International Society for Science & Religion - Library Project

Quantum Gods: Creation, Chaos and the Search for Cosmic Consciousness

by Victor J. Stenger

Introductory Essay by V. V. Raman

Quantum Gods challenges the claim that developments in quantum mechanics lend support to the theism of traditional religions. Victor Stenger begins with a reference to the movie What the Bleep Do We know? He deplores the science-celebrities in the movie who explain that quantum mechanics has reaffirmed ancient views on soul, mind, and body. As he points out, few practicing physicists take that assertion seriously.

The next chapter summarizes two popular books on these themes: Fritjof Capra’s The Tao of Physics and the Dalai Lama’s The Universe in a single Atom. Stenger goes on to take on the Transcendental Meditation movement, initiated by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and carried on by his disciples. Here Stenger observes that “While Capra was trying to make physics look like Eastern mysticism, Maharishi was trying to make Eastern mysticism look like physics” [60]. He points out that physicist John Hagelin (a Maharishi devotee) made some undue claims for himself regarding his contributions to the ‘Theory of Everything’.

There follows a philosophical/historical discussion on materialism in which the scientific notions of space, time, and matter are briefly discussed. The claims of Christian apologists comparing the Book of Genesis with Big Bang cosmology are exploded.

In a discussion of the Copernican revolution, the Galilean confrontation with the Catholic Church is inevitably mentioned. In the discussion of Evolution, Stenger points out that “Darwinism is perfectly compatible with the deist god of the Enlightenment” [104]. This is followed by accounts of the spooky quantum and all that goes with it, like the EPR experiment. The ultimate constituents of matter and anti-matter, including the four fundamental forces are presented in Chapter 9. Then begins a discussion on chaos, complexity, and emergence wherein topics like self-organization and rules for the game of life are considered. In the context of emergence we are told that “(Paul) Davies has been sufficiently fuzzy about God … to win the 1995 million-dollar Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion” [156].

In Chapter 11, Return to Reduction, we read the main thesis of the book; “The teachings of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Taoism had no more to do with modern physics than did the Torah, the New Testament, and the Qu’ran” [171]. Other targets of the book include psychic science, the supernatural, and the human energy field. As to applying quantum mechanics to the brain, it “is simply too large and too hot to be a quantum device” [189].

Stenger concludes by giving a bird’s eye view of how modern (Christian) theologians have been considering divine action. He discusses the battle between science and superstition. After re-stating the physicist’s conviction that “The structure of the universe emerged from nothing,” he says “we can view that structure, including Earth and humanity, as forms of frozen nothing” [263].

This book is a must-read for anyone who wishes to understand the arguments of the New Atheists against god-beliefs based on quantum mechanics.