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The Old One with the Dice

Metaphysics and quantum mechanics

Munich, 08/04/2011

“God does not play dice.” With this famous quip, Albert Einstein summarized his reasons for regarding quantum mechanics as an inadequate model of physical reality. Quantum theory describes possible states of elementary particles in terms of computable probabilities – individual changes of state, on the other hand, can no longer be predicted with precision. In spite of Einstein’s reservations, quantum theory is now an accepted paradigm and crucial part of modern physics. Indeed, nowadays the tenets of quantum theory are often invoked in attempts to resolve metaphysical problems or employed as a basis for the construction of philosophical and theological hypotheses.

In her latest book, “Der Alte mit dem Würfel” (The Old One with the Dice), LMU scholar Anna Ijjas, who is both a physicist and a theologian, subjects such uses of the theory to critical examination. “These days it is hard to think of any metaphysical problem that has not been – allegedly – solved by applying the principles of quantum theory,” she says. In her book, she investigates whether and to what extent quantum theory can usefully contribute to the resolution of fundamental theological and philosophical dilemmas. To enable her to do this, she has developed a new methodological approach which allows her critically to probe the links between quantum mechanics and metaphysics. She is particularly interested in the question of whether the theoretical foundations of quantum mechanics can be logically reconciled with various metaphysical models – such as the concept of determinism. Finally, Ijjas investigates the relevance of quantum physics for the question of the relationship between brain and consciousness, and the problem of free will and God’s action in the world.

Ijjas believes that her study shows that central theological propositions are quite compatible with quantum physics – a meaningful interdisciplinary dialog between natural sciences and theology is therefore possible and worthwhile. “I believe that Einstein was wrong,” says Ijjas. “The structure of the Universe allows for a degree of open-endedness in physical processes. But quantum physics gives us no grounds for believing that the world is dominated by blind chance. On the contrary, the living being’s capacity to choose represents the universal norm. God confers upon His creation the gift of freedom.” (göd/PH)


Der Alte mit dem Würfel
Anna Ijjas.
Published by Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 223 pages, 2011.
ISBN 978-3-525-57017-3

Dr. Anna Ijjas
Faculty of Catholic Theology
Chair of Fundamental Theology
Phone: +49 89 / 2180 - 1433
Fax: +49 89 / 2180 - 13989

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