The Quantum Logic of Christian Apologists

The Quantum Logic of Christian Apologists November 12, 2019

Many technology companies are working on different approaches to quantum computers, and Google recently claimed an impressive success. Their Sycamore quantum processor did in a few minutes what the most powerful supercomputer would take 10,000 years to accomplish. Performing a calculation with a quantum computer that would be practically impossible for a conventional computer is called “quantum supremacy.”

IBM rained on the parade by stating that that supercomputer would’ve completed the calculation in just 2.5 days. Regardless of whether a conventional approach would’ve taken 10,000 years or 2.5 days, it was an impressive achievement, but it did lead to an amusing article title, Google both has and hasn’t achieved “quantum supremacy”.

We need a brief detour to make sure we’re on the same page about why this title is clever, and then we’ll search for that quantum feature within Christianity.

Quantum computers use quantum superposition. A quantum particle that could be in one of two states—let’s say spin up or spin down—can be spin up, spin down, or a superposition of probabilities for being in either one. The superposition goes away if the particle is forced to pick one or the other. It’s a quantum particle’s ability to hold two states at once (or something like that) that allows remarkable parallelism compared to a conventional computer, which uses bits that are either 0 or 1, and that’s it.

Superposition of two states—two states being held at once—is the key to quantum computing, and that was the allusion behind the title, “Google both has and hasn’t achieved quantum supremacy.”

We can find that superposition within Christianity, too.

Christian superposition: what is prayer good for?

My macro-world example of superposition is not Schrödinger’s Cat but Christian apologists. Christians often respond to challenges without considering the consequences so that they’re saying one thing to respond to a challenge but the opposite to respond to another. They answer with blinders on, determined to find a pleasing answer but uninterested in or unaware of how their conclusions will affect the rest of their Christian worldview.

As an example, I wrote about a blatant contradiction within Greg Koukl’s Stand to Reason ministry. During Christmas season last year, one of their staffers (Melinda) suffered a serious head injury. Koukl said:

I don’t know what God’s thinking about things, but I know what Christians are doing and I hope you’re doing with us—you’re praying like crazy. And that’s what we want you to keep doing—praying Melinda out of this.

That’s not surprising. That’s a typical Christian approach to prayer. But six weeks earlier, Koukl responded with a very different response to another tragedy, a mass shooting in a church that killed 25 and injured 20. Those people were very likely praying, but it obviously didn’t do much good. Ever eager to explain away God’s absence, Koukl inverted his argument and stated that it’s foolish to expect God to answer prayers for protection.

Why expect God to help Melinda’s injury but ridicule the idea that God would help Christians praying for their lives in a church? Koukl treats God as a sock puppet whose viewpoint can change completely if necessary.

Christian superposition and the structure of a sitcom

Seeing unchanging and omniscient “God” dance between alternatives as his master demands reminds me of a popular structure for a television comedy. TV Tropes calls it the “Fawlty Towers Plot” (Fawlty Towers was a British sitcom) though it’s evident in I Love Lucy and many others. First, someone tells a small lie. To avoid getting caught, they tell a larger lie, and so on. The snowball rolls downhill until eventually crashing into reality in the end.

In a similar way, the Christian feels obliged to defend Christianity, the Bible, or God regardless of the evidence or the consequences. When that answer is shown to be in conflict with something else, out comes another rationalization that may in turn come back to bite them. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Christian superposition: contradictions

Perhaps the clearest example of this superposition is monotheism vs. the doctrine of the Trinity. Muslim apologists gleefully point out the contradiction since both Islam and Christianity inherited the primacy of monotheism from Judaism. Nevertheless, it’s hard to shoehorn “the Father is Almighty; the Son Almighty; and the Holy Ghost Almighty” (from the Athanasian Creed) into a single god.

I attended a Sunday school class on biblical inerrancy. The teacher’s stock answer when faced with two seemingly incompatible Bible passages was, “They’re both true.” The differing numbers of women or angels at the tomb? Jesus’s differing genealogies? How Judas died? Somehow, both options are always true.

Useful homework for Christian apologists would be to create a gospel harmony, a single document that attempts to collect and make sense of every declaration in the four canonical gospels. Tatian’s Diatessaron from the second century is the most famous, but many harmonies have been created. None resolve the contradictions. The naturalistic hypothesis is hard to beat: the Bible is a manmade document composed of mythology, legend, and wishful thinking, plus some accurate history.

The fundamental that apologists always seem to miss is that their goal isn’t to find an answer to every challenge but to find the best answer.

Quantum computing and consciousness are both weird
and therefore equivalent.
(Or not: see SMBC comic for more)

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Image from IBM
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  • carbonUnit

    It’s not a problem. It’s just God’s smorgasbord of truth.

  • Jim Jones

    > We need a brief detour to make sure we’re one the same page about why this title is clever,

    No, I got it.

    Maybe prayer works by quantum entanglement? Except, of course, it doesn’t.

    • Michael Murray

      You can’t transmit information with quantum entanglement. So it’s got that in common with prayer.

  • Wan Kun Sandy

    Yeah, considering the Bible itself is a mishmash, it’s impossible to not act in superposition. I guess that is also why cherry-picking is a feature in Christianity, not a bug.

    • Alitheia

      And have you actually studied the Bible in full yourself?

  • Michael Neville

    Because of the Trinity many Jews and Muslims refuse to accept Christianity’s claim of monotheism.

    • Steven Watson

      Then who the feck are Metatron and the Shekinah? Also, anyone whose Prophet (Piss Be Upon Him) has a flying horse I’ll be sure to take seriously. Not. Saints, Angels, Cherubim, Seraphim etc. are other religions’ lesser deities. They are functionally similar. Jews and Muslims monotheists? I fart in their general direction.

      • Michael Neville

        Metatron is from the Aggadah, a collection of myths, fables and folklore. Maimonides said that one should approach the Aggadah carefully and consider its teachings to be parables, not to be taken literally. The Shekinah is purely kabbalistic, a mystical approach to God. Neither of them in any way detract from or disagree with Jewish monotheism.

        As any Muslym could tell you, the Prophet is quite emphatically NOT a god.

        • Steven Watson

          All waffle-gabble to anyone with half a brain. It doesn’t matter how big or small the heap of shite is: it is still a heap of shite.

        • Michael Neville

          No, it’s not shite. It’s evidence that you’re flat-out wrong when you claim that Jews and Musloms aren’t monotheists. Also next time you disagree try using an argument in rebuttal instead of whining. It might be more effective.

        • Steven Watson

          I’m not whining. 0=0, 0+0 = 0, 0+0+0=0. Doesn’t matter how many bells and whistles you trick it out in, whatever pretty bows you tie it up in, however much you polish it; religion remains a turd. What does it matter that ragheads believe one less silly thing than Christers? They’ve added much that is actually repugnant and not just silly; and they remain barbarians.

        • Michael Neville

          Okay, when someone talks about “ragheads” then I know they’re a bigot to be blocked.

          Bye, whiner. Have a lousy rest of your life.

        • Steven Watson

          I’m hurt, i’m sure. /s

  • 3vil5triker .

    Don’t you know? God is multiboxing.

  • Anri

    In exactly the same way that we cannot possibly hope with our limited human brains to begin to conceive of the mind of god – but he definitely favors one political candidate, or sports team, or one lifestyle over another.

    In exactly the same way that we know heaven is a place of perfect happiness and bliss – but Jesus, who lives there, suffers when we sin.

    In exactly the same way that Christianity makes someone a better person – but Christianity can’t be expected to make someone a better person.

    In exactly the same way we know that everything happens according to god’s plan – but humans can successfully defy him.

    It’s doublethink turtles all the way down.

    • JustAnotherAtheist2

      Well said. And that’s not all!

      Free will necessitates potential evil, yet god and the inhabitants of heaven apparently sinless despite being wholly free.

      God has an undeniable effect on things yet this effect isn’t testable and we are silly to think it should be.

      And on and on…..

      • al kimeea

        God doesn’t care about our bodies, yet prayer isn’t a waste of time because we can’t know the mind of God…

      • Alitheia

        Satan the Devil and the angels who together with him rebelled against God most certainly did sin against him. That’s why they’re so terrified of their impending judgment. (cf. Luke 8:30, 31)

      • Alitheia

        If exceptional intellect is required to merely duplicate the breathtaking daedal designs & systems present in nature (Biomimetics) then much more the original being replicated. Creation is thus unshakable evidence of our Creator’s necessary existence.

        Moreover, our universe exists contingently otherwise it would not be 13.70 billion years old. This fact means, perforce, that the efficient cause for its existence must be a transcendent, beginningless, spaceless, immaterial, timeless, unchanging, omnipotent good personal being.

    • Alitheia

      ““I, Jehovah, am your God,

      The One teaching you to benefit yourself,

      The One guiding you in the way you should walk.” -Isaiah 48:17

      Jehovah God teaches us everything we need to know about him and his purposes via the pages of his inspired Word, the Holy Bible.

      In this way, our loving Creator “is not far off from each one of us.” (Acts 17:27)

      • Anri

        Most religions claim their god gave them a holy book and/or other holy guidance.
        You disagree with all of them save one.
        I disagree with you.

        • Alitheia

          Is that based on what you’ve literally read in the Bible or is it what you’ve decided to believe so you can cling to your prejudices?

        • Anri

          It’s based on what religious people tell me about their religions.
          Not just Christianity, of course.

          Oddly enough, when I point out that that’s maybe not what their religious books actually say, they accuse me of not being able to understand the works. Thus, I can only go on what people tell me they believe. Maybe they’re wrong. How should I best break this to them?

        • Alitheia

          Oddly enough, when I point out that that’s maybe not what their religious books actually say, they accuse me of not being able to understand the works.

          How do you mean? Can you share some concrete examples of how you’ve done this in the past?

        • Anri

          Well, I’m in a conversation with someone at this very moment who has been at the very least heavily insinuating that I am incapable of understanding basic scripture when I point out to him what it seems to say.

          Should I let them know you disapprove?

        • Alitheia

          To what aim?

        • Anri

          To keep them from helping to justify my ideas about theists?

        • Alitheia

          Why would I involve myself in that?

        • Anri

          Well, you already are.

  • wannabe

    Thanks for the SMBC link (with Scott Aaronson)!

  • Michael Newsham

    With Christmas coming up, a reminder that holiday cheer is seeing a literalist trying to reconcile the differing birth narratives in Matthew and Luke

    • Michael Neville

      Literalists never have trouble reconciling the various discrepancies and falsities of the Bible. God works in mysterious ways, dontcha know?

      • Pofarmer

        They mainly just ignore it and carry on as if nothing happened.

    • Alitheia

      Are those differences contradictory or complimentary?

  • Michael Newsham

    Preacher: This child had cancer, but our prayers saved her. Praise Jesus!
    Questioner: But you prayed for that child and she died .
    Preacher: The Lord chose to gather her to His bosom. Praise Jesus!

    • Chuck Johnson

      The routine practice of dishonesty and deceit leads to a population who are dimwitted.
      It also undermines their moral character.
      But they are indoctrinated to feel that all of this this makes them into superior people.
      So they feel smug about it.

    • Alitheia

      God can certainly act to save the lives of those who love and obey him but he doesn’t have to. Regardless, God doesn’t take a child away from his parents so they can be with him in heaven because he doesn’t need that.

      He has promised, however, that all those who have died and are in his memory will be resurrected back to life. (John 5:28, 29; Acts 24:15)

  • Grimlock

    This seems to happen with arguments used in apologetics as well.

    For instance, take the skeptical theism response to the problem of evil – namely that God might have morally sufficient reasons to allow some evil. Basically, we can’t know God’s mind. But this would appear to undercut any apologetics that rely on somehow knowing what God would do. But you rarely see apologists conceding this.

    More generally, it would be interesting to map out all the dependencies of all apologetics arguments. (E.g. the Kalam depends on the A-theory of time being true and a position on the non-existence of infinities.) I suspect one would end up with a lot of dependencies, some of whom would be in tension with each other.

    • Ficino

      For instance, take the skeptical theism response to the problem of evil – namely that God might have morally sufficient reasons to allow some evil. Basically, we can’t know God’s mind. But this would appear to undercut any apologetics that rely on somehow knowing what God would do.

      Exactly. Over on A Tippling Philosopher, Johno’s latest is exactly on this topic:

      https://www.patheos.com/blogs/tippling/2019/11/11/the-problem-of-evil-skeptical-theism-and-good-reasons/#disqus_thread

      I cited Erik Wielenberg’s article, “Sceptical Theism and Divine Lies”? Religious Studies 46.4 (2010), 509-523, on this very topic.

      • Grimlock

        I read the paper by Wielenberg, and suspect that I’ve read it before. It’s a really neat challenge and tension that he formalizes there!

      • JustAnotherAtheist2

        I just spent some time on Johno’s page, so thank you for the tip. Or, since it led to a strange conversation with the clearly dishonest C Peterson, maybe I should use a different word before “you” in that first sentence.

    • Ficino

      Graham Oppy has a new article out, in which he critiques Edward Feser’s “Aristotelian Proof” for the existence of God. Oppy critiques some of Feser’s other arguments as well. It’s in the same journal as Wielenberg’s article, sc. Religious Studies. If you have access you can get it here:

      https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/religious-studies/article/on-stage-one-of-fesers-aristotelian-proof/607F9E90FF1E92D3BA1AF48AA6FCD640

      it would be interesting to map out all the dependencies of all apologetics arguments

      I cite this article because Oppy gives an instance of what you’re talking about, i.e. the dependency of Feser’s “proof” on further theses for which Feser does not argue in the book:

      “Perhaps there are arguments from incontestable premises to Premise 4 [No potential can be actualized unless something already actual actualizes it] and Premise 7 [The existence of S at any given moment itself presupposes the concurrent actualization of S’s potential for existence]. But why should anyone take Feser’s word for that? If he has such arguments, why did he not put them up? If the reasons that allegedly remove atheists from the field of play remain ‘secret Thomists’ business’, it should not surprise
      anyone that atheists continue to play on.”

      ETA: I should point out that Oppy’s thesis is not that Feser’s conclusion is false but that Feser is wrong to insinuate that it is irrational to be an atheist/that atheists don’t have a place in the game of discussing whether the god of classical theism exists.

      • Grimlock

        Oh, that looks very interesting indeed!

        Unfortunately, I don’t have access to any subscription journals, and haven’t been able to find that paper online outside a paywall yet. (The other one was on academia.edu.) Hopefully it will pop up somewhere at some point in the future. I don’t see many philosophers taking much time to respond to Thomistic arguments.

      • Pofarmer

        Feser needs some critiquing. I’m afraid it elevates him above a level he deserves, though.

        • Ficino

          On his own blog, Feser says that he is preparing a response to Oppy.

        • Pofarmer

          Would you mind letting us know if it gets published?

    • Alitheia

      And God has revealed within the Bible exactly why he temporarily allows evil and suffering as this article here explicates-

      “The Problem Of Evil” -http://bit.ly/2ipYOn7

      • Grimlock

        How about you explain it using your own words?

        • Alitheia

          Since I’m not God the only valid explanation is his as expressed throughout his Holy Word, The Bible, which is what that article’s meticulous explication is based upon.

        • Grimlock

          In that case I’ll say thanks, but no thanks.

        • Alitheia

          Sure, no worries. Good chatting with you 🙂

      • Greg G.

        But if God has the ability to prevent or allow suffering and then allows it, then you cannot say your god thingy is omnibenevolent. If God did that one time, then you can only say that God is almost always benevolent, which means not omnibenevolent. If he does it regularly, you have to drop benevolent and go to sadistic.

        • Alitheia

          If you could only grasp how evil and suffering came to be part of the human experience you’d comprehend how true it is that “the stupidity of a person turns his life upside down, and his heart rages against God.” -Proverb

          In other words, humanity has suffered for thousands of years because it chose to not because God wills it . . .

        • Greg G.

          Is the suffering necessary? Then God is not omnipotent.

          Is the suffering unnecessary?
          Then God is not omnibenevolent.

          If your God blames you for your suffering, you have an abusive relationship.

          But you have no compelling evidence for any of it, so you are stuck in an imaginary abusive relationship.

          But you can’t understand why happy atheists want no part of a relationship like that.

          There was never a Jehovah’s Eye Witness.

        • Alitheia

          For your conclusion to obtain you need to prove there is no good reason God might have for temporarily permitting suffering in the world. Can you?

        • Greg G.

          Yes. If suffering can do something that God cannot do, then God is not omnipotent. If God is omnipotent, there is no possible reason for God to require suffering. If God allows the suffering anyway, God is not omnibenevolent.

        • Alitheia

          You misapprehend. By temporarily allowing for suffering God achieves an eternal good for all of his intelligent creations without stripping away their freedom of will. (You also obviate the fact that God not only has the power but the willingness to permanently erase all of the temporary harm they may experience as a result. That’s why it’s temporary to begin with.)

          A very loose analogy would be of a parent who allows their child’s dislocated shoulder to be set so they can regain full use of it in spite of the temporary pain this would cause.

        • Greg G.

          If God cannot achieve that good without the suffering, God is not omnipotent. The result would be tainted forever by the unnecessary suffering. Such a thing would be an abomination, not an eternal good.

          Omnibenevolent means all good. A temporary unnecessary suffering would be lack of benevolence. A single lack of benevolence is at best almost omnibenevolent, which means not omnibenevolent.

          Think your objections through so won’t need to bothed typing them.

        • Alitheia

          While feeling pain is unpleasant its purpose is to allow us to react and prevent further harm. So feeling pain is both necessary and good for our overall well-being and, in the context of our discussion, our eternal well-being.

  • Len

    “quantum supremacy”
    Isn’t that when James Bond meets Jason Bourne? JB[squared]. It’s a sign.

    How do you get superscript on this site?

    And the cat says “hi”.

    • epeeist

      How do you get superscript on this site?

      Disqus only allows the tags you can see at the bottom of the combox. If you just want to raise to the second or third powers you could use the HTML character codes, 2² and 2³

    • Lord Backwater

      Jack Bauer wants in.

      • Lord Backwater

        And yes, I saw Kingsman.

      • Len

        Then it would be JB³.

    • Greg G.

      How do you get superscript on this site?

      The site allows things like these:
      X² = X²
      X³ = X³

      • NSAlito

        ‘Sup?

  • RichardSRussell

    “Quantum logic” has to be one of the great oxymorons of our times, right in there with “jumbo shrimp”, “Fox News”, “business ethics”, and “stale brownies”.

    • epeeist

      “Quantum logic” has to be one of the great oxymorons of our times

      Err, quantum logic really is a thing

    • Greg G.

      My super power is that warm brownies do not reach room temperature when I am present.

      • Pofarmer

        Is your super suit stretchy pants?

        • Greg G.

          My super suit is my birthday suit.

        • Michael Neville

          My super suit is a flannel bathrobe worn over shorts and moccasin slippers.

        • Pofarmer

          I vote for yours.

        • So then not a Caped Crusader as much as a Cozy Crusader.

      • Susan

        My super power is that warm brownies do not reach room temperature when I am present.

        And if I recall correctly, guacamole never turns brown.

  • Michael Neville

    For those who haven’t investigated it, click on the picture at the top of the OP. You can see “The World’s Smallest Movie”.

  • Tim Ellison

    Brilliant. Thank you for exposing the nonsense that so many Christians seem to fall into. Even being a dialectical theologian cannot get me out of this bind…or can it? I pray but I NEVER ask for anything. I believe in luck.

  • Maltnothops

    One of my favorite Christian quantum bits is how the US is a Christian nation AND that very few American Christians are actually True Christians.

    • Alitheia

      And if the US actually were a Christian nation it would have enshrined the First Commandment in its Constitution rather than allowing for the proliferation of so many Antichristian religions.

      • Maltnothops

        What’s an example of an anti-christian religion? But I’m glad you agree that the US is in no way a Christian nation. Be sure to spread the word amongst the ignorant Christians who think otherwise.

        • Alitheia

          Christ Jesus clearly stated that “whoever is not on my side is against me.” -Matthew 12:30

          He also declared that “the one who exercises faith in the Son has everlasting life; the one who disobeys the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God remains upon him.” -John 3:36

          Accordingly, all religions/philosophies which contravene Christ’s teachings are, by definition, Antichristian.

        • Maltnothops

          Hoo boy, you’ve clearly misunderstood the context of Matthew 12. Try, try again. And the John quote is a non-sequitur.

          Extra credit: Were religions that both started and ended before Christianity was invented anti-Christian?

        • Alitheia
        • Maltnothops

          Matt 12:25-28

        • Alitheia

          And?

        • Maltnothops

          The bit from John? I don’t have a citation showing that it is a non-sequitur. If you can’t see how that is a non-sequitur, then I doubt a citation would help anyway.

        • Alitheia

          That which can be claimed without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.” Accordingly, consider your fatuous claims dismissed.

        • Maltnothops

          I provided evidence. Have you not read it?

        • Maltnothops

          How are you doing on this: Extra credit: Were religions that both started and ended before Christianity was invented anti-Christian?

          Worked it out yet?

  • abb3w

    The teacher’s stock answer when faced with two seemingly incompatible Bible passages was, “They’re both true.”

    I am reminded of the Principia Discordia:

    GP: Is Eris true?
    M2: Everything is true.
    GP: Even false things?
    M2: Even false things are true.
    GP: How can that be?
    M2: I don't know man, I didn't do it.

    This doesn’t seem cognitive dissonance, so much as a lack when it might be otherwise expected. Perhaps “dialetheial assonance”?

    • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

      M2: I don’t know man, I didn’t do it.

      Who else besides me heard this in their head in Tommy Chong’s voice?

      😉

      • abb3w

        For whatever the relevance might be, the Principia Discordia’s publication is roughly contemporary with his musical career, rather than his comedic era.

  • Greg G.

    Check out today’s SMBC. Click on the Big Red Button for the finale!

  • Phil

    You know it is a good article when no xians comment.

  • Don Camp