Sunday, 1 May 2011

Chris Port Blog #247: God is a bit like quantum mechanics...

© Chris Port, 2011

God is a bit like quantum mechanics. Asking whether God 'exists' is missing the point (literally). To misappropriate Richard Feynman: "If you think you understand God, you don't understand God".

A fascinating field of study. But scientists are not philosophers. Their language is full of wormholes. Beware!

"If you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don't understand quantum mechanics". (Richard Feynman)

Werner Heisenberg (creator/discoverer of the Uncertainty Principle) was dismissive of attempts to explain quantum mechanics in physical or metaphysical terms. He maintained that quantum mechanics could only be comprehended mathematically. It is not analogous to anything else. It IS mathematics.

One aspect of my action research project is the ‘transposition’ of some quantum mechanical concepts from mathematics to language (maths is not a language, it is an unsemantic notation) – from waves and particles to organizations and people. To suggest that they are the same ‘mechanism’ would be profoundly misleading. To paraphrase Heisenberg, it’s more a question of what is useful and what works.

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Marty Gull Playscript Extracts

MARTY: What’s the ‘truth’ of a chair? To the universe, it’s just atoms amongst atoms, empty space. To the cat, it’s a convenient snoozing perch. To human beings, it can be something to relax on. Something to eat on. A work of art and beauty. Something to sign a war or peace treaty on. Something to interrogate a man on. Something to kick away from under his feet and hang him. So, what is the ‘truth’ of a chair?

MARTY: I’m always slightly baffled when people start telling me to live in the ‘real’ world. Conradian savagery and quantum uncertainty? Are they insane? If not, they soon will be. Choose your delusions carefully.

REX: Don't worry about ‘reality’. You can never know it. I’m not sure if it even exists in any meaningful sense. Just know which game you’re playing. And learn the rules for that game. It’s the trick to a happy life...

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Beware transposing the ‘tilt mechanism’ of consciousness from Douglas Adams’ ‘fundamental interconnectedness of all things’ to a ‘blame the victim mentality’. Although objectivity is clumsy (and wrong) it still has its place. Look at wars. To tell a bereaved mother that her child somehow ‘wished’ a bomb to fall on her head would clearly be both ridiculous and loathsome in its blame displacement.

Some thoughts to take you deeper down the quantum rabbit-hole…

PHILOSOPHY Epistemological Debate Map - Probability, Statistics and Bikinis



Some Notes on Schr√∂dinger’s Cat

Universes Create Gods (Before you worry, this is a JOKE - a shaggy dog story - but where does it take the sly wrong turn?)


  1. c.f. "... maths is not a language, it is an unsemantic notation... "

    Nelson, E. Syntax and Semantics, Princeton University 2002

    “In conclusion, I summarize my position on the foundations of mathematics (with the explicit avowal that contrary views are cogently held by many mathematicians). The present axiom systems are unsatisfactory because we have no assurance that they are consistent. It is worthwhile to try to construct a demonstrably consistent powerful mathematics. In this endeavor, semantics can only obfuscate, and all notions of a completed infinity must be avoided. What is real in mathematics is simply the formulas and proofs themselves, as strings of symbols.

    In mathematics, the ontological quest is misconceived and should be abandoned.”

  2. On the 'redefinition' of God...