Atomism and Quantum Mechanics
Lucretius (c.100-c.55BC), chief proponent of
atomism, still offers the prevailing world view of reality. No less
than twelve English translations of his poem "On the Nature of Things"
are readily available in print, the most recent being published in 1995.
Lucretius admired Greek science and the hedonistic
philosophy of Epicurus. All thinking men have a world view that
includes some explanation of the physical world. In the 5th century
B.C., some Greeks reasoned that matter cannot be infinitely divisible,
and they called the smallest particles in nature "atoms.'' Modern
science has found considerable evidence that the division of matter
into smaller and smaller pieces has a limit. Many Greeks believed that
atoms "existed from eternity, for they had not been created." Lucretius
supposed, in like manner, that nothing is ever annihilated and that
matter exists in the form of invisible atoms.
While matter was considered to be eternal, in the
atomistic view, life itself was not: "The [atomists] supposed that life
had developed out of a primeval slime, man as well as animals and
plants. Man was a microcosm of the universe, for he contained every
kind of atom." As this is the viewpoint of modern evolutionists, the
reader may appreciate that Lucretius, not Darwin, has been the
principal spokesman for evolution during the last two millennia.
No one should contend that a scientific theory of
matter has no bearing on his religious and moral views. The implied
purpose of "On the Nature of Things" was to combat what Lucretius
perceived to be the bondage of religion. In the second stanza of his
poem he claimed that "human life lay foul before men's eyes, crushed to
the dust beneath religion's weight.'' The Greeks admired by Lucretius
"used the atomic philosophy mainly to combat religion, not to extend
man's understanding and control of nature."
Lucretius favored the atomistic worldview because
he found in it a theory of matter to explain the origin of man's "free
will'' and escape moral constraints. Although Democritus originally
taught that the natural motion of atoms is straight downward, Epicurus
reasoned that sometimes, by chance, atoms might deviate from their
normal path. Such a deviation was "without the intervention of any
outside force or guiding intelligence". This so-called "stroke of
genius" by Epicurus was supposed to account for the observed variety of
chemical compounds, animal life, and even "free-will" decisions of man
through the laws of chance. Modern atomists also believe that
elementary particles, such as electrons, spontaneously deviate from
prescribed paths about the nucleus due to the random nature of the
quantum wave function; they call this theory "quantum mechanics."
The atomistic view is not universally accepted,
but is opposed by the Judeo-Christian worldview with its underlying
assumptions, the chief of these being the Law of Cause and Effect. This
law is rejected both by ancient and modern atomists who insist,
wrongly, that elementary particles are subject to the Heisenberg
Uncertainty Principle, that they emit light spontaneously and move
randomly, that life arose by chance and evolved into its current forms
by chance processes. At the turn of the century, new discoveries in
physics came so fast that scientists were unable to explain the
experimental data solely on the basis of classical physics and the
established laws of physics. So, around 1920, when atomists were able
to explain newly discovered characteristics of light and matter by the
use of mathematical equations (instead of physical models consistent
with proven laws), modern science adopted the atomistic world view.
A few examples illustrate the atomistic approach.
Modern physicists assume the electron has no size; but, the point
particle approximation commonly made for the electron is a figment of
our imagination. A point cannot have a magnetic moment or angular
momentum, though experiments show the electron to have both. Electron
scattering experiments have shown that all the elementary particles
have finite size. Atoms are said to have orbiting electrons, though
proven laws of science require a charged orbiting particle to radiate
energy and spiral into the nucleus. Atomists simply postulate that
atoms with orbiting electrons are stable.
While the Standard Model postulates that electrons
have inertial mass as an assumed or inherent property, the law of cause
and effect requires an explanation that is consistent with proven laws.
Common Sense Science and the Judeo-Christian world view are rational
approaches with reasons for events such as particle motion and emission
Atomism is incompatible with Judeo-Christian
principles because atomism views matter as independent of God, either
because it exists from eternity and denies creation by an Intelligent
Designer, or because its motions and events are independent of control
by a Sovereign Being.