Don McIntosh has taken on quantum mechanics in his recent article Why a Quantum-Mechanical Universe Still Requires a Cause. This article tries to answer the question posed in its title by refuting the validity of a supposed argument made by atheists (actually a straw man) that the universe is uncaused. And in doing so, Don commits a logical fallacy of his own.
Don's argument may be stated this way:
1. Atheists argue that the universe is uncaused.Let's examine this in more detail.
2. The atheist argument is not logically valid.
3. Therefore, the universe is not uncaused (and hence, the title of the article).
Don discusses the idea of "causality in science" without any real understanding of what that means. In general, physics doesn't make any use of a principle of causality. Instead, it describes things in terms of conformance with laws. Newtonian laws of motion don't say anything like "object A causes object B to move in a certain way". Instead, they describe how objects interact in keeping with conservation of momentum and other laws. The motion of every object is affected by mutual interaction between them, and there is no single thing that can be named as the cause of these interactions. Causality, as a principle employed in theistic arguments such as first-cause arguments, is not a scientifically valid concept. There is no such thing as a "chain of causality". In science, there are only physical laws that explain how things work.
And this idea extends to quantum mechanics, as well. You may hear people say that virtual particles come into existence without a cause, but a more proper scientific description would be that virtual particles come into existence in accordance with the laws of quantum mechanics, which are probabilistic. Those physical laws actually require the creation of virtual particles, without saying precisely where and when. So you may not be able to point to a specific event that triggers the creation of a virtual particle, but that's fine. Science has no need for a principle of causality. Everything happens in accordance with the laws of nature. And that's all that matters. Sorry, theists.
So Don, proceeds to formulate something that might be called a "virtual argument", based on his poor understanding of science. But he calls it the "argument from non-causality", and he states it this way:
1. Virtual particles come into existence uncaused.Don is careful to note that this is not the actual argument made by atheists, but it is just formulated from the logical implications of what atheists claim. Therefore, you can't call this a straw man. However, it IS a straw man by any reasonable definition of the term. It is Don's own contrived version of what he thinks atheists claim, which he then proceeds to tear down in order to make his own argument. If that's not a straw man, I don't know what is. And he is quite correct that this is not a valid argument. It does not logically follow that if some objects come into existence uncaused, then the universe must also come into existence uncaused. And this is not the argument that scientists make, by any stretch of the imagination. This contrived argument is not based on "the logical implications of the statements" he has heard. It is based on sheer ignorance of the actual science involved cosmological theories.
2. Virtual particles are physical objects.
3. Physical objects come into existence uncaused. (from 1 & 2)
4. The observable universe is a physical object.
5. The observable universe has come into existence uncaused. (from 3 & 4)
It's understandable to a degree that Don would see scientific theories in this way. After all, his own theistic theories are no better than the straw man he presents. They are not based on any laws except for the one law that theists refuse to violate: All theistic thinking and all theistic arguments follow from the fundamental assumption that God exists. Aside from that, anything goes. In theism, the laws of physics are meaningless, because God can do anything he pleases. Even logical arguments for the existence of God are ultimately based on circular reasoning. With that kind of thinking as the basis of his theistic beliefs, it is not surprising that Don sees scientific reasoning in the same way. But he's wrong. Scientific cosmological theories are actually based on established laws of nature.
The creation of the universe is a consequence of quantum mechanics, and is 100% consistent with all known laws of physics, as we understand those laws. Not only that, but those laws would entail multiple universes. This is not just a matter of atheists inventing a cosmology as a rejoinder to theism. Don makes a snarky comment based on his lack of understanding of science:
Clearly if we reserve the right to assert that some things just happen without explanation, then at that point we forfeit the claim that the natural universe is scientifically explicable. But of course the claim that God is not scientifically explicable is one of the most common reasons, if not the most common reason, that atheists cite for rejecting theism in the first place. Evidently some atheists are trying to have their science and eat it, too.Sorry, Don, but while God is not scientifically explicable, the universe is. Science endeavors to explain the universe in terms of natural laws that are justified by empirical observation. You endeavor to explain the universe in terms of one fundamental law: your (unjustified) assumption of God.
But let's get back to Don's argument. He basically says that because his straw man atheistic argument is not logically valid, then the universe must have a cause. As I said, I agree that the argument he presented is not logically valid. But let's just ignore for a moment the fact that it's not anything like the argument atheists make. Let's say that atheists actually do use this reasoning. What does that imply for Don's own argument? If argument A (the atheistic argument from non-causality) is invalid, does that imply that the conclusion of argument B (Don's argument, stated above) is true? No it doesn't. An invalid argument doesn't imply that its conclusion must be false. It only means that you can't determine the truth of the conclusion by virtue of that argument. There may be some other argument that is valid and that reaches the same conclusion. So Don's conclusion, that the universe must have a cause, does not follow from the argument that he presented, even if we grant that his major premise is true (which it isn't). This is called non-sequitur.