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A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

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In light of the discussion in the comments of the previous post I thought it would be good to examine a key point upon which all of Im Skeptical's arguments, indeed all of Naturalist arguments, are predicated: that QM particles prove something can pop up out of nothing with no cause. Quantum theory seems to confirm the notion that it is possible for the universe to begin with no cause. In terms of the TS argument that would mean that no organizing principle is necessary to explain order.

The second contender for a theory of initial conditions is quantum cosmology, the application of quantum theory to the entire Universe. At first this sounds absurd because typically large systems (such as the Universe) obey classical, not quantum, laws. Einstein's theory of general relativity is a classical theory that accurately describes the evolution of the Universe from the first fraction of a second of its existence to now. However it is known that general relativity is inconsistent with the principles of quantum theory and is therefore not an appropriate description of physical processes that occur at very small length scales or over very short times. To describe such processes one requires a theory of quantum gravity. [1]

This statement is more admission than documentation. It admits that quantum theory might not pertain to the universe as a whole. After all the theory has only been validated under normal conditions of space/time, temperature and the like. We have no idea if it still applies at the big bang expansion where the laws of physics seem to be suspended, temperature and time approach infinity. “What we do know is that massive objects do not exhibit quantum behavior. No one can be sure that a new-born universe would obey quantum theory as we know it..”[2]Moreover the statement admits that the theory requires a theory of quantum gravity in order to apply as a theory of origins. Do we have a theory of quantum gravity that has been validated empirically?

Lawrence Krauss in his book, A Universe from Nothing, [3] argues that quantum theory means that the universe came from nothing based upon the assumption that quantum particles do the same. Krauss argues that the eternal laws of Quantum mechanics produce particles out of nothing when the instability of vacuum states causes quantum fields to shift and produce different kinds of particles. [4] This seems like scientific proof but all it really says is that nothing became unstable and turned into something, no thought as to how that could be. There's a deeper trick, however, in that the terms don't really mean what they seem to mean. David Albert (a Philosopher with Ph.D. in physics) exposed the meaning of terms and exploded the whole project.

Albert first points out that tracing the universe back to some physical property or cause is not an explanation as to why there is something rather than nothing.

What if he were in a position to announce, for instance, that the truth of the quantum-mechanical laws can be traced back to the fact that the world has some other, deeper property X? Wouldn’t we still be in a position to ask why X rather than Y? And is there a last such question? Is there some point at which the possibility of asking any further such questions somehow definitively comes to an end? How would that work? What would that be like?[5]

Secondly, he points out that going back to the enlightenment, science has always assumed that at the “bottom of everything” there is “some basic, elementary, eternally persisting, concrete, physical stuff.” [6] Newton had it that this “stuff” consisted of particles. At the end of the nineteenth century it was particles and electro-magnetic fields. Albert argues that since that time all of physics is basically about “how that elementary stuff is arranged.”[7] The laws don’t tell us where the elementary “stuff” came from, not even laws of quantum mechanics. The laws do not tell us where the fields came from, let alone where the “laws” themselves came from. Moreover, contrary to all previous theories, quantum theory particles are understood as arrangements of fields. Some arrangements correspond to certain numbers and kinds of particles, some correspond to no particles.[8] This latter arrangement, Albert tells us, is what they call “vacuum states.” According to Albert, Krauss is arguing that the laws of relativistic quantum field theories “entail that vacuum states are unstable. And that, in a nutshell, is the account he proposes of why there should be something rather than nothing.”[9]
 
There is no explanation here. No hint as to how nothing could become something. If nothing comes out of some prior condition we don't know. Krauss is just assuming something from nothing. That's important because prior conditions have to be accounted for. There are problems with this account. First, we have just seen, it assumes laws and fields with no explanation as to where othey came from. Secondly, when physicists say “nothing,” they don’t mean real actual nothing, absence of anything, they really mean vacuum flux; that is the pre existing framework of law and field and the arrangement of these things and the sporadic popping in-and-out of prior existing particles. As Albert says, “Relativistic-quantum-field-theoretical vacuum states — no less than giraffes or refrigerators or solar systems — are particular arrangements of elementary physical stuff..” [10] “Nothing” in terms of no particles does not mean “nothing” in terms of no fields, or no laws. Thus “nothing” doesn’t mean “nothing,” it means something for which we still must account.

The particles doing the popping are “virtual particles,” meaning they are made up of combinations of other particles that come together for a short time then break apart again. “Virtual particles are indeed real particles. Quantum theory predicts that every particle spends some time as a combination of other particles in all possible ways. These predictions are very well understood and tested.”[11]
Quantum mechanics allows, and indeed requires, temporary violations of conservation of energy, so one particle can become a pair of heavier particles (the so-called virtual particles), which quickly rejoin into the original particle as if they had never been there. If that were all that occurred we would still be confident that it was a real effect because it is an intrinsic part of quantum mechanics, which is extremely well tested, and is a complete and tightly woven theory--if any part of it were wrong the whole structure would collapse.
But while the virtual particles are briefly part of our world they can interact with other particles, and that leads to a number of tests of the quantum-mechanical predictions about virtual particles.[12]
Thus it's only said that they are coming from nothing because there's a new combination of particles that only exists for a short time. Yet they are actually coming from other particles. Quantum theory is not the best explanation for the age old question, why are we here where did it all come from? God not only provides an ultimate sources but is also a more elegant solution because one simple idea furnishes both the explanation of origins and also ties up morality and everything else into one neat solution.




Sources


1 CTC op. Cit.


2 Edgar Andres, “Review: the Grand Design,” Challies'.com, Tim Challies, on line reouce, URL:


Andres is Emeritus professor University of London. Physicist and an expert on large molecules. Born 1932,


3 Lawrence M. Krauss, A Universe from Nothing: Why There is something Rather Than Nothing. New York, NY: Free press, a division of Simon and Schuster, 2012.


4 Ibid 189.


5 David Albert, “On the Origin of Everything ‘a Universe form Nothing’ by Lawrence Krauss,” New York Times Sunday Book Review (March 23, 2012). On line version URL: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/25/books/review/a-universe-from-nothing-by-lawrence-m-krauss.html visited June 20, 2012. David Albert also has a Ph.D. in theoretical phsyics.

Albert is Frederick E. Woodbridge Professor of Philosophy at Columbia, and runs a MA program in philosophy and physics.


6 ibid.


7 ibid


8 ibid


9 ibid


10 ibid


11 Gordon Kane, “Are Virtual Particles Really Constantly Popping In and Out of existence? Or Are They Merely a Mathematical Bookkeeping Device For Quantum Mechanics?” Scientific American, (Oct. 9, 2006) on line version URL: http://www.scientific american.com/article/are-virtual-particles-rea/ accessed 10/12/15

Kane is director of the Michigan center for theoretical physics at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.


12 Ibid.


 

14 comments:

For the record, Don, I didn't say the universe comes from nothing. I believe it was Joe Hinman who put those words in my mouth. What I did say is that things happen with no discernible cause. That doesn't mean that there is no cause, but simply that we can't see it if it exists. And we are not justified in assuming that all things must have a cause, because we don't know for a fact that a cause exists for all things. We can make an argument (as theists do) that something must exist without a cause.

None of the quotes from physicists in this article contradicts what I have said.

we are justified in assuming all things have causes except for eternal things, we have no examples of anything without a cause.

What is the cause of radioactive decay?

I don't know. that's not proof it doesn't have one



Radioactive decay occurs in unstable atomic nuclei – that is, ones that don't have enough binding energy to hold the nucleus together due to an excess of either protons or neutrons. It comes in three main types – named alpha, beta and gamma for the first three letters of the Greek alphabet.



Radioactivity - Institute of Physics



https://www.iop.org/resources/topic/.../radioactivity/

Institute of Physics












Feedback

OK, so you can use Google. But there is no observed cause of the decay event.

Please pay attention to what I say, rather than inserting your own words in my mouth. I never said anything is proved one way or the other. The point I was making is that there are things for which we can see no cause. It doesn't prove that there isn't a cause, but it doesn't prove that there is a cause, either. We just don't know some things. And one of those things is that everything must have a cause. You think there is, but you don't know.

I get but what's the point? it doesn't argue against my original argument.

Excellent points Joe.

Thus it's only said that they are coming from nothing because there's a new combination of particles that only exists for a short time. Yet they are actually coming from other particles. Quantum theory is not the best explanation for the age old question, why are we here where did it all come from? God not only provides an ultimate sources but is also a more elegant solution because one simple idea furnishes both the explanation of origins and also ties up morality and everything else into one neat solution.

Brilliant. Ockham would be proud. :-)

God provides one possible answer. But it is not a scientific answer. That is to say, you can speculate that everything is explained by God, and declare that it is not subject to scientific examination, and shut down any further scientific inquiry. Yes, it's simple in a way, so Ockham might be satisfied. It's also vacuous.

You complain about my supposed claim that something comes from nothing, but you insist that God created the universe from nothing. You complain about my saying that something might exist without a cause, but you insist that God exists without a cause. I'm trying to figure out what kind of logic allows you to say things like that without special pleading. And why this supposition of God as the answer to all questions, while disallowing any other possibility, is anything but vacuous.

Skeptical, is it possible you're projecting a bit here?

I'm not complaining about anything. In fact I've repeatedly told you, "Thanks for your comments," or "I appreciate your contribution to the discussion," and the like. And where have I "insisted" on anything? I believe God exists without a cause, yes, and further I believe that a transcendent being has a much better chance of existing without a cause than does a natural order whose properties simply do not allow self-existence. Theism makes more sense to me than naturalism, which, again, is "Why I Am Not a Metaphysical Naturalist." I'm not going to change my mind on that simply because you keep complaining that I'm stubborn.

David Hume illuminated the use of Pyrrhonian Skepticism regarding Cause and Effect, claiming that no constant conjunction of two events, one subsequent to the other, proves that the second is caused by the first. This is the case for possibly infinite observations of the constancy of that conjunction. Skep is arguing that Radical Skepticism now because it suits him, not because it is meaningful.

In fact, Hume also agreed that the cause/effect concept is useful and that the universe is not rationally apprehended without it. Skep ignores that during his argumentation which requires that there be effects without causes, regardless of the 100% lack of empirical documentation of such effects existing, or being observed objectively during scientific studies.

Skep will argue from this basis until there is something that requires him to flip 180 degrees and take the opposite approach. For example, he has argued that evolution must be accepted even though there exists zero (0) empirical experimental data which can be presented as objective, falsifiable evidence. For purposes of evolutionary argumentation, Skep will insist that the untestable opinions and stories told by the true believers constitute sufficient evidence such that it must - MUST - be accepted as Truth.

In fact, if you THEN ask Skep whether determinism is in play in the human brain pan, and that is why there is no such thing as agency, free will, conscious decisions which affect mass/energy in anentropic and anti-physical-force methods, he would, under Atheists necessity, have to answer that determinism is in play, and that empirical physics can explain it all. This of course, is another flip which is required for a specific argument.

So the "philosophical" issue which Skep asserts depends not on its truth value, but on its utility to winning his argument. The contradictory nature of his overall worldview is not an issue for Skep, because his focus is to appear to be the "winner", not in the pursuit of truth, nor the necessity of fallacy-free arguments. This is the nature of a purely rhetorical approach, which is falsely couched as a dialectical debate, which it is not.

Engaging a pure rhetorician is fruitless, because his logic is contradictory, fallacy-ridden, and ebbs and flows like the tides, the only objective being the "win".

Perhaps just telling him, "you win", might make him feel whole and allow him to go away and leave you in peace, pursuing actual truth as it exists.

[BTW, Krauss claimed that the universe was created out of a pre-existing quantum field; he defined the quantum field as "nothing", and caught flak from real scientists as well as philosophers. When a quantum field has sufficient disturbance, the theory goes, a particle and anti-particle are simultaneously created. They usually will recombine and disappear. But if anti-particles get "sidetracked" somehow, then particles will continue to exist, and voila, a universe. But not from nothing.]
Stan

I should make clear: Skep is asserting Radical Skepticism when he claims that not knowing the cause (of radioactive decay for example) means that one must accept his skepticism that no cause exists. Under this form of Pyrrhonism very little to nothing can be proven, objectively and conclusively, including that he exists since we all might be holograms, or brains in a vat serviced by multitudes of technicians feeding us signals that emulate a false reality.

I should make clear: Skep is asserting Radical Skepticism when he claims that not knowing the cause (of radioactive decay for example) means that one must accept his skepticism that no cause exists. Under this form of Pyrrhonism very little to nothing can be proven, objectively and conclusively, including that he exists since we all might be holograms, or brains in a vat serviced by multitudes of technicians feeding us signals that emulate a false reality.


so I gathered. good observation. I'll wager he'[s not consistent with it.

I like your essay on Hume

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