Schrodinger: quantum support for the supernatural

Mathematician Granville Sewell writes that the Schrodinger partial differential equation, if correct, means that the supernatural can never be said to be impossible, merely improbable. For example,

At the macroscopic level, quantum mechanics reduces to classical (Newtonian) mechanics, and when we throw a baseball, the odds are astronomically high that it will obey these classical laws accurately. But if it suddenly stops in mid-air just before Alex Rodriguez swings, it would not really be violating any now-accepted laws of physics, just doing something extremely improbable. If one Red Sox fan says “what incredibly good luck”, and another says “God wanted Alex to strike out”, science simply cannot say which theory is correct. …

Similarly, if a soup of organic chemicals suddenly organizes itself into the first living thing, or if a reptile produces a mammalian offspring, we do not need to conclude that any laws of science have been violated, only that something has happened which these laws tell us is extremely improbable. Science leaves us free to draw the obvious philosophical conclusions from such improbable events …

Likewise, as Dave Scot writes today, what this means is that arguments that either macroevolution or miracles can’t happen are valid and appropriate arguments from incredulity:

In principle it is possible for two cows to mate and give birth to a chimpanzee. The reason we don’t ever expect to see such a thing is we know (now) that the genetic differences between a cow and a chimp are so complex and specified that the odds against it actually happening in a single generation are nearly impossible. We can’t calculate the odds precisely but we know it is incredibly improbable. The argument that two cows won’t mate and produce a chimpanzee is an argument from incredulity.

Credulity? Anthony Bloom, of whom I have written before, suggests that we are incredulous about miracles simply because we have grown used to them, as well as become too sophisticated to appreciate them:

Miracles are usually thought of in a most primitive way by the least primitive people. People imagine that they are so sophisticated that they have outgrown the very notion of matter…

Coming back to the sophistication of science, astonomer A.S. Eddington wrote in The Nature of the Physical World (p. 309) that:

A rather serious consequence of dropping causality in the external world is that it leaves us with no clear distinction between the Natural and the Supernatural.

Of course, Christians have not needed mathematicians or scientists to tell us that all things are possible:

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26

And, as so far neither Schrodinger nor Eddington has succeeded in rising from the dead, I’m satisfied with Jesus’ thoughts on the subject.

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4 Responses to Schrodinger: quantum support for the supernatural

  1. You mean you’ll go by the guy in whom you have faith that he rose from the dead, right?

  2. me says:


    Don’t you know it’s rude to yawn in public? 😉

    It takes so much effort to believe that we will grasp at any straw we can.

    I personally don’t find this to be the case; belief (in God) to me is such an obvious choice that for me to believe anything else would be foolish (and, the evolution arguments have no impact on it whatsoever). I’ll be blogging on the topic of faith and belief in the near future, so stay tuned…

    Certainly Granville is saying nothing new; and, you’re reading things into my posts again (look carefully between the lines… you’ll see there’s nothing there). I don’t believe I have to prove God; I would agree with Anthony Flew here that the burden of proof is on the other side.

    I am, however, fascinated by chaos theory, probabilities and quantum whatever, and found these posts relatively interesting. I thought that DaveScot’s point about the argument from incredulity was well-made, however.

    But, as I said, I’ll still go by the guy who rose from the dead…

  3. It takes so much effort to believe that we will grasp at any straw we can. Nobody in science claims that there are any absolutes, that all is a matter of probability. Granville gives us nothing new that we didn’t learn about atomic theory in high school. It’s chaos theory, but if you think that the proof of God lies in the probability of a baseball moving at 95mph and suddenly stopping then I will wait for it to happen.

    As for his pre-biotic soup statement, he is still using probability to explain what is actually consistent with the affinity of organic compounds to join in the ways that led first to RNA and then to DNA. The knowledge of the process is now so far beyond dependence on miraculously miniscule probabilities that it is laughable for the bloggers at uncommon descent to continue to use that argument. It still remains Paleyism, albeit with differential equations.


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