By Randy Moore
Does the structure of the physical universe reveal our spiritual essence? Some people believe quantum physics explains consciousness, the existence of God, and the mystical nature of Oneness. Others believe this connection is flimsy and mostly wishful thinking. Let’s consider both arguments in summary form.
Quantum physics uses quantum theory to describe and predict the properties of our physical universe. Quantum theory attempts to explain how everything in our world comes into existence from the function of matter and energy at the subatomic level. The theory says that energy is made up of individual units, or quanta, and that energy and matter are both particles and waves. So, why is this relevant to the search for meaning?
According to older theories of classical physics, energy is continuous, while matter occupies a specific region of space. Quantum theory says energy is emitted in tiny packets, called a quantum (plural for quanta), and has the property of both particles of matter and waves in motion. Energy at this core level doesn’t have boundaries which is the basis for all the speculation about multiple universes and dimensions.
String theory, a sub theory within quantum physics, uses mathematical models to explain that the particle functions more like a vibrating string. A guitar is a useful metaphor for describing the theory. The guitar strings are one-dimensional and the sounds of each vibration represent different dimensions of reality. This variance in vibration explains how the main forces of nature operate. Forces like gravity, the electromagnetic force, the strong nuclear force, and the weak nuclear force.
Although string theory is moving science closer to the elusive “Theory of Everything”— an explanation of how all the forces of nature operate—the theory has a problem. It says our universe is made of at least 10 dimensions, while we only see four (width, height, depth, and time). Where are the rest and how does that change the theory? String theory proponents acknowledge some dimensions may never be visible so we have an incomplete theory that is more useful as a directional signpost than a complete explanation.
So, does quantum physics prove or invigorate spirituality? Here is the essence of the argument in favor of a direct connection. Everything in the universe has the same structure of energy and matter at the subatomic level. That’s pretty consistent with the notion of mystical Oneness. Everything we observe is a ball of vibrating energy operating in a unified field of cause and effect. The separations we presume everyday are simply an illusion that do more to limit us than expand our potential.
Interpretations of quantum physics also assert that our conscious awareness affects the behavior of the subatomic particles. Quantum spiritualists are quick to conclude that this means we are the universe and that we create everything we see and experience through our awareness. Its direct evidence God exists within our contemplative nature. You can appreciate why this is the basis of hope for seekers responding to the challenges of life let alone the aberrant behavior of less evolved individuals.
Skeptics believe it’s too simplistic to draw firm conclusions between mathematical models and human aspirations. The inner experience of “I” that the mind encounters is the result of processes occurring within the brain and not as a result of conscious awareness. Consciousness is a “passenger along for the ride” and not the driver of reality.
The quantum mysticism industry, asserting a relationship between quantum physics and spirituality in books and films, is more thought-provoking than factual. According to this fundamentalist view, the only common ground between quantum physics and theology is that they both involve underlying subjective assumptions.
Skeptics also argue that quantum spiritualists are selective when celebrating insights from quantum physics. For example, they eagerly focus on the connectedness of particles while avoiding comments about their equally destructive nature. The quantum world isn’t just a demonstration of passive connections; it’s also a violent place with black holes, novas, super novas, and human-inspired nuclear explosions.
Quantum theory is a work in progress—like science and human nature itself. We know what we know until we know more. For many people, the hand and heart of God is evident in beautiful things like a flower or the symmetry of a dragonfly wing. Perhaps mystical inspiration and the wonderment of scientific discovery are different sides of the same thing.
The goal of physics is to understand the nature of reality. If God is real, perhaps physicists will eventually find him or her in a telescope, a microscope, or through a laboratory experiment. Then again, maybe discovering God is less about where we look and more about who we are. Maybe God is one of those undiscovered inner outer dimensions that are easier to express in symbols and feelings instead of measurements and mathematical models.
Do we even need scientific evidence to substantiate our subjective faith? Isn’t the exquisite nature and attributes of all life sufficient evidence of an inspired universe? The only thing physics and theology have in common is neither have all the answers.
Randy owns Triple 3 Marketing based in Sarasota. He’s a long term advocate for positive change having owned a couple community magazines since 1999. Randy sold Positive Change Media in April 2009 and took a year off before launching Triple 3 Marketing. In addition to helping business owners, he also provides private coaching. Randy has a masters degree in communication arts from the University of Wisconsin at Madison where he studied persuasion and attitude change. Contact Randy at firstname.lastname@example.org.