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One of the foundations of modern quantum mechanics is the Uncertainty Principle. This principle is not an assumption, but rather is derived from assumptions made with regard to the structure of nature. The basic statement of the Uncertainty Principle, however, is that it is impossible to know the values of certain characteristics to within an arbitrary accuracy.

If the Uncertainty Principle is a fundamental aspect of the universe, G-d cannot be omniscient. So far, every experiment ever tested on the matter has borne out the practical implications of this principle and yielded the predicted results. How do Jews square this fact with their belief in an omniscient G-d?

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@msh210 While I agree that your formulation would be more respectful, the "If p then not q" form is, I think, a perfectly acceptably way of stating a logical conclusion, and contains an implied "as I see it" or "if my logic is correct." –  Isaac Moses Sep 1 '11 at 22:02
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@antony.trupe, I don't follow. That question is about Christian philosophy/theology, and this one is about Jewish philosophy/theology. How is it a duplicate? –  msh210 Sep 2 '11 at 0:07
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msh210 is exactly right. The question is fundamentally different in the perspective sought. That the question with 153 views, 9 upvotes, and six answers accumulated in less than half a day would be closed as "not constructive" by the Christian forum seems very illuminating. That the Jewish forum would question why this was even considered a duplicate is also very illuminating. I suppose there are many reasons why I was raised a Christian and am converting to Judaism. ;) –  AdamRedwine Sep 2 '11 at 1:44
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@antony.trupe: A duplicate would have the same answers, and a cross-post is only bad if its trying to play two different communities to get the same answer faster/better. In this case that one word change makes all the difference, the OP is looking for the perspectives of two different belief systems. Also the post was re-opened after some word fixes on Christianity.SE. –  Caleb Sep 2 '11 at 9:42
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@AdamRedwine I don't know where to leave this comment, so I'll just put it here. I think you are ignoring a fundamental aspect of the Uncertainty principle. The uncertainty principle assumes an observer. But Gd is not an observer. An observer of course, does not require an intellect to be observing. Also, look up the concept of 'Information' that travels faster than the speed of light. –  avi Sep 3 '11 at 20:39
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8 Answers 8

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As the Creator of all things, including, but not limited to, time, the "laws" of physics, logic, and existence itself, G-d is not bound by any of them. Can G-d create a rock that He is unable to pick up? Yes, and He can also pick it up. How? Why? Because logic does not apply to G-d. Go argue with that (you can't; argument requires logic :-D). The same holds true here.

Even if the Uncertainty Principle is true (I'm not arguing that it is not, I'm just being cautious. Scientific theories are continually being disproved and replaced, so I'm covering myself ;-) ), it's rules would not apply to G-d because it is His creation, and therefore has no authority over Him.

My answer is not that different from what has already been said, but nobody has said it quite the same way, which I feel is important.

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I'm afraid it is my turn to express disbelief at one of your answers. God is not bound by logic? God can create a rock which at the same time, he both can and cannot lift? This is in opposition to classical Jewish philosophy as I know it. Such names as Saadya Gaon, Rambam, Ralbag, Yosef Albo, Hasdai Crescas, and Isaac Abarbanel would all disagree with you. If you could provide a source for your claim, I would be much more at ease. –  jake Nov 7 '11 at 14:35
    
@jake. I may not have a chance to respond for a bit bc of limited access to internet. I will try to so some research in seforim and on my mobile. rest assured that this is not my own sevara, and is well sourced, mostly in chassidus if I'm not mistaken. You're right though, this doesn't fit so well with classical chakirah. –  HodofHod Nov 8 '11 at 4:15
    
Unfortunately, I have been unable to locate some good primary sources on this topic. I will continue to try to find some, though. This idea is very common within chassidus, and I would imagine, kabbalah as well. Here's an interesting secondary source, that goes even further than what I've said. –  HodofHod Nov 10 '11 at 5:21
    
@jake, the previous comment is also for you, but I forgot to add the reference. Looked here for an article that addresses the rock question specifically. –  HodofHod Nov 10 '11 at 5:35
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Limiting God to logic does not imply that God is not infinite, nor that He is not omnipotent. The links you pointed out do not seem to make all that much sense to me as I mentioned. I appreciate your taking the time to find sources for me, though. –  jake Nov 15 '11 at 4:14
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Others can (I hope) provide a more complete answer, but I believe the simple answer is that God exists outside of space and time, and hence is not bound by their restrictions. Just because something is unknowable to humans does not make it beyond the control of God.

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But the Uncertainty Principle is a logical conclusion of the standard model of particle physics. It is an indispensable aspect of that model and, if that model is an accurate description of the universe, it logically restricts what is knowable in the most fundamental sense. The Uncertainty Principle doesn't say that these characteristics are unknowable to people, it says that they are unknowable to the universe, G-d included. –  AdamRedwine Sep 1 '11 at 22:17
    
Do you believe that the laws of logic are an aspect of spacetime to which G-d is not bound? –  AdamRedwine Sep 1 '11 at 22:19
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@AdamRedwine The way I see it, that still does not present a problem. God is not part of the universe, for He created the universe. It does not matter that it is unknowable to people or animals or anything else in the universe, God is not "included" in the universe because God created the universe. The answer is, ultimately, either one you are instantly satisfied with or you will never be satisfied with any answer. –  Tal Fishman Sep 1 '11 at 22:23
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@AdamRedwine I think logic is in a completely different category, and while I personally believe God is bound by logic, I think this is more a statement about our own capacity for logic than about God. –  Tal Fishman Sep 1 '11 at 22:25
    
I like and respect your position Tal, but I think I'm going to hold out a bit longer to select an answer. Thanks so much for the input!! –  AdamRedwine Sep 2 '11 at 1:46
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The uncertainty principle is a principle in physics limited to objects that are bound by it. G-d is above physics, therefore, is not bound by its rules.

Physical objects cannot create something from nothing, G-d can.

Physical objects cannot see the future, G-d can.

Physical objects must have a beginning, G-d doesn't.

Moreover, G-d can violate rules of common sense.

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By rules common sense do you mean laws of logic? If that is the case, the paradox is resolved. –  AdamRedwine Sep 1 '11 at 22:18
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Yes. The example cited there is the size of the Kodesh Hakodoshim is the size of the Aron, yet, if one would mesure the distance between one of the walls and the Aron, and add the distance between the opposite side of the wall and the Aron, the combined distance would be the size of the aron. IOW, the aron had a size, yet didn't, or in mathematical terms, X+X+X=2X. Doesn't make sense, and the Aron is just a creation. –  Shmuel Brin Sep 1 '11 at 22:35
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Although the other answers about G-d not being limited by his rules is accurate, I don't believe the question has a beginning.

Heisenberg's principle is based on physical observations/measurements affecting the values of the measurement's target.

Since G-d is omniscient he doesn't need to make physical observations, He is knowing of all values- unaffected.

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Not quite. The Uncertainty Principle (of which Heisenberg's is only a special case) is based on the model of nature described by the standard model. That model makes predictions about the world that are then observed. It is a bit of a chicken and egg question, but there is an important difference. –  AdamRedwine Sep 1 '11 at 21:23
    
So, if I understand you correctly, since the values cannot be determined in the physical world, they are predetermined to be indeterminable. –  YDK Sep 2 '11 at 0:35
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Assuming that I understood you, why should omniscience include values that don't exist? (Btw, I'm trying to answer the question intrinsically. Ultimately, I think our understanding of both quantum ideas and G-d are limited.) –  YDK Sep 2 '11 at 0:49
    
The assumption that the numbers don't exist is not a given, but is a fascinating thought. I don't think I'd considered it before. Certainly my understanding of quantum and G-d are limited... I am human after all. –  AdamRedwine Sep 2 '11 at 1:47
    
@AdamRedwine, your comment that Hesenberg's is a special case, contradicts the article you initally linked to. You might want to find another article to make your point. "In quantum mechanics, the Heisenberg uncertainty principle states precise inequalities..." –  avi Sep 3 '11 at 20:33
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The uncertainty principle actually helped the religious case. Before quantum mechanics, people assumed the world was entirely deterministic, without any place for the will of God or man to change anything. Pierre Laplace claimed that one could know the entire future and present just by looking at all the atoms at one point in time. Einstein held so strongly to this deterministic view that he refused to accept the evidence for Quantum Mechanics.

But with quantum mechanics, God can invisibly intervene with the running of the universe without it being detected and without breaking any laws of nature. Since the position of the particles cannot be predicted with certainty, they can also be influenced without detection.

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Makes sense, but the question was about omniscience, not determinism. –  msh210 Sep 2 '11 at 0:18
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Although it would make certain things more difficult. For example, would the splitting of the Red Sea be a "natural" phenomena? The Torah differenciates between "miracles enclothed in nature" to "miracles above nature". According to Heisenberg, there would be no 2nd category. –  Shmuel Brin Sep 2 '11 at 0:34
    
Thanks for the response. I am familiar with this argument as well and think that it has a great deal of merit. When you start getting deep into the weeds of the quantification of uncertainty and the resolution of wave functions things get very much more complicated. I wanted to try to keep this at a level most people could handle. –  AdamRedwine Sep 2 '11 at 1:49
    
Tom, it may be that anything that is extremely unlikely can be considered a miracle above nature. Though I'm not sure that there has to be such a strong separation between them. Even without quantum mechanics, the splitting of the sea can just be considered a very unlikely event. –  Ariel K Sep 2 '11 at 4:59
    
@Tom smith, the Torah makes it very clear that the splitting of the red sea was a 'natural' phenomena, orchestrated by Gd. Why else was the wind blowing all night? The original hebrew in fact is 'wonder' and 'awe inspiriing event'. Miracle as we understand the word is a new. –  avi Sep 3 '11 at 20:36
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To say what others have answered in different words:

G-d's Holy Name, The Tetragrammaton, is a combination of “Haya” (was), “Hoveh” (is) and “Yihyeh” (will be).

When we say G-d exists out of time we're saying that for G-d the past, present, and future are as one. G-d does not experience time linearly, as we do. Rather, he sees it all as now. (See here)

In this sense, G-d is omniscient because all that will happen to us in the future is already known by G-d, since he - so to speak - is experiencing it now (or has already experienced it).

So, while the outcome of a certain action may presently be unknown to us (due to the Uncertainty Principle), in the future (once it has already occurred) we will know the outcome.

G-d knows that future now.


In response to the comment. This is what is says on Wikipedia (Which is just about the extent of my knowledge of the subject):

To measure the velocity of a particle, one must bounce other particles off of it, but such detection necessarily affects the particle being measured. The uncertainty principle says, for instance, that it is impossible to measure a particle's velocity in any moment and then have any hope of measuring its location for that moment (since the act of measurement of velocity immediately changed that particle's location). The observer must choose their knowledge of one time: the particle's location, or knowledge of its velocity.

To focus on the first part of that statement, this is my understanding of it. When observing something outside of yourself, you must interact with it. By definition, observing is something you do to something else, something separate from you. Since it is separate from you, the only way to examine it is interact with it. Interacting with it however, will affect it, and therefore we can never really know what it truly is, only how it reacts to our interaction.

But what if the thing you're examining is not separate from you, what if you just know it because it's you, not because you've examined something external?

To quote from this article (and please read it for context):

Maimonides, therefore, states that if we are to ascribe to G-d the knowledge of all beings and all events, we must conclude that: (a) His knowledge of the countless facts that comprise our existence are, in truth, but a single knowing -- His knowledge of self (since what we call "existence" is merely the expression of His infinite potential to create); and (b) He does not know Himself via a "mind" that is a distinct from Him, but that He, His knowledge and His "mind" are an utterly singular unit.

If that's the case, the Uncertainty Principle wouldn't kick in, since G-d wouldn't have to examine it in order to know it.

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Unfortunately the Uncertainty Principle does not have to do with whether or not something is "unknown to us," it has to do with the fundamental structure of the universe. If the standard model is correct, the Uncertainty Principle limits the knowledge to every conceivable thing including G-d. –  AdamRedwine Sep 2 '11 at 10:38
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@Menachem, "But what if the thing you're examining is not separate from you, what if you just know it because it's you, not because you've examined something external?" Are you saying that G-d and the particle are one in the same? I don't think you are. You may want to edit that. –  YDK Sep 2 '11 at 23:33
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@avi: it might be more correct to say "It's a fundamental belief (in certain circles) that creation can not be separated from G-d." –  Menachem Sep 4 '11 at 4:21
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@Menachem, I think I've been misreading your points. I had thought that you were saying G-d and creation are one. Since you didn't contradict that (with avi upholding it as a valid hashkafa), I thought you were trying to defend that point. Now I see that while the first "it" in your sentence refers to the particles, the second "it" refers to the knowledge, meaning knowledge and G-d are one, not G-d and creation. Sorry for the mistake. –  YDK Sep 15 '11 at 19:07
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The way I understand the uncertainty principle, it is not related to measuring both the momentum and position of a particle, but rather with knowing them. The mere fact of knowing that a particle has a given momentum with a given precision places a limit on the precision with which a particle's position can be known. More precisely, it places a limit on the precision with which the position is defined. Simply put, if you know the momentum with infinite precision, you the position is undefined. The particle does not have a position. The same is true, vice-versa, obviously. –  Nathan Fellman Oct 2 '11 at 14:26
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The Uncertainty Principle puts a limit on the measurement of certain attributes. Position and momentum, for example, cannot be each accurately measured to an arbitrary degree of accuracy. This appears to be a fundamental principle of the way the world works, not anything to do with our measurement ability, and is intimately related to wave-particle duality. The attributes do not necessarily exist at all until they are measured, and if they do, it is as a mixture of the two.

G-d is omniscient. He is aware of all facts, even ones such as the position and momentum of every particle at all times.

So how can the reconcile the two? Previous answers have referenced G-d being outside of time, but they do not answer the fundamental question. Another answer would seem to be that G-d is aware of the whole state of the system, in all its superpositional glory, but that doesn't address the issue either.

The question is, if there is no "fact of the matter" about the position and momentum of a particle, how can an omniscient G-d know them?

The answer to any particular questions about the position and momentum of a particle have answers, but the questions do not simultaneously have answers, and an omniscient G-d is not any less omniscient for not knowing non-information.

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At http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uncertainty_principle we read:

To measure the velocity of a particle, one must bounce other particles off of it, but such detection necessarily affects the particle being measured. The uncertainty principle says, for instance, that it is impossible to measure a particle's velocity in any moment and then have any hope of measuring its location for that moment (since the act of measurement of velocity immediately changed that particle's location). The observer must choose their knowledge of one time: the particle's location, or knowledge of its velocity.

The uncertainty comes from having to bounce particles off the other particle. This is our method of determining the velocity of a particle. However, this may not be the only method of making the determination. G-d created the particle and therefore can know its position and velocity at any time without having to observe it as we do.

It's true that the uncertainty principle is actually more fundamental, in that wave-like systems cannot have the pair of properties known to arbitrary accuracy BY US. But that's because we are IN the universe. We simply do not know what other ways there are to know things, besides the ones involving material things in the universe. Perhaps if we stepped outside the current space-time, we would see there are other ways of knowing things that we cannot know within the system.

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This is about the same as YDK's answer. –  Double AA Feb 4 at 5:12
    
I agree with Double AA that your answer essentially repeats what is said above. You could, perhaps, improve it though. It sounds to me that you are attempting to argue that the epistemological approach of modern science is flawed, but you would have to clarify exactly what you mean. –  AdamRedwine Feb 21 at 23:50
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