August 13, 2014

In Their Own Words XIII: There Is No Matter, Only Forces

Max Planck was German theoretical physicist regarded as the founder of Quantum Theory. He won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1918. His theories revolutionized human understanding of atomic and subatomic processes. So profound were Planck’s theories that their effects have forced mankind to rethink some of our most treasured philosophical beliefs about physical reality. Since Quantum Theory in general has so dramatically altered the way some people see the physical universe, Planck's theories have even begun to affect some people’s metaphysical understandings.
“As a man who has devoted his whole life to the most clear headed science, to the study of matter, I can tell you as a result of my research about atoms this much: There is no matter as such. All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force which brings the particle of an atom to vibration and holds this most minute solar system of the atom together. We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent mind. This mind is the matrix of all matter.” ~ Max Planck [Founder of the quantum theory and one of the most important physicists of the twentieth century]

Having Planck's statement above stated an alternate way from the Bible makes it a little more understandable. How is it possible that we have similar quotes in the Scriptures? Simple, God created the physical universe that Planck speaks of and God also inspired the text of the Bible. So we have the same quote from the author of Hebrews and the Apostle Paul in Colossians 1:15-17 and they were written 2000 years before Plank uttered his words. These Scriptural verse literally explain what the forces are that Planck speaks of. The forces of physics referred to by Max are in reality Christ and the Words of God (one and the same) holding creation is stasis.
Hebrews 1:3 ~ “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.”   
Colossians 1:15-17 ~ The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 
Based on his aforementioned quote, it is clear Planck was not dumb enough to discount the existence of something greater than himself or an “intelligent mind” as he dubbed it. It is also clear that he most likely was not Christian. Then again, he was clearly not an atheist or agnostic either.

Max understood that matter or what we perceive as matter (hard tangible stuff like a rock or steel) was in reality made of atoms. Atoms which are 99% empty space. If an atom were the size of Philadelphia, the atomic nucleus would be the size of a basketball in Center City with the electrons orbiting out in the Manayunk or Germantown area. If we really get down to the nitty-gritty of what an atom is…it is compressed light. Light being compressed and held together by the "force" Planck refers to in his quote. More specifically it is energy compressed or held together by force. All matter is tightly packed energy that is held in sway by forces (strong and weak nuclear forces among others) that we don’t fully understand but are able to unleash in things like nuclear weapons.

While on the topic of physical “forces”, two facts must be fully understood. (Fact #1) A force is defined as any external effort that causes an object to undergo a certain change, either concerning its movement, direction, or geometrical construction. (Fact #2) Science doesn’t know exactly what “force” is. Planck must have known this or he wouldn’t have made his comment above nor attempted to explain physical reality down to the detail that he did by using Quantum Theory. Forces are things that scientists/people knew existed but to this very day, they are at a loss to fully explain them. If asked, a scientist will be able to quantify, measure or use force as a variable in mathematical equations…but they will be at a loss to define what exactly “force” is. They will only be able to tell you the cause or effect that force has on things in the physical universe. Come to think of it, science cannot fully explain gravity, the speed of light, dark matter, "charge clusters" (billions of electrons sticking together), or the very nature of time either.

Planck knew even in the 1930’s that science did not currently have all the answers but nor was he willing to relinquish explanation of reality to godless men. In a lecture in 1937 called "Religion und Naturwissenschaft", Planck criticized atheism for being focused on the derision of religion. At the same time Planck warned of the over-estimation of the importance of religions by believers (I smell a philosophical dichotomy). Planck regarded a scientist as a man of imagination and "faith". It is clear he believed holistically complete men needed to have a balance of the physical and metaphysical. When he said "faith" though, what he meant was that it was something akin to having a working scientific hypothesis. In this way Planck made things like the causality principle or determinism an act of faith not a true or false proposition. Due to this, when referring directly to a deity Planck was noted as saying…
"Both Religion and science require a belief in God. For believers, God is in the beginning, and for physicists He is at the end of all considerations… To the former He is the foundation, to the latter, the crown of the edifice of every generalized world view" ~ Max Plank [Religion and Natural Science (Lecture Given 1937)]
Sadly I believe Planck to be epistemologically or metaphysically conflicted (or confused). He was in a mental state similar to Albert Einstein. This appears to be an internal struggle for worldly men that are of extraordinary (superhuman) intelligence. Planck believed that miracles must retreat step by step before a relentlessly and reliably progressing science and that sooner or later miracles must vanish completely because of the progress of science. In this way I believe Planck saw miracles as superstition or mysticism. Sadder still, because of this presupposition Planck didn’t really comprehend the God of the Bible nor did he understand the true nature of Biblical miracles. A biblical miracle being a less common kind of God's activity in which he arouses people's awe and wonder and bears witness to himself in the physical universe (Wayne Grudem-Systematic Theology). 

If God is supernatural acting in the physical universe then it stands to reason that the supernatural source like God (who is metaphysical) will not necessarily have an empirical or physical explanation from science. Planck is therefore committing a first year Philosophy major's mistake. He is confusing two types of epistemology or confusing sources of philosophical knowledge. He is confusing a priori (without experience / non-empirical) and a posteriori (experience / empirical) knowledge and he is also confusing the metaphysical and physical. Sometimes it is hard for me to believe intelligent men like Planck would do this but if I take the evidence prima facie, that is what it appears he did. He seemed too intelligent for it. But then again, sin does cloud and confuse the mind of all men.

In the end Planck essentially stood in the same company as people like Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. Later in life, Planck's views on a god were probably that of a Deist. Was he saved to eternal salvation? Without a death bed conversion...probably not. It is clear that he wasn’t foolish enough to discount the existence of a god based on the physical evidence in the world around him (Romans 1). He just never seemed to make the jump from physical to spiritual. He never went from the natural man to the spiritual man of 1 Corinthians 2. 

It was rumored that at the end of his life he had converted to Catholicism. It is also rumored that when he was questioned on his supposed new found religious belief he responded by saying that he did not believe in a personal God, let alone the Christian God. He most likely entered eternity being a certifiable genius by man's standards but condemned by God's standards. In other words, he's one of the smartest people in Hell. It appears he failed to manifest faith in Jesus as minuscule as an atom (i.e.: mustard seed). I guess you could say that his failure to believe compelled or forced the perfect justice of God to repel and condemn him.

F. Gaynor, Religion and Natural Science (Lecture, 1937) Scientific Autobiography and Other Papers, (New York, 1949), pp. 184

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