Sunday, 10 August 2014

Quantum Theology

While not a scientist, let alone a theoretical physicist, I have been intrigued by some of the wisps of knowledge that I have picked up regarding quantum mechanics and extensions of this to other areas – such as those made in the Quantum Theology book.
Working in areas related to educational philosophy and theology, and with a little background in sociology/anthropology, it occurred to me that there was more to issues such as superposition than merely those applying to subatomic particles. Indeed, recently there have been articles about the quantum effects relating to physical objects larger than individual subatomics. One idea that came to mind recently while teaching a course on Biblical Theology in education was that the doctrinal differences that define denominations, churches and even individuals, may arise from structuralist binaries that have become so much a part of our thinking – flowing from modernism/empiricism but with roots extending back to Aristotle. Perhaps these have been developed by humans, along with other methods such as recourse to Platonic forms, reference to "mystery", etc., as a way to deal conceptually with phenomena that were inexplicable in reductionist Newtonian terms.
The concept of superposition then struck me as a different solution. In theological terms one may ask, are strongly held perspectives on "opposing" doctrines (such as predestination and free will, etc., etc.) actually observer effect points on a superposition continuum? The relevance of this was driven home to me recently when one of my students asked if I thought her mother, a Christian who had died a couple of months ago, was in Heaven or "sleeping" until the Parousia. My response was simply, yes. And that is the approach I have taken personally since my wife's death 10s months ago. It does not "work" in terms of modernist rationalism but I am feeling more and more comfortable with a quantum perspective.
If the superposition of doctrines were a reality then that would beg the question as to other fields of human existence – in sociology, anthropology, psychology, etc.
While living with the paradoxes is obviously something we have been trained to resist, it seems to me that there is a wonderful freedom to be found if we can break free of the restraints of binary-ism – and this is something at which some cultures appear to be more adept than others.

Quantum superposition is certainly an interesting metaphor for many things, and a useful antidote to people who are too certain about their own particular perspective. But it’s worth remembering that in physics it has a very rigorous underpinning. Somehow we have to get the balance right in our thinking between openness to other perspectives and a complete relativism.

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