Friday, September 01, 2017

Quantum Physics, Cosmology, and God

David Higle and I were exchanging emails about sources on quantum physics and theology. He already knew everything I thought of, especially Polkinghorne's Quantum Physics and Theology. I'm on a slow train pursuing these things, but thought I would give a snapshot of musings.

1. Big Bang
Contrary to some rhetoric, I've long thought that the idea of a Big Bang plays right into Christian theology. Why? Because it suggests a beginning of sorts to the universe. If the universe had a beginning, then we can ask why it began. In other words, the Big Bang seems to play right into the cosmological argument for the existence of God.

The current theory is:
  • The universe had a beginning--matter is not being eternally created somewhere (steady-state theory).
  • It does not have enough mass to re-collapse, meaning it probably has not been banging in some eternal cycle (oscillating big bang).
  • That suggests a beginning, which leads us to ask, "Why?" "What caused it?"
Cosmological theory has developed significantly over the last couple decades, but I think it still more or less amounts to the same thing. At 10-43 seconds, all the universe was in a ball the size of 1.6 x 10-33 meters. In the next moment, it expanded astronomically to something much closer to its current size.

2. Quantum Uncertainty
In the 1600s, Newton reinforced a deterministic universe, where all the future could be predicted as the simple playing out of laws and objects in motion. It fit well with the theology of Calvin and Hobbes.

The quantum world is not a deterministic world. It is an indeterministic world. That is to say, you cannot predict the future at all on an individual scale. All you can predict are the averages. There are still some who think there may be "hidden variables" that would return us to determinism, but most do not agree.

This suggests that the universe on some level has a mind of its own. There is an unpredictability to the universe. You cannot predict what I will do (I can't either) because there is a fundamental uncertainty at the bottom of everything. It is not exactly free will as we once might have thought of it, but it is similar.

3. Quantum entanglement
Certain particles are entangled with each other after they part. They may be on opposite sides of the universe but if you know what the one is doing then you know what the other is. I'm not sure what the implications are for us. I once tweeted that God has been quantumly entangled with the whole universe since the creation, implying that he knows everything and is connected to everything. But is was really more of a poetic thought than something that actually makes sense. :-)

4. Time
It is not clear what time is. Each frame of reference has a certain internal clock of sorts, meaning that "time" moves at different rates for different things. From one perspective, time is merely the rate at which things change, with light as the ultimate speed limit.

Time is a puzzle on the quantum level. In one respect, there is no real difference between past and future on the quantum level. All processes are reversible.

On the macro-scale, entropy is what really tells time. The loss of heat in disorder seems to be the only truly irreversible aspect to this universe. It tells time.

What does this say about God? It does suggest that entropy is not a consequence of the Fall. There would be no past or future without it.

It doesn't help us figure out God's knowledge of the future. How do we know how God knows what he knows? He was "outside" the universe "before." Who knows what that means for during and after?

That's it. My attempt for today...


Martin LaBar said...

That pretty well covers it. I notice that you did not expand your summary of physics into string theory or multiverses, which may or may not correspond to reality.

Ken Schenck said...

Basically forgot to mention multiverses. Not sure string theory has much of a future.