Audhumla and Quantum Fields

I’ve just purchased the book A Universe from Nothing by Lawrence Krauss, and am eagerly awaiting its arrival from Amazon.  I’ve done a bit of reading on the book and found, to my disappointment, that Dr. Krauss does not in fact explain why we have a universe.  In fact, Dr. Krauss apparently makes some common mistakes of logic that are, I think, very ancient.  I will reserve my judgement on the book until I get it and get to read what a physicist thinks about theology.

However, this short piece is on what a student of theology thinks about physics, an equally bracing and invigorating endeavor, I hope.  In a review of Dr. Krauss’ book, I found an interesting statement that reinforced something I had known for a while:  modern science does not attempt to explain where the laws of physics or quantum fields come from (http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/cross-check/2012/04/23/science-will-never-explain-why-theres-something-rather-than-nothing/).  They are givens, already on the field before the game starts.  So when a professor of physics states in his blog (http://www.csicop.org/sb/show/why_is_there_something_rather_than_nothing)  that we can model “nothing” at the beginning of time, he slips in that we also need to imagine first a “monochromatic electromagnetic field.”  Now, Dr. Stenger, whose blog I’m referencing, does not tell us where this field came from.  Nor does he explain how the field, being something, is also nothing.

Anyone familiar with the ancient world will see what is happening here.  Such attempts are nothing more than the old model of pagan “creation” stories.  We begin with Gaia, or Uranos, or Ginnungagap, or the deep.  From these things, other things arise. The world cow, Audhumla, licks the ice and a head appears.  The world gives birth to the sky, or vice versa, and then all things come from their union.  The hero rises from the depths of the primordial ocean.

Or, in the modern world…a monochromatic electromagnetic field gives rise to particles because it is unstable.

They are the same answer to the same question.  They answer it in the same way, and they fail at answering it in the same way.  For the Norseman, Ginnungagap simply was, and then there was the cow, and the first giant.  For the modern physicist who tries to explain these things, there are fields.  And while the modern physicist has bigger words (though Ginnungagap is pretty big and much more fun to say than monochromatic), he doesn’t have more precise tools to answer the real question.  Where did Ginunngagap come from?

For, no matter how we torture the words, we cannot explain quantum fields by means of quantum fields, just as the heavens are not an explanation for themselves in the Greek myths.  Quantum fields are not self existent.  For quantum fields are in relationship to each other in a context.  One field is not the other, nor is it the context in which all the fields exist.  For two things to have relationship to each other, they must exist within a shared context.  Anything that exists within a context is not self existent, for if it were, the principle of its own being would be itself.  If that is the case, that being can have no shared reality with anything else unless that reality is based on the self-existent object.  Quantum fields do not have the principle of their own existence within themselves.  We know this because they are in the universe.  The only thing that we know of that could fit the requirements of a self-existent thing, as far as our reality is concerned, is the universe itself.  And here I mean that vast empty space with no attributes, not the ever expanding conglomeration of space-time that we inhabit.

And here is where the problem of a self-existent universe comes in.  For if the vast empty space with no attributes is self existent, then how does it come to have things inside of it.  It is logically possible, as I said above, for a self existent thing to bring other things into being that have a shared context with each other, and with the self existent being.  However, if that being is simple, (and it must be, for if it is composite, where do its composite parts come from?) where does its creative power come from?  For to create is the function of a mind and power.  Thus, if the vast empty space is self-existent, then it must also be a mind and agency.  But then these two ideas are obviously contradictory.  For if the endless empty space is truly empty, then where is the mind and what is the tool of its power?  If we say one of the things in the universe, we have contradicted ourselves, for the question is where those things come from.

Christianity answers all of this and says that the self-existent being is simple, non-composite, and creates a separate reality from itself that exists as a dependent on that self-existent reality.  That being is mind, meaning that it thinks and has a will.  It chooses to create something other than itself.  It is omnipotent, and thus has the ability to create.

Now, all of this has been said before.  But what I would like to propose is that there is an element of this that is not often considered.  And here is where I will bring in my other area of some knowledge, computer programming.

When we create virtual worlds, such as video games, we create an interesting three layer reality.  There is the reality inside of the game world, where objects relate to each other by the rules of the world.  There is the reality that we exist in, where the game is represented by electrical impulses and silicon in our computers.  Then there is the layer which defines the world of the game, in other words, the computer code.  That code exists in one way in our reality, and in another way in the game’s reality.  In our reality I can write:

void CalculateVelocity(ref GameObject O)
{
if (O.Mass > MassLimit)
{
O.Speed -= 1;
}
else
{
O.Speed +=1;
}

}

In simple terms, this simply means that I can check the mass of an object in my game world, and make a choice.  If it is higher than a threshold that I set, then the speed of the object decreases.  If it is not, then it increases.

Now, there are two things to note here.  First, this is not a representation of how mass and speed work in our world.  I know that much science.  Second, this doesn’t matter at all, because that code is defining how mass and speed work in the virtual world that I’m creating.

What is fascinating is that in the game world, these rules work just like the laws of physics.  You can observe them working, and you can, through experimentation, deduce what they are.  But, search the whole game world and you will never find them.  Because they both exist and do not exist in the game world.  They are part of its makeup, but not in the same way that the objects in the world are.  They are not affected by the laws of the world; they are the laws of the world.  And the laws of a world, while observable, are hidden.

And this is a good hint to us that we live in a created universe.  For, just as we create very small virtual worlds, and observe that they function a certain way, we observe that our world works in the same pattern.  And since we know for certain that the virtual worlds are created worlds, it may be a safe bet to say that the universe, which displays this same strange quirk of having observable but hidden laws, is also a created thing.

It also shows why science can never answer the question of “why there is something rather than nothing.”  For while it might catalog everything in the universe, the laws of physics and quantum mechanics are not “in” the universe the same way that matter is.  They govern the universe.  But to govern it, they must be, in some way, outside of it, and therefore outside of the reach of science. They are, even if we do not think of them this way, supernatural to the universe.

And thus, without a real understanding of the doctrine of Transcendence, which the ancient pagans did not have (with the possible exception of Plato), the best we can do is Ginnungagap and the monochromatic electromagnetic field.  We find that materialism always leads to the same results, just with different formulations.  And, contrary to Dr. Strenger’s strange assertion, we do not fall back as a last resort to the question “why is there something rather than nothing?”  Instead, we begin with the revolutionary and startling statement:

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

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Myopia


Intelligent Falling is not a thing.  It’s a joke, from start to finish found in this article from the Onion:  http://www.theonion.com/articles/evangelical-scientists-refute-gravity-with-new-int,1778/ from seven years ago.  Recently a friend of mine posted it to facebook, and got me thinking about our modern debate regarding faith and reason, or science and religion.  I think the topic has been clouded in the popular discussion, and perhaps needs some clarification.

First, it should be understood that there are really two main camps in this debate, the first is exemplified by the position of the Evangelical Fundamentalist1.  The second is that of the Scientific Naturalist.

These two camps can be summed up by the following positions.  Evangelical Fundamentalists view the direct cause of many things in the universe to be the intervention of God.  This includes intelligent design, the appearance of dinosaur bones, and the apparent age of the earth due to the flood of Noah.  The answer to the question: “Why did this happen?” is, from this position: “God did it.”

On the other side, the Scientific Naturalist side, very similar to the old Logical Positivist view, sees that things happen because of simple cause and effect.  This includes the appearance of logical human thought, art, and religion.  The answer to the question: “Why did this happen” is, from this position: “The universe did it.”

The first view thinks that the lense by which to understand the universe is a particular way of interpreting the Bible.  They, of course, would not put it that way.  They would say that it is “the Bible” that is their lense through which they see.  But the truth is that any text, no matter how clear, involves a layer of interpretation.  That is simply how the human mind works.  It is demonstrably clear that Fundamentalist Evangelicals view the bible in a very particular way, and use very particular tools to interpret it.  They reject historical critical, source, and literary methods for understanding the meaning of the text.  They reject the traditions of the Church from the Patristic through the medieval and Reformation periods on how to interpret the bible.  Instead they use tools which are ironically as modern as the scientific ones they are arguing against.

The second view thinks that the lense by which to understand the universe is a particular way of interpreting scientific data.  They, of course, would not put it that way.  They would say that it is “Science” that is their lense through which they see.  But the truth is that any data, no matter how simple, involves a layer of interpretation.  This is simply how the human mind works.  It is demonstrably clear that Scientific Naturalists view scientific data in a very particular way, and use particular tools to interpret it.  They reject philosophical and logical methods of understanding causation.  They reject the more Aristotelian models of thought that have shaped western thinkers for a millennium, and the platonic ones that have shaped them for two millennia.  Instead they use tools which are as modern as the ones they are arguing against.

Now, the modern debate of science and religion really boils down to the opposition of these two particular views, or one of these views versus a more moderate position on either side.  Thus fundamentalist evangelicals can be just as opposed to a Scientific Naturalist as to a Christian theologian arguing for anything from historical critical methods for interpreting the Bible to an allegorical understanding of Genesis 2-3 that embraces early paleolithic human culture.

As well, the Scientific Naturalist will be at odds both with a Fundamentalist Evangelical or a Jewish Physicist who leaves room for the intervention of God in the universe, or the appearance of human thought and reason.

It is important to note that these two positions are modern positions, arising out of the period of the enlightenment, and are not representative of a perennial struggle between reason and religion.  In fact, reason and faith have lived quite happy lives together for millennia.  The problem lies in equating reason with Scientific Naturalism (or its predecessor, Logical Positivism) and faith with Evangelical Fundamentalism.

If we define our terms such that they are opposed to each other, they will of course, be opposed.  But they need not be defined that way.  Faith need not be simply “That which rejects reason” but instead “trust in a person or persons” which is how the Bible originally framed it.  Human beings had faith in Jesus because Jesus is faithful.  In fact the term “the faith of Jesus Christ” is a rather confusing one in the New Testament.  It can mean a number of different things, none of which are “that which rejects reason.”

As well, reason can be defined not simply as “that which goes by the facts” but as “a mode of thought which attempts to link ideas by the rules of logic.”  This involves the ground->consequent or proposition->conclusion relationship.  Everything from syllogisms to contra-positives are included here.

Interestingly enough, neither of the modern views seem to hold to these broader definitions.  Faith in Jesus, for Fundamentalist Evanglicals, is faith in a mechanism for which Jesus is the proper instrumentation: Salvation.  For Scientific Naturalists, reason does not mean formal logic, otherwise the many logical contradictions in their position would be immediately obvious.

What both of these perspectives have in common, beyond the parallel descriptions given above, is that they are mono-causal in their approaches.  This means that, as we have seen, when we ask “why” a thing happened, there is one ultimate answer: God, or the Universe.

People have not always thought like this.  You might ask how this little essay got written.  Well, if you ask a Fundamentalist, you might get the answer that “God’s sovereignty ordained for it to happen.”  If you ask a Scientific Naturalist, you might receive something like “Due to causation regressing to the first moment of time, nothing could happen except this essay at this exact moment.”

But the reality is that there are multiple reasons as to “why” the essay got written.  When people knew their Aristotle, they would have identified the different causes for the essay.  There would be the material cause…which in this case is mostly electrons and bits of silicon, since I’m writing on a computer, not paper.  The material cause is its material, or what it is made of.  There is the formal cause…the “essay-ness” of the essay, or its form.  There is the efficient cause, and that’s me.  I’m writing it, I’m making the essay happen.  And finally there is the final cause, which is the goal of the essay.  The formal cause is also called a Telos, or a purpose/reason.

Each of these explains why a thing came to pass.  And you can see that all of them are necessary to get at why this essay exists.  However, both Evangelical Fundamentalism and Scientific Naturalism both ignore some causes.  For Evangelical Fundamentalism, the Efficient cause is sufficient.  “God does it.”  For Scientific Naturalism, the material cause is sufficient “It’s made up of things which have certain properties.”

Now, of course, applying Aristotle’s four causes to the universe is just one more particular way of looking at the universe, a particular way of reading texts or interpreting data.  However, when applied, it simply does away with the debate of “Science vs. Religion” or “Reason vs. Faith.”  It can see the universe as having a multitude of causes, each complementary to the other.

Most of us do not in our daily lives obey the myopia of these two polar positions.  We will often flit from one cause to the next, and we will often do it without much thought.  This belies the two extremes of Scientific Naturalism and Evangelical Fundamentalism.  They are alien to natural human thought.  Instead, what is natural, and far more human, is to understand that things may have many causes without being contradictory.  You see, Aristotle was not prescribing four causes…he was describing how the universe works.  We might argue whether or not his four causes are sufficient…but we would, and do, impoverish ourselves if we throw out three of them.  Any three.

1.  It should be noted, as per the comments below, that there are those who identify themselves as Evangelical Fundamentalist who do not fully fit into the picture presented here.  Most specifically in the area of an attitude toward the uses of historical and source criticism in Scriptural studies.