Thursday, September 20, 2012

Does quantum physics support a belief in God?

Physicist Stephen Barr has a superb post titled Does quantum physics make it easier to believe in God?


Not in any direct way. That is, it doesn’t provide an argument for the existence of God. But it does so indirectly, by providing an argument against the philosophy called materialism (or “physicalism”), which is the main intellectual opponent of belief in God in today’s world.

Materialism is an atheistic philosophy that says that all of reality is reducible to matter and its interactions. It has gained ground because many people think that it’s supported by science. They think that physics has shown the material world to be a closed system of cause and effect, sealed off from the influence of any non-physical realities --- if any there be. Since our minds and thoughts obviously do affect the physical world, it would follow that they are themselves merely physical phenomena. No room for a spiritual soul or free will: for materialists we are just “machines made of meat.”

Quantum mechanics, however, throws a monkey wrench into this simple mechanical view of things...

Barr goes on to provide an elegant and fascinating explanation of the role that mind plays in quantum theory, and he points out that if the reality of the mind is denied, one is forced to accept a bizarre understanding of reality.

He concludes:

[I]f the mathematics of quantum mechanics is right (as most fundamental physicists believe), and if materialism is right, one is forced to accept the Many Worlds Interpretation of quantum mechanics. And that is awfully heavy baggage for materialism to carry.
If, on the other hand, we accept the more traditional understanding of quantum mechanics that goes back to von Neumann, one is led by its logic (as Wigner and Peierls were) to the conclusion that not everything is just matter in motion, and that in particular there is something about the human mind that transcends matter and its laws. It then becomes possible to take seriously certain questions that materialism had ruled out of court: If the human mind transcends matter to some extent, could there not exist minds that transcend the physical universe altogether? And might there not even exist an ultimate Mind?

Please read the whole thing.

I agree with Barr's take. There seems not to be any 'Schrodinger's Sixth Way' by which quantum mechanics demonstrates God's existence.

No surprise there. Demonstrations of God's existence are rigorously logical, not empirical. The Lord transcends the nature He creates. Primary Cause creates secondary cause, and is not reducible to it nor limited in it.

But quantum mechanics is a catastrophe for materialism, which is the modern metaphysical framework for atheism. Quantum mechanics makes it very hard to be an intellectually-fulfilled materialist.

Admittedly the standards for materialist gratification have never been high.

(H.T. Ed Feser)


  1. We can now add physics to evolutionary biology and Constitutional interpretation in the long, long list of subjects that Egnor doesn't understand.

  2. 'Does quantum physics support a belief in God?'


    It's difficult to take anything published by the Templeton Foundation seriously. They start with the conclusion (God exists) as a given, and then construct the argument supporting it.

    The mind is a product of the brain. Damage the brain and you will affect the mind. There's no evidence that the mind exists independent of the brain.

    You don't need a mind to collapse wave functions. An unstable atomic nucleus will decay without being observed. It happens every instance everywhere in the Universe. The 'paradox' of an infinite number of half lives never giving a 100% probability is just unrealistic - similar to Zeno's paradox that claims that if a hare gives a tortoise a head start in a race, it will never catch up. Absolute nonsense.

  3. "...Quantum mechanics makes it very hard to be an intellectually-fulfilled materialist.

    Admittedly the standards for materialist gratification have never been high.

    So true.

  4. Nobody is forced to accept the many worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics. There are numerous interpretations and all of them are merely frameworks to translate the happenings of quantum mechanics to concepts amicable to human language and thought processes. Any interpretation that is consistent with the mathematics and predictions of quantum mechanics it is as valid as any other.

    The quantum mechanical world is so alien and removed from the world of human experience much is lost in the translation from the mathematics to the written word. Richard Feynman said “If I could explain it to the average person, I wouldn't have been worth the Nobel Prize.” and “every theoretical physicist who is any good knows six or seven different theoretical representations for exactly the same physics.” One thing is for sure God is never part of the explanation.

    As for quantum mechanics making it hard to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist, I think you’re putting too much stock in being intellectually fulfilled. I for one am looking forward to watching learning and participating until the day I die.