Did quantum fluctuations create the universe?

Given the discussion raised by Stephen Hawking’s latest book, some of our readers might find this reply, posted by Professor Edgar Andrews on an Amazon.co.uk discussion thread, useful:

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“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.”[/pk_box]

Edgar Andrews is the Emeritus Professor of Materials at the University of London and author of the excellent book, Who Made God? Searching for a Theory of Everything. Who Made God? is available from Amazon and New Zealand bookstores (Grace & Truth Publications has copies available for $24 NZD).

18 replies
  1. Piers
    Piers says:

    I’v always doubted the big bang theory. To me the universe is infinite as energy is infinite and the universe is purely energy, everything that is is formed from energy and energy can not be lost only the information in the energy, see the recent developments in black hole research where they have proved just this, so its simple really, the universe has always been just not as we know it. To think there was nothing and then suddenly bang a universe is as ridiculous as the christians idea of creation. Think of it this way, Black holes suck energy out of the universe and Suns or White holes, which is what they are the exact opposite of a black hole, spew energy back into the universe and the information of the energy is altered in the process. You can’t create more energy or deplete energy you can only convert energy….. True infinity.

  2. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Hi Piers,

    Energy is not infinite. Where you discovered that it was cannot have been a reputable source. Its probably the case that you misunderstood what you were reading. Energy, along with the universe, began to exist according to the predictions of the standard Big Bang model.

    You say, “To think there was nothing and then suddenly bang a universe is as ridiculous as the christians idea of creation.”
    Well, nothing then BANG, a universe, is ridiculous, I agree. Nothing comes from nothing, as the philosophers say. But this is not AS ridiclous as the Christian idea of creation. The Christian idea of creation ascribes the cause of the universe to God. The Christian view agrees with the philosophical maxim, for on this view something (the universe) came from something (God), not that something came from nothing.

  3. John
    John says:

    Doesn’t the conservation of energy law in physics say energy can’t be created or destroyed, only changed to different forms of energy, like the principle of mass/matter conversion is with matter? If both energy and matter in a closed system(The universe would qualify as a closed system, as what is outside of the cosmological horizon of the Big Bang?) cannot be created or destroyed, simply changed into different forms of matter and energy, if they stay constant in this closed system of a universe we live in, as the laws of physics dictate, wouldn’t it be logical to think that all this mass and energy that comprises our universe has ALWAYS existed?

    The Big Bang states that the universe was once a singularity, as that’s as far as we can go due to the laws of physics as we know them break down entirely, and then expanded from there. Maybe all matter and energy in the universe existed at that singularity, and has always existed, no creator or god needed? Maybe the laws of physics have to go sleep for a bit like we think they do in singularities for the quantum fluctuations to do their work?

  4. ktisis
    ktisis says:

    John, your assertion has several insurmountable difficulties. First, You cannot account for the original question that has plagued Hawking and other theoretical physicists for decades: Why something rather than nothing? Regardless of the “size” of your singularity (relative in any sense) it must be accounted for. Secondly, account for the conditions that led to “instability” of the singularity that caused the initial growth (hyper inflation). Why sit in dormancy for an eternity, then radically change. Whence the impetus? A change in condition necessitates causation. Also, the probabilities of quantum events is directly proportional to time intervals. As the time decreases, the probability decreases. For a singularity event of the “creation” moment, time=zero, therefore probability=zero. There is no justification to deny the Law of Cause and Effect merely because it is theologically or philosophically discomforting. Additionally the existence of information and intelligence mandates a prior intelligence to the formation of the universe, it is inescapable. If we were to approach any other discipline, such as forensics or engineering, with the same degree of closed-mindedness of pure naturalism, we would of necessity arrive at ludicrous and illogical conclusions.

  5. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Hi John,

    The laws of thermodynamics (and specifically, the first law you mentioned that states energy cannot be created or destroyed) only applies once the universe is created – not before there is a universe. It only aplies within the universe – not on the universe. So there’s no contradiction here with the science of thermodynamics and the idea that the universe began to exist.

  6. John
    John says:

    Hi Ktisis

    You make some interesting points of course. However, The Big Bang as a cosmological Theory is still relatively incomplete. I was simply postulating a possibility, that matter and energy, and by necessity our universe, in one state or another is eternal. I will say it truthfully, I can’t account for what caused hyper inflation to begin with, there are a couple of ideas out there, like i said with quantum fluctuations being a possible source, but of course modern science cant push our theoretical framework passed the Planck scale, because once you go passed that, everything breaks down, including the laws of thermodynamics I believe, Stuart.

    However Ktisis, you then go on to say that information and intelligence existing as part of this universe must necessitate a prior intelligence. You are making this claim on what grounds? Why is it mandated that intelligence needs a source? Why isn’t it a by-product of evolution? No where in science does it say we know how the universe started, because we dont know, we have theories, ideas of how it might have happened, based on measurable phenomenon we are currently able to observe, but no concrete ” Yeah, this is how it went down”. When you say God did it, the burden of proof is on you.

    Apply Occam’s Razor then – What is simplest? God did it, which of course brings to mind all kinds of stuff like, if God created the universe, who created God?

    Or the universe has always existed, in one state or another? We can see the universe, we can test the universe. Theres all kinds of matter and energy, abundunt everywhere, but no proof, no testable effect, of God having done it.

    Can’t test God.

  7. John
    John says:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=SeriesPlayList&v=7ImvlS8PLIo&list=PLD62809AD452EDB98

    I’d like to ask before hand you guys disregard the general anti-religious flavor of the above video, as it is hosted by Richard Dawkins. It’s a presentation by Lawrence Krauss (also an atheist, forgive him his Religious snide commentary) on the possibility of the beggining of the universe. It’s interesting to watch, if you love science.

    I’d also like to say that I myself am not an atheist, i honestly couldn’t categorize, as I neither believe in any of the dominant religions of our day and age, nor hold any particular atheistic views, I guess I’m agnostic. However, I find some of the anti-religious rhetoric that comes from people like Dawkins a tad distasteful, so I simply ask for a little forgiveness.

  8. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Actually you can test Theism as a hypothesis. For instance, If God (as concieved by Christians) exists, then the universe had a beginning.

    Your theory that matter and energy are eternal will not work. Two philosophical proofs, (1) from the impossibilty of an acutal infinite, and (2) from the impossibilty of reaching an actual infinite by a series of equal successions, rule this out. Otherwise, there are scientific proofs that the universe is not eternal in the past. (3) The second law of Thermodynamics, the law of energy conservation indicates that the universe is not eternal in the past, and (4) the predictions of the Standard Big Bang Model. Here you say the theoretical framework cannot be extended beyong the planck time. Thats wrong. It is observation that cannot be extended beyond the planck time, not the theory. Only the breifest glance at the history of 20th century cosmogonies is enough to show this. However, due to the lengthy procession of failed theories that have sought to divert the absolute beginning of the universe predicted by the Standard Model and extend its life into the infinite past, we have good reason to think that future attempts will also be unsuccessful. Secondly, the Bord Guth Vilenkin theorum (c. 2004) positively proves that the universe had a beginning, by showing that any universe that has been in a state of cosmic inflation cannot be extended into the infinite past, but had an absolute beginning.

    So given the universe had a beginning (premise 2, KCA), and that nothing can come from nothing (premise 1, KCA), applying Occam’s Razoris not detrimental to the conclusion of the KCA, nor Theism since we are ‘not positing anything beyond necessity.’ Thats Occam’s Razor. Occam’s Razor is not whatever explanation is simplest. And for whatever its worth, God as the cause of the universe is an advance in simplicity anyway, since God is simple compared to the effect – the complex material universe. God is an immaterial mind – tremendously simple entity (even if God did have a cause).

  9. John Gomes
    John Gomes says:

    Hi Stuart

    Sure you can hypothesize with theism to your heart’s content, but there is no empirical data, no measurable effect to prove your hypothesis. What do you use as empirical data to prove God? I’m not even referring to any particular one, for sake of argument, we will list God as the being who created the universe, hypothetically

    Also, you say you cant get something from nothing, which is of course correct. The problem is, there is no such thing as “Nothing” The Quantum Vacuum as shown in the Casimir Effect shows this. Even in Vacuum there are quantum fluctuations, with virtual particles popping in and out of existence.

    Also, you keep mentioning the law of thermal dynamics, but physical laws as we know them break down at the singularity and no longer apply, hence why observation doesn’t extend past the Planck scale of the cosmological singularity predicted in the Standard Model, because the laws and rules of the universe that we use for most science dont apply at the singularity, they don’t do what they are supposed to.

    The thing is, we have no clue what happened prior to the Big Bang. The difference is, you claim that at the beggining it was God that set the ball rolling. Where is the Proof? There isn’t any. I was just theorizing, and of course, as you pointed out, there are many reasons for my theory to not be correct. The theistic Idea however, has no evidence to support it whatsoever, It’s totally in the domain of philosophy.

  10. John
    John says:

    Saying the universe has a begining is not the same as saying it came from nothing.. It simply suggests that there is something external. It doesn’t have to be a God.

    the fact is nobody knows. Saying God did it explains nothing.

  11. John
    John says:

    Also, The BGV theorem has this to say, quoted directly from the paper

    Many inflating spacetimes are likely to violate the weak energy condition, a key assumption of singularity theorems. Here we offer a simple kinematical argument, requiring no energy condition, that a cosmological model which is inflating — or just expanding sufficiently fast — must be incomplete in null and timelike past directions. Specifically, we obtain a bound on the integral of the Hubble parameter over a past-directed timelike or null geodesic. Thus inflationary models require physics other than inflation to describe the past boundary of the inflating region of spacetime.
    ……
    and later

    Whatever the possibilities for the boundary, it is clear
    that unless the averaged expansion condition can somehow
    be avoided for all past-directed geodesics, inflation
    alone is not sufficient to provide a complete description of
    the Universe, and some new physics is necessary in order
    to determine the correct conditions at the boundary

    Note the end of that

    “inflation alone is not sufficient to provide a complete description of
    the Universe, and some new physics is necessary in order
    to determine the correct conditions at the boundary”

    It doesn’t say anything about God, Just that there is some kind of new physics that we are not aware of that would be responsible.
    Your twisting that paper to suit your preconceptions Stuart. You’re inserting “God” As the new physics. Youre combining philosophy and science., not a very logical thing to do.

    You also make some other wild assumptions that have no basis in fact.
    “God is an immaterial Mind” What do you base this off? Where is your empirical evidence of this?
    “God is Simple ” Once again, evidence? Where is your evidence?
    The existence of God as the cause immediatley leads to infinite regression, as if God is the cause of the universe what is the cause of god? Thats complex, not simple.

  12. Bnonn
    Bnonn says:

    John, it doesn’t really reflect well on you when you jump to the conclusion that your comment wasn’t immediately published because of “censorship”.

    Our comment filter is fairly stringent to avoid spam, which we get a lot of. So most comments have to be manually approved. And believe it or not, we don’t sit in the WordPress dashboard all day hitting the Refresh button ;P

  13. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    John,

    There is a major philosophical problem with your above comments. I will freely admit there is no purely empirical evidence for God. However, empirical evidence can be used to support a premise, which when combined with philosophical notions in other premises can lead toward a logical conclusion. You say comining philosophy and science is illogical? No. This method describes the process of forming every other reasonable belief, including scientific beliefs formed by responsible empirical enquiry.

    For instance, one could say, there is a creature out there with certain attributes, say for instance it has wings, can swim as well as a fish, the male sits on the eggs to keep it warm, it can grow as tall as 100cm. We can be skeptical about it, because its doesn’t sound like anything we’ve ever seen or experienced. But when we hear about the emperor penguin, (perhaps you saw it for yourself, perhaps you read about it, or heard it described on the BBC by David Attinborough) you say to youself, ‘Hey, this fits the description.’ Then we combine this empirical evidence a philosophical assumption (hidden premise), i.e. “The report I am recieving from my senses is trustworthy,” and/or “This creature is not logically impossible,” and/or ” Likewise, Attinborough would not make this up, but he and his crew would have a direct and immediate sensory impression.” We then can conclude justifiably ‘My hypothesis [of such a creture with certain attributes] was right after all.’ Likewise, we have a concept of God as having certain attributes, we know from the KCA that the universe has a cause, and then when we consider what it would mean for something to be a cause of the universe, then we can say, ‘Hey, this fits the description of such a being.’

    This is like Aquinas saying, ‘And this being, everyone calls God.’ What properties does the “something external [to the universe]” have, do you think? Now doesn’t such a description fit the concept of God quite nicely? And what are you going to call it? This being/cause/whatever, afterall, created the universe.

    I agree there is no such THING as nothing. After all, thats the meaning of nothing – No-thing. Some people call the vacuum “nothing” but it is clearly not nothing. It is something, endowed and governed by physical laws. The universe however began from nothing in the sense of creatio ex nihilo, No-thing.

    This is the prediction of the Standard Big Bang Model. Other models that have tried to extend the universe into the infinite past have continually failed to recommend themselves to the scietific community, and because of the Bord Guth Vilenkin theorem, cannot be infinite in the past since the theorem is independant of a physical description of the past universe. It was Alan Guth, I believe, who said, “With the proof now in, cosmologists must now face the problem of an absolute beginning.”

    I’m not inserting God here as the new physics! I’m using the Bord Guth Vilenkin theorem as support for the beginning of the universe.

    “God is an immaterial mind.” I base this off the revealed and traditional concept of God. But is there another reason why the creator or cause of the universe would be an immaterial mind. Since the universe is all that is material, the cause of the universe must be immaterial. Since the only immaterial things that philsophers are aware of are minds and abstract objects, and since abstract objects cannot cause anything, then the cause of the unvierse must be a mind. Thus, the cause of the universe must be an immaterial mind. God is an immaterial mind. And an immaterial mind is tremendously simple. It cannot be divided since it has not physical parts – it has no components to put together.

    “The existence of God as the cause immediatley leads to infinite regression, as if God is the cause of the universe what is the cause of god? Thats complex, not simple.”

    If God had a cause that wouldn’t mean he was complex. But what is your problem with infinite regressions anyway? Its an eternal universe that is an infinite regression, which based on your above comments above, you don’t have a problem with. A major inconsistancy in your arguments here.

    And why would you think that a being that bought time into existence with the universe, itself began to exist? This is your burden if you’re to advance this argument. It is unfortunately for those who advance the argument immediately apparent the very question is ridiculous. The cause of the universe (all space and time) must be timeless, thus be beginningless and unchanging. That which is beginningless and unchanging is necessary: the universe is contingent (it didn’t have to exist) – the cause of the unverse must be not-contingent, i.e. necessary (it had to exitst). So the question “Who made God?” is therefore exactly “What was the cause of an uncaused cause?” Analogously, it is like the question “What is the name of the bachelor’s wife?” or like saying “The area of the circle is the square of both its sides.” It’s idiotic. Really! Why people think its profound is beyond me.

  14. Jason Tannery
    Jason Tannery says:

    Refer to the website address at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_energy pertaining to dark energy.

    The following is the extract of the second paragraph under the sub-title of “Negative Pressure” for the main subject of the ‘Nature Of Dark Energy’:

    According to General Relativity, the pressure within a substance contributes to its gravitational attraction for other things just as its mass density does. This happens because the physical quantity that causes matter to generate gravitational effects is the Stress-energy tensor, which contains both the energy (or matter) density of a substance and its pressure and viscosity.

    As the phrase, the physical quantity that causes matter to generate gravitational effects is mentioned in the extracted paragraph, it gives the implication that physical quantity of matter has to exist prior to the generation of gravitational effects. Or in other words, it opposes the principality that gravitational effects could occur at the absence of matter. As it is described pertaining to Dark Energy, it implies that Dark Energy could only be derived from the existence of the physical quantity of matter. This certainly rejects Stephen Hawking’s theory in which dark energy could exist prior to the formation of the universe as if that dark energy could exist the support or influence from the physical quantity of matter.

    The following is the extract of the third paragraph under the sub-title of ‘Cosmological Constant’ for the main subject of the ‘Nature of Dark Energy’:

    The simplest explanation for dark energy is that it is simply the “cost of having space”: that is, a volume of space has some intrinsic, fundamental energy. This is the cosmological constant, sometimes called Lambda (hence Lambda-CDM model) after the Greek letter ?, the symbol used to mathematically represent this quantity. Since energy and mass are related by E = mc2, Einstein’s theory of general relativity predicts that it will have a gravitational effect..

    E = mc2 has been used to be related to Dark Energy. As energy and mass are related in according to General Relativity and if m = 0, no matter how big the number that c could be, E (the dark energy) would turn up to be 0 since 0 is multiplied by c2 always equal to 0. Or in other words, E (the dark energy) should be equal to 0 at the absence of substance. Stephen Hawking’s theory certainly contradicts Eistein’s theory in the sense that he supports that dark energy could exist even though there could not be any matter existed prior to the formation of the universe. As E (the dark energy should be equal to 0) when m=0, it provides the proof that there would not be at dark energy prior to the formation of the universe. As there would not be any dark energy prior to the formation of the universe, how could Stephen Hawking uses quantum theory to support that gravity or the so-called, dark energy, could create something out of nothing. Thus, Stephen Hawking has twisted Eistein’s theory to support his own theory.

    Refer to the website address at: http://csep10.phys.utk.edu/astr161/lect/history/newtongrav.html pertaining to the law of universal gravitation. The following is the extract of the definition of law of universal gravitation:

    Every object in the universe attracts every other object with a force directed along the time of centers for the two objects that is proportional to the product of their masses and inversely separation between the two objects. Fg = G(m1 m2)//r2. (Fg is the gravitational force; m1 & m2 are the masses of the two objects; r is the separation between the objects and G is the universal gravitational constant. From the formula, we note that Fg (the gravitational force or in replacement of dark energy) has a direct influence from two masses (m1 & m2). If either of the m is equal to 0, Fg would turn up to be 0. Isaac Newton’s theory certainly opposes Stephen Hawking in which gravity or the so-called, dark energy, could exist at the absence of matter prior to the formation of this universe in this energy or gravity could create something out of nothing.

    From the above analyses, it would come to the conclusion that Stephen Hawking has twisted both Newton’s theory as well as Eistein to support his quantum theory in which gravity, or the so-called, dark energy, could create something out of nothing.

  15. Jason Tannery
    Jason Tannery says:

    As Stephen Hawking has twisted both Newton’s gravitational theory and Eistein to support his theory that quantum fluctuation could create the universe, this gives us the idea that his theory contradicts sicence in realtiy and that put his theory to be in doubts about its reliability and acceptability.

    Stephen Hawking might mention that both Newton’s gravitational theory and Eistein are wrong. As he was not born at the time of the formation of the universe to observe its creation, his theory is simply not tested and ithrough his wild imagination by twisting scientific theories to suit his concept.

  16. Keegan
    Keegan says:

    Could we have some rebuttal from John for Stuart? The debate was going very nicely, and I would love to see how John would come back, and I’m sure Stuart would too!

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