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Genesis, Quantum Physics and Reality

How the Bible agrees with Quantum Physics — An Anthropic Principle of Another Kind:
The Divine Anthropic Principle

Peter Zoeller-Greer
University of Applied Sciences
FH-Frankfurt am Main
Fachbereich Mathematik
Naturwissenschaften Datenverarbeitung Nibelungenpatz 1
60318 Frankfurt am Main, Germany


From Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 52 (March 2000):
Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding;
If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures;
Then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD,
and find the knowledge of God — Prov. 2:3-5, KJV.
Recently many discussions
(mostly between scientists and theologians and even among scientists and fellow scientists)
have focused on how the reports in Gen. 1:1 will or will not contradict actual scientific realms.
They begin with the evolution theories and lead to the cosmological theories of the big bang.
The point I would like to make here includes aspects of the interpretations of quantum physics.
As we will see, these aspects could make the other discussions superfluous.
Indeed, this interpretation of reality seems to be foreseen in the Bible
and supports a transcendent Creator.
The Bible seems compatible with quantum physics and even
leads to a new kind of anthropic principle:
the Divine Anthropic Principle.
God seems not only to be a mathematician, as some say;
he also seems to be a quantum physicist.


Quantum Physics in a Nutshell

Most physicists agree that quantum physics is one of the most important physical theories in history, even more important than Einstein's theory of relativity. And the latest results of experiments in the field of quantum physics seem to solidify this view. Let us say in advance that up to now there is not one single phenomenon which contradicts this theory. This is unique in physics. Even the strange results of the subsequent, described experiments are fully predicted by quantum mechanics!

Physics normally makes a distinction between an observable phenomenon (e.g., an apple falls from a tree) and its mathematical description by the observer (e.g., s=½gt2). The assumptions and formulas are called a "model." Such a model is called "good," if it can make predictions that can be verified by experiments. If such a model fulfills certain criteria, such as simplicity (in a mathematical sense) and consistency with the observed world, physicists then accept it.

With quantum physics, however, a new problem has risen within physics. It concerns the distinction between the observer and the observed phenomenon. The formula s=½gt2, which describes the distance "s" performed by the falling apple during the time span "t" (where g = 9.81m/s2), is used by the observer, and the influence of the observer in relation to this phenomenon can be neglected. But if a physicist tries to observe very small elementary particles such as electrons or photons (light particles), this influence can no longer be neglected. In fact, this influence usually is so big that it will destroy the measured results.

For example, consider the following problem. To measure the locality of an electron and its speed (actually its impulse, to be more specific) at a certain time, we can try to "look" at the electron with light. But a photon shot at the electron to determine its location and speed will alter the position and the actual speed of the electron in such a way that its former simultaneous location and speed can never again be precisely reconstructed. As shown by the German physicist, Werner Heisenberg in 1927, this is not a question of how "good" your measuring equipment is; it is a fundamental law called the "Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle." So the position and speed of an electron (and any other elementary particle) can simultaneously be determined only within a boundary of uncertainty. In general, impulse and locality cannot be measured with arbitrary accuracy at one time. There is a fundamental lower limit.

Yet, consider that our whole universe is made out of such elementary particles. Another problem is that the border between the observer and the observed object is not fixated. If a photon "observes" an object, who observes the photon? If this is a human eye, who observes the human eye? Is it the nerve skein connected with the eye? At the end of the nerve, is it a brain cell? So, who is last in this chain of observers? Which "entity" is aware of all this? Where is this entity located?

The problem of "who observes whom" is crucial. On the other hand, if a system is not observed, it is also "undisturbed" and behaves in a different way. This can be seen within the Wave-Particle Dualism. Every elementary particle (remember, all matter in the universe is made out of such particles) behaves either as a wave or particle, depending on the equipment used to "observe" it. For example, under certain circumstances, a photon behaves as a wave. Everyone can see the "color" of light. This can easily be interpreted as the frequencies of light waves. On the other hand, light is also able to "shoot out" electrons onto certain metal surfaces (e.g., photo cells). But only (light) particles, capable of enough energy, are able to do this. (Einstein won his Nobel Prize for this discovery) So, what is light (and all matter)? The question here is, "Is light made up of waves or particles?" The answer is, "Neither." As long as light is not observed, it is a kind of unification of both called a quantum system (no one knows what it really looks like, because we just assume it is not observed). Only when and as we observe it, does it "behave" either as a wave or as a particle, depending on the measuring equipment used. The same is also true for our former "unobserved" electron. As long as no one "looks" at it, it is a quantum system with no certain location and impulse at one time. Yet, if we look at it, we can only find out either its exact location or its exact impulse, but not both exact values at the same time.

Let it be noted that mathematically the quantum system is precisely described through the solutions of the so-called "Schrödinger equation"; the corresponding solutions (called "wave-functions") are a superposition of all possible outcomes. If the so-called quantum system is "disturbed," e.g., by observation, then the wave-function "collapses" and one of the former possible outcomes becomes the solution of the Schrödinger equation (that is what we call "reality").

Thus, the problem can also be described as follows: What we normally call "reality" is the result of collapsed wave-functions. The question is, "What kind of 'reality' corresponds to the 'un-collapsed' wave-functions, that is, how 'real' is a physical state described by the superposition of possible 'realities'?" Therefore this (un-collapsed) "reality" is an abstract notion with no concrete meaning.

In the example of the observation of an electron, we can reduce the interpretation of this behavior to two viewpoints:

a. There is (in reality) a definite location and an impulse below the Heisenberg uncertainty limit, but we cannot measure them simultaneously.

b. There is simply no location and impulse below the Heisenberg uncertainty limit (or, in other words, there is no reality for the electron's impulse and location below this limit; its reality is created only during its observation).

In other words, according to (a) there really is a world "out there," independent of the fact that we are observing it, while according to (b) the interpretation is that there is no reality "out there" (at least it makes no sense to talk about it) as long as we do not observe it (that is, reality is "created" during the process of observation). The latter is also well known as the "Copenhagen Interpretation" given by Niels Bohr in the 1920s.

Although it seems a little far-fetched to say that reality only exists while observed, many scientists tried to conceive experiments, whose results would lead to a clear decision between the two interpretations. Two major experiments, one performed by Alain Aspect during the 1980s 1 and one by Marlan Scully and his research team in the early 1990s 2 gave results even more staggering than expected. Both experiments have to do with the Wave-Particle Dualism of a photon. I want to give a rough overview here of the Scully experiment, to show how important its results are.

A light beam enters a crystal, which divides every photon into two so-called "twin photons" with lower intensity (see Fig. 1). The twin photons are directed in separate directions, each of them reflected by a mirror and later "united" by a semi-transparent mirror (50% of the photons can pass through, the other 50% are completely reflected and therefore cannot pass through). Behind this mirror are two detectors that can register each photon.

Scully's arrangement of the components is made so that the twin photons unite in a way that at one time, one twin photon is reflected and the other one passes through the semi-transparent mirror or vice versa. In either case, as a result, a reunited, "whole" photon (with the original intensity) is detected either at the upper or lower detector. This represents the "wave-behavior" of photons and the effect is called "interference."

Next, Scully and his team were interested in finding out which way each of the two twin photons went before they were reunited at the semi-transparent mirror. So they "marked" one of the twin photons with a so-called polarization filter, an optical device that slightly "twists" the photon beam. In doing so, the photons "feel" observed and thus their wave-behavior is destroyed. Suddenly, Scully and his team detected not only "united" photons, but also "single" twin photons at the upper and the lower detector at the same time (see Fig. 2).

But what happens if two other polarization filters are set up directly in front of the detectors, which are adjusted in such a way that "behind them" the information of which photon is marked (that is, polarized) is deleted? (See Fig. 3).

Here is the amazing result. Since the information has been destroyed (concerning which photon went which way), the photons no longer "feel" observed and, therefore, as in the "undisturbed" experiment (without any polarization filters), only "reunited twin photons" are detected, either at the upper or lower detector. So, the twin photons unite again at the semi-transparent mirror in such a way that either the one twin photon is reflected and the other one passes through or vice versa.

But wait a minute. How could the two twin photons know that behind the semi-transparent mirror (this means later in time) a device is waiting that destroys the information of the first polarization filter and that for this reason the twin photons reunite at the semi-transparent mirror? Can the photons foresee the future? Or does our measurement (that is, observation) influence the past? If there is an independent reality "out there" (this means, independent from the observer), how could these results be explained? In fact, they could not! At least, with no "reasonable" explanations.

Still some scientists tried to do this. For instance, they declared the existence of so-called "parallel-universes" that exist at the same time and are often very similar to our universe. In this model (founded by Hugh Everett in 1957), according to our experiment, there are (at least) two universes: (1) where, at the semi-transparent mirror, the twin photons are reunited and take the upper or lower way, and (2) where they stay separated and take both ways. Thus, both universes are supposed to have a true reality, and at the very moment we "look" at the result of our experiment, we decide which of the two universes we are "slipping" into (the one with the appropriate past).

But many scientists feel that it is unscientific to invent objects (like multi-universes) ad hoc, which could never be directly observed, only for the purpose of justifying a physical model or explaining the results of an experiment. Another group of scientists hope one day to find so-called "hidden variables" that will connect the observed photons registered at the detectors with the twin photons, which are supposed to unite "in the past" at the semi-transparent mirror. The problem with this is that, in the whole realm of physics, there is not one single example (up to now) of variables that can "influence" an event in the past from the present. This too seems a very "artificial" way, and again, it is only justified by its purpose, to explain the results of Scully's experiments.

Another point is the "observer-chain" mentioned earlier. The who-observes-whom problem leads to an infinite regress. In this case, some scientists conclude that there has to be an observer "outside" the universe, because otherwise the problem of how a universe could exist without an observer is unsolvable. Guess who this outside-the-universe observer could be!

Now, a critic could say that the time-span between the semi-transparent mirror and the detectors is so short that the influence into the past can be ignored. 3

However, this is no real argument, because in a way a "Scully-like" experiment can be stretched to cosmic dimensions! (Actually, the following is a cosmic version of the classical two-slit experiment) Fortunately, there is a cosmic constellation that destroys this argument. 4

A so-called "quasar," a pulsating light source, "hidden" behind a big galaxy is visible on earth by "bending" its light around the galaxy, billions of light years away (see Fig. 4). This is possible, because according to Einstein's theory of relativity, a large mass (like a galaxy) could work as a gravitational lens and therefore bend the light around itself. So the light of the quasar is "doubled" by the gravitational lens, that is, one beam comes from the right side of the galaxy to us, and the other beam comes from the other side.


Simply put, an experiment on Earth can be made in such a way that it determines if one photon comes along either on the right or the left side or if it comes (as a wave) along both sides of the gravitational lens at the same time. However, how could the photons have known billions of years ago that someday there would be an earth with inhabitants on it, making just this experiment? Or do we "influence" the past "out there" billions of years ago through our observations here in the present? Hardly imaginable! In addition, let us assume that different scientists here on Earth perform two experiments of this kind at the same time. One experiment is arranged in such a manner that the light beams pass both sides of the gravitational lens and the other experiment "forces" the beams to pass either on the one side or the other. What follows? Are there two different pasts for each observer at the same time? This is big trouble for the multi-universe theory and for the "hidden-variables" approach.