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Saturday, October 20, 2012

Does Quantum Physics Make it Easier to Believe in God?

Does quantum physics make it easier to believe in God? No. At least not directly because it doesn't provide an argument for the existence of God. However, it may do so indirectly because it offers an argument against materialist philosophy, which is currently the primary intellectual opponent of belief in God.


That, at least, is the opinion of quantum physicist Stephen Barr, who recently penned the article, "Does Quantum Physics Make it Easier to Believe in God?" for the Templeton Foundation's publication, Big Questions Online. According to Barr, materialism argues that all of reality is reducible to matter and its interactions and, thus, in no need of a God or some higher power. It is popular in some circles because many people think that it has scientific support, that physics has shown the material world to be a closed system of cause and effect, sealed off from the influence of any non-physical realities. Moreover, since
our minds and thoughts obviously do affect the physical world, it would follow that they are themselves merely physical phenomena. No room for a spiritual soul or free will: for materialists we are just “machines made of meat."
According to Barr, quantum physics "throws a monkey wrench" into this mechanical view of the physical world. As Barr notes, the Nobel Prize winning physicist Eugene Wigner once argued that materialism --- at least with regard to the human mind --- is not “logically consistent with present quantum mechanics."

This brief summary does not do justice to Barr's relatively brief article, so readers would do well to check it out ("Does Quantum Physics Make it Easier to Believe in God?"). Barr was also recently featured on Research on Religion ("Stephen Barr on Quantum Physics, Religion, & the God Particle"). Here is a summary of the interview (from the Research on Religion website):
Does quantum physics make it easier to believe in God? And what is the deal with that “God particle” that physicists just discovered? Did we really discover God and the origins of the universe? These questions, and many more, are answered by a real-honest-to-goodness physicist Dr. Stephen M. Barr (University of Delaware). Our discussion is both fun and informative as Prof. Barr explains, in terms a layman can undestand, what quantum physics is and how it relates to faith. While Prof. Barr argues that quantum mechanics does not make it necessarily easier to believe in God, it does make it harder to subscribe to a philosophy known as “materialism,” which often underpins a number of arguments for atheism. We also reflect on what it is like being a religious believer in the secular academic world.
You can listen to the interview with Barr at the Research on Religion website as well as download it into iTunes. 

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