First Kenneth Miller, now physicist Paul Davies from Arizona State University. On Krista Tippett’s NPR program, Speaking of Faith (transcript here), Davies struggles hard to reconcile God with science. And where does he find our Elusive Lord? In the supposedly upredictability of quantum-mechanical phenomena, of course!
Mr. Davies: Yes, there has always been this problem for physicists about an active God. If God does anything, God has to be at work in the world. And now, if we go back to the sort of universe that Newton had and the one that Einstein supported, the notion of a deterministic universe, a clockwork universe, then this becomes a real problem, because if God is to change anything, then God has to overrule God’s own laws, and that doesn’t look a very edifying prospect theologically or scientifically. It’s horrible on both accounts.
But when one gets to an indeterministic universe, if you allow quantum physics, then there is some sort of lassitude in the operation of these laws. There are interstices having to do with quantum certainty into which, if you want, you could insert the hand of God. So, for example, if we think of a typical quantum process as being like the roll of a die — you know, “God does not play dice,” Einstein said — well, it seems that, you know, God does play dice. Then the question is, you know, if God could load the quantum dice, this is one way of influencing what happens in the world, working through these quantum uncertainties. Now, some people certainly have pushed that idea. John Polkinghorne is one who’s spoken about it. Bob Russell for the Center for Theology and Natural Sciences in Berkeley likes that point of view of God not in any sense usurping the laws of physics, but working within the inherent lassitude that quantum physics provides. And it’s a possible way of God to gain cause or purchase in the world without changing any of the laws that we know.
Sometimes I wonder, when I hear stuff like this, if the people who say it really believe it, or if they’re only trying to reassure the nervous faithful that science really does allow for a theistic God. Don’t they ever wonder why God would choose to work this way, rather than just acting more macroscopically? Has the thought never crossed their minds that they’re making a virtue of necessity—indeed, playing a slightly more sophisticated god-of-the-gaps gambit?
And what if, some day, quantum “uncertainties” are shown not to be uncertain at all, but part of a deterministic process that we don’t yet understand? Where would God go then? How could He continue to influence the universe?
After I read this, I had a thought. I Googled “Paul Davies Templeton”. Sure enough, Davies won the lucrative Templeton Prize in 1995.
Over at Rationally Speaking, Massimo Pigliucci dissects this nonsense in more detail.