God and Quantum Mechanics: Round Two

I was re-reading the comments on an earlier post where I proposed a dilemma for God’s knowledge of the nature of the reality. I argued that if God knows the outcome of the the random events hypothesized in (some interpretations of) quantum mechanics then his knoweldge of these outcomes will interfere with the physical process in such a way as to ‘hide’ the wave-like nature of matter. If this is the case then God’s knowledge is necessarily limited and we would have discovered something about nature that God can’t know (i.e. that matter has wave-like properties).

 In the comments the main response, given separately by Richard C. and Eric Weinberg, seemed to be that God’s knowledge would be achieved in such a way that it did NOT interfere with the physical process. It would not bring out the collapse of the wave-function and so His knowledge is not mysterious. I disagreed with this objection, but then I started thinking that even if I grant the objection there is still a problem here. So let’s grant it and assume that God knows the outcome of teh random physical process in such a way that it does not disturb the process and so does not collapse the wave-function.

 But if that is the case then we have the same, but opposite, problem that we had before. Instead of the wave-like nature of reality being ‘hidden’ from God, it now looks like it is the particle-like nature of reality that is ‘hidden’. For, if His knowledge does not collapse the wave-function then He won’t ever see the constituents of reality acting like particles!

Either way, it looks like we have discovered something about reality that God couldn’t have discovered on His own…

29 thoughts on “God and Quantum Mechanics: Round Two

  1. The reason is because knowledge of the outcome seems to effect the outcome…

    Which possibilities are you talking about? The many worlds interpretation? I go back and forth thinking that this interpretation solves the problem and that it doesn’t…why do you think it solves the problem?

  2. I was thinking about the possibility that how the wave collapses not to be genuine randomness, but that it is determined by phenomena related to non-locality. (AFAIK local hidden variables can’t work given Bell’s inequality, but Bohm, I think, show that non-local hidden variables might work).

    But in any case, there is an easy way out for people that believe in God, and that is to deny that physical realm is closed, that is, one can say that the collapses are determined but not from reasons that can be found in the physical realm. In fact they might say that QM is just one needs to expect, if one is to allow a)for the laws of physics not to be broken while b)God can do whatever he still wants (and not just God, but anything that is not reducible to the physical)

  3. Yeah, I don’t think that any of these suggestions (Bohm’s, Everett’s) avoides the problem I am trying to point out. So, as far as I understand Bohm’s theory, when we measure something we end up with ‘wave gaps’ or ’empty channells’ so that it looks like (from our perspective) that there have been a collapse of the wave function even though there really isn’t. If so the problem just reappears.

    Either God’s knowledge of QM results in ’empty chanells’ or not and either way you come down on this issue there will be some aspect of reality ‘hidden’ from Him…

    And yes one can deny that the physical world is causally closed, but then why pay attention to science and its laws at all? There is overwhelming evidence for causal closure…or so it seems to me…but again, even if one makes this move the problem is still there…The problem is that whatever the mechanism is that solves the measurment probelm we face the dillema aboev. Either God’s knowledge effects it or not, and either way we answer there is a ‘hidden’ aspect of reality…

  4. Why pay attention to science and its laws?

    That the descriptions of physics don’t fully describe the system (i.e. don’t include all the reasons for behavior of the system), doesn’t mean that they are useless.
    Compare the relation between physical laws as reasons for the system behaving in certain way and the full reasons (which are not reducible to physical), to the relation between Newtonian and Einsteinian gravity. Newtonian gravity isn’t ‘closed’ (in the sense that it doesn’t include all the reasons/variables), but is still useful.

    There is overwhelming evidence for causal closure

    Buying into principle of sufficient reason + that no physical reason determines the collapse => there are non-physical reasons which determine the collapse. Hence denying the closure. (I don’t know evidence against this)

    The problem is that whatever the mechanism is that solves the measurement problem we face the dilema above. Either God’s knowledge effects it or not, and either way we answer there is a ‘hidden’ aspect of reality

    If universe is deterministic, and if God knows how everything will come out, given knowledge of all the reasons, I don’t see what is left hidden. (Of course, God *can* affect anything if he wants, but doesn’t have to).

  5. DRAT!!!!!!!!!

    It happened again! I had typed out a long response and then somehow it disappears! Shit.

    Here’s a quick summary.

    Re 1: What you point out is explanatory closure. That does not entail teh truth or falsity of causal closure. So, Einstien gives a physical account of what gravity is, but it might have been the case (before hand) that there were some non-physical explanation for it. On this note, we have NEVER had to appeal to some non-physical property to explain ANYTHING.

    Re 2: Saying a process is random is not saying that there is no cause of it, or that there is not a reason that it happens. The random process involves a cause that does not have a determinte effect.

    Re 3: You may be missing the point I am trying to make. Let me try to put it a slightly different way. Consider the universe before God created human beings. In that univers God knows all of the out comes of all of the quantum mechanical events. Now, either his knoweledge effects these events or it doesn’t. If it does then matter will behave in the particle way and the universe will have one determinete path (call it A). If His knowledge does NOT effect the quantum mechanical processes then matter will behave in wave way and the universe will take a diffent determinete path (call it B). Now suppose that God never decides to create mankind, or any other observers of the pysical world. If He knows A, then how could he know B (that would require that He both know and not know the outcomes). And if He knows B, how could He know A (that would require that He not know and know the outcomes)…

  6. Yikes! Sorry about that. Somebody should make a tool for the browsers that saves what we enter in text boxes from time to time… Let me write this in Notepad just in case 🙂

    1. Re. explanatory vs. causal closure. If there are non-physical reasons why the collapse happens this and not that way, then there is a physical event whose (sufficient) cause is not fully in the physical realm. I think that it is a case of denying casual closure? … We seem to have a case where we don’t have physical property through which we will explain why certain system collapses this and not that way.

    2. True, I used ‘random’ in sense of denying sufficient cause, not any type of cause.

    3.Thanks for recapitulating. God knows that outcome of the collapses only for those that do happen. So, yes, if there are no collapses (say, because there are no people to perform measurements), he wouldn’t know outcomes of the collapses, but as there are no collapses, he still isn’t missing anything in his knowledge.
    He also knows that there could have been colapses (I guess he can do counterfactuals 🙂 ). He knows that the waves CAN be collapsed, he knows what it takes to collapse them, and he knows given what kind of reasons how the collapse would go. He simple knows that because he knows how world functions. After all he created it 🙂

    I wonder if the problem in your argument is that you are assuming that in the state of affairs there is both the state of the system in form of wave equation AND the definite values for the measurables. So, that God needs to know either one or the other. But I don’t think that the measurables HAVE definite values unless the collapse happens.

  7. “The reason is because knowledge of the outcome seems to effect the outcome…”

    this is because there are no ways to passively measure both the velocity and the position of a particle without affecting it. same with electromagnetic phenomena, your measurement will mess with what you’re measuring. this wouldn’t be a limitation if it’d happen, say, in a virtual reality (e.g. God’s mind).

    also, what’s with the capitalized pronouns when talking about God. it looks retarded.

  8. Hey Reinis,

    thanks for the comment. Instead of writing a long response, I put it up as a seperate post. As for the capitalized pronouns, that is a convention that we use to indicate that we are not talking about just anybody…uh, the same reason, I presume, that you yourself used a capital ‘G’ when reffering to Him. As for looking retarded or not, I can’t say…but you might consider how retarded it looks when you don’t capitalize the beginings of your sentences…

    Thanks for the response Tanasije. I think I answered you (3) in the new post. Please let me know if I haven’t.

    Re 1 & 2, why would you think there are EVER any non-physical reasons for some physical event? In Newtonian mechanics we have an UNKNOWN but why assume that that means NON-PHYSICAL? Also, why can’t the cause be necessary and sufficient and yet the effect is non-determinate?

  9. Hi Richard,

    About 1&2. I just don’t see any positive evidence for claiming a)there is no sufficient reason for the collapse happening in certain way, and not otherwise and b)there is physical reason for the collapse happening in certain way and not otherwise.
    Plus we know that it can’t be the type of reason that we usually relate with physical cases, that is some unknown local variables. So, you ask, even if there is no evidence, what is the reason I would believe that there are non-physical reasons (and not e.g. a or b). I guess, because it fits with my web of beliefs. (That physicalism nor dualism can work, that physical is merely an aspect, hence the physical description underdetermines the actual state of affairs, that physical laws are metaphysically necessary relations among aspects of the physical aspect but as the physical description is not fully determining the system, there need to be some other reasons which would determine its behavior besides that aspect, etc…)

    Re. sufficient causes, I was thinking something like – If there is sufficient cause for QM measurement giving value X, measurement will necessarily produce value X, and not any other value. So in such case the effect can’t be non-determinate.

    About 3, very interesting examples in your new post, I will need to think about that.

  10. But that it agrees with your web of belief is just code for question beging…

    Again, same for the sufficient cause stuff. I see that you are assuiming that ‘sufficient cause’ means ‘necessary’ but why? If the world truely turns out to have random processes then it may well be the case that some physical event is necessary and sufficient for some non-determinate effect. To just stipulate otehrwise is to beg the question…we need an argument….

  11. I’m just saying that your argument (at least as I read it before your last post, not sure if the new example essentially changes something) doesn’t work IF we take some option to be true (that is that there are non-physical causes, and that they along with the physical causes make sufficient cause for whatever happens). So, as far we agree that it is logically possible, I don’t think that I need to present arguments FOR it. Especially because that it is a kind of option, which people who believe in God would be inclined to accept.

    As for ‘sufficient cause’,let me say on example how I’m thinking of it, so to avoid some misunderstanding. I’m saying that “if Q is a sufficient cause of P”, then “if Q, it will be P” (and not P1, P2, etc.. which would negate P).
    I would take that non-determinate effect would mean, that given Q, sometimes it might be P,some times P1, some times P2. But if Q is sufficient cause for P, I don’t see how such non-determinate effect would be possible?

  12. *perhaps* but that was never my argument…it was always the one in the newer post…(see the original post)

    And I agree that that is the standard way that sufficient condition is handled in standar first-order logic (i.e. as the material conditional)…but the point is that IF nature turns out to be stochastic (that is, if it turns out that there are random processes in nature) then we will have to revise our notion of sufficient conditions…one way to do this might be to adopt a three-valued logic (T, F, Neither). This would allow us to keep the insight behing the standard material conditional, being that if Q is true then P isn’t false…P may be true, or it may be neither…this is an empirical question…what the correct account of sufficient conditions turns out to be depends on what we find out about the world…

  13. I would simply like to point out that we are under the assumption that god is a personified being. I would like to propose a different theory.

    We have noticed that the quantum state of a particle or wave is directly influenced by a few different elements. Quantum entaglement, observers effects, etc.

    So let us assume that, at the begining, there were no observers or quamtum entaglements. Let’s also assume that, without these factors, the quantum state of all matter was simply a series of waves. Let us also take the stance that all things in the universe are precise, albeit random, algorythms. With these two assumptions, let’s now say that the waves eventually collided in an appropriate manner to create the essential foundations of consciousness. The actual equation of a conscious state would immediately create a universal observer, effecting the quantum state of matter and producing particles. Suddenly, the particles collide and BOOM. Under this assumption, God would no longer be a traditional personification of our doubts, but instead, the initial consciousness which created the universe as we know it. If this were the case, then “God” would know the outcome because it is this “consciousness” (or equation) which effects the quantum state of all matter in the universe and thus it would inherently “know” (or effect) the state of things.

  14. Hi Jerimiah Owens, thanks for the comment!

    That’s an interesting idea, but I was only trying to present a problem for those who think that God is an all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving being who consciously created the univers and all of those in it. So, you are right to point out that I was assuming a personified God. I don’t think that this kind of argument poses any problems for the kind of thing which you are proposing.

  15. Ah, forgive me for getting off topic then. I was merely posing a theory that could satisfy both sides.

  16. Here is an interesting (I think) further twist…
    Physics World: Quantum physics says goodbye to reality.

    I believe that the error comes in assuming that reality is one way or the other, independent of the process of measurement.

    It isn’t that God knows either that A is the case or B is the case and then we go and measure to prove God is wrong, but that God knows what the apparatus is and can do the quantum mechanics to figure out what the apparatus will measure. There is no defined state of reality apart from that.

  17. >For, if His knowledge does not collapse the wave-function then He won’t ever see the constituents of reality acting like particles!

    I reply: Classic Theism teaches us God’s Knowlege & Omnicience is ACTUAL not experiental or potental.

    Analogously if God “walked around a room” he wouldn’t need to “see” objects in front of him to avoid bumping into them. He would ACTUALLY know where they are & could avoid bumping into them.

    These thought experiments are interesting but you anthropomophize God too much. Aristole, Aquinas & Maimonides would have no if it.

  18. >Right, and it is our ACTUALLY knowing that causes the problem, so this response doesn’t help…

    I reply: Is it knowing or physically measuring?

  19. I am not qualified to talk on par with you guys. I just have a question: If we are, indeed, talking about a Personified God, and all the “omni’s” mentioned prior pertain, AND we are talking of the Creator, one who made some thing out of nothing, ex nihilo, why do we feel he would be bound by the laws of the system he created? Far different than us fashioning an engine and being bound by the laws of physics that make the engine run, would an entity that actually had the ability to create the natural system/laws in any way be bound by them? I’m just asking, because I don’t know the answer.

  20. Hi nicmyshkin,

    That is a very good question. Philosophers have gone different ways on this. I myself tend to be sympathetic to the idea that God is bound by the laws of logic even though he created them. Isn’t it the case that we can make a machine that limits our power? Suppose, like in I Robot, we create some artificial intelligence that takes over and enslaves humanity. We created that intelligence and in so doing we limited our power. Perhaps God making the laws of logic is like that.

  21. I’d tend to think that the laws are more a reflection of god and asking him to breach the laws of physics is like asking him to contradict himself. So the question never arises.

    As Stephen hawking would say when you have the “theory of everything” then you will have seen into “the mind of God”.

    Afterall if he needs to modify the laws on the fly it would seem to imply he made a mistake when he wrote the law in the first place and that breaches one of our basic assumptions about god.

  22. Dilemmas and paradoxes unsolvable are the constant diet of human knowledge because man is a delimited knower.

    Think about that.

    Will man ever see everything as God or the hypothetical God the necessary being creator of everything with a beginning sees everything in His God’s way?

    That is for you to find out if and when you get to be with God.

    So it is useful to you to believe that God the necessary being creator of everything with a beginning wants you to be with Him one day.

    But even then when if ever you are with God, it does not mean that you will know everything God knows in the way God knows, impossible because you are still a creature and God is the creator that is why.

    But you will know that with God there are no dilemmas and paradoxes which He does not know about in a human way of knowing, but for Him and you should know that and be forever happily amazed, God has created everything to be in perfect harmony as He himself is pure harmony.


  23. A device that is measuring “which-path” information will destroy the interference between the paths, even if the data are destroyed before anybody looks at them. So, if the key issue is knowing rather than measuring, then Richard Brown has proved that some universal knower exists.

    I think that the answer to the problem lies in looking at the assumption that the objective properties of reality have definite values even when they are not being measured.

    If they do not, then there is simply nothing to know apart from the results of measurements. God can know all of the facts about reality, and yet still not know the values of those unmeasured properties–simply because those values are not facts about reality.

    It isn’t the “intent to know” that affects whether the facts become a part of reality, but the measurement. Once the measurement is made, the facts become “knowable”, and knowability is enough to destroy the interference, even if nobody actually knows.

    The idea that metaphysical awareness influenced the science was famously called “quantum flapdoodle” by Murray Gell-Mann.

    Another mistake is to think of wave function collapse as a physical event. It is not. There is no mathematical equation in any interpretation of quantum mechanics, even the Copenhagen interpretation, that corresponds to wave function collapse, and indeed it does not even exist as a concept in Everett’s many-worlds model.

    In all interpretations, you work through the equations and come up with a probability density for property values. Wave function collapse is simply the idea that the measurement will yield one of these values in accord with the given probabilities. But there is no mathematics of the process of the collapse.

    To see this, consider Schrodinger’s Cat. Suppose I open the box, and see the results, but you have not yet looked. One interpretation is that my looking has collapsed the wave function, and so when you look you will see what I saw. But another interpretation is that my looking has divided me into a superposition of states, a superposition of the me that saw the live cat and the me that saw the dead cat. So there is no collapse until you also look. If it then collapses into the live cat state, then that will include the me that saw the live cat.

    But there is no reason to consider the wave function to have collapsed even for you, and that leads to Everett’s model. It is just that there is a state in which you look and see the live cat and a state in which you look and see the dead cat. From within either of these states your experience will be consistent with that measurement, even though there is no wave function collapse.

    These other states exist in exactly the same sense that past and future exist, and our notion of “collapse” is similar to our notion of the present as actually reflecting just our view from the perspective of a given time and a given world. Just as there is no physical phenomenon that corresponds to the passage of time (and there cannot be in an objective model of reality, that would be a self-contradiction), there is no physical phenomenon that corresponds to wave function collapse. It is all just a matter of perspective.


  24. You guys sure are doing a lot of wheel spinning. The tires are shredded by now.
    Your first premise seems to be that God is a big model of a human. only with THE superior intellect. If that’s true, I don’t need God.
    So suppose you were to think of God as the Only: Principle, Mind, Soul, Spirit, Life, Truth and Love–and we reflect these qualities in varying degrees. Where would that leave you?
    I’ll tell you where it leaves me: God simply IS. Everything has always existed, already established in Mind, governed by Principle, known by Soul, activated by Spirit, experienced by Life, completely real (True) and embraced by Love.
    Before you consign me to the looney bin, think about if what I’m saying is true. What does that do to your bloody conjectures?

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