Even if you don’t believe in God in the traditional sense, you might be open to supernatural phenomena such as extrasensory perception (ESP), ghosts, or the ability of a spirit world to influence what happens in the familiar world of our senses. I like to think I’m open to such things; how can we possibly claim to know that our everyday experience is all there is?
Sean Carroll, in his book The Big Picture, has me opening up to the idea that maybe I should not be so open.
His argument is simple:
The laws of physics at the quantum level specify all the “degrees of freedom” for each and every particle of the universe and how the particles influence one another. Not only have these laws been spectacularly successful in describing what actually happens in the universe; they have also been shown to be complete. There simply isn’t any avenue for other forces to elbow their way in.
This is my own imperfect analogy, not his, but think of boxcars sitting on a railroad track in a very tight tunnel through a mountain. They have been discovered by some primitive people who want to move them out of the mountain so they can see what they contain. For years, the people have been dancing on the mountaintop, building fires on the mountainside, and sacrificing to their gods in an effort to move those boxcars. Finally, after carefully studying the situation, they realize that the boxcars can only move on the tracks, and are only going to move if pushed or pulled. There is simply no other way.
Similarly, we have a complete accounting of what can move every particle in the universe. That accounting lists only the rules of quantum mechanics. There isn’t any wiggle room left for anything else.
But what about the indeterminacy of quantum mechanics? Doesn’t that leave room for various outcomes, and mightn’t supernatural forces help to choose which outcome takes place? That will be the subject of the next post.