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At Evolution News: Is the universe “causally closed”?


Michael Egnor explains why not:

In my recent debate with David Papineau about materialism and dualism, much of our discussion turned on the question of causal closure. Materialists generally argue that dualism of mind and brain is not possible because of causal closure — by which they mean that all physical effects have physical causes. They generally extend this argument to deny the existence of God. They argue that the fundamental cause of everything is just the material universe and that causation of the universe by God would violate causal closure and would be unintelligible. To the question “What caused the universe?” atheists and materialists argue that the universe is not an effect but exists in its own right and therefore does not need a cause.

To buttress their argument, materialists claim that modern physics affirms causal closure.

They Couldn’t Be More Wrong

As I noted, causal closure means that all physical effects have physical causes. Modern physics is replete with examples of physical effects that have no physical causes and cannot have physical causes.

Michael Egnor, “Is the Universe Causally Closed?” at Evolution News and Science Today

Egnor goes on to cite the Big Bang, singularities in black holes, and the field equations of curved space-time, quantum entanglement, and — of course — the immaterial mind.

That should be enough to keep the average materialist busy thinking up purely material explanations. 😉

See also: Other fun moments in the Egnor–Papineau debate:

Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor takes on philosopher David Papineau

Round 1. In the debate, Egnor begins by offering three fundamental reasons why the mind is not the brain. Neuroscience caused Egnor to honestly doubt Papineau’s materialist perspective that the mind is simply what the brain does.

Round 2: Philosopher Papineau replies to neurosurgeon Egnor. Dr. Papineau is considered to be one of the best defenders of naturalism (nature is all there is), often called “materialism.” Papineau: Mental processes, including conscious processes, are one in the same as physical processes. I’m curious about how Michael Egnor would answer it.

Round 3: Egnor vs Papineau: The Big Bang has no natural beginning. In the debate between theistic neurosurgeon Michael Egnor and naturalist philosopher David Papineau, the question gets round to the origin of the universe itself. Egnor maintains that the Big Bang, which is held to have created the universe, is an effect with no physical cause. Papineau agrees.
Round 4: Egnor vs. Papineau Egnor defends the mind vs. the brain

Round 4: Philosopher David Papineau does not feel that neurosurgeon Michael Egnor is being “entirely helpful” at this point… It became quite the dustup actually. Egnor deals with the brain as an organ, not a theory, and doesn’t see it as equivalent to the mind. Papineau differs.

Round 5: Can traditional philosophy help us understand mind vs. brain? Michael Egnor asks us to look back to the traditional idea that the soul is the “form” of the body. In the Western world, the traditional view of the soul originated with Greek philosophers, chiefly Aristotle and Plato.

Quantum physics: Is everything determined? Egnor vs. Papineau Physicalist philosopher David Papineau is clearly unhappy with the implications of quantum mechanics, as neurosurgeon Michael Egnor sets them out. As a physicalist, Papineau is quite sure that the universe is deterministic and he endorses the many-worlds (multiverse) theory.

Also: Philosopher: Consciousness Is Not a Problem. Dualism Is! He says that consciousness is just “brain processes that feel like something” Physicalist David Papineau argues that consciousness “seems mysterious not because of any hidden essence, but only because we think about it in a special way.” In short, it’s all in our heads. But wait, say others, the hard problem of consciousness is not so easily dismissed.

Dr. Egnor gives four examples that violate the claim from atheists that the universe is causally closed. 1. The Big Bang: 2. Singularities in black holes: 3. The field equations of curved space-time: 4. Quantum entanglement: And while I agree with that 1, 2, and 4, violate the claim from atheists that the universe is causally closed, I disagree with his third example. Specifically, Dr. Egnor claims that General Relativity violates conservation of energy.
The field equations of curved space-time: It has been recognized since the early 20th century that the field equations of general relativity when applied to curved space-time violate the principle of conservation of energy. In fact, cosmologists have even developed a mathematical tool — called pseudo-tensors — in an attempt to rig general relativity in accordance with conservation laws. Whatever the value of pseudo-tensors in cosmological investigation, they are ad hoc and only serve to emphasize that general relativity itself entails violation of the conservation of energy in the observable universe.
Others, who are more knowledgeable in this area of physics, strongly disagree with Dr. Egnor's assessment.
Energy conservation in General Relativity Excerpt: Energy conservation does work perfectly in general relativity. The overall Lagrangian is invariant under time translations and Noether's Theorem can be used to derive a non-trivial and exact conserved current for energy. The only thing that makes general relativity a little different from electromagnetism is that the time translation symmetry is part of a larger gauge symmetry so time is not absolute and can be chosen in many ways. However there is no problem with the derivation of conserved energy with respect to any given choice of time translation. There is a long and interesting history to this problem. Einstein gave a valid formula for the energy in the gravitational field shortly after publishing general relativity. The mathematicians Hilbert and Klein did not like the coordinate dependence in Einstein's formulation and claimed it reduced to a trivial identity. They enlisted Noether to work out a general formalism for conservation laws and claimed that her work supported their view. The debate continued for many years especially in the context of gravitational waves which some people claimed did not exist. They thought that the linearised solutions for gravitational waves were equivalent to flat space via co-ordinate transformations and that they carried no energy. At one point even Einstein doubted his own formalism, but later he returned to his original view that energy conservation holds up. The issue was finally resolved when exact non-linear gravitational wave solutions were found and it was shown that they do carry energy. Since then this has even been verified empirically to very high precision with the observation of the slowing down of binary pulsars in exact agreement with the predicted radiation of gravitational energy from the system. The formula for energy in general relativity is usually given in terms of pseudo tensors such as those proposed by Laundau & Lifshitz, Dirac, Weinberg or Einstein himself. Wikipedia has a good article on these and how they confirm energy conservation. Although pseudotensors are mathematically rigorous objects which can be understood as sections of jet bundles, some people don't like their apparent co-ordinate dependence. There are other covariant approaches such as the Komar Superpotential or a more general formula of mine which gives the energy current in terms of the time translation vector,,,, Despite these general formulations of energy conservation in general relativity there are some cosmologists who still take the view that energy conservation is only approximate or that it only works in special cases or that it reduces to a trivial identity. In each case these claims can be refuted either by studying the formulations I have referenced or by comparing the arguments given by these cosmologists with analogous situations in other gauge theories where conservation laws are accepted and follow analogous rules. One area of particular contention is energy conservation in a homogeneous cosmology with cosmic radiation and a cosmological constant. Despite all the contrary claims, a valid formula for energy conservation in this case can be derived from the general methods and is given by this equation.,,, The first two terms describe the energy in matter and radiation with the matter energy not changing and the radiation decreasing as the universe expands. Both are positive. The third term is "dark energy" which is currently though to be positive and contributing about 75% of the non-gravitational energy, but this increases with time. The final two terms represent the gravitational energy which is negative to balance the other terms. This equation holds as a consequence of the well-known Friedmann cosmological equations, that come from the Einstein field equations, so it is in no sense trivial as some people have claimed it must be. https://physics.stackexchange.com/q/3409

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