Featured Research: Quantum Entanglement and the Problem of Natural Evil

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Quantum Entanglement and the Problem of Natural Evil

By Barry Dainton.

My soon-to-end research leave has provided several invaluable opportunities.  Not the least of these has been having time to do some reading – catching up with developments concerning issues that I’ve worked on before, but also exploring some new areas.  

Some months back I’d agreed – perhaps foolishly since I’d not previously given serious thought to the topic – to contribute a chapter on force as it figures in physics for a book to be called The Map and the Territory for Springer’s Frontiers Collection.  In the run-up to Xmas I spent a good deal of time reading some of the voluminous literature.  The chapter I was able to produce hardly does full justice to the topic, and ended up being largely a historical survey, but the latter did allow me to suggest that quantum entanglement is not as revolutionary a mode of physical interaction as some commentators have suggested.

While I wouldn’t classify myself as a panpsychist, I do think that the doctrine is a serious contender when it comes to answering the question of how consciousness and the physical world are related.  Having spent some months trying to get to grips with the way the physical world is viewed in contemporary physics I started think about the implications of this world-view for panpsychism.  One familiar issue in this connection is reconciling flowing character of experience with the static character of the relativistic “block universe”.  Another issue—less familiar—is reconciling the character of consciousness with the timeless character of relativistic light.  If there’s nothing it can be like to be a light-ray, then the standard forms of panpsychism are in trouble.  I gave exploratory talks on the latter problem at meetings in Tokyo (in December), the Arctic University of Norway (in April) and Milan (in May).

I’ve been thinking for some years about the philosophical implications of the hypothesis that our world is a virtual world created by a technologically advanced civilization.  Among these implications is the opening up of a solution to the problem of natural evil that theists have long been wrestling with.  The basic idea in a nutshell: the reason why our world is so less than optimal is that it was created not by an all-powerful and supremely good God but the descendants of today’s video game designers.  After thinking about it some more, I came to the view that this “simulation solution” is not only a possible solution to the problem of natural evil, but one that has significant advantages over the competing alternatives, and so one that theists should take very seriously.  An article that I’ve written explaining this in more detail has been accepted by Religious Studies, and due to appear shortly.  I’ve also started work on a book where I will expand on the article in various ways.