A Review of:
Quantum Physics Debunks Materialism
a short video by
Inspiring Philosophy

Beta Version from August 29, 2017
Copyright 2017 by Donald R. Tveter, don@dontveter.com

This document may be freely distributed provided it is complete and unchanged.

Quantum mechanics deals with how some of the tiniest, most fundamental particles in the universe move around. They don't follow the usual laws of physics that apply to large objects. Instead, they seem to move around in very mysterious ways. For almost a hundred years now people have been trying to figure out why those tiny particles move around the way they do. There are many different opinions about what is really going on. For some background on this you can see, for instance, the video, Quantum Physics Debunks Materialism. The final result at the end of the video is that "Science has not buried God, it has revealed Him.". I like that conclusion, of course, but there are many problems with that analysis. First, the reasoning involved is faulty. Second, the argument is based on the Copenhagen interpretation (CI) of quantum mechanics and the CI is filled with silly results, some of which are mentioned in the video. Third, the video skipped the relational blockworld (RBW) interpretation of quantum mechanics that gives an excellent argument for the existence of God and a human soul. Fourth, the CI used in the video is actually anti-Biblical.

The video centers on the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics that came from physicist Neils Bohr. This interpretation has been around for a long time and you can use it to get the right answers when you do a quantum mechanical problem. But many people have not been happy with it because it presents a picture of the world that is really bizarre and very much at odds with our understanding of the world. The video presents the idea at a level that is OK for people who already understand the subject. It is not so great if you know nothing about the subject. All sorts of facts are tossed in without giving the viewer an adequate background. Well, you can't do too much in a short video. First, we will look at the strange results and then move on to another interpretation that gets rid of the strange results.

The first of the strange results is that a thing does not have any real existence until we make a measurement of the thing. Before the measurement there are only possibilities. The measurement by a conscious being makes the thing exist briefly and then the thing goes back to just being a collection of possibilities. So, for instance, one of the classic examples (that does not come up in the video) is that the moon is only there if someone looks at. Before you look at it, it isn't a real, objective object. When you look at, it becomes real for a moment and then when you stop looking at it, it is no longer real, it is just a collection of possibilities. This is certainly counter-intuitive. We think there is a real, objective, material world "out there" that we are constantly observing and the moon (and everything else) will be there whether we look at it or not.

This idea that you have to look at something to make it real does not work well from the Christian perspective. God is certainly out there and He is looking at everything all the time (heck, He made it, how could He avoid looking at it?) So God ought to be making every thing real whether we look at it or not. Why should a person have to look at something to make it real when God has already done that? The video's attempt to dodge this issue does not make any sense.

A second strange item is the explanation for the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen (EPR) experiments. In these experiments the measurement of one particle manages to automatically and INSTANTLY affect the condition of a related particle that is very far away in space. To make this work, there would have to be some weird machinery behind the scenes that makes it work.

A third item is the Schröedinger's cat experiment. At a certain time, the experimenter opens the box and finds out that the cat is either alive or dead. BUT BEFORE the experimenter opens the box, the cat is supposed to be in a strange state (a superposition) of being alive and dead at the same time. Common sense tells us that the cat will be either alive or dead long before the experimenter opens the box so this result that it isn't either one until someone looks in the box is really bizarre.

Next, there is the classic double-slit experiment. Here, as in the video, if you shoot small particles at the double-slit AND you place a piece of film behind the slits you will get an "interference" pattern on the film, EXACTLY the kind of pattern you would get if the particles were really waves and they went through both slits (like a wave would). On the other hand, if you put a particle detector behind the slits you will get the pattern you would expect if those particles were really particles and they went through one slit or the other (not both). So one physicist thought they should be called "wavicles".

Next, there are other clever experiments like the double-slit experiment but where you change the experimental set-up at random while the experiment is being performed. These experiments are called delayed choice experiments. If you tried to do this in the double-slit experiment it would work like this. AFTER the particle goes past the slits, suppose you could change what the particle will find in the future. So in one case you could place a piece of film back there and in another case you could place a particle detector back there. You choose what is there at random. Of course you have to be able to switch them really, really fast! They have to be switched before the particle (or the wave or the wavicle) gets there. But the particles always know what they will find in the future! When physicists look at this from our conventional perspective, they think that when the particles reach the slits they ought to behave like particles and go through one slit like a particle, or both slits, like a wave. But they don't. They behave as if they already know what they will find in the future. In our conventional understanding of the world, the future isn't out there yet, is it? So physicists and philosophers find these experiments to be really disturbing.

There is another important thing to notice about this experiment that shows up nicely in the video. As each particle moves along, they end up at random locations on the film. One particle might go slightly left, one particle might go slightly right, another particle might go radically left, another might go radically right and another might go right down the middle. The randomness in this experiment also shows up in other quantum mechanical experiments and this is extremely disturbing to physicists as well. Physicists have been looking for hidden variables that will explain why this randomness occurs. Einstein's famous quote is that "God does not play dice".

Then there's Bell's theorem. Bell's theorem comes from quantum mechanics as well. It produces some really strange results such as -1/8 is greater than or equal to 0 and the square root of 2 is less than or equal to 1. In Bell's Theorem, the math is so simple that it can't be wrong. It seems as if the only thing that can go wrong is that some of the assumptions that go into Bell's theorem must be wrong. People have been trying to solve this problem for a long time too and everyone is still not satisfied. So, now, when it comes to interpreting quantum mechanics in general, it makes sense to do the same thing. It makes sense to try to figure out what assumptions we have about the world that may be wrong.

One group of physicists who have gone on to question our basic assumptions about our world has come up with the relational blockworld interpretation of quantum mechanics. This interpretation gets rid of the strange quantum mysteries by boldly embracing a result that comes from special relativity: the block universe idea. In our conventional thinking we believe the past is gone, only the present exists and the future is not out there yet. Philosophers call this idea that only the present exists, presentism. In the block universe, the past has never gone away and the future is already out there. Philosophers call this idea, eternalism. Eternalism is the result you get from the block universe. The block universe is STILL a counter-intuitive idea but there are solid reasons why we should take it seriously. (For some scientists who take the idea seriously see the related essay: Science Point to the Blockworld.)

A convenient way to get to know the block universe idea is to look at an amusement park ride, such as the haunted mansion ride at Disneyworld. At the beginning of the ride, you have the whole future of the ride ahead of you and it has all been completely prepared for you. What you will see is already there. It already exists. Then, halfway through the ride, half of your future is still ahead of you AND the past, the part that you've already seen, is still there behind you. The past did not go away. And when you finished the whole ride all that past world is still there. It never went away.

So what is happening in our real world is that God has made the whole universe to be much like the haunted mansion ride. In the haunted mansion ride the things you see don't move. They stay in the same place "forever" (or until someone decides to redecorate.) Instead YOU move. Likewise, things in our universe are not changing by moving around. Everything is frozen in place FOREVER. It is our consciousness (our soul) that is moving through the universe and this makes it look like the things around us are moving around. So now we have proof that people are much more than matter and consciousness comes from that "much more". We also have an excellent proof for a Creator because of all the complexity we find in this world. Life is the most outstanding example, life is extremely complicated. In addition, as in the haunted mansion ride, nothing in this universe is happening by chance. Everything has been planned ahead of time and has been put in place ahead of time. With presentism people can think that things are moving and happening at random. But that is not the case with eternalism. NOTHING is happening at random. NOTHING is happening by chance. Whatever happens in your life has been specifically designed for you.

So, now, we will go look at how RBW does away with the bizarre results that you get from the Copenhagen interpretation. One of the big items in the video was the experiment with Schröedinger's cat. Again, according to the Copenhagen interpretation, before someone looks inside the box, the cat is dead and alive at the same time. Supposedly when someone looks inside, the cat becomes dead or alive. In the RBW interpretation the cat WAS actually dead or alive before the experimenter looked. In fact, the cat WAS dead or alive before the experimenter did the experiment. In fact, the cat WAS dead or alive long before anyone thought of doing the experiment. In fact, the cat WAS dead or alive long before there were even people on Earth. That's because the future is already out there. The future of the entire universe.

When it comes to the EPR experiments where a measurement on one particle supposedly affects the condition of another particle that is very far away in space there is the following explanation. (NOTE: this explanation does NOT come from the physicists proposing RBW but it does follow quite easily.) When God built the universe, He made sure that the "laws" (patterns, would be a better word) of quantum mechanics were strictly enforced (except when He does a miracle). So if you measure a property of one particle, God simply makes sure that the other particle will have the property that the "laws" (patterns) of quantum mechanics says it should have. You don't need any complex machinery behind the scenes to make things work out right! God just built it all that way.

When someone sets out to do the double slit experiment, God already knows what the future will be. If there is a particle detector behind the slits, the equations of quantum mechanics tells us what the result will be (you get the particle-like result). If there is merely a piece of film back there, you will get a different result, a result that makes it look AS IF the particle is behaving like a wave. Either way, you're not dealing with a wave or a particle moving through space. The equations simply give you the results you get when the experiment is laid out a certain way. Also, when it comes to the randomness you find in quantum mechanics, well, God can simply use a random number generator to determine where, what we believe is a particle traveling through time, will end up.

This block universe idea, is, of course, a RADICAL departure from what we are used to. But people have had to get used to other radical ideas in the past. They had to get used to the idea that the Earth is not flat, that the Earth is not the center of the universe and the continents move. The RBW interpretation leaves us with a real universe "out there" that only a very powerful intelligence could have made.

Finally, this idea in the Copenhagen interpretation that is explained in the video, that people make the universe when they consciously look at it is actually anti-Biblical. God said HE made the universe (and this is the whole universe across all of space and time). AND THEN HE RESTED. It's done. It's finished. No more creation is going on. The Copenhagen interpretation says WE are still creating the universe when WE consciously look at it. This anti-Biblical position is actually used by new-agers to promote the idea that WE make the world and WE can make it to be anything WE want. So it is actually a tragedy that this idea is being promoted in a video produced by Christians.