Quantum Mechanics - The science of the simple
A short history is in order. Here is the poor man's intro guide to the subject. A good review of the subject with all of its linked concepts is necessary to proceed.
So in short, there are some observations, and 4 basic ways of understanding them.
We must begin with the Principle of Indeterminancy, put forth by Werner Heisenberg. It proposes that when one measures precisely the position of an object, one loses the abilty to measure its velocity accurately, and vice versa.
1) Copenhagen interpretation - This is the classical grandaddy of QM theory. Its basic tenet is that the observation of photons / light waves collapses the "wavefunction" and brings on the "reality". Its backbone experiment is the "double slit" experiment. Its flag is the Schroedinger cat "thought experiment". Its adherents were the who's who of the QM and subatomic particle world. In particular, its interpretation of Heisenberg, seems to assert in a macroreality that the inevitability of cause and effect are not clear cut. The reason why the two factors cannot measured accurately is because there is an indeterminancy in reality. While QM generally applies to subatomic quantized particles only, the urge of the apologist is apply this philosophically to all of physics. Copenhagen is a favorite of the apologist.
2) Multiworld Interpretation - Its basic tenet is also indeterminancy, in that an infinite numer of worlds exist and a different path is taken in each of them as choices arise. Its banner is the "physicist suicide" thought experiment. This is the interpretation that requires the most imagination and faith, but it is not a favorite of apologists.
3) Hidden variables - Its basic tenet is that there are inherent missing variables that account for the apparent indeterminancy. Einstein, in particular, (the E in EPR) promoted this view, arguing that Copenhagen abandons intuition and violates the theory of relativity. Its banner is the EPR paradox. It formed primarlily as an answer to Copenhagen.
4) Afshar's challenge to Copenhagen - More recently, a QM scientist by this name has claimed to show in reproduceable forum that he can break the basic experimental spine of Copenhagen, by observing the wave pattern and photon particle detection at the same time, refuting the notion that the "wavefunction" collapses on measurement.. He argues that the entire basis of the debate is flawed and that it is probable that the concept of photons and subatomic particles as "particles" is in error. We await the peer review of what would be a breakthrough in QM theory.
One observation that I had was that the CR, in the letter above, states:
"Need one remind our orthodox Jewish scientists, who still feel embarrassed about some ‘old-fashioned’ Torah truths, in the face of scientific hypotheses, that Heisenberg’s ‘principle of indeterminacy’ has finally done away with the traditional scientific notion that cause and effect are mechanically linked, so that it is now quite unscientific to hold that one event is an inevitable consequence of another, but only most probable? The 19th century dogmatic, mechanistic, and deterministic attitude of science is gone. The modern scientist no longer expects to find Truth in science. The current and universally accepted view of science itself is that science must reconcile itself to the idea that whatever progress it makes, it will always deal with probabilities; not with certainties or absolutes."
However in B'Or HaTorah, vol 9, page 47, Dr. Naftali Berg z"l claims that the CR told him that the Heisenberg Principle is "not satisfying from a Jewish perspective" because it reduces miracles that are so declared to be miracles into possible, albeit unlikely, natural events.
While this entire "macro world" (greater than Planck's constant) discussion is a bit presumptuous, it is still unclear what the CR actually said in this regard. On the one hand, he calls Heisenberg "universally accepted". In another place, he completely rejects Heisenberg and indeterminancy as an apologetic tool. In religious teachings, Chasidus, both he and his predecessor, the Rayatz, explain that "cause and effect" "Ilah v'Alul" is a real principle in nature, and use it as a parable to explain the difference between nature and G-dly choice. It is also unclear whether the CR meant Copenhagen, rather than Heisenberg. It is possible that in the context of the letter, the CR simply means that the scientists should hold a different view because of Heisenberg, without endorsing he prinicple homself.
I realize that some homework and background is required to follow the debate so in later posts I will try to stay with one subject at a time and examine it in light of its philosophical implications on Judaism. Note, I am not a QM physicist, so I will have to limit discussion to popular history and elementary level debate. My interest here is to examine QM as an apologetic tool. I think that it is overused and largely used in a false manner, which is detrimental to apologetics.