Originally Broadcast, March 15, 1997

Last Revised, Feb. 2, 2001

  INFINITY #5: The Future and Dr. Heisenberg.

by Daniel H. Harris, Ph.D.

I. The Questions.
Are there events that are truly just chance?  Are there uncaused events?  Does chance determine the future and thereby rule the universe?  Can the future be known?  This INFINITY will answer these important questions.

II. Two Contrary Possibilities.
If true chance events* are common, as many scientists suppose; then we live in a chance dominated, chaotic universe, where the future can't be known; where the future doesn't exist until it has arrived.  If that is so, if chance does rule the universe, then no one can know the future, not even God; and as a consequence, we can say that there can be no all-wise God.
On the other hand, it may be that there are no chance events at all.  It may be that all events have causes, even if the causes are often too subtle for us to discover.  In that case, if we follow events backward in time, each event having a cause, then we reach the first event, and the first cause of all things, which should legitimately be called God.   * True chance event = an uncaused event.  Is defined here as an event which remains totally unknowable until it happens, that can't be predicted, even by God.
So the existence or nonexistence of true chance events is a very important question.  If true chance events rule the universe, then there can be no all-wise God.  If there is an all-wise God, then God is in charge, and God cannot permit chance events to rule the universe.   In that case there can be no true chance events. Let's find out whether there are true chance events.

III. The Magnitude of The Question.
One of the central ideas of modern science is the belief that there are true chance events, and that these uncaused events have influenced and/or dominated the course of history.  True chance events are now pivotal in the thinking of most scientists and philosophers.  The new field of chaos theory, which studies the ways that small changes produce much larger consequences, is an important example of this.
For example, in a turbulent fast flowing stream a very small difference in the position of a molecule of water at the top of a stream can mean a very large difference of location at the same molecule at the bottom of the stream.  Similarly, meteorologists today recognize the extreme sensitivity of the large scale atmosphere, informally called the butterfly effect; in which it is imagined that when a butterfly flaps its wings in Australia, that even that small a disturbance can produce a chain of events, which could change the path of storms in North America or Europe two weeks later. 
Chance events manifest in biology in the supposition of evolution, which in its modern form imagines that small random changes in the genetic material of individual plants and animals, accumulated over long periods of time, has produced all of the varieties of life now existing.

IV. The Overturn of Logic and Determinism.
Up until about 1900, most scientists and philosophers relied upon logic and experience, and reasoned that every event must have a cause.  They supposed that there are no chance events.  They believed, as Sir Isaac Newton did, that if we could make precise enough observations of things, in the here and now, that then it would be possible to calculate the course of future events, or discern what happened in the past.  This idea is the essence of determinism, which supposes that the universe is orderly and the future is predictable.  [This idea worked very well in astronomy, with predictions of orbits of ever increasing precision, leading to the discovery of the planets Uranus and Pluto.]
           By contrast, today, scientists and philosophers suppose that true chance events do occur, and that these uncaused events make prediction of the immediate future uncertain, and prediction of the distant future impossible.  They thereby reject determinism.
The idea of a universe dominated by chance, where the future can't be known, seems contrary to essence of science, since science takes pride in being able to make true and accurate predictions.

V. The Rise of Quantum Theory.
But the idea of true chance events and the uncertainty of future events, did became popular with scientists and philosophers in the early 1900's.  And the work of physicists was central to the development of these ideas.
As physicists in the early 1900's used light to probe the behavior of atoms and sub-atomic particles, they discovered some very unexpected phenomena, which seemed to go against the then recognized laws of nature, [laws such as the law of energy conservation].  The search for ways to resolve these difficulties led to amazing conjectures about what goes on inside atoms.  The result was a discipline then known as atomic theory, out of which arose the field of physics now known as Quantum Theory. 

   ----- Don't Panic.  It's Not That Hard!-----

            Many of the ideas of Quantum Theory are difficult, and cannot be understood without difficult mathematics; but, as we shall see, the idea of chance in Quantum Theory can be understood easily.

VI. Where Are the Very Tiny Things?
 In Quantum Theory the idea of chance can be distilled into one simple idea: Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle.

   ----- Again Don't Panic. It's Not That Hard! -----
German physicist Werner Heisenberg, first presented his Uncertainty Principle in 1927.  Heisenberg looked at the problem of using light to measure the position and motion of an extremely small particle, such as an electron, a particle much smaller than an atom.  A tiny particle, like an electron, is so small that as light bounces off of it, there is an effect on the particle's position and motion.  That is, when a sub-atomic particle is observed, the light used to make the observation will unavoidably exert a force on the particle, a force which changes the particle's position and motion.
When Heisenberg studied this problem, he showed that light bouncing off of a tiny particle would knock the particle about with an uncertain force, in an uncertain way, making the original position and motion of the particle unknowable.  That is, the very act of observation would itself so strongly affect the particle, that it would not be possible to know its original position and motion.

VII. The Physicists Take a Great Leap.
As more and more peculiar sub-atomic phenomena were discovered, the notable physicists who founded Quantum Theory sought a deeper understanding of the puzzles of sub-atomic processes.  Along the way some of them made a fundamental leap of logic.  They supposed that only what we can observe is real, that there is nothing beyond observation; and so they supposed that since measurements with light cannot tell us a particle's precise location or velocity; that therefore, the particle truly has no exact location or velocity.   At that time a few influential physicists began to suppose that sub-atomic particles don't act like particles at all, instead they act like fuzz-balls, having no particular location or velocity. [Physicists also began to suppose that any act of observation even of a large scale body would be similarly uncertain, and that therefore even large scale bodies have no exact location or velocity.]



VIII. A Schism Appears Among the Physicists.
This idea, that bodies have fuzz-ball uncertainties in their positions and velocities, was such a radical departure from the conventional physics of the time, it was so contrary to the experience and intuition of many, and it was opposed by so many notable physicists, including H. A. Lorentz, Erwin Schroedinger, and Albert Einstein; that the physics community split into two camps. 
There were those physicists, including Werner Heisenberg and Niels Bohr, who were willing to take the leap, who were ready to  supposed that all bodies truly have no particular location or velocity; these physicists were willing to thereby abandon determinism.  [This view came to be called the Copenhagen interpretation, because it was forcefully advocated by Danish physicist Niels Bohr, among others.]
And there were those physicists, like Erwin Schroedinger and Albert Einstein, who were not willing to take this leap, who  supposed that all objects might still have particle like behavior, with exact locations and velocities, which just can't be observed exactly; these physicists were unwilling to abandon determinism.  [This view came to be called the hidden variables approach, most forcefully advocated by Albert Einstein.]

IX. Prevalent Philosophy Molds Physics.
In the early 1900's, as physicists struggled with the development of Quantum Theory, philosophers were seeking to exclude from physics any hint of the invisible, the intangible, or the supernatural.
The prevailing view among philosophers was naturalism and materialism, which assumes that the universe and its observable natural laws, is all there is [that God and the supernatural are excluded].  This thinking also supposes that there is nothing more to reality than what we can see and measure.
Agreeing with this view, the founders of Quantum Theory, including Niels Bohr, argued that what we can observe is all there is, that since the precise location and velocity of a sub-atomic particle can't be known, therefore the particle has no location or velocity.  [How ironic that physicists would suddenly change their view of the universe, limiting themselves to what they could see, when for many years the greatest physicists had recognized the necessity of an invisible substance, the aether, to carry magnetic and electric forces, and to act as the medium for the transmission of light.]

X. The Physicists Suppose that Observation is Everything.
What the advocates of Quantum Theory did, and their successors still do today, is to suppose that in reality a tiny sub-atomic particle acts as if it is spread over a region of uncertainty, a fuzz-ball.  They suppose that each and every sub-atomic particle is in many places at once.   And they suppose that since observation cannot tell us the exact velocity of a sub-atomic particle, that therefore the particle has no particular velocity.  They suppose that each and every sub-atomic particle has many velocities all at the same time.
Today the prevailing view among physicists is that our ignorance of the position and motion of sub-atomic particles is not because of the observation process; our ignorance is because, each particle truly has no exact location or velocity.
          To say that the sub-atomic particles necessarily have no particular location, and no particular velocity; that is quite a leap.  But that's exactly what the advocates of Quantum Theory did, and continue to do today.

XI. The Physicists Leap Again.
          The early Quantum Theorists, once they understood the consequences of the Uncertainty Principle, went one step further; they supposed that because any atomic or sub-atomic scale experiment will necessarily produce an uncertain - statistical, outcome; that therefore there are real chance processes; that is, there are uncaused events.
They then looked for consequences of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle in large scale processes, such as the movement of the Earth's atmosphere, and the working of the human brain.  They reasoned that since large scale processes depend upon many uncertain small scale events; that small scale uncertainty will necessarily result in large scale uncertainty, making all future events and processes uncertain.  That is, they supposed that microscopic true chance events would change the outcome of large scale processes, making all processes uncertain, and so produce large scale chance processes.  This is in essence the Quantum Theory argument for true chance processes.

XII. The Physicists Then Took a Giant Leap.
The interpreters of Quantum Theory then took another giant leap.  They argued that true chance events, so limit knowledge of the future, that no one, not even God, can know the future; and that therefore, there can be no all-wise personal God.  [This denial arose even though no one knows if there can be any limits God.]  This implied denial of the all-wise God is generally hidden within presentations of Quantum Theory.  [On rare occasions the advocates of Quantum Theory have more plainly presented the denial of God argument.]
          With the development of Quantum Theory, the promotion of true chance events and the denial of God soon became inseparably linked, and these ideas became foundational to the philosophy of modern physics.  These ideas also became a pivotal element in the broader philosophy of naturalism and materialism, that came to dominate philosophy in general.  And the idea of chance, of uncaused events, became a strong influence in most other areas of science. 

XIII. The New God of Chance.
In fact, with this denial of the all-wise God by the advocates of Quantum Theory, chance itself became the new god of the scientists.  They supposed that the future doesn't even exist until it comes to be, and that the future only comes to be by the action of quantum statistical events.  [Of course God might not need any of these things to know the future.]  Thus the advocates of Quantum Theory supposed that quantum events, chance events, create the future, quantum events determine what will be, quantum events rule the universe, and quantum events are thus god.
          In fact, a few of the promoters of Quantum Theory, at the end of the 20th century took another giant leap.  They suppose that there is no reality apart from human consciousness and perceptions.  They suppose that quantum events are expressed in the world through human consciousness and perception, and that thereby consciousness, from moment to moment, creates reality.  In this way human consciousness becomes the creator of reality and thus the god of the physicists. These promoters of the new physics suppose that with each human observation the universe branches, becoming a totally new universe.
 [It was not believers in God who rose up to challenge the beliefs of Quantum Theory.  It was the advocates of Quantum Theory who saw their theory as a challenge to the existence of God, and zealously promoted this idea, thereby triggered the battle.]
The idea that true chance processes affect the universe is a foundational belief of most humanists and evolutionists.  For example, most evolutionists hold that evolutionary change is a result of natural law and true chance processes.  If there are no true chance processes, then there can be no evolution in the sense supposed by most materialists, humanists and evolutionists.

XIV. The Choice: Chance or God.
If, there is an all-wise God, and God does rule the universe; then God couldn't permit uncertain chance processes to change events; for then God would no longer be in charge.  As Albert Einstein said, regarding God and quantum thinking, "I... am convinced that He [God] is not playing at dice with the universe."
On the other hand, if there are true chance processes, that is, events without causes, then the future has no existence until it happens, and no one can know the future, not even God, and God in that case couldn't be in charge, for in that case God would not know the future consequences of present actions, and God would not know what to do to produce a desired effect in the future.
If there are true chance events, then there can be no all-wise and all powerful God.  But if there is an all-wise and all powerful God then there true chance processes do not rule the universe.  So we have a clear choice, God or chance, there is nothing in between.

XV. Have the Physicists Proved Their Case?
          Have the advocates of Quantum Theory proved that each and every object in the universe truly has no exact location or velocity?  Have they proved that the uncertainties are real, that the uncertainties are not just limitations on our knowledge?  Have they proved that there are true chance processes and thus uncaused events?  Have they proved their case?  Can they prove their case?  Let's see.

XVI. The Physicists' Argument Arises from Ignorance.
 It seems to me that the tricky chain of reasoning used to suggest the reality of true chance processes contains one crucial missing link.  Since the argument for chance processes arises out of uncertain measurements, the argument springs from ignorance. 
 In logic it is well known that any argument arising from a position of ignorance, can't produce a proof of a positive result.  For example, if our observations of the planets were very uncertain [as was true hundreds of years ago], then the predicted motion of the planets would be very uncertain, and their predicted future locations would be fuzz-balls.  But that would only be due to our ignorance, not because the planets truly are fuzz-balls.  The existence of fuzz-ball predictions would not be a proof that planets are true fuzz-balls.

XVII. Dice and Chance.
 A process often treated as chance is the throwing of dice.  Some throwers of dice suppose that true chance determines the roll of the dice.  On the contrary, if every detail of the situation is specified to very great precision; then the outcome of the throw can be calculated.  If the exact speed and direction of a die at release is known; if the exact spin on the die is known; if all relevant air currents are precisely known; if the exact shape and character of the die is known, and all the surfaces involved are fully described, etc.; then the outcome can be calculated.  Perhaps a very large computer would be needed, but in principle the calculation could be done, and the outcome of the throw predicted.
That is, given sufficiently detailed knowledge, prediction is possible.  [This is the classic Newtonian viewpoint]  But lacking such detailed knowledge, the dice thrower, or the student of probability, will simplify the analysis, by pretending that chance is involved.  Here the process is said to be a chance process only because there is a lack of detailed knowledge. 
It appears that, in very much the same way, the supporters of Quantum Theory speak of chance and probability because we are limited in our knowledge of the details.  To say that true chance events occur, just because we are limited in our knowledge of the details, is like saying there is no sound when a tree falls in the forrest, just because the observer is deaf.

XVIII. But We Can't See the Fuzz-Balls!
Because location and velocity observations are made with light, the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle tells us that we can't know the details.  It's like wearing glasses that don't focus.  Our view is blurry, so we see everything as fuzzy, even if the things we are looking at really aren't fuzzy.  We can't tell.  We can't tell whether the particles have exact positions, or fuzz-ball positions.  We can't even tell whether large bodies have exact positions or fuzz-ball positions. 

            So the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle means that no one can prove that there are real uncertainties.  And therefore, no one can prove that there are real chance processes, because the details are not observable.
           The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, eliminates in principle, any possibility of knowing the details, and thereby it eliminates the possibility of proving that there are true fuzz-balls, true physical uncertainties and true chance processes.   So, our ignorance of the details makes it impossible to prove that there are real physical uncertainties and true chance processes.
Thus it is clear that the advocates of Quantum Theory, because of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, can't prove that chance events are real.  Chance events are unprovable in principle! 
So we see that the advocates of Quantum Theory have failed to prove their case.

XIX. Learning from Experience!
In all of our experience with the large scale world we find that detailed knowledge makes accurate prediction possible.  This appears to be a law of nature, a general rule which seems to apply on all scales of measurement [with the not proved exception of the quantum realm].  And we find that the more precise the knowledge, the better the prediction.  This is the viewpoint of determinism, which supposes that all events do indeed have causes, [except the ultimate first cause of all other events]. 
And since Quantum Theory in principle cannot prove that there are true physical uncertainties, and true chance events; it appears to be very presumptuous to suppose that precise measurements, just because they are small scale measurements, are in some way fundamentally different from large scale measurements.  It is presumptuous in the extreme to assume that there are true chance processes, when the argument favoring true chance processes is itself based on our ignorance of the details.  
It would be very presumptuous for us, in our ignorance, to suppose that just because we can't measure the precise location or velocity of sub-atomic particles, that therefore these sub-atomic particles have no particular location or velocity, and that there are true chance processes.  But the supposition of true chance processes is the core idea of Quantum Theory, which is foundational to naturalistic materialism. 

XX. Without Chance There Must Be God!
Of course, if the physicists are wrong about their interpretation of Quantum Theory, if there are no chance events, which now seems very likely, then the alternative is to again stand on determinism, the foundational belief prevalent among the giants of 18th & 19th century science, the belief so forcefully championed by Albert Einstein.  In that case we suppose that all events have causes, back to the first ultimate cause.  And we are led to suppose that there is a God who is that first cause of all other things.
           And so it becomes reasonable to suppose, that the uncertainty in Quantum Theory arises only because of uncertainties built into the observation process.

XXI. Can This Physics Put God in a Box?
Just because man is presently limited to using light as his only tool for studying atomic and sub-atomic processes, does that limit God?  Does God need light waves to see where things are?  Why should God need light or any physical means to know where things are, or to know the future?  Does the Uncertainty Principle limit God, or is it only a limitation on man?
When we consider that the writings of the prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, hundreds of years B.C., [see below] described exactly what has happened in our time, with the regathering of the people of Israel from all the nations, and the rebirth of the state of Israel.  And when we consider that on no other occasion in history has a nation been reborn from a scattered people; then it becomes clear that the one who inspired those long ago prophetic writings, one true God, the author of the Holy Bible, does indeed know the future.  How can He who built the railroad not know where the tracks go?

XXII. Many Inexplicable Prophecies.
The Holy Bible has given us many prophecies which have been confirmed only recently by science.  [link]  For example, when the Holy Bible in Genesis 22, asserted that the stars of heaven are similar in number to the number of sand grains on all the sea shores of the world, many scoffed, until Galileo and his telescope revealed that indeed the number of stars is incredible.  And modern measures show that the number of stars in all the galaxies in all the universe count up to the same number as the number of sand grains on all the beaches of the word.  So the Holy Bible again stands verified! 
There are many such prophecies in the Bible which have only been confirmed in modern times, prophecies of events, of the nature of the Earth and the universe, even descriptions of subtleties of natural law. [link]  These demonstrate that the God who lives both inside and outside of time does know the future.
The fulfilled prophesies of the Holy Bible conclusively demonstrate that there is a God who does know the future and there are no true chance events.  All events have causes.

XXIII. Will You Turn to Fables, or Will You Turn to God?
           As a Christian and as a scientist, I can agree that Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle does limit man's ability to predict the future.  I can even use quantum calculations to make the best possible predictions in atomic experiments.  But I can't agree that God is limited in knowing the future, since it is unreasonable to suppose that God needs light, or any physical means, to know the location and motion of everything in the universe.
          The scientists and philosophers who continue to promote chance, and thereby knowingly deny God, were well describe in the Holy Bible by the Apostle Paul in Romans 1:22, who said; "Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools."  And also in II Timothy 4:3-4, where Paul wrote: "For there will come a time when ... they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall turn to fables."
So we have learned that there is no credible evidence for true chance events, that chance doesn't rule the universe, God does; and we have learned that we can know the future, if we come to know the one who wrote the Holy Bible, the one true God, who knows the future, who is in charge of the future, and who reveals it to His servants.

XXIV. So Why Do So Many Smart People Believe in Chance?
 I see two main reasons that the argument for chance has been received so well:
1) The argument for true chance events is presented is a complex and esoteric fashion, with great subtlety, to impress the impressionable and to obscure the gaping holes in the argument.
 2) Modern intellectuals prefer to not retain God in their consciousness, preferring instead a universe ruled by natural law processes such as chance.  They prefer to believe any fable rather than face the God of creation, the God who is a righteous judge.

XXV. Be Warned!
Now that you know the truth, that God knows the future and there are no true chance events, you should be alert to the importance of the idea of chance as a means of deception in science and philosophy and religion.
           The idea of a disorderly chance ruled universe is very ancient, appearing as primal chaos in the legends and myths of the earliest recorded civilizations.  These myths viewed the primal chaos as the starting condition of the world.  Like the earliest myths, the prevailing view in modern physics and philosophy, that chance rules the universe, is another myth of science.  The myth of chance in modern physics has become foundational to new age pantheism, which seeks to merge all scientific, religious and philosophical viewpoints into one pantheistic system of thought.

 References to the gathering of Israel

            Isaiah 11, 43, 54

            Jeremiah 23, 29, 31, 32

            Ezekiel 11, 20, 34, 36, 37

            Micah 2, and many more.