Space-time, Quantum Mechanics, and the Cosmological Argument for God
While watching Brian Greene's excellent NOVA series "The Fabric of the Cosmos," I went back and opened up the book (still sitting unread on my shelf) and read it with interest.
Greene talks about space-time, hence the title "The Fabric of the Cosmos," and while thinking carefully on the subject of how space and time are interwoven, as proved by Einstein's theory of special relativity, I came to a very simple realization. Theologians who invoke the Cosmological Argument for God likely don't understand the first thing about cosmology.
A Christian asked me today whether or not it takes the same amount of faith to believe that the universe arose from a quantum singularity as it does to believe a God created it.
My answer was simply: no.
He then told me I should think more about the Kalam cosmological argument, and what the first premise entails, specifically that the universe began. Thus it was caused to begin. Therefore something outside of the universe must have caused it--and for the supernatural minded--this explanation is Goddidit.
I have several objections to the first premise.
As I considered time and space being part of the same fabric of reality, I realized that theologians have the wrong impression of beginnings. Their thinking fits the Newtonian idea that things which begin have causes. But quantum mechanics has blown that rationale up showing that the classical model of physics and how it depicts reality is largely misleading. It has been discovered that fully actualized particles pop in and out of existence all the time in what are called quantum fluctuations.
Where I feel theologians are getting hung up is not on the notion that time, and so reality and thus all existence--must have a definite beginning--because this is in tune with cosmological observations, but that they feel the beginning of space-time denotes a cause because all things that begin--according to Newtonian reasoning--have causes (e.g., causality).
The problem is this theological consideration that because the universe began it must have had a cause is only true within the confines of the physical universe in which the physical laws already dictate that causes have effects. Without the fabric of the space-time continuum, beginnings and ends make little to no sense, so it would technically be incorrect to assert that everything that begins to exist has a cause before you establish causation.
The statement "anything which begins to exist has a cause" is true only within the confines of the physical laws of the universe as they are known to us. Beyond the confines of space-time, however, the statement makes no sense whatsoever.
To complicate matters even more, we must be aware that the past, present, and future all seem to be relative. As Brian Greene reminds us, "there is nothing in the laws of classical physics that says this direction is time future and that direction is time past."
This being the case, how can theologians, who abide by the strict adherence to classical reasoning, say there is a beginning or end at all?
Again, I is apparent to me that their Newtonian reasoning (which only applies to one small part of the picture) has caused them to jump to the wrong conclusions about the underlying reality of the universe (thereby causing them to miss the bigger picture).
Additionally, to answer the often asked question of why there appears to be order in the universe, this too can be explained by the the increase of entropy from a low to high state. As Greene informs, "The big bang started the universe off in a state of low entropy, and that state appears to be the source of the order we currently see."
Likewise, the related question of why there is something rather than nothing (within the universe) can also be explained. The answer is gravity. Entropy x gravity = clumping. According to physicists, this clumping of matter is what creates stars and planets. Gravity, in other words, is why we have something rather than nothing in the universe.
The Cosmological argument merely asks what sparked that initial fluctuation that caused the big bang? But see, that is, once again, the Newtonian reasoning which presumes all things that begin have causes. In other words, theologians are making a categorical mistake of attributing a metaphysical cause to a temporal effect wherein that reasoning only fits within the framework of a temporal reality.
Thus, according to the theologians reasoning, things which are acted upon (either physically or metaphysically) have effects and therefor must have causes. There are no random accidents. As Einstein lamented, "God does not play dice."
Niels Bohr, one of the early pioneers of quantum mechanics, replied to Einstein, "Stop telling God what to do."
The question theoretical physicists and cosmologists are currently investigating is: what, if anything, was there before the big bang?
Recently new theories have emerged which go a long ways toward helping to explain the conditions of the universe prior to its onset. The anthropic principle, eternal inflation, and string theory (for example) all predict a cosmic multiverse. Although it is yet unproved--the fact that three main fields of physics all stumble upon the same prediction, seems to me, to be a good sign that there might be something to this premise.
Although these cutting edge theories are not yet confirmed, they do predict the universe we see, and are based off of the cosmological pieces of the puzzle we have thus far collected and pieced together. What's more--they are testable--and so are falsifiable. Falsifiability is important--because if we are wrong--then being falsified lets us find out our mistakes so that we may correct them.
God theories, on the other hand, predict absolutely nothing (i.e., have zero utility), and in many cases cannot be adequately falsified.
Being asked to even entertain the notion of the Cosmological argument for the existence of God is the same as being asked to ignore all the current cosmological evidence we do have which leaves no room for the existence of such a being. God theories merely make the a priori assumption that God exists. That's faith--not science.
Do we know for sure what happened before the big bang? No. But that doesn't mean we can just substitute any answer we like in place of our ignorance. We aren't merely drawing straws here at what the most probable answer is.
We are in the process of looking for testable evidence. When we find it--we will know. Even if we never find out for certain how the universe came to be, then the only answer we could possibly give to the question of what caused the universe to begin to exist is: I don't know.
God never even enters the equation.
Let me turn the question around, why would anyone put their faith in God having created the universe when God fails to explain anything about the universe, but current competing model of cosmology seem to explain everything fairly well without invoking useless God theories?
My point is this, although science cannot say whether or not it is possible for God to exist or not, it does a good job of showing that any effects of his causes are so far entirely absent. That is to say we can see no noticeable signs of his interaction with the universe or his effect upon it. Meanwhile physics explains things quite well without God.
Without any evidence of God's interaction upon the universe, God becomes redundant for explanations which don't need to invoke God, and thus the God hypothesis is mainly irrelevant. Such a being might as well not even exist.