God doesn’t play dice with the universe. – Albert Einstein
In the rough and tumble world of theoretical physics, there are two opposing parties. On the right, as represented by Albert Einstein, is the law and order crowd. Their platform states that certain rules must be followed, by dictate of the universe, and that nothing in the universe happens by chance. Since everything is determined by a prior cause (one of the rules), there’s a reason for everything.
On the left, as represented by a select group of quantum physicists, is the defund the police association. Their platform states that uncertainty is built into the universe. In the furthest reaches of the microscopic world, laws are more like recommendations. Pesky sub-atomic particles, ignoring the legalities of the law and order folks, can show up in two places at once or in places they have no right to be. Instead of order, there’s chaos down below, and there isn’t a rational explanation for everything that occurs.
As a logical extension of their belief in cosmic law and order, the Einstein crowd also deny the existence of free will. Human behavior is included in the “nothing happens without a prior cause” rule. While we may not recognize the network of previous acts that made us do a particular thing, that doesn’t make it less true. There are no accidents; there is only the unanticipated.
As you might expect, the defund the police consortium says free will is possible. Unpredictability on the microscopic level has its effects in the universe, and with what the universe produces, such as humans. From that point of view, your behavior cannot be reduced to a mathematical equation, outside of gauging probabilities. There are things you may be likely to do, but that isn’t the same as have to do. Nothing in the universe is predestined, and, since the end result is not predetermined, something new can always emerge.
It was in response to a defund the police rally that Einstein uttered his famous quote about God and dice. To his mind, any kind of deviation from the rule of law promised eventual catastrophe, especially if it meant high-functioning mammals were allowed to meddle with things. It would be like God standing up a million dominos in a row, and then saying to the local human, “You can do whatever you want, but don’t touch the first one.” We all know what happens. Today it’s the earth’s climate, tomorrow the universe. God can’t possibly be that stupid.
The left side of the aisle could respond that catastrophes are a recurring fact of life. In the last 500 million years, there have been five mass extinction events wiping out at least 75% of the species on earth, along with the distinct possibility that humans will enact their own sixth one. If all that is according to plan, the plan is not very efficient. It seems more like trial and error, which is where unpredictability comes in. God does seem to play dice and may not win every roll.
So, who’s right? Physicists can’t settle the matter, because the answer goes back to the origination, prior to what science can perceive. When Einstein mentioned God, he was referring to the unknown source from which everything emerged. Since science can only study the emergent, whether creation runs on immutable laws, or is an unpredictable, chaotic place, depends on your view of the Creator. Is God the law and order type, requiring a predictable and orderly creation, with an underlying plan? God sets a program in motion. Or is God the one in a flowered dress and derby hat, cocktail in hand, willing to take some chances and see what happens? God operates in faith.
What Is God?
Obviously, a lot of people line up on the side of law and order, and not just physicists. Whether we’re talking the Hindu karmic process, or the law-giver God of the major Western religions, there’s an order to it all, and all of creation submits. It’s why people often think that God has a purpose for them, or that the world unfolds according to a preexisting template. A reason for everyone and everything was built into creation from the moment it began, and everyone needs to get with the program, since you don’t really have a choice. No one beats karma. Enforcing the plan is the reason for the laws that keep the order.
I find myself on the other side of the line. As Nietzsche said, all those laws are simply interpretations. Since no one can see directly into the originating substrate—or, as the Bible puts it, no one can see God—interpretations are all there will ever be, whether it be natural laws or human ones. People continue to argue about them because no one knows for sure.
It is important, I think, to let go of the idea that everything has a cause and is governed by laws. Once we do, we become able to see the miraculousness of what exists. The creation of this universe was not a by-gone conclusion, but a possible one. In the course of infinity, every possibility comes up at least once, and here we are. The creation of life is even more rarefied air, let alone self-aware life forms with a degree of free choice about themselves. This universe, including ourselves, is a miracle.
In a world where laws don’t strictly determine things, anything is possible. People are spontaneously healed; spirits do appear to people. Everyone has experiences they cannot completely explain. Daily reality is simply what happens most of the time; probability allows for the impossible. Miraculousness surrounds us.
We live in an astonishing and mysterious place. It is my faith that the Source of that wondrous mystery, the origination, is love. Only love can account for the possibility of our existence, and for a degree of freedom that allows us to know the miracle for ourselves.
Image of follow the rules by http://www.disfmf.ie/rule-and-regulations-2017/
Image of nature has no rules by https://www.flickr.com/photos/worldworldworld/8526210578/
Image of deep space by https://esahubble.org/images/opo9841b/