Quantum Physics and the Need for God

Here’s one we missed until Anna Williams of First Things brought it to our attention: Stephen M. Barr, physicist at the University of Delaware, examines the argument that quantum mechanics suggests a reality beyond the material world.

Barr walks readers through the argument that quantum mechanics makes more sense if we include a notion of transcendent mind.  Here is his conclusion:

“The upshot is this: If the mathematics of quantum mechanics is right (as most fundamental physicists believe), and if materialism is right, one is forced to accept the Many Worlds Interpretation of quantum mechanics. And that is awfully heavy baggage for materialism to carry.

“If, on the other hand, we accept the more traditional understanding of quantum mechanics that goes back to von Neumann, one is led by its logic (as Wigner and Peierls were) to the conclusion that not everything is just matter in motion, and that in particular there is something about the human mind that transcends matter and its laws.  It then becomes possible to take seriously certain questions that materialism had ruled out of court: If the human mind transcends matter to some extent, could there not exist minds that transcend the physical universe altogether? And might there not even exist an ultimate Mind?”

One of the favorite scientific arguments of many intellectuals in Fundamentalist America is that their faith does not contradict the discoveries of true science.  From evolution to abortion, many conservatives will insist from time to time that science will eventually catch up with their religiously motivated beliefs.  Many, like Robert George recently, note that false science, like that of eugenics, has historically captured the fidelity of mainstream scientists for a time.  George insisted that the arrogance of mainstream science often mistakes its own fashions for abiding truths.  In the 1920s and 1930s, George argued,

“Affluent, sophisticated, “right-minded” people were all on board with the eugenics program. It, too, seemed like a juggernaut. Only those retrograde Catholics, joined by some other backward religious folk, resisted; and the thought was that the back of their resistance would soon be broken by the sheer rationality of the eugenics idea. The eugenicists were certain that their adversaries were on “the wrong side of history.” The full acceptance of eugenics was “inevitable.” But, of course, things didn’t quite turn out that way.”

The false science of eugenics and its temporary dominance among mainstream scientists has also long been a favorite theme of creationists.  For example, as David Dewitt argued on the Answers in Genesis blog, eugenics was simply the “dark side of evolution.”

The long-standing hope of many conservatives is that science will eventually come around.  Outsiders often accuse conservatives, especially creationists, of being anti-science.  But a better term might be “anti-professoriate.”  Many conservatives cling–sometimes with increasing desperation–to the hope that mainstram science will someday recover from the long night of materialism.  Arguments such as Professor Barr’s provide fuel for this long siege.

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