Do quantum fluctuations have a material cause?

"Maybe God is there ..."

The Potsdam astrophysicist Axel Schwope explains what science knows about the Big Bang. However, physics cannot answer whether there is a creator who may have staged the Big Bang

The world: As an astrophysicist, can you explain the world without needing God?

Axel Schwope: Regardless of whether there is God or not, we astrophysicists can describe material events in the universe. We can explain a lot of where it comes from and where it is going, but we cannot explain why it is there. There are two words for heaven in English: "sky" for the natural sky and "heaven" for the divine sky. We have to be content with "heaven".

The world: So even star explorers cannot necessarily do without a divine being - at least if one asks what makes sense. What do you see when you look up at the sky?

Axel Schwope: I then see a universe that we used to think we humans were its center. Today we know that we are not even the center of our Milky Way galaxy. So I'm on a run-of-the-mill planet. It will probably not be long before the first Earth twins are discovered. We are orbiting an 08/15 star in an 08/15 galaxy we call the Milky Way.

The world: But how do you know that we don't form a middle after all? In other words, how do you know where the center of the universe is?

Axel Schwope: We can now see the rotation of the heavenly bodies. From this we can calculate where the axis of rotation is, so to speak. And of the 08/15 Milky Way in which the earth is located, there are probably billions in our universe as well.

The world: And according to the latest research, the start of everything was the Big Bang?

Axel Schwope: At least today we assume that the components of the universe are moving further and further apart. If you do this backwards, you come to the conclusion that the universe must have been formed about 13.8 billion years ago. We cannot look past this point. We have no information on this. All the hypotheses that can be drawn up for the time before cannot be checked.

The world: There you are. So what speaks against the fact that God caused the Big Bang?

Axel Schwope: It speaks just as little for it as it does against it. One cannot prove one thing or the other in such a way that another person could verify it. Whoever recognizes God in these processes is there and present for him. Whoever says there is no God, but is just as much right or wrong.

The world: And how do you explain that nothing suddenly falls apart?

Axel Schwope: This is a question that preoccupies the great minds of astrophysics. We think that the Big Bang was a consequence of quantum fluctuations. You can imagine that there was an absolute vacuum - without time and without spatial expansion. There was tremendous energy, but it canceled each other out. Perhaps as if two people pull a rope with precisely the same force and become one point. If that balance is disturbed by any tiny thing, both of them fly somewhere. And all the regularities that still work in the universe today were already in the bud in this bang.

The world: In contrast, the story of creation is almost plausible to me! It is always the better story.

Axel Schwope: Well, creation can indeed be told better, although Genesis 1: 1 "In the beginning God created heaven and earth" is not a particularly detailed description of the act of creation. But I admit that our scientific ideas are not easily accessible to everyone. Most people see time as something that goes by continuously with no beginning or end. Einstein refuted this idea. In short: without matter there is no time and no space. That is why the time only came into the world with what we describe as the Big Bang. Without time, however, there is no happening, so that in order to imagine what may have triggered the Big Bang in the beginning, one also has to say goodbye to everything that is in our minds. Nothing simmered, crunched or was under tension. There was nothing there, there was no reason, and suddenly it exploded.

The world: In court, however, you would probably not get away with this incomprehensible version.

Axel Schwope: I beg your pardon if I cannot describe the processes 13.8 billion years ago in detail, but fluctuations as fluctuations around a zero point are also of central importance in our comprehensible world. For physicists, this is not such a daring model of thought. If I were to look for God, I would definitely not look for him where something cannot be explained, because God would then become smaller and smaller. When the next scientist comes and solves the riddle, his room will have shrunk a bit again. If there is God, then for me he is not in the inexplicable, but in what is there.

The world: Then would God be in everything and everyone?

Axel Schwope: You can see it that way, but then we have come to a point where we first assume God and then assign everything we find and find out to him. However, that is not the job of science. Physics first describes natural occurrences and from this develops an enormous predictive power. For this purpose, it refers to unprovable principles (axioms) and then, following the known rules of the game, the laws of physics, derives predictions that must not contradict experience and can be checked by experiments. If there are contradictions, the axioms that were initially assumed must be changed. Physics cannot and does not want to answer the question of where to and what for. Everyone has to find out for themselves.

The world: Do you believe in God?

Axel Schwope: Maybe he's there ...