Re: [asa] Re: Cosmos in the Light of the Cross

From: Jim Armstrong <>
Date: Tue Jun 05 2007 - 10:48:59 EDT

George - I've been away from the formalism of physics for a long time,
so I ask this out of relative ignorance.
When I first encountered the uncertainty principle, it was in the
context of measurement. If one made a measurement of one of the two
interrelated values (e.g., position and momentum), the very measurement
act disturbed the state of the measured entity such that the second of
the values could no longer be determined accurately at a scale where
quantum effects are measurable. And, of course, one can calculate the
best one can do in such a measurement.

This calculation seems to have arisen naturally out of efforts to
quantify the accuracy of experimental measurement.
To my mind, this is a pretty simple concept, and therefore I would think
it would be characterized as the stronger model. The parameters are
real enough, but the measurement process interferes with the ability to
accurately determine both of these linked parameters because the
measurement process itself "touches" the measured entity, altering the
state of the measured entity.

The other language and concepts, particularly that of the entities
existing in some sort of quasi-state, seem to flow out of the
mathematical representations.

To get to the point, my simple question is, is your characterization of
"stronger" and "weaker" your take, or is it the language now residing in
the formal realm of physics where you reside (and I admittedly don't).

George Murphy wrote:

> Merv -
> There are, of course, different interpretations of QM & the
> uncertainty principle. I think there is good reason to take the
> strong view that position & momentum really do not and cannot have
> precise values simultaneously, & not just the weaker view that they do
> have such values but that we can't know them. This is seen clearly in
> the mathematical formalism in which position & momentum (& other
> dynamical variables) can represented by matrices - whole arrays of
> numbers - rather than single numerical values. (In older language, q
> numbers rather than c numbers.) That being the case, the initial data
> required for Laplacian determinism don't exist.
> The connection between this microscopic indeterminism and the
> macroscopic variety with chaos theory is a little tricky but I think
> that the QM variety rules out the absolutely precise initial data
> which chaos theory says would be necessary for long range forecasting
> in principle.
> This indeterminism is not required to allow God to act in a hidden way
> in the world. A strictly Laplacian view does not rule out ongoing
> divine action. But with such a view one would have to say that God's
> ordinary action in the world is completely predictable (because the
> physical processes with which God cooperated were completely
> deterministic), and that any positive responses to prayers for rain,
> e.g., when the mechanistic laws of physics didn't predict rain would
> have to be strictly miraculous interventions. What the breakdown of
> detrminism allows is not divine action itself but divine action
> which has some freedom and is still in accord with the laws of
> physics, & is thus still in a sense hidden.
> Shalom
> George
> <>
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: Merv <>
> To: George Murphy <> ;
> <>
> Sent: Monday, June 04, 2007 9:54 PM
> Subject: [asa] Re: Cosmos in the Light of the Cross
> This is addressed to George since I've been corresponding with him
> about his book "Cosmos in the Light of the Cross", but I'm running
> this particular question of mine on the list because I covet any
> insights which any scientifically minded folks can enlighten me
> with. --Merv
> A long-standing physics inquiry of mine summarized by your
> statement from p. 52: "This uncertainty principle cuts down
> Laplace's determinism at the roots."
> On p. 65 you exactly nail my hang-up with this when you state:
> "We may argue that an electron really has a precise position and
> momentum even if we cannot know them, ..." and you go on to
> answer that objection, in part, concluding that "Quantum mechanics
> does not say that there is no external reality at all, but that
> that reality is not strictly separated from our consciousness."
> I have nearly despaired of grasping these conclusions and how they
> deal the supposed "death blow" to Laplace's demon. While I can
> appreciate (without even understanding) that scientific
> verification exists for the proposition that our mere observation
> affects reality (and apparently in a far deeper way than its
> merely being altered by the presence of our physical measurement
> tools - which is easily understood and conceptually dealt with), I
> still cannot see the definitive conclusion that you and all modern
> physicists so easily adopt. It looks to me like just a more
> sophisticated and impenetrable "God of the gaps" wall than ever.
> Only this could be called "science of the gaps". We can't find
> something out, and our consciousness is even inextricably
> intertwined in it. Therefore we declare it to not have any
> objective reality at all (even in principle). Chaos theory pulls
> a similar trick for mathematics. Since error amplification makes
> sensitivity to initial conditions virtually infinite, and we
> can't be infinitely precise in describing an initial state: we
> can solidly conclude there can never be an exact weather
> prediction - a well-founded conclusion. But then comes the
> maddening next (and IMO totally unfounded) additional conclusion:
> " a future state of weather can't have been exactly
> determined by a prior state, even in principle. Chaos and QM
> teamed up. It may be true, but there is a scent of arrogance in
> declaring it true, when it actually seems unknowable whether or
> not determinism is really correct behind those locked doors.
> Here is one scenario easy to imagine: People for years tend to
> give God praise more easily when the complexity of something
> reaches beyond their horizons or capacity to understand. We
> easily said "God is great - look how far beyond us He is!" Then
> science enters the world making huge conquests. Formerly
> unreachable horizons are now suddenly "conquered territory", and
> the "God of the gaps" inclination is now revealed as a dangerous
> way to do theology.
> So we Christians seem to have had two responses:
> 1. backup and declare that God is present in all processes
> whether we understand them or not (which was always correct and
> is very Biblical anyway).
> Or 2. Let's find an apparently "unscalable" wall (QM with its
> inherent uncertainty in nature, and Chaos theory with its
> corresponding defeat of mathematics) and erect our new flag there
> in confidence that NOW - finally science and math have reached
> their limits. And we can rest up against that last refuge
> glorying in the many ways which God can now work such mischief as
> free-will, consciousness, miracles... etc. safely beyond the
> reach of empirical science.
> The main thrust of your writing is to show that a "hidden" God in
> nature is not inconsistent with a God who is willing to die as a
> forsaken "nobody" on the cross. Shouldn't this "hiddenness" be
> just as applicable to a Laplacian 'billiard ball' universe as the
> QM 'mischief behind locked doors' universe? I can understand our
> religious preference for the second and our universal aversion for
> the first, but that doesn't mean the Laplacian understanding
> couldn't be true. Why & how are scientists so sure they have
> defeated this demon?
> --Merv

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Received on Tue Jun 5 10:49:32 2007

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