“And Quantum Mechanical Fluctuations Said Let There Be Light And There Was Light . . . “: Leading Scientists Challenge “Divine Spark” Theory

Alex Filippenko and colleagues have caused a stir by observing that the law of physics can now explain the Big Bang without one common element: God. The University of California (Berkeley) professor observed that . “With the laws of physics, you can get universes.” Before we replace the statement on our money to read “In the Law of Physics, We Trust” there is a fallback. If the law of physics can explain the Big Bang, God may have still invented the law of physics.

Filippenko was speaking at the SETICon 2 Conference at a panel called “Did the Big Bang Require a Divine Spark?” The answer, he insisted is no: “The Big Bang could’ve occurred as a result of just the laws of physics being there. With the laws of physics, you can get universes.”

Under quantum mechanics, random fluctuations can produce matter and energy out of nothingness. Panelist Seth Shostak, a senior astronomer at the non-profit Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute also agreed that “Quantum mechanical fluctuations can produce the cosmos.” Shostak seemed to offer an ray of hope for a super being substitute in the form of a giant kid from another universe:

“If you would just, in this room, just twist time and space the right way, you might create an entirely new universe. It’s not clear you could get into that universe, but you would create it . . . So it could be that this universe is merely the science fair project of a kid in another universe. . . I don’t know how that affects your theological leanings, but it is something to consider.”

I am not sure religious scholars will be quick to embrace Bobby The Giant Kid With The Science Kit as a substitute for God. It totally messed up the Sistine Chapel ceiling.

Filippenko and Shostak could be looking at the same reaction as the Science Guy — only greater. Bill Nye, the Science Guy, was virtually stoned when he suggested in Texas that the Moon does not generate its own light despite what the Bible says. Filippenko makes Ney look like a heretical piker. First he affirms a theory that our universe came into existence 13.7 billion years ago when we all know that the Earth can be no more than a few thousand years old. Then he posits a theory that seems markedly different from the following:

First God made heaven & earth 2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters. 3 And God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day.

Correct me if I am wrong but I could not find a single reference to Quantum Mechanical Fluctuations.

Legend has it that Galileo was convicted by the Vatican for merely stating Eppur si muove (“and yet it moves”). He was found “vehemently suspect of heresy.”

It is unclear when Filipenko and Shostak will be called upon to “abjure, curse, and detest” those opinions.

Regardless of the outcome, I for one am not about to buy all of those Bobby, The Giant Kid With the Science Kit, decorations and gifts. I find that Quantumas has already become totally commercial.

Source: MSNBC

92 thoughts on ““And Quantum Mechanical Fluctuations Said Let There Be Light And There Was Light . . . “: Leading Scientists Challenge “Divine Spark” Theory

  1. “I am disappointed in any supposed “scientists” so wedded to the dogma of MW that they dismiss the value of performing that experiment.

    That attitude is very tiring to me, it sometimes seems like dogma is a mental cancer we cannot beat, in every science. Every time we develop something new that works, it seems like we are overrun by enthusiastic fools that want THAT thing to be the last and final answer, and somehow assume it is now their job to defend THAT thing against all challenges, plausible or not.”

    Yeah. It seems a lot like partisanship in politics – insanely counterproductive. Then again, what are you going to do? Humans are still intrinsically tribal. Thinking of the species as a whole first is a behavior most have not evolved in to yet (and I’m starting to think won’t evolve in to until it is far too late to safe us from ourselves but that’s another discussion altogether). Even though I like MW for many reasons, to play that game is just not in my nature when it comes to the scientific method. I still say let the evidence inform the theories, not the theory inform the evidence. The method works when we let it. I’m all for FELIX no matter what the result might be. We’ll end up with answers and/or a new set of questions to pursue no matter the outcome.

  2. @Woosty: therefor G*d was standing outside the light, observing,

    That is silly, I can stand in a dark room, turn on the light, and say, “that light is a good thing.” Maybe G*d was just tired of bumping into things.

  3. when G+d said “let there be light” he saw that it was good, therefor G*d was standing outside the light, observing, it was G*ds son that was the light…G*d is probably hanging out in the dark matter watching the show and listening to the quantum ripples of prayer…. and that is the theory of the universe according to Woosty… (i has proofs…)

  4. @Gene: Yes, FELIX is the experiment I was thinking of; in general I favor some form of OR (Objective Reduction) over MW (Many Worlds).

    I think both OR and MW are currently unsupported by evidence, but the fact that OR and MW disagree on what the outcome of FELIX would be is reason enough for me to support executing it. I am disappointed in any supposed “scientists” so wedded to the dogma of MW that they dismiss the value of performing that experiment.

    That attitude is very tiring to me, it sometimes seems like dogma is a mental cancer we cannot beat, in every science. Every time we develop something new that works, it seems like we are overrun by enthusiastic fools that want THAT thing to be the last and final answer, and somehow assume it is now their job to defend THAT thing against all challenges, plausible or not.

    It is just a frikkin’ experiment, it might cost ten million or whatever but that is a pittance in the physics experimental budget, and it has the potential to revolutionize the field. What does the opposition want? It seems to me, really, they would rather not know.

  5. @Dredd: QM doesn’t need a theory of human consciousness, nor do we.

    Penrose is fascinated with that subject, too. He speculates that quantum computing is integral to consciousness, and that occurs in the atomic scale structure of neural tubes.

    Beats me, and I am not sure why he thinks it is important, but he is entitled to wild speculation. I do not think his beliefs in one arena should detract from legitimate and logically sound proposals in other arenas. Doing that would be an ad hominem attack on Penrose.

    The Penrose proposal to test the validity of the Copenhagen interpretation looks executable and sound to me, the idea of a mass limit on superposition seems plausible to me, and to my knowledge it has not been tested, but is capable of explaining a great deal. He is an accomplished scientist, and apparently he can focus and deal with reality if he feels like it.

    Consciousness is directly observable in yourself and others. The universe is directly observable, by yourself and others. There are legitimate reasons for studying the origins of these, but the answers are not critical, the path of evolution (in the biological sense for consciousness, in the “change over time” sense for the universe) for either is complete enough without the first stride, for the practical purpose of defining a trajectory.

    You do not need to know exactly how a hammer came to be, back to where the ore was mined, in order to understand it and use it and trust it. The origin story of the hammer would not help you much anyway.

    Corvids (crows), dolphins, elephants, some octopi and some apes are apparently both conscious and self-aware, which is interesting to know. I do not believe it is limited to humans, obviously, I believe it has been demonstrated in brains as small as a crow or parrot brain, and thus I at least lean toward the idea that consciousness and self-awareness were probably present in some dinosaurs.

    I fail to see how that evolutionary trajectory helps me “trust” consciousness now.

  6. Tony,

    You got me to thinking about the Penrose interpretation last night. I’m familiar with the experiment I think you’re referring to (FELIX?), but until the experiment is completed and tested, I just don’t see enough in the Penrose interpretation of move me from the Many Worlds interpretation just yet. I think (and I’ll be the first to admit this is purely instinctual) that gravity and its effect on things smaller than a Planck mass is going to prove to be stranger than Penrose’s notion of a threshold imposed on superposition by gravity. This is in addition to something I think Penrose plays short shrift to when dismissing Many Worlds: if particles can exist in all places and all times then there is nothing preventing them from combining into other like (and dissimilar) complex macroscopic systems “somewhen/where else”. It’s not as if superposition isn’t a known measurable phenomena. If superposition is real under the Penrose interpretation (and it is) then what is its function if mass via gravity “fixes” all possible states at all possible times to this one universe? That just doesn’t feel right to me – and like I said I’ll be the first to admit it’s intuition. I also suspect refining our understanding of time could impact various QM interpretations in ways we cannot yet fathom. Until FELIX is done, I think I’ll stick with Everett. If FELIX works out as Penrose predicts, then I’ll re-evaluate my interpretation of choice.

  7. Tony C. 1, June 27, 2012 at 6:21 pm


    In fact Roger Penrose has proposed experiments that could potentially disprove the Copenhagen interpretation; he subscribes to a model in which wavefunctions collapse spontaneously based on an energy (==mass) threshold; i.e. that we can find a new fundamental constant of physics which is that only systems of a certain mass X can be in a superposition of quantum states.
    =====================================
    Roger also says QM has no reputable theory about human consciousness, expressing his belief that is controversial, but one must ask if there is no reputable theory about it, how can we trust it so much to give us what we know?

  8. bettykath 1, June 27, 2012 at 6:21 pm


    What mind or being created the original metaphor?
    =========================================
    The META FOUR, one of the first hero meme complexes.

    They were not a “mind or being”, except as individuals.

    The word “metaphor” is a misspelling of the sound of the word the MSM reporter, who covered the original story, used to describe them.

    They gave up everything to serve the purpose, the silly purpose.

    Psyche!!!!

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