Tag Archives: quantum science

“If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move.” Is it true?

FaithThese words were Jesus’ words, taken from the Bible in Matthew, passage 17:20. But no this is not a religious post. If you remove all the dogmas and biases of our time, Jesus was a philosopher, and one with many interesting points of note. One of these points was that we have power over nature.

Today we know that we have power over nature. We collectively employ industrial level technologies to reshape our environment. Indeed where once upon a time humans looked upon nature with fear and awe, today we look upon it as much with a sense of caution, reservation and a fear not that it might hurt us, but that we might hurt it too much. However this wasn’t Jesus’ point. This power referred to above is indirect; for it involves usage of tools. Jesus argued that we have direct, mental power over nature. My question to you is whether or not this is true.

The scientific method of experimentation and empirical support is still relatively modern in human history. Despite early examples of the experimental method in works such as those of Alhazen (an Arab scientist of the 10th and 11th centuries AD), it was not until Francis Bacon, and later others such as Galileo and John Locke, that the experimental method of modern science came to the fore. It was a huge change in human thought, shifting our thought from hypothesis, meditation and deduction towards empirical evidence evaluated with sensory experience. But more recent shifts have taken place.

The study of physics today is divided between the observed and unobserved, and for this very reason more and more of quantum science cannot be judged by sensory experience. What makes this so is that the very act of observation changes what happens at the quantum level. This was evidenced by the Quantum Slit Experiment, which showed that individual electrons could follow multiple different avenues of potential at the same time. So for example if you fired a single electron at a board with two slits in it, it would actually go through both. Of course this baffled scientists, because it defies the rules of classical physics. double_slit_experimentSo they put a camera next to the board to see what happened. And lo and behold, the electron started behaving exactly as the scientists would have expected. It stopped behaving like a wave of potential, and started behaving like a single piece of matter, going through only one slit.

Quantum physics therefore seems to suggest that everything exists in potential, and it’s only when something is observed that one single thing can be perceived, which accords with our view of the world. Furthermore, many experiments performed with simple random selections of binary data (0s and 1s) from the 60s to today have found that our hopes seem to affect the probabilities in a real way i.e. if we hope for more 1s then there is a higher probability that more 1s will show up. Of course this seems like nonsense to us, because once again it defies the rules of classical physics. If it were true that we had such mental power over reality then why wouldn’t we see more signs of it? If a crazy person, or someone on drugs, believes they can fly, why can’t they actually fly?

The only explanation I can find or think of for the division between quantum and classical realities is that the very act of observation requires interaction with the experiment. To measure the position of an electron for instance, you must somehow change the electron. And if we heard of anyone doing anything that defied the rules of classical physics then we would have heard about the act i.e. observed it, and therefore influenced it with our own doubts.

How observation changes reality is unknown. It’s not as simple as saying that said observation requires us what-ifbouncing a photon off of the electron, since in theory this would have happened anyway. Indeed it seems as though there is an exchange of information at play, and that both we and the electron are somehow entangled and communicating information between one another instantaneously. In other words we are literally telling the electron how to behave. Since at the big bang all things, even space and time, were part of a singularity, we can suppose that all aspects of the universe are still entangled today. So therefore, if all observers believed a certain thing, would that thing happen? If everyone woke tomorrow believing that gravity didn’t exist, would we all float off into space?

Is Materialism the main intellectual opponent of religion?

Almost every religion has an anti-materialistic message.

imagesCAXOHYAEIn Christianity: When the rich man came to Jesus asking what he could do to improve his chances of getting into heaven, Jesus told him to give up all his wealth. The rich man walked away, and Jesus told the growing crowd that it was harder for a rich man to get into heaven than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle.

In Sikhism: When Guru Nanak met Duni Chand, and was invited to his mansion, Duni Chand proudly displayed his wealth to the Guru. But later he told the Guru that he was unhappy, and wished to be the richest man in the city. The Guru replied by giving Duni Chand a needle, and asking him to return it to the Guru in the next life. At first Duni Chand took this seriously, but when he told his wife she laughed. “Are you mad?” she asked. “How can a needle go to the next world?” It was only then that Duni Chand realised the folly of his ways, and rejected materialism.

But if materialism really is the main intellectual opponent of religion, then why is agnosticism and atheism growing in popularity? The picture below shows the proportion of atheists and agnostics around the world today – an image that would have been unthinkable fifty years ago.

Stephen Barr, professor of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Delaware, argues that quantum science makes believing in God easier, because it provides a strong argument against materialism. Incidentally, if you’re thinking about materialism only as money, this is the definition used by Barr: “an atheistic philosophy that says that all of reality is reducible to matter and its interactions.” As I’ve argued in previous posts, quantum mechanics makes a strong counter-argument. In fact the quantum sciences accord much more strongly with the Aristotelian view of reality than modern materialism, since they recognise the importance of potential as opposed to the more materialistic view of things which are already determined. So where a materialist would say that if you had complete knowledge of the universe then you would know exactly what was going to happen and when, a quantum mechanic would say that such knowledge would only afford you foresight into what the probabilities were. Furthermore, the mathematics which describes all physical processes (the Schrodinger equation) does not accurately describe the fluctuations in probability that actually occur in reality. And on top of that, knowledge of events themselves can actually change what occurs (watch ‘What the Bleep do we know?’ if you doubt me:

Barr questions whether if the human mind can transcend matter and its laws, a more powerful mind might not exist, which transcends the physical universe altogether. In other words he pits materialism against God, as His main intellectual rival, and infers that God might be fighting back with quantum science. But after all, religion has grown during a very materialistic phase in our history. So is materialism really the main intellectual rival of religion? Will growing knowledge about quantum science see people returning to religion once more?