Critical Reflection on ‘When Science Meets Religion’ by Ian G. Barbour
[Part 2 of 5]

Critical Reflection on ‘When Science Meets Religion’ by Ian G. Barbour

Chapter 3: The Implications of Quantum Physics

In the three interpretations of quantum uncertainties, Heisenberg’s theory of indeterminacy principle was more logical and attractive, particularly because it supports the concept of free will. As theoretical physics Micho Kaku says of the indeterminacy principle, it supports the notion that “no one can determine your future events given your past history. There’s always the wild card. There’s always the possibility of uncertainty in whatever we do”. Barbour states that if we set the world back to point A, it would not necessarily end up at the previously actualized Z, because the potentiality of different events would change the course. (69) This seems like a good support for the concept of free will.

The conflict between religion and indeterminacy seems unnecessary. In a concept that supposes that everything is up to chance, there is room for “God-given” freedom, whereas in the deterministic concept, that says everything is preordained, there is no room for making your own choices and therefor no room to exercise the freedom purported by theologians. Again, even when scientific principles can get along with religious ones, religion has to argue about it. At the end, it’s just utter ridiculousness in the first place, because what some are arguing to defend is some “divine purpose” that comes down to being nothing more than creation for the sake of worship.

In the independence of science and religion, Barbour’s stance on Bohr’s Complimentary Principle models of phenomena that the concept is acceptable as long as “they refer to the same entity and are of the same logical type” (77) makes complete sense. For instance, one cannot compare a dog and a banana, though one might say that the molecules that make up the dog and the banana can be compared. On a logical level, it is hard to understand why anybody would argue for something so restraining in the scientific world. In addition, Complimentary Principle seems limited in that it insinuates that we can only choose between two things. Something can only be this or that, when in fact, it is possible for something to be this and that. Of course, if something could be both this and that, then inferred support for dialogue and integration in science and religion occurs, despite the different purposes they serve.

The idea that something is not real until observed and/or recorded, as asserted by Wheeler in his “observer-created universe” theory, (79) while it could support a theory for a non-existent God almost appears preposterous. However, it actually brought to mind that philosophical question-turned-idiom, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” , to which one might ask, if you’re not in the forest and you hear a tree fall, was it a tree that fell.

Staune’s supposition that quantum physics “cannot” fully explain reality (83) completely ignores the potentiality of it, that it can’t explain it yet, he doesn’t even assume that the possibility is there, just that because it can’t it opens up the dialogue for the existence of God. Had countless scientists came to this same conclusion, that because one field of science could not explain the thing it was attempting to explain now…“then God”, science would be nowhere. In this dialectic approach there is no need to continue attempts of discovery.

Western religions are not compatible with the integration of science and religion; their concepts are too rigid and unyielding. While Eastern religions may be more compatible, Barbour seems to present enough evidence to imply it would not be wholly compatible. (84-85) There can be no discussion of Western religion without addressing God. The Judeo Christian concept of God is that of a being which created the universe, has the ability to intervene and manipulate its creation (even though s/he/it clearly doesn’t), and has grand design for life. If they can shed the man-invented fantasy that humans were formed in the image of “their God”, and remove that level of egotism from the notion of a “divine being”, they are then free to look to concepts in quantum physics for a more realistic structure. The quantum atom of quantum theory, which is “inaccessible to direct observation and unimaginable in terms of everyday properties” (67) brings to mind a concept of a God (not to be confused with Higgs Boson) that is far more realistic that a single being. Acceptance of such a theory and stripping away the man-designated name and image of “God”, would be the only way in which to integrate science and Western religion. Removing the personhood and supposed aspects in the concept of God, given that all things are made up of atoms, we can acknowledge that God is not a thing, but everything, worthy of admiration, respect and discovery, not praise and obedience. In this, then, can science and religion be integrated.

Ian, Barbour G. When Science Meets Religion: Enemies, Strangers, or Partners. N.p.: HarperCollins, 2000. N. pag. Print.

Michio Kaku: Quantum Physics Ends the Free Will Debate - Atheist Nexus. Perf. Michio Kaku. Michio

Kaku: Quantum Physics Ends the Free Will Debate - Atheist Nexus., 24 June 2011. Web. 11 Mar. 2014. <>