Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Christian Hope and the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle

We all learn early on -- maybe in 4th grade? -- that the conservation of energy is a LAW OF SCIENCE, and we are told that a LAW OF SCIENCE is something that has been very, very thoroughly tested, with no exceptions being found.  Later on, if we stick to studying science, we discover not only that the word "law" is not really used that way in science (many "laws" are just robust and very useful approximations), but that energy isn't conserved quite the way we had thought.  Specifically, the deviation ΔE is required by quantum mechanics to satisfy the following relation, called the time-energy Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, with the time ΔT over which the deviation might exist: 
 (ΔE)(ΔT) ≥ ħ / 2, 
where ħ is Plank's constant divided by 2π -- about 10-34 J s (a value so small that classical mechanics, which would make that value zero, is perfectly adequate for most engineering purposes).  Crudely, one might say that the Law of the Conservation of Energy holds well over the long term, less well over the medium term, and is wildly violated over the short term.

How is this related to Christian hope?  There is an analogy linking the two, in which the deviations from law may be large in the short term but are negligible in the long term.  We know that over the longest term, good triumphs over evil completely.  Over the medium term -- which is certainly one of several generations, probably several centuries -- we might expect nature (including human nature), which was created good by God, to assert itself so that evil, which is contrary to the nature God created, is frustrated and fails.  For example, a totalitarian regime might come to an end because its power allows its bad decisions to remain unchecked until they have borne their full fruit, or confidence in its power may lead its leaders to become overconfident and lazy.  In the short term, though, evils can become widespread and powerful, and they can seemingly triumph over good.  That is why Christian hope is really a confidence in the long term, not a wish for the short term.  The analogous statement to the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle would be, 
In the world you shall have distress: but have confidence, I have overcome the world.

There is a huge temptation to forget this, and to think that what happens in the short term controls what happens in the long term.  This makes us both fearful and prideful, because we think we (and our contemporary opponents) are the masters of destiny.  We are also tempted to make compromises by choosing "lesser evils" for the short term.

"Put not your trust in princes:  in the children of men, in whom there is no salvation.  His spirit shall go forth, and he shall return into his earth: in that day all their thoughts shall perish."  His thoughts will perish, whether they are in your favor or against you, whether they are right are wrong.  Put not your trust in princes, even though you yourself are, in a sense, a prince, in that you make plans and take actions.

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