The Conflicted Quantum Physicist

Min’s Insight:

The quantum world is strange place, where everything is governed by probabilities and nothing is definite. This is in stark contrast with all traditional religions, where adherence to a fixed and definitive creed is a prerequisite. These faiths usually incorporate a combination of the following components:

  1. A creation myth
  2. An explanation of our fate after we die
  3. The opportunity for intervention of supernatural forces in the material world

It would therefore cause significant cognitive dissonance for anyone familiar with the numerous interpretations of quantum field theory to uncritically believe in any currently established religion. Ecumenical Relativism on the other hand embraces the diverse and contradictory nature of all faiths, holding that they are all simultaneously true, putting them into a form of quantum superposition. The three assertions above can then be evaluated in relation to some of the various interpretations of quantum mechanics:

  • The Copenhagen Interpretation – This holds that superposition ends with the collapse of the quantum wave function, and this is precipitated by observation. Currently the most accepted explanation of the origin of the universe is the Big Bang, which is understood to have been a singularity encompassing all of space and time in a single point. There can therefore not have been any external position from which to make an observation, and so the wave function of whether or not there is a mindful Creator cannot be collapsed. The affirmative and negative answers must consequently remain in permanent superposition, both being equally true and false. Hence any creation myth is potentially valid.
  • The Many Worlds Interpretation – This affirms that there an infinite number of parallel universes, which are continually being created from all possible outcomes of quantum events. So however improbable the specific “afterlife” assertions of each of the traditional religions may be, some of the potential future realities must contain each of them.
  • The Decoherence Interpretation – There are many possible histories of any present quantum state of the universe, but only ones that are coherent with current measurements are perceived. However the Wigner’s Friend paradox demonstrates that two separate observers cannot always agree on measurements of quantum events, so they may consequently perceive different coherent histories. Some of these may invoke a Creator, and others not. Also if different observers can simultaneously witness alternate realities, divine intervention may occur in some, but not in others.

Knowing that quantum uncertainties also apply to the bigger theological questions of existence now allows me to sleep more soundly at night.