Does Quantum Physics Serve As a Counter-Factual to ‘Something Coming From Nothing’?

The Cosmological Argument is notoriously found throughout a multitude of large areas of historical philosophical thought from the Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle, to even the works of John Locke and Gottfried Leibniz. The Cosmological Argument (more or less) can be seen in a few predominant forms:

  • First Cause of the Universe (Craig)
  • Sustaining ground of Being for the world (Aquinas)
  • A Sufficient Reason for why something exists rather than nothing (Leibniz)

For the sake of time and the dedication I hope to give the title, we are only going to examine the first form of the Cosmological Argument, also known as the kalam Cosmological Argument (kalam is the Arabic for ‘speech’). As such, the argument runs as the following:

  • (1.0) Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
  • (2.0) The universe began to exist.
  • (3.0) Therefore, the universe has a cause.

A counter-factual of axiom (1.0) has been suggested that quantum physics shows at the subatomic level so-called ‘virtual particles’ coming into being out of nothing tunneling at very high speeds through a vacuum. In a similar [macroscopic] way, particular cosmogonic models have been shown to purport the universe coming into being out of nothing via quantum vacuum (or other means).

First, this objection misunderstands what we mean by the first premise. Quantum physics does not demonstrate ‘something coming from nothing’ rather than a mere issue of quantum indeterminacy. To quote James D. Sinclair,

Even on the indeterministic interpretation, particles do not come into being out of nothing. They arise as spontaneous fluctuations of the energy contained in the subatomic vacuum, which constitutes an indeterministic cause of their origination… the same point can be made about theories of the origin of the universe out of a primordial vacuum.

Popularizers touting such theories as getting ‘something from nothing’ apparently do not understand that the vacuum is not nothing but is a sea of fluctuating energy endowed with a rich structure and subject to physical laws. Such models do not, therefore, involve a true origination ex nihilo. (J. Sinclair, “The Kalam Cosmological Argument”, cp. 2009, p. 183).

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