Author Topic: The religious value of quantum mechanics and geometry  (Read 3321 times)

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Offline Volnutt

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The religious value of quantum mechanics and geometry
« on: December 24, 2014, 09:06:16 PM »
As an aside, that song fairly accurately describes a worry I had as a kid, which is that heaven would be boring. You have to realize that in many evangelical churches, any sense of mystery, wonder, or adventure is completely gone.* Churches are plain, simple, and utilitarian; so are Bibles**, so is worship, so is theology. God is often anthropomorphized, as a result of the "personal relationship" thing.

If heaven (or the new earth, what have you) is like that, it's not much to look forward to, is it? That's why I didn't want to grow up, grow old, or die, because then I'd be stuck in a boring heaven for eternity.

Fortunately I don't feel that way anymore. Visiting cathedrals, becoming aware of Catholic and Orthodox spirituality, listening to lots of different kinds of music, and even reading about subjects like quantum mechanics and fractal geometry all cured that old worry I used to have.


*  The one exception is Pentecostalism, but a heaven full of people doing a lot of that stuff would also be hard to look forward to!

**  Tim Challies is a rather hotheaded Calvinist pastor who once wrote a blog post praising the Book of Kells as an example of the spiritual talent the West had before the "traditions of men" (Catholicism) took over. I just had to chuckle when I read that, because Calvinism has never produced anything like the Book of Kells.
Interesting! Would you mind elaborating? (Emphasis mine)
« Last Edit: December 24, 2014, 09:06:40 PM by Volnutt »
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Offline Minnesotan

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Re: The religious value of quantum mechanics and geometry
« Reply #1 on: December 24, 2014, 11:44:18 PM »
Thanks for asking, I figured people might wonder what I was talking about.

First, for those who might not be familiar, fractal geometry is the study of objects having detail at all scales, because they are self-similar; a part looks similar to, or the same as, the whole. Many objects in nature are fractal, like trees, mountains, etc. They are very complex and beautiful, quite unlike the antiseptic forms of modern architecture. Benoit Mandelbrot (one of my favorite mathematicians), in particular, felt that living in modern cities could cause depression because too much rectangular "order" is actually quite unnatural and jarring in a lot of ways, almost as if we weren't really designed to be living in that kind of environment. All life exhibits a balance between regularity and spontaneity, just like fractals, so fractal geometry is sometimes called the geometry of life.

Mandelbrot saw a lot of religious significance in fractals (he was Jewish). Because they're infinitely complex, there's always a sense of awe in looking at them. It's also very paradoxical; fractals are infinitely complex yet occupy a finite volume of space. Because Mandelbrot wasn't a Christian he didn't the next step, but I will. I think there's something very incarnational about them, very sacramental. The Mandelbrot set is sometimes called the "thumbprint of God" yet you can see it on your screen.



Ulrich Zwingli mocked the idea of the Real Presence because he said the finite cannot contain the infinite (was he also a docetist?) I wish I could go back in time and explained to him the significance of the above picture. It would have blown his mind, and maybe changed his mind, too.

There are other areas of mathematics that are just plain weird, like the Riemann zeta function. I think this weirdness is a good thing because it shows God's majesty. (I view mathematics as uncreated, since it reflects God's nature, but because we can directly encounter it, it's like a divine energy).

Quantum mechanics gave me a similar feeling too. It's a major paradigm shift from classical (Newtonian) mechanics where everything is fully determined by antecedent causes like a bunch of cogs or billiard balls. This puts God way back at the beginning, like a deistic watchmaker, "distancing" us from Him.

Quantum mechanics is indeterministic so it leaves open the possibility of free will (so we aren't just puppets), and the possibility that God is here and active in the present time. It also implies that miracles can even happen within the laws of physics, which is a very one-story concept. (In contrast, many Western Christians, owing to the fact that they still hold a very Newtonian worldview, tend to see miracles as God breaking the normal laws of physics, which is both a "two-story" and nominalist way of viewing them).

Lots of people claim that studying science my weaken your faith, but for me that was not so. It actually strengthened it because it helped peel off the "two-story" view of God I had by default as someone raised in the modern West. It basically transfigured my whole world.

How did this help dispel my childhood fear of heaven possibly being boring? Quite simply, it's that God just seems a whole lot closer now that I've started thinking in more of a one-story manner. Heaven is not this amorphous pink cloud where disembodied souls sit around for eternity. It's the fulfillment of God's kingdom which is already here and whose beauty we can already encounter. I don't have to worry that I'm not going to like heaven or being around God, because I've already gotten a taste of these things, and it's only going to get infinitely more beautiful, exciting, and awe-inspiring in the next life. It will be, as C. S. Lewis described in The Last Battle, a grand adventure of which this world is just the cover and title page. And that adventure will never die; if it did, it wouldn't be heaven.
« Last Edit: December 24, 2014, 11:48:09 PM by Minnesotan »
I'm not going to be posting as much on OC.Net as before. I might stop in once in a while though. But I've come to realize that real life is more important.

Offline Volnutt

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Re: The religious value of quantum mechanics and geometry
« Reply #2 on: December 24, 2014, 11:52:58 PM »
That's really neat, man. Thanks a lot :)

Also, on the topic of Protestants and miracles, you might enjoy this blog post from an Evangelical friend of mine https://deeperwaters.wordpress.com/2014/11/12/why-i-reject-a-naturalsupernatural-distinction/
Christ my God, set my heart on fire with love in You, that in its flame I may love You with all my heart, with all my mind, and with all my soul and with all my strength, and my neighbor as myself, so that by keeping Your commandments I may glorify You the Giver of every good and perfect gift. Amen.

Offline Nikolaostheservant

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Re: The religious value of quantum mechanics and geometry
« Reply #3 on: December 25, 2014, 01:27:19 AM »
"thumbprint of God"

Looks more like my butt print.

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Re: The religious value of quantum mechanics and geometry
« Reply #4 on: December 25, 2014, 02:26:34 AM »
"thumbprint of God"

Looks more like my butt print.


Your butt must be weird.
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Re: The religious value of quantum mechanics and geometry
« Reply #5 on: December 25, 2014, 02:52:13 AM »
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Offline Georgii

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Re: The religious value of quantum mechanics and geometry
« Reply #6 on: December 25, 2014, 03:33:39 AM »
There seems to be a lot of that physics stuff going around in Orthodoxy.

Our Archdeacon is a physics professor, and the stand-in sponsor for my Chrismation is also a physicist, though just what "flavor" physicists they are I haven't asked.

Not knowing anything about my to-be-stand-in sponsor, but after hearing him talk about Theophan the Recluse for a minute or two I said to him something like "our archdeacon, who is also a physicist, said..." It was pretty obvious.

An old joke:

Q: What's the difference between a quantum mechanic and an auto mechanic?

A: A quantum mechanic can get his car into the garage without opening the door.


« Last Edit: December 25, 2014, 03:34:18 AM by Georgii »
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Offline LenInSebastopol

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Re: The religious value of quantum mechanics and geometry
« Reply #7 on: December 29, 2014, 10:56:26 AM »
"thumbprint of God"

Looks more like my butt print.

Ya know, a medical doctor can give you a cure for that
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Offline LenInSebastopol

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Re: The religious value of quantum mechanics and geometry
« Reply #8 on: December 29, 2014, 10:58:18 AM »
Minnesotan, thanks; very elegant post.
You too, Volnutt for seeing giving it.
« Last Edit: December 29, 2014, 10:59:07 AM by LenInSebastopol »
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Offline Fabio Leite

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Re: The religious value of quantum mechanics and geometry
« Reply #9 on: December 29, 2014, 05:33:47 PM »
There are other areas of mathematics that are just plain weird, like the Riemann zeta function. I think this weirdness is a good thing because it shows God's majesty. (I view mathematics as uncreated, since it reflects God's nature, but because we can directly encounter it, it's like a divine energy).

Now, that's an intringuing possibility.. mathematics as a divine energy...

The only problem I have with that, and with most of the attempts of using this universe as it is, to make inductions about God is that they start with the premise that the universe we live in is the universe as God created it and not a fallen, broken universe.

I think the fact that some laws of nature "run" on things like irrational numbers is evidence that this universe is broken (if death and enthropy is not evidence enough).

One of the great gaps of Christian philosophy - and of philosophy in general, is that it did account for the advances in pure Mathematics and what meaning, if any, those discoveries could have. Most of the time philosophers are poor mathematicians and vice-versa.
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Offline Volnutt

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Re: The religious value of quantum mechanics and geometry
« Reply #10 on: February 23, 2016, 03:24:38 PM »
There are other areas of mathematics that are just plain weird, like the Riemann zeta function. I think this weirdness is a good thing because it shows God's majesty. (I view mathematics as uncreated, since it reflects God's nature, but because we can directly encounter it, it's like a divine energy).

Now, that's an intringuing possibility.. mathematics as a divine energy...

The only problem I have with that, and with most of the attempts of using this universe as it is, to make inductions about God is that they start with the premise that the universe we live in is the universe as God created it and not a fallen, broken universe.

I think the fact that some laws of nature "run" on things like irrational numbers is evidence that this universe is broken (if death and enthropy is not evidence enough).

One of the great gaps of Christian philosophy - and of philosophy in general, is that it did account for the advances in pure Mathematics and what meaning, if any, those discoveries could have. Most of the time philosophers are poor mathematicians and vice-versa.

Apparently the Number of the Beast is really Pi...
Christ my God, set my heart on fire with love in You, that in its flame I may love You with all my heart, with all my mind, and with all my soul and with all my strength, and my neighbor as myself, so that by keeping Your commandments I may glorify You the Giver of every good and perfect gift. Amen.

Offline TheTrisagion

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Re: The religious value of quantum mechanics and geometry
« Reply #11 on: February 23, 2016, 09:36:38 PM »
"thumbprint of God"

Looks more like my butt print.
If this is true, I strongly suggest you get to a doctor posthaste and get it checked out.
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Offline Nikolaostheservant

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Re: The religious value of quantum mechanics and geometry
« Reply #12 on: February 23, 2016, 10:25:15 PM »
good one!!! only took you 2 years. ;D

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Re: The religious value of quantum mechanics and geometry
« Reply #13 on: February 24, 2016, 12:04:15 AM »
Re: The religious value of quantum mechanics and geometry
Quote from: Fr. Thomas Hopko, dystopian parable of the prodigal son
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Offline Volnutt

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Re: The religious value of quantum mechanics and geometry
« Reply #14 on: February 24, 2016, 02:25:16 AM »
Re: The religious value of quantum mechanics and geometry


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« Last Edit: February 24, 2016, 02:25:29 AM by Volnutt »
Christ my God, set my heart on fire with love in You, that in its flame I may love You with all my heart, with all my mind, and with all my soul and with all my strength, and my neighbor as myself, so that by keeping Your commandments I may glorify You the Giver of every good and perfect gift. Amen.

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Re: The religious value of quantum mechanics and geometry
« Reply #15 on: February 24, 2016, 10:36:59 AM »
good one!!! only took you 2 years. ;D
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Offline LenInSebastopol

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Re: The religious value of quantum mechanics and geometry
« Reply #16 on: February 24, 2016, 10:44:03 AM »
good one!!! only took you 2 years. ;D

Was busy getting his head out of retrograde
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Re: The religious value of quantum mechanics and geometry
« Reply #17 on: February 24, 2016, 11:10:16 AM »
good one!!! only took you 2 years. ;D
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Offline LenInSebastopol

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Re: The religious value of quantum mechanics and geometry
« Reply #18 on: February 24, 2016, 11:11:21 AM »
good one!!! only took you 2 years. ;D
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Offline TheTrisagion

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Re: The religious value of quantum mechanics and geometry
« Reply #19 on: February 24, 2016, 11:46:28 AM »
good one!!! only took you 2 years. ;D
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Offline Nikolaostheservant

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Re: The religious value of quantum mechanics and geometry
« Reply #20 on: February 25, 2016, 01:18:45 AM »
42

Offline LenInSebastopol

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Re: The religious value of quantum mechanics and geometry
« Reply #21 on: February 25, 2016, 01:32:36 AM »
Close, but it's 23
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