Humor Magazine

More Duff Science!

By Davidduff

I may have to go and lie down shortly, all this swot-stuff is making my head ache!  However, no sooner had I finished trashing my pathetic attempt at explaining Mandelbrot's set, see below, than my e-pal, 'DM', mentioned quantum theory in the comments, and then, of course, I stumble across an essay on precisely that most abstruse of subjects on a site called Big Questions Online.  Well, they don't come much bigger than: Does quantum physics make it easier to believe in God?

Don't go there, I shouted to myself but of course I couldn't resist it.  The question was posed by Prof. Stephen M. Barr, a tremendous swot in his own fields of physics and cosmology as well as, apparently, an intelligent commentator on other matters.  Anyway, given my 30-odd year fascination with quantum theory (in so far as I comprehend it) and my recent interest in all this God business I thought I should read it - and I'm glad I did.

For those without the time, or interest, to read his entire article, the Prof answers his own question in the opening paragraph:

Not in any direct way. That is, it doesn’t provide an argument for the existence of God.  But it does so indirectly, by providing an argument against the philosophy called materialism (or “physicalism”), which is the main intellectual opponent of belief in God in today’s world

The mechanical view of the universe and everything in it, including us humans, is simple to understand.  It states that everything is reducible to matter, and matter can be measured and so there is no space for free will or human spirit and certainly no room for a God.  It has an attractive simplicity which is tempting and should, therefore, be approached with great caution!  It is also rather insulting as Prof. Barr quotes someone as saying that it reduces humans to being "machines made of meat".  Hardly flattering, is it?  However, the huge advances in scientific understanding since the Enlightenment have re-inforced this materialist philosophy enormously.  But now (and the irony is positively mouth-watering) science itself, with its discovery of what might be called quantum mechanical madness, or at least, weirdness, has begun to demolish the certainties of materialism.

You must read Prof. Barr's essay to follow his explanation in detail - and it's very easy to understand -  but in essence, if the universe and everything in it is made up of things that are and are not and things that may or may not, then if the universe really is mechanistic then it is hardly a well-oiled machine, in fact, it is much more like one of my old second-hand bits of 'shrapnel' which may or may not start!  Thinking back to those old days I should have tried that quantum mechanical argument with my customers when they used to moan!


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