Darwin vs. Einstein

The current battle for America is, as Angelo Codevilla has recently emphasized in his seminal essay, a war between the majority of Americans and America’s ruling class. This conflict is a reflection of a battle between the two greatest scientists of the past two centuries, Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein. Einstein famously claimed that “God does not play dice with the universe,” whereas Darwin claimed that God does, indeed, play dice with the universe. Codevilla pointed out the self-image of the ruling class rests on its belief that humans are the unforeseen outcome of chance mutations acted upon by natural selection. Not so. God decreed the evolution of humans before time began. The ruling class stands with Darwin. We stand with Einstein.

In his 1859 book The Origin of Species, Darwin wrote that evolution by natural selection was completely consistent with determinism. However, by 1868, Darwin had realized that his theory of evolution required a fundamental indeterminism at the microscopic level. From the last chapter of his Variation of Animals and Plants Under Domestication:

[If] we assume that each particular variation was from the beginning of all time preordained ... natural selection or survival of the fittest, must appear to us superfluous laws of nature.

Darwin’s followers knew perfectly well his theory was a challenge to determinism. Woodrow Wilson said in a speech made just before he became president:

[The] Constitution of the United States had been made under the dominion of the Newtonian Theory. ... The makers of our Federal Constitution ... constructed a government ... to display the laws of nature. Politics in their thought was a variety of mechanics. ... The government was to exist and move by virtue of the efficacy of "checks and balances." ... The trouble with the theory is that government is not a machine, but a living thing. It falls, not under the theory of the universe, but under the theory of organic life. It is accountable to Darwin, not to Newton. ... Society is a living organism and must obey the laws of life, not of mechanics ... a nation is a living thing and not a machine.

This is nonsense. Everything is a machine. Atoms, molecules, living organisms, planets, stars, galaxies, and the entire universe are machines, all subject to the same laws of mechanics. It is often believed that the development of quantum mechanics undermined determinism. One of the familiar facts of quantum theory is the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, and it is generally believed that this Principle establishes that God does indeed play dice.

Not true. The great physicist Max Planck pointed out long ago that the Schrödinger equation, the fundamental equation of quantum mechanics from which the Uncertainty Principle is mathematically derived, is even more deterministic than the equations of Newton that so annoyed Wilson. The limit of prediction given by Uncertainty Principle has been known for decades to be due to interference from universes that are parallel to ours, not from God playing dice. The existence of these other universes is a necessary mathematical consequence of the Schrödinger equation itself, or more generally, of Newton’s own mechanics in its most general form.