Modelling, Quantum Mechanics, and Theology

Recently I wrote a post for another of my blogs entitled Do We Need a New Math to Understand Physics? where I discussed yet another article I linked to, Does Time Really Flow? New Clues Come From a Century-Old Approach to Math. It’s probably too technical for most readers of this blog, although seeing Tolkien cited in a scientific/engineering publication is not to be missed.

In the common parlance we’re used to speaking of mathematically-stated laws that govern what happens physically in the universe.  I think a model-prototype concept is better.  Whether the physical phenomena “know” about these laws is debatable; whether they obey them is not unless the “law” is disproven or a special case added.  What this signifies is that we have modelled the physical phenomena successfully and in the meanwhile enhanced our understanding of what is going on, which in turn is the promise of future progress.

In theology a model-prototype concept has been around a long time.  The difference between theology and mathematics is in the priority.  With mathematics we have physical phenomena which we model using mathematics.  In theology we have a living model (God) who creates the prototype (the material world.)  This sort of “type-antitype” is well rooted both in the Fathers and in the Scriptures themselves.  Evangelical hyperliteralism is the order of the day now–so much so the atheists use it–but the church will regret adopting it before it’s over with.

In the past I have used the model-prototype construct to make an analogy between theology and mathematics, which I do at length in My Lord and My God.  The purpose of this work is to show that the idea of that analogy can be used to show that the reason why the post-Nicene I church set subordinationism in the Trinity aside is due to weaknesses in Greek theology, weaknesses that mathematics can address.  It can also be used to refute really poor, God-dishonouring theology such as the Sydney Anglicans set forth.

The divergence between the divine model and the material prototype has been understood in theology for a long time.  It’s embodied in the difference between created and uncreated beings.  The main implication of that is that, although the model and prototype are certainly related, the material world is definitely a “step down” from the spiritual/divine one.  In the discussion of mathematics and quantum physics, the difference between continuum mathematics and discrete quantum mechanics is at the heart of the discussion.  The question now is whether we change our mathematics to suit the physical world or build on what we have to describe it, understanding the differences.

That too has a theological analogy.  TBH if there’s one thing that’s gone AWOL in the last half century or more, it’s the ability of the theological world to think abstractly.  Much of what passes for theology today–from the modern and post-modern musings of the left to the “waist-down” religion of the right–shows a deeply carnal mentality.  It’s one reason why, like my Anglican deacon and friend Bruce Hilbert (whose home was destroyed in the recent tornado here,) I’m glad I took the technical route rather than the seminary one.  Unfortunately the technical fortress is likewise facing being breached, a conflict upon which the future of scientific advance hangs.

On the other hand, the discrete nature of quantum mechanics once again brings up the whole issue of how deterministic the universe really is, which certainly does have important theological implications.

But I digress…theology these days deserves better than what passes for it, but improvement is easier said than done.

The Ambassador Airplanes: How the Assemblies of God Became Involved in Missionary Aviation — Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center

This Week in AG History — May 13, 1950 By Glenn W. Gohr Originally published on AG News, 14 May 2020 Did you know that the Assemblies of God owned two passenger planes just after World War II that carried Assemblies of God missionaries overseas? Following World War II, commercial flights were not readily available, […]

via The Ambassador Airplanes: How the Assemblies of God Became Involved in Missionary Aviation — Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center

Those Scientific Episcopalians (Not!)

The old home church tries to make it look good while mulling over if and when to re-open:

The Episcopal Church approaches these decisions with great care and bases changes in our practices on solid, scientific data.

I never thought the Episcopal Church was particularly “scientific.”  In fact, looking in the rear-view mirror one thing that may have alienated me and others in my family from the church is their distinctly aesthetic emphasis, an emphasis which minimised the importance of the “hard facts.”  That’s true of our elites in general, even those which never darken the door of the Episcopal or any other church: they’re basically unscientific by training and temperament, and parading that they “believe in science” is only proof that their idea of escaping this ignorance is turning science into a religion.

It gets worse: the science of COVID-19 is a poorly-understood moving target, one that has befuddled expert and amateur (and everyone else in between) alike.  When we’re on the frontiers of scientific knowledge, that’s the way it is.  It’s hard to make public policy or private decisions based on that moving target; the day when we can say we have overall “solid science” on this topic is in the future.

Given what we do know and Bethesda’s superannuated demographics (something they share with the Episcopal Church in general and their Diocese in particular) caution is certainly warranted.  (The fact that their Rector attended the COVID-19 “ground zero” for the denomination isn’t comforting either.And their online program is definitely above average.  But to claim solid science for this may sound good but doesn’t conform to the “hard facts” of the situation, not yet at least.

P.S. I also noted the quote from the contract on the Episcopalians in their masthead.


My Laboratory Course Introduction, Including Some of My Philosophy of Teaching

COVID-19 has forced many of us in academia to go online (or at least hybrid/blended) in our teaching.  This includes the lab course I teach, and this is the first in a series of videos for that course.

In the process of introducing students to the course, I make some comments on my philosophy of teaching in general and engineering education in particular, which I thought might be of interest to a broader audience.

A Challenging Coronavirus Take from an Iraqi Muslim

Dr. Manal Hadi Kanaan is a lecturer of microbiology and anatomy in the Technical Institute of Suwaira/Middle Technical University in Iraq.  She recently posted this on Researchgate, which means in front of her peers, about COVID-19.  Her English is not the best but her idea is clear (emphasis mine):

In light of the circumstances in the world today, we see situations of fear, apprehension, and caution filling the continents in light of the spread of this epidemic. Sometimes we ask ourselves about the reason for the spread of this epidemic, and some of us start blaming others about its spread and its invasion of the countries of the world, whether these countries are developed or developing, and we find ourselves powerless in front of this very small creature that does not see under the light microscope but rather under the electron microscope. Then we go back to ask how it spread and how it developed itself to be so strong. Is the reason is food habits and that it has moved from the original host has snakes and bats to humans, in my area as a scientist in the field of bacteria, when bacteria move to a place other than the place of their natural presence it may turn from commensals bacteria to pathogens. Was this the reason, or are we in a real confrontation between the creature that God has honored (human being) with the smallest creature which is the virus? Perhaps the presence of this challenge is a test for us from the Creator to show us that whatever we have reached in science and whatever we have evolved, we are unable to face the smallest creature he has. How much we harmed each other, how much we have forgiven our accomplishments and how much we have suffered from each other’s injustice, but today we are powerless in front of this so little creature. So, in your opinion, how can we face this epidemic?

To be honest this makes a lot more sense than the “judgement of God” musings going around certain Christian circles.  It’s more in line with, for example, what God told Job in Job 40-41.


When Social Distancing from the Plague Pays Off

It sure did for Sir Isaac Newton, this from The World of Mathematics:

Newton took his degree from Cambridge early in 1665.  In the autumn of that year the great plague, which was raging in London, caused the University to close, and Newton went back to live at the isolated little house at Woolsthorpe where he was born in 1642.  Here he spent most of his time until the spring of 1667, when the University reopened and he returned…Newton is throughout his life an enigmatic figure, but nothing is more extraordinary than his development in the period from 1663 to the spring of 1667…By the time of his return to Cambridge it is tolerably certain that he had already firmly laid the foundations of his work in the three great fields with which his name is for ever associated–the calculus, the nature of white light, and universal gravitation and its consequences.

Newton himself describes it in this way:

In the same year [1666] I began to think of gravity extending to the orb of the moon, and having found out how to estimate the force with which a globe revolving within a sphere presses the surface of the sphere, from Kepler’s rule of the periodical times of the planets being in a sesquialternate proportion of their distances from the centres of their orbs [sesquialternate means one and a half times, or, as we say, the square of the years are as the cubes of the orbits] I deduced that the forces which keep the planets in their orbs must be reciprocally as the squares of their distances from the centres about which they revolve: and thereby compared the force requisite to keep the moon in her orb with the force of gravity at the surface of the earth, and found them answer pretty nearly.  All this was in the two plague years of 1665 and 1666, for in those days I was in the prime of my age for invention, and minded mathematics and philosophy more than at and time since.

I’m Kristen Karman-Shoemake and This Is How I Mesh — Another Fine Mesh

I was born in Arlington, TX and spent most of my childhood in and around the Fort Worth area. When I was in high school, my family moved to Chattanooga, TN. I then went on to UTK for my undergraduate degree. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life and ended […]

via I’m Kristen Karman-Shoemake and This Is How I Mesh — Another Fine Mesh

Kristen and I went to graduate school together, along with her husband Lawton.  Their wedding–coming as it did at the end of many of our dissertation defences in 2016, was a delight and “the event of the season” for weary graduate students.  She is also a Roman Catholic, and the wedding was, as I like to say, #straightouttairondale.  (Which we had to explain to our fellow students from Iran and China and Ghana and…)

Remembering the Anti-Moon Luddites — Chet Aero Marine

Today, of course, is the fiftieth anniversary of Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon–“one giant leap for mankind,” to be sure. It was a great accomplishment and deserves to be remembered. It’s easy to forget, however, that at the time there were many–especially on the left–who believed that the whole enterprise was a mistake, […]

via Remembering the Anti-Moon Luddites — Chet Aero Marine

YouTube Closes in on the Cover Artists

ICYMI, I’ve migrated the music that’s been on this site to YouTube.  That took some time and effort but I think it’s worth it.  The central reason for that is that it gives the artists (and their record companies) the opportunity to earn some revenue off of the music, even though most of them are either unable or unwilling to put the music back into distribution.  As many of you know, this site specialises in the “Jesus Music” era of the 1960’s and 1970’s.

In the process of doing this, some of the albums were claimed by their copyright holders, usually the record companies or their agents, successors or assigns (how’s that for a little legalese!)  And that’s fine; I didn’t go on YouTube to make money, and the channel (thanks to the recent change in YouTube rules) isn’t eligible for monetization because it doesn’t draw enough traffic.  I’m glad to see that we’ve got a workable mechanism (not perfect but workable) to link the copyright holders with their music.

Most of the claims made during the process were for albums released by secular labels (which did happen in the Jesus Music era) where the album came from.  There are a few for Christian labels, but they’re the exception, not the rule.  But virtually all of the claims came for original artists.

This week I’ve seen a rash of claims for “covers,” i.e., songs not performed by the original artists.  This is something new.  It indicates to me that the algorithm for determining which songs are which has stepped up.  With the new regulations coming from Europe, that’s going to be a survival mechanism.  This tells me that YouTube has stepped up its game on this.

Fortunately in all cases they just claim revenue and let the album stay up.  I suppose that, for music this old and frequently obscure, they’re glad to have any exposure for it, especially when someone else goes to the trouble of putting it out there.  As of now this situation is IMHO a happy one for everyone, and I hope it stays that way.

Science Still Lives Somewhere

Recently I posted a piece entitled The Day Science Died where I lamented the fall of a real scientific/technological urge in our society after we landed men on the moon in 1969.

Evidently that urge is still out there, in this case Israel:

A dramatic nighttime launch from Cape Canaveral sent Israel’s privately funded lunar lander on its way to a rendezvous with history. Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu was on hand in the control room.

“It’s a big step for Israel but a giant step for Israeli technology. The strength of Israel in the world is rising, rising, rising and rising to the moon,” Netanyahu said.

Israel’s not the only country where STEM has “pride of place” in society, but it’s one that gets a disproportionate amount of attention, most of it negative.  One wonders but that the source of a great deal of antisemitism out there is jealousy and fear of the accomplishments of the Jewish people, both in and out of STEM.  When Nazi Minister of Education Bernhard Rust asked David Hilbert whether Göttingen’s Mathematical Institute had suffered as a result of the purge of the Jews, Hilbert replied, “Suffered? It doesn’t exist any longer, does it!”

Hopefully, unlike their American counterparts, both of these goals will be achieved:

“We want the Israeli kids and the Israeli youth to, we want to encourage them to learn STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and informatics – and we hope that they will have this mission we will create the effect and encourage them. The second goal is to promote the space industry here in Israel … And I think we got it – one of the goals is already achieved,” explained Dr. Ido Antebi, CEO of SpaceIL.