Monday, June 30, 2008

Causality does not exist - warning may involve science

As some of you will have seen, CASE recently put up a video tape discussing the Argument for the existence of God from First Cause. This argument is used widely by theists to justify belief in a God. The argument is formulated in several ways and is not generally uniform. CASE sets out here the argument given by William Lane Craig [noted theist and complete tool] (Craig, William L. "The Existence of God and the Beginning of the Universe." Truth Journal. Leadership University. 22 Jun. 2008) and if anyone thinks I am setting up a strawman then please point out a different definition and I will approach that as well:-

1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
2. The Universe began to exist.
3. Therefore, the Universe had a cause.

This argument seems reasonable at first approach. Everything that a human being has observed (before the 19th century as we are about to see) appears to fall within this argument. A baby deer is born because its mother mated with a male deer of the same species. Cause -> effect. Simple. Or is it?

The "law of causality" is a misleading title, we have never actually tested this law scientifically. In order to do so we would have to travel back in time and determine whether the same cause had the same effect. Of course, humans have never travelled back in time. Furthermore, it is arguable that the act of travelling backwards in time would alter the beginning state and accordingly contaminate the experiment. Thus causality is not a law at all. It is not even a theory. Causality only works on a hypothetical basis.

Above: David Hume considers causation:-
"Do you think those donuts caused me to gain weight?"

This idea that Causation is not universal was discussed extensively by the philosopher David Hume, who correctly pointed out that:-

1. If A is said to cause B then
2. It is necessary to state that whenever A happens B must result.

Of course, such a statement can only be made by way of induction and is only logically possible if either:-

1. The statement is made by someone that has absolute knowledge; and,
2. The statement is consistent with everything that is known.

Because human beings do not have all knowledge in the universe, inductive reasoning has been discounted by modern philosophers including Karl Popper and David Miller. Accordingly, the statement that "Whatever begins to exist has a cause" as well as the argument as a whole is not logical except to a person that has absolute knowledge. Thus the argument from First Cause fails at the initial stage.

However, even if we were to ignore this fatal flaw, CASE notes that there is ground to defeat a statement based on inductive logic without having absolute knowledge, where the statement is not "consistent with everything that is known". Thus, we must ask whether there is anything in the universe that we know of that is not consistent with causation? Well, from the argument of first cause we must postulate at least one (being the uncaused cause), however, it is clearly premature to say that we know there was a first cause as that would be circular (IE we are disproving something from the position of accepting it to be true). On the other hand, perhaps we should turn to science and the world of the very, very, very small.

Below: If you can understand what this guy is saying
then you do not need a personal God

The 19th and 20th century saw the birth of quantum physics. This is the science of things that are really, really, very small. Quanta - is a referrence to singular particles as opposed to molecules and everything larger which consists of collections of several particles. Although atomists like Democritus (460-370 BC) could reason that things could continue to be divided until you reached the 'atoms', he did not have the technology or mathematics to discover their properties (NOTE: Atomist works were destroyed by the Church as being inconsistent with God's teachings).

Quantum physics throws causality out the door because, it appears that at the quantum scale, causality as we understand it does not exist.

"relativity and quantum mechanics have forced physicists to abandon these assumptions (Causality) as exact statements of what happens at the most fundamental levels, but they remain valid at the level of human experience."

Processes and Causality by John F. Sowa, retrieved Dec. 5, 2006

It is a difficult concept to grasp - perhaps simplest to say that where individual particles are concerned there is a probability that a certain cause will result in a certain effect, but the probability of that happening is not certain. So why does causality happen on a human scale if it doesn't work on a quantum scale? Well, its an issue of probability. If your hand consists of 10,000,000,000,000 particles (actually it is more) that are most likely to move in a certain direction when force is applied then is it very, very, very, very likely that the majority of those particles will travel in the most probable direction. If one of those 10,000,000,000,000 particles ends up in the outer reaches of the solar system, would you notice?

The problem is a bit different for other quanta that move vast distances at high speeds such as light particles. The probability of a particle in your hand ending up in the outer reaches of the solar system when you shake it is greatly excacerbated for these particles because of the distance over which they travel. For instance "By quantum lore, when a particle of light travels from A to B, it does not take one path but explores every one simultaneously, with the more direct routes being used more heavily".

If light (and other quantum particles) do not take a certain route when affected by a certain cause then the inductive reasoning used to support the "law of causality" must necesarily fail. On this basis, the argument from first cause postulated by William Lane Craig also fails.

Now you may be saying, "William Lane Craig doesnt use that language, he says that everything that comes into existence must have a cause - therefore your statement is fallacious". This may be how it appears at first, but you may have to engage your brain for the next bit in order to see why the Craig argument does fail for the reasons given above. We are about the enter the world of Stephen Hawking.

Above: Hawking - Scientist, Genius and ladies man

Hawking is known for crossing ideas on things like black hole information paradoxes and closed big bangs through applying ideas of quantum mechanics to events in the general relativity universe. In other words, his process is to look at big effects based on what is happening the very small scale.

Think about it, if quantum particles act based on probability and not according to actual cause, what does that mean for the initial stages of a universe consisting of quantum particles?

Hawkings explosive new theory (together with Prof Thomas Hertog of the Astroparticle and Cosmology Laboratory in Paris) which allows:-"In this way, they argue the universe did not have just one unique beginning and history but a multitude of different ones and that it has experienced them all".

Of course, by destroying the unique point of origin that does not mean that God could not have been responsible for multiple points of origin. It only means that the argument put forward by William Lane Craig is wrong. Furthermore, if a theist were to make such a claim then we would be able to ask "where is your evidence for that?". The theist cannot rely on the old testament of the bible because it does not state "God created the universe at multiple independent points which were all expereinced by the universe" - not to mention the difficulty of the planet earth coming about prior to the stars in the heavens (Genesis 1: 7 and 14).

Finally, Hawkings new theory supports superstring theory or M theory which could give us further understanding of the multiverse outside our universe. A simpler introduction is available here.

For all these reasons, the argument from first cause does not actually work. It is inconsistent with our understanding of the universe. It is also self-contradictory. All this is interesting, but will it cause theists to lay down their holy texts and start reading some science? I don't think so. For a theist that has an ultimate, simple to understand first cause, it would take courage and intellectual vigour to look into these issues. Theists, in my opinion, are more satisfied to lazily remain in their perfect God.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Really intelligent way to begin an argument by calling someone a "complete tool". You lost any respect I might have had for either you or your viewpoint right then & there. Anyone who feels the need to resort to petty name calling when attempting to convey their opinion obviously has nothing noteworthy to say.