Quantum Gods

Creation, Chaos, and the Search for Cosmic Consciousness

Prometheus Books 2009

Foreword by Michael Shermer

In God: The Failed Hypothesis I argued that science shows that a God who plays an important role in the universe and in human life does not exist. This still leaves open the possibility of other gods or spiritual realities. The recent popular documentary films What the Bleep Do We Know? and The Secret have promoted the claim that we can make our own reality just by thinking of it. For over thirty years now, New Age gurus have alleged that quantum mechanics has verified ancient teachings from the East that the human mind is part of a cosmic consciousness that pervades the universe.

In the meantime, Christian theologians have launched an intensive effort to find a way for God to act in the world that does not violate any laws of physics. While God can do whatever he wants, he would be acting against himself if he violated his own laws. Again quantum mechanics is proposed as a means for God to intervene. If he stays within the bounds of the quantum uncertainty principle, then his actions would not be detectable to humans. However such actions would not be an efficient way to control evens on the human scale. Chaos theory has been proposed as a mechanism for amplifying those actions.

Quantum mechanics is shown to provide no basis for cosmic consciousness or the belief that the human mind makes it own reality. It is also shown not to provide a viable basis for divine action, with or without chaos theory. Some theologians have proposed a new kind of deism in which God creates a universe with many possible pathways determined by chance. However, since the universe began in chaos it retains no memory of such a God. This leaves as the only possible God one who plays dice with the universe.

Quantum mechanics is weird. But that does not mean everything that is weird is the result of quantum mechanics. This and my earlier book The Unconscious Quantum (Prometheus, 1995) are the only books in which a physicist directly criticizes the claims of quantum mysticism. The current book is also the only analysis by a physicist of the claims of quantum theology. A detailed answer is provided to the common question; “Is anything out there?” The answer is yes, but it is matter and nothing more. No evidence can be found for any immaterial or supernatural element in the universe.

Summary


The omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent Judeo-Christian-Islamic God who intervenes regularly in the universe and in the lives of humans can be proved not to exist beyond a reasonable doubt. Such a God is not only logically impossible, he is falsified by the data.

The enlightenment deist god, who created a perfectly predetermined universe, can almost but not quite be ruled out. Both the Bohmian and many-worlds interpretations of quantum mechanics imply a deterministic universe. However, the fact that Bohm’s model violates special relativity makes it unlikely to be correct. In the many worlds interpretation, all possibilities exist and so are predetermined. The apparent randomness and free will we see in a single world is an artifact. Theology has yet to come to grips with that possibility. And science has no reason to introduce into its explanatory systems an enlightenment deist god.

Modern physics, including the uncertainty of conventional interpretations of quantum mechanics and deterministic chaos theory, do not provide a viable way for the Judeo-Christian-Islamic God, or any modeled after him, to intervene regularly in the universe without noticeable breaking the laws of physics. But he could have surreptitiously intervened to prevent many diseases and catastrophes, so that fact that he does not also counts against his existence.

A new deist god consistent with statistical quantum mechanics is still possible. Almost as many Americans have a deist view of divinity as have the traditional Judeo-Christian view. The new deist god played dice with the universe and so included in its structure a high element of chance. It then left the universe alone to carry on by natural processes. Humanity has what masquerades as free will, but is really just random—not a divine creation and so unlikely to have any divine purpose. If the universe began in total chaos, then the universe has retained no memory of any of purpose of the new deist god.

The claim that quantum mechanics shows that we can make our own reality in our minds and those minds are connected holistically to a grand unified cosmic consciousness is based on either misunderstandings or deliberate misrepresentations of what quantum mechanics really says. No empirical evidence support the notion that mind is anything other than the product of purely material forces.

The physics of elementary particles is not used to derive any of the principles that are observed for systems with large numbers of particles outside the realm of physics. Chemists, biologists, neuroscientists, sociologists, economists, and historians develop their own principles to describe their own subject matter without paying attention to particle physics. These principles are said to “emerge” from matter and “explanatory arrows” tend to go from bottom to top. The stronger claim is that emergent principles have explanatory power going from top to bottom, thus opening up a place for God to act in the universe. No evidence for top-down causality exists and computer simulations support totally reductive, purely material emergence.

The laws of physics were not handed down from above but are human inventions. They take the form they do in order to guarantee that they describe observations invariant to any particular point of view. Some laws spontaneously break that symmetry, but they do so by accident.

The model in which the universe is made of matter and nothing else and had a spontaneous, uncaused, natural origin from a state of chaos equivalent to “nothing” agrees with all the data. As a state of the universe, “something” is more natural than “nothing.”

So we appear to have good evidence for a universe that came about spontaneously, without cause, from nothing. The laws of physics also came from nothing. The structure of the universe emerged from nothing. Indeed, we can view that structure, including Earth and humanity, as forms of frozen nothing.





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