a result of determinism.  Bell stated the problem in a 1985 interview on BBC.

There is a way to escape the inference of superluminal speeds and spooky action at a distance. But it involves absolute determinism in the universe, the complete absence of free will. Suppose the world is super-deterministic, with not just inanimate nature running on behind-the-scenes clockwork, but with our behaviour, including our belief that we are free to choose to do one experiment rather than another, absolutely predetermined, including the ‘decision’ by the experimenter to carry out one set of measurements rather than another, the difficulty disappears. There is no need for a faster-than-light signal to tell particle A what measurement has been carried out on particle B, because the universe, including particle A, already ‘knows’ what that measurement, and its outcome, will be.

The idea of super-determinism was recently dealt a blow by an experiment performed by David Kaiser, Alan Guth and others from the University of Vienna, published in Physics Letters, Cosmic Bell Test: Measurement Settings from Milky Way Stars . The experiment set up involved shooting two photons in opposite directions, then measuring a polarization property of the photons simultaneously. In past, experiments measured a polarization direction selected by a random number generator. However there was always a possibility that somehow the random number generators could communicate with each other and allow the photons to “cheat”. To get around this problem, a telescope was installed at each measurement site, and trained on a star 600 light years away. The wavelength of the light entering the telescope was used to choose which polarization direction would be measured. If in some way, that measurement was pre-determined, the decision had to have been made 600 years ago when the starlight set out on its journey.

The experiment showed that the photon polarizations were correlated; the photons were entangled regardless of experimental setup. The proposed loophole, that the entanglement was due to a pre-determination was shown to be false..

One has to ask, why are such extraordinary efforts being made to establish the detailed nature of quantum entanglement? Haven’t enough experiments been done to show that it is real? Quantum entanglement is important because it may underlie what we see, and how we understand the nature of reality. The star experiment suggests that entanglement has a bearing on the existence of free will. Free will, choice may be a result of quantum entanglement.  What can be more fundamental to our lives? Quantum entanglement may also, according to Roger Penrose, explain the nature of consciousness.




  1. Nicholas Greaves

    I placed an informal paper on the website last November :”Similarities between Quantum entanglement and Duplication theory ” which shows how my proposals for the mechanism behind memory in terms of quantum entanglement are surprisingly similar to the rationale explained by Anton Zeilinger of Vienna in his recent book ‘The Dance of the Photons.’ His explanation for the simultaneous connection across space between separate but entangled photons is partly based on the implications of Bell’s inequality theorem which I found not easy to follow, but the essential gist for this to happen is that both the transmitting system and the receiving systems have to be operating completely randomly in his experiments before information can be transferred from one to the other. This is one of the central themes of my Duplication theory , a synopsis of which was published by David Lorimer in the Network’s journal of October 1988. A clearer synopsis of the latter is also published on the academia website, and as will be seen, the conclusions of which are remarkably similar to those of Rupert Sheldrake with whom I have been in fairly regular correspondence since I first met him in 1984.

    The essence of my hypothesis for eidetic memory is based on resonance of similar structures through time, which is made easily possible when the mind is in trance with the neurons covering consciousness assumed to be firing randomly without form until a specific single instigatory thought structure from an earlier time is inserted therein. This will cause a duplication of the original sequence of neuron structures (thought patterns/memories) to resonate on until interrupted by some external source of information. Assumptions can then be made to show how such a sequence can be telescoped into very short connected bursts to qualify every day working memory . Also see

    Nick Greaves