Science in Christian Perspective
Letter to the Editor
More Important Questions than Evolution and Creation?
J. Michael Wilson
795 South Lake Avenue
Pasadena, California 91106
From: JASA 29 (December 1977): 192-193.
About a month ago, I received my first issue of the Journal ASA. I was disappointed to see that almost the entire issue was devoted to Evolution and Creation. The Origin of Species is almost 120 years old, Surely the problem of Evolution vs. Creation has been talked to death in that time. If not to death, then so nearly that little will be gained by hashing it out again and again. And besides, there are other problems in the integration of scientific learning and Christian faith, which are ignored when Evolution is treated as the problem.
One such problem is the relation between Time and Eternity. I think that it is best expressed as a thought-experiment. Suppose that two born-again Christians are living on planets 100 light-years apart (as measured in their reference frames). They are, to an excellent approximation, at rest relative to one another. If they die on the same night-as seen in their common frame-which one gets to Heaven first? To an observer going toward man A's planet, man A will die before B. Possibly a long time before, depending on the observer's speed. The opposite will be true for an observer moving toward B's planet.
The second problem is: How is a belief in God's omniscience reconcilable with the facts of quantum mechanics? Most readers of the Journal are probably familiar with the Feynman Lectures on Physics. In Chapter 37 of Volume 1, Feynman describes an experiment with electrons.
As electrons leave a gun, they pass (we suppose) through holes I and 2 in plate A, to be detected on a wall B behind plate A. If hole 2 is closed, then the distribution of electrons on B has a single maximum behind hole 1. If hole I is closed, the distribution has a single maximum behind hole 2. But if both holes are open, multiple maxima and minima occur as the electron's probability amplitudes interfere. The interference happens when we don't know which hole each electron goes through to get to the wall. If measuring devices are set next to the holes, to see the electrons as they go through, then the interference disappears as the certainty of the devices' measurements goes up. There is no interference when one hole is stopped, because then we know that the electron went through the other hole.
This is a general rule: knowledge, or possibility of knowledge, of particle paths destroys interference. When two electron beams intersect, the scattered particles exhibit interference; but when one of the beams is a proton beam, they don't. Here the cause of this "smearing" of the interference does not seem to be physical disturbance of the system, but merely the possibility of knowledge about it. In the electron experiment, how could the stopping up of hole I "disturb" an electron as it goes through hole 2?
If this is true, then in what sense is God's knowledge knowledge? What does it mean to say "God knows. . ."? It can't mean the same as "Mr. Jones knows . . .... because Mr. Jones' knowledge destroys interference, but God's does not. If I were doing the electron experiment with both holes open, and God Himself were to tell me-as each electron clicked in my counter-"That one went through hole 2," etc., then would I know which hole each electron went through? If so, in what sense? If not, then what does that say about revelation in general?
My last problem is: Who was the man that fell? Was it Neanderthal? Cro-Magnon? Java? I am not an anthropologist, but I have read that, long before Modern man, men-or premen-were making weapons, and splitting open each other's bones to eat the marrow. Presumably, these things did not happen before man's Fall: no need for weapons (or cannibalism) when every man and animal is a vegetarian (Genesis 1:28-30), and there is plenty to eat. If these weapons and split bones are Post-Fall, then the Fall occurred a long time ago; and Adam wasn't a Modern man. If Adam was Modern, why so much violence before his time?
I have presented these problems in order of increasing seriousness. I would like to help toward some answers, from other scientists who know Christ. Maybe (I hope) this letter will stir up some discussion.
Editor's Comment: If neophyte ASA member Wilson had been around longer he would realize that your editor has advocated a moratorium on the discussion of creation and evolution for many years. Still the Journal carries lengthy discussions and devotes entire issues to the subject-Why? Only because you our readers demand that we offer continuing insights on this subject. No matter how much we may wish it otherwise, the subject of creation and evolution continues to be a vital one for many Christians, particularly new Christians. I never give a talk on science and Christian faith anywhere without a major portion of the discussion section being devoted to questions on evolution. As long as this is the case, it would be irresponsible of the Journal to ignore this issue completely.
Answers to reader Wilson's more profound questions may be hazard6d. (1) The first problem founders on the assumption that "getting to Heaven" is a matter that should be discussed within a space-time framework. The relation between Time and Eternity is a thorny one, but this thought-experiment does not seem to illuminate it. (2) The phenomena of interference do not depend upon our lack of knowledge; they are a consequence of considering the whole system. Problems with respect to knowledge are interjected if we persist in treating the problem without considering it as a whole system. God's knowledge apprehends the whole system. (3) The third problem sounds very much like a problem that arises from considering creation vs evolution! Some publications in past issues of the Journal that may be of some help, at least in defining the problem are:P.H. Seely, "Adam and Anthropology: a Proposed Solution," 22, 3, S, 88 (1970