Tag Archives: Victor J Stenger

Is the Universe Immaterial?

We already know that the total energy of the universe is zero. We also know that matter and energy are equivalent. From these can we conclude that the total matter of the universe is also zero? Scientist Vector J Stenger thought so. Here is a quote:

‘E=mc2 says matter and energy are the same entity. Since E=0, the total matter of the universe is zero. Zero does not have to come from anything.

‘Now, if by matter you just mean the equivalent of rest energy, then that came from gravitational energy during the expansion in the early universe.’

– Vic Stenger, having been asked for a simple explanation to the question, “where did all the matter come from?” to a letter to Cliff Walker (September 11, 2001).1

But not everyone thinks so; there are other voices also. As per them it cannot be said that the total matter of the universe is zero simply because its total energy is zero. Actually matter in the universe counts for positive energy and gravity counts for negative energy. So when we add this positive energy of matter with the negative energy of gravity, we arrive at a total energy of zero for the universe. But matter in itself has a non-zero value in the universe.

So I think the whole issue needs re-examination.

I think I have already made the point clear that the beginning of the universe will always mean that it will begin from zero space, zero time, zero matter and zero energy.2 Therefore the total space, total time, total matter and total energy of the universe should also always have to be zero, because nothing in the universe can come from outside. So, if the universe has a beginning, then its total matter will obviously be zero. This is as per logic.

Now we can also give scientific reason as to why the total matter of the universe will have to be zero.

How is the zero total energy of the universe arrived at? Here matter is treated as positive energy and gravity is treated as negative energy. When we add this positive energy of matter with the negative energy of gravity, we get zero total energy for the universe.

But energy cannot be directly deducted from matter. Neither can matter be directly deducted from energy. We will have to bring both of them into the same category before making any such addition or subtraction. We will have to convert either matter into energy or energy into matter. In the above case matter has been converted into energy and this energy is treated as positive energy. From this positive energy negative energy of gravity is subtracted.

Now instead of converting matter into energy, if we convert negative gravitational energy into matter, then we will get negative matter. If we now subtract this negative matter from the positive matter, then we will arrive at the total zero matter of the universe.

So both from the logical point of view as well as from the scientific point of view we can say that the total matter of the universe is zero.

Actually if we say that the total energy of the universe is zero and if matter and energy are also equivalent, then why can we not say that the total matter of the universe is also zero?

As the total matter of the universe is zero, so can we not say that the universe as a whole is immaterial?

Reference:

  1. Positive atheism quotes of Victor J. Stenger, http://www.positiveatheism.org
  2. https://sekharpal.wordpress.com/2017/02/23/what-does-the-beginning-of-the-universe-actually-mean/
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Is there any need for the Supernatural?

The difference between the atheists and the scientists is this: atheists can afford to be close-minded, but scientists cannot; their job or profession forbids them to be so. As scientists they have got some responsibility that the atheists do not have. As scientists they are supposed to provide explanation for all the events, phenomena or effects in nature and therefore they have to keep their mind open to the possibility that they may not always be able to explain everything purely naturally.

Scientist Victor J Stenger was an atheist, but like most of the atheists he was not close-minded. He did not completely rule out the possibility that there might be a God. In the year 2007 he published a book ‘God: The Failed Hypothesis. How Science Shows That God Does Not exist’. In the introduction of that book he wrote the following:

“Indeed, the “God of the gaps” has long been a common argument for God. Science does not explain everything, so there is always room for other explanations and the believer is easily convinced that the explanation is God. However, the God of the gaps argument by itself fails, at least as a scientific argument, unless the phenomenon in question is not only currently scientifically inexplicable but can be shown to forever defy natural description. God can only show up by proving to be necessary, with science equally proven to be incapable of providing a plausible account of the phenomenon based on natural or material processes alone.” (pp 13-14)1

So as per Stenger if there is one single phenomenon of nature for which science is proven to be incapable of providing a plausible account based on natural or material processes alone and which can be shown to forever defy natural description, then there, and there only, God can show up by proving to be necessary as an explanation.

Not only that. In the year 2009 British Scientist Edgar Andrews published a book ‘Who Made God’ in which he severely criticised the book “God: the Failed hypothesis” by Stenger (Chapter 5). In reply Stenger wrote the following:

“Anyone who has read any of my books knows I would never say that models detect anything. I simply say that God is not needed as part of any existing models but make clear that, if the evidence should require it, science should be required to include supernatural causes. If anything, Andrews should appreciate that, unlike most scientists, I allow for the possibility that we may not always be able to explain everything purely naturally. Currently we can, but I cannot predict the future.”2 (emphasis added)

Here also we can see that he is not completely ruling out the possibility for the existence of the supernatural. This possibility can only be completely ruled out if, and only if, science can provide a natural explanation for each and every phenomenon of nature without any single exception.

There is one more scientist who like Victor J Stenger keeps his mind open to the possibility that as scientists one day they may also have the need of God as an explanation for some phenomenon of nature. Sean M Carroll is a theoretical physicist; to the outer world he is known to be an atheist. But despite that in November 1, 2010 he wrote an article (Is Dark Matter Supernatural?) that clearly shows his open-mindedness regarding this. Here is a relevant quote from that article:

“There is a perfectly good question of whether science could ever conclude that the best explanation was one that involved fundamentally lawless behavior. The data in favor of such a conclusion would have to be extremely compelling… but I don’t see why it couldn’t happen. Science is very pragmatic, as the origin of quantum mechanics vividly demonstrates. Over the course of a couple decades, physicists (as a community) were willing to give up on extremely cherished ideas of the clockwork predictability inherent in the Newtonian universe, and agree on the probabilistic nature of quantum mechanics. That’s what fit the data. Similarly, if the best explanation scientists could come up with for some set of observations necessarily involved a lawless supernatural component, that’s what they would do. There would inevitably be some latter-day curmudgeonly Einstein figure who refused to believe that God ignored the rules of his own game of dice, but the debate would hinge on what provided the best explanation, not a priori claims about what is and is not science.”3 (emphasis added)

From above we can see that the question as to whether there is any supernatural or not is purely a practical one. If scientists fail to provide a suitable explanation for certain phenomenon of nature by every natural means possible, then they are ready to go for the supernatural. Atheists do not have to face such crisis in their life, so they can very easily remain close-minded.

Reference:

  1. http://skepdic.ru/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/bog-neydachnaia-gipoteza.pdf
  2. http://whomadegod.org/2011/06/victor-stenger-replies-to-who-made-god/
  3. http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/2010/11/01/is-dark-matter-supernatural/#.V_jlNNR95kg

Atheists and A Believer

Commenting in an atheist’s blog is not an easy affair for a believer, because sometimes one will find that his/her comment has been deleted without any apparent reason. I myself have this type of experience several times in my life, but I will cite just two such recent cases here.

In one blog my initial comment was this:

About God it has been said that he is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent. About this same God it has also been said that he is spaceless, timeless, changeless, immortal, all-pervading, one, unborn, uncreated, without any beginning, without an end, everlasting and non-composite. If atheists deny the existence of any God, then that will mean that in this universe there is no one about whom it can be said that he/she is omnipotent, omniscient, spaceless, timeless etc. & etc. Now it might be the case that although there is no such God, yet there is something in this universe which is neither omnipotent nor omniscient, but about which it can still be said that it is spaceless, timeless, changeless etc. & etc. If atheists deny the existence of that thing also, then that will mean there is no one or nothing in this universe that is spaceless, timeless, changeless etc. If special theory of relativity (STR) is not a pseudo-science, then STR clearly shows that even infinite distance becomes zero for light. Volume of an entire universe full of light only will be simply zero due to this property of light. As zero volume means no space, so here we are getting an explanation of spacelessness from science. Again from STR we come to know that time totally stops at the speed of light. So here we are getting an explanation of timelessness from science. So it can in no way be denied that science has shown how it is possible to be spaceless and timeless. If no one or nothing in this universe is spaceless and timeless, then why was it necessary for science to provide such and such explanation?

The blog-owner wrote a reply to this, the gist of which I am reproducing here in my own words: I have actually got things back to front. First SR and GR should finally get accepted and then only theologians and apologists should deal with it. Before SR, God was usually called incorporeal, now he is called spaceless and timeless. So spacelessness and timelessness are relatively new concepts. My whole argument implies that God is a photon, or the photon, because all photons could be considered the same photon. In that case God would be the light.

In my reply I have to show that spacelessness and timelessness of God are really pretty old concepts, and not new at all, coming only after relativity theory. My reply comment was this:

I know that you have a distaste for William lane Craig’s writings. Still I am quoting a passage from Craig’s writing just to show that spacelessness and timelessness of God are not at all relatively new concepts:

“And then on the rest of the page it’s fairly obvious how I deduce the remainder of these attributes which form the central core of the theistic notion of God: a personal Creator, uncaused, beginningless, changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless, enormously powerful, and intelligent. In the words of Thomas Aquinas, this is what everybody means by God.”

Ref: http://www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/docs/craig-smith1.html (Dr. Craig’s opening arguments)


Here Dr. Craig is merely echoing the words of Thomas Aquinas. In Thomas Aquinas’ words also God is spaceless and timeless.
I do not think you will now say that Thomas Aquinas is our contemporary. Actually spacelessness and timelessness are the two most common attributes of God that have been mentioned in almost every religion, either eastern or western. When I first began surfing in the internet, I was astonished to find that in almost every discussion on God by the theists as well as by the atheists, only these three attributes of God were mentioned: his omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence. But never his other attributes like spacelessness and timelessness. I do not know why it was so.

So it is not at all true that “The spacelessness and timelessness of god are relatively (ha-ha) new concepts”.

In the year 2003 I published a book in Bengali in which I had shown that the existence of a spaceless and timeless being in this universe implies the relativity of space and time. The gist of my argument was this: Space and time are non-real, non-existent for that being, whereas they are very much real and existent for us human beings. So if such a being is really there, then space and time cannot have absolute values, because for those to be absolute they must have to have the same values for everybody, which is impossible in such a case. Special theory of relativity (STR) has also shown that space and time are indeed relative. So if STR is not a pseudo-science, then on the basis of the findings of this theory we can no longer discard mystical experience as a hallucination, because mystics have repeatedly said that God is spaceless and timeless. But the reviewer of my book (an atheist) was dishonest, and so he very scrupulously remained totally silent in his review about that particular portion of my book where I had given my reason as to why mystical experience could not be discarded as a mere hallucination, whereas he could have easily shown where I had faltered in my argument and why therefore on the basis of such argument I should not claim that the existence of God had been proven.

So it is not true that there is no evidence for the existence of God. But the fact is that when any such evidence is offered, it is usually ignored by the atheistic community.

It is my usual practice that whenever I post a comment in any blog, I keep a copy of that blog in my hard disk. This time also I did the same thing. After a few days when I reopened the blog from the internet, I could not find the above comment of mine printed there. So I had to open it from my hard disk and found the comment intact there. That means in the meantime the blog-owner had deleted it.

 

In another blog my initial comment was this:

Some scientists claim that the universe has actually originated from nothing without needing any divine intervention. If everything has originated from nothing, then not only the total matter and energy, but the total space-time also of this present universe have originated from nothing. So not only its total matter and energy, but its total space-time as well should always remain zero. Scientists have successfully shown as to how the total matter and energy of this universe always remain zero. Now the burden falls on these scientists to show how the total space-time of our present universe also always remains zero. And it should remain zero if the universe has actually originated from nothing. Again the universe is expanding at an accelerating rate. So they have the burden to answer this question: How does the total space-time of an ever-expanding universe always remain zero?

For a detailed discussion of this point one can see the below-listed links:
1) 
https://sekharpal.wordpress.co…
2) 
https://sekharpal.wordpress.co…

The blog was about the burden of proof and therefore I thought it fit to post the above comment. The reply-comment posted by the blog-owner did not contain anything that deserved to be commented against. However another person posted something against my comment that definitely deserved a reply from my side. In his comment he accused me that I had created a straw man argument, because I did not specify the name of those scientists who said that something could be created from nothing. He wrote that he had never heard any scientist say ‘something was created from nothing’. I had made some vague statements that referred to ‘space time’ and ‘zero energy’. These vague statements might sound clever to those unfamiliar with the subject, but probably amounted to little more than gibberish without a very strong foundational knowledge of the subject.

So here I was obliged to make my position clear. My reply comment was this:

It was E. P. Tryon who first proposed in the year 1973 that our universe may have arisen as a quantum fluctuation of the vacuum without violating any conservation law of physics (Tryon, Nature 246, 396, 1973). Thereafter a lot of scientists began to say the same thing. Among them some prominent names are: Victor J Stenger, Alan Guth, Andrei Linde, Stephen Hawking, Lawrence Krauss, Michio Kaku, Alexei V. Filippenko, Jay M. Pasachoff and Paul Davies. Alexander Vilenkin proposed a somewhat different theory because in his model the vacuum itself was not there. The only reason as to why so many scientists have proposed that our universe could have come from nothing without any divine intervention is that they have found that the total energy of the universe is zero.

I have gone through the below-listed links where it has been mentioned that the total energy of the universe is zero:

1) http://iopscience.iop.org/arti… (V. Faraoni and F. I. Cooperstock)

2) https://www.astrosociety.org/p… nothing/ (Alexei V. Filippenko and Jay M. Pasachoff)

3) http://mxplx.com/meme/2098/ (Stephen Hawking)

4) http://www.brainyquote.com/quo… 
(Richard P Feynman)

5) http://www.scielo.br/scielo.ph… (A. A. Sousa; J. S. Moura; R. B. Pereira)

6) http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB… (Lawrence Krauss)

7) http://www.independent.co.uk/a… (Paul Davies)

8) http://www.wall.org/~aron/blog… (Aron Wall)

9) http://www.wall.org/~aron/blog… (Aron Wall)

10) http://arxiv.org/pdf/gr-qc/060… (Marcelo Samuel Berman)

11) http://www.science20.com/hammo… (Johannes Koelman)

 

Here also I saved a copy of the blog in my hard disk as usual. After a few weeks when I reopened it from the internet, I found that the comment had been deleted.

 

As the visitors to this particular blog post will never know how I justified myself against the accusation brought against me, so I will always appear to them as a person who only creates a straw man argument and writes some gibberish without a very strong foundational knowledge of the subject.

A Universe from Nothing? : Part I

Scientist Stephen Hawking in his book “The Grand Design” has written that the universe can and will create itself from nothing because there is a law such as gravity. As per him spontaneous creation is the reason as to why there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. Therefore he thinks that it is not at all necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.1

That an entire universe can come out of nothing is not a scientifically proven fact, rather it is merely a speculation. This speculation is also based on a logically flawed assumption, the assumption that the void is a real void. Here scientists have assumed that our universe is a Godless universe, and that therefore the void is a real void. But it may be true that this is a Godless universe, or it may not be true. As the believers cannot claim that they know with certainty there is a God, so also neither the scientists can claim that they know with certainty there is no God. However there is a definite way to know with certainty that there is no God. Here I am not claiming that there is a definite way to know with certainty there is a God, but I am only saying that there is a definite way to know with certainty there is no God. And this definite way is the scientific way.

If scientists ultimately become successful in explaining everything in this universe, including its origin also, without invoking God, then we will have no other option but to admit that the universe we live in is a Godless universe. But there is a very big “IF” here, if they become successful. Until they achieve their success here, they do not know whether they will be ultimately successful or not. So until they achieve their success here, they do not know whether it is a Godless universe or not. All their earlier successes cannot give them any assurance that in future also they will be equally successful. If somebody claims that there is no reason as to why they will not be successful, then I will have to bring in Hume here, but I think it will not be necessary. It is like climbing a mountain peak. So long as one is not there at the peak, she does not know whether she will be able to reach there at all. But once she has reached there, she knows with certainty that she has done it. So in order to come to the conclusion that we live in a Godless universe scientists will have to be able to give a scientific explanation for each and every single fact, every single event, or every single phenomenon of this natural world, and not a single fact, single event or single phenomenon should be left unexplained.

If the scientists claim here that they have explained almost everything of this natural world without invoking any kind of god, then I will have to point out to them that the origin of the universe has not yet been explained in a properly logical way. Before proceeding further here I want to quote a single line (or, a part of it) from an essay by Keith M. Parsons, an atheistic philosopher: “…[P]rima facie the most promising location for a Creator would be in the “creation” event itself, the origin of the universe.”2 If the most promising location for a Creator would be in the “creation” event itself, then this Creator must have to be eliminated first from the “creation” event, because that act only can ensure that there is no such Creator.

So until this so-called Creator has been eliminated from the creation event by providing a most plausible, and natural, scientific explanation (A) for it, we cannot have any idea as to whether the void is a real void or not. This is because if there is a creator God, then as per the theists that God is everywhere and therefore the void is no longer a real void. So let A be provided first by the scientists. Then only we can be sure that the void is a real void. Therefore A should always come first, and then only we can conclude that the void is a real void. But in the case under consideration it has already been concluded that the void is a real void without giving a natural explanation for the origin of the universe. And that makes all the difference.

Let me try to make my point more clear. Let e0 be the event zero, the origin/birth/creation of the universe, and let e1 to en be all the events that have so far happened in this universe after its origin. Let ne0 be the natural explanation for event zero, and let ne1 to nen be the natural explanations for events e1 to en respectively. Let us now suppose that scientists have already been able to provide ne1 to nen, but that they have so far failed to provide ne0. Will this situation allow us to conclude that there is no God? No, we cannot come to any such conclusion, because if there is a God then there will definitely be his hand behind the event zero. Yes, we can say this with absolute certainty, because God, if he is really God, and if he is really there, will not be our God at all, and neither will we recognize him as such, if he has no control over our destiny. In other words, if this universe is not his creation.

Therefore in order to establish that there is no God one must have to show that there is no hand of God behind the creation event. All the other natural explanations ne1 to nen put together cannot prove that there is no God. But once ne0 is given, it is firmly established that God does not exist. Therefore so far as the question of the non-existence of God is concerned, we can say that when ne0 has already been given, ne1 to nen will become unnecessary. And when ne0 has not yet been given, ne1 to nen are simply useless. And thus we can say that the necessary and sufficient condition for establishing the non-existence of God is that there will have to be a natural explanation for the origin of the universe (ne0).

Therefore so long as ne0 has not been given, we cannot come to the conclusion that there is no God. And therefore so long as ne0 has not been given, neither can we conclude that the void is a real void. And therefore so long as ne0 has not been given, neither can we say that as virtual particles can appear from out of nothing, so also an entire universe.

Here scientist Victor J. Stenger would perhaps have said that so long as there is no evidence for the existence of God, the default position is that there is no God. So in that case they are fully entitled to treat the void as a real void. But in an article titled “A Critique of the Void”3 I have very clearly shown that this universe even if created by a God may not display any evidence of his existence if it is the case that this God is non-interventionist, that is, if it is the case that he has not intervened at all after the creation of the universe. So from the mere fact that so far there is no evidence for the existence of God, it cannot be concluded that this universe is a Godless universe. In such a case the matter regarding the existence or non-existence of God can only be settled at the creation event itself. So scientists are in no way entitled to treat the void as a real void until it is firmly established that this void is really a void, that is, until the creator God is eliminated from the creation event by providing a natural explanation for it.

Scientists usually say that as there is no evidence for the existence of God, so it is reasonable to believe that there is no God. Here I have very clearly shown that neither is there any evidence that something can actually come out of nothing. On the basis of this lack of evidence we can also say that it is reasonable not to believe that the universe has actually originated from nothing.

Reference:

  1. Book: The Grand design, Published by Bantum Books, New York, Ch: The Grand Design, page 282.
  2. No Creator Need Apply: A Reply to Roy Abraham Varghese (2006), www.infidels.org/library/modern/keith_parsons/varghese.html
  3. https://sekharpal.wordpress.com/2015/11/18/a-critique-of-the-void/

 

 

A Critique of the Void

  • Circular Reasoning

 

In his article ‘The other side of time’ (2000) scientist Victor J. Stenger has written that as per the theory of quantum electrodynamics electron-positron (anti-electron) pairs can appear spontaneously for brief periods of time practically out of nothing, which clearly shows that anything that has a beginning need not have to have a cause of that beginning. Here he was actually rebutting Dr. William Lane Craig’s claim that anything that has a beginning must have a cause. Electron-positron pairs begin to exist, but they have no cause of their beginning, because they appear literally out of nothing.

From here he has concluded that our universe might also have come literally out of nothing due to the quantum fluctuation in a void, and therefore we need not have to imagine that God has done this job.

But is it true that electron-positron pairs are appearing literally out of “nothing”? Are scientists absolutely certain that the so-called void is indeed a real void?  Because here there is a counter-claim also: God is there, and that God is everywhere. So actually nothing is coming out of “nothing”, only something is coming out of something. Here they will perhaps say: “As there is no evidence for the existence of God so far, so why should one have to believe that the void here is not a real void?” But even if there is no evidence for the existence of God, still then it can be pointed out that scientists’ claim that the universe has literally come out of nothing is a pure case of circular reasoning. If believers say that the void is not a real void at all, and if scientists still then hold that it is nothing but a void, then this is only because they are absolutely certain that God does not exist, and also because they think that the non-existence of God is so well-established a fact that it needs no further proof for substantiation. But if they are absolutely certain that God does not exist, then they are also absolutely certain that God is not the creator of our universe, because it is quite obvious that a non-existent God cannot be the creator of the universe. So their starting premise is this: God does not exist, and therefore our universe is definitely not the creation of a God. But if they start from the above premise, then will it be very difficult to reach to the same conclusion?

But their approach here could have been somehow different. They could have argued: “Well, regarding void, it is found that there is some controversy. Therefore we will not assume that it is a void, rather we will establish that it is a void”. Then they could have proceeded to give an alternative explanation for the origin of the universe, in which there would be neither any quantum fluctuation in a void, nor any hand of God to be seen anywhere. And their success here could have settled the matter for all time to come.

 

  • “Circular Reasoning” Case Reexamined

 

There can be basically two types of universe: (1) universe created by God, supposing that there is a God; (2) universe not created by God, supposing that there is no God. Again universe created by God can also be of three types:

(1a) Universe in which God need not have to intervene at all after its creation. This is the best type of universe that can be created by God;

(1b) Universe in which God has actually intervened from time to time, but his intervention is a bare minimum; and

(1c) Universe that cannot function at all without God’s very frequent intervention. This is the worst type of universe that can be created by God.

Therefore we see that there can be four distinct types of universes, and our universe may be any one of the above four types: (1a), (1b), (1c), (2). In case of (1a), scientists will be able to give a natural explanation for each and every physical event that has taken place in the universe after its origin, because after its creation there is no intervention by God at any moment of its functioning. Only giving natural explanation for its coming into existence will be problematic. In case of (1b) also, most of the events will be easily explained away, without imagining that there is any hand of God behind these events. But for those events where God had actually intervened, scientists will never be able to give any natural explanation. Also explaining the origin of the universe will be equally problematic. But in case of (1c), most of the events will remain unexplained, as in this case God had to intervene very frequently. This type of universe will be just like the one as envisaged by Newton: “Gravity explains the motions of the planets, but it cannot explain who set the planets in motion. God governs all things and knows all that is or can be done.” So we can with confidence say that our universe is not of this type, otherwise scientists could not have found a natural explanation for most of the physical events. In case of type (2) universe, here also there will be a natural explanation for each and every physical event, and there will be a natural explanation for the origin of the universe also. So from the mere fact that scientists have so far been able to give a natural explanation for each and every physical event, it cannot be concluded that our universe is a type (2) universe, because this can be a type (1a) universe as well. The only difference between type (1a) and type (2) universe is this: whereas in case of type (1a) universe no natural explanation will ever be possible for the origin of the universe, it will not be so in case of type (2) universe. Therefore until and unless scientists can give a natural explanation for the origin of the universe, they cannot claim that it is a type (2) universe. And so, until and unless scientists can give this explanation, they can neither claim that the so-called void is a real void. So scientists cannot proceed to give a natural explanation for the origin of the universe with an a priori assumption that the void is a real void, because their failure or success in giving this explanation will only determine as to whether this is a real void or not.