RE: [asa] Contingency and Quantum Indeterminacy

From: Alexanian, Moorad <>
Date: Wed Mar 19 2008 - 15:42:06 EDT

Whether the sun moves and the earth is as at rest, or the other way around, is a question of frames of references. Is the notion of "chance event" dependent on the "observer?" That is to say, what appears to us as chance, since we lack a purely deterministic explanation of it, is it also chance to God? Note that determinism can only apply to the physical aspect of Nature and not to beings that possess free will. Quantum mechanics is a based on deterministic dynamical equations. It is only in the process of measurement that one introduces a probabilistic interpretation. May God make "measurements" without disturbing the system that is being measured?




From: on behalf of D. F. Siemens, Jr.
Sent: Wed 3/19/2008 2:56 PM
Subject: Re: [asa] Contingency and Quantum Indeterminacy

I think there is another approach to this, self-determination. I often find philosophers claiming that this requires an absence of causation, indeterminism. However, a proper analysis places it firmly in determinism, but not the strict determinism that classic physics expects in natural objects. That has no freedom. Self-determination requires that the person is an initiating cause within a causal nexus. That is, one's personal choice makes a difference within the allowance of causes. There is no responsibility in either strict determinism, where one cannot do differently, or in indeterminism, where things just happen without one's control. This also requires that either hidden control of quanta or quantum indeterminacy cannot be the basis of contingency.
Dave (ASA)
On Wed, 19 Mar 2008 14:01:03 -0400 "David Opderbeck" <> writes:

        Ok -- so someone says "the universe is not necessarily connected to God." I respond, maybe or maybe not usefully, "the universe is necessarily connected to God in the sense that the universe is contingent on God's will" -- wanting to reflect this Torrancian (if that's a term) notion of "contingency." The other person responds with quantum physics -- nothing in the universe is "necessary," says he; things "just happen" rather than being caused to happen; and my thought reflects a discredited Thomistic, mechanistic view of causation.
        So I want to respond: quantum physics is perfectly compatible with contingency as I've used the term -- in fact it demonstrates that God didn't have to create this universe and that the universe isn't a Newtonian self-sustaining machine. Further, quantum physics doesn't do away with the notion of "causation"; it just means causation appears to be probabilistic rather than deterministic. Would this response be fair?
        On Wed, Mar 19, 2008 at 1:46 PM, George L. <> wrote:

                I see that the responses to this have focused appropriately on David's question about physics but it may be worth noting the theological context. Torrance's ideas about the "contingent rationality" of the universe motivated the inclusion of the phrase in the ASA statement. The reference is to "contingent order and intelligibility," so that the emphasis is more on the contingency of the rational patterns that underlie the universe rather than with the contingency of individual events, though of course the latter is not excluded. God could have created other universes that are equally rational but obey rational laws that differ from those of our universe. That's why, anter alia, we have to observe the world & do experiments in addition to theorizing.

                Or to put it another way, the answer to the question that Einstein said interested him most - whether God had any choice in creating the universe - is "Yes."



> > > In the ASA statement of faith, we use the term "contingent order." Contingency is important in Torrance's thought as well as Polanyi's. Contingency is also part of Aquinas' teleological argument. Does the notion of contingency as we use it require a creation ex nihlo, a big bang? How does contingency relate to quantum indeterminacy, since states are only represented by probability distributions? Are quantum probability distributions completely open, or are they bounded by more basic physical laws? > -- David W. OpderbeckAssociate Professor of LawSeton Hall University Law SchoolGibbons Institute of Law, Science & Technology(ASA Member) >

                George L. Murphy

        David W. Opderbeck
        Associate Professor of Law
        Seton Hall University Law School
        Gibbons Institute of Law, Science & Technology

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Received on Wed Mar 19 15:44:43 2008

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