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.


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: 589

Replies to This Discussion

You have never seen causality in your science classroom? I don't know where I haven't seen causality. That fact that you replied to the specific topic being discussed reflects the law of causality quite well. You have just been moved by it, and it caused me to move in turn and reply. Cause and effect.
I have never seen an explicit 'law of causality' in any science class. There *are* equations describing the dynamics of various situations, but the term 'cause' is rarely used. When it is, it is typically used to state how different initial conditions lead to different results.
To see how the English language can get used /abused in this sense, try looking at


and the reply given by "konquererz"
One difficulty with the 'first cause' argument is that it is never explained why an infinite regress of causes is an impossibility. It is also never explained why there has to be only *one* uncaused cause. And this is assuming that the 'law of cause and effect' is valid, which we know it is not at the most fundamental levels.
Causality describes the relationship between causes and effects, is fundamental to all natural science, especially physics, and has a basis in logic. It is also studied from the perspectives of philosophy, computer science, and statistics.

- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Causality_(physics)
You might want to read the site you gave. It very clearly points out that 'causality' is at best problematic in the sciences and is inapplicable in quantum mechanics.

"However, according to Sowa (2000), "relativity and quantum mechanics have forced physicists to abandon these assumptions as exact statements of what happens at the most fundamental levels, but they remain valid at the level of human experience."[2]"

"Causality is hard to interpret to ordinary language from many different physical theories. One problem is typified by the moon's gravity. It isn't accurate to say, "the moon exerts a gravitic pull and then the tides rise." In Newtonian mechanics gravity, rather, is a law expressing a constant observable relationship among masses, and the movement of the tides is an example of that relationship. There are no discrete events or "pulls" that can be said to precede the rising of tides. Interpreting gravity causally is even more complicated in general relativity. "

The problem is that 'cause and effect' assumes a 'necessarly' connection between the causes and the effects. Once again, this is demonstrably not what happens in the real world at the quantum level. As another example, take a particle like the pion that can decay in several different ways. There is literally no way, even theoretically, to predict whether a particular pion will decay one way or another. We can predict the probabilities of each decay, but not any particular one. There is no *necessary* connection between the state of the pion and the particular decay.

While you might like to think that causality is fundamental, it really is not, at least in any common sense of the term.
I did read it, did you? I see some confirmation bias. Selective picking and choosing what to read and acknowledge and what not to to support your argument.

I can do that too.

"A formulation of physical laws in terms of cause and effect is essential for the purposes of explanation and prediction. For instance, in Newtonian mechanics an observed acceleration can be explained by an applied force; Newton's second law can be used to predict the force necessary to realize a desired acceleration."

"In classical physics a cause should always precede its effect, or at most be simultaneous with it (like force and acceleration in Newton's second law). In relativity theory this requirement is strengthened so as to limit causes to the back (past) light cone of the event to be explained (effect); nor can an event be a cause of any event outside the former event's front (future) light cone. These restrictions stem from the assumption that causal influences cannot travel faster than the speed of light."

"In modern physics, the notion of causality had to be clarified. The insights of the theory of special relativity confirmed the assumption of causality, but they made the meaning of the word "simultaneous" observer-dependent[6]. Consequently, the relativistic principle of causality says that the cause must precede its effect according to all inertial observers. This is equivalent to the statement that the cause and its effect are separated by a timelike interval, and the effect belongs to the future of its cause. Special relativity has shown that it is not only impossible to influence the past, it is also impossible to influence distant objects with signals that travel faster than the speed of light."

"Despite these subtleties, causality remains an important and valid concept in physical theories. For example, the notion that events can be ordered into causes and effects is necessary to prevent causality paradoxes such as the grandfather paradox, which asks what happens if a time-traveler kills his own grandfather before he ever meets the time-traveler's grandmother."

"In quantum field theory, causality is closely related to the principle of locality. A careful analysis of the phenomena is needed, and the outcome slightly depends on the interpretation of quantum mechanics: this is especially the case of the experiments involving quantum entanglement that require Bell's Theorem for their implications to be fully understood."

Same article.

It doesn't say anywhere there isn't causality, it just says you have to be careful how you associate its implications to the other sciences. While you may want to discredit causality, it is fundamental and we must acknowledge it to be able to make any reliable predictions at all.
Technically, the closest thing you can get to a 'law of causality' in quantum mechanics is something along the lines of "If two events are not in the light cones of each other, they are uncorrelated". This turns out to be a very powerful thing, but is not even close to what is popularly called a 'law of causality'. If anything it is a law of non-causality: the probabilities of two things far apart are independent. This is what prevents the grand-father paradox of special relativity.

As noted in your quote, Bell's theorem shows that things are ultimately probabilistic, and not deterministic. Now, there is a sense in which the *probabilities* are determined and are 'caused', but not the actual events. A radioactive decay or a fundamental particle decay is not a caused event. It is purely random with a determined probability.

The problem here is that the actual science (as opposed to the philosophy) and the mathematics show that things are probabilistic. Your article, while interesting, simply gets some of the science wrong.
"Same article"

Interesting. I did a search for all of the quoted material and did not find any of it in that article.
Your reading the wrong one then. Here it is again


Copy and paste it because the link breaks here and only goes to causality instead of Causality_(physics).
OK, I got the article. What I find interesting is that it concentrates on classical physics and relativity, both of which are deterministic theories, unlike quantum mechanics. The point is that we know that the real world is well described by quantum mechanics in this probabilistic aspect and it is NOT causal. Yes, both classical (Newtonian) mechanics and relativity (even general relativity) are causal, even deterministic. But we know that the subatomic world is not.

So, once again and back to the main topic. In general relativity, the Big Bang is when time begins. There is causality, but only within the universe of spacetime (that being literally all there is). So the Big Bang itself is not caused because there is no 'before the Big Bang'. The problem is that this is not a quantum theory and we don't know how to merge quantum mechanics and general relativity (we do for special relativity-that leads to quantum field theories).

The attempts we have for merging GR and QM are of various sorts. There are multiverse theories that have time outside of out universe and, depending on the specifics, have our universe being 'caused' by the collision of 'branes'. There are quantum loop gravity theories that have a previous, contracting universe that 'bounces' leading to our own. And there are versions where the singularity of GR remains even after the merger with QM. Which of these is the 'real' one? We don't know. We don't even know if any of them are. But what remains in all of them is that quantum level events are, at base, uncaused and random.
why does time have to start at the big bang?




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