Uncertainty And Determinism

So many questions have puzzled scientists for years. Is light a wave or a particle? How does gravitation fit with the other three known forces? What the heck is dark matter? What is dark energy? How many angels can dance on the head of a pin? Could an omniscient spiritual field conserve quantum superposition information? Oh, wait. Those last two questions have not puzzled scientists for years, or even for minutes. They are not scientific questions at all, despite the use of some terms from mathematics and physics.

Quantum superposition is an interesting concept. Quantum mechanics looks at the fuzzy state of matter and energy at extremely small levels. Perhaps the most difficult part of this to grasp is that the “fuzziness” is not the result of inaccurate devices or limited technology. Our view of the quantum world is murky and imprecise because the quantum world itself is murky and imprecise. It seems natural to assume that when we measure a specific attribute of something at the quantum level that somehow the particle or photon or whatever possessed the particular quantity we ascertained by our measurement. The idea is that it was there all along in precisely the quantity or orientation we found in our measurement. That is not at all how things work in the quantum world.

For some quantities, such as the polarization of a photon, the specifics of an attribute do not exist until they are measured. The photon does not possess a particular property, just waiting to be captured and defined by our wonderful technology. It possesses all possible properties. For a concrete example, the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle demonstrates that it is not possible to accurately know both the position and the momentum of an electron. Any increase in the knowledge about one attribute necessitates a corresponding decrease in the accuracy of knowledge about the other. This is not a function of lack of technological ingenuity. It cannot be changed by newer and more precise instruments or by some remarkable inventiveness on the part of the observer. It is a fundamental principle that applies no matter how measurements are taken.

Because of the inherent uncertainty of what is going on in the quantum world, it is absurd to suppose some invisible and omniscient hand is guiding things. The idea demonstrates a clear lack of understanding of quantum mechanics, because it presupposes there is some sort of “real” state of a quantum entity. It is in all possible states at once. This is a very difficult concept to grasp. It may not be possible for humans to really comprehend it clearly. Nonetheless, that is how it is, and all experiments have confirmed that view. The theory that quantum events are guided or imposed by some supernatural entity assumes that every detail of a quantum entity is somehow fixed and stable. The quantum world looks murky to us, not because we are not smart enough or technologically sophisticated enough to understand it, but because it is inherently uncertain.

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