One night, after my college Algebra class finished, I needed to ask my professor a question about the homework. But I also had a different question. Earlier that night he made a casual comment about how he’s not religious. This wouldn’t be strange, except for the large cross tattooed across his forearm. Seeing a good conversation-starter, I asked what the story was behind the tattoo. He showed me the tattoo more closely, and I saw that inside the hollow cross was a math equation. He said that it was Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, a math equation which supposedly proves God does not exist. I’m no mathematician. When I began college I made sure to get my math classes done as soon as possible so I would never have to worry about the subject ever again. I had no idea how to even approach this issue, but it seemed worth investigating.
The Challenge: God Can’t Know Everything.
The equation, Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, states that, “the more accurately one knows by repeated experiment the position of any subatomic particle, the less accurately one knows its velocity, and vice versa.” So you can’t know both the position and velocity, because the more you learn of one the less you know of the other. Taking that basic explanation of a larger theory of quantum mechanics, the point is extrapolated that God cannot be all knowing if this principle is true. How can God know everything, if the more he knows of one, the less he must know of the other? Thus God cannot be omniscient, and if God is not omniscient is he truly God? This leads them to conclude that God must not exist.
This may seem too technical for you to want to dive into, but this is actually not a very difficult argument to deal with. If you run into this, or a similar argument, don’t be intimidated. Just because a PHD mathematician or a scientist says something doesn’t make it true. Let’s break down how to respond.
Two Questions to Respond With
1: Is God Bound by the Same Rules We Are?
Heisenberg’s principle began when difficulty arose in measuring the particles. But why must we assume God would also have this same difficulty? If the issue is about physical capability, that of course would not apply to an all powerful being. If there is a God who spoke the universe into existence he also made the rules by which it operates. If that is true, why would he be limited by methods of measuring? If this is proof that God does not exist, we have very different ideas about what God is and what he is capable of.
2. Where Did Those Rules Come From?
The fact that math works at all begs a pretty big question. We seem to live in a universe that functions, and can be measured by, an orderly set of rules in math and physics. Professor of Mathematics and apologist John Lennox argued, “The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible.” Why is there order and rules to how the universe works? If the universe is nothing but forces acting by random chance, and our brains are simply chemicals interacting with each other, isn’t it a little strange that there is a system already in place for us to discover and understand it?
Theoretical physicist Paul Davies writes, ‘Yet the fact that “mathematics works” when applied to the physical world – and works so astonishingly well – demands explanation, for it is not clear we have any absolute right to expect that the world should be well described by mathematics.’
What’s the Point?
All of this comes together to make two important points. The first is that math does not disprove God, but instead begs a question that can only be answered with God. No, Heisenberg didn’t disprove God’s existence, but the fact that he wrote an uncertainty principle at all points us to God.
The second point is that you don’t have to be an expert to understand a bad argument. Similarly, you can be a scholar of the highest level and still make silly mistakes. As Dr. Lennox summarizes so perfectly, “Nonsense remains nonsense, even when talked by world-famous scientists.” Don’t be intimidated by a scary intellectual argument. Do your homework, carefully think it through, and keep asking questions.
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