Schrödinger’s Cat and Free Will

It’s been a while since I wrote a blog post as I too have become a slave to the Twitter/Facebook phenomenon. But I didn’t think either of those forums would do this topic justice.

I was at dinner the other night with my wife and her piano student and we were discussing the topics of predestination and free will.  This post is NOT about Calvinism or Arminianism. There’s plenty of fodder on the internet about that subject. This post is more a thought experiment with some presuppositions.

One of the hardest things to reconcile about Man’s free will is the concept of an Omnipotent and Omniscient  God, and that the foreknowledge of man’s intended actions is an inherent contradiction to Man’s choices. The easiest argument in favor of that concept is that just because God knows what you are about to do, doesn’t mean you don’t have free will to do whatever you choose.

Here is where the concept of Schrödinger’s cat comes in for me. If you are unfamiliar with this thought experiment or Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, just Google it as it would take too long for me to explain here. The uncertainty principle fits very nicely with the “Free Will” position of humankind. For any action by man, the “Copenhagen Interpretation” states that the superimposed states of what a person may or may not do, gets resolved only upon observation. A simple example of this is the classic last second shot in basketball. We all watch with bated breath as the seconds tick down. Just prior to the shot there are multiple superimposed states (waveforms) of what the future could be, which resolve themselves when the ball leaves the shooters hands. The “what if’s” are then left for discussion at the water cooler the next morning. But they don’t exist in any physical reality. In the physical reality, the ball either goes in the basket or not. Someone wins. Someone loses.

So the choices of Mankind are usually easy to accept. Even carrying out the consequences to extremes doesn’t seem to impact the biblical aspects of the sovereignty of God. Chaos theory can explain how even a small action can have tremendous consequences. A “San” Bushman lights a fire in the Sahara, and a month later hurricane Katrina devastates south eastern United States causing untold suffering. An unintended consequence of an action by choice. This philosophical thought experiment has been played out by many. What if Hitlers mother decided to have an abortion? One sin that could have saved 6 million of God’s chosen people? “Free Will” – people say – a kind of christian way of saying “tough luck – that the way the chips fall”. Human choices. Human consequences.

There are many examples in the Bible where God influences the actions of Man. Exodus 9:12 comes to mind where the Lord “hardened” Pharaoh’s heart and he wouldn’t let the people go. But one can say it was still the Pharaoh’s choice. And it had human consequences. But the question becomes much dicier if you impose certain biblical absolutes on this.

The biblical presupposition (and I am speaking purely as a run of the mill Christian) is that Man fell into sin due to the “Original Sin” and that Jesus had to die on the cross for our salvation. Now examine Jesus’ death on the cross. That was carried out through the action of men that had free will. Now what if they had exercised that free will and chosen NOT to crucify Jesus? At that moment, what if they all accepted Jesus as the Messiah? Does the entire story of salvation then fall apart? The lay person would respond saying that it couldn’t happen that way because Jesus knew they would crucify him. To me, THAT is then a contradiction in terms. If someone HAD to crucify Jesus, and it was conditionally imposed by God, then it could NOT have been the result of actions based on free will.

Back to Quantum physics. Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle states that prior to Jesus being crucified, there was a probability equation that existed that included Jesus not being crucified. And at one point the probability was pretty high that Jesus would not be crucified by the Romans, as they didn’t find him guilty of anything. Remember that Pilate found “No Fault” in Jesus.   It was only after he was handed over to the crowds that the probability equation changed.

So if free will is described by quantum states, there had to have existed a quantum state in which Jesus was NOT crucified. This poses a big problem because in that quantum state everyone past and present – those looking forward to Jesus and those who were supposed to to be saved after Jesus’ crucifixion had just lost their salvation!


Let’s take another example. The example of original sin. Consider some of the various Quantum states based on free will of Adam and Eve.

So this now presents an interesting conundrum. We have multiple quantum states with distinct probability equations, which theoretically do not appear to collapse into the the Salvation by Jesus’ Crucifixion equation. So how do we go about resolving the biblical presupposition which in Christianity is an absolute. Yes, one can argue there are no absolutes in Quantum Physics, just probabilities with the only stipulation that the product of the standard deviations be a constant – Reduced Planck’s constant.

But I started with a “presupposition”, which by definition entails that salvation through Christ is an absolute. To use the probability equation would be a Quantum “cop out”. One cannot look to the Bible for the solution because the Bible by definition only exists in ONE of these quantum states. But one can look to the Bible for the “nature” of God. By example, one notices that in the Bible, God never gives Mankind a catch 22 situation.  There is always an “out” as they say. In Genesis 18, God reduces the “required” righteous people from 50 to 45 to 40 to 30 to 20 to 10! to keep Sodom from being destroyed. Romans 1, 19-20 talks about knowing God through his creation even if one has never heard the Gospel. So what is the out?

Back to Quantum Mechanics. Instead of the Copenhagen Interpretation to the Schrödinger’s paradox, let’s use the Many Worlds interpretation. In this interpretation, every event is a branch point. The different equations of state are branches to different universes just like branches in a tree, but with the Quantum Stipulation that they cannot interact with each other. If we take into account every choice that every man woman and child has made, every millisecond of the day since Adam, the probability equations would be mind boggling. But the number would still be FINITE. And for an Omniscient God, any finite number no matter how large would be easily discernable.


That is how God can “know” every choice that you and I would make but still leave it as free choice. It’s simply a matter of knowing the probability. The other “advantage” God has is that God is the only observer that will not influence the outcome of an event by observation. This is because God doesn’t have to “observe”. He just has to calculate all the probability equations. Every single one of them. In simple terms God CAN know the momentum AND the position of any particle at the same time.

And what about the branches that lie outside the “Salvation through Jesus” equation? The “nature” of God revealed in the Bible shows that God always gives us a way back to him. We cannot know what form Salvation would take had Jesus NOT been crucified, or had Eve been the only one that ate the forbidden fruit – because quantum mechanics prohibits communication between branches. But just as mankind’s choices in a single branch, if we take all the Quantum states since the beginning of time, all the branches no matter how numerous, are still finite when it comes to an Omniscient God. They are only infinite to us mere mortals. God is then able to provide a manner of salvation for each branch without ever interfering with free will.

I guess my first question when I finally meet my maker then has to be – “Tell me Jesus, was the Cat really dead or alive?”


About hash

Chemical Engineer, Firefighter, EMT Instructor
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