I wrote this in reply to the reader’s question below, but the Daily Telegraph has not published it. The Telegraph Editor is regrettably a god-believer.

WHAT HAPPENED BEFORE THE BIG BANG?

SIR—Glenys Roberts (Daily Telegraph, September 12, 2008) asks, “Surely the really interesting thing is what happened BEFORE the Big Bang?”

The answer derives from a merging of quantum physics and high-energy particle physics with cosmology and astrophysics. Knowledge of advanced theoretical and experimental research is required for a full understanding of the necessary principles. I summarise what follows from a book that I have been writing and is nearly complete.

In the beginning was the void. Time and space were nothingness.

Vic Stenger, physicist, explains how quantum mechanics provides a purely natural mechanism for the transition empty Universe to non-empty Universe.
Physics, in all its powers, resolves that the Universe was instantly self-created, uncaused, from an unstable void or false vacuum—a timeless quantum void—with the property that incipient, virtual particles were omnipresent. It was timeless chaotic emptiness.
For quantum uncertainty is all pervasive, throughout the world and the Universe, even unto the void. In short an unstable void or its alter ego the Universe is all there is to contemplate.

Yet in REAL TIME universes are all there can be.
They are eternally present, forever existing, because their absence would imply an unstable state of the void that cannot exist in time.

Thus, our Universe simply is . . .
. . . . because at least one universe is always necessarily present.
For if not, there would be a void instead—but a void being truly unstable, a universe would instantly replace it. Therefore, a universe–or universes—must be. THEY ALWAYS WERE; AND ALWAYS SHALL BE.

Therefore too, because time cannot exist prior to universes, universes cannot have a first cause. With no first cause, there is no primary origin, no creation. Therefore postulations of the supernatural are superfluous, dispensable and worthless. Theism results from inadequate knowledge of science, and people’s gods exist only in their heads. Atheism is the natural condition of the Universe into which we are all born, and innocently persists until indoctrination into some ‘faith’ is pressured upon, most usually, children.

“The nothingness ‘before’ the creation of the Universe is the most complete void we can imagine. No space, time or matter existed. It is a world without place, without duration or eternity . . .” Heinz Pagels, physicist.

Although, like the stars, the void may not be humanly approachable, its physics is within human reach, because it is entrenched in the theory of cosmological inflation which has abundant empirical evidence supporting it.

Charles Darwin said: ““Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, and not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science”. The Descent of Man.

Terence Meaden
Oxford University Department of Continuing Education and Kellogg College

Views: 181

Replies to This Discussion

Glen Barton March 21, 2010 ". . . . your explanation of the difference between religious faith and confidence in the statements of experts on different areas was, as I said, a very useful succinct explanation of the difference, so thankyou, and I feel that, if it's ok with you, I will use your words to explain it to people."

Oh yes Glen, do use whatever you wish regarding my comments [to 'Enlightened Observer', September 2008] contrasting the informed actualities of scientific trust with the unformed nebulosities of religious faith.

Regarding the experience of scientific research, repeatability and trust, I came across this earlier today as I was looking up some matters on the theory of evolution. It is an extract from ENCYCLOPAEDIA BRITANNICA 1926 EDITION volume 10, pp 35 and 37

Printed 84 years ago, the writer was expressing the scientific rationality that goes with the theory of evolution. Yet here we are, 84 years on, and there are many millions of people worldwide (and that sadly includes the USA) who prefer to believe in the origin stories of illiterate desert-dwelling goat-herders of the Bronze Age/Iron Age Middle East.

“The discovery of a single fossil creature in a geological stratum of a wrong period, the detection of a single anatomical or physiological fact irreconcilable with origin by descent with modification, would have been destructive of the theory and would have made the reputation of the observer. But in the prodigious number of supporting discoveries that would have been made, no single negative factor has appeared, and the evolution from their predecessors of the forms of life existing now or at any other period must be taken as proved.” P.35
Almost every side of zoology has contributed to the theory of evolution, but of special importance are the facts and theories associated with the names of Gregor Mendel, A. Weismann and Hugo de Vries.” P. 37
A number of years ago while debating a theist on evolution, I made the mistake of using the word faith. The numskull I was debating leaped all over it, equating science with religion and that science was just another religion that accepted things on faith.
If the audience had been a more sophisticated one his BS would have been discounted; however, they were high school juniors - not known for their critical thinking skills.
I now never use the word in reference to my convictions but use, instead, "the evidence convinces me of it's validity" or something along those lines. Faith is believing in the truth of something without supporting evidence - I don't do that (with the exception of the malevolent gnome that lives under my chicken coop)
I have no faith in faith.
Thank you for finally explaining this last little bit for me, it was the only thing I was having trouble with. Now I have an adequate knowledge of cosmology, abiogenesis, etc.
The only way we can ultimately make sense of something coming into being is by reference to a cause. There is no reason whatsoever to doubt that the same thing is true when we reach the level of the physical universe as a whole.

Can you conceive something coming into being without a cause?

Astrophysicist Robert Jastrow, a self-described agnostic, stated, "The seed of everything that has happened in the Universe was planted in that first instant; every star, every planet and every living creature in the Universe came into being as a result of events that were set in motion in the moment of the cosmic explosion...The Universe flashed into being, and we cannot find out what caused that to happen."

Steven Weinberg, a Nobel laureate in Physics, said at the moment of this explosion, "the universe was about a hundred thousands million degrees Centigrade...and the universe was filled with light."
Claudia wrote "Can you conceive something coming into being without a cause?"

Yes, as a physicist I am satisfied that quantum physics holds satisfactory answers to the question; and as time goes on, theoretical cosmological physicists continue to perfect their explanations to an ever higher degree.

Again, Claudia wrote "The only way we can ultimately make sense of something coming into being is by reference to a cause. There is no reason whatsoever to doubt that the same thing is true when we reach the level of the physical universe as a whole."


Instead of the word "we", write "I" ---seeing that what you wrote is your personal viewpoint, and not ours.
Quantum physics can very well account for "events uncaused".
Read relevant extracts from Victor Stenger's The God Hypothesis.
If you persist in seeking a cause because you think there has to be one, then you are denying the knowledge of high science and replacing it with the supernatural.
Accepting the supernatural is believing without proof---and that stands on the unprovable 'escape' premise that the cause is divine.
If this is your standpoint, you are not an atheist.
I stand four-square with the expertise of the theoretical physicists. The answer is either scientific or it is not. This positions me as a 100% atheist.
By the way, the correct name of Victor J. Stenger's book is
God: The Failed Hypothesis. How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist
My next concern is that the argument of a first cause leaves open the question of how quantum events could exist at all. They appear to be things that pop into existence without a cause. One who would defend Aristotle’s First Cause and the Cosmological arguments for God’s existence would have to argue that the origin of the universe is not sufficiently similar to a quantum event to overrule the widely established principle that, at least in general, things do not come into existence without a cause.

It seems impossible to rule out the possibility that the universe popped into existence with absolutely no cause. We need a “modified argument,” that instead of claiming that everything that comes into existence is caused to exist by something else, it will claim that it is highly likely that something like the universe would not come into existence without cause.

Such an argument, if successful, does not necessarily prove the existence of God. And, as Richard Dawkins states, there is absolutely no reason to endow that unmoved mover with any of the properties normally ascribed to the Christian God of Intelligent Design.

And then there is the principle of sufficient reason, which in its circular logic became the basis of Leibniz’s argument for the existence of God. Can anyone explain it?

P. S. What I wrote is not my personal point of view. In actuality I don't have one. Besides, the big bang singularity has a cause: an unstable void.
Cosmological scientists are not saying that the Universe popped into existence without cause.

Instead, we scientists are saying that something or the other was always there---is always there.

That is to say, there always was either a Universe or an unstable quantum void----except that the latter does not exist in time, so it instantly gets replaced by a new Big Bang and new Universe. In other words, the one is interchangeable with the other, its alter ego. No first cause, because always there.

Science is enough to explain.
There's nothing supernatural; no divinity; and certainly nothing like the fake christian god which is the fiction of the unscientific human mind. Terence.
Dr. Madden,
As my background is in the biological sciences with only enough physics to know I don't know much. As such, the ratified air of Theoretical Physics and Cosmology makes me woozy.
Your explanation of the theory on the universe's genesis is the most satisfying one I have heard. It gives a clear explanation of the “before the big bang” condition.
The part of the theory (this one or any other) that I have a hard time getting my head around is the infinitely dense, hot point from which the universe “exploded” into existence and how that hot, dense point forms from an instability in the false vacuum of virtual particles.
Is it possible that the concept (analogy - metaphor) of an explosion is not the correct one?
I assume the vacuum of virtual particles is what is described by Paul Dirac.

Paul Dirac was the first to propose that empty space (a vacuum) can be visualized as consisting of a sea of virtual electron-positron pairs, known as the Dirac sea. The Dirac sea has a direct analog to the electronic band structure in crystalline solids as described in solid state physics. Here, particles correspond to conduction electrons, and antiparticles to holes.

I realize the behavior of particles within a crystal is not the same as the formation of the crystal, but, is it possible to use the crystal analogy and conceive of the instability as a “seed crystal” that crystallizes the virtual particle sea into the formation of the universe? Rather than an expanding explosion from a dense point could a rapidly growing “crystal” from the instability “seed” be an analogy for what occurred or is occurring?
...I'm really not a fan of that dense, hot point.
I think it was Einstein who said, “Human knowledge is a sphere of light in a universe of darkness; the larger the sphere of light becomes the greater is the periphery of darkness.” … my sphere of light in this area is a marble in size.
Oops make that Dr. Meaden- sorry about that
Comment by Carver: “Your explanation of the theory on the universe's genesis is the most satisfying one I have heard. It gives a clear explanation of the “before the big bang” condition.
The part of the theory (this one or any other) that I have a hard time getting my head around is the infinitely dense, hot point from which the universe “exploded” into existence and how that hot, dense point forms from an instability in the false vacuum of virtual particles.
Is it possible that the concept (analogy - metaphor) of an explosion is not the correct one?
I assume the vacuum of virtual particles is what is described by Paul Dirac.

"Paul Dirac was the first to propose that empty space (a vacuum) can be visualized as consisting of a sea of virtual electron-positron pairs, known as the Dirac sea. The Dirac sea has a direct analog to the electronic band structure in crystalline solids as described in solid state physics. Here, particles correspond to conduction electrons, and antiparticles to holes."

I realize the behavior of particles within a crystal is not the same as the formation of the crystal, but, is it possible to use the crystal analogy and conceive of the instability as a “seed crystal” that crystallizes the virtual particle sea into the formation of the universe? Rather than an expanding explosion from a dense point could a rapidly growing “crystal” from the instability “seed” be an analogy for what occurred or is occurring?
...I'm really not a fan of that dense, hot point.” ,unquote>

[Er, me, contemplating....] Your proposal is thought-provoking. There could be some elegant analogy here involving a seed-crystal type of instability responsible for an initial catalytical punch propagation that is immediately responsible for the Big Bang. I’d like to know what theoretical cosmologists would say about such a suggestion.

RSS

Support Atheist Nexus

Donate Today

Donate

 

Help Nexus When You Buy From Amazon

Amazon

AJY

 

Latest Activity

© 2014   Atheist Nexus. All rights reserved. Admin: Richard Haynes.

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service