Reasons to Believe

Quantum Mechanics, a Modern Goliath

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A few years ago an alarm was sounded like the one that echoed through Israel's camp in the days of King Saul. The giant, this time, is quantum mechanics, heralded by theologians as "the greatest contemporary threat to Christianity."' Physicists have proliferated popular books exploiting the esoteric nature of quantum phenomena to undermine the Christian view of origins.

These attacks seem to express a defiant reaction to the mounting evidence from physics and astronomy that the universe-all matter, energy, space, and time-began in a transcendent creation event,2 and that the universe has been strategically designed for life.3 This evidence is now sufficient to rule out all theological options, but one-the Bible's. Obviously, this unexpected turn of research proves discomforting to those who reject the message of salvation in Jesus Christ alone.

In their insistence that the inescapable creator-designer cannot be the God of the Bible, these individuals grope for a replacement. Five "possibilities" have been proposed:

1. quantum tunneling

British astrophysicist Paul Davies in his book God and the New Physics locks all cause-and-effect phenomena into the time dimension of the universe. Because the act of creating represents cause and effect, and thus a time-bound activity, the evidence for the origin of time, says Davies, argues against God's agency in the creation of the universe.4

Apparently, Davies is (or was) unaware that the Bible speaks of God's causing effects even before the beginning of time.5 The Bible also speaks of the existence of dimensions beyond our time and space, extra dimensions in which God exists and operates. Such extra dimensions are now verified by scientific discoveries.6

Noting that virtual particles can pop into existence from nothingness through quantum tunneling,a Davies employs the new grand unified theories to suggest that in the same manner the whole universe popped into existence. Ironically, his argument against God's creating can now be turned against his hypothesis. Quantum mechanics is founded on the concept that quantum events occur according to finite probabilities within finite time intervals. The larger the time interval, the greater the probability that a quantum event will occur. Outside of time, however, no quantum event is possible.b Therefore, the origin of time (coincident with that of space, matter, and energy) eliminates quantum tunneling as "creator."

To Davies' credit, he has been revising his position. He recently argued that the

laws of physics "seem themselves to be the product of exceedingly ingenious design."7 Still more recently he posed this question: "If new organizational levels just pop into existence for no reason, why do we see such an orderly progression in the universe from featureless origin to rich diversity?"8 He concludes that we have "powerful evidence that there is 'something going on' behind it all."9

2. infinite chances

As amazing as it may seem, astronomers and physicists have a good understanding of the development of the universe back to when it was only 0.00000000000000000000000000000000001 (i.e., 10-34) second old. We may see some probing back to 10-43 seconds, but that represents the practical limit of research.

American astrophysicist Richard Gott has taken advantage of this infinitesimal period about which we know nothing. He proposes that there is an infinite loss of information about events before10-43 seconds. With this total loss of information, he says, anything becomes possible, including "the ability to make an infinite number of universes."10 In this "possibility" for an infinite number of universes, some non-theists see an opportunity to replace God with chance, or, more specifically, with random fluctuations of a primeval radiation field.

This question remains, however: If the universe had zero information before 10-43 seconds, how did it acquire its subsequent high information state without the input of an intelligent, personal Creator? A personal Creator is required, too, to explain the existence of the primeval radiation field.

For centuries atheists and agnostics have mocked Christians for their "God of the gaps," that is, for invoking divine miracles wherever gaps were encountered in man's understanding of the physical universe. Now we are seeing the reverse situation, the "chance of the gaps." It seems that scientists (and others) are relying on gaps, and in this case a very minute one, to give them a way around the obvious theistic implications of scientifically established facts. Surely, the burden of proof lies with those who suggest that physical conditions and physical laws were totally different in the period before 10-43 seconds.

3. no singularity

While evidence for a transcendent creation event is receiving general acceptance throughout the physical science community, there have been some notable holdouts. American theoretician Heinz Pagels, for one, refused to acknowledge that physical singularities can ever exist. He said, "The appearance of such a singularity is a good reason for rejecting the standard model of the very origin of the universe altogether."11 While admitting that Einstein's equations of general relativity, along with observationally verified conditions, do require an inevitable singularity, he nonetheless felt that in the region of ignorance at the beginning of time a loophole must exist.

Pagels' point, similar to Richard Gott's, is that astrophysicists have a good understanding of the development of the universe only as far back as 10-34 seconds after the (apparent) singular creation event. What happens before, therefore, remains an open question.

As far back as 1973 Ed Tryon suggested that a quantum mechanical fluctuation in "the vacuum" created the universe.12 Later he was joined by several other American and Russian theoreticians,13-17 all of whom have posited that by the laws of physics "nothing is unstable." While one of this group's members, the inventor of the inflationary big bang model, Man Guth, concedes that "such ideas are speculation squared," all of their models do circumvent the big bang singularity. They do not, however, circumvent the beginning of space-time-matter-energy. Thus, agreement with the Biblical doctrine of creation still stands.

One of the most elegant vacuum fluctuation models was published in 1984 when Steven Hawking teamed up with American physicist James Hartle.18, 19 Their notion is that just as a hydrogen atom can be described by a quantum mechanical wave function, so can the universe be described. Thus, the singularity disappears, and yet the entire universe still pops into existence at the beginning of time. Here is Pagels response:

This unthinkable void converts itself into the plenum of existence-a necessary consequence of physical laws. Where are these laws written into that void? What "tells" the void that it is pregnant with a possible universe? It would seem that even the void is subject to law, a logic that exists prior to space and time.20

Once again, the Biblical doctrine of creation is deduced.

Later, in his popular book A Brief History of Time (1988), Hawking reformulated his escape from the singularity:

If the universe really is in such a quantum state, there would be no singularities in the history of the universe in imaginary time. .. .The universe could be finite in imaginary time but without boundaries or singularities. When one goes back to the real time in which we live, however, there will still appear to be singularities. ... Only if [we] lived in imaginary time would [we] encounter no singularities.... in real time, the universe has a beginning and an end at singularities that form a boundary to space-time and at which the laws of science break down.21

In other words, God, who according to the Bible transcends "real time,"22 would not be confined to boundaries and singularities, but human beings and the physical universe, both of which are limited to real time, would be so confined. Hence, Hawking's famous query ("What place, then, for a creator?"23) notwithstanding, there is still no escape from the Biblical doctrine of creation.c

4. man as Creator

A case for man as the creator has been fabricated from an analogy to delayed-choice experiments in quantum mechanics. In such experiments it appears that the observer can influence the outcome of quantum mechanical events. With every quantum particle there is an associated wave. This wave represents the probability of finding the particle at a particular point in space. Before the particle is detected there is no specific knowledge of its location—only a probability of where it might be. But, once the particle has been detected, its exact location is known. In this sense, the act of observation is said by some to give reality to the particle. What is true for a quantum particle, they suggest, may be true for the universe.26, 27

In other words, the universe produces man, but man through his observations of the universe brings the universe into reality. Here we find a reflection of the question debated in freshmen philosophy classes across the land:

If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is there to see it or hear it, does it really fall?

Quantum mechanics merely shows us that in the micro world of particle physics man is limited in his ability to measure quantum effects. Since quantum entities at any moment have the potential to behave either as particles or as waves, it is impossible, for example, to accurately measure both the position and the momentum of such an entity (the Heisenberg uncertainty principle). In choosing to determine the position of the entity, the human observer loses information about its momentum.

The observer does not give "reality" to the entity, but rather the observer chooses what aspect of the reality he wishes to discern. It is not that the Heisenberg uncertainty principle disproves the principle of causality, but simply that causality in this case is hidden from human investigation. The cause of the quantum effect is not lacking, nor is it mysteriously linked to the human observation of the effect after the fact.d

This misapplication of Heisenberg's uncertainty principle is but one defect in the "observer-as-creator" propositions arising from quantum physics. Some other flaws include these:

Quantum mechanical limitations apply only to micro, not to macro, systems. The relative uncertainty approaches zero as the number of quantum particles in the system increases. Therefore, what is true for a quantum particle would not be true for the universe as a whole.

The time separation between a quantum event and its observed result is always a relatively short one (at least for the analogies under discussion). The multi-billion-year time separation between creation of the universe and of man hardly fits the picture.

The arrow of time has never been observed to reverse, nor do we see any trace of evidence that a reversal might have taken place beyond the scope of our observation. Time and causality move inexorably forward. Therefore, to suggest that human activity now somehow can affect events billions of years ago is nothing short of absurd.

Intelligence, or personality, is not a key factor in the observation of quantum mechanical events. Photographic plates, for example, are perfectly capable of recording such events.

Both relativity and the gauge theory of quantum mechanics, now established beyond reasonable doubt by experimental evidence,30 state that the correct description of nature is that in which the human observer is irrelevant.

Science has yet to produce a shred of evidence to support the notion that man created his universe.

5. universe becoming God

In The Anthropic Cosmological Principle, British astronomer John Barrow and American mathematical physicist Frank Tipler31 review many evidences for design of the universe. They go on to examine some radical versions of the anthropic principle, including the feed-back loop connection between man and the universe. Referring to such theories as PAP (participatory anthropic principle), they propose, instead, FAP (final anthropic principle).

With FAP, the life that now exists in the universe (and, according to PAP, that created the universe) will continue to evolve until it reaches a state they call the Omega Point.32 In a footnote they declare, "The totality of life at the Omega Point is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient!"33 In other words, the universe created man, man created the universe, and together the universe and man in the end will become Almighty God. New York Times book reviewer Martin Gardner gives this evaluation of their idea:

What should one make of this quartet of WAP, SAP, PAP, and FAP? In my not so humble opinion I think the last principle is best called CRAP, the Completely Ridiculous Anthropic Principle.34

In their persistent rejection of an eternal transcendent Creator-Designer, cosmologists (and others) are resorting to more and more bizarre alternatives. An exhortation from the Bible seems appropriate: "See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy."35


FOOTNOTES:

a. Quantum tunneling is the process by which quantum mechanical particles penetrate barriers that would be insurmountable to classical objects.

b. Since we lack thorough understanding about anything that occurs in that instant before the universe was 10-43 seconds old, there necessarily exists the possibility that the relationship between time and the probability for certain quantum events breaks down in that interval.

c. Hawking's stated goal "is a complete understanding of everything."24 Since the existence of the God of the Bible or singularities would guarantee that his goal would never be reached, he seeks to deny both. Ironically, his goal was proven mathematically impossible by Kurt Godel in 1930. According to Godel's in-completeness theorem, with incomplete information about a system, one cannot prove a necessarily true theorem (i.e., a one and only one description) about that system. 25

d. One can easily get the impression from the physics literature that the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics is the only accepted philosophical explanation of what is going on in the micro world. According to this school of thought: 1) There is no reality in the absence of observation; 2) Observation creates reality. Physicist Nick Herbert outlines and critiques six additional philosophical models for interpreting quantum events.28 Physicist and theologian Stanley Jaki presents yet an eighth model.29 While a clear philosophical understanding of quantum reality is not yet agreed upon, physicists do agree on the results expected from quantum events.


REFERENCES:

  1. Emerson, Allen. "A Disorienting View of God's creation, in Christianity Today, February 1,1985, p.19.
  2. Ross, Hugh. Cosmologv Confronts the Creator: New Proofs for God's Existence (Sierra Madre, CA: Reasons to Believe, 1987).
  3. Ross, Hugh. Design and the Anthropic Principle. Pasadena, Calif. Reasons to Believe, 1988).
  4. Ross, Hugh. Cosmology Confronts the Creator, pp.19-20, 24.
  5. Davies, Paul. God and the New Physics (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1983), pp.25-43, specifically pp. 38-39.
  6. 2 Timothy 1:9 and Titus 1:2, The Holy Bible.
  7. Davies, Paul. Superforce: The Search for a Grand Unified Theory of Nature (New York.. Simon and Schuster, 1984), p.243.
  8. Davies, Paul. The Cosmic Blueprint New Discoveries in Nature's Creative Ability to Order the Universe. (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1988), p.141.
  9. Ibid., p.203.
  10. Gott, J. Richard, III. "Creation of Open Universes from de Sitter Space," in Nature, 295 (1982), p.306.
  11. Pagels, Heinz R., Perfect Symmetry: The Search for the Beginning of Time. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1985), p.244.
  12. Tryon, Edward P. "Is the Universe a Vacuum Fluctuation," in Nature, 246(1973), pp.396-397.
  13. Atkatz, David and Pagels, Heinz. "Origin of the Universe as a Quantum Tunneling Event," in Physical Review D, 25 (1982), pp.2065-2073.
  14. Vilenhin, Mexander. "Creation of Universes from Nothing," in Physical Letters B, 117 (1982), pp.25-28.
  15. Zel'dovich, Yakob B. and Grishchuk, L. P. "Structure and Future of the 'New' Universe," in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 207(1984), pp. 23P-28P.
  16. Vilenkin, Alexander. "Birth of Inflationary Universes," in Physical Review D, 27(1983), pp. 2848-2855.
  17. Vilenkin, Alexander. "Quantum Creation of Universes," in Physical Review D, 30(1984), pp.509-511.
  18. Hartle, James B. and Hawking, Stephen W. "Wave Function of the Universe," in Physical Review D, 28(1983), pp.2960-2975.
  19. Hawking, Stephen W. "The Quantum State of the Universe," in Nuclear Physics B, 239 (1984), pp.257-276.
  20. Pagels, Heinz R, p.347.
  21. Hawking, Stephen W. A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes. (New York: Bantam Books, 1988), p.139.
  22. 2 Timothy 1:9 and Titus 1:2, The Holy Bible, New International Version.
  23. Hawking, Stephen W., p.141.
  24. Adler, Jerry, Lubenow, Gerald C., and Malone, Maggie. "Reading God's Mind," in Newsweek, June 13(1988), p.59.
  25. Jaki, Stanley L. Cosmos and Creator (Edinburgh, U. K.: Scottish Academic Press, 1980), pp.49-54.
  26. Wheeler, John Archibald. "Bohr, Einstein, and the Strange Lesson of the Quantum," in Mind in Nature, edited by Richard Q. Elvee (New York: Harper and Row, 1981), p.18.
  27. Greenstein, George. The Symbiotic Universe: Life and Mind in the Cosmos (New York: William Morrow, 1988), p.223.
  28. Herbert, Nick. Quantum Reality: Beyond the New Physics: An Excursion into Metaphysics and the Meaning of Reality New York: Anchor Books, Doubleday, 1987), pp. 16-29.
  29. Jaki, Stanley L. Cosmos and Creator (Edinburgh, U.K.: Scottish Academic Press, 1980), pp.9698.
  30. Trefil, James S. The Moment of Creation (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1983), pp.91-101.
  31. Barrow, John D. and Tipler, Frank J. The Anthropic Cosmological Principle (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986).
  32. Ibid., p.677.
  33. Ibid., pp. 677, 682.
  34. Gardner, Martin. "WAP, SAP, PAP, and FAP." in The New York Review of Books, Vol.23, May 8, 1986, No.8, pp.22-25.
  35. Colossians 2:8, The Holy Bible, New International Version.

Subjects: Laws of Physics, Life Design, Quantum Physics, Universe Design

Dr. Hugh Ross

Reasons to Believe emerged from my passion to research, develop, and proclaim the most powerful new reasons to believe in Christ as Creator, Lord, and Savior and to use those new reasons to reach people for Christ. Read more about Dr. Hugh Ross.