Theology and the New Physics  – Reality is a Collapsed Wavefunction
In the previous post I extended the argument that it is impossible for a person in a n-dimensional universe to observe with any proper perspective an (n+k)-dimensional universe, to propose that the reverse is also true: an observer in a higher dimensional space can never fully appreciate what life is like in a lower dimensional universe without actually entering it themselves. Theologically put: the incarnation was necessary, because without it God could never fully empathise with the human condition. As Zizek puts it: ‘Christ had to emerge to reveal God not only to humanity, but to God himself.’
I finished by asking the question how that could happen: how could the divine possibly become incarnate? It is a question that has beaten some of the greatest minds, so I don’t hope to offer any profound answer. But I feel that physics may have something to tell us, at least metaphorically.
The history of quantum theory shows it proceeding from the cooly rational of classical physics into the mysterious world of equations. There were to be no more pictures of atoms. There was nothing to see, unless we chose to see it. To put it as simply as I can understand it, the particles that make up matter are not circling like planets, or embedded in something like a plum pudding. They exist as a ‘wavefunction’ – a matrix of all possible possibilities which can then ‘collapse’ into a particular state. This wavefunction collapse occurs when a ‘quantum event’ happens: like an external observer taking a look. Reality, some would go as far as putting it, is no more than a collapsed wavefunction.
What is interesting about this theory is that, given the extent to which we believe our universe to be ‘real’, it requires an external observer to collapse its wavefunction. Could it be that God is this external observer? If so, the poetic idea of God as sustainer of the world takes on a new form: for the universe to be real at all requires a presense to be observing it, to be looking over it.
Physics, as you can imagine, did not like this idea at all, though it took a while for salvation to be found. The solution, however, was perhaps even more strange than the idea it was meant to replace. And we’ll finish this series by looking at that in the next post.