Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Hamza Tzortzis, Quantum Fluctuations and the Draft Excluder

I had contact from Muslim apologist Hamza Tzortis last week. He accused me of "childish tactics", said my agenda was "mockery", and asked if I was "always going to be relying on mockery and ridicule".

This requires some background. Back in 2010, Hamza posted what he said was his response to the God Delusion. In February 2012 I came across it and discovered that it bore a remarkable similarity to the work of Christian apologist William Lane Craig. It's rather clear plagiarism; I've placed quotes side by side so you can see for yourself. Have a quick skim, the remainder of this post will make more sense if you do.

Some folk and I attempted to bring this post to Hamza's attention, but it was only when PZ Myers covered the story in June 2012 that sufficient publicity was generated to warrant appropriate citations. To my mind a public apology to Craig would also be appropriate.

I feel I should give Hamza's interpretation of events. He denied any similarities. At least twice. Then he added citations. Now he describes it as an oversight, and would have us believe that he read Craig, reworded Craig (introducing errors in the process) and posted this rewording with the full intention of returning to it at a later date to include citations, before forgetting that he'd reworded Craig and then being of the mistaken impression that the articles were different, followed by remembering and including citations. As the head of research for the Islamic Education and Research Academy it seems rather poor research to leave such an error uncorrected for over two years.

But what now? Hamza asked me to address the arguments. I did, pointing out that for a Muslim to rely on a Christian in a matter of faith without fully understanding the Christian is un-Islamic. I see this as a defeater, and to be frank I am not moved by a request to respond further to an article that has entered its third year in draft form. (It's currently listed as 'Draft 0.3'.)

Instead I turn my gaze to a post in his Q and A section.

Do Spontaneous Events In The Quantum Vacuum Undermine God's Existence?

His answer can be read here. Some background: the Kalaam Cosmological Argument has two premises and a conclusion:
  1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause
  2. The universe began to exist
  3. Therefore the universe has a cause
The problem of course is quantum indeterminacy. Spontaneous generation of virtual particles rather puts a dent in premise one, and this is the matter Hamza seeks to address. To do this he travels back in time to the 1950's and cites the work of David Bohm. To give a hamfisted and non-expert overview, the de Broglie-Bohm theory posits that the quantum particle is guided by an unseen and as yet intangible nonlocal variable. To my mind this is unfalsifiable. It's fair to note that it is not a popular approach, indeterminism by far and away being the consensus among quantum physicists. But let's not quibble. Neither Hamza nor I are anywhere near qualified to rule on such matters and while I feel the scientific community are largely on my side at this one I'm not going to push for a consensus.

Perhaps Hamza does? If he sets as his task to brush aside much of what we know of quantum physics then more work is required. Evidence of this unseen field would represent an ideal starting point. Let's just say for now that his opening argument reduces to the statement that quantum events may or may not be deterministic. How does this affect Kalaam? Let's restate with Hamza's assumption built in.

  1. Everything that begins to exist may or may not have had a cause
  2. The universe began to exist
But here we see the problem. Premise 1 will now only take us far enough to say that the universe may or may not have had a cause, a change with knock-on effects for his proof. Even assigning him the rather generous odds of 50|50, the argument could only possibly take us as far as the statement that there may or may not have been a creator. Hardly an argument worth advancing.

But enough of my brief foray into philosophy. What if tomorrow Bohm is proven correct? Is Hamza out of the woods? Not quite. For in an entirely deterministic universe, how would a soul influence a body?

On a tangent, if you're looking for an accessible book on quantum theory I highly recommend Absolutely Small by Feyer.


CaptainDisguise said...

This is Hamza's routine strategy i.e to accuse anyone who exposes the dubiousness of his often inadequate and sophomoric "research" as relying on "mockery and insults". He accused me of the same when I refuted or exposed his sloppiness, inconsistencies, ignorance and dishonesty employed in his paper on "Quranic Embryology".

Here was my response to him on the matter,


Of course, having been a follower of your work, I, as well as other regular readers, can attest to the fact that you have not once relied on "mockery, ridicule or childishness" in your cogent criticism of Hamza's apparent lack of integrity.

On the other hand, your 4th paragraph explains quite succinctly, the juvenile nature of Hamza Tzortzis, a real shame for anyone with the title of "Senior Researcher".

Thanks for the post!

Geoff said...

CaptainDisguise, I am touched and honoured that you took the time to read and comment. I suggest others quit squandering their evening here and proceed forthwith to your excellent videos.

Anonymous said...

...it was only when PZ Myers covered the story in June 2012 that sufficient publicity was generated to warrant appropriate citations.

It remains inappropriate. He has faintly reworded the arguments of others rather than crediting them directly. If I did that in an essay I'd be kicked off my degree course before I could say "plagiarism" twenty times.

(Of course, what I’d really like Tzortsis to do is tell us whether his boss still advocates offensive jihad, the most appalling hudud punishments and the oppression of who do not share his religious faith. While this and other questions remain unanswered it is hard to see his organisation as anything expect a malign propaganda group.)

My problem with arguments about when the universe began to exist, by the way, is that even if it arose from the laws of quantum mechanics I am left wondering what, if anything, created the laws. Perhaps they had no need of a beginning but it is an argument that should be made.