May 20, 2024
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Perspective and Rationalization In Quantum Mechanics

I generally enjoy reading Rabbi Gil Student’s work. However, this week’s piece “Schrodinger’s Kiddush Hashem” (perhaps meant as a Purim joke) was apologetics cloaked in pseudoscience. Schrodinger’s famous (and even more abused) refutation of Bohr’s “many worlds” interpretation of quantum mechanics at bottom attempts to describe an actual physical event. Student confuses this with either (a) the halachic principal of breirah—wherein the meaning or legal implication is determined after the fact or (b) the Kurosawa/Rashumon effect—where “it’s all a matter of perspective.”

The events he discusses all happened. People violated civil law, both here and in Israel. No amount of pseudoscientific hocus-pocus can change that. The fact that Mr. Student wishes to be at once disgusted by and to excuse these people’s actions should not seek protection under the wing of some ill-understood physical principle. That being said, we all have to ask ourselves “Ever gone a week without a rationalization?”

David Chasman
Teaneck

Rabbi Student responds:

I thank David Chasman for thinking carefully about the title I chose for my article about kiddush Hashem. I used the name Schrodinger to invoke in the reader’s mind the quantum mechanics, which in popular culture is closely associated with the thought experiment called “Schrodinger’s cat.” My intention was to allude to “the observer effect,” in the sense that an observer affects the status of an action as a kiddush Hashem or the opposite, which is the theme of the article.

I am surprised that Chasman sees my critique of those violating coronavirus health norms as a rationalization of the very acts I am criticizing. Rather than yelling at people who (for example) hold large weddings without masks and social distancing, I am speaking directly to them and asking them to consider that while they might see these acts as sacred, others see them differently, which constitutes a chillul Hashem. I apologize if I was unclear about that. I find that yelling at people usually does not convince them.

Gil Student
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