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The Impossible is Real

If you believe in modern science, then you likely already believe that the impossible is real, the unexplainable is likely, and leaps of faith are unavoidable. I’ll describe the preceding and then, as I see it, some implications for belief in something transcendent.

The Impossible

Let’s start with the impossible: superposition and quantum entanglement (for a good video on both, watch the first 11 minutes of this TEDx talk).

Superposition

We all know that one thing can’t be in two places at once. That is obvious. One thing. Two places. Very simple.

Quantum mechanics, however, necessitates that one thing is in every place that it can be at the same time. One thing. Everywhere it can be. (Or it necessitates that different universes are being created and we’re just measuring the thing in one of those universes, that we’re changing things in the past by making a measurement in the present, etc — you get the idea, either way something that we would think of as “impossible” is definitely happening.)

Superposition has been abundantly demonstrated, most famously with the “double-slit experiment” in which a single photon passes through two separate slits simultaneously. Not possible. Definitely happens and has been proven time and time again in many different ways.

Quantum Entanglement

According to general relativity, nothing can go faster than the speed of light. And, if things could, then causality would not make sense — things in the future could cause things in the past. So we know that nothing travels faster than the speed of light.

And yet, when you entangle two particles, measuring one of them will cause a change in the other particle no matter how far apart those particles are. And, importantly, this change will either be instantaneous or will happen at faster than the speed of light. In essence, these particles interact instantly with one another as if there was no space at all between them. This is called “nonlocality.” No matter how much space is between the two particles, they interact as if there is no space between the two particles. Not possible. Totally happens and has been abundantly proven.

The Unexplainable

Dark Matter

Science also tells us that things for which we have no evidence must exist. For instance, roughly 85% of the mass in the universe must be “dark matter.” We have no direct evidence of it, at all. None. But, if it doesn’t exist, then scientists have no explanation for how the universe can exist. So, scientists believe it does exist because it must exist despite the fact that they have exactly zero direct measurement of it or interactions with it.

Virtual Particles

Particles that we can’t directly measure and that pop in and out of existence must exist. We need them (or something else that we have no way to directly measure) for the math of quantum mechanics to work (see the Casimir Effect for an observable outcome of this unexplainable phenomenon).

Leaps of Faith

We might quibble about whether the following are leaps of faith, what that means, etc. But I’m putting the following in a distinct category because, at least to me, it’s not that the following are simply unexplained but that they require actual belief in the absence of evidence. For example, we can’t explain dark matter, but mathematically it essentially has to exist in some form or fashion. Concerning the origin of the universe, however, there is no precedent for the cause of the origin of the universe so there’s no math about what must have preceded it — there is simply speculation, i.e. belief.

The Origin of the Universe

As already mentioned, the origin of the universe has no known precedent. According to science, …. And, according to science, … But, according to science, … Yeah, there are no ways to complete those sentences when we’re talking about the origin of the universe. It’s not a scientific question. It’s a question of belief. Do you believe that something always existed? If so, what? Do you believe that everything came out of nothing when there was no space to come into? If so, how? If you’re going to have any belief about the origin of the universe, it must be a leap of faith. You have no evidence either way.

The Origin of Life

Evolution quite nicely explains most of the development of life (except for the conundrums of irreducible complexity). But evolution says literally nothing (again, literally nothing) about the origin of life. There is no credible scientific theory for how life could have come to exist. Look it up. And then in a year look it up again. Seemingly every year there is a new hypothesis about it — each equally unfathomable and virtually infinitely unlikely. I can’t stress this enough: there is no remotely credible scientific explanation with anything approaching precision that explains the origin of life. While the origin of the universe can’t be a scientific question, the origin of life could be a scientific question if there was any scientific explanation that could explain how things could have come together to become a life form. But, when you look at how unbelievably complex even the simplest of life forms are, it almost defies human logic to say that those things could have randomly come together or — in the very, very, very, very unlikely event that they did — that the life form would have continued to live for longer than the briefest time before dying on a planet not equipped to support life (and even though the earth’s environment is now supportive of life, we have no evidence that anything that is alive evolved from a different original life form, so it appears that the origin of life succeeded once on earth, and we have no evidence of it occurring ever again thus far anywhere else in the universe).

A person has to take a leap of faith here, but I actually think the leap is much further if you’re going to assume that there is an explanation besides an intelligent designer. Yes, both are leaps, but life looks created (life forms are essentially organic machines; if you came across a machine on another planet, you would assume it was created, so the fact that something is an organic machine that can reproduce itself does not change the fact that it appears as a machine and, as such, can be logically said to appear to be created).

So, origin of life = leap of faith (but an atheistic leap seems almost infinitely improbable; to me, an intelligent design leap seems more probable).

Free Will

Whether we have free will could be viewed as a question of science. If you believe that there is nothing transcendent (nothing beyond the realm of the material), then you really have to believe that there is not free will. Everything will be an inevitable outcome of whatever preceded it. There is no scientific explanation for us having thoughts that are not predetermined by the physical effect that preceded them. Even quantum mechanics cannot explain free will through probabilities because, still, your thoughts would not be determined by you but by whatever probabilistic outcome occurs.

Every person believes or acts in accordance with the belief that there is free will. That is to say, every person believes or acts in accordance with the belief that there is something transcendent, something truly not physical or explainable in any material sense. So, there is a leap of faith to believe that you have free will, but it is a leap of faith that everyone makes.

Implications

It is a bit mystifying that an intelligent designer is a taboo topic among scientists. The hypothesis that we live in a simulation is well regarded as a possibility. And it actually solves a lot of issues with quantum mechanics. If we’re in a simulation, then things don’t need to exist in multiple places at once; they can just be simulated to us as existing, like everything else, when we observe something. It would also explain how measuring one particle could instantly change another particle no matter the distance between them because, in a simulation, there is no actual distance and everything being simulated is happening on the backend and just being rendered as occurring on the frontend.

But, here’s the thing: the simulation theory requires belief in a god. So, as I said, it’s a bit mystifying that scientists don’t put intelligent design into the mix of possibilities when they literally put intelligent design into the mix of possibilities but under the name of a “simulation hypothesis.” There is no scientific reason why intelligent design through our observable existence is any less credible than intelligent design through a simulated existence. In the former, things actually exist, quantum mechanics exists, etc. In the latter, we don’t really physically exist — except still some physical world would have to exist in order for us to digitally exist in a simulation. So a simulation hypothesis guarantees intelligent design and yet also introduces the possibility that then there would be a god who designed whatever Being created us in a simulation. So we get the possibility of multiple tiers of gods: a god of our simulated universe (in the sense that the creator of our simulated universe could more-or-less have all the attributes that people attribute to God) and a potential God of whatever world actually exists (because the actual world would still encounter the philosophical question of an initial cause). People seem to be fine believing that an impersonal god exists but just not a personal one as put forth by theistic religions. Opposition to belief in a personal god, however, is not a scientific position, and it should be acknowledged to be a belief simply of personal preference.

So, just a quick recap to put things together. Scientists believe that the impossible is real, allege that the unexplainable must exist, and make leaps of faith (even if they don’t acknowledge that they do). That sounds a lot like belief in God: the impossible is real, the unexplainable must exist, and leaps of faith are a necessity. There is nothing in science that says God is an impossibility or is even improbable. Science offers no explanation of God’s existence or lack of existence. Science and God are not contradictory. In my opinion, they are complimentary: science helps explain how the world created by God operates.

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