In the last two posts I summarized the scientific theory as to how quantum fluctuations permitted the universe to appear without a trigger of any kind and from nothing other than a spatial vacuum. This unexpected and intriguing hypothesis impacts not only how we view the universe, but also informs the nature of ultimate reality and thus indirectly the meaning of everything including our own lives. As I am neither a physicist nor an advanced mathematician, I can offer only counter-arguments based on logic as follow.
I see four possible areas of flawed logic. First, the definition of nothing to me excludes even the existence of a void or empty space in which quantum fluctuations would occur. Nothing after all means nothing, absolutely nothing – the closest the human mind can come to this is to regress back to the state prior to one’s birth. We don’t think of there being an empty space from which we sprung – no, there was nothing at all! Moreover it is not clear to me what the physicist means in postulating a previously existing empty space; consider some of the consequences of this assumption – questions such as how long did it exist or how large was it or what formed its boundaries or what was on the other side of it? Do such questions even make sense prior to the universe? Or was there in fact a ‘proto-universe’?
Second is the question of time. If quantum fluctuations lead to the appearance of particles (and anti-particles) over time, then didn’t time need to exist? And don’t Einstein’s laws prove that space and time are instantiated in the universe which would not yet exist? Third is the statement by Barrow and Tipler that quantum mechanics would not apply prior to Planck time. If that is the case then how could quantum fluctuations be the explanation for the first 10-43 seconds of the Big Bang? Last is perhaps the weakest argument, but the one which most drives our doubt. The appearance of an occasional or even frequently appearing subatomic particle seems credible if surprising, but it seems much less believable to say that all the mass of the universe appeared in an instant. It would be much more likely a much smaller number of particles would appear (perhaps sequentially), making the likelihood of our universe springing from the void as a Big Bang event so low as to be negligible, i.e. mathematically impossible.
I have no doubt the brilliant physicists developing the theory of a universe from nothing have considered and may be able to rebut these non-mathematical arguments based in logic, but for myself I cannot bet the farm on this model. At the end of the day, if the hypothesis of a universe from nothing turns out being viable or even probable, then it is necessary to integrate that fact with our entire philosophical project. In the meantime, as ever, I draw on pragmatism to conclude that the search for a meaningful life for us as individuals must factor in the possibility of the universe coming from nothing or as the creation of a divine being or force. Each reader will have to decide his or her own approach to this lingering unknown.