Does God Know About Quantuum Mechanics?

I was answering a comment from Richard C. which made me think of this.

It has been established via experiment that Einstein was wrong and that randomness is a fundamental feature of the quantuum mechanical description of reality. Scientists are even now using entaglement in the lab to ‘teleport’ information (in the form of transfering states fromone entangled atom to the other) inthe hopes of making this suprising fact about nature useful (relativity physics has never even come close to being so useful!). The question, then, is can an omniscient being know in advance the outcome of the random quantuum events? Either way you answer there is trouble.

If you say that God cannot know the outcome of the events then there is an obvious limitation of God’s knowledge. With respect to quantuum mechanics He can do no better than us! He knows the outcome of the events in the form of probabilities, but just like us He is unable to say in any given case what the outcome will be. But the Quantuum Mechanics is surely the greatest discovery in the history of the universe! For, if this is true then we have discovered God’s knowedge of the universe…but this sounds crazy! So it seems to me that there is strong pressure to say that God does indeed know the outcome, in advance, of all quantuum events.

But then there is a seperate problem. Forget for the moment the issue of whether His foreknowledge is compatible with the outcome being truely random and consider the double slit experiment (I assume you know what that is, if not let me know and I’ll give a description). One of the strangest things that we have found out about it over the last thirty years or so is that if there is a way for us to know the path that the photon actually takes, and so determine which slit it actually travels through, then the interference pattern no longer manifests. What we get is ‘nothing but us particles down hir sir’. In Green’s book The Fabric of the Cosmos he details experiemnts he calls ‘quantuum erasures’ where they showed that what matters is whether someone could know the path taken by the photon. Tis is obviously extremely strange and anti-common sense, but it is a robust experimental finding. But now consider God. If He knows the path that the photon takes then it will not act like a wave. It will act like a particle. So from God’s point of view particle physics has to be correct. Since He is always holding the door of the refrigerator open, metaphorically speaking, the light inside will always be on. But this really reduces to the first option in claiming that God can’t have any direct knowledge of quantuum physics.

In fact one might think that if God did in fact exist then we couldn’t have discovered quamntuum mechanics in the first place.  

15 thoughts on “Does God Know About Quantuum Mechanics?

  1. if there is a way for us to know the path that the photon actually takes, and so determine which slit it actually travels through, then the interference pattern no longer manifests.

    But I guess God wouldn’t need to learn things in any such “way”. If he’s separate from the physical world, then no QM events will be affected by his knowledge. (I assume the physical theory really only makes reference to worldly knowers, right? It’s the causal interactions required for empirical knowledge of QM events that raise the problems.)

  2. I don’t think it is the causal interaction that does it…in the experiments they used a ‘beam-splitter’ which alowed them to manipulate the experiment such that in some cases the information *could* be extracted, whereas in the otehr it *couldn’t* …It isn’t the causal interaction…it is merely whether or not the infirmation is obtainable…God would have, the causal business doesn’t count against that.

  3. There are a number of confusions here. First, it is wrong to say that “It has been established via experiment that Einstein was wrong and that randomness is a fundamental feature of the quantuum mechanical description of reality.” Bohmian Mechanics, and Everett Interpretations are very live contenders for interpretation of QM, and neither one them involves any indeterminism.

    Second, even if we assume that the correct interpretation of QM involves inderterminism, the details matter. The most popular stochastic account of QM is probably GRW. On the GRW interpretation, put crudely, the photon spontaneously “picks a side” with a probability proportional to the numbers of particles it is entangled with. So, when we measure it, we make it overwhelmingly like to collapse its state function because we (and our measuring instruments) are made up of a large number of particles. I’m an atheist, so I have no views on the matter, but I imagine that most believers in a supreme dictator dont believe Him to be made out of any particles at all.

    In short, without knowing details about the purported mechanism by which God is meant to learn about the future state of the photon, and without a well-worked-out story about measurement in QM (something that is sorely lacking), its impossible to say whether God knowledge would be expected to bring about “wave collapse.”

  4. I think the Many Worlds Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics meshes interestingly with an omniscient transcendent being. God could simply be transcendent of the quantum multiverse, and thus to him, all futures (and indeed, all physically possible worlds) would be on equal footing. Thus, he “knows” what the future will hold, but in a weird sense. He doesn’t know “the future,” because there is no “THE future.” But he knows exactly what will happen in each possible world. (This sort of argument could probably be applied to other interpretations of quantum physics, but many worlds presents a nice way of picturing it, I think.) Of course, such a hypertranscendent point of view would be very odd and thus not easily meshable with traditional religion, and I do not really believe in God anyway so I don’t really care, but it doesn’t seem immediately contradictory.

  5. Hi UserGoogol,

    Thanks for the comment! Yeah, if I could find someone who believed that then it would be easy to run the proof that I have been working on that God’s omniscience is not compatible with Human free will…but I don’t know of anyone who accepts that kind of view…However if the Everett view is every shown to be overwhelmingly likely to be the correct view then one could argue that this forces them to accept the view of God’s knowledge that you suggest…

  6. As I understand it quantum mechanics refers to systems. So lets say a cat in a pefect box observes a photon movement – he makes that movement real in regard to himself but not me unless I open the box. There could be a series of these boxes and with each box opening two parts of the universe come ‘into phase’ with eachother – ie they start being able to talk about eachother in specific terms.

  7. OK Ill try again quickly…

    Most modern physicists would say that there is nothing mystical about consciousness causing decoherence – it is just a matter of two systems coming into alignment.

    Eliezer would describe it much better than me, maybe you have seen some of his posts on quantum physics. Anyway he models it by saying decoherence isn’t caused by observation per se – it is just caused by creating a large difference between the wave function of option A and option B so they can no longer interfere.* Observation does this because we are complex systems and if we see a light go on or off as part of an experiment it creates a big difference between the wave functions of the systems.

    For god to cause decoherence he would not only need to observe the event, he would also need to
    1) be changed by it
    2) be able to be significantly different (in wave function) from what he would otherwise have been
    3) to himself be a wave function that can become a component of a greater wave function (him plus the photon lets say).

    I imagine one could have trouble with all of those.

    *imagine that there are multiple universes containing all the possible outcomes and they ‘overlap’ depending on how similar they are.

  8. Well, thanks for the clarification, but I don’t see how this is supposed to be an objection to me.

    The point of these experiments is that it is our ability to determine which path the photn took that matters; even if we don’t interfere directly with the photon, or even if we do it at some later point in time. So, it isn’t observation that doing it, I agree. It is our having knowledge that does it. Sure, we happen to het the knowledge empirically, but why think that that matters? The lesson here is that it is just the fact that we could figure out which path information that does the trick, we don’t, as far as I understand, actually have to go and get the which path information. The fact that we could get it is enough, Why should we expect that God gets around this? He has perfect knoweldge and so can’t help but know which path information. Not only could he get it, but he can’t help but have it. Since it is the mere possibility that we could get the information that determines which result we see it can’t simply be explained as only a product of our way of knowing about the world. It is a consequence of being able to know at all, in principio.

  9. oh what I’m suggesting is probably false is this

    “If He knows the path that the photon takes then it will not act like a wave. It will act like a particle.”

    Simply – God has a number of special traits that mean I wouldn’t expect him to cause decoherence in accordance with modern quantum physics theory.

    The key issue is that your average quantum physicist would just deny that the theory on which you are basing this argument is a proper definition of what is happening – no one that is robust enough to do the work we are asking of it.

  10. I think the claims here on the Quantum side are great, nice article, incredible observations and experiments here. The problem comes with the God part, in my opinion. Just because your dad made you a chair to sit in, and when you test the chair, it seems to work the same way for everyone, that doesn’t mean that chair is the one your Dad will be sitting in.
    I think it’s a bit of a stretch to think God would be subject to rules as we understand them.

    In general, God to us, could be like us talking to an single cell organism.

    I believe research, study, observations, etc… are necessary things that must continue, as it seems to be in out nature to want to understand.
    However, when we claim to achieve an understanding that we believe would be equal with ‘God’, I think it’s pride.

    I could argue and say that perhaps some other combination of dimensions may show extended evidence that we don’t see here in part of the experiment, but even saying that would be a speculation, and could be largely incorrect in complex ways we can’t even understand.

    If I tell a worm to come on inside my house and I will feed it, turn on the TV, and maybe sit down afterwards together and discuss my day at work, the worm will have no idea of anything I’m talking about. We could be the same way in regards to ‘God’, where the truth simply is outside of our capabilities.

    That doesn’t mean to stop assuming, or stop researching, or guessing, or proving facts in our realm of understanding, etc… That is the nature of who we are, and is a wonderful thing about the Human race. It’s exciting, it’s mysterious, it’s fun, and much more…

    All it means is, we shouldn’t assume just because we believe we made a discovery, that everything else known and unknown in this existence, is subject to those rules too.

    Awesome article, I love the way it’s broken down into sections of each meaningful modification to the experiment, and its resulting observations!

    Also, I commend you for having God in the experiment in a real, and genuine way, without invoking the atheists Vs. God believers, or my God Vs. your False God, etc…
    The more articles I see that include God, and are also intelligent, educating and meaningful, increase my faith in mankind, that one day, maybe we will all find peace and work together to achieve in the direction of full speed ahead with different cultures and genders working side by side with all they have, with respect for all.

    Thanks again for this awesome article!!

    I have been looking everywhere, trying to find a home based Kit for less than 1-2K, where Double Slit, Eraser, Entanglement experiments could be run at home, outside of a stocked up lab.

    I’m not having the luck I hoped.
    I’ve found a few that are pretty low accuracy, so you may or may not see clear results every time, but you will see them sometimes.

    I would leave to hear of any kits people know of, or have details of how to construct,

    Thanks,

    Trevor Chandler

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