Creation, Chaos, and the Search for Cosmic ConsciousnessPrometheus 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
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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