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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Quantum Fluctuations as Atheists’ Pixie Dust

Last week, I took a group of high school and college students to the University of California Berkeley to teach them how to engage others who would be skeptical of the claims of Christianity. Each day we had several good conversations on campus talking about the big questions of life. We also invited some noted atheists in the area to give presentations on the reasons they believe God is not real. Two of our guests were David Fitzgerald of the atheistfilmfestival.org and Mark Thomas, president of the Atheists of Silicone Valley.



One of the proofs Christians offer for God is the fact that the universe exists. I’ve frequently cited the Kalam Cosmological argument, which states:

        Whatever begins to exist has a cause
       The universe began to exist
       Therefore, the universe has a cause.

The standard theory for the creation of the universe is recognized to mean that all time, space, matter and energy came into being at some finite point in the past. Since the discovery of evidence supporting the Big Bang, the idea that the universe came into existence at some fixed point in the past is nearly universally accepted by modern science. However, given the argument above, it means that something must have caused the universe to come into existence. And this has been a big problem to those who dismiss the idea of God being the cause.

Both our guests in their talks fell back on the idea of quantum fluctuations happening within a quantum vacuum state as being the ultimate cause of the universe. Mark and David both believe that this theory (a form of which is also being popularized by Stephen Hawking in his books A Brief History of Time and The Grand Design) can really explain everything. Now, I realize that most people are not familiar with quantum physics. However, with a little careful thinking and some basic research, you can see why this scenario fails.

First, the fact that we are relying on something called a “fluctuation” should give us a hint that there’s something more than nothing going on. You see a fluctuation implies that at the very least something is changing. But a proper definition of time is the change in some state of affairs. If you have any set of circumstances and then those circumstances are somehow different, you can know that time has elapsed. You have a “before” and an “after”. So the fact that there are quantum fluctuations means that by definition time is already in existence.

Also, although most physicists agree that matter and energy do not need to exist at the quantum level, a quantum fluctuation happens in space. The Wikipedia article gets a quantum vacuum state right when it states

"According to present-day understanding of what is called the vacuum state or the quantum vacuum, it is "by no means a simple empty space", and again: "it is a mistake to think of any physical vacuum as some absolutely empty void."

Even in Johann Rafelski and Berndt Mueller’s little book The Structured Vacuum they define the vacuum as “space without matter”.

Herein lies the problem. If the beginning of the universe we mean that all matter, energy, space and time came into existence, but quantum fluctuations require space and time to already exist, then how can they explain the beginning of the universe? The answer is: they can’t. While quantum fluctuations are a theoretical construct, they really can’t explain why the universe is here at all, because two of the universe’s conditions must already exist for the quantum fluctuations to exist.

It seems to me that because quantum mechanics has certain counter-intuitive properties attached to it, like the Uncertainty Principle, that the atheists are relying on this explanation to solve their very real dilemma. However, they haven’t thought carefully about the coherence of their position. Whenever I asked where the universe came from, our guests would answer with "quantum fluctuations"--throwing it out like a sprinkling of magical pixie dust that somehow settles every question. As I’ve shown, their faith in such a solution is really unfounded.

5 comments:

  1. In "The Grand Design" Stephen Hawking postulates that the M-theory may be the Holy Grail of physics...the Grand Unified Theory which Einstein had tried to formulate but never completed. It expands on quantum mechanics and string theories.

    In my e-book on comparative mysticism is a quote by Albert Einstein: “…most beautiful and profound emotion we can experience is the sensation of the mystical. It is the sower of all true science. To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and most radiant beauty – which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their primitive form – this knowledge, this feeling, is at the center of all religion.”

    E=mc², Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity, is probably the best known scientific equation. I revised it to help better understand the relationship between divine Essence (Spirit), matter (mass/energy: visible/dark) and consciousness (f(x) raised to its greatest power). Unlike the speed of light, which is a constant, there are no exact measurements for consciousness. In this hypothetical formula, basic consciousness may be of insects, to the second power of animals and to the third power the rational mind of humans. The fourth power is suprarational consciousness of mystics, when they intuit the divine essence in perceived matter. This was a convenient analogy, but there cannot be a divine formula.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Einstein was an agnostic. He didn't believe in a personal god. His god was Spinoza's. Religious people should stop trying to justify their faith in magic with Science.

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  2. Quantum physics of the gaps.

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  3. Uh, Who created the prexisting Quantum physics laws so that the heisenberg uncertainty principle and a quantum fluctuation could occur, to create the universe?
    Think, Steven Hawking, and stop trying to please the atheiststic British government that approves your Grant money. They wouldn't understand the definition of a scientific paradigm If it hit them in the head. But you do, so knock off the High priest and pope of physics act.

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  4. Even if we accept that the universe has actually originated from nothing, still it can be shown that there is a fundamental flaw in this theory. Universe means space, time, matter and energy; so as per the scientists not only matter and energy, but space-time as well, have originated from nothing. Scientists have successfully shown how the total matter-energy content of the present universe has always remained zero, but they have forgotten to show how its total space-time content has also remained zero. And it has to remain zero, because it has also originated from nothing. Again they say that the universe is expanding at an accelerated rate. So our question will be: How does the total space-time of an ever-expanding universe always remain zero?
    If science fails to provide a suitable answer to this question, then the atheistic, non-religious world-view of modern science will prove to be inadequate to explaining the real world.

    ReplyDelete

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