God's Existence and Buddhist philosophy: An Interesting Debate -2

Radio Active Decay and Quantum Fluctuation- Really uncaused?

Vir Gupta Showed his doubt while I mentioned about the non-causal nature of quantum phenomena to refute the first premise of Kal�m Cosmological Argument.  He responded in MM with the following statement: 

Avijit, you wrote: "In the radioactive decay of an atomic nucleus, an alpha, beta, or gamma particle begins to exist spontaneously, without a cause."

 I do not know from where you got the idea that radioactive decay without a cause. Radioactive decay occurs mostly due to electrostatic forces arising out of too many protons in the nucleus. There is a certain ratio of neutrons to protons is required for nucleus to be stable. Decay can also occur in some cases due to chemical environment. Please read below: 


There are forces in the nucleus that oppose each other, notably the strong force holding protons and neutrons to each other and the electrostatic force of protons repelling other protons. In many arrangements of protons and neutrons the electrostatic force causes instability in the nucleus causing it to decay. It will continue to decay until it reaches a stable combination. Nearly all decay products are themselves radioactive, giving rise to decay chains which eventually end in a stable nuclide.

... ( Read more...)


Dear Vir: At first we need  to know what "Causality" means scientifically. In physics, the concept that for certain pairs of events, a and b, event a must occur for event b to occur. That is, there is complete statistical correlation (100% to a zillion zeroes) between a and b and it is a direct correlation going from a to b.  In that case we can say that event b has a cause. But if an event b that is not dependent on the occurrence of any previous event(s) may be said to occur without a cause. Radioactive decay is one example of such a truly spontaneous event, one that occurs without cause.

Again in other way: Radioactive decay has been described as a random phenomenon which may be characterized statistically. This phenomenon truly random (outside the traditional laws of cause and effect).

Check this link: http://serc.carleton.edu/quantskills/methods/RadDecay.html 

"[T]he energy involved in the phenomena of radioactivity...becomes manifest as an emission of rays which...occurs spontaneously without any known cause of excitation..."

-- Mme. Marie Curie, Nobel Lecture, December 11, 1911

Also Aparthib, Brent Meeker, Victor Stenger's responses could be a help for the readers:


Vir Gupta also sent a second feedback to my answer, where he wrote

... Buddhist principle that nothing exists without a cause is universally applicable, right from the beginning of the universe. There is no exception to this rule. .


Well Vir, your lord Buddha with no offense [:-)], I presume was not familiar with Quantum mechanics. The quantum world is quite different compared to classical world. Quantum mechanics is usually pictured as a great revolutionary break, a giant "paradigm shift", away from classical mechanics. Buddha's law, "nothing exists without a cause" which you think universally applicable,  is not true for quantum world. Let me quote from Physicist Victor Stenger (Emeritus Professor of Physics and Astronomy, University of Hawaii and Adjunct Professor of Philosophy, University of Colorado) on  so-called "universally applicable" Buddhist rule :

"... Perhaps it is intuitively obvious for him, but not to physicist like myself. Quantum phenomenon, such as atomic transitions and radioactive decay of nuclei, seem to happen without prior cause. In fact, the highly successful theory of quantum mechanics does not predict the occurence of these events, just their probabilities for taking place;... we have no current basis for assuming such cause exist. After all Quantum mechanics is almost a century old and has been utilized with immense success over the period, with no sign of such causes ever being found (Has Science Found God? : The Latest Results in the Search for Purpose in the Universe , pp 173)

There are some more quote  from famous physicists (available in the Net) on how Quantum fluctuation works :


"In the everyday world, energy is always unalterably fixed; the law of energy conservation is a cornerstone of classical physics. But in the quantum microworld, energy can appear and disappear out of nowhere in a spontaneous and unpredictable fashion." (Prof. Paul Davies, God and the New Physics. London: J.M. Dent & Sons)

"...the idea of a First Cause sounds somewhat fishy in light of the modern theory of quantum mechanics. According to the most commonly accepted interpretation of quantum mechanics, individual subatomic particles can behave in unpredictable ways and there are numerous random, uncaused events." (Richard Morris, Achilles in the Quantum World. New York: Henry Holt & Co., 1997)

The following article of Quentin Smith explains the The Uncaused Beginning of the Universe quite elaborately (a bit technical for general readers)


Buddha and some other philosophers perhaps developed their rules (before 8th century AD) based on intuition and common sense. You know what common sense is. It's the human intuition and common sense that told us that Earth was flat for centuries. Objective observation, on the other hand, tells us that Earth is round.


Wed Nov 10, 2004

It seemed my above response could not satisfy Vir completely. So he came with his arguments again...


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