New Agers’ Misuse of Quantum Entanglement

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Satellitenbild der Erde zusammengesetzt

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Consider the following argument:

Premise 1: Quantum entanglement states that two entangled particles, once separated, can communicate with one another simultaneously, even if they are on opposite sides of the universe.

Premise 2: Since all particles were entangled at the Big Bang, everything in the universe is interconnected.

Conclusion: All people on earth are interconnected with each other and with all of nature.

That conclusion becomes a premise in another argument:

Premise: All people on earth are interconnected with each other and with all of nature.

Conclusion: Therefore nation states should disappear and there should be a world government that guarantees peace and cooperation among all people.

The sad thing is that a New Ager can examine the arguments and believe that the conclusion of a world government follows from the premisses. But higher level structures can have attributes that are not found in lower level structures. At the level of the most basic subatomic particles, there is very little individuality; they are interchangeable and may indeed interact with one another via quantum entanglement. But the more complex and organized the structure, the more individuated it becomes. This is not to deny interconnectedness in nature and among people–human beings evolved from simpler forms of life (I believe under the guidance of a Creator who constantly sustains everything in existence), and human beings share a common human nature, Sartre notwithstanding. However, human beings are far more individuated that other objects in nature, including other animals, because of their rational nature, their moral sense, and their freedom to make their own decisions. A bee has very little individuality–the most important thing is the hive. A dog or cat is more individuated; dogs and cats have unique personalities. But human beings are the most “selved,” to use the British poet Gerard Manley Hopkins‘ term, of any animal in our experience. This does not imply that human beings are isolated individuals pursuing their own individual happiness, as classical liberalism believes. Human beings naturally come together into communities–as Aristotle said, “Man is by nature a political [or social] animal.” But human communities are individuated by a common history and a commonality of place–by nature they are organic unities–another thing both classical liberalism and social democracy have forgot. It is difficult enough to govern the United States with its vast diversity of communities. I would not be surprised, once the American empire inevitably falls, to the country divide into autonomous regional states. To think that human diversity can be unified under a world government in some kind of utopia is naive. It ignores place, it ignores history, it ignores human weakness. The only way a world government could be established is by force, whether through economic pressure toward centralization or by military force. Even if a world government were established, it would not last, for it violates human nature. Human beings have a hierarchy of obligations–to the family, to friends, to strangers in the community, and to the world at large–in that order. Ultimately social responsibility and government should be as local as possible. Bureaucracy is bad enough in the United States where bureaucrats do not know the communities they regulate, sometimes with near dictatorial power. Imagine what a bureaucracy in a world government would be.

Quantum entanglement has nothing to do with world government–to argue such is to argue to a non sequitur. New Agers need to begin balancing their emotions with good reasoning. It is poor reasoning to argue from entanglement to world government (New Agers also argue from entanglement to pantheism, another non sequitur, but that would have to be the subject of another essay.

Does Time Move Faster as We Get Older?

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Transit spatio-temporel (Time & Space Transit)

Image by Gilderic via Flickr

As a child, days seemed to last forever. I’d lie by the fan on the cool floor in summer, watch the blades as they sped into a whirl. Or I’d swing across the gravel drive as if time stood still. In those moments, the slowness of time seems now a foreshadowing of eternal joy.

But there was the “bad” slowness of time, as Christmas crept closer, and the days slid slowly along like a snail on a leaf. Waiting to grow up, to be able to drive a car, was a lesson in patience, especially when I sat in the driver’s seat of my uncle’s Plymouth Fury. The first day I loved cottage cheese was when my aunt said that eating it would make me grow up faster so I could drive that car.

School days dragged, but both happy and sad moments lasted. Since then, memory, thankfully, has made the past sacred, and childhood seems an idealized timeless dream in wonderland. I wish I could go back and enjoy the slowness of time.

After high school, time flowed faster, and today, two years from fifty, time rages downstream like waters just before they fall into Niagara foam. I used to be able to sit down in the woods and contemplate what had happened in my life, to “take stock of things” as the cliche says. Now weeks were once what days were, and time to take stock is rare–perhaps during summer break while sitting outside in a swing or lying in grass under a red maple. But then the reality of time’s pace overwhelms, as years of gain and dear God, so much loss, so many family members and friends gone forever, at least this side of eternity. Perhaps Heaven will be a place where every moment is good and beyond the limits of time, with no worry about decay and death, and where memory and dream are as real as waking life. Until then, life passes by too fast, as chairos, subjective time, chases chronos, “objective,” “clock time,” and appears to catch up to it and pass it.

The answer to my original question of whether time moves faster as we get older is “Yes, in a sense.” Chronos will move on, set by the motion of the earth’s revolution around the sun and ultimately by the beginning of time at the Big Bang. But Chairos runs faster until it flies through the air as life runs its inexorable course toward the abyss–yet for me, I hope, as a Christian, that death is not an abyss, that the damage time does will be reversed, and that the good time does by making moments sacred will be enhanced beyond any of our wildest dreams.

Stephen Hawking on God’s Existence

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NASA StarChild image of Stephen Hawking.

Image via Wikipedia

Suppose you’re walking in a park one day when you are startled by a man standing right in front of you. After jumping higher than you ever have in your life, you force out the words, “Where did you come from?” The man answers, “I just created myself.”

Would you believe him? I wouldn’t. For a man to create himself before he exists is impossible, for if he doesn’t exist, he wouldn’t be there to create himself in the first place! Yet it is this rabbit out of the hat trick that Stephen Hawking uses to explain how God is not necessary for the creation of the universe.

Stephen Hawking is a brilliant man–I give him credit for doing wonderful work in physics and astronomy, especially in the area of black holes. I also admire his brave fight against ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), from which he has suffered for over forty years, making him by far the longest-lived survivor of that debilitating disease. Despite his handcap, he has continued to write and lecture, and he is a fine popularizer of complex ideas in physics for people without training in the field.

However, in  accepting the view that there is no God because the universe created itself from nothing, he is contradicting himself. If he said that the universe is everlasting, that it has always existed, then he would at least be holding a coherent position. But in saying that the universe “spontaneously created itself from nothing,” he falls into incoherence. If the universe created itself from nothing, then it would already have to exist to do so.  Nothing can be prior to itself. Nothing can exist before it exists. If this what Hawking actually believes, his belief is just as much false as believing in a square circle. If Hawking replies that a quantum vacuum, even a “true vacuum,” produces particles and antiparticles all the time that then annihilate one another, then what he calls a “true vacuum” isn’t. His quantum vacuum is NOT nothing. Even a sea of quantum events is something. Pure nothingness is just what the word implies–no particles, antiparticles, no annihilation of particles and antiparticles, no space, no time–sheer, absolute nothingness. If Hawking’s concept of “nothing” includes more, then he is manipulating words to mean what he wants them to mean. Since his notion of “nothing” isn’t really no-thing, he does not believe that the universe created itself; in a sense, some kind of energy has always existed. I have always been suspicious of arguments such as Hawking’s, whether they posit true and false vacuums, zero-point fields, or some other pseudo-nothingness to argue that the universe arose from nothing. It may be that true and false vacuums exist, and there is good evidence for the existence of a zero-point field, but all of these items exist in some sense. The universe could not have arisen from literal non-being–and this is what Hawking would have to say to justify his claim of a spontaneous universe arising from nothing.

Does Hawking’s view explain the existence of a quatum foam of particles and antiparticles in a “vacuum”? Does it explain why enough energy arose for the universe to have arisen? Or does he say explanation stops at that point–if so, why? If he is saying that the universe is some kind of necessary being, this seems inconsistent with stellar life cycles–eventually the formation of new stars will stop, and the universe will consist of white and black dwarfs, neutron stars, and black holes–and even these will evaporate. All these items are contingent–they do not have to be. Thus a necessary being is required to explain the existence of contingent things, whether those things be the universe, a zero-point field, or a “true vacuum” that really isn’t a true vacuum. Once atheists get to the point of saying that the universe created itself, they are holding a view so irrational that it would be best to halt discussion, go to a bar, have some drinks, and talk about the upcoming NFL season.