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Wednesday, July 11th, 2012 | ISSN 1556-5696

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Mr. Deity and the Hitch

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About this week’s eSkeptic

Scientists are edging closer to providing logical and even potentially empirically testable hypotheses to account for the universe. In this week’s eSkeptic, Michael Shermer discusses 12 possible answers to the question of why there is something rather than nothing.

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Timeline of the Universe — A representation of the evolution of the universe over 13.7 billion years. The far left depicts the earliest moment we can now probe, when a period of “inflation” produced a burst of exponential growth in the universe. (Size is depicted by the vertical extent of the grid in this graphic.) For the next several billion years, the expansion of the universe gradually slowed down as the matter in the universe pulled on itself via gravity. More recently, the expansion has begun to speed up again as the repulsive effects of dark energy have come to dominate the expansion of the universe. The afterglow light seen by WMAP was emitted about 380,000 years after inflation and has traversed the universe largely unimpeded since then. The conditions of earlier times are imprinted on this light; it also forms a backlight for later developments of the universe. (Credit: NASA / WMAP Science Team)

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Timeline of the Universe (Credit: NASA / WMAP Science Team)(http://map.gsfc.nasa.gov/media/060915/index.html)

Nothing is Negligible
Why There is Something Rather than Nothing

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.

2 WRONG QUESTION. Asking why there is something rather than nothing presumes “nothing” is the natural state of things out of which “something” needs an explanation. Maybe “something” is the natural state of things and “nothing” would be the mystery to be solved. As the physicist Victor Stenger notes in his book, The Fallacy of Fine Tuning: “Current cosmology suggests that no laws of physics were violated in bringing the universe into existence. The laws of physics themselves are shown to correspond to what one would expect if the universe appeared from nothing. There is something rather than nothing because something is more stable.”

3 GRAND UNIFIED THEORY. In order to answer the question, we need a comprehensive theory of physics that connects the subatomic world described by quantum mechanics to the cosmic world described by general relativity. As the Caltech cosmologist Sean Carroll notes in his book From Eternity to Here: “Possibly general relativity is not the correct theory of gravity, at least in the context of the extremely early universe. Most physicists suspect that a quantum theory of gravity, reconciling the framework of quantum mechanics with Einstein’s ideas about curved spacetime, will ultimately be required to make sense of what happens at the very earliest times. So if someone asks you what really happened at the moment of the purported Big Bang, the only honest answer would be: ‘I don’t know.’” That grand unified theory of everything will itself need an explanation, but it may be explicable by some other theory we have yet to comprehend out of our sheer ignorance at this moment in history.

4 BOOM-AND-BUST CYCLES. Sean Carroll also suggests that our universe may be just one in a series of boom-and-bust cycles of expansion and contractions of the universe, with our universe just one “episode” of the bubble’s eventual collapse and re-expansion in an eternal cycle, and therefore “there is no such thing as an initial state, because time is eternal. In this case, we are imagining that the Big Bang isn’t the beginning of the entire universe, although it’s obviously an important event in the history of our local region.”

5 DARWINIAN MULTIVERSE. According to the cosmologist Lee Smolin, in his book The Life of the Cosmos, our universe is just one of many bubble universes with varying sets of laws of nature. Those universes with laws of nature similar to ours will generate matter, which coalesces into stars, some of which collapse into black holes and a singularity, the same entity out of which our universe may have sprung. Thus, universes like ours give birth to baby universes with those same laws of nature, some of which develop intelligent life smart enough to discover this Darwinian process of cosmic evolution.

6 INFLATIONARY COSMOLOGY. In his 1997 book The Inflationary Universe, the cosmologist Alan Guth proposes that our universe sprang into existence from a bubble nucleation of spacetime. If this process of universe creation is natural, then there may be multiple bubble nucleations that give rise to many universes that expand but remain separate from one another without any causal contact between them.

7 MANY-WORLDS MULTIVERSE. According to the “many worlds” interpretation of quantum mechanics, there are an infinite number of universes in which every possible outcome of every possible choice that has ever been available, or will be available, has happened in one of those universes. This many-worlds multiverse is grounded in the bizarre findings of the famous “double-slit” experiment, in which light is passed through two slits and forms an interference pattern of waves on a back surface (like throwing two stones in a pond and watching the concentric wave patterns interact, with crests and troughs adding and subtracting from one another). The spooky part comes when you send single photons of light one at a time through the two slits—they still form an interference wave pattern even though they are not interacting with other photons. How can this be? One answer is that the photons are interacting with photons in other universes! In this type of multiverse you could meet your doppelgänger, and depending on which universe you entered, your parallel self would be fairly similar or dissimilar to you, a theme that has become a staple of science fiction (see, for example, Michael Crichton’s Timeline).

8 BRANE UNIVERSES. A multi-dimensional universe may come about when three-dimensional “branes” (a membrane-like structure on which our universe exists) moves through higher-dimensional space and collides with another brane, the result of which is the energized creation of another universe.

9 STRING UNIVERSES. A related multiverse is derived through string theory, which by at least one calculation allows for 10500 possible worlds, all with different self-consistent laws and constants. That’s a 1 followed by 500 zeroes possible universes (12 zeroes is a trillion!). In his book The Unconscious Quantum, Victor Stenger published the results of a computer model that analyzes what just 100 different universes would be like under constants different from our own, ranging from five orders of magnitude above to five orders of magnitude below their values in our universe. Stenger found that long-lived stars of at least 1 billion years—necessary for the production of life-giving heavy elements—would emerge within a wide range of parameters in at least half of the universes in his model.

10 QUANTUM FOAM MULTIVERSE. In this model, universes are created out of nothing, but in the scientific version of ex nihilo the nothing of the vacuum of space actually contains the theoretical spacetime mishmash called quantum foam, which may fluctuate to create baby universes. In this configuration, any quantum object in any quantum state may generate a new universe, each one of which represents every possible state of every possible object. This is Stephen Hawking’s explanation for the fine-tuning problem that he himself famously presented in his 1996 book (co-authored with Roger Penrose) The Nature of Space and Time: “Quantum fluctuations lead to the spontaneous creation of tiny universes, out of nothing. Most of the universes collapse to nothing, but a few that reach a critical size, will expand in an inflationary manner, and will form galaxies and stars, and maybe beings like us.”

11 M-THEORY GRAND DESIGN. Stephen Hawking has continued working on this question, and this month, he and the Caltech mathematician Leonard Mlodinow present their answer in a book entitled The Grand Design. They approach the problem from what they call “model-dependent realism,” based on the assumption that our brains form models of the world from sensory input, that we use the model most successful at explaining events, and that when more than one model makes accurate predictions “we are free to use whichever model is most convenient.” Employing this method, they write, “it is pointless to ask whether a model is real, only whether it agrees with observation.” The dual wave/particle models of light are an example of model-dependent realism, where each one agrees with certain observations but neither one is sufficient to explain all observations. To model the entire universe, Hawking and Mlodinow employ “M-Theory,” an extension of string theory that includes 11 dimensions and incorporates all five current string theory models. “M-theory is the most general supersymmetric theory of gravity,” Hawking and Mlodinow explain. “For these reasons M-theory is the only candidate for a complete theory of the universe. If it is finite—and this has yet to be proved—it will be a model of a universe that creates itself.” Although they admit that the theory has yet to be confirmed by observation, if it is, then no creator explanation is necessary because the universe creates itself. I call this auto-ex-nihilo.

12 NOTHING IS UNSTABLE, SOMETHING IS NATURAL In his 2012 book, A Universe From Nothing, the cosmologist Lawrence M. Krauss attempts to link quantum physics to Einstein’s gravitational theory of general relativity to explain the origin of something (including a universe) from nothing: “In quantum gravity, universes can, and indeed always will, spontaneously appear from nothing. Such universes need not be empty, but can have matter and [electromagnetic] radiation in them, as long as the total energy, including the negative energy associated with gravity [balancing the positive energy of matter], is zero.” And: “In order for the closed universes that might be created through such mechanisms to last for longer than infinitesimal times, something like inflation is necessary.” Observations have revealed that, in fact, the universe is flat (there is just enough matter to eventually halt its expansion), its energy is zero, and it underwent rapid inflation, or expansion, shortly after the Big Bang as described by inflationary cosmology. Thus, Krauss concludes, “quantum gravity not only appears to allow universes to be created from nothing—meaning…the absence of space and time—it may require them. ‘Nothing’—in this case no space, no time, no anything!—is unstable.”

Putting Something to the Test

Many of these dozen explanations are testable. The theory that new universes can emerge from collapsing black holes may be illuminated through additional knowledge about the properties of black holes. Other bubble universes might be detected in the subtle temperature variations of the cosmic microwave background radiation left over from the Big Bang of our own universe. NASA recently launched a spacecraft constructed to study this radiation. Another way to test these theories might be through the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) that is designed to detect exceptionally faint gravitational waves. If there are other universes, perhaps ripples in gravitational waves will signal their presence. Maybe gravity is such a relatively weak force (compared to electromagnetism and the nuclear forces) because some of it “leaks” out to other universes. Maybe.

After a column I wrote in Scientific American on this topic (“Much Ado About Nothing,” May, 2012), I received an email from the Columbia University theoretical physicist Peter Woit cautioning me not to put too much emphasis on any one of these hypotheses/answers to the question of why there is something rather than nothing, noting that even these proposed tests probably themselves lack validity, if they could ever be conducted in reality. He explained that his skepticism came not out of religious conviction: “I’m as much of an atheist as anyone, and I’m really disturbed to see arguments being made that are going to end up discrediting skepticism and atheism.” He then posted a blog commentary on my Scientific American column, noting that my “authority here is the Hawking/Mlodinow popular book, but he’s also convinced that WMAP and LIGO are somehow going to provide evidence for multiverses, something that even the most far-out theorists in this field aren’t claiming.” Regarding my comment that perhaps gravity “leaks” out to other universes Woit responds: “Nobody seems to have told Shermer that this is not an idea taken seriously by a significant number of theorists, or that LHC data has shot down the hopes of the one or two such theorists.” Woit was prescient in that the prominent Intelligent Design creationist William Dembski did highlight Woit’s skepticism at his blog Uncommon Descent (“Serving the Intelligent Design Community”), quoting Woit and commenting: “Don’t nobody tell Shermer. It’s more fun this way.”

Given the fact that I appreciated Peter Woit’s skeptical book on string theory (Not Even Wrong: The Failure of String Theory and the Search for Unity in Physical Law), I queried my sources. Physicist Victor Stenger responded: “The multiverse is not nonsense. It is based on good theory, but only theory. It is, in principle, detectable by measuring an anisotropy in the cosmic background radiation. That’s why I did not rely on it in The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning. I agree with Woit on M-theory, though.” Caltech physicist Leonard Mlodinow said he doubts that either he or Woit knows what “most physicists” think about the multiverse, and then opined that “most cosmologists certainly believe it,” recalling that Brian Greene “outlined the general thinking (as opposed to, say, Hawking’s particular views) very well in his book on it” (The Hidden Reality). Finally, Caltech physicist and cosmologist Sean Carroll noted: “You are completely correct, the multiverse is an idea that pops out of inflation (and string theory), not one that is put in out of desperation. Here is a column of my own making exactly this point. Carroll then cautioned: “Obviously the entire set of ideas is controversial and speculative, and should be presented as such, but it’s taken very seriously by a large number of extremely smart and respectable people.” For example: Leonard Susskind, Alex Vilenkin and Alan Guth (on the pro-multiverse side) and David Gross, Paul Steinhardt, and Edward Farhi (skeptical of the multiverse side).

God, Science, and the Great Unknown

In the meantime, while scientists sort out the science to answer the question Why is there something instead of nothing?, in addition to reviewing these dozen answers it is also okay to say “I don’t know” and keep searching. There is no need to turn to supernatural answers just to fulfill an emotional need for explanation. Like nature, the mind abhors a vacuum, but sometimes it is better to admit ignorance than feign certainty about which one knows not. If there is one lesson that the history of science has taught us it is that it is arrogant to think that we now know enough to know that we cannot know. Science is young. Let us have the courage to admit our ignorance and to keep searching for answers to these deepest questions.


Skeptical perspectives on the universe…
cover Atom: From the Big Bang to the Origin of Life
by Dr. Lawrence Krauss

With humor and insight, Krauss follows the trajectory of a single oxygen atom’s voyage through eternity, telling the story of the universe from the Big Bang to life’s emergence on Earth. Krauss (a masterful storyteller) is often compared to Carl Sagan for his ability to reveal our relationship to the universe and the countless ages that have come before us.

Order the lecture on DVD

cover The Grand Design
by Leonard Mlodinow

When and how did the universe begin? Why are we here? Why is there something rather than nothing? What is the nature of reality? Why are the laws of nature so finely tuned as to allow for the existence of beings like ourselves? And, finally, is the apparent “grand design” of our universe evidence of a benevolent creator who set things in motion—or does science offer another explanation? In this lecture by Leonard Mlodinow, based on his co-authored book with Stephen Hawking, answers to these ultimate questions are answers based on the most recent scientific evidence.

Order the lecture on DVD

cover How Old is the Universe? and
The Shape of Inner Space

(two lectures on one DVD)
by Dr. David Weintraub and Dr. Shing-Tung Yau

It’s all very well for astronomers to say that the universe is 13.7 billion years old, but how do they know? Weintraub explains various dating approaches and illustrates the work of astronomers to find the answer to one of the most basic questions about our universe.

Dr. Yau tells the story of the six-dimensional geometric spaces that may be more than a trillion times smaller than an electron (and also one of the defining features of our universe), which physicists have dubbed “Calabi-Yau manifolds.” Dr. Yau managed to prove the existence, mathematically, of these spaces, despite the fact that he had originally set out to prove that such spaces could not possibly exist.

Order the double lecture on DVD

cover Cosmos (7-DVD set)
by Carl Sagan

The Collector’s edition boxed set of 7 DVDs of the 13 hour series narrated in 1980 by Carl Sagan and revamped in 2000 with up-to-date science and images. The definitive tour of our universe. Inspiring!

Order the lectures on DVD

31 Comments »

31 Comments

  1. Another point of view says:

    These are all valid speculations, but there are certainly other ways of looking at the universe, time and matter. There does not appear to be any real substance to matter when you get small enough, and the universe appears relatively empty when you get large enough. What if for any given segment of time the universe is growing but only in relation to where the observer is. If at what we consider the beginning of the universe we were to observe from within the extremities, would everything appear to be as large and expanding at the same rate relative to local time as it appears to us now using our local time?

    • Bad Boy Scientist says:

      You raise some interesting questions – and I have heard many similar things posed by my students – so I would strongly suggest that you pick up some of the books Dr Schermer has referenced and read them. They’re all pretty accessible to the general public and help convey some concepts which are useful – if you want to think about these things or even understand these popular books.

      E.g. the concepts of time and space have (for quite a while now – since special relativity) been seen as two bits of spacetime. In Newtonian physics (which fits most of our day-to-day experience so we tend to think in terms of Newtonian physics) we can imagine that space is a stage for a play, and time is just the … well .. time of it. The actors are limited by space and time but do not *inter*act with it. Under SR, space & time are bit of spacetime and actors (matter) can affect it as well as being affected by it. It also makes thinking about the beginnings of space & time easier – “the beginning of time” is the origin of our ‘bubble of spacetime’ – did it split off from a ‘parent’ spacetime realm or did some other process produce it? Well, that’s part of what Dr Mike’s article is about.

      Truly wonderful stuff, Dr Mike, I love it when skeptics discuss principles of science (I get tired of all the debunking stuff like UFO’s and Nessie – and don’t know how anyone can stand spending an entire career at it. I enjoy popularizing the stuff about Nature we do understand much more than dislodging bogus beliefs – and interestingly studies show that people can be very science literate and still hold onto some bogus beliefs. )

  2. Dr. Sidethink. Hp. D says:

    Even more so now than ever, the question MIGHT not make sense.

    In an admittedly flawed example, I contend that it is somewhat like asking a dog
    to give a Chess response in algebraic notation to ” 1. e4 ”

    the best you will get is “arf”, especially if you have chessmen ( pardon sexism) made out of dog candy.

    For Hofstadter fans , “MU” might do, especially if you are asking a Cat.

    There ARE occasions where “Beats ME” is an OK answer especially if you want to piss someone off whose life work depends on another answer

    “Fried shoes” isn’t really too bad!!

    As an amateur logical positivist , I find that nobody wants to hear that what they say does not or cannot make sense .
    I get accused of being too intellectually snobbish or lazy to cut them some slack.

    “That’s cool, tell me more works much better .

    Bob Pease

  3. anatman says:

    or it may be that ‘nothing’ is an illusion: a concept that our brains generate because of the structure of our cognitive algorithms, but that is in fact incoherent, so the question vanishes.

    • Bad Boy Scientist says:

      Right. We must be careful with our words and really understand them. E.g. “nothing” is a privative (an absence of _something_) and when we start thinking of it as a thing in it’s own right we can think some silly thoughts… like asking “What is the speed of dark?” (it _has_ to be faster than the speed of light because dark always gets there first ;)

  4. Chris says:

    None of the explanations given really answer the question as to why there is something instead of nothing. They simply offer possible explanations as to the formation of our universe. I think Bob is right, unfortunately it’s possibly very likely that this may be something too large for our limited intellect and senses to ever fully comprehend.

    • Bad Boy Scientist says:

      To be fair, Science is not in the business of answering “Why” questions – it is ill equipped to get into intentions and purposes. Science is all about asking “What and How” (IOW: Theories are descriptions and explanations of natural phenomena). So in a very real sense when a religious person and a scientist discuss this topic they are having two different conversations – and may not even realize it.

      One thing I learned kinda late in life is all my years of debates with ID’ers suffered from this. Both sides often started suspecting the other side of intellectual dishonesty because of the fact that we were having two different conversations. The IDers are quite satisfied with “God did it” because it explains the _purpose_ of it all. To us scientists/science teachers that’s a frustrating answer almost as bad as when a child is told “Because I said so!” … it’s a conversation ender. But our explanations of what is the diversity of life (plus astronomy stuff – my thing) and how it all works are frustrating to them because they want to know the _meaning_ of it all and not the nuts and bolts. Science is looking at the nuts and bolts of nature.

      Actually, the *real* lesson I learned from all these debates was when it comes to purpose, intent and meaning – often the individual asking the question can impose his/her preconceived notion on it without harm. If you want to assert that everything is here because God created it for His Children – fine. If you assert it’s here by accident – great. If it’s all a dream in a TV character’s head – works just as well. These scenarios are not about the nuts and bolts of reality but about the meaning of it – and whatever gives you meaning go for it.

      So as long as they keep it out of the schools, I am happy for the ID’ers that they find comfort from “God did it.” (and this attitude gives me powerful leverage to explain to them why their philosophical answer about purpose and meaning doesn’t belong in a _science class_… you wouldn’t want them teaching the Book of Mormon in a pre-columbian History Class because – true/false/or other – the Book of Mormon isn’t a History Book.) I find if I do not attack their beliefs – even gently – I can guide them to see that they are not science.

      • Stan Miller says:

        I really like you pointing out that we need to keep in mind that science is about the “what” and “how” questions, leaving the “why” questions to philosophy and theology. That’s a great argument for keeping ID and creationism out of public schools.

    • Ghanshyam says:

      i think , since our theories say black whole is like a wormhole..and time is not absolute,then cant it be like the energy from black hole somehow is tending to go at the starting of the time and that point in space time of big bang or something like that.. which is constantly getting energy from all the black holes that are yet present , would be formed and were formed. or their is one somewhere which is never going to die.. and always going to send that energy in the past at that point. was just wondering.

  5. BaronPike says:

    Two concepts that seem unfalsifiable are the propositions that our somethings could not have come from nothing and that all these somethings must move/change in a sequential order.

    • Dr. Sidethink. Hp. D says:

      paraphrase of an “oldie but goodie”

      ” If we didn’t have the concepts of sequence and its companions “before” and “after” then “before” and “after” companions its and sequence of concepts the have didn’t we if”

      ! yuppuy !

      RJPJR

  6. Teamonger says:

    “Why is there something rather than nothing.” As an agnostic, I’ve actually found this a useful response to theists. The conversation goes, “Where did the universe come from if not God?”, “Beats me. Where did your God come from?”, “You can’t ask that question, God always existed.” “Well, why couldn’t the universe have always existed? All these questions boil down to ‘why is there anything’, which is ultimately unanswerable.”

    • Ghanshyam says:

      since time is not absolute, if u make anything in circle..its ultimately self answerable. u need not to have any problem in answering any question when you take time as non-absolute term in space. and that’S why we can say one thing is ignited by another thing..and so on..at last u see..the last thing has ignited the first thing , so theirs no ending and starting. its a circle. because time it self is not absolute.

  7. Peter LePort says:

    One point:

    If something comes from nothing then that nothing has the property of being able to produce something and so is something as it has at least one property, the ability to produce something. I.e., there is no such thing as the ultimate nothing, something existed eternally. (Put philosophically; Existence exists.)

    OK, maybe another point:

    The question of how something comes from nothing is an invalid question. To posit nothing you first have to have the concept something, i.e., it is a stolen concept. To use a concept of nothing you first have to have the concept of something and then derive nothing. Something existed eternally. (Don’t confuse this absolute nothing with saying I have nothing in my draw, that refers to pens, shirts, etc. There is still something in the draw, air, energy, particles; something.)

    Peter LePort, MD

    • Dr. Sidethink. Hp. D says:

      No Candidate is better than Obama
      Rush Limbaugh is better than no candidate
      therefore Rush Limbaugh is better than Obama

      Quid Errat Democrandem

      • Peter LePort says:

        If you were serious here is my answer; if not you got me. My statement was not a syllogism. It was an observation and then a conclusion based on the law of identity. You posit, you observe, something coming into existence implies that you posit something that was able to bring that about. You have to start from existence, through observations that something exists and then through a long conceptual chain of reasoning conclude that existence is eternal.

        Your syllogism is a false in that the premises are wrong and so it does not demonstrate that my statement is wrong unless you can show my premises are wrong. (And to show that you have to use the axion that existence exists and so would be self defeating.)

        • Dr. Sidethink. Hp. D says:

          It’s a paraphrase of a classical bogus syllogism.
          it isn’t EVEN false.

          The problem comes with the misuse of the associative property of equality,
          and worse,ambiguities arising about the difference between “nothing” and
          ” No THING ”

          this was a launch point into the need for Set theory in analytical logic

          RJP

  8. Rama Rao K says:

    As a late-comer to such topics, I find most of the discussions over my head. Well, I guess it takes ‘some’ (!?) time to get a handle on this. However, ‘something’ is always better than ‘nothing’.

  9. Bob Masta says:

    A good theory needs explanatory power, which is essentially the ability to compress information. For example, the simple formula for the speed versus time of a falling body replaces an exhaustive list of times and speeds. (This is another way of stating Occam’s Razor.) Some proposed theories fail this test.

    The God theory fails spectacularly: It proposes to explain a simple situation (the existence of about 10^80 elementary particles) with a vastly more problematic one: a mysterious immaterial super-powerful creator about whom we can know nothing. And since this deity is not predictable, we get nothing more from this proposed explanation than a list of “God did this” and “God did that”… simple enumeration of what we already know. We are left with the same 10^80 particles *plus* a mysterious creator.

    On top of that, as others have pointed out, it leaves us with the bigger mystery of “Where did God come from?”. Proponents who claim “eternal” have to rationalize how this is any improvement over just having an eternal 10^80 particles to begin with. Their only other alternative would seem to be “deities all the way up”.

    But by the same token, we need to be aware that some of the so-called physics theories have a similar problem: “Then where did the multiverse (or whatever) come from?”. We need to be sure we are simplifying, not just adding another God-like layer of mystery like “multiverses all the way up”.

    • Dr. Sidethink. Hp. D says:

      There’s something abhorrent about a “turtle ” set !!

      but we may Have to use Billie’s shiv and get countable sets with
      SOME properties and not others,
      Gabriel’s Horn e.g ???

      BTW it is my understanding that the use of
      Hock Ham’s Cleaver is for rhetorical expediency, and might lead
      down the primrose path to scratchy apedung!!

      It has lighted fools the way to wasted breath ( Macbath)
      RJP

      • Bob Masta says:

        Occam’s Razor is rhetorical expediency only in that it is verbal shorthand; it’s merely a simplified way of stating that an explanation must compress information. If the proposed explanation takes more bandwidth than the observations it is attempting to explain, it’s not a viable explanation.

        I don’t think there is any mathematical proof for this, however… just “common sense”. (!) It embodies a human choice to use the most compact format. Still, it’s hard to imagine a system that would break this rule, that would use extra information but still be judged better. One general class might be when the thing we set out to explain is only a small part of reality (say, structure of the hydrogen atom), but to do a proper job we use all of quantum mechanics, which explains much more than we asked for.

        Best regards

        • Dr. Sidethink. Hp. D says:

          From Wikipedia

          “The other things in question are the evidential support for the theory.[60] Therefore, according to the principle, a simpler but less correct theory should not be preferred over a more complex but more correct one. It is this fact which gives the lie to the common misinterpretation of Occam’s razor that “the simplest” one is usually the correct one.”
          *********
          “If you’re at a STANDSTILL, punt with the wind .”
          Doesn’t guarantee a better game or guarantee a win

          Dr. Phil O’Buster has reign otherwise.

          rjp

    • Papalinton says:

      Bob Masta
      You say, “Proponents who claim “eternal” have to rationalize how this is any improvement over just having an eternal 10^80 particles to begin with. Their only other alternative would seem to be “deities all the way up”.”

      Yes, but I don’t think it is an alternative. Those that claim an ‘uncaused cause’, seem not to appreciate that the word ‘eternal’, is simply another descriptive form of infinite regress. The notion of ‘eternal’ is synonymous with with ‘deities all the way up’.

  10. Jack Howard says:

    All of the ideas presented here and responded to have some merit, some more, some less. But all of theses ideas have one thing in common. The religious could care less. If the arguments presented are supposed to discredit religion they are useless. Religion is not about truth and fact. Religion is about psychological need, nothing more, nothing less. This is why the religious are proof against any and all reasoned arguments that do not agree with their religious views. All religious folks are concerned with are:
    1. Dealing with death and other personal tragedies.
    2. Gaining, and not losing, social acceptance.
    Until secular ideas are presented and popularized that deal with these issues better than “god did it”, we will be saddled with religion and its destructive effects.

    • Dr. Sidethink. Hp. D says:

      “Religion is not about truth and fact. Religion is about psychological need, nothing more, nothing less.”

      vis a vis
      “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said
      in a rather scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean,
      nothing less, and nothing more.”

      Lewis Carroll

  11. Bob Green says:

    I find the book “The Origin of the Universe – Case Closed” to be the most compelling book. It has math in the Appendix to back up the claims. It is hard to argue with the math! It’s easy to understand and a good read.

  12. Lesiba says:

    Has the question of what “nothing” is been adequately answered? That would for me be a very good starting point before attempting to understand if something can come from nothing.

  13. Angelo Ventura says:

    Because God got bored
    Because nothing got an upgrade
    Because we are in the something phase of the Cosmic cycle
    Because otherwise we wouldn’t be there asking that question
    42!
    Who knows?

  14. Buridan says:

    “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.” Where do exist numbers, if not out of space and time, nevertheless we do know many things about these entities…

  15. naga says:

    What is common to all theories of origin of universe(s) is the the stress on evolution and no dead-end. Theoretically therefore, there must be energy (dark, to be sure) forming the background so the net entropy does not increase! Energy is ‘nothing’ or non-existence till it interacts when it becomes ‘something’. What can trigger is a fluctuation that again calls for ‘information’ carried by that ‘nothing’. Since information has no material medium to degrade it, entropy does not increase. QED.

  16. Gus Munoz says:

    I wonder if aliens in a far away galaxy are preoccupied about the origins of existence.? sometimes I think my Dog can provide us ,and any other living form in the universe, with an answer. Love .play. eat . sleep etc etc…..nothing is not here. we are something, we came from a different something and that something came from something else…..no real beginning, no end!! play, eat sleep, love….be here now!! God? What is that? lets not create another problem!

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