Interview with Alan Moore about science, imagination, and time


Originally published at:




This is an extremely frustratingly incorrect way to think about quantum mechanics and consciousness. It’s not just wrong, it’s a very tired and banal sort of wrong.


I’m gonna be sand in this vaseline and say Alan Moore is correct when he says he’s muddying the waters here. Why should we consider perception and consciousness to be “supernatural”? It’s completely natural and also not inconsistent with a science based model of the universe. We’re animals with big brains who have acquired what we call consciousness, which is certainly a limited way to grasp the universe, but it’s our only way. To conclude that science is in conflict with the idea that we have perceptions and consciousness seems to me to be erroneous and unhelpful. We don’t have to dismiss the amazing progress of science to enjoy the subjective wonders of art. They are not mutually exclusive and there’s no compelling reason to put them in opposition with each other. It’s a pet peeve of mine when the mystically inclined talk down science as if it’s just another way to look at the universe, no better or worse than mysticism and magical thinking (i.e. religion). It’s pretty clearly a more useful and progressive way to look at the world than mystic, religious thinking. It’s time we all admitted that.


“Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m late for the boat to Valinor.”


Really? Because most of the field’s founders seemed mightily “weirded out” by the implications (which have not yet been resolved), and there is absolutely thinking now among some theoretical physicists that consciousness must be baked back into our equations for how the universe functions. This is a neat article I read recently, where QBism is described a bit.

I for one think materialism is BS, as science can’t even tell us what matter “is.” Subatomic particles seem to describe units of information much more than they describe tiny pieces of “stuff.” To my mind, the multiverse is a vast information processing platform, and materialism is not at the heart of it.


When physics can’t even tell us what matter “is” I would submit that science as we have largely known it up until now is perhaps not capable of describing the nature of the universe and consciousness’ role in it. But I will agree with you that everything is natural and part of the “real” universe, nothing can by definition fall outside of that. I happen to believe the “real” universe is much stranger than most people realize, and the irony is that it’s just simply not as “real” as most people take it for. Doesn’t mean it can’t be explained, and we will get there, someday, hopefully.


What makes you think that the universe as it is currently perceived and conceptualized by a group of contingently evolved mammals who haven’t been around for a baby sliver of geologic time is all that can by definition possibly exist? Isn’t that a rather hopelessly parochial outlook?


Alan Moore knows the score


I think you misunderstood my point. I’m crashing hard from five days in Las Vegas for a work convention, so I’m not firing on all cylinders right now. Mea culpa.

What I mean is, there can by definition be no such thing as “supernatural” as everything that is, is by definition natural. I simultaneously believe all sorts of weird wacky shit, much of it on the margins, much of it falling under the broad definition of “mysticism,” but I don’t see it in any way at all as being separate from the world of science, reality, physics, etc. I’m just convinced mainstream science doesn’t have those things all figured out yet, and when we do, it will allow for an understanding that collapses the “mystical” into the framework of “what is understood by science.”


We can certainly tell you what matter is. Matter is a ray in Hilbert space. If you find that answer unsatisfying, that is because you have less comfort with mathematics. Not a shortcoming of Hilbert space.


Do abstract mathematical concepts have an objective existence independent of human brains?


Sithrak* laughs malevolently. (Of course, that’s just how he laughs anyway, but he read your post, and darkly amused, waits to prove you wrong.)

  • n.b. googling His name is not so safe, for work. And patently ineffective as supplication, petition or invocation.


Sorry, when I said I was the sand in the vaseline, I meant I was the spikes in the skull’s eye sockets.


No. No workable and comprehensive model of how reality works (a so-called **scientific theor**y) has ever come from that. Since Galileo, we’ve always had to come to rely on experiments to back up all the claims and theories.



It has been a source of great amusement to me, mentioning Sithrak, and seeing the most straight laced, normal people smile. Butter wouldn’t melt in their mouths, but the grubby Aussie cartoon lady makes them laugh.
Blood and Thunder ! Victory at Sea !.


While many other physicists point out that the act of observation might have an effect on quantum states, regardless of if a conscious entity is doing the observation or not. In other words, the act of detection alters states.

There are a lot of weird things in quantum mechanics, but consciousness isn’t really one of them. I’m also curious as to why Moore would place study of consciousness outside the realm of science. Physics isn’t the only science, after all, and it’s something psychologists like myself (not actually myself, but psychologists like myself) are working on. They’re nowhere close, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done.

Furthermore “materialism” isn’t the the word of the day in science, it’s empiricism. Science can’t say what matter is, or what a charge is, and any explanation would likely be tautological anyway. It can sure as hell tell you how it acts though. There’s no much reason to think there’s anything mystical or special in terms of consciousness, because most of our models of reality work just fine without it.


Not that it matters. What he does to prove you wrong isn’t any worse than what he was going to do to you anyway.


Alan Moore does some good comics, but why are we asking him about science? He is neither a philosopher of science, nor a scientist. That he brought up quantum woo and consciousness is pretty much entirely predictable as well. This is the same answer you always get when you ask a creative person who interacts with science primarily through personal philosophy, and less through actually understanding the science, a question about science, consciousness, or quantum physics, no matter how much it makes real physicists roll their eyes.

Or, as a shorter version, why in sanity’s name should we listen to a graphic novelist about science, instead of scientists, the people who understand the topic best, because it’s their life’s work. I’m not gonna go interview Brian Greene about what graphic novels should do, am I? Why would I? He may know a little bit about them. He strikes me as the sort who maybe read a couple, but Alan Moore would be the expert here.

As a final note, even if we wanted to integrate consciousness into science, how would we do that? The entire point of science, the reason why it works, is because it’s evidence based and empirical. That’s very, very restrictive sometimes. That’s a good thing! Introducing subjectivity into it dilutes the advantages of empirical reasoning, and won’t help us find actual data. If you want a more open mode of speculation that isn’t interested in hard data, but can examine non-empirical issues that science has difficulty addressing, or doesn’t want to address… that’s what philosophy, art, and the humanities are for. Those are worthwhile and important things. Just… for the love of god, don’t try to make them part of science! The two can work together, but you shouldn’t try to make them the same actual thing.


Did you follow her Platinum Grit when it was still updating? (It’s not finished and probably won’t be, if you like to avoid the disappointment of orphaned works.)