The Open Mind

Cogito Ergo Sum

The Kalam Cosmological Argument for God’s Existence

with 20 comments

Previously, I’ve written briefly about some of the cosmological arguments for God.  I’d like to expand on this topic, and I’ll begin doing so in this post by analyzing the Kalam Cosmological Argument (KCA), since it is arguably the most well known version of the argument, which can be described with the following syllogism:

(1) Everything that begins to exist has a cause;

(2) The universe began to exist;

Therefore,

(3) The universe has a cause.

The conclusion of this argument is often expanded by theists to suggest that the cause must be supernaturally transcendent, immaterial, timeless, spaceless, and perhaps most importantly, this cause must itself be uncaused, in order to avoid the causal infinite regress implied by the KCA’s first premise.

Unfortunately this argument fails for a number of reasons.  The first thing that needs to be clarified is the definitions of terms used in these premises.  What is meant by “everything”, or “begins to exist”?  “Everything” in this context does imply that there are more than one of these things, which means that we are referring to a set of things, indeed the set of all things in this case.  The set of all things implied here apparently refers to all matter and energy in the universe, specifically the configuration of any subset of all matter and/or energy.  Then we have the second element in the first premise, “begins to exist”, which would thus refer to when the configuration of some set of matter and/or energy changes to a new configuration.  So we could rewrite the first premise as “any configuration of matter and/or energy that exists at time T and which didn’t exist at the time immediately prior to time T (which we could call T’), was a result of some cause”.  If we want to specify how “immediately prior” T’ is to T, we could use the smallest unit of time that carries any meaning per the laws of physics which would be the Planck time (roughly 10^-43 seconds), which is the time it takes the fastest entity in the universe (light) to traverse the shortest distance in the universe (the Planck length).

Does Everything Have a Cause?

Now that we’ve more clearly defined what is meant by the first premise, we can address whether or not that premise is sound.  It seems perfectly reasonable based on the nature of causality that we currently understand that there is indeed some cause that drives the changes in the configurations of sets of matter and energy that we observe in the universe, most especially in the everyday world that we observe.  On a most fundamental physical level, we would typically say that the cause of these configuration changes is described as the laws of physics.  Particles and waves all behave as they do, very predictably changing from one form into another based on these physical laws or consistent patterns that we’ve discovered.  However, depending on the interpretation of quantum mechanics used, there may be acausal quantum processes happening, for example, as virtual particle/anti-particle pairs pop into existence without any apparent deterministic path.  That is, unless there are non-local hidden variables that we are unaware of which guide/cause these events, there don’t appear to be any deterministic or causal driving forces behind certain quantum phenomena.  At best, the science is inconclusive as to whether all phenomena have causes, and thus one can’t claim certainty to the first premise of the KCA.  Unless we find a way to determine that quantum mechanics is entirely deterministic, we simply don’t know that matter and energy are fundamentally causally connected as are objects that we observe at much larger scales.

The bottom line here is that quantum indeterminism carries with it the possibility of acausality until proven otherwise, thus undermining premise one of the KCA with the empirical evidence found within the field of quantum physics.  As such, it is entirely plausible that if the apparent quantum acausal processes are fundamental to our physical world, the universe itself may have arisen from said acausal processes, thus undermining premise two as well as the conclusion of the KCA.  We can’t conclude that this is the case, but it is entirely possible and is in fact plausible given the peculiar quantum phenomena we’ve observed thus far.

As for the second premise, if we apply our clarified definition of “began to exist” introduced in the first premise to the second, then “the universe began to exist” would mean more specifically that “there was once a time (T’) when the universe didn’t exist and then at time T, the universe did exist.”  This is the most obviously problematic premise, at least according to the evidence we’ve found within cosmology.  The Big Bang Theory as most people are familiar with, which is the prevailing cosmological model for the earliest known moment of the universe, implies that spacetime itself had it’s earliest moment roughly 13.8 billion years ago, and continued to expand and transform over 13.8 billion years until reaching the state that we see it in today.  Many theists try to use this as evidence for the universe being created by God.  However, since time itself was non-existent prior to the Big Bang, it is not sensible to speak of any creation event happening prior to this moment, since there was no time for such an event to happen within.  This presents a big problem for the second premise in the KCA, because in order for the universe to “begin to exist”, it is implied that there was a time prior in which it didn’t exist, and this goes against the Big Bang model in which time never existed prior to that point.

Is Simultaneous Causation Tenable?

One way that theologians and some philosophers have attempted to circumvent this problem is to invoke the concept of simultaneous causation, that is, that (at least some) causes and effects can happen simultaneously.  Thus, if the cause of the universe happened at the same time as the effect (the Big Bang), then the cause of the universe (possibly “creation”) did happen in time, and thus the problem is said to be circumvented.

The concept of simultaneous causation has been proposed for some time by philosophers, most notably Immanuel Kant and others since.  However, there are a few problems with simultaneous causation that I’ll point out briefly.  For one, there don’t appear to be any actual examples in our universe of simultaneous causation occurring.  Kant did propose what he believed to be a couple examples of simultaneous causation to support the idea.  One example he gave was a scenario where the effect of a heated room supposedly occurs simultaneously with a fire in a fireplace that caused it.  Unfortunately, this example fails, because it actually takes time for thermal energy to make its way from the fire in the fireplace to any air molecules in the room (even those that are closest to the fire).  As combustion is occurring and oxygen is combining with hydrocarbon fuels in the wood to produce carbon dioxide and a lot of heat, that heat takes time to propagate.  As the carbon dioxide is being formed, and the molecule is assuming an energetically favorable state, there is still a lag between this event and any heat given off to nearby molecules in the room.  In fact, no physical processes can occur faster than the speed of light by the principles of Relativity, so this refutes any other example analogous to this one.  The fastest way a fire can propagate heat is through radiation (as opposed to conduction or convection), and we know that the propagation of radiation is limited by the speed of light.  Even pulling a solid object causes it to stretch (at least temporarily) so the end of the object farthest away from where it is being pulled will actually remain at rest for a short time while the other end of the object is first pulled in a particular direction.  It isn’t until a short time lag, that the rest of the object “catches up” with the end being pulled, so even with mechanical processes involving solid materials, we never see instantaneous speeds of causal interactions.

Another example Kant gave was one in which a lead ball lies on a cushion and simultaneously causes the effect of an indentation or “hollow” in the cushion.  Again, in order for the ball to cause a dent in the cushion in the first place it had to be moved into the cushion which took some finite amount of time.  Likewise with the previous example, Relativity prevents any simultaneous causation of this sort.  We can see this by noting that at the molecular level, as the electron orbitals from the lead ball approach those of the cushion, the change in the strength of the electric field between the electron orbitals of the two objects can’t travel faster than the speed of light, and thus as the ball moves toward the cushion and eventually “touches” it, the increased strength of the repulsion takes some amount of time to be realized.

One last example I’ve seen given by defenders of simultaneous causation is that of a man sitting down, thus forming a lap.  That is, as the man sits down, and his knees bend, a lap is created in the process, and we’re told that the man sitting down is the cause and the formation of the lap is the simultaneous effect.  Unfortunately, this example also fails because the man sitting down and the lap being formed are really nothing more than two different descriptions of the same event.  One could say that the man formed a lap, or one could say that the man sat down.  Clearly the intentions behind the man were most likely to sit down rather than to form a lap, but nevertheless forming a lap was incidental in the process of sitting down.  Both are describing different aspects of the same event, and thus there aren’t two distinct causal relatum in this example.  In the previous examples mentioned (the fire and heated room or ball denting a cushion), if there are states described that occur simultaneously even after taking Relativity into account, they can likewise be shown to be merely two different aspects or descriptions of the same event.  Even if we could grant that simultaneous causation were possible (which so far, we haven’t seen any defensible examples in the real world), how can we assign causal priority to determine which was the cause and which was the effect?  In terms of the KCA, one could ask, if the cause (C) of the universe occurred at the same time as the effect (E) or existence of the universe, how could one determine if C caused E rather than the other way around?  One has to employ circular argumentation in order to do so, by invoking other metaphysical assumptions in the terms that are being defined which simply begs the question.

Set Theory & Causal Relations

Another problem with the second premise of the KCA is that even if we ignore the cosmological models that refute it, and even ignore the problematic concept of simultaneous causation altogether, there is an implicit assumption that the causal properties of the “things” in the universe also apply to the universe as a whole.  This is fallacious because one can’t assume that the properties of members of a set or system necessarily apply to the system or entire set as a whole.  Much work has been done within set theory to show that this is the case, and thus while some properties of the members or subsets of a system can apply to the whole system, not all properties necessarily do (in fact some properties applying to both members of a set and to the set as a whole can lead to logical contradictions or paradoxes).  One of the properties that is being misapplied here involves the concept of “things” in general.  If we try to consider the universe as a “thing” we can see how this is problematic by noting that we seem to define and conceptualize “things” with causal properties as entities or objects that are located in time and space (that’s an ontology that I think is pretty basic and universal).  However, the universe as a whole is the entirety of space and time (i.e. spacetime), and thus the universe as a whole contains all space and time, and thus can’t itself (as a whole) be located in space or time.

Since the universe appears to be composed of all the things we know about, one might say that the universe is located within “nothing” at all, if that’s at all intelligible to think of.  Either way, the universe as a whole doesn’t appear to be located in time or space, and thus it isn’t located anywhere at all.  Thus, it technically isn’t a “thing” at all, or at the very least, it is not a thing that has any causal properties of its own, since it isn’t located in time or space in order to have causal relations with other things.  Even if one insists on calling it a thing, despite the problems listed here, we are still left with the problem that we can’t assume that causal principles found within the universe apply to the universe as a whole.  So for a number of reasons, premise two of the KCA fails.  Since both premises fail for a number of reasons, the conclusion no longer follows.  So even if the universe does in fact have a cause, in some way unknown to us, the KCA doesn’t successfully support such a claim with its premises.

Is the Kalam Circular?

Yet another problem that Dan Barker and others have pointed out involves the language used in the first premise of the KCA.  The clause, “everything that begins to exist”, implies that reality can be divided into two sets: items that begin to exist (BE) and items that do not begin to exist (NBE).  In order for the KCA to work in arguing for God’s existence, the NBE set can’t be empty.  Even more importantly, it must accommodate more than one item to avoid simply being a synonym for God, for if God is the only object or item within NBE, then the premise “everything that begins to exist has a cause” is equivalent to “everything except God has a cause”.  This simply puts God into the definition of the premise of the argument that is supposed to be used to prove God’s existence, and thus would simply beg the question.  It should be noted that just because the NBE set must accommodate more than one possible item, this doesn’t entail that the NBE set must contain more than one item.  This specific problem with the KCA could be resolved if one could first show that there are multiple possible NBE candidates, followed by showing that of the multiple possible candidates within NBE, only one candidate is valid, and finally by showing that this candidate is in fact some personal creator, i.e., God.  If it can’t be shown that NBE can accommodate more than one item, then the argument is circular.  Moreover, if the only candidate for NBE is God, then the second premise “The universe began to exist” simply reduces to “The universe is not God”, which simply assumes what the argument is trying to prove.  Thus if the NBE set is simply synonymous with God, then the Kalam can be reduced to:

(1) Everything except God has a cause;

(2) The universe is not God;

Therefore,

(3) The universe has a cause.

As we can see, this syllogism is perfectly logical (though the conclusion only follows if the premises are true which is open to debate), but this syllogism is entirely useless as an argument for God’s existence.  Furthermore, regarding the NBE set, one must ask, where do theists obtain the idea that this NBE set exists?  That is, by what observations and/or arguments is the possibility of beginningless objects justified?  We don’t find any such observations in science, although it is certainly possible that the universe itself never began (we just don’t have observations to support this, at least, not at this time) and the concept of a “beginningless universe” is in fact entirely consistent with many eternal cosmological models that have been proposed, in which case the KCA would still be invalidated by refuting premise two in yet another way.  Other than the universe itself potentially being an NBE (which is plausible, though not empirically demonstrated as of yet), there don’t appear to be any other possible NBEs, and there don’t appear to be any observations and/or arguments to justify proposing that any NBEs exist at all (other than perhaps the universe itself, which would be consistent with the law of conservation of mass and energy and/or the Quantum Eternity Theorem).

The KCA Fails

As we can see, the Kalam Cosmological Argument fails for a number of reasons, and thus is unsuccessful in arguing for the existence of God.  Thus, even though it may very well be the case that some god exists and did in fact create the universe, the KCA fails to support such a claim.

Here’s an excellent debate between the cosmologist Sean Carroll and the Christian apologist William Lane Craig which illustrates some of the problems with the KCA, specifically in terms of evidence found within cosmology (or lack thereof).  It goes without saying that Carroll won the debate by far, though he could certainly have raised more points in his rebuttals than he did.  Nevertheless, it was entertaining and a nice civil debate with good points presented on both sides.  Here’s another link to Carroll’s post debate reflections on his blog.

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20 Responses

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  1. Well-written post although I disagree with your conclusion.
    Regarding the first premise – your objection is that quantum mechanics shows events can occur without a cause. “However, depending on the interpretation of quantum mechanics used, there may be acausal quantum processes happening, for example, as virtual particle/anti-particle pairs pop into existence without any apparent deterministic path.” Are you not assuming that determinism and causality are the same? Your argument is that quantum events are not determined and therefore have no cause. But does it necessarily follow that if something is not determined it has no cause? What about us as humans, we consider ourselves to be causal agents that are not determined. My thoughts are not determined, I often have thoughts popping in and out of my conscious which are not determined – however it does not mean there is no cause. My subconscious is necessary and sufficient for these random thoughts to occur.

    If this is what quantum mechanics really entails it would lead us down a road of absurdity.
    If virtual particles/anti-particles can pop into existence without cause, then surely scientist could also expect horses, Obama’s head, paintings to pop into existence without cause. If there is no cause (no necessary and sufficient conditions) for virtual particles to emerge, then there is no reason to only expect anti-particles to pop into existence, we should expect other things such as houses, glasses to pop into existence as well – the ultimate absurdity.

    I think the first premise is true not from experience but analytically. The negation of it leads to analytical contradictions.
    Suppose you say, somethings can come into existence without a cause. In other words certain thing can occur without the necessary and sufficient conditions for their occurrence. But this would be a contradiction because by definition an event to have occurred means the necessary and sufficient conditions for that event are present.
    If the universe came into being that is an event – by definition it would require necessary and sufficient conditions for its occurrence or else it would not be an event. Which is why cosmologist are coming up with all types of fancy models to explain this event.

    Regarding your objection that whats true of whats within the universe isn’t true of the universe as a whole -does it not rely on ambiguous usage of universe?

    “However, the universe as a whole is the entirety of space and time (i.e. spacetime), and thus the universe as a whole contains all space and time, and thus can’t itself (as a whole) be located in space or time.”
    You state that the universe is the entirety of space-time, and then end up saying space-time is in the universe. Which one is it?

    “Thus, if the cause of the universe happened at the same time as the effect (the Big Bang), then the cause of the universe (possibly “creation”) did happen in time, and thus the problem is said to be circumvented.”
    As far as I understand the cause of space-time would not be within space-time. So I do not follow why you would say the the cause of the universe would happen at the same time as the effect.The cause would be eternal. If the cause of the universe is eternal and creates space AND time simultaneously why would this be a problem? both are effects/events.

    Which cosmological models do you think circumvent the fact that space-time is finite?

    boammarruri

    September 5, 2015 at 2:46 pm

    • Well-written post although I disagree with your conclusion.
      Regarding the first premise – your objection is that quantum mechanics shows events can occur without a cause.

      First of all, thanks for the compliment on the post and for taking the time to comment. If you do in fact disagree with my conclusion, may I ask, do you believe the Kalam’s premises to be sound? If so, then the burden of proof is on you to demonstrate their validity. I reject the claim that they are sound for the reasons given, and anyone who asserts that they are sound carries the burden of proof to support that assertion.

      As you quoted me, I mentioned that acausal events happen within certain interpretations of quantum mechanics (though not all). Since all of the interpretations have equal merit based on their compatibility with observed phenomena, nobody has yet been able to narrow them down further. However, to assume that quantum phenomena ARE causal and thus deterministic is to make an assumption that isn’t grounded in any empirical sense, since our fundamental understanding of quantum phenomena appear to be necessarily indeterministic/random. Thus, to assume that they are really deterministic, is to posit something that we have no evidence for (i.e. hidden variables), where if we assume that our observations match the underlying reality, it follows that quantum phenomena are fundamentally random/indeterministic and thus are acausal. So what you quoted me saying was effectively that if we assume that for example the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics is correct, then acausal processes exist. So we can’t rule out that the same acausal processes could be responsible for the origin of the universe itself. It would make sense that the underlying reality for matter/energy in our universe would be most like the physical properties that gave rise to it.

      Are you not assuming that determinism and causality are the same?

      I don’t have to assume it because it is true by definition. If there is a causal structure where one event inevitably leads to another with some inherent order, then this in turn implies that the series of events are deterministic. If one event doesn’t inevitably lead to another, then this is by definition acausal and is also indeterministic. To posit otherwise would require an argument that I don’t think is possible, other than simply changing the definition of the words, which doesn’t actually accomplish a refutation. I’d be willing to consider an argument that shows the contrary, but I don’t think it is even logically possible.

      Your argument is that quantum events are not determined and therefore have no cause.

      No. My argument is that quantum events are inherently not deterministic (due to Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle) and therefore it is plausible that they are likely to have no cause (though this depends on one’s interpretation of quantum mechanics as I said earlier).

      But does it necessarily follow that if something is not determined it has no cause? What about us as humans, we consider ourselves to be causal agents that are not determined. My thoughts are not determined, I often have thoughts popping in and out of my conscious which are not determined – however it does not mean there is no cause. My subconscious is necessary and sufficient for these random thoughts to occur. If this is what quantum mechanics really entails it would lead us down a road of absurdity.

      Yes, it does necessarily follow that if something is not determined (ontologically specifically, not just epistemologically) then it has no cause. Yes, human beings consider ourselves to be causal agents, but causal agents that ARE determined (less randomness). Your thoughts are determined (less quantum randomness, if this is ontologically real). They are determined by the neurological processes of your brain that are governed by the laws of physics which force every neuron to undergo an electro-potential based on those very physical laws. You may not know where your thoughts come from, but that is because you only have access to your conscious mind, not your unconscious mind (as you yourself alluded to), nor the fundamental molecular processes that govern them both. So your thoughts do have a cause (though the cause isn’t “you”). The cause is ultimately the laws of physics that govern your brain’s neuro-chemistry. However, this notion of a cause that we find convenient to use for these descriptions of nature is technically not true if at the fundamental level, they are produced by ontologically random processes — because ontologically random processes entail acausality by definition. We would still be correct to say that these processes are adequately causal from our perspective (because they have a predictive nature to them, more so at higher scales, which we could think of as “deterministic probabilities”), but they wouldn’t be truly causal if one matter-energy configuration at one moment in time didn’t inevitably lead to the next.

      If virtual particles/anti-particles can pop into existence without cause, then surely scientist could also expect horses, Obama’s head, paintings to pop into existence without cause. If there is no cause (no necessary and sufficient conditions) for virtual particles to emerge, then there is no reason to only expect anti-particles to pop into existence, we should expect other things such as houses, glasses to pop into existence as well – the ultimate absurdity.

      No, this doesn’t follow. We observe the effects of virtual particles/anti-particles popping into existence, because they disappear before they’ve violated the conservation of mass and energy via Heisenberg’s Uncertainty principle. This isn’t something we’d expect to see with horses, Obama’s head, paintings, etc. Those objects first of all would have to have an extremely low entropy which is very unlikely to spontaneously occur (though technically not impossible), but worse yet, in order for them to maintain themselves in existence, they’d have to violate the law of conservation of mass and energy. This isn’t something violated by virtual particles due to their short-lived existences, and thus the energy-time variable is below Heisenberg’s threshold and therefore not in violation of any energy conservation.

      I think the first premise is true not from experience but analytically. The negation of it leads to analytical contradictions. Suppose you say, somethings can come into existence without a cause. In other words certain thing can occur without the necessary and sufficient conditions for their occurrence. But this would be a contradiction because by definition an event to have occurred means the necessary and sufficient conditions for that event are present. If the universe came into being that is an event – by definition it would require necessary and sufficient conditions for its occurrence or else it would not be an event. Which is why cosmologist are coming up with all types of fancy models to explain this event.

      Quantum mechanical phenomena are not only counter-intuitive and violate common sense, but they appear to violate causality itself. Since we don’t know whether or not quantum phenomena are ontologically causal or not, and due to all the evidence we have suggesting they are acausal, these findings and observations necessarily suggest certain analytical contradictions. There’s nothing we can do about that, because that’s all that we can infer from the evidence. It may be logically unsatisfying to some, but we can’t assume anything beyond what the evidence has demonstrated thus far. The universe “coming into being” wouldn’t be an event per se if the universe exists as a four dimensional spatio-temporal block (B-theory of time). This would suggest that there was a “first moment of time” but not that something caused that first moment (because there was no moment in time prior to this first moment of time in order for anything to cause it).

      Regarding your objection that whats true of whats within the universe isn’t true of the universe as a whole -does it not rely on ambiguous usage of universe?

      With regard to ambiguous definitions of “universe”, most physicists tend to refer to the “universe” as that which is contained within our light cone, that is the “observable universe”. Specifically, I mentioned that what’s true of things within the universe isn’t necessarily true of the universe itself (when treated as a whole) because the universe is the set of all things. The set of all things can’t itself be assumed to possess all properties of the elements within the set. This is a fundamental aspect of set theory within mathematics, and has been shown to be true of various sets. Such may be the case for the universe. That causal processes may occur within it doesn’t mean the universe itself as a whole came about through causal processes.

      You state that the universe is the entirety of space-time, and then end up saying space-time is in the universe. Which one is it?

      Both. The universe is often defined as the entirety of space-time (within our light cone anyway), and all that is in the universe (up to and including it’s boundaries) is space-time. They are two descriptions of the same thing. However, there are possibilities that more space-time regions exist outside of our observable universe but there’s no way to know for sure (since those regions would lie outside of our light cone). If there are more space-time regions, this could also give credence to the theory that the universe came about from a quantum vacuum fluctuation in an unstable empty region of space-time. However, if there are no other regions of space-time outside of our universe, then the universe could plausibly have come about from quantum tunneling out of nothing but the eternal laws of physics (no space nor time).

      As far as I understand the cause of space-time would not be within space-time. So I do not follow why you would say the the cause of the universe would happen at the same time as the effect.The cause would be eternal. If the cause of the universe is eternal and creates space AND time simultaneously why would this be a problem? both are effects/events.

      I was describing what others (theists such as William Lane Craig) have proposed to try and get around the problem of there being no time PRIOR to the Big Bang. If there was no time prior to it, then no prior causes are possible because causes are temporal. The supposed loophole is that the cause of the universe could have been simultaneous with it’s first moment in time (rather than the instantaneously preceding moment, since there were none). Then I wrote about why simultaneous causation is erroneous and flawed at the very least because we’ve not demonstrated it is even physically possible or supported by any empirical evidence at all.

      Which cosmological models do you think circumvent the fact that space-time is finite?

      I’m not sure what you’re asking with this question. Are you asking what cosmological models posit an eternal universe that are consistent with the evidence we’ve obtained thus far? Well there’s the Carroll-Chen model, the Aguirre-Gratton model, and a number of cyclical models such as Loop Quantum Cosmology and Conformal Cyclic Cosmology. There are a few.

      Lage

      September 5, 2015 at 11:59 pm

      • Thanks for your insightful feedback

        I think then I can agree with you that you are right, we should think of determinism and causality as being the same by definition. If Event A occurs, it is necessarily followed by Event B.

        I would then like us then to reach a common understanding of what in-determinism means then.
        Does in determinism mean: If event A occurs, it is not necessarily followed by Event B.
        Does it mean: if Event A occurs, it is followed by any Event (B up to Z)?

        “No, this doesn’t follow. We observe the effects of virtual particles/anti-particles popping into existence, because they disappear before they’ve violated the conservation of mass and energy via Heisenberg’s Uncertainty principle.”
        It seems to me from your explanation of why heads, horses do not pop into existence from a quantum vacuum – there are still causal laws (first and second law of thermodynamics) underlying quantum behaviour.
        Also from my understanding of Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle – uncertainty requires observers. We cannot know the position and momentum of a particle with certainty because our observations cause a change in the position and momentum of the particle. So the uncertainty principle is itself caused by observers.
        Thirdly, virtual particles do not pop into existence from nothing, they emerge from a quantum vacuum (which is a rich physical structure). Which means without a quantum vacuum, virtual particles could not emerge. So as a minimum- the quantum vacuum is a necessary condition for virtual particles to pop into existence right? (That’s a causal relation). Virtual particles do not pop into existence from nothing.

        I think it is also important we distinguish between necessary and sufficient causes.

        “If x is a necessary cause of y; then the presence of y necessarily implies that x preceded it. The presence of x, however, does not imply that y will occur.
        If x is a sufficient cause of y, then the presence of x necessarily implies the presence of y. (However, another cause z may alternatively cause y. Thus the presence of y does not imply the presence of x.)” (wikipedia)

        The first and second law of thermodynamics are necessary for explaining the behaviour of any physical system but not sufficient for quantum mechanics. So we do not have an absolute in-determinism.

        boammarruri

        September 7, 2015 at 6:34 am

      • I would then like us then to reach a common understanding of what in-determinism means then.
        Does in determinism mean: If event A occurs, it is not necessarily followed by Event B.
        Does it mean: if Event A occurs, it is followed by any Event (B up to Z)?

        I would say that the first definition you gave seems correct though doesn’t encompass the whole story. That is, if event A occurs, it is not necessarily followed by a specific event B (though there will be some non-zero probability that it will be followed by a specific event B). I think your second definition encompasses the concept of probability better, though it would be better stated as: If event A occurs, it is followed by some event X, where X is any event that is physically possible. Therefore, there is some probability that X will be the specific event B.

        It seems to me from your explanation of why heads, horses do not pop into existence from a quantum vacuum – there are still causal laws (first and second law of thermodynamics) underlying quantum behaviour.

        I wouldn’t say that these events don’t happen because there are still causal laws, but rather that there are acausal constraints. That is to say, if we assume that quantum behavior is acausal, then the laws of thermodynamics don’t cause things to happen a certain way but rather limit the number of acausal possibilities to those that don’t violate those very laws (at least not beyond the Heisenberg threshold). If on the other hand we assume that quantum behavior is actually causal despite the lack of evidence for that causality, then I would agree that we could view the thermodynamic laws as at least a subset of all the causal laws.

        Also from my understanding of Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle – uncertainty requires observers. We cannot know the position and momentum of a particle with certainty because our observations cause a change in the position and momentum of the particle. So the uncertainty principle is itself caused by observers.

        No, this isn’t quite right, and is a common misconception. It is true that one of the limitations leading to measurement uncertainty involves the physical interference if you will of our measurement apparati or the inherent lack of being able to isolate our measurement apparati from the system we’re trying to observe, but this is better known as the observer effect, and is often confused with Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle. In actuality, these are two different concepts, though some have said that the observer effect is a kind of “explanation” for quantum uncertainty, but they often get conflated by those that aren’t careful or that use the terms incorrectly. No observers (people or minds that is) are needed for the uncertainty principle to show effect. Rather one only needs an interaction between a classical and quantum object, because it is inherent to all wave-like systems.

        Thirdly, virtual particles do not pop into existence from nothing, they emerge from a quantum vacuum (which is a rich physical structure). Which means without a quantum vacuum, virtual particles could not emerge. So as a minimum- the quantum vacuum is a necessary condition for virtual particles to pop into existence right? (That’s a causal relation). Virtual particles do not pop into existence from nothing.

        I agree that they emerge from a quantum vacuum, though your disagreement lies in the fact that you are referring to the philosophical definition of nothing rather than the definition that most people would use which would be loosely defined as the absence of matter/energy, time, and space. You could argue that a quantum vacuum is a necessary condition for virtual particles to pop into/out of existence (although I’ve not seen a proof of this necessity, but we could assume so for the sake of argument), though I’m also not sure if this is any different than arguing that the laws of physics are a necessary condition for this. That is to say, in the absence of matter, energy, time, and space, the only “thing” left is the quantum vacuum and the laws of physics that govern that quantum vacuum, which may be equivalent to one another. That is, the laws of physics may be the quantum vacuum, and whenever we see them exemplified in our space-time, it is because of the interaction between our space-time and the quantum vacuum. As such, it may also not be correct to say that the quantum vacuum being required for virtual particles to pop in/out of existence is in fact a causal relation unless we say that the quantum vacuum caused the virtual particles to pop in/out of existence. If they are acausally produced, then this wouldn’t be a causal relation per se.

        I think it is also important we distinguish between necessary and sufficient causes.

        “If x is a necessary cause of y; then the presence of y necessarily implies that x preceded it. The presence of x, however, does not imply that y will occur.
        If x is a sufficient cause of y, then the presence of x necessarily implies the presence of y. (However, another cause z may alternatively cause y. Thus the presence of y does not imply the presence of x.)” (wikipedia)

        I agree with these definitions of necessary and sufficient causes.

        The first and second law of thermodynamics are necessary for explaining the behaviour of any physical system but not sufficient for quantum mechanics. So we do not have an absolute in-determinism.

        I disagree for several reasons. The first and second laws of thermodynamics aren’t necessary for explaining the behavior of any physical system, because one could explain them in any way imaginable as long as it yields the same observations (which could be done with any number of ad hoc explanations). Also, we infer that these laws exist solely based on induction rather than some kind of logical deduction and induction can’t be used to demonstrate a necessary cause for anything because for all we know these relations could be violated at some point in the future (or they could have been violated some time prior to our conscious existence). Even if this weren’t so, and if we conceded that the thermodynamic laws are necessary for explaining the behavior of any physical system, I’m not sure how you then arrive at denying an absolute indeterminism. Nor am I sure what you mean exactly by absolute indeterminism. If something is indeterministic, then it is indeterministic. It doesn’t matter what other constraints are in place nor what the probabilities are for any event or other. If events in a system are not determined necessarily by the prior events, then they are indeterministic. Some of these constraints (such as the thermodynamic laws) can allow us to determine probabilities of particular events occurring, but that is all. They will still be fundamentally indeterministic and therefore acausal.

        Lage

        September 7, 2015 at 3:41 pm

      • It seems i will need a bit more clarification on some of your concepts to really understand your ideas.

        “I wouldn’t say that these events don’t happen because there are still causal laws, but rather that there are acausal constraints. That is to say, if we assume that quantum behavior is acausal, then the laws of thermodynamics don’t cause things to happen a certain way but rather limit the number of acausal possibilities to those that don’t violate those very laws (at least not beyond the Heisenberg threshold)”

        How would or do the laws of thermodynamics limit the number of acausal possibilities to those that do not violate the laws?

        “No observers (people or minds that is) are needed for the uncertainty principle to show effect. Rather one only needs an interaction between a classical and quantum object, because it is inherent to all wave-like systems.”
        Regarding your disagreement on what the uncertainty principles – what do you mean by an interaction between classical and quantum object? Why would there be uncertainty in the absence of observers though?

        “That is to say, in the absence of matter, energy, time, and space, the only “thing” left is the quantum vacuum and the laws of physics that govern that quantum vacuum, which may be equivalent to one another.”

        What in your understanding is quantum vacuum – is it not a physical structure, consisting of matter and energy in space-time? Also how could laws of physics be able to describe the absence of matter, energy, time and space. Is that not the whole point of the laws of physics – to describe behaviour of matter/energy in space-time?
        What do you mean by laws of physics are equivalent to quantum vacuum? Would Einstein General relativity (a law of physics) be equivalent to the quantum vacuum for example?

        “As such, it may also not be correct to say that the quantum vacuum being required for virtual particles to pop in/out of existence is in fact a causal relation unless we say that the quantum vacuum caused the virtual particles to pop in/out of existence. If they are acausally produced, then this wouldn’t be a causal relation per se”

        How could virtual particles be acausally produced by quantum vacuum? If something produces something does it not actually cause it? What does it mean for something to be acausally produced?

        boammarruri

        September 7, 2015 at 5:33 pm

      • How would or do the laws of thermodynamics limit the number of acausal possibilities to those that do not violate the laws?

        Well, technically the laws are just descriptions of the interactions between matter and energy in the universe. They don’t necessarily cause anything at all, but if they did, then they do so by their own nature. There may be an underlying mechanism for why the laws come about or why they are the way they are, but the answers to those questions may be forever out of our reach. We may simply have to accept that the laws are the way they are and that’s all there is to it. We still explore phenomena more and more to try and arrive at these answers, but some answers may be inaccessible to us.

        Regarding your disagreement on what the uncertainty principles – what do you mean by an interaction between classical and quantum object? Why would there be uncertainty in the absence of observers though?

        Let me clarify. The basic idea is that Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle describes a fundamental limitation on how precisely we can know two complementary parameters for a quantum system, say position and momentum or energy and time, whereas the observer effect is the uncertainty that results because of the influence that the measurement apparati have on the system being measured. That is how they are different. It is true that a conscious being is necessary for a conscious thought pertaining to uncertainty in a measurement, but the uncertainty itself is true independent of that observer. If all conscious observers disappeared from the universe, the uncertainty principle would still hold. As for quantum objects interacting with classical objects, a photon hitting and being detected by a photodetector would be an example.

        What in your understanding is quantum vacuum – is it not a physical structure, consisting of matter and energy in space-time? Also how could laws of physics be able to describe the absence of matter, energy, time and space. Is that not the whole point of the laws of physics – to describe behaviour of matter/energy in space-time?

        The quantum vacuum I was referring to regarding the origin of the universe was an older concept from Vilenkin and isn’t what most physicists today would call it, so I apologize for not specifying that. I was referring to the “quantum vacuum” or “nothing” or Vilenkin’s tunneling universe hypothesis, which would be no space, no time, etc. Nothing at all except for the laws of physics or more appropriately the properties of nature.

        What do you mean by laws of physics are equivalent to quantum vacuum? Would Einstein General relativity (a law of physics) be equivalent to the quantum vacuum for example?

        This would actually still apply to the modern/common view of quantum vacuum (not just Vilenkin’s “nothing”), that is, that in the absence of all matter, the “empty” space that remains which is really bubbling with quantum fluctuations could be said to be the laws of physics themselves. What I mean by that is the concept that what a quantum vacuum is (in the absence of what we would call “stuff”) includes what it does and the way it does it. In this sense, the quantum vacuum could be the structure that guides/constrains everything to do what it does as it does it. I hope that makes better sense. So no, Einstein’s General Relativity wouldn’t be equivalent to a quantum vacuum per my concept laid out here, since it hasn’t been reconciled with quantum mechanics (the theory of everything or quantum gravity as physicists are searching for). You could argue that the quantum vacuum would be the totality of all laws of physics that exist in their ontological sense, that is, the quantum vacuum would be the total structure and all the properties to mediate how it evolves over time.

        How could virtual particles be acausally produced by quantum vacuum? If something produces something does it not actually cause it? What does it mean for something to be acausally produced?

        Nobody knows how this could be done exactly. That is the great mystery. One way I like to look at it is this: imagine all the possible events that can ever occur at some particular moment in time are on a multi-faced die, and the more probable events for that particular moment of time are repeated on more faces of this die so that there truly is a higher probability of some events over others when the die is “rolled”. Now imagine that whatever the die lands on changes all the faces of the die to update the new probabilities given the outcome of the last “roll” for the next moment in time. Imagine that this keeps going on over and over again and this describes the evolution of matter/energy in our universe over time. If you were to go back in time to some previous moment and “re-roll”, you’d likely result in a different outcome because there are so many faces on the die and the outcome was truly random. In this analogy, there is no actual way to predict what face of the die you’ll land on, nor is it determined beforehand. It is the result of chance. In this description, the way that virtual particles or anything else could be acausally produced is through chance.

        Those that would prefer a deterministic interpretation of quantum mechanics would have a causal mechanism for everything, though they still wouldn’t know what it is. This would be analogous to every moment in time having a one-sided die (or many faces that are all the same). If an indeterministic interpretation is actually representative of the truth (that we may never be able to confirm), it would mean that the quantum vacuum governed by or equivalent to quantum mechanics produces everything that has a non-zero probability of occurring eventually due to chance. It is strange, but quantum mechanics is strange, bizarre, counter-intuitive, and is what we have to deal with unfortunately. It is very frustrating to many, but we must go where the evidence leads us. If that means it leads us to a fundamental point of uncertainty and acausality, then so be it. I hope this was an informative explanation on such a confusing concept.

        Lage

        September 7, 2015 at 8:19 pm

      • “Well, technically the laws are just descriptions of the interactions between matter and energy in the universe. They don’t necessarily cause anything at all”
        I agree with first part – laws of physics are descriptions of how matter and energy behave in space-time. As descriptions they would not have causal powers at all. So not sure why you would think there is a possibility ( but if they did, then they do so by their own nature.”) that descriptions of matter/energy would themselves cause the very behaviour they describe?

        “I was referring to the “quantum vacuum” or “nothing” or Vilenkin’s tunneling universe hypothesis, which would be no space, no time, etc. Nothing at all except for the laws of physics or more appropriately the properties of nature.”

        I feel your description of quantum vacuum needs more clarity. A quantum vacuum is something that exists in the absence of matter, energy,space, time? Please correct me on that. If laws of physics are descriptions of matter/energy how are they equivalent to this quantum vacuum?

        “This would actually still apply to the modern/common view of quantum vacuum (not just Vilenkin’s “nothing”), that is, that in the absence of all matter, the “empty” space that remains which is really bubbling with quantum fluctuations could be said to be the laws of physics themselves”

        In the absence of matter,energy,space, time – what would be bubbling? Bubbling is normally a term we use to describe the behaviour of matter in space-time. So I’m puzzled how the QV would be bubbling? How is this possible? Again if laws of physics are descriptions of nature – how do they themselves bubble? Do descriptions of how nature behaves themselves have a physical nature which can be said to be bubbling?

        And if this quantum vacuum is no matter,energy,space, time – how could we ever know if it exists? In principle it would be unknowable scientifically. Since science describes how matter/energy behave in space-time.

        “What I mean by that is the concept that what a quantum vacuum is (in the absence of what we would call “stuff”) includes what it does and the way it does it. In this sense, the quantum vacuum could be the structure that guides/constrains everything to do what it does as it does it.”
        Still not really sure what you mean there…

        boammarruri

        September 9, 2015 at 9:38 am

      • I agree with first part – laws of physics are descriptions of how matter and energy behave in space-time. As descriptions they would not have causal powers at all. So not sure why you would think there is a possibility ( but if they did, then they do so by their own nature.”) that descriptions of matter/energy would themselves cause the very behaviour they describe?

        I merely said that if they did have causal powers, then it appears that they would do so by their own nature. What we call “laws” are really just descriptions, but we could say that the reason why those laws are what they are is because of the nature of the quantum vacuum.

        I feel your description of quantum vacuum needs more clarity. A quantum vacuum is something that exists in the absence of matter, energy,space, time? Please correct me on that. If laws of physics are descriptions of matter/energy how are they equivalent to this quantum vacuum?

        This notion of a quantum vacuum, as described by Vilenkin in his tunneling hypothesis is basically defined as that which would result from the absence of matter, energy, space, and time. What most physicists mean by this term “quantum vacuum” however is simply a perfect vacuum state that has no real particles in it (no real matter nor any real photons), but still has time and space. If you want more clarity for the common definition, I would just look this up on Wikipedia for a quick run down. What I was trying to say regarding physical laws and the quantum vacuum is that one could perhaps describe the quantum vacuum as what gives rise to the laws themselves, because of the nature of the quantum vacuum. Because the quantum vacuum is the way it is, this causes matter and energy that are added to it to obey all the laws that we see.

        In the absence of matter,energy,space, time – what would be bubbling? Bubbling is normally a term we use to describe the behaviour of matter in space-time. So I’m puzzled how the QV would be bubbling? How is this possible? Again if laws of physics are descriptions of nature – how do they themselves bubble? Do descriptions of how nature behaves themselves have a physical nature which can be said to be bubbling?

        Nothing would be bubbling in the absence of matter, energy, time, and space (that is what I would call Vilenkin’s “quantum vacuum”). The common definition of the term “quantum vacuum” would entail time, space, and virtual particles popping into and out of existence. It is this virtual particle dynamic that is “bubbling”.

        And if this quantum vacuum is no matter,energy,space, time – how could we ever know if it exists? In principle it would be unknowable scientifically. Since science describes how matter/energy behave in space-time.

        The farthest that we could get is to infer that this entity exists based on the explanatory power of the theory. We likely can’t ever know for a fact that this is what the universe came from, but if we managed to somehow eliminate all other naturalistic possibilities except for this one, then even lacking a proof of its existence wouldn’t negate the likelihood of it being plausible if not probable to exist.

        Still not really sure what you mean there…

        What I mean is that a quantum vacuum may be described as the fundamental substance that “causes” everything to exist as it does because of its own properties. In other words, to then ask the question “what causes the quantum vacuum to be the way it is” is a meaningless question, because it may be as fundamental as one can get where there is no reason or causal step more fundamental then WHAT the quantum vacuum is. It may be that the quantum vacuum has always existed, and because it is the way it is, this then gives rise to matter and energy and universes at some point in the future due to the non-zero probability of quantum fluctuations in that vacuum that will produce such things. This is about as plain as my explanation can be. If it still doesn’t make sense, then I recommend reading more from physicists such as Carroll, Krauss, Tyson, Guth, and others that tend to explain these concepts better than most others can.

        Lage

        September 9, 2015 at 10:21 am

      • Regarding the Uncertainty Principle. “The basic idea is that Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle describes a fundamental limitation on how precisely we can know two complementary parameters for a quantum system, say position and momentum or energy and time” As you state, the principle is a limitation of the knowledge of observers. We can measure that uncertainty. However it does not follow that quantum events have no cause. If we look at an electron in an atom, we do not have certainty of where it is or what its speed is – however we know how electrons cause reactions to occur, how they influence the behaviour of atoms. We know how electron distribution (based on probability because of uncertainty) in atoms can CAUSE covalent bonds or ionic bonds. So I don’t think the uncertainty principles leads to the conclusion that quantum events happen without a cause.We know how electrons influence one another in adjacent molecules – we can describe this causal relationship. So referring to uncertainty principle actually undermines the claim that events can occur without a cause.

        “The common definition of the term “quantum vacuum” would entail time, space, and virtual particles popping into and out of existence. It is this virtual particle dynamic that is “bubbling”. So the quantum vacuum is some sort of physical thing that exists in space-time. Virtual particles pop in and out of this QV.
        My question is firstly – if there was no QV would virtual particles pop in and out of existence?

        Secondly it seems to me then that the QV means that space-time is eternal. The QV is the state the universe was in prior to big bang expansion?
        Also you say “Because the quantum vacuum is the way it is, this CAUSES matter and energy that are added to it to obey all the laws that we see.” So in the end when all is said and done – your theory still relies on a causal relational. So here again, you undermine the claim that the universe, or rather on your view the big bang expansion had no cause. On your theory the universe would be eternal, and just the big bang expansion would have been caused by a random fluctuation in the QV.

        Fortunately, I have been doing some research on some cosmological models for some time. You can look at my post where I highlight the major cosmological models – a really fascinating field.

        There is paper by Vilenkin I came across where he explores whether its possible for the a universe governed by a quantum mechanical wave function (quantum vacuum) to be eternal. And after a series of equations he shows that the Quantum universe (QU) could never be stable for eternity – at some point it will collapse and form the expanding universe. Which means if the QU has existed for eternity, it would have collapsed an infinite time ago – and we would be observing an infinitely old universe.

        “Did the universe have a beginning?
        At this point, it seems that the answer to this question is probably yes. Here we
        have addressed three scenarios which seemed to oer a way to avoid a beginning,
        and have found that none of them can actually be eternal in the past. Both
        eternal inflation and cyclic universe scenarios have Hav > 0, which means that
        they must be past-geodesically incomplete. We have also examined a simple
        emergent universe model, and concluded that it cannot escape quantum collapse.
        Even considering more general emergent universe models, there do not seem to
        be any matter sources that admit solutions that are immune to collapse.” (Vilenkin & Mithani, Did the universe have a beginning?)

        So Vilenkin admits that the QU cannot be eternal, it does not avoid an absolute beginning of the universe.

        So this goes back to my other question as to which models do you think show that its possible for the universe to be eternal. inflationary, Cyclical and quantum universes have been shown that they cannot be eternal in the past.

        boammarruri

        September 11, 2015 at 2:24 am

      • As you state, the principle is a limitation of the knowledge of observers. We can measure that uncertainty. However it does not follow that quantum events have no cause.

        I never said that because of the Uncertainty Principle, it necessarily follows that quantum events have no cause. I said that it is inferred within certain QM interpretations that quantum events have no cause and thus the Uncertainty Principle which is generally thought of as a description of epistemological randomness is thus extended to ontological randomness.

        If we look at an electron in an atom, we do not have certainty of where it is or what its speed is – however we know how electrons cause reactions to occur, how they influence the behaviour of atoms. We know how electron distribution (based on probability because of uncertainty) in atoms can CAUSE covalent bonds or ionic bonds. So I don’t think the uncertainty principles leads to the conclusion that quantum events happen without a cause.We know how electrons influence one another in adjacent molecules – we can describe this causal relationship. So referring to uncertainty principle actually undermines the claim that events can occur without a cause.

        Yes, but we only know how electrons cause reactions in a probabilistic sense, not in any direct causal deterministic sense. We can only describe electron distribution itself as a PROBABILITY, which have a certain PROBABILITY (though not nearly 100%) that they will subsequently form covalent or ionic bonds under certain conditions. It is not necessary and determined that they do so, only that they have a certain probability that they do so. So we can call it a “causal” relationship, but if the ontologically random interpretations of QM are correct, then how we know electrons behave aren’t actually CAUSAL principles, but are rather probabilistic principles based on acausal randomness. So this doesn’t undermine the claim at all that events can occur without a cause. This is the distinction that you keep missing. You are mistaking probabilities caused by randomness for causality in these cases.

        My question is firstly – if there was no QV would virtual particles pop in and out of existence?

        Probably not, but there’s no way to tell for sure whether or not this is possible and this would also depend on how the QV is defined in one’s model. At the moment, I don’t believe it’s been proven impossible.

        Secondly it seems to me then that the QV means that space-time is eternal. The QV is the state the universe was in prior to big bang expansion?

        Correct. This is the view among many cosmologists who’s models posit an eternal past. In many of these models, it seems that space-time would be eternal and quantum fluctuations would be most likely to occur in an unstable empty space. Though it may only happen once every trillion years or more, as long as there is a non-zero probability, it would theoretically spawn universes with some non-zero frequency over time. Once inflation occurs (in theory) it would lead to what we have called a “Big Bang”.

        Also you say “Because the quantum vacuum is the way it is, this CAUSES matter and energy that are added to it to obey all the laws that we see.” So in the end when all is said and done – your theory still relies on a causal relational.

        I used the word “cause” because it is difficult to describe it with other words, since a causal structure is something we intuit all the time and so it is mainly because of our limitations with language. If quantum phenomena are ultimately random, then you could reword what I said to be “Because the quantum vacuum is the way it is, this restricts the random possibilities of how matter and energy that are added to it will behave.” So no, in the end when all is said and done, my explanation (not theory) doesn’t rely on a causal relational because it isn’t deterministic and thus isn’t causal — it is merely probabilistic.

        So here again, you undermine the claim that the universe, or rather on your view the big bang expansion had no cause. On your theory the universe would be eternal, and just the big bang expansion would have been caused by a random fluctuation in the QV.

        No I do not undermine it as explained in my previous comment. You can call the quantum fluctuation a “cause” for the Big Bang (even though really it would be better described as a circumstance that led to a high probability of the Big Bang occurring), but the quantum fluctuation itself isn’t caused, and thus when you go all the way back, there isn’t a first cause other than the acausal properties of the QV itself.

        Fortunately, I have been doing some research on some cosmological models for some time. You can look at my post where I highlight the major cosmological models – a really fascinating field.

        I’ll take a look if I get a chance, though I’ve been researching cosmology for years now and so if you’re information is accurate and based on the latest cosmologies, I’m not likely to find anything new. I will still take a look if I get a chance.

        There is paper by Vilenkin I came across where he explores whether its possible for the a universe governed by a quantum mechanical wave function (quantum vacuum) to be eternal. And after a series of equations he shows that the Quantum universe (QU) could never be stable for eternity – at some point it will collapse and form the expanding universe. Which means if the QU has existed for eternity, it would have collapsed an infinite time ago – and we would be observing an infinitely old universe.

        I’m not sure which paper you’re referring to (perhaps you could provide a link to it?), but this is at least partially if not fully resolved with inflationary theory. Basically, if the QU existed for eternity, it would have evolved parts of it that produced Big Bang’s like that of our own universe (which appears to be flat), but it may also have produced Big Bangs that led to Big Crunches (in closed universes for example). After this happens, there would be regions of the QU that are once again governed by QM and are basically Quantum vacuum patches existing alongside patches that expand into universes such as our own (which doesn’t appear to be closed and will thus likely expand forever. Also, the quantum eternity theorem posits that in a universe with a non-zero energy, quantum mechanics requires that it will be able to evolve forever, and thus be eternal. So there are a number of eternal cosmologies that are likely compatible with the paper that Vilenkin wrote, and those that aren’t compatible with it may just mean that Vilenkin’s model isn’t correct. There are many models out there currently, so there’s no way to know which are correct yet, though those that are correct would at least be constrained in certain ways such as only those that DON’T predict Boltzmann brains (and some other considerations too). So we can narrow down the models but after doing so we’re still left with a number of them, with many of them being eternal cosmologies that are consistent with the evidence we have thus far.

        “Did the universe have a beginning?
        At this point, it seems that the answer to this question is probably yes. Here we
        have addressed three scenarios which seemed to oer a way to avoid a beginning,
        and have found that none of them can actually be eternal in the past. Both
        eternal inflation and cyclic universe scenarios have Hav > 0, which means that
        they must be past-geodesically incomplete.

        No. If by “have a beginning” you mean a “first moment of time” then this may be the case, but it doesn’t mean the this beginning is the beginning of all that has ever existed (including the Quantum vacuum). Also the models that posit geodesical incompleteness lead to singularities and only apply to classical physical models, and those models are impossible under the laws of quantum mechanics because you could never shrink the universe smaller than a plank unit or some non-zero value. Basically, under QM, particles can’t be contained in a space smaller than their wavelength, and so the most credible eternal cosmologies are those that don’t posit singularities because in order to do so one has to abandon QM in that model which is not a reasonable thing to do given the explanatory power and thus likely accuracy of QM.

        We have also examined a simple
        emergent universe model, and concluded that it cannot escape quantum collapse.

        You may have mentioned a particular model, but not all of these models lead to quantum collapse (as per the quantum eternity theorem and other eternal cosmologies).

        So Vilenkin admits that the QU cannot be eternal, it does not avoid an absolute beginning of the universe.

        This may be resolved by inflation and/or Vilenkin’s assumptions in his model may be incorrect. This is why currently nobody knows the answer to this question. However, the most reasonable cosmological models appear to be those that are eternal — because they make the most sense regarding conservation of mass and energy as well as eliminate the need for an eternal cause, and are thus simpler by Occam’s razor.

        So this goes back to my other question as to which models do you think show that its possible for the universe to be eternal. inflationary, Cyclical and quantum universes have been shown that they cannot be eternal in the past.

        See for example a fairly new paper (2015) from Ali and Das who show that quantum mechanics leads to corrections in the Friedman equations and predicts an infinite age of the universe. See also the Carroll Chen model which I mentioned previously, as well as that of Aguirre and Gratton which all posit eternal cosmologies, some of which involving Inflationary Theory. Cheers!

        Lage

        September 11, 2015 at 12:57 pm

      • “Yes, but we only know how electrons cause reactions in a probabilistic sense, not in any direct causal deterministic sense.”

        Perhaps you should say what the difference is between a probabilistic sense and deterministic sense?
        If by deterministic you mean having absolute certainty, then there is no scientific theory that meets that standard? Are no all scientific theories based on probability, due to the problem of induction?

        Perhaps you could give an example of what would constitute a scientific theory known in a direct deterministic sense.

        In the end as you say knowing something has a causal relationship in a probabilistic sense or deterministic sense does not change the fact that causal relationship still holds.

        “We can only describe electron distribution itself as a PROBABILITY, which have a certain PROBABILITY (though not nearly 100%) that they will subsequently form covalent or ionic bonds under certain conditions. It is not necessary and determined that they do so, only that they have a certain probability that they do so.”
        I think perhaps we have misunderstood one another, I completely agree with you here. Science never claims to know things with 100% certainty. And I’m not arguing that we need to have 100% certainty of scientific phenomena to say we know their causal relationships. My argument is that QM does not mean that causal relationships do not exist, but rather we can only know those causal relationships on the basis of probability. However the causal relationships are still there.

        If causal relationships did not exist, you could not do science even in a probabilistic sense. One of the key tenets of a scientific theory is that it should lead to predicting new phenomena. To be able to predict something (even in a probabilistic sense) is to assume that under certain conditions this event will probably occur. To predict something is to assume a causal relationship. If there are no causal relations you could also never be able to falsify anything. How could you falsify a scientific theory if there is no cause and effect? Without causal relationships science ceases to be science.

        “So we can call it a “causal” relationship, but if the ontologically random interpretations of QM are correct, then how we know electrons behave aren’t actually CAUSAL principles, but are rather probabilistic principles based on acausal randomness. So this doesn’t undermine the claim at all that events can occur without a cause”
        What exactly counts as acausal randomness? Could you give an example of an acausal random phenomena. I’m assuming for something to be truly random, given the same conditions we cannot say it could probably happen?
        If everytime when observing an electron in atom moving from an excited state to a ground state it causes a photon to be emitted.

        An extract from Feynman’s lectures on probability.(http://www.feynmanlectures.caltech.edu/I_06.html#Ch6-S5)
        First of all, we may speak of a probability of something happening only if the occurrence is a possible outcome of some repeatable observation. It is not clear that it would make any sense to ask: “What is the probability that there is a ghost in that house?”
        You may object that no situation is exactly repeatable. That is right. Every different observation must at least be at a different time or place. All we can say is that the “repeated” observations should, for our intended purposes, appear to be equivalent. We should assume, at least, that each observation was made from an equivalently prepared situation, and especially with the same degree of ignorance at the start. (If we sneak a look at an opponent’s hand in a card game, our estimate of our chances of winning are different than if we do not!

        Even to speak of the probability of an event, he says it must be a repeatable observation. Repeatable observations assume causal relationship. Again QM cannot predict with absolute certainty, it predicts the odds ( I agree with that). To predict the odds of something happening still assumes a causal relationship – you cannot predict an effect that has no cause.

        boammarruri

        September 13, 2015 at 7:29 am

      • Perhaps you should say what the difference is between a probabilistic sense and deterministic sense?
        If by deterministic you mean having absolute certainty, then there is no scientific theory that meets that standard? Are no all scientific theories based on probability, due to the problem of induction?

        What I mean between probabilistic (random) and deterministic is that both exhibit “patterns of causality” (assuming the random probabilities are not all equal to one another and that there is some kind of bell curve), but the deterministic events necessarily follow after one another and if we were to go back in time and repeat the initial conditions the exact same history/future would unfold. If it is truly random, then if we were to go back in time and repeat the initial conditions a different history/future would unfold. This is the fundamental difference between random/probabilistic and deterministic, and thus the random consideration would be the case if those interpretations of QM are correct. Notice that my two definitions here say nothing about OUR ability to determine an outcome, because that is largely irrelevant. It is true that we may not be able to predict any phenomena with 100% certainty, even if it is actually 100% certain to happen and thus deterministic, assuming that we have some fundamental limitations epistemologically yet with those outcomes governed by some hidden variables. If outcomes are truly random, then there are no hidden variables and nobody, even a theoretical being with omniscience would be able to know the outcome because it is truly random. The best we may know in the case of randomness are the probabilities of events occuring, assuming all outcomes are not all equally probable. So there are different kinds of randomness, some with a bell curve and some without. If we have fundamental randomness at the quantum level, then we see what looks like a causal structure because we have a bell curve probability distribution of random events, with some events far more probable than others, thus being able to predict the future to some degree.

        In the end as you say knowing something has a causal relationship in a probabilistic sense or deterministic sense does not change the fact that causal relationship still holds.

        I said that we can call it a “causal relationship” if we like, but it’s not technically the case, if it is fundamentally random. Then what we have is probabilistic acausal randomness.

        And I’m not arguing that we need to have 100% certainty of scientific phenomena to say we know their causal relationships. My argument is that QM does not mean that causal relationships do not exist, but rather we can only know those causal relationships on the basis of probability. However the causal relationships are still there.

        This depends on how one defines causal relationships. Scientific certainty is irrelevant because if the deterministic interpretations of QM are correct, then we expect to never have certainty even though the outcomes of the events ARE certain. If they are fundamentally random, then we expect to never have certainty and the outcomes of the events ARE NOT certain. I hope this better explains what I mean here.

        If causal relationships did not exist, you could not do science even in a probabilistic sense. One of the key tenets of a scientific theory is that it should lead to predicting new phenomena. To be able to predict something (even in a probabilistic sense) is to assume that under certain conditions this event will probably occur. To predict something is to assume a causal relationship.

        If you define a causal relationship as the only thing that allows you to predict something, then you are defining out acausality, which doesn’t get the point across. See my previous comments to see this point. To be able to predict something repeatable and successfully simply means that some events have a higher probability to occur than others. This can happen even if the events are acausal. As long as they are not all equally probable, then prediction is possible. Imagine a six-sided die that has five sides with a “1” and only one side with a “2”. You can predict with a 5/6 probability that you will roll a “1” rather than a “2” but that doesn’t mean that the roll wasn’t random. Now in the case of ontologically random interpretations of QM, this analogy would hold with one further restriction: there is no causal structure to how the “die” is rolled. That is, whereas a physicist could watch a real die being rolled in slow motion, knowing where every side is spinning in space and could predict the outcome of the roll before it lands and stops moving — but with QM, this couldn’t even be done in theory because it is truly random (not just random to us, but to anyone or anything no matter how much knowledge they had).

        If there are no causal relations you could also never be able to falsify anything. How could you falsify a scientific theory if there is no cause and effect? Without causal relationships science ceases to be science.

        No, for the reasons I mentioned previously in this comment. We can call what we see “causal relationships”, but again, if they are truly randomly produced, then what we are conveniently calling “causal relationships” are really just the structure of the bell curve of random possibilities/probabilities. Do you see the difference?

        What exactly counts as acausal randomness? Could you give an example of an acausal random phenomena. I’m assuming for something to be truly random, given the same conditions we cannot say it could probably happen?

        A classic example is a photon in the double-slit experiment. If random QM is the case, then the path of the photon and where it lands on your detector will be random and not knowable even in theory (despite Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle). However, over time when more and more photons pass through the slit to the detector, you will notice a bell curve distribution of where the photons land. You will be able to predict with some probability where the photon will land (more likely in one of the regions that has been accumulating the most photons over time, and less likely in one of the regions that hasn’t).

        Even to speak of the probability of an event, he says it must be a repeatable observation. Repeatable observations assume causal relationship. Again QM cannot predict with absolute certainty, it predicts the odds ( I agree with that). To predict the odds of something happening still assumes a causal relationship – you cannot predict an effect that has no cause.

        And the double-slit experiment WOULD be repeatable to a certain degree. You would start seeing constructive interference bands on the photodetector that are similar to the one in the last run of the experiment, but they will accumulate photons in a different/random order, even though the long-term structure formed on the detector will approach the same as before as more and more photons are accumulated. This is why we can see what we conveniently call a “causal structure”, because a bunch of incidents that have a bell curve of random probabilities will lead to a much higher probability of a series of events occurring than others, thus giving us the ability to predict, do science, etc. However, if you try to predict where any one photon will land during the experiment, you will find that you are not able to do so beyond a certain probability. If the photon path is truly random, then this is expected to be the case. If the path were truly random, then we’d have an acausal phenomena occurring that leads to predictable probability distributions over a series of multiple “single events” which you may then label as “causal” even though they are not. Is this more clear? This is also why we don’t know which interpretation is correct, because both a deterministic and an acausal reality would lead to these same outcomes.

        Lage

        September 13, 2015 at 9:01 am

      • You gave me quite a bit to think about.

        For an event to be truly random means – The outcome of an event would not be determined by the initial conditions. It means if all relevant initial conditions were known with absolute certainty they would still not be sufficient to determine what will the outcome be. For an event to be truly random means the exact identical initial conditions would not produce the same outcome.

        My initial thoughts on that is that to know whether something is truly random would require absolute certain knowledge of the initial conditions.

        In the case of a dice – the question is do we know all relevant initial conditions with absolute certainty as the dice is thrown? Is it not a chaotic system were a slight change in initial conditions changes the outcome. However if all initial conditions were kept absolutely the same, and were known with absolute certainty we could predict the outcome as you stated in your example.

        The uncertainty principle (UP) states that there is a fundamental limit on how precisely we can know the momentum and position of a particle-wave. T
        he equation itself is given as : the product of the uncertainty of the position and momentum of an object is always greater or equal to planck’s constant/2. So the UP is about a limit on the measurement of position and momentum that an observer can make.

        As you state that we cannot firstly even know the initial conditions (namely position and velocity) of a single electron with certainty – so from the get go we must use probability when asking what path it will take because we do not know where it is to begin with. So beginning with uncertain initial conditions we must predict where it will end up on the basis of probability.

        My source of confusion as well is that there are aspects of quantum phenomena that have definite causal structure. If an electron in atom is in an excited state, when it moves to the ground state it emits a photon of a certain wavelength. When a high voltage is applied to neon gas in tube – it will emit a red-orange glow. Sodium will emit a yellow light. Another example – The photo electric effect states that light below a certain minimum frequency will not cause electrons from a particular metal to be released. Photochemical reactions are governed by this principle.

        Also the double-slit experiment itself showed that sub-atomic particles behave as waves because there is an interference pattern in how they arrive at the detector. This assumes (if phenomena displays interference patterns – then they are waves). This is a causal relationship about waves – which the double slit experiment proved that sub-atomic particles obey.

        “However, if you try to predict where any one photon will land during the experiment, you will find that you are not able to do so beyond a certain probability. If the photon path is truly random, then this is expected to be the case.” Refer to my notes above – we cannot predict from the start where a photon will end up because we don’t know from the start where it is. (we do not and cannot know the initial conditions of photons with certainty and therefore cannot predict what will happen).
        This is your argument (please correct if it is incorrect):

        1. QM states we cannot know/measure the initial conditions (momentum and position) of sub-atomic particles with certainty.
        2. We must use probability in describing the phenomena of QM.
        3. Describing phenomena using probability means the phenomena is not determined, it is random.
        4. Therefore QM shows that events can happen without a cause.
        5. Things coming into existence is an event
        6. Therefore things can come into existence without a cause.

        Also i think my understanding of a truly random event is a radical one – where we cannot even say whether a event will obey the laws of physics. Your version still assumes that the laws of physics are still applicable.

        For example firing a photon and that photon stopping before going through the slit and turning back to the firing gun and splitting into another photon of the same size.

        However we don’t see this happening in all “random” outcomes of quantum mechanics – we still have energy conservation, we still have energy of photons measured in multiplies of planck’s constant, we still have the speed of light in every experiment remaining constant. We have a fixed backdrop against which QM occurs – nature is uniform.

        boammarruri

        September 15, 2015 at 8:16 am

      • For an event to be truly random means – The outcome of an event would not be determined by the initial conditions. It means if all relevant initial conditions were known with absolute certainty they would still not be sufficient to determine what will the outcome be. For an event to be truly random means the exact identical initial conditions would not produce the same outcome.

        Yes, this is basically the case for a truly random event. However, it is still possible that the exact initial conditions could lead to the same outcome (for some length of time), but this is so far from likely because it would be like repeating some enormous sequence of die rolls in the exact same order once again, which is a possibility that can be ignored for all practical purposes. If there are an infinite number of universes however (multiverse), then it would be reasonable to assume that not only are there are universes exactly like ours with every moment in time matched exactly with ours, but there are likely an infinite number of them, if they are truly produced randomly.

        My initial thoughts on that is that to know whether something is truly random would require absolute certain knowledge of the initial conditions.

        This may be true. In any case, since we don’t appear to be able to tell one way or the other, I find that it is a slightly more consistent assumption to assume randomness than determinism because of the randomness we witness in QM. It would require an ad hoc assumption that there are hidden variables which we have no evidence for, and thus the simplest explanation and the least ad hoc one would be one that posits that the universe truly is random because this would match best with what we see.

        In the case of a dice – the question is do we know all relevant initial conditions with absolute certainty as the dice is thrown? Is it not a chaotic system were a slight change in initial conditions changes the outcome. However if all initial conditions were kept absolutely the same, and were known with absolute certainty we could predict the outcome as you stated in your example.

        Exactly. We could likely obtain enough information in principle to predict how a die lands if thrown in real life, but the analogy for a random QM interpretation would be a die that couldn’t be predicted no matter how much information was obtained.

        The uncertainty principle (UP) states that there is a fundamental limit on how precisely we can know the momentum and position of a particle-wave. T
        he equation itself is given as : the product of the uncertainty of the position and momentum of an object is always greater or equal to planck’s constant/2. So the UP is about a limit on the measurement of position and momentum that an observer can make.

        Right on. Although I believe the uncertainty is equal to the reduced Planck’s constant / 2, and with the reduced Planck’s constant equal to Planck’s constant / 2*pi, this uncertainty would then equal Planck’s constant / 4*pi. In any case, you understand the concept either way.

        As you state that we cannot firstly even know the initial conditions (namely position and velocity) of a single electron with certainty – so from the get go we must use probability when asking what path it will take because we do not know where it is to begin with. So beginning with uncertain initial conditions we must predict where it will end up on the basis of probability.

        Exactly.

        My source of confusion as well is that there are aspects of quantum phenomena that have definite causal structure.

        And again, we don’t know whether it is truly random — this is just one possibility that is compatible with our observations. If they are random however, then what we perceive to be causal structures are just a repeatable probabilistic pattern of random outcomes. In the case of photon emission for example, I believe that even the decay time needed for it to return to a ground state or lower energy level in order to emit a photon is indeterministic and thus possibly random as well. The phase of the photon and the direction that it propagates are also random in the case of fluorescent lighting as you had mentioned (“neon” lights). This is true even though the energy level gap itself is quantized and thus emits a particular wavelength when excitation relaxes to a ground state.

        This is your argument (please correct if it is incorrect):
        1. QM states we cannot know/measure the initial conditions (momentum and position) of sub-atomic particles with certainty.
        2. We must use probability in describing the phenomena of QM.
        3. Describing phenomena using probability means the phenomena is not determined, it is random.
        4. Therefore QM shows that events can happen without a cause.
        5. Things coming into existence is an event
        6. Therefore things can come into existence without a cause.

        I’d say that 1 and 2 are correct, but 3 would be better stated as “Describing phenomena using probability means the phenomena is not deterministic (by our knowledge) and thus appears to be random, and may actually be truly indeterministic and thus random (but we don’t know for sure). If this is true then number 4, 5, and 6 should follow.

        Also i think my understanding of a truly random event is a radical one – where we cannot even say whether a event will obey the laws of physics. Your version still assumes that the laws of physics are still applicable.

        There’s more than one type of randomness in theory. One that has no predictability at all (where all events/outcomes have equal probability), and some that do have what we call “causal structure” which are really just probabilistic patterns of randomness. The laws of physics describe these probabilistic patterns of randomness, with some of them classically approximating what appears to be deterministic (e.g. Newton’s laws, macroscopic phenomena, etc.), even though at the smallest level they are not.

        However we don’t see this happening in all “random” outcomes of quantum mechanics – we still have energy conservation, we still have energy of photons measured in multiplies of planck’s constant, we still have the speed of light in every experiment remaining constant. We have a fixed backdrop against which QM occurs – nature is uniform.

        Yes, we still see patterns that are repeatable (which I would argue describe the bell curve of random probabilities). Nature does appear to be uniform in many ways, and it is the repeatable patterns (even if random and acausal) that allow us to do science, predict the future with high certainty and accuracy, etc. All made possible because we don’t have a type of randomness with no patterns at all (i.e. where the probability of any event is equal to all others, which would be total chaos of course).

        Lage

        September 15, 2015 at 11:36 am

      • If we accept that the law of causality is proven to be false by the double slit experiment then I argue we cannot draw any inferences from the experiment itself.

        There are background assumptions prior to conducting double slit experiment which rely on law of causality being true.
        The assumption is that that readings from the photodector are CAUSED by the photoelectric effect. When photons hit detector they cause electrons to be released and an electric current is generated which is converted to readings. The law of causality it true – readings from detector are caused by photons. The experiment is valid iff the detector readings are caused by photons.

        Also note that the background assumptions hold for a single experiment involving one photon, we might not know where it will end up prior to that single experiment. But what we do assume is that if we get a reading from the detector then it is caused by that photon.

        2. Suppose then the experiment shows that the law of causality is false.

        3.If law of causality is false then premise 1 is also false. Premise 1 assumes law of causality in that readings on detector are caused by photons.
        If law of causality is false we cannot justify the background assumptions. We cannot say detector readings are caused by photons.

        4. If we cannot take as true the assumption that detector readings are caused by photons then we cannot draw valid inferences from the experiment – and so the results of the experiment cannot be justified and undermine themselves. The results assume All readings from detector are CAUSED by photons.
        5. If results undermine themselves then we cannot say that premise 2 is true. To say QM results mean the law of causality is false leads to a self-refutation.

        This would be true for any experiment. There are always background assumptions about apparatus which assume law of causality. namely (Readings A are caused by event B).

        boammarruri

        September 16, 2015 at 2:59 am

      • If we accept that the law of causality is proven to be false by the double slit experiment then I argue we cannot draw any inferences from the experiment itself.

        If we define the law of causality to simply be that the universe evolves in a way that can be described by certain sets of repeatable patterns, then the law of causality is upheld even if it is fundamentally acausal at the lowest level. We’ve already established this so I think this is reasonable.

        There are background assumptions prior to conducting double slit experiment which rely on law of causality being true.
        The assumption is that that readings from the photodector are CAUSED by the photoelectric effect. When photons hit detector they cause electrons to be released and an electric current is generated which is converted to readings. The law of causality it true – readings from detector are caused by photons. The experiment is valid iff the detector readings are caused by photons.

        Yes, you can say this, but it doesn’t mean that it’s not fundamentally acausal as already established. This just comes down to describing an interaction taking place as “causal”, which is fine for the purposes of this discussion.

        Also note that the background assumptions hold for a single experiment involving one photon, we might not know where it will end up prior to that single experiment. But what we do assume is that if we get a reading from the detector then it is caused by that photon.

        Yes, we can say that. However, we must keep in mind that the emission of the photon may be acausal, and it’s path to the detector may be acausal. The interactions and changes that we see, we are just labeling as “causal”. That doesn’t negate the fact that they may be fundamentally acausal.

        This would be true for any experiment. There are always background assumptions about apparatus which assume law of causality. namely (Readings A are caused by event B).

        Sure, but this doesn’t mean that they are fundamentally causal, as they may very well be acausal as per what we’ve already established with quantum randomness. If it is random/acausal, then if we were to trace “causality” all the way back in time (i.e. all of these things we call “causes” and “effects”), we’d eventually hit a point where the starting point was acausal. So by and large we use the terms “cause” and “effect” in a way that is most intuitive and a way that is a close approximation to the classical world we easily perceive.

        Lage

        September 16, 2015 at 10:38 am

      • “Yes, we can say that. However, we must keep in mind that the emission of the photon may be acausal, and it’s path to the detector may be acausal. The interactions and changes that we see, we are just labeling as “causal”. That doesn’t negate the fact that they may be fundamentally acausal.”

        In the double-slit experiment for example – our knowledge of the behaviour of the photon comes from the detector. The detector is what allows us to “see” how the photons behave. Once we have gathered the data from the detector we can then draw inferences about photon behaviour such as; constructive interference, and whether its path to the detector is acausal.
        So our inferences are drawn after the experiment from the detector readings. If the detector readings themselves are acausal – which means we can get random readings without a photon hitting the detector. Then i cannot draw valid inferences from the experiment.

        I don’t think you are following the implications of ontological randomness all the way through to their logical end.

        If ontologically random events are possible, not just random in the epistemic sense – then we really have to be skeptics in all our knowledge – it leads us not to trust our experiences.
        If a random event is an event that occurs without a cause.
        Our visual perception of a computer screen could be random and not caused by anything. Our visual perception of observing electron behaviour could be uncaused, just a random visual perception with no cause.
        If ontological randomness (OR) is true it undermines the validity of my experiences, seeing how we assume our subjective experiences are caused by objects.
        But this undermines the validity of the very thing through which I come to knowledge of it.
        I come to the belief that OR is true on the basis of the validity of my experience, however OR states I cannot think that my experience is valid because it might be uncaused – I can have random experiences not caused by anything. The belief itself that OR is true might not be caused by the experience of observing QM but could be random and therefore should not be accepted.

        boammarruri

        September 17, 2015 at 9:16 am

      • In the double-slit experiment for example – our knowledge of the behaviour of the photon comes from the detector. The detector is what allows us to “see” how the photons behave.

        The detector allows us to see that a photon was detected, and that it had a minimum frequency, but it doesn’t tell us much more than that because whether or not the incoming photon will become an ejected electron, or produce Compton scattering is based once again on a random probability.

        Once we have gathered the data from the detector we can then draw inferences about photon behaviour such as; constructive interference, and whether its path to the detector is acausal. So our inferences are drawn after the experiment from the detector readings. If the detector readings themselves are acausal – which means we can get random readings without a photon hitting the detector. Then i cannot draw valid inferences from the experiment.

        Well the path to the detector can’t be known (because the detector doesn’t have any interaction with the photon while it is traversing its path to the detector, so the final location of where it hit the detector is the only thing that can be known and only up to Heisenberg’s uncertainty limit. We can indeed get random readings without a photon hitting the detector and this is called “dark current” which result from numerous things including thermionic emission, leakage current, etc., so even the photodetector itself has limitations in terms of our inferences. What most do is calculate the time average “dark current” and substract it from subsequent readings to gauge the approximate reading of actual incoming photons.

        I don’t think you are following the implications of ontological randomness all the way through to their logical end.

        I don’t believe so, but I’m willing to hear your arguments to see if they support this claim. What are your logical arguments to support this claim?

        If ontologically random events are possible, not just random in the epistemic sense – then we really have to be skeptics in all our knowledge – it leads us not to trust our experiences.
        If a random event is an event that occurs without a cause.

        No, this is incorrect. We don’t have to be skeptics in all our knowledge, because our knowledge is defined to be (roughly) justified true beliefs, and the justification comes from our ability to use that knowledge to make predictions of the future, which we’ve demonstrated we can do time and time again. This is despite whether or not truly random events occur, because they don’t all occur with the same probability and at higher and higher scales the effects of randomness are averaged out and become insignificant. Since these random events occur way more often than others, we can use these probabilities to predict with a high level of certainty which events are most likely to occur at any point in time. It is true that we can be skeptics of all knowledge, thus leading us to solipsism of some kind, but this will result in a life that has no pragmatic utility, no meaning, no goals, etc., and furthermore if we accepted that all our perceptual experience was unreliable and every interpretation of it was just as likely as any other, then we’d likely not survive very long. The fact that our trust in the knowledge we’ve obtained through reason and the senses has allowed us to survive is proof enough that it is adequate. If we doubt it, thus removing our motivation to heed it, we demonstrably die much faster (getting hit by a car, poisoning ourselves, drowning, or any number of ways). So instead, we trust our senses and so forth because they allow us to successfully make predictions about the future.

        So even if a Cartesian demon is actually feeding our brains with all our experiences, there is a repeatable pattern with those experiences (which you may like to call “causality”), and thus there is an ability to reason, use induction, deduction, etc. Even if it is all a ruse and constructed by some Cartesian demon (or if we’re a brain in a vat), it is our reality nevertheless and either way, we can use what we know to accomplish goals, live life and enjoy it, etc. Thus, skepticism of the kind you speak of is utterly pointless, so rather we work with what we’ve got and make the best of it through use of the predictions this knowledge provides. It’s been working pretty darn well thus far.

        The belief itself that OR is true might not be caused by the experience of observing QM but could be random and therefore should not be accepted.

        Because it would be repeatably believed based on evidence we’ve accumulated and/or not refuted by any evidence we’ve accumulated thus far, there is no justified objection to believing it to be a possibility nor that this belief is randomly produced (with no probabilistic patterns that is) BECAUSE we do have evidence justifying why one would carry the belief. Therefore, we can accept it as a possibility, and just as previously mentioned, everything coming from a fundamental acausal nature doesn’t mean there aren’t repeatable patterns that we observe and it is these patterns that give us justification to believe that this or that is in fact true. By using those patterns to predict the future, they demonstrate their validity. In the case of ontological randomness, we don’t know whether this is the case one way or the other (because neither have yet been falsified, and may never be), but both are consistent with the evidence and thus both random and deterministic interpretations of QM are acceptable (though I think that ontological randomn QM interpretations require less ad hoc assumptions and are thus more likely to be true than deterministic interpretations).

        Lage

        September 17, 2015 at 11:34 am

  2. Hi great post. Sorry in advance for what may be a stupid question: why does the set NBE have to accommodate more than one element? Obviously it can’t be empty but why is one element insufficient? Any number of sets include only a single element. For example in the set of “symmetrical 4 equal sided figures” only contains squares yet it is a valid and meaningful set…

    goldheathen

    September 18, 2015 at 3:58 am

    • Goldheathen,

      Thanks for taking the time to read it and comment!

      Why does the set NBE have to accommodate more than one element? Obviously it can’t be empty but why is one element insufficient?

      No worries for asking questions, and when it comes to philosophy generally or theology in particular, there will hardly be any stupid questions because they are very dense subjects indeed.

      The NBE set has to accommodate more than one element, because if it doesn’t then the NBE set is just a synonym for “God”, and thus isn’t useful for supporting the Kalam as it is circular at that point and merely defined SUCH THAT it supports the Kalam. If this were the case, then the Kalam premise “everything that begins to exist has a cause” is equivalent to “everything except God has a cause” which begs the question.

      Now the NBE set accommodating more than one element doesn’t mean that it must contain more than one element. As you say there are sets that contain only one item. However, there must be more than one candidate even if it can later be shown that the set contains only one of those candidates. So whether or not the set actually contains only one item is not the issue here but rather if the set can in principle contain more than one (before any other process of elimination has been demonstrated). Thus it must be shown that God is the only element (from some plural set of possibilities) that is actually contained in the NBE set. For example, another possible candidate for the NBE set would be the laws of physics themselves, or the universe (if it didn’t actually begin to exist), a previous universe, or the metaverse/multiverse, or any number of other possibilities. It would be up to the person claiming that God is in the NBE set, to show that these other possibilities are somehow invalid and not possibly in the NBE set. Without doing that, one is presupposing that the NBE set can only have one candidate, namely God, which is a circular argument presented to support the KCA and therefore invalid.

      Lage

      September 18, 2015 at 12:56 pm


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