Saturday, January 24, 2009

"Quantum fluctuation" verus "God"

I am amused by the discussion between PZ Myers and Ray Comfort. I don't agree with either position (I come to that in a minute), but they are at least equal stubborn and convinced they know the truth and the other is wrong. Personally, I think PZ is a raging evangelical atheist, while Ray is nothing more than your average raging evangelical christian. Both annoy me to no end.

The issue at hand is: "Where did it all start?" The devout christian will say: GOD! The devout atheist will say: QUANTUM FLUCTUATION! Ray launched a new website called: "Pull the plug on atheism", PZ of course responded like stung by a bee with: "The banana man thinks he's got atheists on the run" after which Ray fired back with: "A Challenge to a Professor" followed by PZ response: "Called out by a clown" with of course a response from Ray: "Professor Myers Flakes"...... Somewhere on the line, PZ indicates that Ray's answers have been answered in the comments, and sure enough, many provided little pieces to that answer. Most interesting is a comment by "cosmologist" here:

Ray, the universe began from a quantum fluctuation (big bang); a phase transition from potential energy to kinetic energy.

Quantum fluctuations were the FIRST CAUSE and PRIME MOVER of the universe. The universe before the big bang was in a quantum state. There's no need to resort to asking what came before quantum fluctuations because CAUSALITY breaks down at the subatomic level (the condition the universe was in the beginning).

Because the universe was in a quantum state before the big bang, it adheres to the quantum uncertainty principle. There can be NO SUCH THING AS NOTHING in this universe as long as the generation of energy via virtualparticle pairs does not violate the law of energy conservation; it requires no miracle or supernatural act to create the energy in the universe.

Ah, it contains the convenient escape hatch:

There's no need to resort to asking what came before quantum fluctuations because CAUSALITY breaks down at the subatomic level

Cosmology (religious or scientific) has a fundamental problem, and that is to explain the beginning in a way that does not require a ultimate cause. So, the break down of causality is convenient, and even if true, it does not rescue the problem, because:

Because the universe was in a quantum state before the big bang

So, before we had the big bang, there was a universe in a quantum state that already existed:

Because there can be no such thing as 0 energy in the universe, the universe also adheres to the thermal laws of thermodynamics, which basically says absolute zero is unattainable. This shows that there cant be or never was NOTHING in this universe.

So, there was always something. And where did that something come from? No answer.

I understand that people at that point invoke gods, but heck, as PZ correctly asked:

who made god?

I think this is an eternal stand-off, because neither can answer the others question, and it is here where neither knows.

And I, I don't know where it all started, but I do know that both are wrong with their limited and narrow-minded world views...... But that is for another time......


Anonymous said...

I'm no scientist, but I would answer the "who made god" question with this:

Noone. God is not made of matter and therefore time has no effect on Him. If you think about it, this has to be in order for omnipresence to be a trait of God. If he were in fact made of matter, he would be bound by the limitations of matter, which we know are great in number. The human using common sense would ask, "Then what is he made of? Is he nothing?" and that is a valid question. However, Just as the laws of classical physics do not apply when considering quantum physics, the laws of classical physics do not apply either when pertaining to God. I confess that I do not actually know what God is made of, but if you really think about it, we have no idea what these atoms are made of either and yet we see manifestations of their existence so we cannot help but acknowledge them. first we thought they were plum pudding. then we discovered protons and electrons and then neutrons. now we have discovered quarks. the list will go on and on. we don't have a clue what they actually are but we are forced to acknowledge their existence. It is the same way with God. We have no idea what he is made of but we are forced to acknowledge his existence because of the simple fact that space, time, and energy exist.

Anonymous said...

The conventional notion of causality is has a sense time built into it. When time itself doesn't exist, the causality breaks down.

Unknown said...

what's to say there was ever a nothing?

Fredrick Stevens said...

Hey anonymous, you should have stopped at "I'm no scientist." That was the only intelligent thing you stated. You don't strike me as a raging religious nutter (even though your reasoning demonstrates the same tendencies), so I recommend reading some of the books authored by Lawrence M. Krauss on physics before you make anymore unfounded statements.

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Anonymous said...

Hey musicbreath - whats up with the ad hominems? I thought what anonymous posted was rather logical, reasonable, and well articulated. We don't need to read a physics book to understand some basic common sense. You may worship at the altar of quantum fluctuations, and other unproven mathematical equations, but that doesn't make them true, and it certainly doesn't make the rest of us who believe in some form of god idiots or "nutters". Just be reasonable man. Neither side has clear cut proof. Accept that.

Yonster said...

Excellent blog! To summarize, we conclude by stating that there must be a source, but that the problem we then face is, where did this source come from? To answer this question, we must leave the realm of physics, because physics can only answer questions which pertain to space and time. Thus, if we are to examine the source of this universe we must rely on physics as the foundation and move forward with logic.

Our universe is finite. It must always exist with the range of 0 to infinite (and can never realistically reach 0 or infinity - except at infinite time which is again only theoretical, not practical). We can only "approach" infinity, therefore always remaining finite.

Consequently, if the universe is finite, as long as the "source" is also finite, we must ask, "what created that source, which is also finite?" Seemingly, we can keep asking this question without a solution - similar to the Greeks who stated that the Earth rested on the back of a turtle, that stood on the back of another turtle, that stood on the back of another turtle, and so on.

However, as ridiculous as the turtle argument above sounds, this is what we are basically saying when we claim that the "source" of our finite universe is finite. Logic dictates that there must be a source, and the only logical solution is that a "finite" existence was necessarily created by a non-finite entity, or in-finite/"infinite" entity.

Now, once the "source" is viewed as Infinite, we no longer face the issue of what created the Infinite, since the Infinite by definition means that it has no beginning, end, limitation, cause, flaw, or dependence. The only issue we face is that we have no way of conceptualizing such an entity as our imaginations are bound by the finite - on the other hand, it would be a tremendous loss to limit the potential of our mind and logic due to the barriers of physics. The truth is that physics can take us to the very edge of the finite, but we must rely on our logic to move beyond.

Anonymous said...

Yonster has a point. The inability to conceptualize this infinite source makes it difficult for me to internalize. Nonetheless, its logic appears to be valid.

Jamie.powell of said...

Yonster has a very logical and well written concept for why God must exist.

If he exists, and I am fully persuaded that He does, would one not expect Him to reveal Himself.

If you conclude He would reveal Himself, why would you not then look to see if he has?

Imagination is a fantastic thing. Imagination masquerading as superior science is shameful.

History on the other hand leads those who seek truth to know the infinite.

Jamie.powell of said...

Yonster has a very logical and well written concept for why God must exist.

If he exists, and I am fully persuaded that He does, would one not expect Him to reveal Himself.

If you conclude He would reveal Himself, why would you not then look to see if he has?

Imagination is a fantastic thing. Imagination masquerading as superior science is shameful.

History on the other hand leads those who seek truth to know the infinite.

Eric S said...

I'd like to say a word in defense of Anonymous. And our insightful blogger. the thermal laws of thermodynamics does mean that we can't leave this question at the level of Quantum Fluctuations which as she points out comprise the universe at that point. One more step must be taken. From the universe to the origin. Only now are we free of the thermal laws of thermodynamics. Astonishingly the bible demonstrates predictive insight in correctly anticipating this question, saying that God is spirit. We understand spirit because we understand thought, no physical properties apply. With the removal of thermal laws of thermodynamics there is no ground on which to ask the question where did God come from, because we have now completely disconnected with not only causality but also the last physical law that has to be explained. We have passed into transcendent explanation with no time, space nor energy. Only now is the assertion true that there is no further scientific ground for questioning. Pursue the questions as long as you have grounds to do it, but when the ground is lost you must stop. At this point only philosophical questions are conceivable. They are different, and perhaps serious but they would have to be taken in turn. But as for the contribution of science to this question, it is done with this step.

Unknown said...


In this context, what are your thoughts about dark matter and dark energy?

hammertime said...

The problem in our understanding is in how we go about understanding anything. We think in a linear fashion of cause and effect. 1 comes before 2 and so on. We find a need to use mechanical thinking because that's how logic works and we're comfortable with that. We're stuck in a box we need to get out of. We seem to be uncomfortable with concepts of timelessness in science. Perhaps energy in all its forms has always existed unbounded by time and space or any other human imposed conceptual limitation. Calling it God only reveals our profound ignorance of understanding what it is and what it isn't. God is our most profound expression of human ignorance. Whenever we find ourselves faced with the unknown, we call in God to fill in the blanks. Very ignorant people are calling in God quite often throughout their day.

God is nothing but a place holder for what we don't know therefore the religious worship human ignorance. Even more ignorant and ridiculous is to call this non-knowledge knowledge and to call this blind faith some kind of wisdom. A Bizarro world wholly lacking an epistemology. Their power, their glory doesn't come from what we do know or what we can know but from what we don't and that is why the religious work very hard to maintain ignorance and delusion that serves to fossilize the minds of the gullible and stupid.

Eric S said...


Yes you have put your finger on it with dark energy. Lawrence Krauss calculated that in a flat universe the mass density primarily dependent on dark matter must be fine tuned to 1:10^120 or we get no molecules. No molecules no natural selection. In a recent paper by David L. Able at the Department of ProtoBioCybernetics/ProtoBioSemiotics, The Gene Emergence Project of The Origin of Life Science Foundation, the total probabilistic resources available for a probability at the atomic level is 10^108. That means the formation of molecules exceeds the probabilistic resources by a substantial margin. If non-deliberate explanations can be ruled out [in this case they must be, by an enormous margin], then deliberate explanations are the only alternative. Of course that requires a Deliberator. Even the most robust conception of natural selection must start with molecules. The problem is that a natural explanation for the universe really never gets off the ground in the first instance. Why probabilistic sounds more rational than deliberate to some people is beyond me, unless there is a prior philosophical commitment assumed but not mentioned all bound up in their argument.

Crouse said...

The fact is, it is illogical to say the universe began without a definite beginning. But a "beginning" itself is illogical as well because there still remains the question, "what was before the beginning, what made the beginning"? I believe God exists however on the basis that he is infinite and required no cause. To ask what made God or what was before God only continues the illogical never ending chain of causes. Therefore, there must be a definite beginning from an uncaused infinite creator. I'm not saying this as if it is fact, but it is as good as even the best scientist (*cough* Stephen Hawking LOL). A logical belief in God is so far my stance on the issue, but I easily acknowledge that my reasoning is not fact, but a belief (isn't everyone's?).

The Big Bang is also to me illogical, because what made the products causing the Big Bang to occur, placing the Earth at a perfect distance from the Sun [Isaac Newton believed everything was too perfect to have happened by accident]?

But then there's the argument that humans are incapable of perceiving the origin of the universe.

Eric S said...

Crouse, not so sure. Almost everyone I correspond with now has a PhD. in some hard science. I don't but I encountered a friend [PhD. in physics] who seemed to doubt the theory of relativity. Won't argue the point, though I think he's mistaken, but absent that can we infer a beginning? William Lane Craig does in his answer to the objections to the kalam cosmological argument. A very old argument, plenty of time to formulate attacks. A convincing argument doesn't have to be like a geometric proof, it needs to be more plausible than its negation. Well more than a Millennium of attacks with little to no improvement in hundreds of years, the argument is convincing still today. My point, was that reason is our ticket to science. But if it can get us there reliably, it can get is to destinations in other disciplines like logic and philosophy too. Were this not true we'd have no grounds for believing science. So since from his point of view the jury was still out about the necessity of a beginning, via science, I suggested he consider the question in a context where the decision is already in. Any time you try to abbreviate an argument you never do it justice, but the idea is that there is a beginning necessarily so because of the impossibility of real infinite sets. If time were a line that extends in both directions forever then we would have a problem. Starting in the present moment there have been an infinite number of previous moments. Looking the other direction there will be an infinite number of subsequent moments. And lastly there is an infinite number of moments in the line as a whole. Again it is self evident that the past half is a ray extending one direction and the future is a ray extending the other. So logically, the past ray is infinite and the future ray is infinite so the two taken together should be twice as long as the infinite continuum of time as a whole. It would be a strange world if the two half's were twice as long as the whole. These concepts work in theory but when you try to see how they would operate with real sets of numerables, they are impossible. If there is a beginning, then the argument for the existence of God works like this:

1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause of its
2. The universe began to exist.

2.1 Argument based on the impossibility of an
actual infinite.

2.11 An actual infinite cannot exist.
2.12 An infinite temporal regress of
events is an actual infinite.
2.13 Therefore, an infinite temporal
regress of events cannot exist.

2.2 Argument based on the impossibility of
the formation of an actual infinite by
successive addition.

2.21 A collection formed by successive
addition cannot be actually infinite.
2.22 The temporal series of past events
is a collection formed by successive
2.23 Therefore, the temporal series of
past events cannot be actually

3. Therefore, the universe has a cause of its

The necessary properties for the uncaused first cause can be argued. Having just ruled out infinite regress above we quickly get to a working definition of God. If you are inclined to dismiss this argument, then you will have a hard time finding grounds for relying on science, because they both are valid on the ground of reason.

Read the article to be convinced that the objections are addressed. Google "The Existence of God and the Beginning of the Universe William Lane Craig" and you should find this pretty quickly.I think this is a good exercise for any atheist or pagan for that matter. Christopher Hitchens is discovering, most of us will not live long enough to see science return a verdict on God. Before we face death we should be familiar with some other approaches. God may turn out to be the very first God we ruled out.