God, Quantum Mechanics, and Chaos Theory

Mr. Dawntreader has another excellent post today in his series of articles on the book, Science & Faith: Friends or Foes? by Dr. C. John Collins.

Whereas quantum mechanics and chaos theory both suggest randomness in the world, the Bible reveals a sovereign God who is in control of the universe. So how does one reconcile the findings of quantum mechanics and chaos theory with a sovereign God?

My own hunch – and it is not much stronger than that – is that quantum mechanics is a model, and that it shows what the world acts like at its lowest level; but that we may well have reached the limits of our ability to know things with more precision than quantum mechanics allows.

But in any case quantum mechanics in itself . . . does not undermine the traditional Christian picture of the world with knowable natural properties behaving in a predictable and understandable way, under the rule of a wise and holy Creator. This is true for at least two reasons.

First, however spooky quantum theory may sound, it is highly mathematical: and this shows that the world is still intelligible, since that is just what mathematics is for.

Second, we experience the world at a much larger scale than the one quantum mechanics describes. And at this level, “ordinary physics” – Newton’s laws and all that – describes everything quite well. So we experience the world at a level that combines the tiny quantum effects, and all the goofiness gets washed out. (Collins, Science & Faith, p.223)

Mr. Dawntreader then goes on to discuss chaos theory using weather as an example.

It is terribly difficult to predict weather. There are simply too many factors. The initial condition is far to difficult to measure. The output is nonlinear. Weather is therefore a chaotic system. Hence we use predictions based on probability instead of knowing exactly what will happen based on natural laws.

Does this undermine a biblical worldview?

Hardly. This is nothing more than a math problem that is too difficult for us to solve at present. Nothing more, nothing less. If we could precisely measure the initial conditions and every single factor, we could precisely say what tomorrow’s weather would be.

In conclusion, neither quantum theory or chaos theory presents a serious challenge to a biblical worldview.

I encourage you to read the full article at the Dawn Treader site.

Related post: God’s Providence and Scientific Investigation

9 Comments

  1. eclexia says:

    “This is nothing more than a math problem that is too difficult for us to solve at present.”

    My brain doesn’t track all that well with highly complicated scientific arguments. The above quote, however, resonates with me. It seems like there is a dimensional difference and there is no way that we can really see or take into account all the factors there are. This admittedly requires trust and that trust is part of a bigger worldview choice I have made.

    The same quote speaks of how I am able to be at rest in the middle of suffering that often does not seem to make sense (either my own suffering or the greater suffering I see all around me). Victor Frankl talks of this, suggesting that the things that don’t make sense really do, just in a dimension that we cannot fully comprehend.

    I do value deep thinking and striving to understand, to make sense of the world around us. But at some point, I think it still ends up being a trust issue.

    Really, maybe the things that look random and so disconnected only appear that way because of all the other factors that we cannot yet see. Both in quantum physics and in suffering.

  2. Ray Fowler says:

    eclexia,

    Thank you for taking this topic deeper by relating it to the problem of personal suffering. You make a great point – that just because we don’t understand everything in science doesn’t mean that it does not make sense, so also with our suffering. And yes, it really does all come back to trust. “The righteous will live by faith.” (Habakkuk 2:4)

    Blessings,
    Ray

  3. Sharon Gamble says:

    I am loving this train of thought, also. It seems to me that we all ought to realize that the One who created us might know more about the universe than we do. When our primitive attempts at science seem to contradict…why do we tend to assume we have the “Final Answer” and that, therefore, the Bible must be wrong? Science is refining itself all the time and discovering deeper truths – some of which contradict what scientists thought just months before. I am very contented to believe that when my finite mind doesn’t understand something, it doesn’t mean that God is wrong. It means I don’t have the mind to grasp whatever it is yet. 🙂 And yes, that applies to suffering, too. In light of eternity, I think a whole lot of things will appear differently. Until then, what I know about the God who put on skin for me, who died for me, who rose again, who talks to me…is good enough that I can trust what I still do not understand.

  4. Ray Senior says:

    Einstein: “God does not play with dice.”

    Dad

  5. Ray Fowler says:

    Good Einstein quote – thanks!

  6. Carl says:

    The difference is that pure scientists are willing to change their beliefs if they are proved wrong.

    In fact, most scientists would gladly be proved wrong just so they can have a deeper understanding of universe.

  7. Ray Fowler says:

    Hi Carl,

    Thank you for commenting, but I’m not sure which point you are addressing. When you say “the difference is” do you mean the difference between science and faith or something else?

    Thanks!
    Ray

  8. theholyzuchinni says:

    “God does not play with dice”
    “God does play with dice”
    “Yes, but they are loaded dice”

    😉

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