Science in Christian Perspective

Letter to the Editor

Further Reflections on "The Participatory Nature Of  Modern Science and Judaic-Christian Theism" (JASA, 36, 2, June, 1984, pp. 98-104)
W. J. Neidhardt
Physics Department
New Jersey Institute of Technology
Newark, New Jersey

From: PSCF 38 (June 1986): 151.

The notion of "observer-created reality" held by many competent quantum physicists (as the article acknowledges) is one of a number of possible interpretations of the theoretical structure that successfully explains quantum phenomena. I suggested that the phrase -reality is partially created by the observer" would better describe the interactive role that external reality and observers play in quantum physics. However, a simpler and more precise terminology is observer-conditioned reality.' Quantum mechanics does imply that the Universe is participatory with respect to human observers in the sense that all knowledge is, in principle, observer-conditioned. Observer-conditioning means that the experimental environment selected by the human observer imposes fundamental conditions (limits) on what is actually observed. In this context a realistic perspective of reality is still possible, for the measuring instruments interact with the quantum object independent of the presence of actual human observers. Quantum reality may be defined as a belief in an external world modified by measurements but existing by itself. However, one must accept that in this external world:

a) Measurements of certain observables will always be blurred as a consequence of limits imposed by Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle.

b) Quantum objects are related wholistically. There is a degree of nonseparability that does not exist between objects of 11 classical" reality. Today many beautiful experiments have confirmed this quantum "wholeness."

With this in mind, the article's main point remains valid. The anthropic evidence with respect to the Universe's physical parameters, and quantum mechanics' recognition that understanding of quantum "objects" is always observer-conditioned, together reinforce the notion that humankind participates in fundamental ways in the Universe's very existence and evolutionary development. Such participation has explanatory power in the context of JudaicChristian theology and, I must admit, idealist philosophy 2 (which should be argued against on other grounds).

Lastly, let me suggest that even if the anthropic "fit" of basic physical parameters is explained in terms of a new supertheory, that theory will represent a remarkable correlation between human mental structures and the Universe's intrinsic physical structures.
Any such supertheory will be so mathematically beautiful that humankind's ability to discover abstract mathematical structures capable of faithfully "mirroring" physical reality again suggests human participation in that both the physical Universe and human observers participate in a remarkable intelligibility. Such intelligibility, from a theistic perspective, is a creaturely reflection of the transcendent intelligibility of the living God. This created intelligibility enables humankind, as priests of creation, to fulfill their unique individual and communal roles in the redemptive plan of the loving, Creator God who continually sustains all.'


1Richard H. Bube, "Reality According to Quantum Mechanics," JASA, Vol. 36, No. 1, pp. 37-38 (1984). Fritz Rohrlich, "Facing Quantum Mechanical Reality," Science 221, No. 4617, pp. 1251-1255 (1983). F. Rohrlich, "Reality and Quantum Mechanics," talk given at N.Y. Academy of Science meeting: New Techniques and Ideas in Quantum Measurement Theory, The Vista Hotel, New York City (Jan. 21, 1986).

2Ernan McMullin, unpublished lectures-"The Anthropic Principle I & 11," Loyola College, Baltimore (May 31-June 1, 1985).

3Heinz R. Pagels, Perfect Symmetry-The Search for the Beginnning of Time, Simon and Schuster (1985).

4Thomas F. Torrance, "Man, Mediator of Order," The Christian Frame of Mind, The Handsel Press, pp. 19-47 (1985). Harold P. Nebelsick, Lectures in Systematic Theology I-Basic Christian Doctrine, Lousiville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Louisville (Fall term, 1985).