The No Observer Argument

Topic of the week for week ending 2021-01-02. This will be discussed during the bible study at 10am EST today on Discord.

Contention

In the double slit experiment, generally speaking the presence of an observer alters the outcome of the experiment. Due to the observation that the experiment can be completed in a manner in which there is no observer to alter the outcome of the experiment, therefore God is not observing the experiment either and therefore this causes a contradiction with the idea that God is omnipresent/omniscient.

I would also bring up entanglement in the sense of Schroedinger’s cat. If there is no observer inside the box then this insinuates God cannot see into the box either.

Presentation

This is Jail Warren’s argument that converted (s).

1. God is ‘omni’ esque, such as omniscient and omnipresent (or ex. omnipotent, so there is no question of his ability to do as such he requires) — this is the statement of (Christianity).

2. The statement by the A. is then “This theoretically is not possible because of Quantum Mechanics. In reference to the Heisenberg Uncertainty principle, which states we cannot know ‘everything’ —

3. So we know that when the experiment is observed, and secondly not observed, it has two different results.

4. So if God sees all and knows all then God would be observing those results (of the experiment).

5. Therefore this debunks the idea that God is an “omni” god — because, if he was in all places, he would be an observer and affect the experiment in contrast to what we see in repeatable scientific experiment.

Secondary Arguments

* Also God is not all powerful because he can not create a rock so heavy he cannot lift it, but not in his nature is a cop-out — this is the married bachelor problem
** Also, if god is all loving / omnibenevolant he would’t have ordered moses to start slaughtering other villages and towns because murder isn’t good and he doesn’t love the people that he ordered to be killing
*** (N. adds,) he doesn’t appear to be all just because if a man lies with another man as he would with a woman then it punishable by death — but since he is all knowing, he would have a front row seat, and in choosing not to act he is not just (by his own standard) and is therefore hypocritical

Also stated: People have gone with a maximal god because they have encountered problems with the omni god. “There are as many interpretation of the bible as there are Christians. If God was ‘God’ he would not have written such a confusing book.”

Response

Although many issues were raised in the presentation as I wrote it down, I will respond mainly to the argument over the observer principle/uncertainty principle.

First it should be noted that although Heisenberg’s original speculation was that the reason why we couldn’t accurately measure both the position and the velocity of a particle was due to how we measured them: by bouncing other particles off them or interacting with them in a way that was assumed to collapse a wave function, perhaps by converting the energy into a mass (a particle at a point in space). However in quantum physics today the uncertainty principle is assumed to be a fundamental proposition of the universe. I note this to show that it is easy to misunderstand quantum mechanics. A more precise definition of the principle however is that you cannot know both the velocity and the position at the same instant of time. This allows us to understand the precise nature of the objection and deal with it. There are in fact several plausible explanations. First let us deal with the problems in the objection as a whole.

1. The assumption that God is bound by some property of our physical universe

First, as in the [[Free Will]] attack, the A. is assuming that God is bound by time. This is essentially the assumption that God is bound within our universe and is not extra to it. Thus, God is limited by such factors as time and space.

Religious Response

God is not bound by the necessity (even) of the existence of our physical universe in particular:

It is not a requirement that there is a T1 in which God exists, thus that he must perform some observation in order to gain some knowledge (thus creating a T2 differing from T1, where the insinuation is that God did not know something). We deny the question based on this false assumption over God’s nature; there is no T1 and T2 in respect to God, secondly the definition of God being omniscient is undermined by the implied assertion that God did not know something (and must then observe it).

First, there it is our concept of God that he is unbound by time and space. Therefore if the contention is that one may not know both variables at the same time this is not a limitation that God would encounter. One possible explanation would be the many worlds hypothesis or the plausible worlds hypothesis. In such a case God would be (as creator) necessarily aware of many worlds and could measure both the velocity and the momentum of a particle, in different worlds — to the extent that his omnipotence could allow him to instantly (within an instant, i.e. without the apparent passage of time) create a copy or multiple copies of our universe merely to measure the velocity in one and the position in another.

Scientific Response

It is also possible to give a scientific response, but for Kiddush Hashem let us give the religious argument first. However, upon analysis we do in fact find the question relies on a less than complete interpretation of Quantum Mechanics.

First let us point out that no one really understands quantum mechanics. I say this in the sense that Richard Feynman meant it — that we are simply unaware of the mechanism by which it operates. We are vaguely aware there is an information layer but none of the theories surrounding this are experimentally verifiable. So to say that because of some aspect of QM “God cannot exist” is a little presumptuous, since we really don’t understand the mechanisms by which these things are true. As it turns out the universe exists, it has no problem moving particles from one place to another. So let’s drill down a bit and see where the problem might be in our understanding. What are we assuming here that is allowing us to come to the conclusion stated above. We’ve seen a good answer in the religious sense but can we speak on this scientifically, has something been glossed over?

MWI

To understand this problem let’s introduce the many worlds interpretation which has become a mainstream interpretation of Quantum Mechanics today:

The many-worlds interpretation (MWI) is an interpretation of quantum mechanics that asserts that the universal wavefunction is objectively real, and that there is no wavefunction collapse.[2] This implies that all possible outcomes of quantum measurements are physically realized in some “world” or universe.[3] {…}

In many-worlds, the subjective appearance of wavefunction collapse is explained by the mechanism of quantum decoherence. Decoherence approaches to interpreting quantum theory have been widely explored and developed since the 1970s,[8][9][10] and have become quite popular. MWI is now considered a mainstream interpretation along with the other decoherence interpretations, collapse theories (including the Copenhagen interpretation), and hidden variable theories such as Bohmian mechanics.

The many-worlds interpretation implies that there are very many universes, perhaps infinitely many.[11] It is one of many multiverse hypotheses in physics and philosophy. MWI views time as a many-branched tree, wherein every possible quantum outcome is realised. This is intended to resolve some paradoxes of quantum theory, such as the EPR paradox[5]:462[2]:118 and Schrödinger’s cat,[1] since every possible outcome of a quantum event exists in its own universe. (MWI, wikipedia)

In MWI It is not relevant that one may only know the position or the velocity of a particle, or that observing it collapses a wavefunction, because the wavefunction is resolved by a quantum superposition of all possible states. Thus it is explained how the universe contains sufficient information in order to exist (to operate functionally) by the MWI: there are always a sufficient number of worlds such that the location of a particle may be known in one universe and the velocity in another. Thus any omniscient God would be necessarily aware of all such worlds (not all possible worlds per-se, which is a different theory, but all necessary worlds) such that he would have at a minimum sufficient knowledge to run the universe.

Main Criticism: The assumption that God is not omniscient

Essentially, through misunderstanding of the nature or qualities of God, or a misunderstanding of QM or the MWI, the situaiton has been proposed that God is not omniscient or is otherwise bound by our universe or our human limitations or is lacking in some other way. Given that the universe itself certainly has no problem existing, the statement that God “must” operate in some way akin to our physical universe can be reduced simply to the statement that God is not omniscient (ex. the proposal of T1 and T2 above). In short, the question itself is flawed; akin to the [[Free Will]] attack, or the common statements over “married bachelors” or “can God create a stone that is too heavy for himself to lift” — which, as an aside, are problems often misused by atheists to mean something entitrely different than the theological discussions which spawned them, discussions over the nature of replacement theology.

Minimal (orthodox) understanding

The nature of God’s omniscience is at least that he is eternal. Therefore, there is no T1 which exists, whereby God is not completely aware of a T2. Therefore by the nature of the definition of his omniscience, he already knows all relevant information about a particle — he does not need to measure nor observe the particle in the sense that we would need to observe or measure a particle. Second to this, God already created the universe and exists outside of it by whatever means he has done so, therefore given that the universe has no problem existing the crux of the issue seems to be the misunderstanding that God is in fact bound by anything at all in our physical universe, including any thought we may come up with to represent him.

Minimal (scientific) understanding

The assumption that there is, in fact, no observer is in fact wrong. Above we again see that the MWI was in fact created to resolve paradoxes surrounding entanglement (which is the real topic of discussion — a very difficult topic to understand). The point here is that the universe contains sufficient information because some observer must alter the course of a particle in relation to double or single slits, and so forth. Therefore sufficient information exists regardless of whether or not it can be observed locally. It is not a stretch to say that the question assumes our local frame of reference extends over the entire universe, which it does not. The laws of physics break down at the quantum level — including laws of time — such as that there is no arrow of time at that level. It’s simply incorrect to apply our understanding of time (which is the primary contention — the information cannot be known at the same time — but also in our local frame of reference, MWI or not) to any other frame of reference.

Let’s try to understand this one via Scroedinger’s cat (esp. since it was explicitly mentioned in article).

In the classical example of Schroedinger’s cat, the fact that we are unable to know if the cat is alive or dead (thus giving rise to the notion of a superposition whereby the cat is both alive and dead at the same time) is in fact a mathematical and logical construction. The reality of the situation, boots on the ground, is that inside the box the cat itself is either alive or dead; the uncertainty is thus entirely ours because we have become disentangled with the cat. We cannot know because there is no effect on us. This demonstrates by contrast the fact that there is in fact some observer inside the box to verify the entanglement of the cat and the vial (the atomic decay). By opening the box and discerning the nature of the cat, we change the nature of the experiment to us because we become entangled with the cat and the box.

In the double slit experiment, the idea is similar; there is in fact some observer operating in order that the particles may know or compute their own trajectories and eventually arrive at their destination; but it would be incorrect to say that just because “we” are not entangled with the experiment, that no other observer is. In fact is is most correct to say that if there was no observer at all then the particles could not be emitted or find their place at all. The universe itself acts as an observer; just that when we are not observing it, the default observer allows the experiment to complete in such a way; and when we observe it it changes to operate in such an alternate way.

Conclusion over the No Observer argument

The no observer argument isn’t a good attack against God because it does not represent an accurate (religious) portrayal of God — it claims a strawman existence of God which we do not propose. Secondly it makes assumptions about the nature of Quantum Mechanics which are factually incorrect. For example it is not a function of the many worlds interpretation that they are all qualitatively different but rather that until a measurement is taken (or an observation is made) they are qualitatively and quantitatively precisely equal.

For the record I don’t think this argument was being proposed dishonestly. during my research I had initially assumed that the reason for the waveform collapse was the methodology in which we were observing the particles. This was in fact Heisenberg’s original thesis as well, yet it has since been shown that the uncertainty principle is (considered a) fundamental natural property of our universe. I’m not a professional scientist, but what I have seen so far in recent research does not set me apart from God but rather suggests to me that there is a God. That’s my religious argument.

With regards to science however, if there is anything scientifically inaccurate in this article, please let me know immediately. Thank you to Corsi and all the other participants in this week’s topic.

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