Can quantum mechanics give us a universe from nothing?

I received the question in the title, and my response is below:

The first thing that we should understand is that quantum mechanics is just not relevant for considering the beginning of the universe.  These quantum particles do not pop into existence out of nothing but instead they come into existence out of a quantum vacuum, which is an area of space that has energy and a duration of time.  When we discuss the Big Bang, this just is not the circumstances described.  It is for this reason that quantum mechanics just is not an example of something out of literally nothing.

I have also heard the challenge that the proponent of the Kalam is making the composition fallacy in asserting that the universe has a cause.  This is misguided for at least two reasons.

First, certainly some attributes do translate from the smaller components to the greater object.  A wall of red bricks, for example, will be red if each of the bricks is read.  The question is whether the attribute described is a function of its being a smaller component.  So the light weight of the brick doesn’t translate to the wall because the brick’s light weight is a function of its being a smaller part of the whole.  So why should we think that the principle that everything that begins to exist is a function of something’s being part of a whole?  This just doesn’t seem reasonable.

Secondly, the claim is not really that “universes can’t begin to exist” but rather that “out of nothing, nothing comes.”  We aren’t saying that the universe must have a cause because everything in the universe must have a cause, rather we are appealing to the principle that things don’t just pop into existence for no reason.  Since we are not arguing from the attribute of a small part to the whole, the claim just doesn’t fall into the category of the composition fallacy.

Thirdly, we can happily concede that we don’t fully understand the cause of quantum fluctuations without conceding that those fluctuations have no cause.  Our inability to determine a cause does not obligate us to accept the absurd notion that something can just pop into existence un-caused.

Your second question was with the law of identity and the mind/brain.  You asked if our ability to show that the mind is not the brain using the law of identity proves that a mind can exist without a brain.  I’m not sure that the argument from the law of identity can go quite so far as that.  All it seems can be concluded is that the mind is not identical to the brain, I don’t think that we can conclude that there are no dependency relations from that argument.  Rather I think a conceptual analysis of the first cause in the Kalam will help us to make that conclusion.  Since we can determine that the first cause was both personal and immaterial then we can conclude that it is possible for a mind to exist without a brain.

Sincerely,
Matt Bilyeu


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