October 24, 2014

In Their Own Words XVIII: The Heisenberg-Hawking Theological Uncertainty Principle

I will state outright that the title of this post and the top image are a tongue-in-cheek joke. It was meant to be a long-winded pretentious title. Just like the names that scientists are prone to use when naming their revolutionary theories and hypotheses. I will also state that I would never presume to be intelligent enough to explain Quantum Mechanics. What I would be daring enough to do is to analyze the theological statements of two theoretical physicists making comments outside their field of expertise.

First we have Werner Heisenberg who was a German theoretical physicist in the early to mid 20th century. He was pivotal in the theorization and creation of the field of Quantum Mechanics. In 1927 he wrote and published the Uncertainty Principle henceforth named the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, upon which he built his philosophy for which he is known. In 1932 he was awarded the Nobel Prize essentially for the creation of the field of Quantum Mechanics. A theory that is foundational to today’s science including the scientific theories of his modern day parallel Stephen Hawking who is also a theoretical physicist. Why else is Heisenberg important from a Christian viewpoint? He was known to have made the following comment during an award acceptance speech.
“In the history of science, ever since the famous trial of Galileo, it has repeatedly been claimed that scientific truth cannot be reconciled with the religious interpretation of the world. Although I am now convinced that scientific truth is unassailable in its own field, I have never found it possible to dismiss the content of religious thinking as simply part of an outmoded phase in the consciousness of mankind, a part we shall have to give up from now on. Thus in the course of my life I have repeatedly been compelled to ponder on the relationship of these two regions of thought, for I have never been able to doubt the reality of that to which they point.” ~ Werner Heisenberg - Scientific and Religious Truth Speech (1974) [When accepting the Romano Guardini Prize]
It is interesting that a man of science would say this. It is also interesting that the level of intellect Werner Heisenberg had is probably the equivalent of today’s Stephen Hawking if not greater if adjusted for time. Hawking ironically made the following statement with absolute certainty that effectively ignores the religious quote of Heisenberg.
"Before we understood science, it was natural to believe that God created the universe, but now science offers a more convincing explanation. What I meant by 'we would know the mind of God' is we would know everything that God would know if there was a God, but there isn't. I'm an atheist." ~ Stephen Hawking-El Mundo Newspaper (Jauregui)
Hawking was being questioned about a statement in his 1988 book A Brief History of Time where he made a passing reference to the "mind of God". It was in reality, Hawking's effort to clarify that if a unifying set of scientific principles known colloquially as the Theory of Everything were discovered we would understand the mind of an omniscient being. To dispel any confusion Hawking clearly stated he not only doesn’t he believe in God, he believes that his beloved  science is adequate to explain all of reality.  

So, do you see what is being said here by these two men? 

Heisenberg having understood science says it has to dwell at least somewhat comfortably alongside of religion and that those who dismiss religion as outmoded are not taking into account the truths to which science and religion point to. I believe he is making a statement about types of truth here in a roundabout manner. Specifically absolute truth in the case of religion and subjective truth in the case of science. For Heisenberg to have included religion in his thought processes he has to have realized that science did not have all the answers so he had to account for an alternative source of truth...the absolute truths of God (in Scripture)

Hawking does just the opposite. He assumes science is capable of absolute truth by precluding or denying God. He does this knowing that modern science is based largely on theory and unsubstantiated facts and is an ever "evolving" baseline of knowledge (or what many would consider knowledge). Hawking states that having understood science...it cannot dwell harmoniously with religion. This assumes he knows the truth absolutely. No man can do this...only God can. Faulty thinking by such an intelligent man. He is a scientific genius by most people's standards but a philosophical amateur by biblical standards. Hawking is putting himself in God's place (like Satan) with his intellectually arrogant statements. Hawking therefore has proven Heisenberg's statement true seventy or eighty years after the fact. 

Ironically, Heisenberg's insight has already told us that Hawking is essentially doing the same thing people did since the time of Galileo. They discount God philosophically and in so doing shoot themselves in their intellectual foot (see what I did there?). So who is more intelligent here? Who has learned from history? Certainly not Hawking. He is repeating the errors of history stated by Heisenberg. In his arrogance he is proving the Bible correct too.

Romans 1:22-23 ~ "Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man..."

What I also find strange is that a man who doesn’t even believe God exists can sit comfortably using God as a metaphorical reference point when he says, "the mind of God". I therefore find Heisenberg and Hawking a unique study of contrasts in that Heisenberg was not nearly as dismissive of God as Hawking is. 

The thing that Hawking dismisses that Heisenberg does not is the possibility of the metaphysical. Based on Hawking’s statement alone it can be ascertained that he believes that all of reality can be understood through physical or empirical means (also known as positivism). By only accepting empirical evidences Hawking will never be able to prove (or accept) anything supernatural like God. Hawking has intellectually and philosophically locked himself inside of a box. In so doing Hawking dismisses the possibility of a priori (independent of experience) existences of reality. The sheer foolishness of Hawking is most evident in the following quote when he claims to want complete understanding (of the universe)...yet denies things that cannot be proven through empirical means. It makes no sense at all and is a philosophically unbalanced view of reality.

My goal is simple. It is a complete understanding of the universe, why it is as it is and why it exists at all. - Stephen Hawking

I of course have sympathy for Mr. Hawking’s debilitative motor neuron disease as it certainly makes his life a challenge. Conversely, I see the physically disabled are not immune to reprobate or sinful thinking. Those with disabilities can also be sinners devoid of God. Although science has given Hawking technology that still allows him to be mobile and communicate even in his near paralyzed state, it shows that science, technology and “progress” cannot give all the answers. The very thing that Hawking claims it can.  I see an interesting dichotomy in Hawking's physical and mental circumstances. 

We truly see that it is specifically the mind/heart that makes the man a sinner. Hawking’s body is literally a shell or prison for his mind. Yet, his mind still rejects God. It is God who ironically could heal his body but science cannot. Sadly, it will be God who resurrects his body to everlasting torment not science. He will one day get a fully functioning body back (most likely) but it will be in vain for him on the eternal scale of things. 

We know that it is what is within that defiles a man. It is a tragic way to illustrate this point but it is impactful and painfully true.

Mark 7:15 ~ “Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.”

Mark 7:20 ~ “And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”

Even below the paralyzed exterior dwells a man who can’t think correctly. That fact is evidenced based by on article in the El Mundo newspaper. Yes, I do feel bad about his condition but he, like everyone else in humanity will not get a bye because of his disability. As a matter of fact, sin is the greater disability right now in Hawking's life, not his motor neuron disease. Even if he is the smartest man in the world, he still needs to realize that no one gets to the Father except through the Son Jesus Christ. No exceptions. Being the thinker that he is, I am therefore somewhat surprised by his move from agnosticism to atheism. Actually, no...I’m not surprised. He is the natural man that Paul refers to in 1 Corinthians 2.

1 Corinthians 2:14-15 ~ “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments…”

Verse 15 above speaks directly to the Hawking/Heisenberg paradox. It says, “...the person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things…” What does this say of Mr. Hawking then? It says Hawking is making judgments based on partial knowledge. A man that doesn’t preclude God therefore is making judgment or decisions based on all possible things. Hawking precludes half of reality when denying God and the metaphysical. Heisenberg doesn’t preclude the possibility for God’s existence and therefore keeps a balanced mind. He is, by definition, not foolish.

It shows that you can be profoundly “world smart” and brighter intellectually than anyone else on earth but when it comes to spiritual things you can be dumb as a nail in a board. And this seems to be the main difference between Hawking and Heisenberg. Heisenberg acknowledged the need for God, Hawking denies it. There was Godly wisdom abiding in Heisenberg, there is none in Hawking. In the Scriptural view (therefore mine), Heisenberg is vastly more intelligent than Hawking. Come to think of it, if you are a believer you are vastly more intelligent than Hawking in spiritual matters. It therefore stands to reason that your view of reality is more balanced and accurate than Hawking will ever be unless he repents.

Does this mean that Heisenberg was a Christian? Frankly, I don’t know. Based on the previous statements alone I will surmise that he had a much greater chance of being one or becoming one than Hawking does based on his statement last month to El Mundo. I merely bring up the theological contrast of two theoretical physicists. Two extraordinarily brilliant men at the worldly level. When shown in the light of Scripture though, Hawking’s statements and heart condition pale in comparison to Heisenberg's. 

As evidence that he might have actually have been Christian I offer only a few thoughts. First, Heisenberg was raised and lived as a Lutheran Christian. He was also known for publishing and giving several talks reconciling science with faith. Second, he made this quote the same day as the previous statement:
 “Where no guiding ideals are left to point the way, the scale of values disappears and with it the meaning of our deeds and sufferings, and at the end can lie only negation and despair [Nihilism]. Religion is therefore the foundation of ethics, and ethics the presupposition of life."~ Werner Heisenberg [Also from the acceptance speech of the Romano Guardini Prize in 1974]
Heisenberg’s acceptance speech was specifically titled and then translated to English as "Scientific and Religious Truth”. The title conveys a purposeful intent by Heisenberg and it is clearly stated. He believed in religious truth along with scientific truth. Being raised Lutheran tells us almost to the denomination where his thoughts on God probably resided. Only Christ though knows where his heart was when he drew his last breath. I will not be presumptuous enough to assert either way. It is certain that Heisenberg believed in both scientific and religious truths though.

Lastly, in an autobiographical article, the late Henry Margenau, former Professor Emeritus of Physics and Natural Philosophy at Yale University stated (about Heisenberg) that…
“I have said nothing about the years between 1936 and 1950. There were, however, a few experiences I cannot forget. One was my first meeting with Heisenberg, who came to America soon after the end of the Second World War. Our conversation was intimate and he impressed me by his deep religious conviction. He was a true Christian in every sense of that word.” ~ Henry Margenau
So I ask you as the reader of this post: Who do you suppose was a smarter man? Was it Hawking or Heisenberg? Who is the one that had a better grip on the entirety of reality? Was it the person the Bible says can make a judgment on all things or the man the Bible implies can only make a judgment based on partial things? In the end I believe there might be some uncertainty concerning the eternal destination of Heisenberg. Conversely, if Hawking stays on the course he is currently on, his destination will be certain and I am certain it will not be pleasant.

Jauregui, Pablo. "'No hay ningĂșn dios. Soy ateo'." ELMUNDO. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Sept. 2014. <http://www.elmundo.es/ciencia/2014/09/21/541dbc12ca474104078b4577.html>

Margenau, Henry. 1985. “Why I Am a Christian”, in Truth (An International, Inter-disciplinary Journal of Christian Thought), Vol. 1. Truth Inc.


Denise Jae said...

I came to your blog through an image search. The image Is a Bible in chains. The "view the page" option took me to Cultural Crossroads V. I enjoyed your well researched contrast between these two men of science. I once patiently explained to an atheist who is facebook friends with my two oldest, adult children that proof of God's existence IS available, adding that the proof is spiritually discerned after one's born of the spirit. It was my first encounter with young, agenda driven, angry Justin. It was my heart's desire to impart the good news. It was his passion to justify his hatred. The sheer folly of asserting that I would be forever changed in my heart, set free from a destructive lifestyle, by the comfort found in believing a fairytale is extremely naive. I have 34 years of proof that God is real. There is no proof that God does not exist. And those who claim to be atheists do so for their own individual purposes based on their unique, unresolved, inner conflicts. Their unwillingness to let go of their pain produces a rage that feels powerful and is a comfort, as they refuse to let any father figure, (even if a mother figure caused the harm directly, the father figure offered no sure protection), have access to their trust, respect and love again. As I took in the conclusion of your post I prayed for Hawkings. As you read this, let us agree in prayer that Justin and Hawkings will not remain committed to a way that seems right to a man but its end is the way to death, but instead we ask that their commitment will be shaken, that their confidence in their own ability to live apart from a holy God, which is itself the idolatrous worship of a lesser god, also be shaken. In the name of Jesus we ask that these two souls be loosed to experience the beginning of wisdom which is the fear of the Lord and knowledge of the holy One. And we bind anything that would exalt itself above the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ in the minds and hearts of these men. Amen.

We see through a glass, darkly, but we have ears to hear. We walk by faith, not by sight, so naturally our spiritual senses will develop and we won't be fooled by an "optical conclusion". So believers have reams of data, ours and the testimonies of both deceased and living witnesses to the truth of God's living Word.

I am glad that I read this. I recall learning of Hawking's declaration of being an atheist and I knew it was a pride move that imposed limits on his ability to learn. Seemed like a self-imposed sentence to boredom and the increased potential for self-loathing because our enemy doesn't sleep and his mission statement was revealed by Jesus: to kill, steal from and destroy Stephen Hawking and everyone else.

I sincerely thank you for good work.

Denise Jae,

[You may not want a prayer printed out in this forum, and I want you to delete it, my entire comment, if it's not appropriate or does not suit your purposes for furthering debate. I know that you will understand that I am compelled to pray more as I get older because the war is unseen, but we aren't hindered from full on engagement by that small detail.]

Andy Pierson said...

Thank you so much for your complementary response. Your response might be one of the most thought out and articulate that I have received in the 4 years of writing SoulJournaler. In truth I have no desire to take down your comment or prayer. It will stand and stay as it is unless you want it removed. It is a beautiful testament to a faithful God. As I approach 50 I am also praying more and attempting to “do” less. I have found that the more I get in the way the harder things get and the more they get detoured. I routinely pray that God goes before me in all things including suffering. As a matter of fact, when things have gotten bad and all I had was suffering to offer Him, I did so. Suffering too has its own first fruits. We do not struggle in vain. Our impediments in this life are either given or allowed by God. I have found my greatest joy outside of preaching and my family is writing this blog. So appreciative of God that others find value in it. God bless you. Andy

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