Quantum Creationism -- Is It Science Or Is It Religion?

Discussion in 'Comparative Religion' started by Eugene Shubert, Jan 8, 2018.

  1. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

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    Yazata:

    Obviously, if time itself ceases to exist in any form once we rewind to the big bang, then the notion of causality also vanishes at that point. In that case, asking "What caused the big bang?" is kind of like asking "What is north of the North Pole?"

    You're right, though, that many (perhaps most) cosmologists are not satisfied with this. This is why some speculate that there are physical laws and principles that operate beyond the bounds of the space and time that we find in an individual universe. Some suggest that our universe might, in fact, be part of a much larger "multiverse" consisting of many separate universes. Perhaps the "other" universes are like ours, or maybe they differ in various ways (e.g. in the values of certain "fundamental" constants of nature, perhaps).

    This is all speculation. Even the idea that time began at the big bang is speculative, because our current theories can't say for sure what happened in the earliest epochs. Maybe time is somehow continuous, in a sense. Stephen Hawking in his Brief History of Time, suggests, for example, that "imaginary time" (where "imaginary" is used in a technical, mathematical, sense) might link consecutive instances of an oscillating universe.

    We don't necessarily have to dispense with physical reality. A multiverse model, for example, still has lots of physical "stuff" in it - perhaps uncountable "bubble" universes, which might pop up for a while then die off again several billion years later (sometimes much quicker, sometimes not so quick). If our own universe is just one "bubble", there's no need to invoke metaphysical Platonic forms to explain it. We only need to throw out the idea that our observed universe is in some sense special in containing space, time, matter and energy.

    Both physicists and mathematicians differ in their personal points of view on this question. Valenkin, seen in the video in the opening post, appears to be (perhaps) a believer in eternal Platonic forms, or something like that, though it's hard to tell from what he says there. Others agree with him. On the other side of the fence, though, I think you'll find equal numbers of physicists and mathematicians who regard mathematics as a human-created descriptive tool. There remains some mystery about why mathematics applies just as well as it does to describing our physical world, because there's no a priori reason for us to assume that should be true.

    Speaking personally, I do not believe that the elements of mathematics exist in some kind of ideal realm, separately from the human beings who think about them. But that's just my personal opinion. From my point of view, while mathematics is amazingly useful, the further we dig into physical reality the harder it seems to be to apply our mathematics to describing it. Things get mathematically messy very quickly as we drill down. There's not a perfect match between neat maths and neat physics. In fact, I'd say that we put certain strains on our mathematics when we use it to describe certain kinds of physical phenomena, to which it perhaps is not well suited.

    Newton was a Christian, convinced that the bible held arcane secrets etc. Einstein, on the other hand, claimed to believe in "Spinoza's God", by which he seems to have meant the total impersonal collection of fundamental physical principles etc. Einstein's statements about the "mind of God" and the like can be read as talking about the principles of the natural world; "God" was just a shorthand for nature's laws, for him.
     
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  3. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

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    (continued...)


    There's something of a disconnect between popular science presentations and how physicists actually think about their research. Pop science constantly invites physicists to speculate beyond what they know for sure. It makes good TV, good interviews etc. The problem is that the dividing line between what a scientist knows with confidence to be true and what is merely a personal hunch or opinion is not always easy to spot, especially in something like a TV interview.

    This is not entirely a problem with scientists, by the way. All kinds of experts suffer from the same problems when they are interviewed on TV. To some extent, they inevitably have to "dumb down" the level at which they are explaining things, for a general audience. And they aren't always as careful as they should be in distinguishing between what is known and what is speculative. An expert on the stock market no more knows what the market will do than you or I, but his or her "educated guess" is likely to be more useful than mine (say).

    Another thing to say is that people always want definite answers on things. But academics, of all persuasions, by nature tend to be cautious and sit on the fence. They know that things are complicated. On the one hand this, but on the other hand that. It could be this, or it could be that. Often, interviews push for commitment on issues and topics where the expert can really do little more than give an informed speculation.

    I think that the general public should be educated more to understand than when an expert (scientist or otherwise) speculates and gets it wrong, he or she was probably not seeking to misrepresent things. It is far more likely that he or she was merely expressing an opinion, to the best of his or her ability, based on the information and experience he or she had at the time.

    The idea that laymen are "supposed to believe every word" an expert says is a dangerous one. This is why teaching critical thinking is so important. Laymen should not take experts at their word - particularly single experts and particularly when those single experts are speculating outside or beyond their field of expertise.

    I have seen Krauss talk several times about this. Really, when we talk about "something from nothing", we have to be careful about what we mean, exactly, by "nothing". In the case of the big bang, no universe followed by universe does not necessarily mean there was "nothing" before the "no universe" condition. But even here, language is a barrier. There was literally "no thing", in terms of things in the universe. But in the wider multiverse (if it exists)? Certainly.

    What is relatively uncontroversial is the statement that the net energy of our universe (matter + gravitational potential energy) appears to be zero. This one is quantifiable. There is solid data that supports it. So, at the very least, we can definitely say that our universe did not arise out of any pre-existing (positive) energy.


    Usually in physical systems, the number of possible outcomes is restricted, but the particular outcome that will result from the ones that are available is unpredictable.

    This is why cosmologists are interested in exploring the factors (if any) that might restrict the possibility that our universe would pop into existence.

    Nobody does. We can only push things back to tiny fractions of a second after the beginning, with our current best theories.

    I tend to think that the problem here is that the pop science TV interviews don't dig into the question far enough. The resulting impression is that cosmologists think they have The Answer, when what they really have is just more questions.
     
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  5. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

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    Unfortunately, even if true, we acknowledge that this doesn't really answer anything; it simply pushes back the question of 'First Cause' to a deeper, earlier realm.

    Which, of course, leads directly to the question: why does anything exist at all? Which is way deep in Philosophy.
     
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  7. Eugene Shubert Valued Senior Member

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    Actually, there are Christians not even in my fellowship that believe that I have received inspired dreams and visions from God because God has confirmed my most important revelation to them in dreams. Currently, my fellowship is directed by a very loyal Seventh-day Shubertian that is writing a book on our incredibly revealing theology. http://cometochrist.org/
     
  8. Eugene Shubert Valued Senior Member

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    I'm happy with the "metaphysical speculation" that allows for a highly ordered physical reality to spontaneously materialize out of absolute nothingness. What is unreasonable about calling that quantum creationism and believing that is how life started on planet Earth in a garden called Eden?
     
  9. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

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    Well, because we have a pretty strong body of evidence that contradicts the story of the Garden of Eden (which involves humans being made from clay and animals being made separately).
    (That's got to be The Garden of Eden to which you refer, since it wasn't named the Garden of Eden until man named it so and wrote it down.)

    We don't have any analyzable evidence of the creation the universe or its precursor.
     
  10. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

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    Introducing an idea like God doesn't help answer the fundamental question, either. Because if God created the universe (or the multiverse), then the question becomes: why does God exist at all?
     
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  11. Eugene Shubert Valued Senior Member

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    There's certainly nothing about the four postulates of Charles Darwin or their logical conclusions that contradicts the compelling evidence for the Garden of Eden story as presented at http://everythingimportant.org/babel. (Presently, the cached page featuring that astonishing evidence is viewable using the Bing browser).
     
  12. Eugene Shubert Valued Senior Member

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    The God Axiom isn't necessary to persuade knowledgeable quantum physicists of the reasonableness of quantum creationism.
     
  13. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

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    Er... 4 postulates? This is the first time I've heard of them. What are they?

    Could you please summarise the compelling evidence for us?
     
  14. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    I should just point out that in post #142, when JamesR is responding to the brown colored text, those are Alexander Vilenkin's words, not mine.

    I quoted Vilenkin because he was acknowledging that he is assuming (Platonic style) the ontological priority of the mathematics of theoretical physics to the universe of physical reality, such that the mathematics can serve as the source and explanation of the latter. He admits that he has no idea of how to account for what he calls the "laws of physics".

    My own opinion is that while trying to spin the physical universe out of a minimal set of theoretical assumptions might be a valuable (if exceedingly speculative) exercise for theoretical physicists, it doesn't really answer the ultimate metaphysical question: Why is there something rather than nothing?

    So contra-Krauss, the "philosophers and theologians" (which Krauss seems to equate) haven't been decisively beaten in some final atheist victory. All that these latter day theorists are doing is stepping into the more Platonist sort of philosophers (and theologians) still-warm shoes. What once were conceived of as eternal ideas in the mind of God have now been renamed "the laws of physics". We don't seem to be a whole lot closer to explaining their nature and origin than we ever were.
     
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2018
  15. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

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    Paraphrased from On the Origin of Species:
    1. Individuals within species are variable;
    2. Some of these variations are passed on to offspring;
    3. In every generation, more offspring are produced than can survive;
    4. The survival and reproduction of individuals are not random; the individuals who survive and go on to reproduce the most are those with the most favorable variation, and they are naturally selected.
     
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  16. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

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    Ah. I didn't realise. Thanks.

    I'm not convinced that Krauss is aiming for a final atheist victory, whatever that might mean.

    I don't think that's quite true. There are actually a few speculative ideas out there as to why the laws of physics are what they are. It's not just a philosophical argument any more. Having said that, there's still a lot of work to be done.

    Thanks.
     
  17. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    Dawkins certainly thinks so. And Krauss has proudly posted Dawkins' words on his own university website.

    http://krauss-dev.faculty.asu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Dawkins-Afterword.pdf

    Dawkins says [I've colored his words brown to distinguish them from my words]:

    "If you ask religious believers why they believe, you may find a few "sophisticated" theologians who will talk about God as the "Ground of all Isness or as "a metaphor for interpersonal fellowship" or some such evasion. But the majority of believers leap, more honestly and vulnerably, to a version of the argument from design or the argument from first cause....

    And now we can read Lawrence Krauss for what looks to me like the knockout blow. Even the last remaining trump card of the theologian, "Why is there something rather than nothing?" shrivels up before your eyes as you read these pages. If On the Origin of Species was biology's deadliest blow to supernaturalism, we may come to see A Universe from Nothing as the equivalent from cosmology. The title means exactly what it says. And what it says is devastating."


    Dawkins and arguably Krauss as well seem to me to be unable to distinguish the problem of 'Why is there something rather than nothing' from their own personal antipathy for theistic religion and Christianity in particular. The question is simply a justification for theological bullshit in their eyes.

    As for me, I consider myself an atheist agnostic, but I also consider the question of 'Why is there something rather than nothing' to be the deepest, most fascinating and most perplexing of metaphysical questions.
     
  18. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

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    Yazata,

    I guess the main point for Dawkins and Krauss is that Krauss's argument seems to defeat the requirement for purposeful, agent-caused creation of our universe. If the religious argument is something along the lines of "God had to take action to kick-start the universe", then the quantum fluctuation argument apparently demolishes that.

    You're right that it still leaves the mystery of why there is something rather than nothing unresolved. It pushes things back a step, though.

    The Christian fundamentalist version of Creation, based on biblical literalism, was obviously blown out of the water some time ago.

    There is still room for God in the big picture, but the kind of personal gods we read about in the scriptures of the world's major religions aren't required just for our universe to exist, apparently.
     
  19. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    I agree.

    However at this point it may be worth re-iterating that the reasons why a number of religions propose a personal god have little or nothing to do with first cause or any other Science-related argument. They are based on the teaching and example of various historical, or at least arguably historical, figures and are grounded in literature, ritual, music, tradition and personal aesthetic and emotional experience. They have far more to do with the humanities than with science and their real purpose is to guide individual people in living their lives. The thing that irritates me about Dawkins and Krauss is their pig-headed insistence that religion is about trying to answer questions about the cosmos and therefore if they can provide answer to that via science, it destroys religion. That's just balls.
     
  20. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

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    exchemist:

    Of course.

    As I just wrote in another thread, the major religions take God for granted. The bible doesn't attempt to explain why there is a God in the first place. The possibility that people might question God's existence is never addressed. God is present at all times in the bible in an immediate and active sense.

    A useful idea I have read is that the major religions are all concerned with solving a perceived problem with humanity. In that sense, religion is about social engineering. In Christianity, for example, the problem is sin. In Buddhism the problem is suffering. If you follow the teachings of Christ, you'll be OK, because Christ died to forgive your sins. If you follow the teachings of the Buddha, you will eventually reach nirvana, where all suffering will end.

    When forced to consider the question of God's existence, and to make an argument that does not beg the question, religions seemingly have few options. So they tend to appeal to various philosophical ideas. A popular argument for God is the argument from design. But in making that argument, religious people put themselves squarely within the purview of science. In the last two centuries, science has had quite a lot to say about the argument from design.

    Krauss's arguments (actually, not just his) about the universe show that the universe needn't have been designed into existence by God. Dawkins' (Darwin's) arguments show that living things needn't have been designed by God. These are significant blows against what used to be considered a very strong argument for God, even if they don't completely blow God out of the water, so to speak.

    If God were to go, then what would remain of religion? Moral and historical and cultural teachings would still be there, though a foundation would have to be found for them that did not rest on the presumed authority of a supernatural Creator. Basically, what would be left would be philosophy.
     
  21. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    I'm not convinced. I'm sure many scientists who are religious see the order in nature as something upheld by God in some nebulous way, and I don't see further advances doing more than push explanation back to the next level in an ever-retreating series. After all, science is about models rather than claiming to attain an ultimate reality. I think religion and science will continue to co-exist, even if the more old-fashioned conceptions of it fall by the wayside.
     
  22. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

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    By what? Krauss? Dawkins? The pair of them?

    My issue with Krauss is mostly with his definition of "nothing". I wouldn't regard fluctuating quantum fields, for example, as "nothing".

    Yes. Maybe God set the laws. Maybe there is even room for God to tweak the occasional collapse of a wavepacket, though that would be cheating.

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    Sure. Science will never prove that God does not exist. God can always be suitably re-defined to make any such proof impossible, anyway.

    I don't think religion is looking like dying off any time soon. For a lot of people, God is actually probably among the least important things about their religion, in practice. Religion can provide structure, hope where it is hard to find, comfort, familiarity and community. Looking at it one way, the God stuff is almost just a convenient excuse for all that. No doubt Jan Ardena would say this is a very atheistic way of looking at it.
     
  23. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    Yes, Dawkins and Krauss apparently believe that.

    Of course natural theology's 'first cause' argument (it goes back to Aquinas at least, and through him to Aristotle) is a totally different question than 'Why is there something rather than nothing?' Imagine a causal cosmos with no temporal origin, such that chains of cause and effect extend infinitely into the past (and future). Ancient Indian cosmology imagined such a thing and we see it described in the early Buddhist writings. Embracing the 'infinite regress' horn of the dilemma, the early Buddhists had no need to imagine a creator god. But (and this is important) it is still possible to ask, 'Why is there an infinite chain of cause and effect, rather than nothing at all?' Even without an initial origin-event that calls for a first cause, the metaphysical question still stands.

    That's the question that Krauss and Dawkins apparently can't perceive, foolishly dismiss and don't even begin to grapple with.

    To his credit, Alexander Vilenkin apparently sees it and essentially admits that he can't answer it. He isn't pretending to explain why being itself is. He's just trying to explain how space, time and matter (the physical universe, the realm where physical causation occurs) might have emerged from the more abstract realm of theoretical physics' mathematics (whose reality is exceedingly controversial, accepted largely by mathematical Platonists). He admits that in order to make that move, he has to accept the reality of what he terms "laws of nature" and admits that he can't begin to explain their nature or origin.

    My point earlier was that this kind of move doesn't really do much harm to the theologians (Dawkins' and Krauss' targets) since the Christian and Islamic Neoplatonists already possessed effectively the same idea that the Platonic Forms, the laws of nature (it's why we still call them "laws", by analogy to the edicts of ancient kings) are eternal ideas in the mind of God, 'spoken' into physical reality when the created realm of space and matter were created and time began.

    That theology is essentially Krauss' theory, except that today's cosmologists mystify it behind a wall of impenetrable mathematics and technical jargon that hides the metaphysical leaps. The big difference is that for the theologians, the "laws" of nature are ideas in the mind of the eternal God, while for the cosmological atheists they seem to be free standing timeless subsistents in some ideal realm. But that difference is a speculative metaphysical choice about how to conceive of them, it isn't really something that anyone actually knows.
     
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2018

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