A couple of months ago I was on a philosophy discussion group and we got
into the nature of the brain. This led to a discussion of computers. Some
people believe that the mind is a quantum computer. I remembered reading
an interesting article on quantum computers which had said that quantum
computers could possibly prove the many-worlds hypothesis in physics. At
the time,I could not find the article. I finally found it. It was from
For those who don't know what the Many Worlds Hypothesis is, it was a
solution to the problem of the collapse of the quantum wave function
proposed by Hugh Everett in 1957. Quantum theory left weird situations
like Schrodinger's cat. A cat left in a box with cyanide gas which would
disperse if a radioactive atom decayed. While the box that the cat was in
remained closed, the probability increased that the cat was dead. But due
to the mathematics of the probability interpretation of quantum, one could
say that the cat both alive and dead at the same time (more exactly one
could say the cat was 10% dead and 90% alive; 40%/60%, etc.). Of course
this is absurd. When you opened the box and looked in, the cat was either
totally alive or totally dead. Thus the wave function collapsed to a given
Everett proposed that the collapse was the split of the universe into two:
one in which the cat was alive and one in which the cat was dead. This
interpretation means that the universe is splitting at every decision.
There are universes with me and universes without me (my parents never
married in some universes).
Now this sounds so hypothetical yet there is a coming proof of whether or
not the Many Worlds Hypothesis is true or false.
The possible proof that might occur, assuming they can actually build a
quantum computer begins with the assumption that a computation is a
physical process. Tim Folger wrote:
"Computation, he notes, is not an abstract process.
Ultimately it must have some physical basis. Whether it's atoms or
photons-- or electric currents in a conventional computer--
something must be manipulated in some way to carry out a
calculation. To make his point Deutsch cites the work of Peter
Shor, a mathematician at AT&T Bell Laboratories in New Jersey."~Tim
Folger, "The Best Computer in All Possible Worlds," Discover Oct.
1995, p. 94-95
Now, Shor's program is a factoring program which factors large numbers.
This is a program written for a computer which does not yet exist. But
here is what I find astounding in its potentiality.
"Shor, in constructing his proof of a quantum computer's
potential, in effect wrote a program for a computer that doesn't
exist. It factors large numbers by working on all the possible
answers to a problem simultaneously. Correct answers--that is,
factors of the number in question--appear in the form of a unique
interference pattern at the end of the computer's calculations,
which the computer could read like some otherworldly supermarket
bar code. Shor's program cleverly causes all numbers that aren't
factors to cancel out in the interference pattern, like waves whose
crests and troughs annihilate each other.
"Deutsch claims that if a quantum computer that can run Shor's
program is ever built, it will be difficult for other physicists to
deny the many-worlds model of quantum mechanics, fantastic as it
seems. For example, he asks, what would happen inside a quantum
computer that used Shor's program to factor a number that is, say,
250 digits long? To solve such a problem, he answers, the computer
would have to perform roughly 10^500 computations. 'There is no way
that we know to get the answer in fewer than that number of steps,'
he says. 'If you were to write down on a piece of paper what the
computer is doing, you'd have to write down about 10^500 different
lines of reasoning. That's an irreducible number. The outcome
depends logically on all those components. Now, there are only
10^80 atoms in the universe.' So, if a quantum computer can solve
a problem in which the number of calculations greatly exceeds the
number of atoms in the universe, how did the computer do the
"'It's pretty clear that it wasn't by jiggling about the atoms
and energy and stuff that we see around us,' says Deutsch. 'Then
where was it performed?'
"Deutsch emphasizes again that computation is a physical
process. Just as someone using an abacus must push beads around to
get an answer, a computer must manipulate real particles--atoms or
photons or what have you. And if a computer must manipulate more
atoms than exist in one universe to complete a calculation, it must
be drawing on the resources of many particles in a vast web of
linked universes."~Tim Folger, "The Best Computer in All Possible
Worlds," Discover Oct. 1995, p. 95
If this were to happen, my questions are:
What does this do to the uniqueness of man?
Is there a Glenn in one universe who is an atheist and another Glenn who
It would seem that the probability arguments against evolution would be
mute and the Anthropic principle would be proven and there would be little
evidence of design in the universe.
What about the incarnation?
Would there be universes where Christianity never happened?
The possibilities are endless and fascinating. I know this is
hypothetical but one way or another, it is quite likely that before I die,
we may know whether we can factor a number 250 digits long. What are the
implications of this for Christianity?
Foundation,Fall and Flood