Quantum Theory – Sign of a Personal God

Epigraph: Eyes cannot reach Him but He reaches the eyes. And He is the Incomprehensible, the All-Aware. (Al Quran 6:104)

He is the First and the Last, and the Manifest and the Hidden, and He knows all things full well. (Al Quran 57:4)

Source / Courtesy: Muslim Sunrise, Fall 2011

Zia H Shah MD and Sardar Anees Ahmad


A deist believes God created the universe, but rejects the notion of a Personal God – a God who answers prayers or intervenes in human affairs. Many deists are strict determinist, believing that causality governs the entire universe. Albert Einstein, by his own admission, held such a conception of God, “I do not believe in the God of theology who rewards good and punishes evil.  My God created laws that take care of that.  His universe is not ruled by wishful thinking, but by immutable laws.”[1]

Einstein’s own views resulted from his own remarkable scientific discoveries, as well as that of Newton. Through these discoveries, great technological advancements surfaced and scientists came to believe that determinable laws governed the entire universe.

In turn, Einstein’s strict adherence to determinism lead him to reject the notion of free will: “If this being is omnipotent, then every occurrence, including every human action, every human thought, and every human feeling and aspiration is also His work; how is it possible to think of holding men responsible for their deeds and thoughts before such an almighty Being? In giving out punishment and rewards He would to a certain extent be passing judgment on Himself. How can this be combined with the goodness and righteousness ascribed to Him?”[2]

Unlike his earth-shattering discoveries regarding space, time, gravity and light, however, Einstein’s determinism would not be able to command respect.  Ironically, science itself would debunk Einstein’s determinism.

Quantum Theory

In 1912, Neils Bohr began research under Ernest Rutherford. Rutherford, by this time, had not only discovered the phenomenon of radioactive half-life but had also revolutionized man’s understanding of the atom. Rutherford postulated that the atom was like a miniature universe with electrons rotating around a positively charged nucleus. Rutherford, however, discovered a problem in his model. If his model was true, the electron should rapidly orbit into the nucleus – i.e. if Rutherford was correct, atoms could not exist and, therefore, nothing could exist. Bohr resolved the dilemma by demonstrating that electrons only occupy various defined orbits. Werner Heisenberg would later corroborate Bohr’s atomic model but would find himself struggling with a new problem of his own.

The Bohr-Heisenberg atomic model implied that there was a level of uncertainty regarding an electron’s location. One night Heisenberg went out for a walk, confused as to how the position of an electron is uncertain. In an epiphany, Heisenberg realized that observation is the key. Called the “uncertainty principle,” he realized that observation of an electron disturbs the electron and therefore it is impossible to know both the position and momentum of a particle. This discovery meant that uncertainty was a fundamental quality of nature and that the future of any physical system at the subatomic level is unpredictable.

Before quantum theory only one aspect of indeterminacy existed, arising from not knowing the “initial conditions.”  If such conditions were known, using Newtonian and Einsteinian physics, everything could be determined.  Scientists believed that these laws applied to planetary motion as well as subatomic particles.

Despite mathematical proofs and experimental evidence, Einstein rejected Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle. Einstein knew that if Heisenberg were correct, extreme determinism was false. For how could determinism describe the universe when it cannot detect the whereabouts and motion of a single atom? For more than three decades, Einstein attempted to formulate a grand model explaining the nature of the entire universe within the paradigm of determinism. But it was not to be.

In fact, on a large scale, such as that of the observable physical world, nature is comprehensible. However, quantum mechanics implies there is a limit to which man can understand reality – at the quantum level, especially, nature is uncertain to some degree.

Quantum Theory and Determinism

One should appreciate the power of the idea that the universe operates in a deterministic fashion at some levels, but according to the rules of quantum mechanics is in-deterministic in other scales. To create an orderly observable world not in need of constant intervention, God implemented fixed, discernable laws. Applying these laws to every stage of existence, however, would have precluded the possibility of free will. Quantum indeterminacy allows for free will while allowing deterministic laws to operate on larger scales.

Quantum indeterminacy further allows for a deist to accept the possibility of a Personal God – a God Who can intervene if needed and a God Who answers man’s prayers. In principle, this is what Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad alludes to, “If God has created the universe, then one can be certain that in keeping with His infinite entity, He would have left innumerable ways to influence the universe so that His divinity is not suspended in any way at any time.”[3]

[1] Max Jammer.  Einstein And Religion, Physics And Theology.  Princeton University Press, 1999.  pp. 110-111

[2] Albert Einstein.  Ideas and Opinions. Wing’s books, New York, 1954.  pp. 46-47.

[3] Barkat-ud-Dua, p. 27

5 replies

  1. Religion and Science: The Indispensable God-hypothesis

    This is an article describing the Transcendent, yet Personal God of the Abrahamic Faiths in the present day scientific paradigm, the One God of Islam, Unitarian Christians and Judaism.

    If my articles are boring to you, it may be that you need to read more of them, as was suggested by John Cage, “If something is boring after two minutes, try it for four. If still boring, then eight. Then sixteen. Then thirty-two. Eventually one discovers that it is not boring at all.”

    In the three great monotheistic religions, Islam, Christianity and Judaism, God is viewed as a supreme, transcendent being, beyond matter space and time, and yet the foundation of all that meets our senses that is described in terms of matter, space, and time. That is the Al Batin or the Hidden God of monotheism. Furthermore, this God is not the god of deism, who created the world and then left it alone, or the god of pantheism, who is equated with all of existence. The Islamic and the Judeo-Christian God is a nanosecond-by-nanosecond participant in each event that takes place in every cubic nanometer of the universe. He has full knowledge of all things. God listens to every thought and participates in each action of his very special creation, a minute bit of organized matter called humanity that moves around on the surface of a tiny pebble in a vast universe. The Holy Quran declares:

    Allah’s is the Kingdom of the heavens and the earth; and to Allah are all affairs returned for final judgment. (Al Quran 57:6)

    Whereas the nineteenth century physics was about to frame God out of physical understanding of the universe, the twentieth century physics has turned the tables in favor of Monotheism.

    To the atheists design in the universe is apparent but not real. For the theists, enlightened in science, the converse is true, the self sufficiency of the universe based on the laws of nature is apparent and perceived only and is not real. God is the Law Giver and sustainer of the universe. Both positions may be argued to some degree from modern science. However, only theism can offer a holistic approach, not only explaining our universe, but also human morality and ethics, our history and personal experience.

    When we approach science from this theistic perspective we find that our religion and science become one and our psyche finds unification.


  2. Sir David Attenborough on God

    Sir Attenborough certainly stands in awe of the majesty of nature but raises the question of suffering to deny God. Let me quote here the concluding paragraph, in the later editions of the legendary book of Sir Charles Darwin, on the Origin of Species that can make one quickly conceptualize the role of suffering in the grand scheme of things:

    From the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been breathed, by the Creator, into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.

    Once the question about suffering is understood as a tool for evolution, as Charles Darwin suggested, then one is ready to fully appreciate the beauty of God’s creation as suggested by many of the verses of the Holy Quran.

  3. Its not that your boring Zia its that you don’t bring your words down to earth where most of us live.

    Your in an ivory tower hoping we will catch you up.

    But we are out and around here in the world in the markets and in the streets and homes where most of us live.

    The Bible the Good news the inspired word of God is about the market place not some university lecture hall where we listen take notes and file them like dead mans bones and then go home to food on the table and chatter and life.

  4. Just because you can’t understand him, or choose to not educate yourself more so that you -can- understand him, doesn’t mean his arguments or points are invalid or wrong.

    You’re arguing from ignorance and trying to lend credence to the Bible because “it’s easier for me to understand cus’ it’s about a marketplace.”

    The Qur’an is very easy to understand. Moreso than the Bible. It’s when you get into theology, physics, philosophy, and go beyond surface level understanding that things become “hard”. This is what Zia is doing. He’s not reciting Qur’an to you.

    If you’re interested in actually contributing to the conversation then maybe take a philosophy course or a physics course or just spend 5 hours on Wikipedia and Youtube.

    Islam can actually stand up to science and embrace it as a sign of God’s majesty. Can Christianity do that? As a resident of the United States that hasn’t been my perception of the faith at all. No wonder so many people in the West have lost their faith. Maybe you should stop worrying about which text is easier for you to understand and start worrying more about which text and faith is actually compatible with reality.

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