Quantum mechanics indicates that for all physical events on the subatomic level there exist multiple probable outcomes, and that each of these outcomes exists simultaneously until interference with an outside observer causes one of those possibilities to become the outcome observed. We are always aware of only a single outcome; but since other outcomes were also probable, what caused the choice of one over the other?
Classical physics offered a deterministic model in which all effects follow from the previous state according to physical laws: that the reason for every effect is explained by its cause. The nature of subatomic particles, however, is that multiple probable effects can occur from a single cause. The fact that only one is observed implies some sort of selection.
How does this selection occur? Probability indicates a purely random basis for selection, in which it is as equally likely for one outcome to occur as another. This precludes both determinism and free will: the former because we can no longer determine what the observed outcome will be, and the latter because we cannot choose the outcome selected. We are like a boat caught in a stream that leads us whichever way the waters go; and while we can steer the boat in the general direction of the flow, we cannot go wherever we wish.
If the process of selection among quantum states is random, then we live in a random universe governed by laws that constrain the randomness enough that large-scale concepts of continuity are possible. Although the motion of an electron follows no predictable path, yet the laws of electromagnetic attraction keep it bound within the atom’s structure. The randomness of its movement does not prevent the atom from interact consistently with other atoms to create the impression of a solid object. The selection of one state over another happens at fine enough a level that we fail to perceive our universe as being built upon a framework of chance. It seems to be chance happening within a scheme of laws that make one outcome as likely to produce a viable world as another. The world we see, then, is a consequence of untold happy accidents; neither determined by an initial set of events, nor governed by any intention it follow a specific path. Even if the probability of any event could be influenced by external interference, the final choice is still random, and might be the same as if there had been no interference at all. Our universe was simply likely to occur, and because we now see it, is proof that it did occur.
Considered as a physical system, the underlying randomness of events has selected a universe in which beings exist who strive against randomness. Random selection implies an even distribution of probabilities, so that even if occasional interference alters specific probabilities, the overall, net effect is still random. It favors an entropy in which rare outcomes remain rare and are never more likely to be selected than what is less rare. Life, however, consistently makes choices that follow a specific plan, and thus counteract the random nature of the universe that spawned it. We fight against entropy by creating order, even though we say that entropy led to our creation. If life creates order, and randomness creates entropy, then how did the universe select life? Although a random system is bound to make a rare choice, how it choose something which begins to make its own choices in a fashion directly opposed to its parent? How did randomness come to offer the gift of intention?
It is obvious that our current universe was possible. Whether it was improbable or not depends on whether selection actually chooses one state among others, or if all possible states occur in separate universes, each one imagining its own outcome as the one chosen. If this is the case, and we are equally conscious in all possible worlds, probability has no meaning. Even though one outcome be extremely remote, still it will occur, and the inhabitants of that universe will be as conscious of their result, as we of ours. Probability could not mean that we rarely see any one outcome, as we would see all possible outcomes, always. It only means that the history of any universe – revealed by its probability patterns – indicates how often it chose among certain possibilities.
An example of such revelatory patterns is the stock broker’s con: A group of thirty-two people are picked, with sixteen told that certain stock will rise, and the other sixteen that it will fall. After the stock moves, the sixteen who were rightly informed are again divided, with eight told it will rise, and eight that it will fall. This is continued until one is person is left who perceives the broker as having a flawless understanding of the market.
If each person in this example is a universe, consider how he sees the broker: to the first sixteen people who were given bad information, the broker appears no worse off than anyone else: a fifty-fifty chance of giving the right advice. But as the broker chooses among the group of people, others begin to alter their perception of him. Each time the broker chooses the odds remain the same, but the history of his choices seem to weight the probability that his next choice will also be good. What’s more, in setting up the con this way, it is always guaranteed that at least one person will experience the broker as always having made the correct decision. He is likely then to conceive a higher probability of continued success.
If we too are also following multiple worldlines at every turn, we should be experiencing a similar thing with regard to physical laws. Consider a quantum event with a low probability, such as proton decay. In one worldline the proton did decay, and in that worldline another followed in which another decayed, etc. Since it is always possible for a proton to decay, there is always a worldline in which it did decay – no matter how many times previously it had already been seen to decay. In such a worldline, proton decay is not improbable at all, but common; in fact, in at least one worldline, proton decay must always occur, since this exists as a possibility. There proton decay is not only likely, but a constant phenomenon; while here it is so improbable as to remain undetected. Though improbable is the wrong word to describe this: The perception of probability is the quantum history for each particular universe.
This applies to physical laws, where certain possibilities are given a probability of zero: Here, those possibilities never occurred, giving rise to a law explaining their absence; but if probability has no meaning, then other universes exist which violate that law, where the law does not exist and is replaced by an expression of probability, the way we describe other events in terms of probabilities. There cannot be absolute physical laws if there are multiple worldlines: only descriptive histories that reflect, in the form of physical law, the continued non-occurrence of certain possibilities.
Even if consciousness does not carry into multiple worldlines, and some process of selection, random or otherwise, constantly chooses one reality over another, the implication still holds: It is the function of that choice creating the history of our universe from which we derive the concepts of stability and law ascribed to physical phenomena. Whatever we term as law or constant is but a description of what was chosen before us.
The improbability of certain outcomes gives rise to question now of why they are improbable, since quantum mechanics computes their probability by using physical laws. It is only a problem in the single worldline model, where randomness is randomly choosing between alternatives whose distribution is not random at all. Physical law seems to fix the probability of specific occurrences, allowing the choice to be random but claiming that the context of choice is not. However, if physical law is an outcome of the selections experienced by our universe, it cannot be used to describe the nature of the selection process itself. This leaves a selection process that appears random in its choices, while being non-random in the distribution of those choices. Physical law describes these preferences in terms of probabilities, but other than accept them as universal constants, it does not explain why a random process should be constrained in a non-random way. If the multiple worldlines view holds, the reason is purely historical; but if one worldline is being selected, it would seem that the physical laws have been chosen by whatever process now chooses randomly under their aegis.
This discrepancy of behavior in the case of a single worldline is enough to suggest the possibility of an intention to create the universe now experienced – framed in what we call physical laws, and constantly directed by the aggregate choices made at the subatomic level. And if there is intention behind these choices, it implies a conscious framework directing them for whom one outcome is better than another for reasons entirely specific to that consciousness. What we know as the universe was created, and has been constantly maintained and directed, to the end of yielding a place where independent wills have the capacity to add their own intention to the mix.
The idea that our present universe was created by an active will making choices at the quantum level would give such an agency absolute freedom to act without respect to what we know as laws. Further, if the appearance of life in our universe was a gift of this agency – imparting the intention to counteract entropy in a system that by-and-large operates by expressing itself through probabilities – and if perfect awareness exists on the part of that agency, which is indicated by its ability to effect universal scale results by operations in the smallest domain, then perhaps our intentions are read by this agency and effected by means of cooperative changes on its behalf. For example, if one intends to raise his arm in the air, it raises; but while the process of raising can be explained by medicine, the relationship of pure thought to the physical events necessary to move an arm cannot be. But if intention is heard by the same agency that selects the worldline we experience, the motion of one’s arm is explained as a chain of possible events beginning with some quantum-scale choice that would not have been made had one not expressed the intention.
This relationship between our contingent will, and an absolute Will Who governs the course of the universe, would explain the mechanism of prayer: By expressing our intention, we call upon the willingness of that Agency to select a worldline in which our prayer is answered. From this point forward I will simply call that agency God. For whatever reason, God has willed a universe in which the physical laws seem to hold, though this does not mean that any such laws exist in any other form than a consistency of choosing on His part. This explains miracles, since although God seems to prefer consistency in the matter of physical laws – a plain induction – it seems the intentions of saints are cherished even more. Religious scripture indicates that the greater one’s faith, the more one attracts unworldly powers to himself. If these powers are a willingness on the part of God to select improbable outcomes within our worldline, then faith can be viewed as the fulfillment of intention, which functions on the basic level to move the limbs of our body, and on the highest to cause the selection of improbable quantum states, such as Christ’s promise of the ability to move mountains.
Further, there is no difference other than choice, and acceptance of the choice by God, between the changes that move mountains, and those that move an arm. Because we tend to think of physical law as inviolate, and physical mobility as resulting from our own, private volition, we find it difficult to imagine events arising without reasonable causes. Quantum mechanics allows for such possibilities however, even within our scheme of physical law, such that acts of faith are more improbable than they are impossible. And if something is merely improbable, then it falls upon the process of selection to choose whether we experience in our worldline. If God wills it, we shall; and so it becomes as likely than an individual of faith will influence that selection, as for it never to occur if no one asks. The key element is that the world we experience is brought into being, moment to moment, by the intention of a Will Who hears our thoughts. The faith dynamic is that our thoughts and prayers can influence the same decision making process by which this creation was brought into being. It does not run counter to physical law, but appeals to the common parent of law and miracle both.
An individual of pure intention, then, with complete faith in God’s ability to effect whatever outcome He desires, and fulfilling whatever criteria God considers when granting a prayer, has the conditional ability to shape our worldline. This ability is the utmost, consummate power, since it draws upon the same agency Who created the universe. The power of faith is limited only by God’s willingness to heed its call; and since His power is not in any way limited, there is no reason to put a limit on faith. Insofar as a thing is possible, whether or not it is probable, it may be granted, since there is no law God must adhere to in considering its fulfillment.
If God stands behind the chain of events, with our universe the direct expression of His will in the modality of physical creation, then the faith dynamic add another element to human consciousness in this creation: To affect the shaping of the worldline through acts of will, the degree of effect being proportional to one’s faith. The more one has faith – which includes trusting God, and keeping faith in the covenant by which God may trust him – the more one’s contingent powers will be, and the more fully they will exist as a being of spirit, than merely the physical carriage of that spirit. “O My Servant! Obey Me and I shall make thee like unto Myself. I say
Be,' and it is, and thou shalt sayBe,’ and it shall be.”1
Bahá’u’lláh, The Four Valleys, p. 63↩︎