Did quantum fluctuations create the universe? September 4, 2010
In the light of Stephen Hawking “coming out” as a new atheist this week, I thought it might be amusing to post the following extract from a thread on the readers’-reviews page of “Who made God?” on www.amazon.co.uk.
In reply to your post on 2 Sep 2010 16:00 BST
E H Andrews you are clearly quite a sensitive theist to be upset at a flippant review on Amazon. I have read the first chapter you refer to and I think that your arguments are deeply flawed and show what I suspect is a deliberate misreading of the atheist argument. In your book you suggest that because atheists are unable to answer the question of who or what created the “everything” that evolution is a part of, they must therefore be wrong. This is flawed logic. To me, the central tenet of the “Man created God” argument is that causality is an illusion in a quantum universe, and so to search for a creator of the “everything” is futile as there is no such thing. Searching for the creator of the universe is like searching for the start of a circle or the edge of a sphere – impossible.
If I may be so bold as to paraphrase your own imagined conversation in chapter one of your book:
Enquirer: Who made everything?
Theist: God made everything
First atheist: So who made God then?
Second atheist: We made God
Theist: Then who made us?
First atheist: Evolution made us
Theist: Who made evolution then?
Third atheist: Nobody made evolution. It arises as a natural and inescapable consequence of the laws of nature in the universe in which we find ourselves, which themselves are a natural and inescapable consequence of the completely random quantum fluctuation which caused the big bang, at which point the “laws” of causality break down so it is meaningless to enquire who or what caused that.
Theist: Oh, I hadn’t thought of that.
Third atheist: I didn’t think you had.
Your post, in reply to an earlier post on 4 Sep 2010 12:36 BST
E. H. Andrews says:
Thank you Axeman … at last an atheist who is willing to engage with my arguments (incidentally, my sensitivity is not to criticism but to mindless comments posing as a “review” of an unread book).
Perhaps you did only read the first chapter of “Who made God?” because I do deal later in the book with the argument you raise (see Chapter 10, especially pp. 150-153). You write:
“Nobody made evolution. It arises as a natural and inescapable consequence of the laws of nature in the universe in which we find ourselves, which themselves are a natural and inescapable consequence of the completely random quantum fluctuation which caused the big bang, at which point the “laws” of causality break down so it is meaningless to enquire who or what caused that.”
But that really doesn’t wash, does it? In the same breath you say the big bang was caused by quantum fluctuations and then claim that it is meaningless to enquire what caused the big bang. That may be post-modernism but it certainly isn’t logic (or physics for that matter). But there are deeper fallacies with your explanations, as follows:
1) The laws of nature, you say, are the “inescapable consequences” of “completely random quantum fluctuations”. By what logic can inescapable consequences arise from random events? Random events can only lead to contingent consequences but to be “inescapable” the consequences cannot be contingent but must be determinate (necessary).
2) For the laws of nature to be a “consequence” of anything, the principle of causality must operate. Without causality there can be neither causes nor consequences. But you then tell us that back beyond the big bang the laws of causality break down. You really cannot have it both ways.
3) You say the big bang was “caused” by “random quantum fluctuations”. Quite apart from reinforcing my last point by invoking causality prior to the existence of the cosmos, you have to answer a different question … fluctuations in what? Before the big bang there existed neither matter, energy, space nor time, so by definition there could be no fluctuations in any of these entities. (If you claim there was something of a material nature “there” before the big bang, we are no longer talking about the ultimate origin of the universe).
3) Next comes another question. Are not quantum fluctuations themselves a manifestation of natural law (e.g. the laws of quantum mechanics)? How then could quantum fluctuations be the ultimate cause of natural law as you claim? Did the laws governing quantum fluctuation invent themselves? Not even Stephen Hawking believes that.
I give my own theistic answers to these puzzles throughout my book, not just in the first chapter. But again let me thank you for engaging with my arguments, which at least allows a sensible debate to take place.
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Here is a selection of comments made to Professor Andrews along with his responses.