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  1. #1
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    Why is there something rather than nothing? Science meets philosophy.

    From eSkeptic (link) by Michael Shermer

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Shermer
    Why is there something rather than nothing? The question is usually posed by Christian apologists as a rhetorical argument meant to pose as the drop-dead killer case for God that no scientist can possibly answer. Those days are over. Even though scientists are not in agreement on a final answer to the now non-rhetorical question, they are edging closer to providing logical and even potentially empirically testable hypotheses to account for the universe. Here are a dozen possible answers to the question.

    The Definitive Dozen

    1 GOD. The theist’s answer to the question is that God existed before the universe and subsequently brought it into existence out of nothing (ex nihilo) in a single creation moment as described in Genesis. But the very conception of a creator existing before the universe and then creating it implies a time sequence. In both the Judeo-Christian tradition (along with the Babylonian pre-Judeo-Christian cosmogony) and the scientific worldview, time began when the universe came into existence, either through divine creation or the Big Bang. God, therefore, would have to exist outside of space and time, which means that as natural beings delimited by living in a finite universe, we cannot possibly know anything about such a supernatural entity. The theist’s answer is an untestable hypothesis and thus amounts to nothing more than a god-of-the-gaps argument.
    The article continues with a review of the scientific attempts to answer the question. Very interesting read.
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  2. #2
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    .....because " nothing " would be too boring ?

    Kind of reminds me of Kliban's cartoon

    http://www.coldbacon.com/pics/kliban/bklight.gif

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Snakeboy View Post
    .....because " nothing " would be too boring ?
    I get your point, but boring is "something" which means "nothing" couldn't be boring because it can't be anything.

    I've been meditating on this question quite a bit lately. One interesting possibility is that the meta-universe is the set of all possibilities, like a super quantum wave function. And one of those possibilities is a universe like ours which contains conscious beings. Now if the Copenhagen interpretation is true (which it probably isn't) then when those potential beings in this universe perceive their universe they collapse the state vector and so reality "precipitates" out of the quantum sea of probability.

    The idea that a "pre"-existing god is needed to explain why there is something rather than nothing explains nothing because it doesn't explain why there is a god.
    • Skepticism is the antiseptic of the mind.
    • Remember why we debate. We have nothing to lose but the errors we hold. Who but a stubborn fool would hold to errors once they have been exposed?

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  4. #4
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    I too have been pondering these things...

    What is your opinion of Gödel's 14 point outline of his philosophical beliefs ?

    Some of them seem very vague and thus open to endless interpretations, but at the same time, ...logical.

    I found them to be quite interesting

    I also heard recently, somebody put forth the " existence predicated on infinity " argument, that if the universe were infinite, than all things will exist, including god, but to quantify " all " of something you have to truncate a process of counting elements in a set, therefore " all " of something cannot be infinite, in a literall sense.

    No/yes ? ( I probably need to better grasp Cantor's work :P )

    Also, I find that given the 2nd Law of thermo, statistical in nature as it is , the idea of an infinite universe, or a universe that has always existed, would have already died a " heat death "...forever ago, ......however reading about Loschmidt's paradox really confused me as I do not quite grasp how entropy would increase even if the universe were to reverse it's expansion.

    " nothing " is a very tricky thing to discuss, that's for sure..what exactly is " no " .." thing " ?

    A " thing " by itself , say an object like an apple, is only quantified as " an apple " at the scale we define it, in other words, it's an apple at the scale we see it at normally, it's a collection of bound molecules at another, it's a collection of bound atoms at another, at another it's a sea of particles, and virtual particles winking in and out of the background vacuum and ceases to be an apple, for all practical purposes, and becomes nothing more than tightly bound scalar distributions of charge forbidden from inhabiting the same volume of space ( W. Pauli ? ) with lots of " empty space ".

    Naturally that soup would still be a " thing ", but the thing would no longer be suitably described as an " apple ", as it would merely be another clump of matter built with the same basic building blocks pretty much everything else is. Basically, if you were viewing the molecules, ( or even the particles, were that ever to become possible ), you'd have absolutely no clue that you were actually looking at an apple.

    Maybe I shouldn't get high while I listen to Feynman :P

    Also, have you watched any of Leonard Susskind's Standford lectures on FLRW cosmology ?

    I personally love them, and think he's a great lecturer, if not sometimes a little space-brained, but one of the things I remember from his last lecture, #8, in his first series on cosmology, he said that the math of the FLRW equations is consistent to within a small fraction of a second from T = 0, something like .000000000006 seconds.

    I am guessing, he didn't illustrate much about it, that he means that within the theoretical mathematical framework they have decided works the best currently for this model, that everything seems to make sense except how that energy was bound in the first place, and what made it suddenly go from bound to repulsive.

    You have any insights to that you could drop on a layman ?

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Snakeboy View Post
    I too have been pondering these things...

    What is your opinion of Gödel's 14 point outline of his philosophical beliefs ?

    Some of them seem very vague and thus open to endless interpretations, but at the same time, ...logical.

    I found them to be quite interesting
    I had never seen his list of 14 philosophical beliefs. That's what I love about this forum - I learn something new all the time. I found the list on this blog Philosophical Explorations of the Human Mind:

    1. The world is rational.
    2. Human reason can, in principle, be developed more highly (through certain techniques).
    3. There are systematic methods for the solution of all problems (also art, etc.).
    4. There are other worlds and rational beings of a different and higher kind.
    5. The world in which we live is not the only one in which we shall live or have lived.
    6. There is incomparably more knowable a priori than is currently known.
    7. The development of human thought since the Renaissance is thoroughly intelligible (durchaus einsichtige).
    8. Reason in mankind will be developed in every direction.
    9. Formal rights comprise a real science.
    10. Materialism is false.
    11. The higher beings are connected to the others by analogy, not by composition.
    12. Concepts have an objective existence.
    13. There is a scientific (exact) philosophy and theology, which deals with concepts of the highest abstractness; and this is also most highly fruitful for science.
    14. Religions are, for the most part, bad– but religion is not.

    We should start a thread to discuss them. But as a rough cut, here is what I think:
    1. I agree, at least in an approximate sense. The problem is that rationality is limited by language and language probably cannot describe reality exactly.
    2. Absolutely.
    3. False. E.g. you cannot trisect an arbitrary angle using a straight edge and compass. And Godel's Incompleteness theorem states that "in any consistent formal system F within which a certain amount of arithmetic can be carried out, there are statements of the language of F which can neither be proved nor disproved in F." It's really odd that Godel would state point 3 since it seems to contradict his own Incompleteness Theorem.
    4. I would hope this is true, but I have no way to know for sure.
    5. Ditto.
    6. True.
    7. ???
    8. True.
    9. True. See my article: The Logic of Love: A Natural Theory of Morality.
    10. Probably true, but that depends upon what we mean by materialism.
    11. I don't have any idea what he meant by that.
    12. Probably true, but I don't know what he thinks he meant.
    13. Disputable. There may not be a god.
    14. I appreciate the sentiment, but it's rather ambiguous.


    Your turn!

    Quote Originally Posted by Snakeboy View Post
    I also heard recently, somebody put forth the " existence predicated on infinity " argument, that if the universe were infinite, than all things will exist, including god, but to quantify " all " of something you have to truncate a process of counting elements in a set, therefore " all " of something cannot be infinite, in a literall sense.

    No/yes ? ( I probably need to better grasp Cantor's work :P )
    The basic idea makes sense, but it's going overboard to say that "all things will exist." I would say that "all possible worlds" would exist, but that not all conceivable worlds are necessarily "possible". There's a huge difference between "conceivable" (which means only logically consistent) and "possible" which means actualizable.

    Quote Originally Posted by Snakeboy View Post
    Also, I find that given the 2nd Law of thermo, statistical in nature as it is , the idea of an infinite universe, or a universe that has always existed, would have already died a " heat death "...forever ago, ......however reading about Loschmidt's paradox really confused me as I do not quite grasp how entropy would increase even if the universe were to reverse it's expansion.
    Yes that is the fate of any finite subuniverse like ours. But it is not necessarily the fate of the "sea of quantum possibilities" from which our world may have sprung.

    Quote Originally Posted by Snakeboy View Post
    " nothing " is a very tricky thing to discuss, that's for sure..what exactly is " no " .." thing " ?

    A " thing " by itself , say an object like an apple, is only quantified as " an apple " at the scale we define it, in other words, it's an apple at the scale we see it at normally, it's a collection of bound molecules at another, it's a collection of bound atoms at another, at another it's a sea of particles, and virtual particles winking in and out of the background vacuum and ceases to be an apple, for all practical purposes, and becomes nothing more than tightly bound scalar distributions of charge forbidden from inhabiting the same volume of space ( W. Pauli ? ) with lots of " empty space ".

    Naturally that soup would still be a " thing ", but the thing would no longer be suitably described as an " apple ", as it would merely be another clump of matter built with the same basic building blocks pretty much everything else is. Basically, if you were viewing the molecules, ( or even the particles, were that ever to become possible ), you'd have absolutely no clue that you were actually looking at an apple.
    The word "nothing" is a pole about which aimless philosophers can twist forever. I've chosen to leave them to their own devices.

    Quote Originally Posted by Snakeboy View Post
    Maybe I shouldn't get high while I listen to Feynman :P
    On the contrary ...

    Quote Originally Posted by Snakeboy View Post
    Also, have you watched any of Leonard Susskind's Standford lectures on FLRW cosmology ?

    I personally love them, and think he's a great lecturer, if not sometimes a little space-brained, but one of the things I remember from his last lecture, #8, in his first series on cosmology, he said that the math of the FLRW equations is consistent to within a small fraction of a second from T = 0, something like .000000000006 seconds.

    I am guessing, he didn't illustrate much about it, that he means that within the theoretical mathematical framework they have decided works the best currently for this model, that everything seems to make sense except how that energy was bound in the first place, and what made it suddenly go from bound to repulsive.

    You have any insights to that you could drop on a layman ?
    I have not watched his lectures. I just found them on the net. Here's a link for folks interested. I'll comment more after watching them.

    http://freevideolectures.com/Course/...cs-Cosmology/8

    Great chatting!

    Shine on.

    • Skepticism is the antiseptic of the mind.
    • Remember why we debate. We have nothing to lose but the errors we hold. Who but a stubborn fool would hold to errors once they have been exposed?

    Check out my blog site

  6. #6
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    1. The world is rational.

    Yes, to an extent, like you say, there is a limit to our ability to describe it. I have heard the expression " no analogy is correct " before, which makes sense.

    When I see people conjecturing about how or why a god did what it did, if it did at all, etc, I can only be reminded that they are applying human modalities of thinking. We tend to think in the same language we speak in, unless we are thinking abstractly, but our internal self-dialogue is usually in our own language,( I find that interesting in itself ) so it's irrational to apply our own methods to a god. When we think of an object like a ball, we have a previous reference from memory, but to try and presuppose that there was just nothing and god, and god thought to itself " I'm going to make some things "...that immediately applies human modality.

    So, in short, I think there are some things that cannot be made rational by human thinking, I know that logic and religiosity are not good bedfellows.

    2. Human reason can, in principle, be developed more highly (through certain techniques).

    I would hope so, I really would. Literally all we do in life is go from not knowing things to knowing things to not knowing them again, we see how conglomerate information ( wouldn't that be reverse information entropy ? ) over time leads to inevitable developments ( I agree with your statement about Tesla and Einstein cults, and just happening to be in the right place in the right time, if they hadn't done it, it would have been an inevitable development by somebody )


    3 There are systematic methods for the solution of all problems (also art, etc.).

    Also a puzzling statement.

    Even Thomas Aquinas said there were things god couldn't do, iirc,one was that god cannot make a triangle with more than 180 degrees, or something like that.

    I do think the crossing over of different fields of study like math and art, of which I hear there are actually conferences for, ( topology, knot theory, tessellation, etc, ) can lead to solutions for real-world problems that previously seemed unobtainable, like the Origami expert coming up with how to fold car airbags.


    4 There are other worlds and rational beings of a different and higher kind.

    Well, first,..I think it would follow from logic that they if they exist in that form, then the inverse of the statement is true as well. In such that both statements are possibly equally true, then I would offer the conjecture that life in the universe we know, may just be sporadic pockets of the exact same processes occurring over and over, provided what we know about physics and biology to hold true. " Humans " in one form or another, according to their respective evolutionary timelines may comprise most " higher " life in universe.

    He may have used " higher " in reference to some sort of idea about all life inevitably going through phases of development, ages of enlightenment, etc, and that the acquirement of knowledge of things like classical rules of logic or math may also follow the same evolution within any life evolving in the universe, given enough time any civilization would come to the same conclusions, or even that a civilization may transcend certain moral parameters, or even acquire hive intelligence, etc .

    I really don't know, " Higher kind " is very ambiguous, so I would say possibly " rational ", yes, but " higher " ?....beats me. I'm going to have to see if he has any more in-depth explanations of how he came to the 14 propositions in the first place.


    5. The world in which we live is not the only one in which we shall live or have lived.

    I think the universe has a few cards up the sleeve

    6. There is incomparably more knowable a priori than is currently known.

    Yes

    7. The development of human thought since the Renaissance is thoroughly intelligible (durchaus einsichtige).

    " durchaus einsichtige " is translated as " quite insightful ", again, a vague statement, subjective in nature, the development of human thought at any point in time could be " quite insightful ' to anybody for any reason. If he was referring to the accumulation of human knowledge as a body of stored works being represented an asymptote over time, then I would say it is indeed insightful to the birth of " ages " which I am guessing we would see by zooming in on the data points in the asymptote ( I am assuming it would have minute up and down fluctuations within the gradual asymptote, representing backward steps in our accumulations due to crusades, etc )


    8. Reason in mankind will be developed in every direction.

    Given enough time, sure, here on earth I am not so sure of this..

    9. Formal rights comprise a real science.

    I would agree in that the difference between what is a formal right and what is an effective right should be examined in the context of developing better relations between law enforcement agencies and the public sector.

    10. Materialism is false.

    " Matter " is only really partially defined at this point, idk...

    11. The higher beings are connected to the others by analogy, not by composition.

    I have no clue...

    12. Concepts have an objective existence.

    Sure

    13. There is a scientific (exact) philosophy and theology, which deals with concepts of the highest abstractness; and this is also most highly fruitful for science.

    Hhmm, I am guessing he is talking about theological concepts in the face of something like propositional logic, way out my my league. I would say it's highly fruitful for science in the respect of studying the phenomenon of religiosity in humans

    14. Religions are, for the most part, bad– but religion is not.

    I guess that really just depends on what you define " religion " as. I can't tell whether he means a sole unified religion is not a bad thing compared to having so many different religions that oppose each other, or whether he means as a concept by itself it's harmless to a person or group until it's adopted as a belief system, kind of how a computer virus is " harmless " until it gets into your PC.

    Pleasure, Richard, thanks again.

    Btw, I see you live in Yakima, when I was a kid I spent about 3 and a half years in a little cabin in the mountains, right around Sequim and Port Angeles, it's really nice up there.

  7. #7
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    I suggest the key to understanding nothingness is in Recursive Inverse Deduction

    Nothingness is analogous to an "extra-existensial", paraconsistent property whose expression IS observable and interpret-able as objective origin.

    Absolute absence (a definition of nothingness for the sake of describing it) is blatantly impossible as we have interpreted any occurrence at all.

    Pick any self reference paradox, Pick any measurement problem, and illuminate it with one thing that is inherent in all things. Recursive Inverse Deduction.

    The injective function of absolute absence intuitively demands this analogy of nothingness to be mentally constructed as an intensional paradox. An absolute absence of absolute absence. This is self reference. The information inherent is transcendent of existence and non-existence. The function is an expansion of fractal dimensionality transcendent of quality and quantity of infinite potential. We interpret this through our own self-aware mechanisms which are much more complex but nonetheless just evolved expressions of recursive inverse deduction, as everything is resonant of its origin.

    Now also blatantly obvious, only self-awareness will be self-aware. Evolution may be considered a type of force or current of self-awareness in this sense. Likewise this function of recursive inverse deduction is analogous to the wave structure of matter and its' space resonance, therefore everything is in a sense objectively of nothing.

    It's really not that complicated. After all its true that dividing by zero equals potential infinity.

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