Quantum Theory and Evolution
Darwinian evolution or evolutionary theory predates the development of modern physics—e.g. quantum theory. The time at which the theory was developed, the best known theory of matter was classical physics, in which matter always exists in definite states. Ideas such as random mutation and natural selection in evolution were incompatible with classical physics because randomness was injected into evolution. In quantum theory, however, there is an inherent randomness, although how this randomness is overcome to create observations itself remains an unsolved problem. Therefore, evolution is inconsistent with classical physics, and although it is conceptually consistent with quantum theory, the quantum phenomena themselves present a paradox that still remains unsolved. The nature of the paradox in quantum theory, and by implication in evolutionary theory, presents an interesting parallel that most evolutionists miss. Both theories are paradoxical and this post explores the nature of the paradox.
Table of Contents
What is the Quantum Measurement Problem?
In classical physics, matter comprises definite objects—these objects could be particles or waves—which always have a definite state. Quantum theory violates this idea and describes matter as possibilities from which a definite state is produced upon a measurement. The state of possibility is called a wavefunction and the conversion of this possibility into a definite observation is called measurement.
In classical physics, the objects have a definite state prior to measurement. So, the measurement only reveals the state prior to measurement. In quantum physics, matter is not in a definite state, and measurement creates this definite state. How the possibility becomes definite remains unknown in quantum theory. Whatever that mechanism of reducing the possibility to definiteness be, it involves the supposition that the measuring system makes a “choice” from among the possible alternatives.
So, what is the problem? The problem is that we describe the measured system as a possibility and the measuring system as a choice. Both the measuring and the measured systems are supposed to be material. According to quantum theory, they must both be in the state of possibility. But if they are both in the state of possibility, then there could never be an event—e.g. phenomena, events, measurements, etc. because choice is required to convert the possibility into definite state, and all matter is always a possibility.
The paradox in quantum theory is that it requires two contradictory ideas—possibility and choice—which are applied respectively to the measured and the measuring systems. These two contradictory ideas cannot be reconciled in a physical theory—i.e. a theory of material objects in space and time—without postulating two irreconcilable kinds of material entities. In other words, we can either have a theory of the measured system, or a theory of the measuring system, not both. Current quantum theory only claims to be a theory of the measured system, not a theory of the measuring system. That is, how the possibility becomes a definite reality remains and unsolved problem in quantum theory.
What is the Evolutionary Theory?
Evolutionary theory also uses two distinct ideas—namely random mutation and natural selection. Random mutation implies an uncertainty or possibility in the future states, while natural selection implies the choice of one among the many possible future states. In evolutionary theory, the organism is in the state of possibility of many future states and the environment makes a choice about which of these states will be permitted.
Just as quantum theory splits the possibility and choice across two different entities (namely the measured and the measuring systems), similarly, evolutionary theory splits the possibility and choice across two different entities—namely, the organism and the environment. In essence, the organism is analogous to the measured system of quantum theory, while the environment is analogous to the measuring system. Both theories suffer from the same problem of creating definiteness from a possibility. In the case of evolution, for example, there is no reason to say that the organism is the “possibility” when the same organism could be considered the “choice” exercised by the environment.
Where Lies the Problem?
Both evolutionary theory and quantum measurement make conceptually identical claims, and present identical conceptual problems: How do we reconcile possibility with choice?
Within materialism, the problem of possibility and choice cannot be solved, without creating a logical contradiction. We can choose to only describe either the organism which exists as possibility, or the environment which makes a choice on these possibilities. If we combine possibility and choice in any theory in which causality exists in matter, then either that causality must equate to possibility or choice, not both. Any theory of material causality can therefore either describe possibility or choice, not both. Evolutionists believe that they are providing a complete description of the biological world, because they allow both possibility and choice in the same theory, without recognizing the contradiction.
The logical form of the contradiction in evolution is similar to the problem of measurement in quantum theory where two ideas—possibility and choice—are applied to distinct entities. Just as quantum theory is incomplete, because it can only describe either the measured or the measuring system (using two logically contradictory ideas), similarly, evolution is also incomplete. However, if we try to solve this problem, by combining possibility and choice in the same material theory of causality, then we will produce a logical contradiction, because possibility and choice are logically contradictory ideas in a material theory: either causality becomes a possibility or it becomes a choice.
The Proof of Incompleteness
Bell’s Theorem in quantum physics shows that any attempt to overcome the inherent probability in quantum theory by bringing in choice—when it is incorporated as material elements (called hidden variable theories)—would result in a logical contradiction. In other words, you cannot reconcile the contradiction between possibility and choice by reducing choice to material causality. This is because if you actually reduce choice to matter, then that choice becomes a possibility—i.e. the logical opposite of the choice.
Materialists don’t understand quantum theory well-enough, or disregard its consequences, to claim that the world of randomly created possibilities somehow becomes a definite reality, through processes that only involve material objects. They are in essence saying that we know of a way in which Bell’s Theorem in quantum physics would be proven wrong, blithely unaware that overcoming it involves a logical contradiction.
Evolutionists are in the same boat. They claim that one day we will show how evolution explains the entire living ecosystem. They only need to understand the nature of Bell’s Theorem, and use of contradictory ideas in the theory of evolution.
Both quantum theory and evolutionary theory are either inconsistent or incomplete, if we continue using classical physical object concepts—such as particles and waves. If we use both natural selection and random mutation, then evolutionary theory is inconsistent. If we use one of them, then the theory is incomplete. Similarly, if we try to explain both measured and measuring systems using the same type of causality, then quantum theory is inconsistent. If we explain only one of them, then quantum theory is incomplete. Clearly both are required for completeness. However, in any scenario when we construe possibility and choice as two material objects of the same kind, the description is incomplete.
The Solution to Incompleteness
The answer to this incompleteness is that there is something different from both choice and uncertainty, which carries the properties of both: we know it as ideas. Ideas are uncertain because they have a hierarchy from abstract to contingent. The idea of an animal is uncertain because it can be refined into the idea of dog. And yet, the idea of a dog is also a choice because the animal could have been refined into the idea of cat.
Each idea combines some uncertainty (its level of abstractness) and some certainty (its level of contingency). In that sense, choice and uncertainty are not contradictory because the world is a combination of both. This combination is visible easily if we construct a hierarchy of concepts, such that each concept has a position in the hierarchy. We can measure the position from the top of the hierarchy and we will see that uncertainty is highest at the top and lowest at the bottom. We can also measure the position from the bottom, and we will see that certainty is highest at the bottom and the lowest at the top. Choice and uncertainty are then two perspectives on the same reality. Everything combines choice and uncertainty—the perspectives from bottom and top—but we don’t have to view it from contradictory perspectives. We can simply see the entire world as a hierarchy of concepts without the contradiction of choice and uncertainty.
The implication is that a biological form too begins in an abstract form as an idea (e.g. an animal) and it is then refined into the idea of a cat or dog, and successive additions create a specific type of biological form. The biological form is also choice, as much as it is uncertainty, quite like the environment is also choice and uncertainty. The uncertainty is decreased when matter is added, and it decreases when matter is removed. The interaction between the body and its environment should be viewed as the interaction between ideas, not as random mutation and natural selection because the body is also capable of selecting the environment—e.g. move from one environment to another.
This results in a far more complex picture of reality in which the evolution of the world is modeled as the evolution of ideas, and this evolution is not unique to biology but can also be envisioned for cultures, societies, nations, planets, and the entire universe. No present scientific theory is capable of dealing with this kind of evolution because science is presently dominated by materialist and reductionist conceptions of nature.
Evolution has become a standard materialist dogma and it involves a doublethink of applying possibility and choice to separate material entities which are then expected to be explained by the same theory. Evolutionists don’t realize that this theory is logically contradictory. Classical physical objects permit neither randomness nor choice. If, however, you shift the theory of matter to quantum physics, then you come face to face with the same problem even in the description of atomic objects.
There is possibility and choice in quantum theory and its indeterminism problems cannot be solved without a shift in our understanding of matter from material particles to symbols of ideas. In other words, there is nothing in our current understanding of quantum theory that will explain evolution, because this problem remains unsolved in quantum theory itself. We can say that evolution and quantum theory are not separate problems; rather, they represent the same problem of reconciling possibility with choices.