If quantum events are random, how can God know who is going to heaven and how can free will exist?
Does god play dice? Quantum events are random. So how can God know who is going to heaven? The Bible mentions that those who are saved have been written in the book of life before creation. You also mention the universe has a sort of free will so how does God know about events like Sodom and Gomorah or other natural disasters?
I have answered this question recently at the web site. In fact, I have answered similar questions at least four times, so I will copy and paste those four Q & As below. Let me know if this does not sufficiently answer your question.
Let me add that God, as I understand him, exists outside/above space and time. He is not subject the the limitations of space/time. I cannot “prove” this, but it seems to be the fairly obvious implication of the biblical picture of God. Therefore, God is not limited by time and space as we are, so he knows all things at once. This explains how he can know who is going to heaven and how he can know beforehand that the Messiah would be crucified or betrayed for 30 pieces of silver and all the other specific prophecies in the Bible. The fact that quantum events are governed by the laws of probability rather than deterministic laws has no effect on this trait of God, the best I can tell. God is all-powerful and he can intervene equally well in seemingly deterministic laws of nature, such as the law of gravity (walking on water) and laws of nature governed by seemingly random quantum laws.
I hope you enjoy the Q&As below.
What does Quantum Mechanics contribute to the question of free will and our understanding of God?[Editor’s note: This is a series of interchanges which might be a bit hard to follow, but I decided to post this pretty much as is. It is a series of exchanges on the rather abstract question of where Quantum mechanics interacts with free will.] Question:
Dr. Oakes, I am researching a study for my Evangelical Presbyterian church in Parker, Colorado that I would like to create. My hope is to provide students going into college and others with information on surviving the Science-Religion cultural divide. I feel I am finding good resources most areas, but a bit weak on QM, probability and determinism. Note, our church is much more
flexible on determinism than other Presbyterian denominations. My personal belief is that physics are uncovering a clear pathway to understanding God as unbound by time or space and once you consider evolution, QM, determinism, etc. from the stand point of perfect foreknowledge, the entire basis for many of the fist pounding arguments disappears. I also am developing some thoughts on the role of the Trinity in bridging denial of there being a personal God (for example as questioned by Neil deGrasse Tyson). One example is that I believe the strawman of intelligent design becomes irrelevant and too confining in understanding God as He need not tinker at such a level if He has such an eternal perspective and understanding. My quandary comes in finding information that would consider such a viewpoint, if I am way off track, or if there is a developed body of information to research in this area. I am reading with great interest some of your work and felt you may have some insight for me as I have recently retired and now finding time to pursue this interest to try and develop a course of study. Do you have any advice?
I am looking at your e-mail and having trouble finding a question. It seems you have a need rather than a question. Let me suggest a couple of writers: Denis Lamoureux has some good stuff which would more or less line up with what you are thinking. I did a debate with Denis, which is available at www.ipibooks.com He takes the random designer position, although I take a subtly different perspective in the debate, titled Four Christian Views of Evolution.
Another author who might be helpful is Francis Collins, with his Language of God. Another is Darrel Falk whith is Coming to Peace With Science.
However, none of these guys is a physicist, so none of them will address QM. I have a PhD in physics, so might be a bit helpful. About QM “proving” that God is outside time and space, I think this is a reasonable line of inquiry, but I am not sure it will be convincing to more than an extremely small subgroup of people who have the slightest idea what QM is about.
I am not sure what you are saying about Intelligent Design. The design argument is a powerful one, but it is not strictly a scientific argument. The ID movement is probably in a dead end if it is trying to use gap arguments in evolution to “prove” the existence of God scientifically. You seem to be onto this, but I am not exactly sure because your statement about ID is a bit enigmatic.
All for now (4:30 AM in Dublin with bad jet lag)
Thank-you for your thoughtful response and taking time from your travels. You are right that I have less a specific question and more an inquiry about direction and available resources as it relates to QM. I am fairly settled with addressing the evolutionary arguments and am finding numerous good resources to draw on. I agree with your recommendation for Francis Collins’s view of “Evolutionary Creation” which aligns closely to my thoughts and I believe shines as a highly credible source. Regarding my
comments on ID, my view is that Evolutionary Creation is a better explanation than ID as it is being applied from the most fundamental views, and that I am convinced that ID should be pressed into the court of evolutionary biology, not into local & state courts to include in curriculum. This can only serve to fuel the flames of division with the scientific community and breed more misunderstandings within Christian ranks and more Richard Dawkins from atheist ranks. My coming to you was piqued by my reading your response to a QM question raised on your site which I’ll partially copy below for context:
….The God he is talking about is not the God of the Bible. God does not
have a set, unchangeable “plan.” The second problem is that this person is
ignoring the possibility of a supernatural reality which can exist above
physical reality and can influence reality. Even if God’s relationship with
the universe was determinisitc (remember: it is not!) , he could use his
supernatural power to keep the universe on the course he intended. If he
wanted to, God could continually direct the path of the universe so that the
random/quantum mechanically determined events could still go on the path he
I am 100% on board that God is not deterministic, and also that He does have the ability to intercede, through miracles, as He may so choose. I also believe that he acts at a personal level through the Holy Spirit, and that salvation came through Jesus. Where I am searching is my concept that God is not one to just pop in and out on a normative basis to manage things at a “hands-on” level. When God is depicted in the bible, it is clear that He is not an “old man with a white beard,” but for example, the God in Exodus, a
pillar of smoke. I see a God who is omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent and eternal through the trinity and who, being eternal (beautifully stated in, “I Am”) knows all things that have been, are and are to come. If one considers 13.7 billion years from this perspective, it seems somewhat irrelevant to argue that He had to fine tune things in a “progressive” manner as He would have fully known when saying, “let there be light” what was to come. Taking this viewpoint, from a QM stand point, it is almost as if He is playing with loaded dice. Randomness and free will exist, yet He already knows the outcome and may choose to intervene, but again, this is not necessary, especially when it comes to macro creation & evolution. I like to say, “He knew what the cake would turn out like when he made the mix.” While as you state above, He could continually direct the path of the universe, my question is, why would he need to? It seems to me a great comfort to view evolutionary creation, Relativity, the big bang theory and even what I understand of M-Theory from such a platform and that while science is further defining the mechanism, it is just an confirmation of God’s awesome eternal omniscience. Again, I am coming up short in my investigation on this path of reasoning. There seems much literature from physicists but little that would help outline my ideas better, or tell me that I am way off track. Your insight is most welcome and I would greatly appreciate your help!
I am afraid that I do not have much in the way of good sources on how QM/probability/uncertainty relates to a Christian understanding of theology. I am mostly making it up as I go along in that area. I have seen some speculative stuff that I do not find very useful.
My philosophy/perspective on this is that I lean toward a consistent view of God in how he works on all levels. I see a God who created a universe with a kind of “free will” on all levels, yet who, at the same time, will intervene in order to bring about his will. Yet, this intervening seems to be very rare, and in an amazingly brilliant way that somehow finds the perfect balance between God’s sovereignty and our free will. I agree with Thomas Aquinas on free will when he says, in essence, God’s sovereignty is manifest, both in the things which obey God naturally and in those things to whom God sovereignly grants free will. In other words, it is God’s sovereign will that we, as humans have sovereignty within the realm of our own lives. I see principle of a balance between God’s sovereignty and free will on at least three levels, and probably more.
1. In human history. As a rule, God allows humans to do as they will, even allowing them to do things which are extremely corrupt and evil. Yet, he intervenes in history, but only very rarely. For example, he intervened in Egypt and at the Red Sea. He intervened in the history of Israel–bringing about his judgment and his restoration, and he intervened in the life of Jesus.
2. In our own personal histories. God, as a rule, does not change red lights to green to get us to work on time. He intervenes, but only rarely, in order to help us along the path toward finding him.
3. In natural history. God intervened in initial creation, in the creation of life and in the creation of homo divinus. Yet, as a rule, he has set up a self-perpetuating system of physical laws and he lets those laws proceed on their own. This is why the Mechanical Universe is a picture which appears to work, virtually without exception.
On this basis, I infer that it is highly likely that God lets natural selection, evolution and change among species over time to proceed in a completely “natural” way, yet intervention in the course of change is not ruled out. I see God intervening only very rarely and for his inscrutable purposes. I do NOT believe that humans with their unimaginable complexity, with brains able to understand the universe and to experience God would have come about by a completely random process. Thus I reject the fully random deistic evolution of Francis Collins and Denis Lamoreaux, although we differ on only the margins, as Denis has communicate with me personally. Like he said after our debate (Four Christian Views of Evolution www.ipibooks.com) “The only difference between us is a few interventions”.
So, that is my view. On presuppositional terms, I apply this to Quantum mechanics and the origin of the physical universe. Does Quantum mechanics help us to understand how and where God might intervene in his creation? I do not know. This is a mystery to me.
I do not know if this will be helpful.
Can you respond to arguments made by a physicist named Krauss in a recent debate with William Lane Craig? He used arguments about quantum mechanics and multiverse theories.
I have an issue I’d love for you to weigh in on if you can please? I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the 3 part debate between Dr William Lane Craig and Prof Krauss? (if not, the are on YouTube). If so, can you please shed some light on responding to Krauss in his attempts to disprove God? He constantly cuts off Craig and continuously pushes science, science, science but quite often says he “doesn’t know anything” or “how do you know”….please shed some light!!! [editor’s note: I requested clarification from the questioner, and here is his clarification] Yes sir, basically that quantum theory (I’m not a physicist) proves that there’s no need for a creator and that life isn’t fine tuned for anything. Dr Craig couldn’t really respond because Krauss kept cutting him off. I think he basically gave up because he never interrupts anyone during his debates and Krauss is obviously cut off from the religious viewpoint. He also claims that we can be 1 universe in a “multiverse” which, last I heard, the multiverse theory was a load of garbage. These are my 2 main points, can you respond? Thank you very much for even acknowledging my issue
I am sad that Mr. Krauss was so rude. This does not argue well for his philosophy, although it might be a bit of a stretch to blame his rudeness on his atheism.
As for his arguments, it is absurd to claim that the existence of quantum mechanics proves that there is no creator. There is no conceivable way that quantum mechanics could disprove the existence of God. Perhaps he said something like this, which would make at least a little bit of sense: “Our knowledge of quantum mechanics reduces the strength of one of the arguments for the existence of God.” Even if I do not agree with this statement, I believe that it is a reasonable one–one that can be defended. So…. Applying the Golden Rule, I will proceed by assuming that Mr. Krauss made this somewhat reasonable claim.
His argument, then, is probably that the existence of quantum fluctuations shows that “something can come from nothing,” and therefore this weakens the argument that the existence of the universe proves there is a Creator. I can concede that there is at least a miniscule amount of validity to this argument. The apparent reliability of the Big Bang model in explaining cosmology seems to prove that the universe was created at an instant of time, from nothing. This creates a strong argument, given the law of causality, that the universe was caused by a Creator–and thus God. This is known as the cosmological argument. In fact, William Lane Craig invented a more recent version of the cosmological argument known as the Kalaam cosmological argument. He said this: Everything which begins to exist has a cause. The universe began to exist. Therefore the universe was caused. Therefore a causer of the universe exists, and this causer, by definition, is God. In my opinion, quantum mechanics does not weaken this argument at all, or, at best, it weakens the argument only very slightly. It appears to be true that quantum mechanics, which is a very effective theory, does allow matter to be created “out of nothing” by quantum fluctuations. However, such fluctuations can only occur in a universe within which such quantum fluctuations can occur. There is absolutely no scientific evidence that quantum fluctuations can occur when there is literally no universe at all. Quantum mechanics tells us that what we think of as a vacuum is, in effect, not a true vacuum. However, this is where Krauss’ argument becomes weak. In order for a quantum fluctuation to occur, there needs to be a vacuum within which such a fluctuation can occur. Here is the bottom line, the existence of quantum mechanics DOES NOT remove the argument, scientifically or otherwise that, on the most basic level, something cannot begin to exist from nothing.
Apparently, Krauss used the well-tried multiverse theory to “prove” that there is no God. I think you are going a bit over the top to call this theory “a bunch of garbage.” Probably you should choose your words a bit more carefully there. However, you are on to something, which is that this is a very questionable theory. This is not a proof of anything at all for a few reasons. First of all, the multiverse theory is speculative on the highest order. In order for a theory to be “scientific” it must be both confirmable by experiment and it must be possible to disconfirm it by experiment. The multiverse theory meets neither criterion. There is no conceivable means to test whether there is another universe out there. It is also impossible to do an experiment to disprove this “theory.” I believe that the source of this questionable, highly speculative “theory” is more a philosophical need of atheists than any sort of scientific experiment or scientific evidence. This theory says that it is “natural” for universes to come into existence spontaneously. How will we test this theory? Who will we disprove it? Can we even conceive of a way to test this? The answer, simply, is no. We should call this the multiverse speculation rather than the multiverse theory. It is the product of wishful thinking.
Why this wishful thinking? For a couple of reasons. It was created, not because of evidence, but as a response to the cosmological argument. Second, it is required to create a reasonable response to the argument from design. There is a vast array of aspects of the universe which defy the claim that the universe we exist in was created by a random accident. This is known as the teleological argument. The fact is that there are dozens of parameters, essential to how the universe we live in functions, which, if changed only extremely slightly, there would be no stars, no galaxies and no life. The atheist has to either argue that we are mindbogglingly lucky, or that there are an infinite number of universes and we just happen to live in the right one. This is the reason the multiverse theory was created–not because of scientific evidence for such multiverses. Facts which can be included in the list of teleologically-significant scientific discoveries are many. If the force of gravity was different by less that one part in a million, million, million, million, million (which is the probability of winning the big lotto four consecutive times, approximately), then there would be no stars and galaxies. If the nuclear weak force or the nuclear strong force, or the electromagnetic force or the ratio of protons to electrons, or…. were different by very small quantities, then there would be no galaxies, no stars and, certainly no life. I suggest you look at a power point at my web site which lists a number of these teleologically-relevant facts. https://www.evidenceforchristianity.org/power-point-science-god-and-the-bible/ as well as a power point and notes on the existence of God. https://www.evidenceforchristianity.org/power-point-the-existence-of-god/
In my opinion, Krauss’ arguments amount to a smoke screen. He is aware of both the cosmological and the teleological arguments. He has no scientific, philosophical or any other kind of evidence to support his claim that there is no God, so he throws out the irrelevant existence of quantum mechanics and the highly speculative questionably scientific, unproven multiverse theory as a means whereby he hopes to throw us off the track. It is a rhetorical rather than a scientific argument, in my opinion.
Does the existence of quantum random fluctuations defeat the Kalam argument for the existence of God?
I have a question regarding the Kalam argument: Can the universe or universes can come from quantum random fluctuations? Is the quantum vacuum part of the universe (material, energy)? What exactly is a vacuum in quatum physics? Finally, can you give me some tips about how to study apologetics books? How can I remember and master the material? Any tactics and methods you use will be helpful, since there is a lot of information I almost forget it in a week.
Is belief in zombies the same as belief in the resurrection? Why or why not? Why is it that it seems God is an imaginary friend? Why doesn’t he talk to us? Thanks for your patience and help, may God bless you, thanks for helping me with my others questions. I had fallen in my faith, but thanks to you, I have much more confidence each day!
The Kalam argument goes something like this (for those who read this Q & A but have not heard of this argument). Premise: Anything which begins to exist has a cause. The universe began to exist. Therefore it was caused. That “cause” is the Creator/God. This is a very powerful argument. However, the question remains whether the premise is logically necessary. Essentially, this is what your question points to.
The spontaneous creation of particles out of the quantum vacuum has been used as a refutation of the Kalam argument. Unfortunately for those who use it, this refutation is not a good one! The fact is that according to quantum theory (and according to experiment), it is possible for fluctuations in the field of space to temporarily produce particles and antiparticles out of the “vacuum” of empty space. This theory is used to explain such properties as spontaneous emission (necessary to explain the function of lasers). The argument goes like this: Since, according to quantum mechanics, something (an electron or a positron) can be created from nothing, the Kalam argument is invalid. This counter-argument to the Kalam cosmological argument does not hold up. The reason that the universe itself is something. There must be a universe within which these quantum fluctuations can occur. No universe, no quantum fluctuations. There is a sense in which the “vacuum” of space is not truly empty, even if there are not physical particles in a particular small volume. The universe is filled with varios fields, such as gravity fields, electromagnetic fields and the like. There is a thing which fluctuates, even if it is not a physical thing.
Some have argued that the entire universe could have been created as a fantastically gargantuan quantum fluctuation. There are a couple problems with this. First of all, in what would this fluctuation occur? Perhaps a universe could be created within a greater universe, but quantum fluctuations must be fluctuations of something. There is no basis, either in experiment or even in any reasonable description of reality as we know it, which allows for a quantum fluctuation to occur that is not occurring in something. What would this fluctuation be a fluctuation of? This simply makes no sense. In any case, there is obviously no scientific evidence for such a thing. But beyond that, there is not even a rational basis for belief in such a thing.
There is a fairly small subset of cosmologists who are philosophically committed to naturalism/atheism. Such people are required by their philosophy (not by scientific evidence) to devise such ad-hoc unscientific arguments such as the multiverse theory or the quantum fluctuation theory. We should beware of such philosophically-induced unscientific arguments dressed up as science.
Of course, the shoe can be worn by the other foot. In other words, we should be aware of presuppositions of believers as well. Personally, I find the Kalam argument for the existence of God to be a compelling one. It agrees with everything I know about the universe. However, it is an argument, not a proof. We cannot mathematically prove the existence of God. Any argument for the existence of God is just that—an argument and not proof. I believe that the arguments for the existence of God (cosmological, teleological, moral and other arguments can be included in the list)are massively more compelling than any arguments against the existence of God (default scenario, existence of evil), but these are arguments and not proofs and should be treated this way.
As for tactics, I do not have a lot of useful insight. What I try to do is “pay attention.” In other words, when I read, listen or watch, I like to ask myself questions. Why is this happening? What is the cause of that? How might they be connected. A sense of curiosity is very helpful. Another thing to remember that forgetting something the first time you hear it is perfectly normal. Generally, we remember a concept the second, third or fourth time we hear it. Simply studying the Bible or apologetics consistently, with careful thought, will produce knowledge and understanding in the long run. I am sure your memory is a lot better than mine because you are young. Well, begin putting that active mind of yours to use on a regular basis. Study challenging books, study particular topics deeply, study philosophy and history, train yourself how to make reasonable arguments… Over time all of these will produce fruit in greater understanding.
Is believe in zombies the same as belief in the resurrection? NO!!! Belief in zombies is utterly irrational. If a person believes in zombies, it is probably not worth having a rational conversation with that person. Belief in fairies, goblins, elves, zombies werewolves and such is evidence of a lack of ability to rationally choose what is true. There is absolutely no connection between the rational Christian belief in a final resurrection and the irrational belief in zombies.
I am guessing from your next question that you have a part of you which thinks you are crazy to believe in a God you cannot see. I can relate to this. Hebrews 11 (the whole chapter) defines faith as belief in things which cannot be seen. You cannot see God. You cannot see salvation or the Holy Spirit. For the intellectually-minded among us it can be harder than average to believe in things which are unseen. However, God is real and the Bible is inspired by God. The evidence for these (including the Kalam argument) is sufficient to support the reasonable conclusion that God is real and Christianity is true. If you have doubts about this, join the club. However, for me the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus, the evidence for the historical and scientific reliability of the Bible, the evidence from fulfilled prophecy and much more gives me a great deal of reason to conclude that the Bible is inspired by the Creator God. Why does God not force us to believe? Because he loves us and he respects us, and he gives a choice of whether to believe or not. If God dropped notes out of the sky or suddenly moved a truck out of the way when it is about to hit us, we would be forced to believe, but that is not the way God operates. Free will is real. It is a wonderful gift. But free will is not consistent with God forcing us to believe in him.
What is Quantum Mechanics? Why is it “the biggest threat to the existence of God?”
I just want to ask what is Quantum Mechanics? Why do atheists say that this is the biggest threat to the existence of God?
It just so happens that my specialty as as PhD scientist is in chemical physics, with emphasis in quantum mechanics. Now, you have given me a nearly impossible task. I need to define and explain quantum mechanics to a non-scientist in a few sentences. Hmmmm…..
Well, let me get around this as much as I can. Quantum mechanics is a branch of physics which is needed to explain the properties of matter on the extremely microscopic level. For things as small as electrons, the behavior observed is not predicted well using the “classical mechanics” of Isaac Newton. Light, “classically” is a wave, yet, in 1905 Albert Einsten showed that light is made up of particles–that light is “quantized.” In the 1920s De Broglie showed that electrons, which are particles, act like waves. Sorry if the meaning and implication of this is not clear to you. This led to the uncertaintly principle and describing the atom using wave equations. After the 1920s, physicists concluded that we can only describe the atom in terms of probabiliby. The location of a particle is never certain. This is known as the “uncertainty principle.” I am grossly simplifying here.
The bottom line is that with the success of Quantum Mechanics, physicists concluded that a completely deterministic view of the universe cannot work. There are purely random events which can only be predicted in terms of probability rather than deterministic Newtonian equations.
Phew! Now, what does this have to do with atheism, religion, philosophy and other brances of human investigation? People have tried to use quantum mechanics, both to prove the existence of God and to disprove God. I would say that both are on very thin ice. Those trying to use QM to prove God point out that a deterministic world view is inconsistent with science. Therefore a random design argument is invalid.
Then there is the other side. Atheists are, naturally, uncomfortable with the big bang. The fact that the universe appears to have been created implies a creator for most people. Atheists are clearly not prepared to accept this. So, they jump on quantum mechanics to solve their problem. The describe the creation of the universe as a quantum event. The creation of something out of nothing, they would say, is part of QM. By the way, just so you know, this is not the case at all, but never mind that.
To be honest, I would have to see the argument you are referring to. Although I have seen QM used to defend atheism, I have never seen it used as a sort of supposed slam dunk argument against God. I am sure that this is a bogus claim. On balance, I do not feel the existence of QM is strong proof either for or against God, but that it is a stronger pro argument for God than con. However, I cannot respond to the claim you apparently ran into unless I can see the nature of the claim. If you simply read someone saying “QM is the biggest threat to the existence of God” without an argument to support the statement, I believe you can simply ignore this as a useless/meaningless statement. Without support it is not even an argument.
John Oakes, PhD