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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.


 

[Note: This post is an excerpt from the draft of a book I hope to have published sometime next year.]
 
Naturalism has been described as belief that the universe is a self-contained system, consisting of strictly natural, material or physical phenomena, constituting all of reality that is knowable in principle. As C.S. Lewis remarked, naturalism means nature is "the whole show": there are no agents external to the natural system (or if there are such agents, they are incapable of interacting with or influencing the system). This belief is commonly said to enjoy two major strengths relative to Christian theism: (1) It is more consistent with observable evidence, since we at least know that nature exists; and (2) in keeping with the principle of Occam's Razor, it is more parsimonious (it contains fewer explanatory elements), since we do not know with any certainty that any entity outside of nature exists.
 
Those certainly sound like reasonable assumptions at first blush. But they are far from self-evident. For example, naturalism entails much more than the modest and wholly uncontroversial claim that "nature exists," but claims further that nature is all that exists (or at least all that can be known). To say that nature exists is no more evidence for naturalism than it is for Christian theism, since both explicitly posit the existence of nature. It's not saying much, really: When you get right down to it, most any serious claim about anything must take into account that the observable universe exists. (There are exceptions, like ontological idealism and solipsism, but these are generally taken seriously by neither Christians nor atheists.) Similarly, to say that naturalism is necessarily more parsimonious than Christianity asserts much more than can be demonstrated. For many observers (like me) naturalistic explanations for the origin of the universe, of life on earth, or of morality, appear to be exceedingly and even hopelessly complicated. Since these complicated explanations have been devised specifically as alternatives to more basic theistic explanations, there is no need for theism to invoke them and therefore it does not follow that theism entails more entities than naturalism.
 
But my rejection of naturalism extends beyond recognition that its strong claims cannot be verified. In addition I find naturalism less than fully coherent. I say this not because I believe naturalists are irrational people, but because the ambitious claims made for naturalism simply do not appear to square with nature itself. Naturalism stipulates that the universe (nature) is somehow self-existent, and perhaps infinite. But two of the most thoroughly verified fundamental properties of the universe, energy conservation and entropy, indicate that the universe is both finite and in need of an external power source. Or as the philosophers would say, the natural order is not necessary but contingent. This curious philosophical situation is made worse in light of the frequent appeals of naturalists to science and the scientific method. For if nature is not caused, how can it be amenable to the scientific method even in principle? Science is about physical (primarily causal) explanations, not metaphysical assertions. To say that the universe "just is," or "always has been," is to repudiate, or at least temporarily abandon, the scientific method, and thereby undercut the very foundation of naturalism. Christian theology of course not only permits but demands the repudiation of the scientific method regarding decidedly supernatural claims like the creation of the universe. But as a science-driven belief system naturalism can make no such allowances. On the issue of cosmology, then, Christianity appears more internally consistent than naturalism. 
 
Another objection to naturalism arises from consideration of rational thought itself. The "argument from reason," famously explicated by C.S. Lewis in Miracles and revised by contemporary philosophers like Victor Reppert, basically holds that non-rational physical or material causes cannot be expected to create rationality. In principle, a thoroughly natural system would not be capable of producing rational thought, capable in turn of reliably determining whether or not naturalism is true. Or as Plantinga suggests, "the probability of our cognitive faculties being reliable, given naturalism and evolution, is low." This may not make naturalism completely self-contradictory, but it certainly provides fodder for skepticism: If our thoughts have been produced by mindless mechanisms of evolution, then our thoughts cannot at the same time be a product of reason and reflection. Besides, given evolutionary naturalism our brains—hence our thoughts—are still evolving at this very moment. Therefore the very principles of logic we consider rational and true today could be considered crazy and false tomorrow, as evolution dictates. Alternatively, what we believe to be logical or veridical might be false right now. Natural selection couldn't care less either way: If believing what is false confers short-term reproductive advantages upon our species, so be it.
 
A similar problem holds for the origin of morality: That is, non-moral physical or material causes cannot be expected to create morality, or at least not the sort of universally applicable objective morality that acknowledges love good and sadism bad for all people at all times. As a young man I recognized the truth of this. While a freshman in high school I recall witnessing a couple of bullies overpowering a smallish self-identified Jewish kid and literally shoving him into a trash can, laughing as he screamed in protest. My first thought (and one of my first serious reflections on such matters) was that if there were a God he would not have allowed such evils; but a second thought immediately followed: What exactly is evil if there is no God? My answer was, and remains, that "evil" conveys little meaning unless there is some ultimate, transcendent moral authority. In more sophisticated forms the same question confronts naturalists to this day.
 
Now it is just possible that rational thought and morality are somehow emergent properties of a wholly naturalistic system, but that seems intuitively implausible. In any event there appears to be no evidence for such a proposition, nor any way to test it. For all its accomplishments and merits, the scientific method cannot presently verify the hypothetical past emergence of rationality and morality from non-rational and amoral physical matter (whether by evolution or by divine creation from the "dust of the earth"). Per the epistemology of naturalism itself—that only scientifically rigorous beliefs are justified—naturalism is therefore an unjustified belief. That situation would perhaps be more epistemically tolerable if naturalism were also a properly basic belief, since even for a naturalist properly basic beliefs cannot be justified by external evidence. But no one thinks the truth of naturalism is strictly self-evident or incorrigible, and consequently naturalism is not properly basic. It is therefore a belief simpliciter, an article of faith. It turns out that naturalists have no leg to stand on when deriding theists for believing without sufficient evidence.   
 






  • this is from the comment section on secular outpost where Bowen responded to the post below that I made on this blog. the previous post on this blog here





    I said:
    I think that discussions about the "communities" behind the gospels are highly speculative and of little historical value. The author of Mark never discusses "the community" that is allegedly the true author of his gospel.
    Joe responded:
    every bible scholar there is even the atheists regard that as a given
    =============
    Comment:
    What "every bible scholar" assumes to be true is NOT historical evidence. I am asking for historical evidence, not opinion polls of biblical scholars.







      • Avatar






        I think you have been around academia long enough to know how that plays out. there is a reason why it's Consensus. I already told you what that reason is, because oral traditions is not passed by Lone individuals. you are obviously trying to save a disproved argument.
        (1) Jews used oral radiation, that is related to community
        ...
        (2) Jewish writing where read in community
        ...
        (3)a lot of work on showing rhetorically that it [Mark] was passed on as oral tradition before being written.
        ...
        but there is also the statement by Papias about preferring oral tradition to written.
        ...
        (5) Paul is quoting so many oral sources, maxims, songs, creeds, the fact that they made creeds all point to oral material and communal understanding.
        ...
        (6) Acts basically says it point blank. they moved in together so they could study the bible together. there's a community







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          I said:
          The author of Mark never discusses how many eyewitnesses he spoke with in his "community". The author of Mark never even states that he obtained info about Jesus from his community or anyone from his community. This is all just speculation. Speculation is NOT the same as evidence.
          Joe responded:
          you are assuming Mark is the origin of the story which is just utter ignorance. Attaching a number is bull shit. That's a Mcguffin. It matters not at all but something you can cling to as an unknown and thus save face that you can't disprove the arguments.
          ====================
          Comments:
          Bowen: Once again, instead of responding with substance and evidence to support your views, you simply distort my views and attack a straw man. This is why I do not take you seriously. Keep this shit up, and I will just go back to ignoring you entirely.
          I am NOT assuming that Mark is the origin of all the content in his gospel, nor am I assuming that the content of his gospel came from his local "community" of believers. I am CHALLENGING YOUR assumptions about the content of Mark, and demanding evidence from you, evidence which you are refusing to provide.

            see more






            • Avatar






              sorry Brad, explaining why your question is nonsequitter is substance. you want to pretend to be a big thinker but you don't want to have to think about it.
              ...
              Bowen:I am CHALLENGING YOUR assumptions about the content of Mark, and demanding evidence from you, evidence which you are refusing to provide.
              ...
              Me: then try answering the evidence. Not only did I show your question irrelevant I also answered it. the evidence of oral tradition and pre mark redaction (PMPN pre Mark passion narrative) shows that Mark is derived from older material and circulated in oral form. 
              ...
              if the shoe was on the other foot and I refused to accept what all scholars taken as given you would not hesitate to castigate my understanding for that.







              • He never answered any of my arguments but went on assenting that I had no answers. This guy is a philosopher and the sec outpost guys are thye best atheist thinkers I've seen and they still include narrow minded bigoted people who don't think. I don't include Lowder or Parsons in that but it definitely applies to Bowen.


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