Dice (Was: Chicken Soup for the Soul. So is it now a lot of diced chicken?)

Don N Page (don@phys.ualberta.ca)
Thu, 4 Dec 97 11:12:41 -0700

Joel Peter Anderson told us Wed, 3 Dec 1997 14:48:04 -0600 (CST) that
George Andrews' quote was from Proverbs 16:33. You might be amused to note
that I managed to get this verse into my paper, "Is Black-Hole Evaporation
Predictable?" in Physical Review Letters, Volume 44, Number 5, pages 301-304 (4
February 1980), where as the seventh possibility I listed for the results of
black hole evaporation, I wrote the following:

"(G) Evolution in which the disappearance of black holes results in
mixed states that are unpredictable (breakdown of quantum cosmic censorship),
i.e., God would not use the laws of physics completely in creating the future
from the past as He usually does but would create it in a way we could not
predict. (To us it might seem as He were throwing dice. Nevertheless, 'the
lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.' [Ref. 14])"

Ref. 14: "Proverbs 16: 33, New American Standard Bible (Creation
House, Carol Stream, Illinois, 1971)."

Incidentally, this seventh possibility is essentially the present form
of what Stephen Hawking believes, that black hole formation and evaporation
introduces a new level of unpredictability into the universe. As he puts it in
his Scientific American article, "God not only throws dice, He sometimes throws
them where they cannot be seen." On the other hand, starting with the paper
cited above, I have primarily advocated the possibility that the evolution is
by an S matrix and hence as predictable as quantum mechanics allows
(ontologically completely predictable in principle in the Everett
interpretation, though not epistemologically to us within the universe, with
our limited knowledge only of individual ones of the 'many worlds'). I am
optimistic that recent string calculations are beginning to confirm the latter
S matrix possibility, but it is still too early to say for certain. John
Preskill has recently made a bet against Hawking and my main former Ph.D.
supervisor Kip Thorne that an S matrix (unitary, deterministic evolution of the
quantum state) describes the situation, but I suspect it might be some time
before the evidence is sufficiently forthcoming (as I believe it eventually
will be, in my admittedly biased view against my Ph.D supervisors) for Preskill
to win the bet.

If one were even more speculative and apply interpretive principles to
Scripture that I do not really think are valid, one could say that the "every
decision" part of the verse supports the Everett many-worlds interpretation of
quantum mechanics, that every dynamically allowed result really does occur (so
long as there is not a precise cancellation of the amplitude by destructive
interference), each in a different one of the "many worlds," so that the entire
evolution is determininistic. In a theistic interpretation, God would be
determining the complete quantum evolution and its complete set of 'many
worlds' with their associated quantum amplitudes. But, tempting though this
interpretation is to someone like me who likes the 'many-worlds' version of
quantum mechanics for avoiding any ontological randomness or indeterminacy (an
issue discussed by Moorad Alexanian and George Andrews Dec. 3 as well), I must
admit that I don't really believe reading this Everett interpretation into
Proverbs 16:33 is exactly what either God or the writer had in mind. (If it
were, it would be a point lost on almost all readers, and I don't believe the
Scripture was written with obscure truths that would only be understood by
scientific specialists.)

Don Page