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Does God Collapse the Wave Function?

In order to understand how the Schrödinger Wave Equation relates to reality, we could postulate a transcendent world observer - a divine mind whose observations collapse the wave functions on our behalf. In effect this would be the quantum-mechanical version of Bishop Berkeley’s idealism. This is memorably summarised in a couple of limericks:

There was once a man who said ‘God
Must think it exceedingly odd
If he finds that this tree
Continues to be
When there’s no one about in the quad.’ 

And the reply:

Dear Sir, Your astonishment’s odd:
I am always about in the quad.
And that’s why the tree
Will continue to be,
Since observed by Yours faithfully, God.

The problem with this attractive solution to the measurement problem is that it proves too much. Invoking a divine observer leads to the question of why there should be any quantum measurement problem at all. Why should anything be left indeterminate for us to determine by our measurements? Is God only interested in those aspects of creation that are above a certain size?

Email link | Feedback | Contributed by: Dr. Christopher Southgate
Source: God, Humanity and the Cosmos  (T&T Clark, 1999)

Quantum Physics and Theology

Index - God, Humanity and the Cosmos, 1999 T&T Clark

Does God Collapse the Wave Function?

Related Book Topics:

The Ultraviolet Catastrophe
The Photoelectric Effect
Collapsing Atoms
Wave-Particle Duality
The Quantum Revolution
The Schrödinger Wave Equation
The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle
The EPR Paradox
Shaking the Foundations: The Implications of Quantum Theory
Schrödinger’s Cat and the Meaning of Quantum Theory
The Hidden-Variable Theory of David Bohm
The Many-Worlds Interpretation
The Rediscovery of the Observer


Dr. Lawrence Osborn and Dr. Christopher Southgate in God, Humanity and the Cosmos. Published by T&T Clark.

See also:

Albert Einstein
Niels Bohr
Werner Heisenberg
Physics and Cosmology
The Relation of Science & Religion
A Dialogue of Scientists and Theolgians
At Home in the Quantum Universe
Books on Physics and Theology