Category Archives: News

Neil Shenvi: can quantum fluctuations make something appear out of nothing?

Christianity and the progress of science
Christianity and the progress of science

New article from Dr. Neil Shenvi.

Author bio:

As it says on the main page, my name is Neil Shenvi; I am currently a research scientist with Prof. Weitao Yang at Duke University in the Department of Chemistry. I was born in Santa Cruz, California, but grew up in Wilmington, Delaware. I attended Princeton University as an undergraduate where I worked on high-dimensional function approximation with Professor Herschel Rabitz. I became a Christian in Berkeley, CA where I did my PhD in Theoretical Chemistry at UC – Berkeley with Professor Birgitta Whaley. The subject of my PhD dissertation was quantum computation, including topics in quantum random walks, cavity quantum electrodynamics, spin physics, and the N-representability problem. From 2005-2010, I worked as a postdoctoral associate with Prof. John Tully at Yale where I did research into nonadiabatic dynamics, electron transfer, and surface science.

Here is the introduction to the new article:

Many modern Christian apologists such as William Lane Craig or John Lennox present the origin of the universe in the finite past as evidence that God exists. In response, many modern atheists have sought to undermine such arguments by claiming that the existence of God is not required to account for the universe’s origin, usually by appealing to various scientific models of the universe’s origin. Because my expertise is in theoretical chemistry and quantum physics rather than in cosmology, I don’t have the background to evaluate the scientific plausibility of these cosmological models as alternatives to traditional Big Bang cosmology (nor -I expect- do most atheists!) However, I am qualified to address a claim that I frequently see advanced on the internet as a purportedly knock-down response to the claims of theists: the idea that ‘quantum fluctuations’ in some vague and unspecified sense explain the universe’s origin. In this essay, I’ll briefly explain what quantum fluctuations are and why they should not be invoked to explain the origin of the material universe out of nothing.

My argument is straighforward:

  • P1. If a ‘quantum fluctuation’ occurs, then it can be described by a wavefunction
  • P2. Wavefunctions describe ‘something’, not ‘nothing’
  • C. Therefore, if a ‘quantum fluctuation’ occurs, then it is ‘something’ not ‘nothing’

If this argument is correct, then atheists should not argue that ‘quantum fluctuations’ show that ‘something’ can come from ‘nothing’ because quantum fluctuations assume the existence of ‘something’ not ‘nothing’.

Quantum mechanics is a pretty mysterious area for me, but it’s Neil’s specialty.

Here is his argument in brief:

  • P1. If a ‘quantum fluctuation’ occurs, then it can be described by a wavefunction
  • P2. Wavefunctions describe ‘something’, not ‘nothing’
  • C. Therefore, if a ‘quantum fluctuation’ occurs, then it is ‘something’ not ‘nothing’

He writes:

Regardless of how we view the ontological status of wavefunctions, there is little question that they somehow describe something that actually exists. To say it another way, it seems extremely strange to insist that this particular wavefunction describes something which does not exist! When we make use of wavefunctions in experimental physics, they never refer to ‘nothing’; they always refer to ‘something.’ Even the ‘quantum vacuum’, which people sometimes confuse with ‘nothing’, actually refers to an entity with real properties, the most obvious of which is a zero-point energy that has measurable effects on experiments. To posit a wavefunction which describes ‘nothing’ is therefore to posit a wavefunction which is unlike any wavefunction we’ve ever encountered.

So, you can’t get something from nothing by appealing to quantum mechanics after all.

Now, I’ll just add to his article based on something he mentioned – the quantum vacuum. A further requirement of cosmologies that have our universe come into being as a result of a quantum fluctuation is that there exists a quantum vacuum outside our universe that provides the environment for the quantum fluctuation that creates the universe. And of course, this quantum vacuum is not nothing. Alexander Vilenkin explains:

And of course, we have no direct evidence of that quantum vacuum that must exist outside of our universe. If it exists, then it’s outside our universe – outside of our ability to investigate it. The only argument for its existence is that naturalists need it to be there in order to undermine the cosmological argument.

Here’s William Lane Craig talking about quantum vacuum models of the universe:

William Lane Craig has an article that he published a while back which lists problems with naturalistic cosmologies.

I hope that’s enough for everyone to respond to the speculation that QM can cause a beginning of the universe out of nothing.

Previously, I’ve featured Neil’s defense of objective morality, his lecture on science and religion, his lecture on the resurrection of Jesus, and his introduction to quantum mechanics, all of which were really popular. These are easy to understand, but substantive, too.

Is anyone on the secular left not an intolerant bigoted violent domestic terrorist?

Harassing women is just fine, according to this radical feminist UK Guardian writer
Harassing women is just fine, says radical feminist UK Guardian writer

Well! Whenever there is an attack on conservatives by deranged secular leftists, I try to write about it. Over the years, there have been many – but they were infrequent. Now the left is becoming so violent that it’s a daily occurrence. I decided to collect together a few articles to show you how intolerant and threatening the secular left has become.

Here’s something from The Federalist by Kelsey Harkness, a female conservative:

Jessica Valenti revealed a new standard for liberal feminists on Tuesday: Driving women out of restaurants is wrong, unless they’re a Republican. If that woman is named Sec. Kirstjen Nielsen, the behavior is not only acceptable — it’s to be applauded.

The situation began when the head of the D.C. branch of Democratic Socialists of America tweeted the restaurant name and exact addresswhere Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen sat down for dinner. The dinner came after a very public day for Nielsen, who defended the Trump administration’s decision to fully enforce U.S. immigration laws against all who illegally cross the border — a policy that in some case results in separating children from their illegal immigrant parents due to a settlement entered into in 1997 by the Clinton administration.

The protesters marched through MXDC Cocina Mexicana uninterrupted for 11 minutes, screaming things at Nielsen such as, “Shame, shame, shame,” “Fascist pig,” ‘End Texas concentration camps,” and “No borders, no walls, sanctuary for all.”

The protest was supported by many on the left, including an editor at The Washington Post and Valenti, a feminist writer who recently penned a New York Times op-ed telling conservative women they can’t be feminists. Valenti, who supposedly stands for the championing of women, described the harassment of Nielsen “VERY satisfying” to watch.

“She should never be able to show her face in public again,” she said.

So, according to this feminist writer who writes for the UK Guardian, harrassment and intimidation of women is OK, as long as the woman is conservative. Female conservatives and black conservatives seem to get the maximum level of hatred from people on the secular left. There’s nothing like this level of harrassment by conservatives. If we disagree with something, we write about it or vote against it. We don’t shoot you full of holes like the Bernie Sanders supporter did with the Republican legislators, and like the gun-wielding gay activist tried to do at the Family Research Council.

It wasn’t just the UK Guardian, either… it’s CNN, too:

CNN says that harassing women is totally OK, if they're conservative
CNN says that harassing women is totally OK, if they’re conservative

Another female conservative Joy Pullmann had a lot more details on the hate coming from the intolerant secular left. This is from The Federalist again:

A few weeks ago, this same local chapter of socialists, about 60 to 70 strong, marched down the middle of the street to the northern Virginia home of Lora Ries, who assisted the Trump transition team with homeland security policy and has worked for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. They stood outside her home chanting things like: “No borders! No nation! F-ck deportation!” “Aqui estamos! No nos vamos!” (Spanish for “Here we are, we’re not going.”) “Lora Ries, you’re a villain, locking up immigrant children.” “No bans, no wall, sanctuary for all.”

[…]Meanwhile, activists have also begun a doxxing campaign to enable further aggressive social agitation against the homes, privacy, and careers of people who work for ICE and other federal officials.

The “activists” screen scraped LinkedIn to find all the people who enforce the border security, in order to publish their personal information. The goal was to make them easier targets for threats, violence, harassment, vandalism, etc.

Just to remind you, the last time something like this happened, it was the Southern Poverty Law Center publishing the address of the Family Research Council, a conservative think tank. The result was that a gay activists went into the building with a gun, with the goal of mass murdering everyone inside. He was later convicted of domestic terrorism. Nothing was ever done to the SPLC.

Speaking of gay activists, consider this article from the Daily Signal about the kinds of comments that Christians get when they decline to participate in same-sex weddings.

Excerpt:

We were penalized $135,000 for the “emotional damages” we caused by politely explaining our religious convictions and why we could not create a custom cake to celebrate a same-sex ceremony.

The outrageous magnitude of that penalty—based largely on the fact that we dared to quote in our business the scriptures we hold sacred—is, we think, the type of anti-religious bias Kennedy had in mind when he determined that Jack’s commissioners “violated the state’s duty under the First Amendment not to base laws or regulations on hostility to a religion or religious viewpoint.”

We hope the justice system will undo the damage Avakian’s lack of respect and neutrality has inflicted upon us. When the government acts with hostility to someone’s religion or religious beliefs, citizens take that as license to treat one another with even greater hostility.

While Avakian was publicly judging our religious beliefs, Nicole B. voiced her opinion on Facebook: “I hope your shop burns and you never make another cake, wh—.”

Matthew M. wrote: “If being a Christian means being a prejudiced, stupid piece of s—, you both are great Christians!”

But Briana T.’s was one of the most painful to read: “We hope your children get cancer and die … . You are worthless.”

Beyond that, our business was shut down, our vehicles were vandalized, our home was broken into, and we have received more death threats than we care to count.

I was just reading a tweet by the Family Research Council on Twitter, and there are threats of violence in the replies by secularist leftists. Just in case you didn’t know, the FRC publishes research papers showing the benefits of natural marriage for children over other arrangements like cohabitation and same-sex relationships. That’s it, that’s how they got labeled a “hate group”.

Look at the reply to their tweet below:

Threats of violence against the FRC by secular leftists abound
Threats of violence against the FRC by secular leftists abound

Is this what normal rank-and-file secular leftists are like? Should we now think that everyone who identifies as a secular leftist is a potential domestic terrorist? They seem to all either be actively involved in this violence / vandalism / intimidation / harassment, or actively condoning it. They don’t make arguments. They don’t marshal evidence. They just make threats. They just shout and scream. They just vandalize. They just open fire on unarmed people that they disagree with. This is the secular left in America.

A modest proposal for dealing with illegal immigrants at the border

Net annual cost of illegal immigration
Net annual cost of illegal immigration: 116 billion per year (Source: FAIR)

I want to write about Christian apologetics and moral issues, but all the news is about illegal immigration. So I feel that I must address some of the endless stream of lies and misrepresentations of the problem coming from the mainstream media.

Here is a helpful article from the Daily Signal that corrects four of the myths:

During the White House press briefing Monday, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said: “This is a very serious issue that has resulted after years and years of Congress not taking action.”

Here’s a look at four of the more questionable claims made about the enforcement action.

“The Democrats forced that law upon our nation,” Trump asserted last week.

Democrats, backed by some media commentators, counter that it’s not the law but a Trump administration policy.

Actually, experts say, the situation is a combination of a bipartisan law and a Clinton administration policy.

In 1997, the Clinton administration entered into something called the Flores Settlement Agreement, which ended a class action lawsuit first brought in the 1980s.

The settlement established a policy that the federal government would release unaccompanied minors from custody to their parents, relatives, or other caretakers after no more than 20 days, or, alternatively, determine the “least restrictive” setting for the child.

In a separate development, in 2008 the Democrat-controlled Congress approved bipartisan legislation to combat human trafficking and President George W. Bush, a Republican, signed it into law.

Section 235 (g) in that law, the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, states that unaccompanied minors entering the United States must be transferred to the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement rather than to the Department of Homeland Security.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit expanded the Flores settlement in 2016 to include children brought to the country illegally by their parents.

For consistency between the provision of the anti-trafficking law and the 9th Circuit’s interpretation of the Flores agreement, children who came into the country illegally with parents had to be taken into HHS custody, said Art Arthur, former general counsel for Immigration and Naturalization Services (now known as Immigration and Customs Enforcement) as well as a former federal immigration judge.

“As soon as their parents are detained, the children are classified as unaccompanied,” Arthur, now a resident fellow for law and policy at the Center for Immigration Studies, told The Daily Signal.

Some media outlets have called the practice of separating children from parents at the border “unprecedented” or a “new low” for the United States.

That is the most important point that needs to be corrected. It’s important to note that families seeking asylum that enter the country legally are NOT separated. The separation is only for people with minors who enter the country ILLEGALLY and then are caught. But the main point is that everything the media is complaining about today was legal under the Obama administration. The only difference is that the media at that time had no interest in making Obama look bad.

Now for something very helpful for this problem. Oh, it’s true that Senator Ted Cruz has introduced a bill that would immediately solve the problem and prevent it from happening again. His solution drew the praise of moderate conservative David French, who normally doesn’t like Ted Cruz, and favors ending family separation at the border for those caught entering the country illegally.

But that’s not the only solution that’s been proposed. Here is John Zmirak’s solution, which he posted at The Stream.

He writes:

Since the law won’t let us hold children more than 10 days, and the squealing elites won’t let us separate them from the adults who claim to be their parents, we need a sane compromise. One that:

  • Respects our national sovereignty and the rule of law.
  • Keeps families together.
  • Lets our bishops go back to attending George Soros’ conferences. And
  • Most important of all, heals Laura Bush’s broken heart. Hasn’t that woman suffered enough?

My plan shifts the cost of this complex policy where it really belongs. It offers the people who clamor the loudest from illegal immigration (and profit from it more than most) the chance to also absorb its costs. In the words of Nicholas Nassim Taleb, we offer them the privilege of having some “skin in the game.”

Yes, Harvard and Yale of course. In fact, all the Ivies. (Yes, Cornell counts.) Also Brandeis, Stanford, Duke and even those state universities that flirt with “elite” status, such as UNC and UVA. Out of respect for Catholic bishops’ firm stance on these issues, major Catholic schools should also take part, such as Georgetown and DePaul University.

At each of these schools the comfortable, often lavish dormitories currently inhabited by students should be filled with migrant families. Students, for their part, will reside in tent cities constructed by the Army Corps of Engineers.

I’m having a lot of debates lately with stupid, spoiled progressive millennials. They don’t know anything about the world, and they never cite anything to back up their claims. They think that they can pay off the debt by taxing the productive, but they don’t know what the debt is, nor how much the productive pay in taxes. They think that universal health care will reduce health care costs, but they don’t know how much it costs in other countries. They think that illegal immigrants, who by definition CANNOT pay income taxes, would be a net gain to the economy because they pay more in taxes than they use in education, health care, etc.

I really can’t stand these stupid stupid young people. And that’s why I have to say that the Zmirak proposal has a lot more going for it than the Cruz proposal. We definitely need to put the costs of leftist compassion onto the leftists. Maybe we could also house illegal immigrants in the homes of religious leaders who have spoken out in favor of illegal immigration.

If we seriously want men to marry and become fathers, let’s repeal no-fault divorce

I saw a very good article at the Heritage Foundation web site about the importance of fathers for children. The author Virginia Allen listed out some of the benefits that fathers provide to children:

Studies have found that children raised without a father are:

  • At a higher risk of having behavioral problems.
  • Four times more likely to live in poverty.
  • More likely to be incarcerated in their lifetime.
  • Twice as likely to never graduate high school.
  • At a seven times higher risk of teen pregnancy.
  • More vulnerable to abuse and neglect.
  • More likely to abuse drugs and alcohol.
  • Twice as likely to be obese.

From education to personal health to career success, children who lack a father find themselves at a disadvantage to their peers raised in a two-parent household.

I was looking for a good analysis of why there’s been a decline of marriage and fatherhood, and I found an article by Joe Carter on The Gospel Coalition, of all places. By looking at marriage rates and historical events that changed the marriage rate, he was able to identify the cause of the decline of marriage – and fatherhood.

Marriage and divorce rates per capita
Marriage and divorce rates per capita

I’ll spare you the statistical analysis, which is excellent, and give you the conclusion – although you can guess it from the graph above:

Now that we’ve explored the data, what year should we use as the marker for the beginning of the decline of marriage in the United States? I would argue for 1985, the last year that the marriage rate topped 10 percent.

[…]What changed in 1985 that could have led to the decline in marriage? There are likely numerous factors—which we’ll examine in future articles—but one stands out in particular: By 1985, all states (except for New York) had enacted no-fault divorce legislation.

The most helpful book I know of about no-fault divorce is “Taken Into Custody”, by Dr. Stephen Baskerville. He wrote a column  for Crisis magazine that summarizes some of his ideas.

Excerpt:

Feminists were drafting no-fault divorce laws in the 1940s, which the National Association of Women Lawyers now describes as “the greatest project NAWL has ever undertaken.”

The result effectively abolished marriage as a legal contract. Today it is not possible to form a binding agreement to create a family.

The new laws did not stop at removing the requirement of citing grounds for a divorce, to allow divorce by mutual consent, as deceptively advertised at the time. Instead they created unilateral and involuntary divorce, so that one spouse may dissolve a marriage without any agreement or fault by the other.

Here’s what divorce does to the spouse who is the victim of the unilateral “no-fault” divorce:

Though marriage is a civil matter, the logic quickly extended into the criminal, including a presumption of guilt against the involuntarily divorced spouse (“defendant”). Yet formal due process protections of criminal proceedings did not apply, so forcibly divorced spouses became quasi-criminals not for recognized criminal acts but for failing or refusing to cooperate with the divorce by continuing to claim the protections and prerogatives of family life: living in the common home, possessing the common property, or—most vexing of all—parenting the common children.

Following from this are the horrendous civil liberties violations and flagrant invasions of family and individual privacy that are now routine in family courts. A personalized criminal code is legislated by the judge around the forcibly divorced spouse, controlling their association with their children, movements, and finances. Unauthorized contact with their children can be punished with arrest. Involuntarily divorced parents are arrested for running into their children in public, making unauthorized telephone calls, and sending unauthorized birthday cards.

In my conversations with men, no-fault divorce laws, and anti-male divorce courts are the main reasons given for why they do not pursue marriage and fatherhood. Men do not want to be coerced in a marriage with the threat of divorce by an unhappy wife. Men do not want to be subject to the government in so many areas of their lives if the wife does carry out the threat. They especially don’t want to be separated from their children. One my secular male friends told me that he would not marry unless the woman had evidence in her past of hating radical feminism and no-fault divorce. This was the main criteria. He actually was able to find a woman who was a men’s rights activist who hated divorce. But that was the only way he would marry.

Statistically speaking, the wife is more likely to initiate divorce than the husband. Women initiate 70% of divorces, the majority of those just because she is “unhappy”. I think this is because women get into marriage based on their feelings, and they think that it is the husband’s job to make them feel good. They see their happiness as the primary goal of the marriage, and see a marriage that does not make them happy as a marriage that needs to be ended. Their view of commitment really means “I’ll commit so long as it makes me feel good”. None of this is particularly appealing to men, who take marriage vows to mean what they say, and think that the commitment isn’t conditional on being happy. (Note: if you’re husband doesn’t have this view of marriage, then why did you choose him out of all the other men in the world?)

Are we going to repeal no-fault divorce, then?

My experiences speaking with divorced Christian women is that they married primarily based on first impressions and emotional responses. No-fault divorce was seen as a boon to women who had married the wrong men by following their hearts. It’s an interesting question to ask whether women really would want no-fault repealed. It would mean that they would have to get serious about who they marry. They would have to think about what a man does in a marriage. They would have to think about what men want out of a marriage. And they would have to say no to their feelings, both in choosing a man, and in keeping the man after the wedding.

I’ve been told by women that the rapid giving of sex is a way to get attention from a man without having to be respectful of him. Are women willing to stop using sex as a tool to attract the wrong men, and start developing their skills as wives and mothers in order to attract the right men? Are women willing to stop seeing relationships as “fun and thrills”, and get serious about pursuing men who have marriage and children as the goal? Are wives willing to give a man what he needs in the marriage: sex, respect and obedience? Are they willing to give up the threat of divorce in the home and learn to argue rationally and compromise?

If women aren’t willing to demand the repeal of no-fault divorce laws and get serious about men and marriage, then what’s the point of complaining that men don’t want to marry and become fathers? If you’re not willing to fix the root cause of the problem, then don’t complain about the problem.

Canada’s Supreme Court bans Christians from practicing law in Canada

Canada election results 2015
Canada election results 2015

The headline is a bit broad, but give me a minute, and I’ll explain what the judges decided. For one thing, it’s only in Ontario and British Columbia where the ban is in effect. Also, the basis of the ban is that Christians cannot be lawyers if they believe that sex before marriage  or outside of marriage is morally wrong. Let’s take a look at an article from the less leftist of Canada’s National newspapers, the National Post.

Excerpt:

Trinity Western University suffered a stinging loss in the Supreme Court of Canada on Friday, which found that law societies in B.C. and Ontario were justified in not accrediting the university’s prospective law school because of its policy on premarital sex. But no one should harbour any illusions that the pain will be limited to the small Christian school in B.C.’s Fraser Valley.

The impact of the court’s decision against TWU will seriously afflict the engagement of religious communities with public life across this country, regardless of whether it’s the Catholic Church, the Salvation Army or Muslim and Jewish charitable organizations.

The Supreme Court was asked to decide whether TWU’s Christian “community covenant,” in which students and staff agree to the understanding that sexual relations must be limited to heterosexual marriage — which, by definition, excludes homosexual relations — was a legitimate prerogative for an accredited law school. In layman’s terms, the court had to discern the balance between Charter-protected religious freedoms and emerging rights of sexual minorities to live their identities freely and fully.

The court ruled that the refusal of the two law societies to accredit TWU’s law school was a “reasonable” balancing of rights. Its logic was that LGBTQ students would be unlikely to apply to TWU given the community-covenant requirement, so they effectively would have 60 fewer spaces available to them. Other students have access to the 16 current law schools, plus TWU’s 60 spots, and that therefore constitutes an inequality. By compiling that perceived inequality with the fact that students at TWU commit to reserving sexual intimacy for within traditional Christian marriage, the court concluded that the TWU covenant created a “public interest” harm to the reputation of and public confidence in the legal profession. These outweighed, in the court’s assessment, the “minor” consequences of denying religious freedom to the TWU community.

The effect of this ruling is that Bible-believing Christians who study law at the only Bible-believing law school in Canada cannot practice law in two of the most populated provinces. But Ontario is the province that contains the large city of Toronto, as well as the capital city of Ottawa. This basically means that Trinity Evangelical Law School graduates would be unable to be lawyers or judges at the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court is fine with LGBT people practicing law in Ontario and British Columbia, including at the Supreme Court, just not Christians who believe in the Bible. But those Bible-believing Christians should definitely have to pay taxes, including the taxes that go to pay for the salaries of their overlords on the Supreme Court. Basically, if you’re an evangelical Christian in Canada, then you’re good enough to be a slave, but not much else. You can work to pay for your secular slave masters, but you can’t have the same rights as people who don’t believe the Bible.

I think it goes without saying that the Supreme Court judges weren’t able to get this ruling from the text of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. They just made it up from their own secular leftist values. This is actually normal for judges in Canada. There are no judges on the Canadian Supreme Court who accept that the Charter overrules the will of the judges.

Here’s a reaction to the ruling that I thought was interesting:

“Perhaps most disappointing from our perspective, the majority failed to account for or even address the equality rights of prospective TWU students or TWU’s freedom of association. These were issues we raised in our oral and written arguments to the court,” says Schutten. “The majority says it need not address those rights claims, because it is sufficient to ask whether the violation of freedom of religion is justified.” ARPA Canada believes that these other rights should play an important part in the “proportionality” analysis of the law societies’ decisions.

There is no freedom of religion in Canada. And there is no freedom of association in Canada. From previous rulings by Canadian Human Rights Commissions, we know that there is no freedom of speech in Canada. There is no right to self-defense from criminals in Canada. And there are no parental rights to educate your own children according to your Christian worldview in Canada. In Ontario, the man who wrote the education curriculum is now behind bars for child pornography, and the Supreme Court had nothing to say about whether that was morally wrong. For a long time, there has been covert discrimination against Bible-believing Christians in Canada, and now the Supreme Court has just shown what has been going on for decades and decades in universities and in government, in order to keep serious Christians out of positions of influence. From classroom teachers, to business owners to Supreme Court judges, Christians have been banned from the public square. Just like what happened to Jews in 1930s Germany.

Any Bible-believing Christian born in Canada has one mission: to get educated in a STEM skill that America needs, and then get out of that godless country. Kudos to those wise Christians who saw what was coming and got out early. It’s not the place for Christians to have a full and meaningful Christian life.