Why It Matters

A Thinking ManI have been sharing some insights from quantum physics for a while now. I’ve introduced the concept of Non-separability, the principle that it is impossible to think of a universe separately from the observer of that universe meaning that there is a causative relationship between what we perceive as real and what is real. I talked about Quantum Entanglement, the “spooky action at a distance” that suggests space and time don’t actually exist. I touched on the Many Worlds theory that protects the Second Law of Thermodynamics by proposing that all the potentialities we do not observe are preserved in alternative universes or, more precisely, every observation generates multiple versions of the observer each of which observes those multiple universes into existence.

It can all sound so strange. But the point is none of this is new. Many of these discoveries date back to the 1920s and have been part of scientific orthodoxy for decades. But even more to the point, quantum physicists are simply describing the world as it has always been. Moses lived in a quantum world so did King David along with Jesus and everyone else in history. The reality remains what it was, is, and will be only now we have a better handle on it. I hearken back to my example of a mosaic. From a distance, it’s a beautiful picture but up close it’s colored tiles. Classical physics explores the beautiful picture while quantum science studies the tiles that create it.

Classical physics and quantum physics view the same reality. The difference is that classical physics sees reality as a collection of objects where quantum perceives the information that underlies the objects. Everything that we think exists really does exist. It’s all there but at its core, it exists as statistical probabilities which only become “things” when observed. There’s nothing new or different here. As I said, we just have a better handle on it.

In an earlier post, I said I love quantum physics. Many other Christians from fundamentalist to liberal share my passion. Here’s why. Speaking for myself, my life draws its strength from the Gospel. Paul called the message of God’s grace a “power” that births an entirely new creation. His claim was always a bit murky and problematic. We might accept the possibility that preaching can inspire people but can it really generate a new creation, an entirely different universe? Today we know there was never anything problematic about Paul’s insight. Universes are, in fact, only created by information communicated. The Bible is information and as such, it has in itself performative power to spin out fresh worlds. That power does not rest in any events reported in the Bible (that’s important!). It exists inherently in what Paul called “the message we preach”.

At last, we can see a little more clearly God’s plan thanks to quantum research. The world is a system of communication whose potentialities were originally laid out by the speaking of God (see my book The Physics of Genesis). Now God has spoken again through the Gospel and by doing so has unpacked potentialities that had been partially or fully hidden. The result is a new kind of people who are generating a new world inhabited by all who hear that Gospel and let it fire their imaginations.

One last point and it’s a big one. Lots of people think they can ignore this quantum stuff. They dismiss it as something eggheads think about but nothing that needs concern them. That, of course, can’t be true if quantum scientists have accurately described the operations of reality as every single falsification test (100%!) carried out over nearly a century indicates they have. But the bigger point is that there’s a train hurtling down the tracks and it’s headed straight at you. I’m talking about quantum computing. I write about it in detail in my book Kali: A Novel. For now, I will simply tell you that scientists know that quantum computing on a big scale will change everything, not just computing but every aspect and detail of living. I write about quantum science in a Christian context knowing that the ideas I explore may seem irrelevant and even odd right now – but also knowing that soon they won’t be. The inevitable ascendancy of a quantum perspective will seem like an attack for those who have accommodated their faith to Newtonian physics. But quantum should be received as a gift to faith because it is actually a powerful affirmation of the Bible’s perspective on life. I want that to be your experience and write as I do to make it so.

Advertisements

Master of Time

Masters Of TimeNOTE: This posting is based on previous postings exploring insights from quantum physics. If you want more information or citations related to the discoveries described here, I urge you to read my book The Ethics of Chaos: Finding Happiness in a World Gone Crazy or The Physics of Genesis both available at Amazon for Kindle and kindle enabled devices.

One of my favorite stories in the Bible involves a man named Joshua. He was the commander of the army of Israel. His army was closing in on a victory but the sun would soon be setting. Since night fighting was impossible, Joshua issued a command, not to his troops but to the sun: “Let the sun stand still over Gibeon and the moon over the valley of Ajalon.”

That is exactly what happened. The Message translation sums up Israel’s reaction to what they had witnessed. The people shouted. “God took orders from a human voice!”  In other words, they didn’t celebrate this event as a miracle but rather as an expression of human potential.

But it’s all fake news, right? It has to be! We know that the apparent motion of the sun through the sky is the result of the earth’s rotation and that stopping that would be a bad idea. But that’s not what this story is about. This story isn’t about astrophysics, it’s about the physics of time.

Joshua didn’t stop the rotation of the earth, he changed the flow of time in relation to the rotation of the earth. Pretty impressive on the face of it… except it isn’t. Responding to a thought experiment proposed by physicist John Wheeler, researchers Alain Aspect, Jean Dalibard and Gerard Roger devised an experiment in 1982 which showed that human beings could by the simple act of making an observation cause a photon (light particle) to spin. They could then split that particle in which case each half-photon would spin in opposite directions. If, next. they reversed the spin of one of the half-photons the other half-photon would simultaneously reverse it’s spin as well even though the two slices were moving away from each other at the speed of light. Eight years later another group of scientists accomplished the same thing only the light they tested was curving around an object million of light years distant. In other words, simply by making an observation they were able to send photons spinning and control their spin even though the light in question existed millions of years in the past.

What did these experiments reveal? Einstein dismissed these results as “spooky action at a distance”. The experiments should never have produced the results they did if the two sides of the split particles were really separated by either space or time. They were moving apart at the speed of light which means that they shouldn’t have been able to stay in relation to each other since there can be no faster-than-light message particle that could have connected them. And how in the world could contemporary scientists dictate the operation of photons that existed eons ago?

Einstein had also observed that “for physicists like us time and space are just persistent illusions”. It turns out that sentence provides the answer. What those experiments demonstrated was that time and space aren’t real. The particles in the first experiment reacted as they did because they were never separated by any kind of physical distance. The ancient photons responded as they did because there is no such thing as time. They were all part of something but the only thing that connected them was the minds of the scientists conducting the experiments.

Physicist James Jeans observed back in the middle of the twentieth century that as science moves forward the universe looks less and less like a big machine and more like a great thought (see Genesis One for more about that!). Joshua understood his point. He was confident that his thoughts were able to control the flow of time, so he did exactly that to his benefit as a military commander.

The universe really seems to be a great thought which means we can change our pasts and futures and even the spaces of our lives simply by changing our thinking. That’s the meaning of the word “repent” in the Bible and is the message of the Gospel. A new creation isn’t hammered together with physical tools and labor. It arises within each individual when someone releases imagination and lets it soar over guilt feelings and debilitating fears. Sadly, history shows that almost everyone chooses to remain bound to old thoughts and the tired world that goes with them. But Joshua (and physics) have shown that it doesn’t have to be that way for you.

Moving Mountains

river and pine trees

NOTE: I invite you to read my two previous postings, Faith and Physics: Parts One and Two for the background behind this posting.

My interest in quantum physics was kindled by Jesus. Speaking to his disciples he told them that if they had faith the size of a mustard seed they could order a mountain to move from one place to another and it would jump to it. Most Bible readers dismiss that sort of talk as a lot of hyperbole. But is it, really? What if Jesus meant what he said? I wondered.

If Jesus (the designer of the universe) has a clue about how creation works (and I’m guessing he does) we likely have to revise how we understand our world because that’s what’s at issue here. Jesus’ challenge is about physics, not faith. You almost need a microscope to see a mustard seed which tells us that Jesus wasn’t talking about the importance of faith. The issue he poses is, do you think you could even theoretically move a mountain by your command or are you trapped in the muddy ruts of a world where possibilities are few, opportunities limited and mountains pretty much just sit there not caring what you think?

The Bible challenges our expectations about limits from start to finish. That, incidentally, is a good reason to study it daily. Let me give one more example. In all his letters Paul insists that Jesus physically rose from the dead. But he always does it in an odd way. He argues that ‘if there is no such thing as resurrection then Jesus has not been raised and we who believe are to be pitied.’. Now, look carefully at that sentence, most people read it backward. Paul is not arguing that dead people live again because Jesus lived again. He’s saying that Jesus is alive because we live in a world where dead people always rise, a world where the resurrection of the body is a normal part of living.

Do you believe that? I’m not trying to drag you into any churchy talk here. I’m asking if your day to day vision of the world embraces extraordinary expectations like the resurrection of your body (yes, your BODY) or are you mired in what some call the consensual trance? Faith is more than a belief in God. It’s a God-driven belief that the body, mind, and spirit God gave me and the universe in which he placed me are rich with potential far beyond my usual imagining. How much richer? Stay tuned to see more of what the Bible says about our world, including extraordinary possibilities that quantum physics has scientifically confirmed as daily realities and prepare to have your mind totally blown.

Faith and Physics: Part Two

Quantum Physics(Before you read this, review Faith and Physics Part 1)

We have discovered that in quantum physics a human observer plays an active role in determining what is real. Reality isn’t a “given” waiting for us to discover it. Rather, it is potential waiting for us to give it life. Albert Einstein, who did not like quantum physics at all, complained: “Do you mean to tell me that the moon only exists when I look at it?” He eventually had to accept that was the case when presented with the data. Now we need to go a step further.

In the quantum universe every time we make an observation we birth a reality. But it is clear that we could have made any number of observations but only made the one. For example, we looked left when we could have looked right. What happened to all the things we could have observed into existence but did not? Those potentialities continue to exist because, while they have no mass, they do possess energy and the Second Law of Thermodynamics insists that energy can neither be created or destroyed. So where did they go?

Many quantum scientists believe that every possibility comes to actual expression somewhere or sometime. To account for this they theorize that there must be as many universes as there are possibilities that could be observed. I can be sure, for example, that somewhere out there my UNM Lobos are winning the NCAA tournament every season. But it goes deeper than that. As physicist Hugh Everett has theorized, each of these “Many Worlds,” as physicists call them, likely corresponds to a different Me. In other words, my observations don’t directly generate worlds, they generate different versions of Me. Each Me then produces its own World.

It’s a different way of looking at things for sure! But what does it mean? Materialist science makes everything (including me) the product of physical processes that can be studied and explained. Quantum science reverses that by making physical processes the product of something non-material, namely, observations and reflections, a process in which I participate.

Looking at the world that way things get interesting (and a little crazy). If everything is a product of observation (a process physicist John Wheeler called “Genesis by Observership”), I too must be the product of an observation someone else is making. To use the image I introduce in Kali, A Novel, we may all be characters in someone’s book or video game just as we ourselves are creating the reality being lived by an infinite number of creatures including the people around us.

At this point, you might well say, “That isn’t how life feels! It feels like everything has its own existence separate from me, an existence I must constantly adapt to because it does not obey or serve me!” But quantum science invites us to ask, are you sure that is true? Are you strictly bound to a given reality that sets your limits and determines your fate or are you less limited and more powerful than you think? It turns out that there is someone who has offered an answer to those questions and even provided stunning examples that illustrate how the world really works, a man named Jesus.

NEXT: IS IT TRUE THAT YOU CAN MOVE A MOUNTAIN?

Faith and Physics: Part 1

Quantum PhysicsI love quantum physics! And I’m not the only one. A surprising number of Christian preachers and theologians share my passion which, like theirs, is Biblically based. I’m so excited about this new science that I’ve written a book of fiction titled Kali: A Novel in which I make it easy for readers to understand, and more importantly, to directly experience quantum reality. And I can say this for sure: it’s quite a ride!

Why do I love quantum physics? Let me lay out some background. The still predominate way of doing science is based on a philosophy called Materialism. That philosophy holds that physical objects are everything that ever was, is or will be. This powerful paradigm holds sway in almost every field of science from particle physics to biology and medicine and on into historical studies and theories of education. Materialism is the conceptual framework on which the world we live in has been constructed. Of course, by its very nature, this paradigm excludes any active role for the faith which is shoved aside into a realm of Sunday school pageants and private sentiment.

The problem with any paradigm is that paradigms are embraced but never tested. The core assumption of Materialism that physical reality is the only reality can never be subjected to falsification tests because it provides the bases on which all falsification tests rest. No paradigm can disprove itself because the paradigm defines in advance what is true.

But what if a paradigm is wrong? It’s happened and it can really mess things up. That’s where quantum physics comes into the picture. It’s an entirely different paradigm. Quantum science began with the study of reality at a subatomic level. At that level, as you look closer and closer,  physical reality eventually vanishes into a realm inhabited only by mathematics expressed in the form of statistical probabilities. Those probabilities have no physical existence whatsoever. However, they can become physical objects but only when they are observed by a human being. What this means is that a scientist who is seeing something in a microscope or particle accelerator that seems to have an existence of its own “out there” has actually, by her process of observation, created something that was never there before. She didn’t find reality she invented it. In other words, at the deepest level, the world that Materialism declares to be everything doesn’t even exist.

The quantum perspective (which included a wide array of new concepts) shocked the scientific establishment when it emerged around 1920. Critics hoped that its principles only applied to the subatomic world and nowhere else. But as falsification tests repeatedly sustained quantum predictions it turned out that the important factor was not the size of what was being measured but the precision of the measurements. The quantum nature of reality had been discovered because the kind of research engaged in by its founders required more precise measurements made by more exacting instruments than ever used before. Scientists began to realize that if you look carefully enough, the whole universe from galaxy clusters to quarks operates more deeply on quantum principles than those that are based on philosophical Materialism. It’s like looking at a mosaic set on a wall. From a distance, the mosaic offers a beautiful image. That’s the world of Materialism. But look closer and you see that the image is really a collection of colored tiles. That’s the quantum processes that create and sustain the images that form the Materialist world.  

NEXT: SO, WHY DO I FIND THIS SO EXCITING?  

 

Just Right for Me

Peg LegA big event is happening for me this month. I’m getting my prosthesis! Readers of this blog might ask, “Weren’t you fitted for a prosthesis months ago? To that, the answer is yes and no. I was fitted for A prosthesis but it wasn’t MY prosthesis. For many months an amputee must use a generic prosthesis because it takes time for the leg to shrink to its final size and shape. The “trainer” device lets a person get around and master the needed skills. But it never quite fits and it isn’t perfectly aligned to the leg which makes it hard to put on some days. All of which means that a patient walks with a limp that varies daily with the fit.

My new prosthesis isn’t like that (I’ve already worn a 3d printed version in training). It’s much smaller and lighter. It really fits (think nylons on leg). It’s curved to align with the shape of my leg which makes putting it on very much like putting on a shoe. Testing the prototype I laughed with delight the whole time. I knew why trainers say that your life with a prosthesis doesn’t begin until you get your one-and-only, just-for-you version.

As I left the clinic that day I had a little thought. How many of us walk through life on a generic prosthesis? Of course, I don’t mean we depend on some device to get around. What I mean is that our life-walk is hobbled because of how and where we walk is directed by influences that aren’t uniquely ours. Like my old prosthesis, the goals we strive for and the values we serve are bestowed on us rather than born in us. The result is that we limp through life happy enough with what we have but its happiness is haunted by a distant feeling that this isn’t the real me and the life I am living isn’t entirely what I want.

I wrote a book about the biblical book of Ecclesiastes. It’s called The Ethics of Chaos: How to Find Happiness in a World Gone Crazy. The author of Ecclesiastes leans hard on the idea that each of us is assigned what he calls “a portion,” meaning our unique life task. The secret to happiness is finding that “portion” and living it. Our portion includes doing work we love, driven by a passion set deep in our heart, all in companionship with people gathered around us by both the dream and the work. Even in chaotic times finding and living that “portion” feels like walking on a prosthesis designed for you and nobody else. Life feels comfortable, secure and above all, it’s fun, no matter what changing circumstances may offer.  As I thought about all this I asked myself: Are you trying to limp through life on the equivalent of a generic prosthesis or are the dreams and values that support you uniquely your own? I’d seen the difference in walking between generic and personal in the clinic. Now I wanted to be sure I was bringing that same difference into my daily living.

Faith and Fails

Hero Of The Bible AbrahamI am fascinated by a story told in the Biblical book of Genesis about a man named Abraham. Abraham is a big-time Bible Hero. The Bible calls him “blessed” and a “blessing” to the world. He is acknowledged by Muslims, Christians, and Jews as the father of their religion. What made him special was his trust in God, a day to day faith that was a fine example of what God looks for in people.

The story that fascinates me, however, undercuts a lot of that good press. It’s actually two stories and I’ll summarize them this way: At least twice that we know of this “Hero of Faith” did something very nasty to his wife, Sarah. Traveling in a foreign land he passed her off as his sister concealing the fact that they were married. Sarah was beautiful and Abraham was afraid that someone might take advantage of his vulnerability as a traveler among strangers by hurting or killing him in order to seize her as their own.

In doing that he had sunk about as low as you can go. He had exposed his wife to sexual assault and even trafficking. In fact, he himself basically pimped her. He let one man bind his “sister” into a harem never raising his voice on her behalf. I expect that most women partnered with a jerk like that would ditch him fast. It’s a sordid tale made terrible by the fact that this is Abraham, the man acknowledged as patriarch by all the major religions of the western world. What are we to make of a story like this?

When you read a story in the Bible (or any book for that matter) you always have to ask yourself one question: Why was this or that scene written? Authors and editors know that every scene must serve a purpose or else it must be excised. These two stories are in the Bible (though many might wish they weren’t) because they teach a lesson.

When I see Abraham, a man of unquestionable faith, driven by fear and anxiety to do self- serving things I see a magnified version of myself. Like Abraham I trust God – I really do – or at least I try. And I do a pretty good job of it as long as things are moving along easy. But the moment things go sideways like I start bleeding at dialysis or my prosthetic foot isn’t fitting like it should, all that trust quickly dissolves into despair and depression worthy of an atheist.

These stories remind me that faith is an attitude tested daily. It passes some tests and fails others. That’s just how it is. But even the biggest fail doesn’t mean that God has rejected me. Like Abraham, I still count in God’s sight as a man of faith. All I need to do is calm down and remind myself that the Lord, who I really do trust, is still with me. When I do that I do not find that the presenting problem suddenly vanishes. But I do find that my fear and depression is replaced by the confidence I need to deal creatively with the problem.

Faith and Excellence

QualityBack in the 1980s, a movement began that invited business leaders to focus on doing things and making things that featured excellent quality. The Malcolm Baldridge Award became a prestigious achievement and Tom Peters’ books were inspiring business leaders and manufacturers to strive toward perfection. That movement permanently affected life in much of the capitalist world, driving creative minds to do things bigger and better than ever imagined or to craft unique products that offered enduring value.

As a writer in the field of religion, I would expect one fan of the Quality Movement (as it came to be called) is Jesus. In his story about a business manager in Luke 16, he chided his followers for lacking imagination and creativity specifically in their business activities and made it clear that he expects his followers to generate lots of Baldridge Award winners.

Why would he expect such a thing?  As people of faith, we live our lives under God’s power, plan and purpose. We are freed from the burden of self-reliance and from the anxieties that go along with that because we know God is working all things toward our lasting good. Living fear-free, we face a question no one ever faced before. We should not ask what we HAVE to do because we don’t HAVE to do anything. God is giving us all we need. At the same time, there is nothing we CAN do to earn our place in life because we already enjoy full and eternal acceptance and you simply can’t improve on that. The only question we face is one that most of us shy away from ever asking ourselves because it’s just too scary to deal with. That question is: What do I WANT to do with my life? Every other question has been answered. Each of us is free from all the “shoulds” and “musts” that define most lives (unless we choose to simply ignore the gift given to us). So with every possibility, the universe offers wide open to us the only question we each face is what – honestly – do I want to do? Once we figure that out our life task is simple, do it.

It turns out that the question God sets before us is also the foundation of excellence in business and living. Top quality in any area of life cannot be achieved by pursuing objectives that others have set before us or by serving the banal expectations of culture. As I demonstrate in my book The Ethics of Chaos: Finding Happiness in a World Gone Crazy (available on Amazon), a high quality life begins when we each identify the unique dream God has planted in our head and heart and pursue that dream with passion and courage rooted in faith in God and it’s natural outflow, trust in ourselves.

The Power of Trust

TrustIn my journey from amputation, through rehabilitation and on to recovery I have learned many things. The most important is the truth of St. Paul’s insight that “It is not I who live but Christ lives in me.” The wisdom and power of the Creator reside permanently in each of us. If we continually tap that resource we are guaranteed a life of abundant joy and productivity. Of course, we are also guaranteed struggles and difficulties because the Creator’s plans for our lives are never exactly the same as ours. But that’s the point. God seeks to maximize our experience of life while we have other ideas.

Most of us try to minimize life’s adventure. We do that because we turn our back on the vast wisdom and power readily available to us which leaves us trying to muddle through as best we can on our own. Feeling inadequate, anxious and afraid we tend to drift along doing whatever people expect us to do while avoiding risk whenever possible. Inevitably, the result is chronic boredom and dissatisfaction.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. I have discovered that the more I trust God to live His life through me the more I trust myself. When I let God take the lead I am a more self-confident person. I remember that God has gifted me with talents and skills, gifts that come alive when I pursue the dreams and passions God has also planted in my heart. In other words, the more I trust my creator the more I trust myself. And the more I am true to myself the more I am faithful to God.

Jesus once pointed out that it’s a bad bargain to gain the whole world if it costs you your soul. Many think that statement demands self-negation but it’s just the opposite. Getting along and going along with everyone generally means losing our God-given uniqueness. Identifying and making the most of whatever it is that makes us special, regardless of what people around us may say or think, rescues our soul because it is powered by our trust in God.

Learning Trust

Learning TrustMy journey from amputation through rehabilitation on to recovery has taught me many lessons. One of the most important is the difference between belief and trust.

For most of human history, just about everyone believed in some version of a god. In Europe, the existence of God was accepted as given. What divided people was the question of trust. Do you trust God and if so, to what extent and in what ways?

But times changed. The enlightenment birthed a new philosophy called Materialism which held that physical reality is all that ever was, is and will be. The inhabitants of Olympus, Valhalla and finally Heaven were banished to the realm of poetry and pious sentiment where for many they languish today.

This created a new situation. For the first time belief in God was called into question to such a degree that mere acceptance of the possibility that some kind of transcendence might exist became for many a substitute for faith. As a pastor, I can tell you that even some who attend church regularly think that their willingness to believe that there must be a God out there somewhere provides the total content of their faith.

But that was never what faith was about. Faith presumes the existence of God but goes beyond that to trust God and not just in regard to some vague afterlife because that doesn’t count. When it comes to dying there really isn’t a thing we can do about that so we might as well hope some sort of spiritual being will help us out there. The question is do we trust God in the here and now, day to day, hour to hour to empower and direct us? When we, for example, get in our cars do we trust God to bring us safely through traffic? More to the point, do we trust that God’s will and purpose is in play if he doesn’t?

Faith isn’t a matter of believing in God. It’s about living life out of the wisdom and power of God rather than our own skills and strength. We bring our abilities to the table every day but by faith, we do so with an awareness that God is the author of our life story and the goal of that story is to maximize our experience of living in all its breadth and depth. My journey forced me to learn that the content of faith is trusting that in life and death I am never operating on my own but God is constantly working in and through me his gracious will to accomplish. With that trust in place, I’ve learned to savor life, its challenges as much as its wonders, as an opportunity to participate in some small way in the exciting things God is doing in his world right now.