Science & Religion #12: Uncertain Why We’re Here?By: Mike S
Since this is America and we “love our guns more than God”, let’s start with firing a bullet at a target. If you’re like me, even just hitting the target is good; hitting somewhere near the bulls-eye is lucky. But imagine a metal plate placed in front of the target. The only bullets that get through are ones that go through the hole. There would be a little bit of scatter, but overall it would make me look pretty good. I like it. Now imagine replacing the target with a picture of Osama bin Laden (as I’ve seen in some sporting goods stores). Imagine replacing the metal plate with a different plate that had two holes, just in front of Osama’s eyes. Again, this would make me look pretty good – two clusters of bullet holes centered over his eyes.
Now let’s make it more scientific. Instead of a picture of bin Laden, place a device that can detect light, perhaps film or something like the chip in your cell phone camera. And instead of a metal plate with a hole, let’s use a metal plate with vertical slits. And finally, instead of bullets, lets use light. So, what happens?
First, have one of the slits covered and the other one open. As light shines through the slit, it centers around one spot on the detector. There is a little spread to each side, but there is a bright area. Now cover that slit and uncover the other one. The same thing happens, with light centered around a different area. So, what happens when we uncover BOTH slits – two “dots” on the screen. Nope. It makes an interference pattern of alternating bright and dark bands. That’s pretty easy to explain if you’ve ever been to the ocean. Waves bend as they pass an object. Waves can also interfere with each other. When two crests coincide, it makes an even bigger wave. When a crest coincides with a trough, the water is flat. So, light is a wave, right? We talk about the wavelength of light – with reds and greens and blues. Pretty straightforward, right?
Not really. Suppose we make the light dimmer and dimmer. Finally, we get down to where a single photon of light is emitted at a time – a “particle” of light called a photon. So, it’s not really a wave, but is more like the bullets being fired above. Repeating the experiment, if one slit is open and we fire single photons at the detector, the cluster around a single spot, much like the bullets. But if BOTH slits are open, strange things happen. Each individual photon still hits one particular spot on the screen. Since each photon is shot through individually, you would expect that it would be much like shooting bin Laden’s eyes, with everything clustering around two areas. But they don’t. They actually start forming the same interference pattern they did when we shone a bunch of them at once. It would be like shooting bullets at our plate with two holes, and the bullet holes forming rings that spread out. Strange.
This experiment has been repeated thousands of times with different variations, and it always works. There are a number of explanations, but the most widely accepted is that the photon actually travels through BOTH slits at once (as alluded to by FireTag). This has also been done with things besides light. It has been done with electrons, protons, atoms, and even molecules.
So, why does this work? Uncertainty. There are fascinatingly complex ways of talking about it, but at the simplest level, multiplying something’s momentum by its position has to be larger than a certain number. So, the more we know WHERE something is, the less we know how FAST it is going (ie. energy). And the more exactly the know the ENERGY in something, the less we know WHERE it actually is. It not a problem with our measuring devices not being good enough, it is a fundamental property of our universe. For things in our everyday world, objects are so large that the uncertainty is essentially zero. But when you get into the world of photons or electrons or atoms, it plays a huge role. It is what makes computers work. It is what makkes CDs work. And it is actually what keeps the electrons in every single atom from collapsing into the nucleus. Uncertainty is an essential part of our world.
What does this have to do with the plan of salvation? Among other things, we teach that God is omniscient – or in other words – He knows everything. We also teach that God is perfect – that He will always choose the absolutely correct or best option in any situation. And finally, we teach that the place where God lives is “perfection”, and that we need to be perfect to be there as immortal beings. So, if we are to become like God, we also need to learn to always choose the right.
This poses a dilemma. If we are in a place where there is “perfection”, how do we know if we will choose the right? What if we chose the “wrong” and thereby “negated” heaven? God couldn’t allow this to happen and still be God, so therefore the test of mortality. We needed to be in a place where uncertainty existed. We needed to show that, given uncertainty and options and choices, we would choose “good”. We needed to come to a physical earth. It’s past the level of this post, but when you collapse a multi-dimensional spirit down into the 3-dimensions that need to be present in mortality (as also talked about by FireTag) and introduce time, you also introduce uncertainty.
And thus this life is uncertain because it has to be. Interestingly, when discussing the Great Council and the plan of Lucifer vs the plan of Christ, Lucifer’s plan essentially makes a mockery of mortality. If having uncertainty is essential to our progress, yet we are forced by Lucifer to make a particular choice, it negates the whole point.
Christ’s plan allows this uncertainty. But just like the experiment with two slits, because of uncertainty (or free will) there are going to be a number of outcomes in life, with positive and negative results. Like the bands of light and dark that spread to infinity, the results of mortality will also be “spread out” and not in a “single” spot (ie. We have all sinned and will therefore not all be in heaven) However, going back to the experiment, suppose you place a measuring device by the left slit to see if a photon passes by. An absolutely amazing thing happens. If a single photon is fired and the measuring device goes off, you know that the photon passed through the left slit. If it doesn’t go off, you know the photon passed through the right slit. Since both slits are open, you would expect the same interference pattern as above. But it’s not the same pattern. Just by measuring the photon, the pattern on the screen clusters in two spots, just like the bullets. This is stunning. If you leave the measuring device in place and just turn it off, the interference pattern returns. If you turn it back on, the clustering pattern is seen. Merely measuring something CHANGES the ultimate outcome.
In this life, we all fail. Our lives are such that we interfere with ourselves. Left to our own devices, we may have a Gaussian distribution as to who returns to God, with some people coming closer than others, but no one actually makes it. However, Christ is our Judge (or measuring device) before which we ALL must pass. He sees where we have been. Through his measurement, he eliminates the uncertainty. He makes us end up in a single spot. And most importantly, through His infinite atonement, He makes up for our faults. If our “spot” isn’t back with God, He can add just enough change to each of our lives that we DO end up back with God. It’s like the measuring device adjusting the path of each photon so they all end up in the same spot. Christ is our Judge AND our Redeemer. He can make it possible for EVERYONE to return to God, or at least everyone who accepts Him.
And this isn’t just some of us. It can include ALL of us.
- Whether you realized it or not, you’ve just had a primer in quantum mechanics. Did the explanation make sense?
- Do you think uncertainty is a necessary part of mortality?
- When do you think Christ’s atonement works in our lives? Mortality? Judgement day? Both?
- Did this post help explain and answer to the question: Why?