God in a Box part II

Olof sent me the URL for an article: Physics and Faith: The Luminous Web by Barbara Brown Taylor.  It's an interesting one and worth reading, it got me thinking.  Hubby listens to the radio preachers even when he disagrees with them, because they make him work out why he disagrees.  I disagree with Taylor, but working out why is a profitable process.  Taylor starts by saying:

Among the many compelling reasons for religious people to engage science is the human tendency to base our world views on the prevailing physics of the day. Our governments, our schools, our economies and our churches all reflect our understanding of how the world works, and when that understanding changes -- as it is changing right now -- all those institutions are up for revision. New discoveries in quantum physics are already changing the way some businesses are being managed. New discoveries in human brain research are changing education. Changes may be in store for the church as well.

She describes society and religion as following Newtonian mechanics: the whole is nothing more than the sum of its parts, individual parts are replaceable, simple little laws to follow to get the right toy out of the God box.  It is an accurate description for church society until the last decade or so.  Then she brushes lightly past chaos theory and gets to quantum physics.

I growl in bookstores when I see the word "quantum" outside the science or science fiction sections.  Quantum theology, quantum society, quantum socks, it's irritating, and it's usually used by people who wouldn't know a Schröedinger's wave function if it collapsed their cat and the box it was sitting in.  I'm wary of anyone proposing a quantum Christianity.

The big problem with quantum mechanics as a branch of science is that we don't understand it.  Niels Bohr, one of the minds behind the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum physics said "Anyone who is not shocked by quantum theory has not understood it."  It's an embarrassment that we can't explain why you can't accurately measure position and velocity at the same time, that the universe doesn't contain as much matter as the equations say it should, that we can't explain the mechanism for the "spooky" (Einstein's word) action at a distance in quantum entanglement.  No-one likes to admit they're not omnipotent, and the only One with the answers hasn't written any physics textbooks.  We use quantum physics because it works, not because we understand it.  We have an empirical cookbook of methods hauled together over the years and we try not to think about what we don't know.

Quantum entanglement describes two particles, separated by light years, one instantaneously reacting to a change in the state the other.  Some information flow violates the speed of light.  Taylor suggests an unknown field as the mechanism for the flow, I'm not convinced.  The ether field seemed plausible until Michelson and Morely debunked it.  The part of the article that irritated me was the part where Taylor took something proven to happen with subatomic particles and a few small nuclei, applied it to humans, and attributed it to God.  Humans are not the same as particles, even if we are made of them.

Postmodern thinking is not Newtonian, it's more fluid, and I think this is what Taylor is getting at.  But even if you do apply quantum mechanics to humans, it's just another set of rules, push button click, out drops the toy.  Quantum physics is "sexy" and everyone wants some of the sparkle.  You never hear anything like this about thermal physics, nuclear astrophysics, wave theory, electromagnetism, force mechanics, electronics, acoustic physics, medical physics, esoteric theories in biology and chemistry.  None have been claimed by so many different groups as quantum physics.  I spent two years studying quantum mechanics during a physics degree in England, getting gradually more and more complex problems to solve, and it's damned hard science and mathematics.  It's not a panacea for every shift in opinion and thought in society.

Heaven is not a state of being subsumed into God, losing your individuality.  Jesus still had his own scars.

Revelation 6:9-10

When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, "How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?"

The people under the altar remembered their pasts, and were still separate from each other and from God.  To be subsumed is to be destroyed, to reach nirvana.  Maybe God is the mechanism for faster-than-light information flow.  Maybe he's not.  If God is omnipresent, he sees both particles at once.  But they're still particles, dead, dumb things without thought or ambition.

Science and religion are not wholly unconnected, but science is not a toy and it seems to be used as such by some and that bugs me.  But I understand why a bit better now.

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