Argument from Quantum Measurement

by Luke Muehlhauser on March 6, 2010 in Video,William Lane Craig

Near minute 16 in the above video, William Lane Craig hints toward an argument for God’s existence that is new to me, an ‘argument from quantum measurement.’ Basically, he says God may be the best solution to the measurement problem in quantum mechanics.

Unsurprisingly, this would be yet another God of the gaps argument. I’m still waiting to hear theists say that ‘God did it’ is the ‘best explanation’ for the Bloop. I call it the Argument from the Bloop.

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{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

ColonelFazackerley March 7, 2010 at 12:15 am

As science successfully explains and predicts more and more, some struggle to fit their myths in.

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Liam March 7, 2010 at 3:14 am

God damn, Quentin Smith needs some public speaking lessons.

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Aaron March 7, 2010 at 3:28 am

Heads they win. Tails you lose.

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Zak March 7, 2010 at 6:48 am

C’mon Luke, everyone knows that the bloop was actually from a kraken! Hahaha

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Hermes March 7, 2010 at 7:14 am

Well, that safely allows me to categorize Craig along with Deepak Chopra.

To complete the effect, maybe a nehru jacket and some spiffy wrap-around sunglasses would make up for his stiff old-man lily-white complexion? It would give him that ‘exotic and authoritative to ‘spiritual’ Americans that have less sense than incense’ look.

If not that, maybe a different set of atire. Something more ‘hip’ with the ‘cool kids’? To that, I say “Aaaaaaaaaaaa!”.

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Briang March 7, 2010 at 7:15 am

Luke,

I listened to the section on quantum measurement twice, and I didn’t hear Craig use it as an argument for God’s existence, nor do I think he committed a god-of-gaps fallacy.

Craig is giving an example of how religion might help shed light on science. This isn’t the same thing as claiming to have an argument for God’s existence.

god-of-the-gaps
This is something I hear atheists say all the time. I think just about every argument for theism is accused of this fallacy by some atheist or other. Yet, I haven’t heard a good account of what this means, or how one knows whether an argument is guilty of the fallacy.

Usually, it’s claimed that an argument commits the fallacy, by appealing to ignorance. “We don’t know something, therefore God did it.” Sure, that would be a fallacy, but “we don’t know something” isn’t a premise of any of the major arguments for the existence of God, nor was it a premise in Craig’s argument.

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Justfinethanks March 7, 2010 at 7:51 am

Liam: God damn, Quentin Smith needs some public speaking lessons.  

It’s the tragedy of the pool of public, outspoken atheists. The most well spoken ones don’t have very good arguments, and the ones with the best arguments can’t express their arguments very well with the succinctness and clarity that this kind of forum requires.

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lukeprog March 7, 2010 at 8:15 am

Briang,

You’re correct on both points. So, I corrected my phrasing to note that Craig didn’t actually assert any argument from quantum measurement. Also, I would be quite happy to explain why I still refer to most theistic arguments as ‘God of the gaps’ arguments or ‘arguments from ignorance.’ This is one of the scholarly papers I would like to write, but perhaps I can prepare a precis of the paper earlier than that and post it to this site.

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Scott March 7, 2010 at 8:38 am

The Bloop is actually located where Lovecraft said the lost city of R’lyeh lies, so maybe it was Cthulhu…?

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Charles March 7, 2010 at 9:27 am

This is yet another example of someone trying to put a square peg in a round-shaped hole. If the peg doesn’t fit, try a new one. Stop trying to cut the damn hole!

The best solution to the measurement problem is the one already embraced by a majority of leading cosmologists and other quantum field theorists.

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Robert Oerter March 7, 2010 at 10:57 am

If Craig is right about his point 3, then God immediately actualizes ANY quantum phenomenon. As quantum physicists well know, observation destroys quantum interference. Thus, quantum interference will never be observed.

If Craig is right about his point 2, then science can falsify some of the claims of religion.

Therefore, if Craig is right about points 2 and 3, then science can falsify the God hypothesis by observing quantum interference. Since quantum interference has been observed many times, I conclude that the God hypothesis has been falsified.

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Briang March 7, 2010 at 11:04 am

Luke,

I’d very much like to read your thoughts on the subject of god-of-the-gaps arguments. Perhaps a post on the topic will help both of us clarify our thoughts on the subject. I’m not even sure if people are using the phrase in the same way. I’ve even seen cases where the phrase is used in a way to describe what might be a legitimate argument, instead of a fallacy.

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Hermes March 7, 2010 at 11:09 am

Robert Oerter: Since quantum interference has been observed many times, I conclude that the God hypothesis has been falsified.  

:-)

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Hermes March 7, 2010 at 11:30 am

Where does he outline how he expects to bring in religion to solve this?

He binds “a measuring apparatus” to “consciousness” and then “some physicists say consciousness” to specifically “human consciousness”, thus by his own word wrangling he makes for himself a hole that his deity can now pop out of to solve a problem, yet he doesn’t say how theists (who supposedly have some special ability or insight that is claimed to be ‘transcendent’ as opposed to self-delusional or over-reaching) will be capable of asking this deity what the answer actually is.

Frighteningly enough, he then goes on and talks about using religion to ‘adjudicate’ (aka “judge”) between scientific ideas as a kind of tie breaker instead of the more honest tentativeness when selecting one or the other as more likely, or the equally common admission that we don’t know and that it’s OK not to have that certainty when that’s the best we can do at the moment and remain honest.

Does anyone doubt that Craig is aiming to have scientists answer to religious review boards? That didn’t work well when they answered to political review boards, so why think that the religious variety would be somehow superior?

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Reginald Selkirk March 7, 2010 at 1:17 pm

Briang: nor do I think he committed a god-of-gaps fallacy.

..
god-of-the-gaps
This is something I hear atheists say all the time. I think just about every argument for theism is accused of this fallacy by some atheist or other. Yet, I haven’t heard a good account of what this means, or how one knows whether an argument is guilty of the fallacy.

If you do not understand the god-of-the-gaps argument, how were you able to come to the conclusion that Craig did not commit one?

This reminds me of Craig’s chapter in The Cambridge Companion to Atheism, in which he reviews the arguments for theism, and finds every one of them convincing. It really weakens his credibility.

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Jfatz March 7, 2010 at 2:56 pm
lukeprog March 7, 2010 at 3:03 pm

Jfatz,

Yeah, that’s an excellent episode from Brian Dunning.

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Jfatz March 7, 2010 at 5:31 pm

He’s pretty great in most of his episodes, but indeed that one had a lot of research and a more interesting format, since it had a whole lot of audio files.

I’ve found him to always be very solid in going through the approaches we SHOULD be doing, and giving every claim full context, and the full extent our conclusions should reach.

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matt March 8, 2010 at 6:06 am

can someone tell me who the moderator of this panel is?

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OrdinaryClay March 8, 2010 at 9:31 am

lukeprog said:
“Unsurprisingly, this would be yet another God of the gaps argument.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G2y8Sx4B2Sk

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MauricXe March 9, 2010 at 5:39 pm

Did anyone notice the exchange at around 89:30?

Craig always seems less confident when he is pressed on one point.

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lukeprog March 9, 2010 at 10:00 pm

MauricXe,

Interesting. Craig has no idea what to say there. Perhaps he has addressed it since.

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John June 29, 2010 at 2:23 pm

Is anyone that demands overwhelming evidence intelligent enough to even consider that if there is a God and there ISNT overwhelming evidence than thats exactly how God wanted? Has that novel notion even crossed your mind?

Wouldnt this be a great way of weeding out those who dont want God as ruler—those who have an excuse to reject him. Think people—if God was in your house you would damm well obey him. But that would be because you FEAR him. God doesnt want that.

God leaves just enough evidence for those who desire him to search for him and just enough doubt for those who dont to just go on their way. This way there is no coercion–you freely choose God.

Those people dont search for clues like this is some mystery—they are forced to go to God Himself and ask…”is this real..Is Christ really the one who saves me? Because if He is I will follow Him”

Atheists just seen to lust for argument as if it were a sport. How do I slam dunk my fellow humans? Craig knows those who are for christ will melt as his words. God knows who are his. What Craig is doing is showing the atheists arguments are psychological bias against a creator. Arguments dont convert–he is just dispelling nonsense. God converts when you pray to him about Christ.

This child like response to the Creator WILL cause God to put the truth as a fact in your mind. That is how God converts–not through clues. He is personal. Once He puts the truth in your mind it cannot be unbelieved..its more a fact than your own name. Its not based soley on a collection of evidence. Think about it–if it was—then all it would take is one solid objection, on your part, to collapse your belief. Instead..God communicates to you Himself and confirms what you have heard.(not audibly, but he burns the truth in your mind)

So why dont people do this? They are arrogant..they would never bow down like a child. They dont want to be ridiculed by friends, they dont want authority over them–there are a host of reasons. But know this: those who are God’s–will find him and those who are not wont. This is the sure fire way the most intelligent thinker in existence came up to find his children—to suggest you have a better way is precicely the nature of an unbeliever–and the very cause for unbelief–you are better than Almighty God. Tonight….consider your not.

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MauricXe August 8, 2010 at 8:44 pm

“Wouldnt this be a great way of weeding out those who dont want God as ruler—those who have an excuse to reject him. Think people—if God was in your house you would damm well obey him. But that would be because you FEAR him. God doesnt want that.”

Wrong. You should read the Old Testament. The Jews witnessed God’s power first hand and they still turned away from him….on more than one occasion.

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David Parker March 13, 2011 at 1:20 pm

Luke,

It seems incorrect to call the quantum-measurement cosmological argument a “God of the Gaps” argument unless you mean that all cosmological arguments are as well. I would disagree on the grounds that a “God of the Gaps” argument is one in which God is posited gratuitously.

The Principle of Sufficient Reason (that every fact requires an explanation) is not a gratuitous claim, so mounting an cosmological argument for God’s existence by showing that a being with certain properties satisfies the PSR, while the other naturalistic alternatives do not (or at least haven’t coherently shown that they can) looks to be a valid (and sound, since I’m a theist) argument.

Now, I would agree that an argument like the one below would be a “God of the Gaps” argument:
1. Science can’t explain x
2. (Gratuitiously) God explains x
3. Therefore, God exists

While some think premises such as the Principle of Sufficient Reason (and the other variations) are wrong, they probably wouldn’t (or at least shouldn’t) say they are gratuitous. And if they aren’t gratuitous, then they are just arguments for the existence of God (whether good, bad, or neither)…but they don’t appear to be “God of the Gaps” arguments in the sense that I taken them to be. We might define our terms differently but that’s just my take.

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Udaybhanu Chitrakar September 1, 2011 at 12:25 pm

God of the Gaps Argument-From a New Perspective

I will begin this article with two suppositions: 1) God has created this universe; 2) He has brought man in this universe with some purpose.
I am not claiming here that these two suppositions are true, or that I can prove them to be true. But I want to show here that if these two suppositions are true, then God will always be the God of the gaps. Anyone who will be reading this article should not forget that there is an “if” clause in the last sentence.
Now I begin with the supposition that God has created this universe. If God has created this universe, then He could have created it in four different ways: 1) He created it in such a way that there was no necessity for Him to intervene in it after creation, 2) After creation He intervened in it, but these interventions were a bare minimum, that is, He intervened only when these were absolutely necessary. In order to clarify my point here, I will say that He intervened only when He found that without His intervention the universe would come to a standstill, 3) He created the universe in such a way that in order to keep it going He had to make very frequent interventions in it, 4) God’s total intervention after creation.
If it was the purpose of God to keep mankind crippled in every possible way, then He would have adopted either the third or the fourth way while creating the universe. This is because in these two cases man, in spite of his having sufficient intelligence and reasoning power, will fail to unveil the secrets of nature, because in almost every phenomenon of nature that he will decide to study he will ultimately find that there always remains an unknown factor, for which he will have no explanation. For him the book of nature will thus remain closed for ever. But if it were God’s purpose that man be master of His creation, then it is quite natural for Him that He would try to keep the book of nature as much open to him as possible, so that with the little intelligence he has been endowed with man will be able to decipher the language of nature, and with that acquired knowledge will also be able to improve the material conditions of his life. In that case God will try to adopt the policy of maximum withdrawal from His creation. He will create the universe in such a way that without His intervention the created world will be able to unfold itself. However that does not mean that He will never intervene. He will definitely intervene when without His intervention the created world would become stagnant. In such a scenario man will be able to give an explanation of almost all physical events in scientific language. But in those cases where God has actually intervened, he will fail to do so.
So I think there is no reason for us to be ashamed of the “God of the gaps” hypothesis. Yes, if God has created the universe, and if God’s purpose was that man be master of His creation, then He would try to keep as little gap in His creation as possible. But the minimum gap that would be ultimately left can never be bridged by any sort of scientific explanation. God will also reside in that gap. Why should we be ashamed of that?
The whole matter can be seen from another angle. Those who strongly believe that God has created this universe also believe that He has created it alone. Now is it believable that a God, who is capable of creating such a vast universe alone, is not capable enough to keep a proof of His existence in the created world? So I think it is more reasonable to believe that while creating the universe God has also kept a proof of His existence in something created. This proof is open to us all, but we have not found it, because we have not searched for it. So even if it is the case that God has never intervened in the created world after its creation, still then there will be a gap in this natural world, purposefully left by God, for which science will find no explanation. This will be the ultimate gap that can only be filled up by invoking God.
So it is quite logical that a God who will create man with some purpose will always prefer to be the God of the gaps. Yes, if we were really created by some God, and if it was not God’s desire that we be some sort of semi-savage beast, then it makes quite a good sense if I say that in that case God would try to keep the book of nature as much open to us as possible (policy of maximum withdrawal). In such a case man will also be able to explain almost everything of nature without invoking God. But then this “ability to explain almost everything of nature without invoking God” will not prove that there is no God, because it might also be the case that this ability itself is God’s design, God’s plan.
Here I will give an example in order to make my point more clear: Let A be one most obvious fact of nature, and let D be one natural phenomenon that follows from A. Let us also suppose that D does not directly follow from A, but there are some intermediate steps. A causes B, then B causes C, then C causes D. In order to be more precise here let us say that A means dark clouds gathering in the sky, and that D means lightning. We know very well that lightning does not always take place whenever there are dark clouds in the sky. So we will modify the above chain from A to D in this way: A causes B, but B does not always cause C. Instead of C, it sometimes causes C1. When B causes C1, there is no lightning. But when B causes C, in that case only lightning occurs. Now it might be the case that there is a God, and that after creating the universe He has not intervened in it at all. So all the processes from A to D will be natural. In that case if man wills then one day he will be able to understand the whole natural process here. He will understand what lightning is, how and when it occurs, and with that knowledge it can be hoped that one day he will also be able to protect himself and his property from lightning. Now let us suppose that after creation God has frequently intervened in his creation, but his intervention was not total, but only partial. Let us also suppose that God has chosen the above case of lightning for His intervention. That means lightning can never take place unless He wills. When He decides to punish mankind by sending lightning, then only B can cause C, otherwise in every other case B causes C1. In this case the whole chain from A to D will be broken at B. Man will never understand how B can naturally cause C, and so he will never understand how D naturally follows from A. So lightning will forever remain a mystery to him. Now let us suppose that God’s intervention in this universe is total, that is, behind every natural phenomenon there is hand of God. In that case man will understand nothing of nature, and he will remain as ignorant as a savage. In this world his fate will be no better than birds and beasts, and his condition will remain as miserable and helpless as those birds and beasts in the face of natural calamities. But if God wills that man be almost equal to Him in the knowledge of things in nature, and if He also wills that man live in this world with some dignity and not just like birds and beasts, then He will create the universe in such a way that almost all the phenomena in nature can take place naturally without His intervention. In that case He will adopt the policy of maximum withdrawal. He will intervene only in those cases where His intervention is absolutely necessary. One such case is genetic code. Genetic code is information code, and those who believe that there is a God try to make a point here. They say that information code cannot naturally arise from space, time, force, field, matter, energy. Some intelligence is required, and nature does not possess that intelligence. Only God possesses that intelligence, and therefore only God can generate information code. If what they are saying is true, then I will say that man will never understand how information code can arise from space, time, force, field, matter, energy. It will forever remain a mystery to him.
My thesis presented here has at least one merit. It can successfully explain as to why nature has opened her secrets to man, whereas proponents of accidental origin of man cannot give any reason as to why nature has done so. If their theory was correct, then man also could have led a life just like other higher primates, chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas and orangutangs. That man has not done so and that instead he has been able to raise a civilization and lead a life with some dignity and self-respect shows that nature has taken a special care for us and equipped our brain accordingly.

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