In the latest issue of Scientific American, Professor Christian List discusses the philosophical foundations of Einstein’s view of quantum mechanics.

Albert Einstein’s often-quoted declaration that “God does not play dice with the universe” has been widely held as evidence for his opposition to quantum mechanics. However, an article in the latest issue of Scientific American claims that this is a misinterpretation.

The article argues that rather than opposing quantum mechanics itself, Einstein wanted to question the kind of fundamental indeterminism to which the theory is committed. What if quantum mechanics isn’t the whole story? What if there is an alternative, more fundamental, description of the universe in which indeterminism doesn’t feature?

As List points out, “the distinction between determinism and indeterminism is a level-specific distinction”. Although indeterminism seems to be a feature of the universe when described at the quantum level, this doesn’t rule out the possibility of a more fundamental deterministic theory, consistent with quantum mechanics.

According to the article, this is what Einstein really thought about quantum mechanics.

You can read the whole Scientific American article here. The author has also posted a follow-up to the article on his blog.

To find out more about List’s views on determinism and indeterminism see his paper “Free-will, determinism and the possibility of doing otherwise” (preprint / article). You can also read a commentary on this paper on the LSE Philosophy blog.