What if somebody is watching me?

Stephen MarshMormon 10 Comments

Firetag has brought up some things that are dual** — that is they are contradictory things at the same time.  The classic example is that light is both a particle and a wave.  Some times in the scriptures when we see things like that we have a “blind men and the elephant” situation, but sometimes we have things that appear to be dual because there is no elephant.*

Sometimes the act of seeing, the presence of an observer and how the observer chooses to look actually changes recordable reality.  That is, depending on whether you look, and how you look changes reality.  This isn’t just perceived differences, but actual take a picture of the outcome and pass it around for others to look at the picture differences.

The easiest example is light passing through one or more slits and exposing an image on photographic paper.  If you have one slit, then the light fans out in a wave and the paper is exposed completely (it all turns black from exposure).  If you have two slits, the light fans out in a wave and creates interference patterns (like waves will do) and you get bands on the paper.  If you slow it down so the light only goes off one photon at a time, it builds up into the same result, which is kind of neat.  With two slits, even one photon at a time the light creates interference with itself when it isn’t really there yet.  [for a better explanation:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Double-slit_experiment]

But, if you fire the photons off one at a time with two slits and watch the light go through the slits, it suddenly acts like there is only one slit (because it is actually only going through a single slit at any one time).  The photographic image it creates changes if you watch it go through the slits.  By observing what is happening you change the result, even though you aren’t interacting with the light other than with the force of your regard.

But what does that mean to my life if someone or somebody is watching me?  Does God change the shape and pattern of my life by being aware of it?  How much of reality can be affected by just how God chooses to see it or let others see it?

*i.e. sometimes it is a matter of seeing only different parts of a greater whole, so that the later “greater light and knowledge” explains it all.  But sometimes the greater whole is those contradictory things rather than something that just looks that way from a limited perspective. When that happens, “there is no elephant” — that is, there is no better perspective. On the other hand, the Book of Mormon explaining how Christ is both the Father and the Son is an example of greater perspective or greater light and knowledge rather than duality.

**I’ll note that this post makes for three on dualities, though the second of mine, thus being both the third and the second post on how things can be different things at the same time. Some differences, and some types of differences, are more meaningful than others. But the effect of an observer is one more way that things can be more than one thing at the same time and why it matters.

Comments 10

  1. What an intriguing question!

    Generally, when I’ve heard about the observer effect applied to people, it has always involved other people. (That is, would a person act differently if other people were observing him? Generally, yes. And from this discrepancy, we can get all kinds of fun quotes. “Character is what you do when no one is watching,” etc.,)

    I’ve seen many nonbelievers use an argument w/r/t God. e.g., “You shouldn’t act moral just because you think God is watching…”

    But I think that’s a bit of a superficial approach.

    If I had to speculate, maybe I could say this…maybe God’s “observation” is precisely what gives rise to faith and spiritual experience. That is, the very act of God’s observation on a life gives rise to an individual’s awareness of God in his or her life? If so, perhaps “lack of faith” or even “dark nights of the soul” (for example, as experienced by Mother Teresa) represent the “unobserved person.”

  2. There are some theories that suggest that this is the way God “sustains” the universe. Without an “observer”, the universe may collapse back into a wave. Since man exists “in” the universe, man cannot perform this function.

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    Mike, that is a good point.

    Andrew, that segues into how differently would I act if I were aware of God’s watching me in a very direct way (much like you are aware of someone in the room with you watching you during a test)? What if you could hear God’s thoughts about God’s observations of you?

  4. “What if you could hear God’s thoughts about God’s observations of you?”

    Isn’t this what an answer to a prayer or a revelation is? Even the comfort from the Holy Ghost could fit here.

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  7. Mike’s point is correct in the “Copenhagen” interpretation, which is how most students are first introduced to quantum mechanics.

    I’m more interested in what we imagine the universe to be like if we imagine God to not be watching it. So how do we determine whether there is an effect of watching at all?

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    Firetag “if we imagine God to not be watching it” or if God’s watching has a different type of effect than ours (otherwise, there is always an observer and we can’t have a differenece between observed and unobserved phenomena). Interesting, what if God is not all knowing or all-observant, what if everything is not recorded. Or if our records change history by being the only observation (an ancient perspective on records).

    Andrew, many people who feel the light of Christ act differently when their mom or boss is in the room than when they have only feelings. What would happen if you could observe everyone who observed you? What if the veil were missing, what would that do?

    And, Firetag and Andrew, what if the veil is what changes how God watches so that the effect is different?

  9. Perhaps the times we feel alone in life are the times that God “isn’t looking”, as he knows that will help us progress most. This is illustrated when Christ was on the cross and exclaimed “My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” He had to do it alone.

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