Victor Stenger argues that if God existed, then there would be “empirical evidence” of this, in particular miracles or “violations of established laws of nature.” (21-2)
Now this is a confusion. Creation was not at all a miracle, if by that we indeed mean a “violation of laws of nature,” since “before” creation when only God existed, there were no laws of nature to violate in the first place. God then is the Author of nature itself; rather than of any miracle that sticks out among the works of nature like a sore thumb.
With that out of the way, let’s speculate how (1) matter, (2) natural laws were created.
Stenger likes the zero-energy universe hypothesis. Very well, let’s develop and interpret it further. The earliest era of our universe is called the Planck epoch. Our author describes it as follows:
… the universe was confined to the smallest possible region of space that can be operationally defined, a Planck sphere that has a radius equal to the Planck length, 1.6 × 10-35 meter.
As expected from the second law, the universe at that time had lower entropy than it has now.
However, that entropy was also as high as it possibly could have been for an object that small, because a sphere of Planck dimensions is equivalent to a black hole. (25)
We’ll discuss entropy in a few moments; for now understand that this primordial chaos, which I will call the Void, had no matter (including “prime” matter), no energy, and was governed by no laws of nature. It occupied the smallest possible space, and no meaning could be attached to time. In contrast with the older and now discarded idea of a “singularity,” the Void was therefore neither hot nor dense.
A black hole, even a tiny one, is a sort of physical (as opposed to spiritual) hell, and in the beginning that’s all that existed. At that time, the now separate 4 fundamental forces — electromagnetic, weak, strong, and gravitational — existed in an undifferentiated unity as a single “superforce.” Of course, this force had nothing to act on, anyway.
Note the following useful point: even if we say that “God” created the Void, nothing can be deduced from this fact about the nature of God, in stark contrast to theology that takes what happened after as the starting point, i.e., beyond the Planck epoch.
Now God has always been omnipresent, including then, and so the Void was bathed in the Light of divine energy. I will propose that this energy was in fact the vacuum zero-point energy. Thus, ZP energy might well be the empirical argument for divine omnipresence.
The interaction between the Void and the Light, via a single quantum fluctuation from an initial state of zero-energy, separated within the Void the positive energy from the negative energy of gravity. It thus differentiated gravity (and it alone), tore it away, from the lawless superforce unity of the Planck epoch. The separation of gravity from the other 3 forces is known as the “grand unification” epoch immediately following the Planck epoch.
Now gravity is designated as “negative” in physics for technical reasons, to comply with the law of conservation of energy. But it has an information-theoretic aspect as well. Thus, positive energy is capacity to do work, such as to build a house. Is negative energy then the capacity to “undo work”? But in order to destroy the house, say, with a wrecking ball or an explosion, energy has to be expended which is also entirely positive. What gives? Well, think about it this way: the universe is expanding, as though in search of “God the Father.” But gravity counteracts this expansion and seeks on the contrary to pull everything back toward the undifferentiated unity of “Earth Mother,” i.e., the Void.
The Light and the Void are not our “positive and negative energy.” The Light is divine while the positive energy is created and natural. The Void during its Planck epoch was perfectly undifferentiated, to the extent that even negative gravity was not a separate force. Again, it was the interaction between them that caused the separation of the two types of energy. The separation created the heat within the initially cold Void.
The positive energy was now available to be converted into rest energy and that, in turn, into mass, such as via the Higgs field, in epochs following grand unification. Therefore, the “prime matter” resorted to by St. Thomas was at first in fact prime energy. The sequence of events then would be: the Void, prime energy, law, law-bound matter.
ZP energy is pure vacuum in its lowest possible but non-zero unexcited state. Thus, if God used His power to effect the separation between + and – energies, then it was done in the most elegant possible way, namely by supplying the least amount of energy needed above true vacuum. Yet it is evidence of God: “the zero-point energy density is assumed to be constant: no matter how much the universe expands it does not become diluted, but instead more zero-point energy is assumed to be created out of nothing.”
So much for matter (material cause). As for law (efficient cause), Stenger argues as follows:
Suppose that whenever you clean your house, you empty the collected rubbish by tossing it out the window into your yard. Eventually, the yard would be filled with rubbish.
However, you can continue doing this with a simple expedient. Just keep buying up the land around your house, and you will always have more room to toss the rubbish.
You are able to maintain localized order — in your house — at the expense of increased disorder in the rest of the universe.
Similarly, parts of the universe can become more orderly as the rubbish, or entropy, produced during the ordering process… is tossed out into the larger, ever-expanding surrounding space.
The total entropy of the universe increases as the universe expands, as required by the second law. However, the maximum possible entropy increases even faster, leaving increasingly more room for order to form. (24)
My objection is that this trick explains how order became possible, i.e., by having maximum possible entropy increase faster than total entropy; but it does not explain how order was generated or became actual. There are two separate problems here: (1) why there is order vs. Void-like chaos in the first place; (2) why this particular order vs. all other possibilities of natural law. Here I’ll discuss only (1).
There is a difference between physical and informational entropy. We have seen how energy was created; but energy entails only the possibility of order not its actuality: if you have energy available for work, then you might be able to impart novel information into the universe, but they are separate concepts: energy can both generate and corrupt.
In short, even with the new land, you still have to clean the house again and again. Is there then some sort of a Maxwell’s demon throwing entropy into the unobservable universe?
Today we have a dozen of elementary particles, a hundred chemical elements, a vast number of remarkable materials, both natural and man-made, biological processes, etc., all working according to incredibly complex laws of nature. On top of those there are law-like algorithms for dealing with all manner of artifacts of civilization: how to make orange juice, how to socialize kittens, how to control quadcopters.
Natural law and order must have been actually imparted upon the end of the grand unification epoch according to God’s design.