The Nature of our Universe

The Nature of our Universe

Glenn R. Morton

This is going to be part physics, part philosophy, but no math so I don’t scare people off.

All views of creation have something pre-existing our universe, be it God, a previous universe or the laws of physics and logic. No one truly has the universe coming out of nothing. But theories can be divided into theology based views and what I will call Pythagorean views. Pythagoras led a religion based on mathematics, but they are described in a way that matches the views of most of science:

" The Pythagoreans did not differentiate between number and corporeality, between corporeal and incorpeal being. Like all the pre-Socratics, these Pythagoreans take everything that exists in the same way, as something material …" Walter Burkert , Lore and Science in Ancient Pythagoreanism, (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1972), p. 32

All views of creation have something that exists eternally past, either the laws of physics and logic, the universe itself or God. If a theory has nothing pre-existing eternally, then we have our universe coming out of absolutely nothing. While the term ‘nothing’ is often used as a description of where the universe comes from, I actually know of no view which has the universe coming out of absolute nothingness. For the Christian, God is pre-existing eternally past. For some physicists, it is the laws of nature and for some it is an infinitude of previous universes, with recurring big bangs.

Let’s look at Vilenkin’s view, mentioned earlier in another thread. He once said (my bolding):

" In his paper Tryon argued that even if most of the universes are tiny, observers can only evolve in a large universe and therefore we should not be surprised that we live in one. But this falls short of resolving the difficulty, because our universe is much larger than necessary for the evolution of life. "

" A more fundamental problem is that Tryon’s scenario does not really explain the origin of the universe. A quantum fluctuation of the vacuum assumes that there was a vacuum of some pre-existing space. And we now know that “vacuum” is very different from “nothing.” Vacuum, or empty space, has energy and tension, it can bend and warp, so it is unquestionably something. As Alan Guth wrote, “In this context, a proposal that the universe was created from empty space is no more fundamental than a proposal that the universe was spawned by a piece of rubber. It might be true, but one would still want to ask where the piece of rubber came from.”

" The picture of quantum tunneling from nothing has none of these problems. The universe is tiny right after tunneling, but it is filled with a false vacuum and immediately starts to inflate. In a fraction of a second, it blows up to a gigantic size"

" Prior to the tunneling, no space or time exists, so the question of what happened before is meaningless. Nothing-a state with no matter, no space, and no time-appears to be the only satisfactory starting point for the creation . " Alex Vilenkin, Many Worlds in One, (New York: Hill and Wang, 2006), p 185-186

To lay ears, nothing sounds like, well nothing. That isn’t what Vilenkin is saying. Earlier he had written:

" And yet, the state of “nothing” cannot be identified with absolute nothingness. The tunneling is described by the laws of quantum mechanics, and thus “nothing” should be subjected to these laws. The laws of physics must have existed, even though there was no universe. I will have more to say about this in Chapter 19." Alex Vilenkin, Many Worlds in One, (New York: Hill and Wang, 2006), p181

In the above, Vilenkin acknowledges that logic and the laws of physics pre-existed our universe. If that is true then there are several implications. Plato in some sense must be correct about the world of ideas which is apart from our universe. Why do I say that? Because the wave function upon which quantum tunneling depends, includes the existence of i, the square root of minus one. If i existed, then logically, so did the complex plane. The complex plane, along with mathematics (also required for quantum tunneling), means that the Mandelbrot set also existed pre-temporally inside the logic of complex mathematics.

For those unfamiliar with the Mandelbrot set it is a recursive equation for each point in the complex plane and is one of the most beautiful mathematical objects there is. Zooming in and using a different color scale one gets images like this

But even big bounce models, in which our universe is eternal and consists of an infinitude of previous universes and an infinitude of predecessor universes, this mathematics must have existed. Consider, the big bounce model:

" This hourglass model is known as the big bounce, and it has dramatic consequences for reality. Because theoretical calculations dictate that the preceding universe must have been similar to our own, its origin must also be similar. That means it, too, would have begun from the collapse of a preceding universe, and so on throughout eternity. “In our model space-time never vanishes,’ say Ijjas. In other words, reality has always existed and there was no beginning.”

"That seems difficult to imagine. “It’s somewhat counter-intuitive,” concedes Ijjas. But the alternative–the total absence of reality before space and time came into existence–is more difficult. ‘It’s infinitely more difficult,’ she says ." Gilead Arnit, "How Did Reality Get Started? New Scientist, Feb 1, 2020, p. 38

First off, the absence of reality before space-time is not more difficult if one believes in a creative God. Secondly, if space-time has always existed, then so has the Mandelbrot object. So has every other mathematical theorem and function.

My friends Denis Lamoureux and Marshal Janzen are the only to people who have openly told me that Genesis 1:1 is mythological (although Marshall says he believes it to also be true.). Most Christians will say that one sentence of Genesis 1:1 is real history. God was the Creator. With God, we have a super intelligent being who can hold physics, logic and mathematics prior to creation. That seems to be no more problematical than assuming that the universe held math, logic and physics prior to our big bang. It is clear that one or the other assumptions must be made.

And this brings me to the nature of reality. Humans have a real problem knowing what reality is for a variety of reasons, philosophical, physical, quantum based, and perceptual. Scientists, like me, don’t like to hear this because we believe that our techniques will bring us to all truth, but will they?

Regardless of what form the pre-existence takes, from the first moment of the big bang the full laws of physics exist in this universe and that means a full-on quantum mechanical world. Quantum mechanics has an observer problem which affects, one way or another, our view of reality. While many physicists are opposed to what follows, no one has found a way out of this problem.

" At first blush, to suggest that we create reality sounds like a combination of arrogance and absurdity. In what warped version of reality could reality only exist because of us? And yet if you spend any time pondering quantum theory – our most accurate description of reality at its most fundamental – it is hard to escape the idea that the world becomes “real” only when we are looking at it.

"The starting point for this is the peculiar fact that observation seems to play a key part in transforming the ambiguous quantum world into the definite picture we know as classical reality. An electron, for instance, is said to be in a superposition of many places at once because, like all quantum objects, it exists in a cloud of possibilities. These possibilities are encoded in a mathematical entity called the wave function, until it is measured. At that point, the wave function collapses and all the possibilities are reduced to one. The electron assumes a single, definite position or state – something we would recognise as real ." Daniel Cossins, “Do We Make Reality?” New Scientist, Feb 1, 2020, p. 41

All scientific observations must eventually be registered by an observer or it isn’t a sicentific discovery. To show this, let’s say a physicist automates his equipment and during his run, a novel particle is captured by the equipment. But due to budget cuts, no one can examine all that data. Has a discovery been made? I would say no. A scientific discovery is made only when a human knows of it.

In the quantum world things get even stranger. Those who know this theory the best know that quantum can’t be formulated without a conscious observer playing a role.

In his classic, seminal work on quantum mechanics, von Neumann analyzed the act of observation by the observer and applied it to quantum He concluded that the world was divided into the external and subjective realms (my bolding):

" But in any case, no matter how far we proceed–from the thermometer scale, to the mercury, to the retina, or into the brain-- at some point we must say: ‘And this is perceived by the observer.’ That is, we are obliged always to divide the world into two parts, the one being the observed system, the other the observer. In the former we can follow all physical processes (in principle at least) arbitrarily precisely. In the latter, this is meaningless. John Von Newumann, Mathematical Foundations of Quantum Mechanics: New Edition (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2018), p. 272-273

Wigner agrees:

" When the province of physical theory was extended to encompass microscopic phenomena, through the creation of quantum mechanics, the concept of consciousness came to the fore again: it was not possible to formulate the laws of quantum mechanics in a fully consistent way without reference to the consciousness ." Eugene Wigner, Remarks on the Mind-Body Question, in Eugene Wigner, Philosophical Reflections and Syntheses, Springer, 2012, p. 172

But it was Barr who put the sharp point on the problem, the conscious observer is above and apart from the laws of physics:

" A careful analysis of the logical structure of quantum theory suggests that for quantum theory to make sense it has to posit the existence of observers who lie, at least in part, outside of the description provided by physics . " Stephen M. Barr, Modern Physics and Ancient Faith, (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2003), p. 27-28

The fact that our consciousnesses are outside of the description provided by physics, has tremendous implications for the nature of reality. It is as if quantum is showing that we really do have souls.

This is a serious crack in the philosophy of materialism. Barr says that this is one of the most amazing discoveries of science. Every interpretation of quantum theory, even those formulated to avoid this problem, eventually raise other serious problems that are worse than concluding the soul is not physical.

For those who doubt Barr’s conclusion, new evidence, from a year ago, proves that if quantum tries to include conscious observers into the quantum description of a situation, multiple logical contradictions arise. Frauchiger and Renner’s theoretical paper was entitled," Quantum theory cannot consistently describe the use of itself"

These authors showed that logical contradictions arose if one tried to model quantum scientists (observers) using quantum mechanics on an experiment. The theoretical results were hotly debated because it meant that likely quantum doesn’t apply to consciousness. That is, quantum is not a universally applicable theory.

Early last year, Proietti et al, experimentally confirmed these contradictions. who go through various ways to solve the contradictions and effectively chose this one(my bolding):

" While the precise interpretation of Ref. [5] within non-local theories is under debate [21], it seems that abandoning free choice and locality might not resolve the contradiction. A compelling way to accommodate our result is then to proclaim that “facts of the world” can only be established by a privileged observer — e.g., one that would have access to the “global wavefunction” in the many worlds interpretation [22] or Bohmian mechanics." Massimiliano Proietti et al, Experimental Rejection of Observer-Independence in the Quantum World,, p 4 Note: this quote has changed from an earlier pdf, but it has changed from one way to accommodate the result to A compelling way to accommodate the result.

Again, the only name one could place on a privileged observer who has access to the global wave function of the multiverse is God!

Early in Wigner’s life he agreed with this point:

" It follows that the quantum description of objects is influenced by impressions entering my consciousness. Solipsism may be logically consistent with present quantum mechanics, monism in the sense of materialism is not. The case against solipsism was given at the end of the first section ." Eugene Wigner, Remarks on the Mind-Body Question, in Eugene Wigner, Philosophical Reflections and Syntheses, Springer, 2012, p. 176

He eventually changed to believe in the Everettian multiverse, but even that view, which attempts to avoid consciousness runs into an even greater consciousness, that of God. Smolin notes:

" According to this interpretation, only an observer who lived outside the universe, who had somehow the same relation to the whole universe that we may have towards some atoms of gas in a container, could observe this quantum state of the universe. According to the many-worlds interpretation, it is only such an observer who could know all of reality.

“It thus seems to me that the many-worlds interpretation can be understood as an attempt to preserve, in quantum theory of the whole universe, the notion of single-observer objectivity. I know no other way to understand the desire to posit that the quantum state of the universe corresponds to reality, in spite of the fact that there can be no observer inside the universe (as we ordinarily mean it) who can observe it. This formulation preserves the idea that there is a single objective view of reality by the extreme means of making that the view of an observer who does not live in the world.”

" It seems to me that the only possible name for such an observer is God, and the theory is to be criticized as being unlikely on these grounds . " Lee Smolin, The Life of the Cosmos, Oxford University press, 1997 p. 263-264

But science everywhere, comes face to face with God, and attempts to avoid this lead to the postulation of unseen objects which are epistemologically inexplicable as God. Consider the problem that unchanging laws of nature have. To say they just exist and leave no explanation is really no different than saying God exists. Instead of an inexplicable God we have a set of inexplicable set of eternally existing laws. Peirce says

" To suppose universal laws of nature capable of being apprehended by the mind and yet having no reason for their special forms, but standing inexplicable and irrational, is hardly a justifiable position. Uniformities are precisely the sort of facts that need to be accounted for. That a pitched coin should sometimes turn up heads and sometimes tails calls for no particular explanation, but if it shows heads every time, we wish to know how this result has been brought about. Law is par excellence the thing that wants a reason. Now the only possible way of accounting for the laws of nature, and for uniformity in general is to suppose them the results of evolution. " Charles Sanders Peirce, Philosophical Writings of Peirce, Courier Corp., 2012, p. 318

So Smolin postulates that each black hole creates another universe. Since we can’t see inside a black hole, one must ask oneself is this is really science or philosophy or faith.

" Natural selection of ‘favored’ universes seems the stuff of science fiction. However the American cosmologist Lee Smolin conjectures that the multiverse could display the effects of heredity and selection. When a black hole collapses, he speculates that another universe sprouts from its interior, creating a new expanse of space and time disjoint from our won. Small universes, in which there was too little space or time to form many black holes, would not leave many progeny. Nor, he argues, would even a large universe if its physics prohibited stars from ever terminating as black holes."

"Smolin then adds a new twist - the physical laws governing the daughter universe many differ from those in its parent, but only slightly. Since the number of progeny a universe has depends on the laws prevailing within it, there is a selection pressure. Many generations, or many iterations, would lead to a ‘takeover’ by the universes that generate the most numerous progeny. These would be the ones governed by laws that allowed the largest number of black holes to form ." Martin Rees, Before the Beginning, (Reading, Mass: Helix Books, 1997), p. 249-250

Is faith in an unseen set of new universe’s, created by black holes, that much different from having faith in an unseen God? Given that the known laws of physics break down inside a black hole, one must wonder how it is that anyone could ever verify what Smolin proposes.

What we have seen is that the creation of the universe brings with it something that is pre-existing, evidence that consciousness is not subject to the laws of nature, and finally the epistemological equivalence of a pre-existing God and a pre-existing universe. Both perform the same function; only the name and presumed characteristics are different.

To me, God is a reality we face in nature.

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Reading up mate. It’s nothing to do with black holes, which evaporate, and new universe’s what? And Jesus’ contemporary Philo pre-empted this.

The consensus is and the evidence shows that consciousness has nothing whatsoever to do with quanutm physics.

QM does indeed represent a crack in “philosophy of materialism” because we are forced to discard physical determinism. It’s not that determinism is unworkable but it requires leaving the accepted premises of the scientific worldview. This is generally why people have switched from materialism to naturalism, which simply looks to laws of nature as the only explanation of reality. Usually this means discarding determinism or positing some unmeasurable extension of natural law governed reality outside the scientific worldview, such as a multiverse or higher dimensional continuum of some sort.

In general I do not favor a stubborn insistence on things which the experimental findings reject. Thus it seems more reasonable to accept that the laws of nature and what is discoverable by the methods of science are not the sum total of reality but only of a portion of reality. Nevertheless it is clear to me that the methods of science is the only thing which can give us access to objective evidence and objective knowledge. My conclusion is therefore that reality itself is not entirely objective.

In some sense this conclusion has much in common with the observer dependence in the comments quoted above, while at the same time accounting for the complete lack of any evidence that observation actually makes any difference whatsoever in experiments. Experiments can only inform us about the objective aspects of reality and not about the subjective aspect of reality.

I didn’t say I agreed with Smolin, I don’t. But he does have a view that is interesting.

[quote=“mitchellmckain, post:3, topic:42166, full:true”]
The consensus is and the evidence shows that consciousness has nothing whatsoever to do with quanutm physics.[/quote]

I really want to roll on the floor laughing at this. First off, physics doesn’t work off of ‘consensus’. What a hoot! consensus is a way to stop thinking about things, to park one’s brain in a corner.

Secondly, while very few polls have been taken, (precisely because physicists at conventions asked these questions, yell at the poll taker that 'physics doesn’t work off of polls or popularity), the few that have been taken say that around 40% of physicists hold to the Copenhagen view–that view is the most clearly accepting of the observer’s special position.

I think you need to tell those polled how wrong they are Mitch.

polls on quantum view sent to 1234 participants, 149 answered p. 75 question 13
39% copehagen
6% many worlds
32% no opinion
taken 2016

[ n=33]( n=33)
42% copehagen
18% mw
24% informational
12% no opinion 2013

Tegmark poll n=48
Copenhagen 13 27%
Many Worlds 8 17%
Bohm 4 8%
Consistent Histories 4 8%
Modi?ed dynamics (GRW/DRM) 1 2%
None of the above/undecided 18 37%
taken 1998

Even this online poll (and online polls can’t control who answers–could be your local plumber), Copenhagen interp gets the plurality of votes.

You can believe what you want Mitch but poll data doesn’t support what you say–I don’t think you have kept up as you should have. If there is a view that is most widely held, it is Copenhagen, which does place the observer as something special. You also seem never to deal with Frauchiger and Renner’s work and its experimental confirmation by Proietti et al, so who is it that isn’t dealing with the latest experimental data? It isn’t me, I mention them.

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Oh I agree absolutely that the Copenhagen interpretation is the majority, and I go with the majority on this one (I see merit in other interpretations but think they are just different ways of looking at things and essentially equivalent). But you are incorrect to say that the Copenhagen interpretation places the observer (and your attempt to imply consciousness) as something special. The act of of observation which causes wave collapse has been demonstrated conclusively to be an effect of the measuring device alone and that the presence of conscious observers is completely irrelevant to the result of the experiment.

Actually the interpretation which gives the most special role to the observer is the Many Worlds interpretation not the Copenhagen interpretation. According to some initial explanations, it is when the superposition encompasses the observer that you get an effective wave collapse. But even the majority of those choosing the Many Worlds Interpretation don’t see it this way. In order to fit the experimental data which shows that the presence of a conscious observer has no effect, they go with the explanation by quantum decoherence.

This is not about belief. This is science not philosophy or theology. It is about what the experimental evidence shows.

Aye gbob. But there’s nothing new under the sun is there? We should have been dealing with this for at least two thousand years. It’s simple common sense after all. But we get lost in grammatico-historical literalism or specious philosophy and science. And part of that common sense is that pre-existing the universe is the multiverse. From eternity. That’s in God, if anything is. A single, finite, anomalous universe is just ridiculous.

God being the ground of being doesn’t enable Him to know by ‘hidden variables’ that aren’t there or any other privilege. So it’s Copenhagen or bust. The material lacks nothing. And it doesn’t require a universe for every quantum outcome, and/or a B-time block universe for every ROS paradox.

Mitch you are just simply confusing. You say consensus says nothing special about consciousness, you say in wigner thread that consciousness is material, then you say you go with the majority, which interpretation places consciousness as a special entity. Sigh. You are like nailing jello to the wall.

When you say you go with the majority, I would feel better if you said I think the majority is wrong and here is why!. why would I feel better about that? Because it would mean you are doing critical thinking about the issue. I go with Copenhagen ONLY because all the interpretations of quantum eventually lead to some form of consciousness as a special thing. That being the case, Copenhagen is the one that makes it most clear that consciousness is not subject to the laws of physics.

I have no doubt you didn’t bother to read my post which explained why decoherence doesn’t work. Even the founders of Decoherence say it doesn’t solve the observer problem. Why? For the simply reason that von Neumann mentions–at some point the observer must say, I perceive that this qbit has lost coherence. We still don’t have an observer free system, even with decoherence.

Secondly,the idea of decoherence is that all the matrix positions except the diagonal go to zero. The problem is that the probabilities in the off-diagonal positions of the decoherence matrix NEVER go to zero. They may be small, even vanishingly so, but they still have values. Decoherence acts as if small equals zero. Mathematically that is rather silly. Small does not equal zero. The wave function never collapses–until it is observed by an observer. Decoherence is a solution ‘for all practical purposes’ kind of thing.

Thirdly, the wavefunction only partially collapses anyway in decoherence:

There is a common misconception that td is the time for a system to become ‘classical.’ The truth is that decoherence is basis dependent. You must make your choice of basis before writing the density matrix. Then decoherence will cause the off-diagonal elements to vanish, but only in that basis!

Suppose now that the qubit has fully relaxed and decohered and the thermal equilibrium state rho has been attained. This system (we should now call that, instead of qubit) is classical in the energy basis. No energy measurement will show any correlation between |R> and |L>. However, the superposition still exists in the computational basis {|^>,|v>} as shown by the nonzero off-diagonal elements, so the resulting equilibrium state can be highly quantum-mechanical!” Moses Fayngold and Vadim Fayngold, Quantum Mechanics and Quantum Information: A guide through the Quantum World, Wiley 2013, Box 23:1

Decoherence doesn’t bring classical system collapse, and it is a sleight of hand, a ‘for all practical purposes’ solution, which means, we ignore the fact that the wave function never collapsed:

The off diagonal elements contain multiple inner products whose magnitude is less than 1. As time goes on, the cat will have interacted with more and more mice, and new innerproducts will appear in 23.13. Hence, the off-diagonal elements will decrease exponentially with time until the cat’s state becomes indistiguishable from the mixture:

though, formally speaking, the system remains entangled at all moments, the eventual outcome is classical for all practical purposes. In other words, diagonal form of the density matrix is classically interpretable.” Moses Fayngold and Vadim Fayngold, Quantum Mechanics and Quantum Information: A guide through the Quantum World, Wiley 2013, equation 23.13

You write: This is not about belief. This is science not philosophy or theology. It is about what the experimental evidence shows.

Again, not so, Mitch. When Smolin is doing math on black holes being white holes in another universe, it IS about belief! There is no experiment he can perform which can show his idea to be correct or incorrect. Such speculations are about belief, in particular Smolin’s belief system. Lisa Randal came up with an interesting spatial metric which talked about an extra spatial dimension in which branes exist (basically another universe). She used that equation to write a whole book on what reality is like with branes. Again, there is not a single experiment which can be done to show her idea correct or incorrect. Lacking an ability to design an experimental test of ones idea means it is in the realm of philosophy, metaphysics or theology(maybe antheology, “an-” as in anisotropy). It isn’t scientific.

Secondly, no experiment is without its interpretation. We get experimental results but we must interpret what they mean. If you are in a locked windowless room. You measure the acceleration of gravity to be 32 ft/s^2. What does that mean? Is your room sitting on earth, or is it suspended high above Jupiter at the point where its acceleration is 32 ft/s^2? Without more information you can’t interpret that experiment. Without looking outside your windowless room you can’t tell how much mass is below you, causing that acceleration, and you don’t know how far you are from that mass. Experiments don’t interpret themselves. Case in point, look at all the interpretations of quantum, yet everyone sees the same experimental data. Experiments require interpretation as to their meaning

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Incorrect. I said nothing of the sort. I said that the experimental evidence conclusively demonstrates that consciousness of observers has no effect whatsoever in experiments. When physicists speak of observation they are talking about the action of measuring devices and it is only the measuring devices that have any effect on the results of the experiments. This is why the vast consensus agree that consciousness has nothing whatsoever to do with quantum physics.

I am well aware that decoherence doesn’t solve the measurement problem. Never said or even thought otherwise. I never considered decoherence to be anything but describing wave collapse in different way, and have disputed with people who claimed differently. Please keep your canned soap box peeves under control.

The wave function collapses as result of a measuring device whether there is a conscious observer or not.

No amount of interpreting can change the fact that the presence of conscious observers has no effect whatsoever on the results of these experiments in quantum physics. People are just jumping on the word “observation” to hijack physics with a lot of mumbo jumbo about consciousness which has nothing whatsoever to do with the experimental results.


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