Quantum Theory – Sign of a Personal God

[This article was published both in the Muslim Sunrise and the Muslim Times.  Source: Muslim Sunrise, Fall 2011 by Zia H Shah MD and Sardar Anees Ahmad, Link

Determinism

A deist believes God created the universe, but rejects the notion of a Personal God – a God who answers prayers or intervenes in human affairs. Many deists are strict determinist, believing that causality governs the entire universe. Albert Einstein, by his own admission, held such a conception of God, “I do not believe in the God of theology who rewards good and punishes evil.  My God created laws that take care of that.  His universe is not ruled by wishful thinking, but by immutable laws.”[1]

Einstein’s own views resulted from his own remarkable scientific discoveries, as well as that of Newton. Through these discoveries, great technological advancements surfaced and scientists came to believe that determinable laws governed the entire universe.

In turn, Einstein’s strict adherence to determinism lead him to reject the notion of free will: “If this being is omnipotent, then every occurrence, including every human action, every human thought, and every human feeling and aspiration is also His work; how is it possible to think of holding men responsible for their deeds and thoughts before such an almighty Being? In giving out punishment and rewards He would to a certain extent be passing judgment on Himself. How can this be combined with the goodness and righteousness ascribed to Him?”[2]

Unlike his earth-shattering discoveries regarding space, time, gravity and light, however, Einstein’s determinism would not be able to command respect.  Ironically, science itself would debunk Einstein’s determinism.

Quantum Theory

In 1912, Neils Bohr began research under Ernest Rutherford. Rutherford, by this time, had not only discovered the phenomenon of radioactive half-life but had also revolutionized man’s understanding of the atom. Rutherford postulated that the atom was like a miniature universe with electrons rotating around a positively charged nucleus. Rutherford, however, discovered a problem in his model. If his model was true, the electron should rapidly orbit into the nucleus – i.e. if Rutherford was correct, atoms could not exist and, therefore, nothing could exist. Bohr resolved the dilemma by demonstrating that electrons only occupy various defined orbits. Werner Heisenberg would later corroborate Bohr’s atomic model but would find himself struggling with a new problem of his own.

The Bohr-Heisenberg atomic model implied that there was a level of uncertainty regarding an electron’s location. One night Heisenberg went out for a walk, confused as to how the position of an electron is uncertain. In an epiphany, Heisenberg realized that observation is the key. Called the “uncertainty principle,” he realized that observation of an electron disturbs the electron and therefore it is impossible to know both the position and momentum of a particle. This discovery meant that uncertainty was a fundamental quality of nature and that the future of any physical system at the subatomic level is unpredictable.

Before quantum theory only one aspect of indeterminacy existed, arising from not knowing the “initial conditions.”  If such conditions were known, using Newtonian and Einsteinian physics, everything could be determined.  Scientists believed that these laws applied to planetary motion as well as subatomic particles.

Despite mathematical proofs and experimental evidence, Einstein rejected Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle. Einstein knew that if Heisenberg were correct, extreme determinism was false. For how could determinism describe the universe when it cannot detect the whereabouts and motion of a single atom? For more than three decades, Einstein attempted to formulate a grand model explaining the nature of the entire universe within the paradigm of determinism. But it was not to be.

In fact, on a large scale, such as that of the observable physical world, nature is comprehensible. However, quantum mechanics implies there is a limit to which man can understand reality – at the quantum level, especially, nature is uncertain to some degree.

Quantum Theory and Determinism

One should appreciate the power of the idea that the universe operates in a deterministic fashion at some levels, but according to the rules of quantum mechanics is in-deterministic in other scales. To create an orderly observable world not in need of constant intervention, God implemented fixed, discernable laws. Applying these laws to every stage of existence, however, would have precluded the possibility of free will. Quantum indeterminacy allows for free will while allowing deterministic laws to operate on larger scales.

Quantum indeterminacy further allows for a deist to accept the possibility of a Personal God – a God Who can intervene if needed and a God Who answers man’s prayers. In principle, this is what Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad alludes to, “If God has created the universe, then one can be certain that in keeping with His infinite entity, He would have left innumerable ways to influence the universe so that His divinity is not suspended in any way at any time.”[3]

[1] Max Jammer.  Einstein And Religion, Physics And Theology.  Princeton University Press, 1999.  pp. 110-111

[2] Albert Einstein.  Ideas and Opinions. Wing’s books, New York, 1954.  pp. 46-47.

[3] Barkat-ud-Dua, p. 27

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3 comments

  1. This is really interesting. Are there any articles shedding any light on the concept of Free Will of humans while there is a God that is omnipotent, omniscient, omniamorous, and One Who has the faculty of Qadr (Pre-Destination)? It was a question that I’ve been contemplating for some time. What is the purpose of prayer and striving towards God if He has already (perhaps) decreed that we are destined to go to Hell?

    1. Using the example you have given, God does not destine you to go to Hell. He, being the All-Knowing, just knows that as per your actions of free will you will end up in Hell. This path can be averted by Prayer.

      If you think about it, say you shift from a bad path to a more-favourable path through prayer, was your destiny the initial road to punishment, or this new road to reward? That is why the approach of “it doesn’t matter what I do because my fate is already written” is not the correct one. Our intention and actions at any given instant can influence the rest of our lives from that point forward. That is why we should work at moving towards God, as we could be rewriting our destiny with each step in His direction.

      It should be noted that some things cannot be changed via prayer – for instance certain seemingly negative fates for some parties which benefit other parties when observed in ‘the bigger picture’, and the punishment for certain individuals/groups who have incurred the Wrath of God.

  2. I have to following comments:
    Determinism
    Albert Einstein’s statement (that he did ‘..not believe in the God of theology who rewards good and punishes evil. My God created laws that take care of that. His universe is not ruled by wishful thinking, but by immutable laws” ) can be viewed as Islamically correct from one perspective, namely, that one does not limit the concept of the ‘universe’ to the 3 physical dimensions in which we live but rather include numerous further dimensions not perceived. In such case the God created laws governing all such dimensions would automatically reward good and punish evil.

    As regards Einstein’s rejecting free will, he failed to appreciate that a God being omnipotent could also create beings with ‘free will’ albeit to manifest or not the consequences of such ‘free will beings’ would still be under God’s control though the beings being punished by his immutable laws would not be tantamount to punishing himself.

    To deny free will is to deny reality since we live in a universe where our free will appears to cause consequences that are to some extent predictable and determinable – whilst at the same time subject to the Law of Chaos (i.e. that complex systems are inherently unpredictable and highly sensitive to initial conditions).

    Thus while the universe gives the illusion of being deterministic and predictable but is not (since it is being impacted by the other dimensions which are not directly perceiveable). However, this view does not preclude the universe from being predictable and deterministic from the perspective of an omnipotent and all knowing God. This is exactly what is stated in the Holy Quran.

    Quantum Theory And Chaos Theory
    Quantum theory is nothing more than the observation of the Theory of Chaos on a sub atomic level and whilst Heisenberg may have viewed and formulated his ‘uncertainty principle’, on the basis that observation interferes with that which is observed, the real issue is much more fundamental in that both the position and momentum of a particle ‘at the same moment in time’ is ‘mathematically’ indeterminable (in accordance with the theory of Chaos).
    However, Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle raised the further issue as to how the universe continues to exist from moment to moment and it was because of this that Einstein rejected the uncertainty principle saying that ‘God does not play dice with the universe’. By this he meant that it is not possible for continuity of existence of a universe subject to the vagaries of pure chance on a subatomic level. And of course he must be right. One cannot at one and the same time believe in the uncertainty principle and the continuity of the universe and one’s own existence and the same time without belief in and omnipotent God. Lesser minds such a Hawkins whilst unable to resolve this contradiction have nevertheless disagreed with Einstein.
    How then can we reconcile both Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle and Einstein’s statement ‘God does not play dice’. The answer is astonishingly simple, Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle is correct from a limited 3 dimensional perspective, i.e. indeterminable and unpredictable and yet completely determinable and predictable from the perspective of an omnipotent God existing outside dimensions all together.
    I give an example of a being that lives in a 2 dimensional universe, e.g. on 2 intersecting perpendicular lines on an infinitesimal thin plane, i.e. a on a piece of paper. Such a being would be limited as regards his powers of perception and understanding as to what was happening in his 2 dimensional universe which was being impacted from the 3rd dimension. This would not be the case of one viewing things from a 3 dimensional universe. This is because the latter is not subject to the same limitations and constraints as the 2 dimensional being who should at lease concede the possibility of a 3rd dimension. The big mistake that Einstein, Hawkins and others make is to imagine that the 3 dimensional universe is all that there is and that any God would be subject to its limitations and constraints. It is this, that results in their unresolved scientific contradictions which then result in their theological errors.
    The fact that we can visualise a 2 dimensional universe should serve as a lesson to us not to deny the existence of further dimensions and indeed the Holy Quran points to these extra 7 dimensions as the 7 Heavens and it further refers to the dead undergoing transformation into a new creation after death so that they might inhabit these new realms.
    The fact is that the universe appears to operate in a deterministic fashion at some levels and not others and is simply because we cannot appreciate the impact of the other dimensions upon this universe.
    Free Will
    We know that Quantum indeterminacy has no bearing on ‘the operation of free will’ because the law of Chaos applies to equally to inanimate objects. The reality is that we simply must get over the idea that the laws of the 3 dimensional universe which is all that we can detect, is all that operates within and impact these 3 dimensions. We need to understand that there are at least another 7 dimensions plus time which makes it an 11 dimensional universe and this has now been mathematically proved. http://bigthink.com/ideas/24868
    Once we understand this, the statement of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (pbuh) can be seen as being more meaningful since its means of operation can be easily understood.
    The Role of Prayer
    An omnipotent God who has created a sentient being with free will and a capacity to know him and to pray to him will also have created/provided within this 11 dimensional universe the means (i.e. laws) whereby actions, intentions and prayers have an impact upon the ultimate outcome some in these 3 dimensions and others in the further dimensions. Prayers are nothing more than a part of the laws that God has put into operation within the 11 dimensional universe and indeed in accordance with the Holy Quran all the major events in human civilisation have proceeded from prayer.
    However, as with all laws, some have precedence over others and examples of these are given in the Holy Quran. Thus the enemies of God can never prosper and in the end are bound to be destroyed though they may achieve some temporary advantage.
    In the case of the prophets they always prevail in the end despite being weak and helpless and they overcome the strong who are not only more powerful but overwhelmingly so. In accordance with determinism as understood by Hawkins and others, the prophets should fail but they succeed which shows that there are some hidden universal laws that are in operation but are unpercieved. These come through prayer from the other dimensions and is referred to in the Holy Quran as ‘Nassurallah’ or ‘the help of Allah’.

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