Neil Shenvi on Quantum Mechanics and Materialism

I’ve recently become interested in the philosophical implications of quantum mechanics. It’s actually an issue that I alluded to in my previous post (Twelve Questions to Ask an Atheist – Question 2).

While doing my usual pre-blog-post internet research, I stumbled upon an outstanding essay by Neil Shenvi. He seems like a very bright guy (theoretical chemist at Duke, first author Science publication, training at Princeton, UC-Berkeley, and Yale, etc.), and I’d highly recommend checking out some of his other writings.

Anyway, Shenvi presents this subject far more effectively than I could…so I’ll just include a quick excerpt:

“The purpose of this essay is to set forth some of the philosophical implications of quantum mechanics. Quantum mechanics replaced classical mechanics as the reigning theory of physical phenomena in the early 20th century. Today, after decades of testing, thousands of experiments have confirmed the predictions of quantum theory so that it is widely accepted by the scientific community. Yet in my opinion, there is no theory that so fundamentally challenges our intuitive views of reality. The physicists who developed quantum theory in the early 20th century were astonished, shocked, and bewildered by its philosophical implications, to the extent that many of them including Einstein were convinced that it must somehow be wrong (this disagreement is the origin of Einstein’s famous comment: ‘God doesn’t play dice with the universe’). Why this progression from cataclysmic shock to lukewarm complacence? I’m not sure. Certainly, all of the modern textbooks that I have seen have resolutely avoided any discussion of the meaning of quantum mechanics. Furthermore, most of the physicists, non-physicists, atheists and Christians that I’ve talked to are mostly unaware of the startling issues raised by quantum mechanics. My hope is that this essay will help people understand the significance that quantum theory has for various worldviews, especially materialism. (continue reading)

As an added bonus, one of Dr. Shenvi’s presentations on this issue can be found on Youtube:


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