God in a Quantum World

Recent developments in quantum, evolution and relativity theory are changing     our way of conceptualizing God’s being and activity in and beyond the cosmos.

I.

The Hebrew priests “serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly sanctuary…Christ has entered, not into a sanctuary made with hands, a copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.” (Hebrews 8:5; 9:24)

The accuracy of this “Platonic” vision, characteristic of the first century epistle to the Hebrews, is being confirmed increasingly today by quantum mechanics and relativity theory.  Each of these branches of science presents us with a dualistic paradigm of reality, one in which the world of time and space, matter and energy, appears as a limited aspect of the real, if not as pure illusion.  As the Hebrews passage implies, ultimate reality, of which the material universe is a mere “shadow” (skia), exists on another plane, one properly termed “transcendent” or even “spiritual.”  The classical Euclidian, Newtonian and Darwinian models, while in many ways still valid (in our time and space), are thus giving way to a new conception of the world and of God’s place within it.  This paradigm, based on experimentally proven theories of “non-locality” and “incompleteness,” illustrates the limits of philosophical and methodological materialism, while it allows us to grasp the nature of reality as both transcendent and immanent.  It reinterprets the dualistic vision of Plato (particularly his allegory of the cave), and provides us with a way to envision or conceptualize God that is in keeping with the Scriptures and mystical experience, while fully incorporating the findings of modern science.

The theories of non-locality and incompleteness that undergird this new paradigm can be sketched out as follows.  “Non-locality,” which is an extension of Heisenberg’s “uncertainty,” or better, “indeterminacy” principle, describes a situation in which two elementary particles remain in contact with each other, irrespective of the distance that separates them, such that an effect produced on one particle occurs instantaneously on the other (a phenomenon known as “entanglement”).  The two particles, in other words, interact independently of time and space; they exist, as it were, in a world other than our own.  Non-locality is illustrated as well by the “indeterminacy” of a given particle: it is impossible to determine simultaneously both its momentum and its location.11

“Incompleteness” signifies the fact that no system can be simultaneously complete and coherent.  Kurt Gödel worked this out in terms of his theorem of logical incompleteness: mathematical propositions can be true yet indemonstrable (i.e., coherent yet incomplete).  His conviction that mathematical realities exist objectively, independently of human mental activity, locates them on a transcendent plane that is likewise independent of time and space.

In what follows I would like to offer a brief overview of some of the reflection going on, particularly in France today, among highly reputable scientists of various disciplines who are working to bring as much coherence and completeness to this new paradigm as possible.

It is probably correct to say that Americans tend to be interested in the “What and how?” of things, whereas the French are more concerned with the “What and why?”  Their philosophical approach to life and reality in general leads them to explore with special passion the question of meaning.  Hence the title of one of the most significant books to be published in recent years, Jean Staune’s Notre existence a-t-elle un sens ? Une enquête scientifique et philosophique.22 Other French scientists who have sought an integrated scientific, philosophical and religious explanation of the way thing are include Pierre Perrier33, Thierry Magnin44, Basarab Nicolescu55, Luc Ferry66, and Bernard Espagnat77; and, of course, many others, including the interesting but somewhat controversial brothers Igor and Grichka Bogdanov88.

What emerges from these and related studies is precisely the “new paradigm” of reality, based on quantum mechanics, evolutionary theory and general relativity.  Jean Staune has summarized and evaluated this process, and for the present I would like to refer to and comment on a few of his conclusions.

Raising the question, “What is ‘real’?,” Staune offers the following list of characteristics of reality that make it clear how radically the new paradigm differs from the classical model.99

1. Heisenberg’s uncertainty or indeterminacy principle shows that at the level of elementary particles there is a fundamental “uncertainty” structured into the universe.  The classical model of the world as strictly material and deterministic no longer holds.

2. Thomas Young’s 1803 experiments with light passing through slits, showing that the photon can and does act both as a particle and as a wave, demonstrates that the foundation of matter is not material objects.  This wave-particle duality led Niels Bohr and colleagues (1924), followed by Max Born (1927), to develop mathematical equations to express “probability waves”: extending throughout the universe, these waves indicate the probabilitythat a given particle will be observed as being in a specific location.1010 Atoms, with protons, neutrons, electrons and other particles, are not subject to the limits of time and space.  Nor can their location be known absolutely – they are subject to the laws of probability.

3. Experiments have demonstrated that there is in the universe a non-local or holistic dimension, such that in certain cases two particles must be considered to be a single, unique object, irrespective of the distance that separates them.  Termed “non-separability,” this variant of non-locality holds that the two particles can “communicate” instantaneously with each other because they in fact constitute a single entity.  We can press this point still further by noting that the (experimentally verified) laws of quantum mechanics make it clear that subatomic particles do not exist prior to our observation of them (Bohr’s principle of complementarity1111).  Or rather, they exist in a virtual state as “correlations”: a particle can be described as a “set of relationships,” whose meaning is derived from its relationship or correlation with the universal “whole.”  It moves from a state of potentiality to actuality by virtue of our measurement of it.  The potentiality exists as a quantum wave function that collapses into an actual event or reality once it is observed.  Until it is observed, a photon or other subatomic particle does not exist as a separate, isolated reality.  It is in a potential state, united to the “whole.”  Our observation of it is what separates it from that underlying cosmic unity.  “Inseparability” suggests that nothing can be truly isolated, but that at the quantum level all things are united in a universal “wholeness.”1212

4. Our traditional concepts of time, space, objects, trajectories and causality do not apply at the microphysical level.  Those concepts are conventions we use to function in the macrocosmic world.  They are no longer relevant at the quantum level of reality.

5. The world in which we live, that is, the world of phenomena, cannot be adequately described without taking into account the way we observe and measure it.  It has what is called a “weak objectivity.”  We could say that its very ontology is conditioned by our conscious perception of it.

6. True reality possesses by definition a “strong objectivity.”  It does not depend on the way we observe or measure it.  If such a reality in fact exists (here we broach the question of the reality of God), then this reality cannot be identified with our world of phenomena.

7. If we want to remain realistic, we need to postulate a “non-physical realism,” in which true reality does not correspond to what we can see, measure or touch.   Such a reality remains largely hidden.

8. Unless we adopt models that are formally coherent yet have absurd consequences (such as an infinite number of parallel universes), or models that are formally problematic (such as “quantum potential”1313), then this independent reality cannot be conceived as being located in space and time.  The same is true for elementary particles, which constitute the foundation of everything we can observe.  In short, all new scientific research points to the fact that we have passed beyond classical concepts of reality and are moving towards a new and very strange paradigm.

To Staune’s list we need to add other considerations drawn from some of the most recent research in the areas of cosmology and particle physics.  “Decoherence” is a term used to designate suppression of the quantum wave interference that separates our empirical world of Euclidian-Newtonian experience from the “quantum world” governed by very different quantum laws1414

.  Do these two domains represent entirely separate and different levels of reality?  And if so, how can we speak of the ordinary physical world as being ultimately composed of non-physical elements?  Until very recently, the question seemed unanswerable.  A recent issue of the journal Science, however, listed as a “breakthrough of the year (2010)” what is referred to as “the first quantum machine.”1515 This device, a mechanical oscillator, operates according to the laws of quantum mechanics.  Apart from practical uses such as creating ultrasensitive force detectors, the apparatus might throw new light on quantum theory as a whole.  Perhaps its most important aspect is to demonstrate that the apparent gulf between the quantum world and our empirical material world is an illusion.  If it is possible to create from ordinary matter machines that operate by quantum laws, then we must conclude that there is in fact total continuity between the two realms of reality.  This would allow us, then, to incorporate a dualistic perspective (quantum reality and “ordinary material” reality) into a single unified theory that would correspond with our daily experience: the chair we are sitting on is composed of electrons and quarks, yet it is still a chair…

A further aspect of recent research we should mention concerns the relation between quantum theory and cosmology.  Since Staune published his book in 2007, a great deal of research has focused on inflationary cosmology and string theory.  String theory holds that the quantum field theory, which views matter as composed of minute particles, needs to be revised.  According to string (or superstring) theory, the basic units of matter are not discrete particles, but rather tiny, indivisible and one-dimensional vibrating strings.  A potential weakness of the theory lies in its requirement that the universe be made up of at least six different spatial dimensions, and perhaps as many as eleven.  The most positive aspect of string theory lies in the possibility that it will at last enable physicists to find the Holy Grail of a unified field theory, one that integrates gravitation, together with electromagnetism and the weak and strong nuclear forces, into a single set of equations.  As for cosmology, string theory provides scientists dealing with inflationary models the extra spatial dimensions they require.  Once again, two apparently distinct fields of research – quantum theory and cosmology – are now being combined in ways that significantly advance our knowledge and understanding of reality on both the macrocosmic and microcosmic scales.1616

The so-called anthropic principle is also being reevaluated, in France and elsewhere. An important distinction is made between a “weak” and a “strong” anthropic principle.  The former states simply that we are here because conditions in the universe have always been such as to lead to conscious existence.  This is something of a tautology: “we are here because we are here,” that is, because conditions enable us to be here.  The strong anthropic principle adds to that the idea that some ultimate purpose or plan lies behind the expansion of the universe, with the intention of producing conscious beings.  Thus it may be said that “the universe was expecting us.”  Unlike “intelligent design,” however, the anthropic principle does not necessarily imply the existence of a creator.

Without going into detail, we can note simply that most scientists today accept the “Big Bang” theory of the creation of the universe.  The universe is not eternal, but is contingent, constantly expanding and subject to entropy.  Many researchers stress the point that universal constants (the speed of light, gravitation, the strong and weak nuclear forces, the conservation of energy, Planck’s constant1717, etc.) have been so finely tuned since the very beginning (10-43 seconds) that the slightest variation in their effects would have made impossible the formation of stars, planets, and therefore mankind.  Some 96% of the mass and energy of the known universe is itself unknown  (a quarter is made up of “dark matter” and the rest constitutes “dark energy”); only 4% constitutes what we understand to be “ordinary matter” that leads to the existence of conscious and self-conscious beings (ourselves, and perhaps others somewhere “out there”).  These and related considerations lead many scientists and philosophers of science to posit the existence of an (infinitely) intelligent creator or creative power, which has structured a telos or “finality” into the cosmos.  The world, in other words, together with human kind, has definite meaning and is headed toward a definite end.  Again, this conclusion can be drawn without the need to postulate the existence of God.

Increasingly scientists are calling into question some of the basic tenets of Darwinism.  Virtually all recognize that life has evolved throughout the ages from a single cell organism to all the complexities of plant, animal and human life.  The “neo-Darwinists” are clinging to their master’s basic theories, but modifying them by adding considerations drawn from quantum theory.  We now know, for example, that DNA can be affected by the environment, that “quantum jumps” are made in the course of evolutionary development (cf. Stephen Jay Gould’s “punctuated equilibrium”), and that the notions of random mutations and natural selection are put into question by the apparent directedness of the evolutionary process.  This suggests that there is, within the bounds of rational science, the possibility of accepting some form of “intelligent design,” as long as that theory does not succumb to the temptations of a “God of the gaps” theology.  Although it remains highly speculative, certain scientists (e.g., Vincent Fleury of the French National Center for Scientific Research: CNRS) hold that an organism receives its characteristics less from natural selection and epigenetic factors than from an inherent “plan” or overall holistic program.

In addition to recalling the image of “archetypes,” this hypothesis posits a mechanism that enables a molecule of DNA to change from its present state to a new state: one that preexistedin a virtual form, and corresponds to a new genre or species.1818 Such hypotheses, shaped by quantum theory, are being woven together today to create a “new evolutionary theory,” one informed by Darwinism, yet marked more fully by notions of “incompleteness,” implying that evolution is not deterministic.  These conclusions clearly do away with fundamentalist “creationism” (the idea that the world was created some 6000 years ago in six calendar days, that fossils were planted by God to test our faith, and so on).  Nevertheless, they open the way for a theory of evolution that recognizes that not all mutations are the result of chance, and that there is a “finality” or purposeful end to the development of living things.  From a strictly scientific point of view it has become possible to affirm that evolutionary development results from a certain organizational program that is inscribed in the very laws of nature, like the structure of a snowflake.  It is a short leap from there to the conviction that “everything has its purpose,” and that the beautyof the created order and of life itself will, as Dostoyevsky declared, “save the world.”1919

A major element in this ongoing discussion concerns the role of consciousness.  A “fuzz field” or quantum wave function collapses to reveal an electron or other particle only when it is observed, when it is impacted upon by a conscious being (and perhaps we must add, “self-conscious,” aware of itself as observer).  Again, the transformation seems to take place both within and beyond the limits of time and space.  Benjamin Libet of the University of California (San Francisco) has done extraordinary work in a related area.  His studies have also inspired researchers in France, particularly his experimental demonstration that time can flow backwards!

Staune gives a good summary of Libet’s experiments.  Give an electric shock to a finger and the brain receives the sensation after 25 milliseconds.  In a second experiment involving an open brain operation, Libet continually stimulated with a mild electric pulse the region of the brain that corresponds to the finger, and the patient felt a shock in the finger after 500 ms. or half a second, although the finger itself had not been touched.  When combined, these two procedures (finger shock and brain stimulation) showed that by stimulating the brain for 500 ms., the first shock to the finger was not felt.  Somehow, it seems to have been canceled out, since only the mild shock from the brain stimulation was felt.  Now, we must make a clear distinction between detecting something and being conscious of something.  It takes half a second for the brain to become conscious of the shock, whereas it detects it almost immediately, at 25 ms.  (This is the principle behind subliminal advertizing.)   Critics of Libet contend that the second shock somehow canceled out the sensation of the first.  Thus, they say, the first shock was actually detected but not consciously.  Nevertheless, in a further experiment Libet shocked the finger but sent pulses from the brain for only 400 ms. – and the subject felt nothing at all.  In order for him to feel the shock, it would have been necessary to stimulate the brain for a full 500 ms.  But then the subject would have felt the shock immediately, i.e., after only 25 ms.  It is clear that the brain stimulation could not have canceled out the initial shock to the finger, since it was stopped prematurely, before it could have any effect.  This means that the conscious mind pre-dated the sensation by “going back in time.”  It went back some 475 ms., so that the signal from the finger shock could be felt 25 ms. after it was given.  That is, the conscious went back in time to make the feeling of the shock coincide with the moment at which it was given – at 25 ms. rather than at 500 ms.  Libet’s experiments, as reported in the journal Nature (vol. 1, 1987, 271-275), demonstrate that the subjective experience of consciousness is, in Staune’s words, phenomenologically independent of neuronal processes.

Consciousness, then, is presently being reconceptualized as a sort of field, which Libet declares to be completely indescribable by observable physical events or by any presently existing physical theory.2020 Nevertheless, he has demonstrated experimentally that at the quantum level time can indeed flow backwards.2121

 II.

Where, then, is God in all of this?  To reply to the question, Jean Staune calls for a return to a vision of the world that is basically Platonic or dualistic.  An increasing number of his colleagues seem to agree with him, although their explications will often differ from his, sometimes radically.  The point is that quantum mechanics, new evolutionary theory, and the slowly unraveling mysteries of human consciousness force us to expand our vision of things far beyond what was envisioned by Newton or even Einstein.  These giants gave us the tools to open our conceptual casement onto new horizons.  For a long while, the laws of quantum physics and those of the material world in which we live seemed to be contradictory or simply unrelated.  We could not imagine how a single photon, for example, can pass through two slits simultaneously, or how nature itself can be structured so that the more scientists learn about the universe the less we really understand.  If a person cannot accept an “apophatic” approach to reality, declaring what it is not before seeking to affirm what it is, then there is little way of dealing with the givens of quantum mechanics and general relativity.  It is far simpler to fall back on a purely materialist view of the world, in which everything is ultimately determined and scientific certainty seems achievable.  This view was scientific orthodoxy in the 18th and 19th centuries, and it still has adherents today.  That world, however, no longer exists.  Material reality exists, certainly.  But only from the point of view of our sensory perception.

Consciousness is required to observe and measure reality, both microcosmic and macrocosmic.  On the quantum level, consciousness is also required to “bring into existence” elementary particles and, variously, to determine their mass, location and velocity.  This is scientific fact, demonstrated experimentally and repeatedly over the course of the last century.  From this point onward, however, we can only speculate.

It seems evident to minds that are open to whatever form truth may ultimately take, that direction, purpose and meaning characterize both the world we live in and the universe as a whole.  The (strong) anthropic principle holds that creation itself is moving toward an end, that it is invested with finality.  It is, if you will, directed toward Teilhard de Chardin’s “Omega point.”  He identifies that point with the Cosmic Christ, something most physicists today are loathe to do.  Nevertheless, to those who support the anthropic principle, the universe itself – from the Big Bang to the present day, 13.75 billion years later – is designed to lead to conscious life.  In such a long period of development, it is quite conceivable that other conscious beings exist in the universe, whose consciousness is vastly more developed than our own.  However that may be, it all points to the reality of a supreme Being beyond being, a creative and purposeful Archê or ultimate Principle, who in the words of the Orthodox eucharistic liturgy, “calls all things from non-existence into being.”

Presumably it would be possible to conceive of such a Being in a pantheistic or “panentheistic” mode that would avoid personalizing it in any way.  “God,” then, would be a supreme force that is the origin of all that exists, that sustains creation through time and space, and that perhaps gives purpose and direction to it all.  This god would be acceptable to a great many physicists and other scientists who intuit the presence of such an originating and sustaining force.  To describe such a god as “personal,” however, as Christianity and other religions necessarily do, would be to take a quantum leap most scientists today refuse to make.

The real question today is not “Does God exist?”  That can be answered in the affirmative, as we have just suggested, by reducing the deity to a cosmic force, the unifying principle in the visible and invisible universe.  This god would be the answer to Einstein’s quest for a unified field theory.  But it is not the answer to the most important question of all.  The real question we need to ask is, “How can the Creator-God be at the same time a God of humility, compassion and love, who relates to each of his human creatures ‘personally’ and bestows on them unique and eternal meaning?”  This is the God known to multitudes of Christians, Jews and other “theists,” on the basis of personal experience.  Is such a God compatible with the cosmic force that creates and sustains quantum reality?

The beginning of a response might be found in the idea of consciousness.2222 According to the Book of Genesis, we have been created “in the image and likeness of God.”  That is, we bear and reflect certain characteristics and qualities proper to the deity, known in Christian tradition as the Holy Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Our personhood is a reflection of that deity, who reveals itself to be “hypostatic” or “personal.”  If human beings had simply made God in their own image, then personhood would have no ultimate referent, and its primary qualities of conscious awareness, intelligence and love would be explainable by the language of genetics and the effects of environmental conditioning.  On the other hand, to those “who have tasted the heavenly gift and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the world to come,” as the epistle to the Hebrews expresses it (6:4-5), there is no question that God is ontologically real and the Author of all things, visible and invisible.  Christian experience – prayer, contemplation, self-giving expressions of sacrificial love – confirms beyond doubt for a great many people that such a God is both Creator and Sustainer of all things, and at the same time, in the ascetic language of the Church, “God is closer to us than our own heart.”

That God is the archetype of our being and our consciousness.  If we have the capacity to bring elementary particles into physical existence by the sheer act of observation, then perhaps something analogous occurs in the realm of God’s own being and activity.  Perhaps the ultimate supra-cosmic force that “brings all things from non-existence into being” is this same God, who creates not by modeling clay from a riverbed or from some pre-existing, unformed matter, but rather by an act of conscious perception that looks upon the world and “sees that it is good” (cf. Genesis 1).

It might well be, then, that God creates ex nihilo and sustains the creation by employing the very quantum laws that he himself devised.

  1. 1 “Locality,” which operates in the macroscopic realm, refers to interactions that are mediated by signals in the framework of time and space.  In this realm, the signals cannot surpass the speed of light, and effects are produced by specific causes.  In the microscopic domain of “non-locality,” interactions occur independently of material signals, they can occur instantaneously over vast distances between two previously interacting particles, and ordinary laws of cause and effect are suspended.

    Until recently Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle and non-locality were regarded as separate concepts.  An article published by J. Oppenheim and S. Wehner in Science vol. 330, 19 Nov. 2010, is titled “The Uncertainty Principle Determines the Nonlocality of Quantum Mechanics.”  The abstract states: “the link between uncertainty and non-locality holds for all physical theories.”  The authors demonstrate mathematically that the two concepts can be successfully combined. []

  2. 2 Does Our Existence Have Meaning? A scientific and philosophical inquiry.  (Paris: Presses de la Renaissance, 2007). []
  3. 3 La Science des coeurs et de la nature.  (Éditions DésIris, 1998). []
  4. 4 Entre Science et Religion. Quête de sens dans le monde présent(Éditions du Rocher, 1998). []
  5. 5 La science, le sens et l’évolution.(Éditions du Félin, 1988). []
  6. 6 L’Homme Dieu ou le sens de la vie.(Grasset, 1996). []
  7. 7 Implications philosophiques de la science contemporaine, 3 tomes. (Presse Universitaire de France, 2002). []
  8. 8 Le Visage de Dieu.  (Grasset, 2010). []
  9. 9 Notre existence a-t-elle un sens ?, p. 125. []
  10. 10 That probability is determined by squaring the amplitude of the probability wave associated with the particle in question.  The greater the amplitude (the higher the wave crest), the greater the probability that the particle will be found at that location.  Quantum mechanics, in other words, does not predict events or realities as such, but only the probabilities associated with observation and measurement.  In 1932, J. von Neumann developed what is known as the Theory of Measurement.  This holds that to an observer the wave function of a photon, once observed or measured, collapses into one of two possibilities (it will pass through either slit 1 or slit 2) to become actualized.  Prior to that observation, all that existed was the wave function itself, a “potentiality.”

    Schrödinger’s wave equation tells us that an endless number of possibilities or potentialities accumulate as we move from the wave function of the photon, to the detectors in the slit experiment, to the observer, to an observer of the observer, etc., until finally the entire universe is included (an effect known as quantum superposition or the “von Neuman chain”).  Physicists raise the question, “Who is observing the universe?”  They tend to answer, “We are!”  It is our observation that collapses the wave function and actualizes universal reality.  (It is important to remember that, paradoxically, the wave function itself is not some thing; it is rather an “idea,” a conscious mental description of possible occurrences.) This however, is a circular argument.  Some ultimate, supra-cosmic Observer is required, one “outside” any particular wave function, who can effect the actualization of quantum potentiality.  As we understand things, it is God who is “observing the universe.”

    It is the refusal to accept this point that has led to various “multiverse” hypotheses, according to which each of an infinite number of quantum wave functions is collapsed, and a given reality is actualized in an infinite number of separate dimensions or universes.  When each wave function collapses, all of its mutually exclusive possibilities are in fact actualized: one of them in our universe, and the others each in its own separate universe – about which we can know nothing.  To avoid the notion of an ultimate, transcendent Observer, theorists have produced a hypothesis that is as improbable as it is unverifiable. []

  11. 11“Complementarity,” which refers to the mutually exclusive yet at the same time complementary wave and particle characteristics of a photon (or in fact of any subatomic entity), is also an appropriate designation for the relationship or interaction between a particle and ourselves.  Again, a quantum wave function collapses, revealing the particle at a given location, only when it is “complemented” by our observation of it.  The wave-particle duality is in fact a property not of the photon itself, but rather of our interaction with it.  Depending on how we set up our experiment, the same photon will behave either as a wave or as a particle.  To some physicists (e.g. A. Goswami), the complementary aspects of quantum entities include “transcendent” waves (beyond the framework of space-time) and “immanent” particles.  To express this dual aspect, quantum objects are often referred to as “wavicles.” []
  12. 12 See David Bohm, Wholeness and the Implicate Order (London & Boston: Ark, 1983); and Fred Alan Wolf, Taking the Quantum Leap (New York: Harper & Row, 1989), esp. chs. 8 and 11, for a good, popular introduction to this question. []
  13. 13 “Quantum potential” refers to the theory of de Broglie, proposed in 1926 and developed in the 1950s by David Bohm.  QP is described as “a non-local hidden variable”: particles communicate via a hidden, invisible field, which transmits information (cf. the long-discarded “ether” hypothesis).  This view preserves a (weak) materialist vision of reality and avoids the idea of “non-physicality.” []
  14. 14 “Decoherence” refers to a phenomenon by which the quantum wave function of a particle (a microcosmic or microscopic reality) achieves a state of “collapse” when it interacts with a macrocosmic environment.  Its effect is to suppress quantum interference by modifying a large object’s wave function.  The resulting loss of wave “coherence” transforms quantum probabilities into “ordinary” macrocosmic probabilities.  Insofar as the process “closes the gap” between micro- and macrocosmic events, it can be said to resolve the quantum measurement problem.  Decoherence was the focus of Niels Bohr’s early work that served as the basis for the standard Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics.  For a useful discussion of decoherence and quantum reality, see Brian Green, The Fabric of the Cosmos (New York: Vintage Books, 2005), 208-213. []
  15. 15 Adrian Cho, “The First Quantum Machine,” Science vol. 330, 12/17/’10, 1604.  See as well John Markoff’s article “In Pursuit of Qubits, Uniting Subatomic Particles by the Billions,” The New York Times (Jan. 20, 2011).  Markoff describes work presently undertaken by physicists to create quantum computers that function according to quantum laws, including that of “superposition,” the possibility of representing two states (in computer language, 0 and 1) simultaneously.  This recalls “Schrödinger’s cat”: at a quantum level the “cat in the box” can be both alive and dead.  Markoff notes: “The advance indicates there is an impending convergence between the subatomic world of quantum computers and today’s classical microelectronic systems.”   []
  16. 16 See A.H. Guth and D.I.Kaiser, “Inflationary Cosmology: Exploring the Universe from the Smallest to the Largest Scales,” in Science vol. 307 (11 Feb. 2005), 884-890, for a useful overview of these issues. []
  17. 17 In 1900 Max Planck proposed a “quantum theory” to explain radiation from a dark body that is heated (for example, a branding iron).  The radiation, he held, is made by indivisible particles (quanta), each of which contains energy equal to hv, where v is the frequency of the radiation, and h is a constant that pertains to all forms of electromagnetic radiation, including X-rays and radio waves.  It serves basically to calculate the size of the quanta of light frequencies.  Using Planck’s constant (h = 6.63 x 10-27 erg-sec), Niels Bohr demonstrated in 1913 that an atom is characterized by discontinuity: electrons circle the nucleus in discrete orbits, moving immediately from one to the other – making “quantum jumps” or discontinuous transitions – without passing through intermediate orbits.  Heisenberg appealed to the same constant in formulating his “uncertainty principle.” []

  18. 18 This process (referred to as VSA: “virtual state actualization”), characterizes all quantum level transformations.  Reality exists in a kind of intermediate state between an idea (not unlike Plato’s “ideas” or “forms”) and matter, until it is actualized by conscious observation. []
  19. 19 For an Orthodox Christian perspective on the issue of evolution, particularly in regard to objections arising from a fundamentalist or literalist reading of Scripture, see Gayle Woloschak, Beauty and Unity in Creation (Minneapolis: Light & Life, 1996). []
  20. 20 On this entire question, see Staune, Notre existence a-t-elle un sens ?, ch. 14. []
  21. 21 See especially Benjamin Libet, Mind Time: The Temporal Factor in Consciousness (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004).  This phenomenon of time reversal has been noticed since at least 1949, with Richard Feynman’s discoveries that anti-particles can move backwards in time.  See Gary Zukav, The Dancing Wu Li Masters. An overview of the new physics (New York: Basic Books, 1979), 217-222.  For an in-depth discussion of the role of consciousness in the quantum paradigm, see Lothar Schäfer, “Quantum Reality, the Emergence of Complex Order from Virtual States, and the Importance of Consciousness in the Universe,” Zygon vol. 41/3 (Sept. 2006), 505-598. []
  22. 22 Consciousness should not be confused with “awareness.”  Awareness is a mind-brain function of perception.  Consciousness may be described as a universal field of transcendent character (independent of time and space), which involves not just awareness of a given reality, but interaction with that reality.   Amit Goswami, The Self-Aware Universe (New York: Putnam, 1993) states: consciousness “manifests itself as the subject that chooses, and experiences what it chooses, as it self-referentially collapses the quantum wave function in the presence of brain-mind awareness” (glossary).  Consciousness is a creative “force” that actualizes potential or virtual realities at the quantum level, and – we may say hypothetically – gives rise to relational interactions between persons.  In this perspective, a person’s communion with God occurs by means of reciprocal consciousness.  A question that needs to be explored is the relationship between consciousness and “soul.” []