The New Physics Revelation: A Lesson Every Scientist Should Learn
No one can comprehend what goes on under the sun. Despite all his efforts to search it out, man cannot discover its meaning. Even if a wise man claims he knows, he cannot really comprehend it. -
Ecclesiastes 8:1 7
In the year that Galileo died, Isaac Newton (1642-1727) was born. Twenty three years later Newton had developed his famous laws of motion. These laws, the final attainment of a long scientific revolution, were to complete the overthrow of the Aristotelian ideas that had been Roman Catholic Church dogma for over 1000 years.
Newton's first law states: Every body continues in its state of rest. or of uniform motion in a straight line, unless it is compelled to change that state by forces impressed upon it.
The key word here is continues: A body continues to do whatever it happens to be doing unless it is acted upon by force. If it is at rest it continues in a state of rest. If it is moving it continues to move without turning or changing its speed. With this law as a beginning point, Newton went on to differentiate between the mass, weight and volume of an object. You can always compress a loaf of bread and change its volume, but the mass doesn't change it contains the same amount of matter. Weight and mass are directly proportional to each other. That is, if the mass of an object is doubled, its weight is also doubled. Newton then turned his attention to the application of a force on a moving body or a body at rest which led to a relationship of acceleration to force, expressed in his famous equation F=MA: Force equals Mass times Acceleration. This is Newton's second law and it gave the reason why bodies fall with equal acceleration, i.e. because of the gravitational force of attraction between the body and the earth, expressed in F/M = g.
Force always occurs in pairs. There is never, according to Newtonian physics, i.e. classical physics, only a single force in any situation. For example, a weightlifter pushes up on a barbell while the barbell pushes down on the weightlifter, which is described in Newton's third law:
To every action force there is an equal and opposite reaction force.
Newton's laws coupled with Darwin's evolution theory led the adherents of the world's second oldest religion evolutionary humanism to believe that if the exact positions and moments of all the particles in the universe were known, one could invoke Newton's laws and, in principle, calculate the past and future course of all events.
This notion led to the idea thai alt human actions are predetermined. Human beings, after all, are made up of tiny particles like everything else. If it was, in principle possible to predict the future course of these particles, it was equally possible in principle, to predict the course of a person composed of them. Newton himself did not share the "Newtonian" world view. He believed that the natural laws he described so well were established and sustained by God. He would not have felt at home in what historians call the Newtonian Age with its mechanistic evolution dogma, either materialistic or theistic.
Mechanistic philosophy is the dogma that all of reality is governed solely by mechanical forces. It maintains that the world is like a huge machine and can be understood entirely in terms of laws of cause and effect. The entire universe is determined by the motion of its particles. As we have noted, one can, in principle. predict exactly the future behavior of any system by knowing its present state.
Mechanistic philosophy held sway over Western thought for a full three centuries. It was extended to all phenomena, including living things, human thought, and emotions. Coupled with Darwin's evolution surmise, it (along with the Graf-Wellhausen theory) led to the destructive biblical criticism of the nineteenth century and the falling away of American Protestantism to liberalism in the twentieth century.
It the universe is a machine, it was asserted, it is impossible for anything to occur which is not explainable by natural law. The laws of nature are inviolable; they permit no exceptions. "Natural laws, not the Bible, are immutable," it was said. Mankind was saying with the greatest scientific certainty: There is nothing miraculous in the world.
Liberal theology, always trusting in the utterance of scientists rather than trusting in the immutable Word of God, tagged along, placing its faith in classical physics, the basic premises of which are:
1. The physical world is real.
2. The physical world is orderly and rational.
3. The physical world is understandable, and what we don't understand is due to our ignorance.
But the third basic premise goes contrary to the teaching of the Bible. There are some things about the world mankind will always be ignorant of, for the Bible declares:
No one can comprehend what goes on under the sun. Despite all his efforts to search it out, man cannot discover its meaning. Even if a wise man claims he knows, he cannot really comprehend it. (EccI. 8:17) The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of the law. (Deuteronomy 29:29)
The "New Physics," the twentieth century physics, conclusively demonstrates the inerrancy of the Bible in regard to mankind's inability to fully understand the make-up of the physical world. While everyday technology achievements are made as man exercises his dominion over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature, filling the earth and subduing it (Genesis 1:26, 28), it turns out, just as the Scripture asserts, that there are limits beyond which man cannot go.
The new physics, known as twentieth century physics or quantum mechanics, is traceable to the work of one of its founding fathers, Niels Bohr, who discovered that energy must come in lumps, or quanta, and not in an unbroken wave. Bohr at the age of twenty-seven in 1913 was able to explain the energy release of a single electron in the hydrogen atom as it jumps from one of the outer orbits to one of the inner orbits. The structure of the atom was now as mathematical as Newton's universe. But it contained the additional principle of the quantum, of lumps, and not an unconnected line.
Allen Emerson gave a very simple explanation of the difference between classical physics and the new physics. He discussed an experiment conducted by Alain Aspect in 1982 at the University of Paris.
Think of two billiard balls of equal size, A and B, rolling toward each other with the same speed but in opposite directions. They hit each other and fly apart with the same speed but in opposite directions. Shortly after they hit, reach out with your hand and stop ball A. What happens to B? Nothing. It will continue its merry way and roll to a sedate halt in due time.
Quantum theory on the other hand would predict that ball B would have to stop the very instant we stopped A without having touched B. In short, if we stop A we automatically stop B, even though there is no physical connection between the two.
Alain Aspect split two correlated particles of light and set them off in opposite directions. When one of the particles was affected by a polarizing filter, the other was correspondingly affected. Whatever happened to one instantly happened to the other remote control without any control mechanism. Recall our billiard balls flying apart. Aspect's experiment says that, in the subatomic world, if we stop one then the other stops instantly without any physical connection. Again the Bible rings true:
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways. declares the Lord.
As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9)
We can still make predictions about what large groups of atoms will do. But these predictions are merely statistical guesses as to what is most likely to happen.
So there you have it: man's limits, man's boundary beyond which he can proceed no further into the secret things of God: "statistical averages." Werner Heisenberg noted in 1927 that the electron particle yields only limited information. That is, you can specify where it is at this instant, but then you cannot impose on it a specific speed and direction at the setting-off. Or conversely, if you insist that you are going to fire it at a certain speed in a certain direction, then you cannot specify exactly what its starting point is or, of course, its end point. Heisenberg called this the Principle of Uncertainty, which says, "no events, not even atomic events, can be described with certainty, that is, with zero tolerance."
Bronowski pointed out that the paradox of knowledge is not confined to the small, atomic scale; on the contrary, it is as cogent on the scale of man, and even the stars. When we compare the position of a star today with vastly improved astronomical instruments we are "astonished and chagrined" to find the observations as scattered within themselves as ever. He wrote
We had hoped that the human errors would disappear, and that we would ourselves have God's view. But it turns out that the errors cannot be taken out of the observations. And this is true of stars, or atoms, or just looking at somebody's picture, or hearing the report of somebody's speech. (The Ascent of Man. p. 358)
Bronowski went on to note that Karl Friedrich Gauss in 1795, when he was only eighteen years old, had solved the problem of the best estimate of a series of observations which have internal errors. He devised the Gaussian curve in which the scatter of errors is summarized by the spread of the famous bell curve. The scatter marks an area of uncertainty. We are not sure that the true position is in the center. All we can say is that it lies in the area of uncertainty, and the area is calculable from the observed scatter of the individual observations.
Getting back to the new physics, or quantum theory, the principles which formerly supported the mechanistic view are in a state of chaos. Statistical laws have always played a role in physics, such as in describing the behavior of gases. Nancy Pearcey notes:
The assumption, however, was that statistical laws describing the behavior of large atoms were derived from laws governing individual occurrences. What is new in quantum mechanics is the suggestion that the statistical laws are ultimate that individual occurrences are governed not by law but by chance. (Bible-Science NewsIetter, January 1985).
Bertrand Russell asks in another context:
But if the single atom is lawless, why should there be this regularity as regards large numbers?. . The theory at probability is in a very unsatisfactory state, both logically and mathematically; and I do not believe that there is any alchemy by which it can produce regularity in large numbers out of pure caprice in each single case.
It may be that the regularity of large-scale bodies can only be explained if we assume there are laws of individual behavior after all which we have not yet discovered.
Russell is partly right and partly wrong. Yes, there are laws governing the single atom. It is not lawless; ii does not flit about randomly; chance is not ultimate. No, these laws are not discoverable; they are in the domain of "the secret things that belong to the Lord God" (Deut. 29:29). "Even if a wise man claims he knows, he cannot really comprehend it" (EccI. 8:17).
In the analytic way of thinking. the essence of a thing is to be found in the smallest components of which it is made. Thus in Western intellectual history, as thinkers turned from God as the final explanation of the universe, they turned to dissecting matter to find the key to the structure and origin of the universe. "Since the Renaissance, writes Koestler, "the Ultimate Cause has gradually shifted from the heavens to the atomic nucleus, from the superhuman to the subhuman level."
Nancy Pearcey appropriately remarks,
With the rise of quantum mechanics, that "ultimate Cause" dissolved into chance. Science Digest puts it graphically: "The common sense world of cause and effect is built upon the sands of a subatomic realm in which every individual particle, like the electron and proton, acts entirely capriciously)" (Bible-Science Newsletter, January 1985)
Is it any wonder that evolution dogma rests so heavily on chance? Naturalism must subscribe to random, capricious, "fortuitous" chance. It really has nowhere else to turn, for the idea of law signifies a Lawgiver, which in turn suggests a supernatural dimension to reality. Perish the thought!
Physics used to be known as an exact science. Quantum mechanics has destroyed that notion. Physicists are more willing today to admit that science does not discover final absolute truth, a lesson biologists, geologists, astronomers and all scientists need to learn. In the words of Bronowski:
But what physics has now done is to show that there is only method to knowledge. There is no absolute knowledge. And those who claim it. whether they are scientists or dogmatists, open the door to tragedy. All information is imperfect. We have to treat it with humility. That is the human condition: and that is what quantum physics says. I mean that literally. (The Ascent of Man, p.353)
Sheldon Vanauken in his book A Severe Mercy provides this interesting insight:
And another Anglican, Shirley Posser, in physics at the college, was no less firm in the faith. The fact that he, like Peter and Lew at Oxford, was a physicist and a Christian led me to formulate a theory as to why so many physicists I knew of still others-were committed Christians. The theory went like this: The non-scientists say, well, we don't know the answers, but the scientists do; and the scientists who are not physicists say, well, we don't know the answers either, but the physicists do; and the physicists know that they do not, in fact, have the ultimate answers and, accordingly, turn to Christ who does. (p.129)
Sir James Jeans has observed:
The old physics showed us a universe which looked more like a prison than a dwelling place. The new physics shows us a universe which looks as though it might conceivably form a suitable dwelling place for freemen, and not a mere shelter for brutes. (quoted in Bible-Science Newsletter,; January 1985)
The inerrant Word of God speaks plainly to these beautiful remarks:
For this is what the Lord says
he who created the heavens he is God;
he who fashioned and made the earth,
he founded it;
he did not create it to be empty,
but formed it to be inhabited. (Isaiah 45:18)
Before we leave this subject, we should note that Einstein's theory of relativity denied Newton's concepts of absolute time and space. This idea was seen as support for relativism the rejection of all absolute or universal standards of Biblical truth and morality. Very recent developments suggest that Einstein may nave been wrong after all in rejecting absolute space. Newtonian science included the idea of an ether permeating the entire universe. The ether provided the ultimate frame of reference for all motion, the absolute and immovable space. The Michelson-Morley experiment is cited in every physics book as proof that there is no such phenomenon as ether. As a result, scientists concluded there is no physical basis for absolute space or motion; Einstein was right! However, a new physical basis for an absolute reference frame has now been found. It is the 30K cosmic microwave radiation which is distributed uniformly through space. At the 1984 meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Pacific Division, Robert Gentry discussed this new evidence, and suggested that this new finding "essentially falsifies the fundamental postulates of the theory of relativity." Dr. Thomas Barnes in his book, Physics of the Future, cites Martin Harwit, author of Astrophysical Concepts:" is interesting that the presence of such a radiation field should allow us an absolute rest frame" (Bible-Science Newsletter, January 1985).
Thus, in the debate between evolution-supported moral relativism and the absolute moral dictates of the Bible, even here the Bible stands tall. No matter from what angle the creation versus evolution debate is viewed morality, absolute knowledge, supernaturalism, the laws of thermodynamics. the fossil record, determinism, age of the earth, natural selection, chance, etc. the evolutionary presupposition comes up short, the Biblical teaching rings true.