Does Quantum Mechanics Have Any Connection to Religion?

The best and most famous physicists of the twentieth century were by definition superlatively imaginative and creative individuals. The theories they espoused were about a mechanistic and deterministic world. But the source of their inspired theories was neither of those things. Spirit exists in the sphere of subjectivity, allowing free agents to intervene in the objective world of things. Human beings, and other sentient creatures, are not objects and they are not things. They have an objective aspect but what makes them special and significant is their interior – cut off from and invisible to the world of science.

Physics examines only exteriors. Quantum mechanics concerns atoms, photons, electrons, and subatomic particles. Whitehead speculated that even these items might have some minimal interiors which avoids the idea that consciousness somehow emerges from purely physical sources in the form of emergent complexity; a superadded epiphenomenal thing coming from matter.

At the most, some objects in the world are symbols and indirect evidence of spiritual reality. A painting points to imagination and creativity, and so do the laws of physics considered as divulged by the human mind. The painting as an object, and the laws of physics as laws, however, are just parts of objective reality.

Most physicists will never rise to the level of a Planck, a Shroedinger, or a Bohr, and lack the imagination and creativity to do so. They can admire the truth of their theories and the theories’ abilities to predict the motion of objects. But most of them, perhaps, cannot imagine the interior richness of original physicists. They get caught up in what the finger is pointing at, but remain unaware of, or at least unconcerned with, the nature of the mind directing the finger.

Many of the great twentieth century physicists wrote books for the general public, but they did not claim that physics had religious implications. What they wrote was that there is so much more to reality than physics can possibly touch on. They were encouraging people not to become so impressed with the objective sciences that they come to ignore what the objective sciences omit.

Quantum entanglement and superpositionality have intriguing sounding names which are emotively suggestive – like the hearts of two lovers being entwined – but they are still properties of objects, objectively described. They are still deterministic. There is no hint of freedom in those ideas, and it is Freedom that is the signal property of the spiritual. Berdyaev goes so far as to say that God is not the creator of the physical universe. God is spirit and has nothing really to do with the physical. God is not to be found in war, violence, nor in deterministic processes. God is there in imagination, intuition, creativity, love, and freedom.

Movements like theosophy are mistakes. They take religious topics and examine them in a science-like manner, where the supernatural lies on top of the natural. Heaven is just another dimension of objective reality. But spiritual reality is not superadded to physical reality. Post-rational consciousness is not on top of rational consciousness. The spiritual is mysterious and interior. Human beings can become overwhelmed by the world of objects and lose faith in anything else. Religious movements that seek to describe spiritual realities objectively just contribute to man’s alienation from his spiritual nature.

Intellectual proofs of God’s existence all fail. Plato recognized thousands of years ago that we are far more than a thin rationality. The question of God’s existence is an existential point involving faith and hope, and the heart. It would be surprising if anyone at all has to come to believe in God because of purely intellectual arguments. And even if they did, the resulting belief would be thin, anemic and worthless. It would be a conviction of the head and not the chest.

21 thoughts on “Does Quantum Mechanics Have Any Connection to Religion?

  1. Pingback: Does Quantum Mechanics Have Any Connection to Religion? | Reaction Times

      • There was a certain clash with expectations. Usually, when I see a title “Is X related to Y?” where X and Y are not things usually thought to be related, it turns out the author is going to argue that they are related in a way the rest of us haven’t considered.

        In fact, I should have read the title in the rhetorical “What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?” kind of way, in which the answer “nothing” is supposed to be obvious once the question is posed clearly.

      • Hi, Bonald – There is a book called “The Physics of God” and many others like it that suggest that QM has mystical implications often to do with the observer making a difference in what is observed and that kind of thing.

  2. Modernity is a phase of contracting consciousness and a concomitant restriction of imagination: The attempt to explain everything by the application of mechanistic models belongs to the trend of gradual stupefaction.

      • Hi, Cassiodorus – man is more than intellect and reason. Those things need to be informed by emotion and volition with regard to spiritual matters – hence faith and doubt.

        Descartes – God is perfect. Existence is a perfection. Therefore, God exists.
        The effect can’t be greater than the cause. Therefore, the cause of the idea of God must be God Himself.

        Fine-tuning argument – The four forces of physics, strong, weak, electromagnetic, and gravity have to be exactly what they are for life and the universe as we know it to exist. What are the chances of those forces being exactly what they need to be. Therefore, God exists.

        Without a first cause, explanation is impossible. Explanation is possible. Therefore, God exists.

        I regard all those arguments as dry and essentially worthless. The fine-tuning argument exerts a certain lukewarm curiosity for me, but that’s it. Never, possibly, has anyone been converted from atheism and become a devout believer because of such arguments. Even if intellectual assent is given to them, how is the heart affected? As far as I am concerned, this is all just fine. If God’s existence could be proved as a matter of intellectual certainty we would have no choice but to believe, in which case such belief would be worthless and humankind would be turned into slaves – hence in the three temptations of Christ, Christ refuses to throw himself down from a tower and get himself saved by God.

        The argument from morality which appeals to one’s sense that right and wrong exist, and from the pangs of conscience, is a nice reminder of the reality of God. But the pangs of conscience are as much a matter of feeling as thinking.

      • “Never, possibly, has anyone been converted from atheism and become a devout believer because of such arguments”

        I did. So it has at least happened once.

      • Having been raised without religion, other than intellectual proofs, why would I start believing in God? Any reason you give me would be a kind of intellectual proof, wouldn’t it? Even an apostle converting people by performing a miracle requires an implicit intellectual proof.

      • Certainly any reason I could give you would involve an intellectual aspect, but without an emotional and volitional component, I don’t see it being of much worth. Faith and hope, by definition, go beyond syllogistic reasoning. If I appeal only to your intellect, the most likely response is glum assent because you can’t think of a clever response. I regard the argument from the sacred to have an existential appeal to the whole man. https://orthosphere.wordpress.com/2017/11/17/the-sacred-is-indispensable-an-argument-for-the-existence-of-god/

        Which purely intellectual argument, precisely, did it for you? One of the ones I mentioned?

      • My first exposure to arguments for the existence of God came in Feser’s “The Last Superstition”. IIRC, he mostly focused on arguments from a first cause. If I can recall my own mindset at the time, I think I was most influenced by the utter demolition of materialism and my own realization that I would need to adopt some kind of formal realism. At that point, I think God really did follow from some kind of chain of syllogistic reasoning.

        I do think that there is a volitional component to belief, but belief has to be grounded in reason if there is to be any justification for it. I can’t force myself to believe that there are an odd number of stars in the universe through sheer tyranny of will.

        Also of course, there is an emotional reaction to belief in God. Once one understands what God is and that He exists, the appropriate reaction is worship. It is right and just. I don’t think the emotional reaction is evidence of the truth of a proposition, though. I think that it is is an LDS teaching incidentally.

  3. I find the theory of QM not unhelpful to my faith, and as a Catholic I believe that Faith and Reason do not contradict. It’s only a theory of course, but it has certainly thoroughly undermined the materialist, determinist model that preceded it and has introduced an uncertainty which allows room for Free Will. I find it easy to concur with a theory that explicitly disallows the action of the observer from being included in its own equations. I find it not discouraging that there has been no success whatsoever in providing a physical explanation for the phenomenon of wave vector collapse.

    • Hi, mickvet – Zamyatin’s dystopian novel “We” imagines a world where everyone and all life is reduced to an equation. Responding to the Bolshevik idea of a perfect society a prerequisite is the surgical removal of imagination. There is no free will in objectification. Free will does not come from the object, but the subject, and the subject is excluded from all science. Begging for scraps from the door of science is fruitless. It is scientists who have the final say about science. We laymen pick up on words like “uncertainty” and see a glimmer of hope there but that is to give in to the scientistic (not scientific) impulse. I think you will find that what scientists mean by ‘uncertainty” and what you have in mind are two different things. Freedom for a scientist is the same as giving up. Most of them, I have the impression, can make no sense of the concept of freedom at all and instead subscribe to determinism. QM reduces things to exact probabilistic equations. If there is indeterminacy, and that is connected to randomness in any way, that still has nothing to do with free will. But I am immediately getting in over my head here. Suffice to say that being able to calculate probabilities also is not consistent with freedom.

      “The Physics of God,” I notice, is written by a meditation instructor, not a physicist. This seems the height of hubris. Telling scientists what their theories mean is unwise. Ask the person with training in the field, not the uninitiated. I get annoyed listening to scientists trying to do philosophy of mind or discuss ethics. They are hopeless and I don’t want to return the favor.

      Also, to live by the sword is to die by the sword. If QM strengthens your faith as you currently understand QM, then, if a) You turn out to be mistaken about what QM is really saying or b) QM theories change drastically in another direction or a grand unifying theory alters the context of understanding, then this ought to undermine your religious faith. But mostly, don’t give in to the scientistic impulse! Science is not even trying to solve religious or metaphysical issues. Science doesn’t have all the answers because science doesn’t have all the questions.

  4. Pingback: Cantandum in Ezkhaton 11/03/19 | Liberae Sunt Nostrae Cogitatiores

  5. My faith isn’t dependent on QM being true-that’s why I pointed out that ‘it’s only a theory’. I know well the limitations of science, but I would put even less emphasis on emotion. The latter leads to fideism, a heresy. The Church teaches that the soul comprises of will and intellect, it makes no mention of emotion. As we are made in the image of God, it is therefore not unreasonable to assume that God is Intellect. God is a Scientist, so to speak. He created the material world. It is only logical that it is scientifically comprehensible. However, human science and its scientists have got above themselves, to the degree that they assert there is no God and that they themselves possess the knowledge of a God. I think human science can be a pointer to understanding the world God created, but I would think that, like Aquinas, in terms of Reality, it is ‘mere straw’. I doubt that man has the mental capacity to work out the workings of a Universe created by an Unlimited Intellect, all science is producing are models that temporarily correspond with Reality until its complexity inevitably defies it once more.

    To my own mind, I don’t think that we are at all limited by determinism. You say that to the scientist freedom is the equivalent of ‘giving up’. Perhaps they should, because the ultimate lesson of QM is that physics as scientists like to understand it isn’t real. All it can describe is potential, not actuality. They claim they can measure physical reality, but without a consciousness to read the result, all physical measurements lead to a chain of infinite regress, and they are unable to describe consciousness, hence their tendency to deny its existence. But, to me, its the reality of physics itself that’s in question. I’m not trying to deny corporeal reality, just saying physicists have a long way to go to prove it’s physical.

    I am well aware of the scientistic impulse. Scientists should also be aware that the subject of ‘meaning’ lies outside their field, but instead many of them arrogantly assert that they are the only source of it. Personally, I’d be inclined to think a meditation instructor might be far more capable of deriving meaning from science than its prejudiced, narrow-minded professional exponents.

    • To my mind, one of the most profound things ever written is Corinthians 1-13 emphasizing the importance of love, and stating that knowledge without love is worthless. God as intellect sounds horrible to me and Aristotelian – and thus Thomistic. God is Truth, Beauty, Goodness, Love, and Freedom. In order to want to pursue Truth and Goodness, one has to consider them beautiful, hence love of beauty comes before knowledge.

      If the precondition of being deemed acceptable by the Church is to agree that soul is will and intellect and nothing else, I am happy to be anathematized. But, thanks for commenting!

      • For goodness sake, nobody’s anathematising anyone! God is all you say He is, but He is also Intellect, and you wouldn’t be able to appreciate all these things without your intellect, except maybe in a very limited way. You perhaps suggest I have a limited, narrow view of God, but maybe you’re taking a limited, narrow view of the intellect. I agree, Love is primary, but our being here is a result of God combining Love and Intellect.

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