Do the experimental results of the incredibly small and unusual quantum world undermine our traditional understanding of reason and the laws of logic? In part 1 of this three-part series I described a social media dialogue I had with a scientist on why the results of quantum mechanics (QM) need not be interpreted to invalidate the law of noncontradiction (LNC). Here’s a summary of what I briefly argued:
The law of noncontradiction cast metaphysically (in terms of being) states the following: “Nothing can both be and not be at the same time and in the same respect.” And light (a subatomic object) is not a particle that is also a nonparticle or a wave that is also a nonwave; rather, light under certain experimental conditions behaves as a particle and under other experimental conditions behaves like a wave. Thus, light appearing as both a particle and a wave is understood in different logical respects and does not undermine the law of noncontradiction’s statement of A cannot equal A and equal non-A.
Trying to Understand God’s Creation
My social media interaction about quantum mechanics and the laws of logic with the scientist continued into a second phase. This time the topic shifted to a person’s comprehension of the world and God.
Here is the scientist’s rejoinder:
You may be right about the relationship between QM & LNC, but I remain skeptical. I have been transparent about my doubts as I do not think faith and doubt are incompatible. I think that, given an infinite God, we should not expect, in our finitude, to fully comprehend either God or the universe he created. This notion is not without biblical precedent (Isaiah 55:8; Proverbs 3:5). Don’t get me wrong, there is much we can know (Romans 1:18–20) and I am all for pushing our understanding to its limits. But, there ARE limits and I am OK with that. Perhaps God created us in such a way to increase the likelihood we stay humble.
In my reply, I stated that I agreed that finite creatures will never fully fathom God nor the amazingly complex cosmos. I concurred that many profound mysteries remain in life and in the world. I also think reason, faith, and doubt are compatible. But affirming the laws of logic does not rule out mystery nor does it affirm a dogmatic rationalism. Rather, the laws of logic make cognitive thought possible. So a denial of the LNC would mean no knowledge is possible. I said that logicians have made a powerfully convincing case that the laws of logic are ontologically real, cognitively necessary, and irrefutable.1
In historic Christianity, “faith” has been defined as confident trust in a reliable source. Thus for the Christian, faith involves knowledge and is compatible with reason. Yet knowledge of God, including his creation, continues to include mystery because the finite creature will never fully comprehend the infinite Creator and Lord. But the laws of logic are still considered necessary and inescapable because all thought, correspondence, and action presuppose their truth and application.
Reflections: Your Turn
Christian thinkers St. Augustine (354–430) and St. Anselm (1033–1109) affirmed “faith seeking understanding.” How can faith involve knowledge and be compatible with reason? Visit Reflections on WordPress to comment with your response.
- For a brief introduction to quantum mechanics, see Robert Coolman, “What Is Quantum Mechanics?” Live Science, September 26, 2014, https://www.livescience.com/33816-quantum-mechanics-explanation.html.
- For studies in logic in the context of the Christian worldview, see Kenneth Richard Samples, A World of Difference: Putting Christian Truth-Claims to the Worldview Test (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2007), chapters 3 and 4.
- For more on this point, see Peter A. Angeles, “Laws of Thought, The Three” in The HarperCollins Dictionary Of Philosophy (New York: HarperCollins, 1992), 167.