Friday, December 16, 2011

The View of a devout Heterodox Jew

One of the most intriguing things in physics is the two slit experiment. It, like Schrodinger's cat, suggests that the physical reality of things depends on the presence or absence, and implicitly on the existence, of an observer. Feynman even showed that it is quantifiable and dependent on the sensitivity of the detector.

There have been subatomic reactions dependent on an observer since the beginning, billions of years before there were human observers. Further, Feynman, a human observer, could only be in one place at any one time and only observe one or two reactions. It seems to require a universal observer who is everywhere and has always been everywhere for the universe to have discrete outcomes, like Schrodinger's cat being either alive or dead. Without a universal observer neither the universe nor anything in it can exist in any definite state.

Yet we see all around us that things do exist in definite states and that they always have. Even so, we also see from Feynman's experiments that not everything exists in definite states. The passage of the electrons through one slit rather than the other was not definite until Feynman detected it. Which to my mind suggests something I have always suspected about Hashem - She is not unlimited. If Hashem really had the characters attributed to Her, omnipresence, omniscience, omnipotence, omnicausal, eternity, omnibeneficience, unity, perfection, and so on, there could not be evil. Yet there is.

It seems to me that the contradiction between the existence of Hashem and the existence of evil lies in assigning attributes that would make evil impossible. It seems to me that Hashem, like Her creation, is a partial integration, neither complete nor perfect. Nothing in the universe is complete, nothing is perfect, nothing is permanent and eternal except the universe itself.  Which is a reflection of the characteristics of Her who made it.

Evil exists where Hashem is not.  Horror happens not because G_d wills it, but because She cannot stop it.  When Hashem cannot prevent evil, people must do it.



  1. Actually Jack, evil is part of Hashem. If He is in everything he is in both good and evil. He is in contradictions. Hashem is the One Who is called the Reconciler of Opposites. In Noach He is "the One Who fashions light, and creates darkness, Who makes peace and creates evil; I am the Lord, Who makes all these," In your most vile and evil thoughts, God is there.

  2. What Harvey says is certainly the lesson of the Book of Job. But it is too much for human beings to bear for us to worship the author of evil. And not just the evil in the world but also the evil and misery in our own lives.

    The hardest line in Job, perhaps in the whole bible, is where Job says, "Still I will worship Him, though the slay me." Whole-hearted worship requires a self-abnegation I cannot master. Yet.

    Rita wishes you and your family a Happy Hannukah and loves the thank you notes your daughters sent. Me too.

  3. It is a convention in software publishing to assign decimal numbers to software versions like Firefox 8.0.1 or Excel 10.6871. Logically the first version should be 1.0 but often, when a version is published before the programmers are done with it, it is given a lower number like Shazzam 0.5a.

    On that convention I am a sub-monotheist, a believer in Hashem version 0.78. You and Job are believers in Hashem version n.n, where n is any number at all.

  4. Nick Danger1:26 AM

    Jack, it was photons, not electrons, in the slit experiment. It is not "physical reality" of things that depends upon presence or absence of an observer, but observations of them. We then base our concepts of physical reality based upon our observations, which may or may not "make sense", which in turn is based upon our biological sensory information of the macro world, not the micro world. The micro world, which operates very differently from the macro world, can not possibly "make sense" to us. It just is what it is, and we should not extrapolate its behavior to the macro world which we inhabit, no matter how bizarre we discover it to be.

  5. As I understand the two slit experiment, Nick Danger is exactly wrong. The presence of a detector changed the result. The physical reality was different when observed than it was when not observed. Both results were measurable real world phenomena. Both really happened. They were clearly distinguishable and not subjective. Feynman put a variable detector on one of the slits and found that the result varied with the sensitivity of the detector.

    There are a number of other bizarrenesses with the two slit experiment. One is the fact that so long as we do not know which slit the photon went through, there is an interference pattern even when we guarantee that only one photon can go through the slits at any time. If that is what Mr. D is referring to, I agree. It is what it is.

    But the observer vs. no observer results are a different matter. The observer problem in the two slit experiment to me seems to require a universal observer. Or even a Universal Observer.

    Schrodinger's cat suggests to me that things do not reach a determinate condition until observed. The cat is neither alive nor dead until the box is opened and looked at. It is my intuitive sense that cause-and-effect requires that there be a determinate state before it can be changed to another state. I cannot think of why that should be so, it just seems that way.