Science Fictions by Marilyn Prever


Science Fictions

Marilyn Prever on a Random Quantum Fluctuation

Most people really want to know where we came from. We have evidence. We no longer have to rely on stories we were told when we were young. —Alan H. Guth, Victor F. Weisskopf Professor of Physics, MIT

Many modern physicists claim that things—perhaps even the entire universe—can indeed arise from nothing via natural processes. —Mark Vuletic, National Center for Science Education

Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public. —H. L. Mencken

So call me a fundamentalist. In my opinion, “a random quantum fluctuation” is not an adequate substitute for God the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth. Not even if it’s followed by the mother of all explosions. I feel that it’s time somebody put a stop to this nonsense, but I don’t quite know what to do about it. The old radio comedy team Bob & Ray used to interrupt their program with bulletins from the Office of Fluctuation Control. That’s the kind of thing we need—someone with real authority, to get things under control.

If you think I’m just being silly, you’re not up on the latest speculations of astrophysics . . . or rather, of astrophysicists (keep that distinction in mind, please). One of the most popular candidates for a “natural process” that may account for “the entire universe” is a random quantum fluctuation, which has the advantage of being virtually nothing at all, and acting upon a new kind of nothingness, a vacuum that somehow has a structure. The idea is that nobody has to pipe up and ask, “But Professor, where did the quantum fluctuation come from?”

You don’t have to account for it, this nothing that can turn into a universe; it’s just there, like the cosmic ocean, or Yggdrasil the World Ash Tree, or whatever is already just there in those charming Babylonian-type creation myths—and very much unlike the unique simplicity of Genesis: “And God said, Let there be light, and there was light.”

These same cosmologists have by the almighty power of their cleverness called into being, ad hoc and ex nihilo, an infinite (or at least respectably large) number of parallel universes whose sole purpose is to assure us earthlings that the heavens and the earth and all the host thereof were not “very good” but just fair to middlin’—a mediocre, unexceptional universe, given enough throws of the dice. How convenient: Presto chango, out the window go the Anthropic Principle and Fred Hoyle’s tornado-in-a-junkyard-producing-a-Boeing-707 challenge. What a relief! And you thought real science had to be falsifiable.

The Right Authorities

But who am I to make fun of scientists? What do I know? Am I an astrophysicist? Am I a mathematician? Shouldn’t we laymen practice some humility, and trust the experts who understand these things? Am I so ungrateful as not to appreciate what modern science has wrought, from medical advances to computers to the space program? You know how it is: You question a scientific theory and right away someone says, “Would you like to live in the Middle Ages? With no antibiotics? No anesthetics?” Q.E.D.

Marilyn Prever ( is a retired homeschool teacher, mother and grandmother of a large family, whose articles have appeared in Homiletic & Pastoral Review, New Oxford Review, Second Spring, and other publications. She lives in Claremont, New Hampshire, with her family, and they worship at St. Joseph's Catholic Church.

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more on science from the online archives

29.4—July/August 2016

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