Why is there a Universe, and how did it come from Nothing?

March 5, 2010

These lectures, by Alan Guth and Lawrence Krauss, explain how cosmologists now understand the natural origin of the universe, and why the universe can come from 'nothing' and still amount to nothing.

Guth and Krauss also suggest how science can deal with questions about the universe's "design". This new understanding of our universe radically changes debates with religion.

"Inflationary Cosmology: Is Our Universe Part of a Multiverse?" by Alan Guth, MIT.Guth

Guth part one:

Guth part two:

"A Universe From Nothing" by Lawrence Krauss, at AAI 2009

Comments:

#1 stevenlchilds on Saturday March 06, 2010 at 8:33am

Thanks for this.  I have known or suspected the idea that creation is nothing for a long time.  Buddhism supports this notion.  We are literally connected as one, well as nothing cause we are all the same nothing.  Are there aliens in this “nothing” we experience as reality?  Why not?  What is stopping us from mind to mind connections.  The answer is “nothing”  Meditation can bring this contact about.  I agree with Krauss that reality is how it is and not how we want it to be.  If Aliens can read our minds we have no choice in the matter.  Is Buddhism a religion or a science?  It crosses over.  It is an inquiry itself. It is sad that religion is usually the enemy of truth,

#2 Anna O. Zacher (Guest) on Saturday March 06, 2010 at 1:31pm

Wow, that entire Krause lecture had me on the edge of my seat (as they say), altho for me somewhat (!) intellectually challenging.  Too interesting. I wish I could have heard the parts he omitted because of time constraints. But his idea that in the future milleniums we will be more ignorant of our universe (given that we survive as a species until then, which I suspect may not happen) because of the continual expansion of everything until `nothing’ is all that is left in view, seems illogical,  i.e. won’t we still have the previous historical and scientific data?  Or don’t I understand something here?

#3 MsColleen on Saturday March 06, 2010 at 10:58pm

Anna, the key point is that we humans live in a privileged time at this time because we CAN know much of this information.  On the other hand, imagine a civilization develops with intelligence sufficient to ask the questions that we have asked about the cosmos, but they live far enough in the future that their view of the cosmos (because of the expansion of the universe) has left them with only their own galaxy or perhaps local group of galaxies.  They will have no way to look at the historical record of galaxy formation and no way to see the cosmological expansion going on.  They will be bereft of much that we can see now.  We (if we survive) may benefit from our historical records.  They will have no such benefit.

#4 stevenlchilds on Sunday March 07, 2010 at 7:27am

My hope would be that we become God like via advanced technology and understanding.  We can then contact the later developing beings and share our record of the past.  Perhaps this has already happened with beings that evolved long before we came onto the scene.  Perhaps we can hear them if we listen.  Perhaps they know all about us.

#5 oldebabe (Guest) on Sunday March 07, 2010 at 11:59am

Thanks, MsColleen.  So, are you interpreting Krauss in this saying that as our observations change, that what even we, critical thinkers, may see becomes the only reality?  Will all our past info, then, have no meaning or `truth’ that there was `something’ even as we can see the continual expansion into `nothing’, that there must have been something previously…?  Will there be no way to look at those data and records (or will they somehow disappear as well as our species, and any new intelligence will start from scratch), or will what is observed serve as the only fact? I don’t see a clear comparison to religion, which IMO is just thoughts/beliefs run amok, not evidence of actual something. Perhaps he is saying that if we see nothing, we will believe nothing except what we see because that’s the only `reality’, as there will be nothing except nothing… which is still, obviously, something… EEK (that’s my old brain squeeking)...

#6 gray1 on Thursday March 11, 2010 at 8:02pm

Delicious but still something is missing.  Aside from it all still being a doughnut, these are some great posts, thanks!

#7 MsColleen on Friday March 12, 2010 at 6:35am

I think that it’s rather safe to say that “we” are not the only reality.  Reality has this nasty habit of proving our sense observations wrong.  Think optical illusions.  So we end up having to use the tools of the scientific method (hypotheses and theories with theories that can be proven or disproven* - the IMPORTANT part) and the tools of science (microscopes, telescopes, particle colliders, etc).  So the tools we’ve developed help us to identify what really is “reality.” 

That said, reality is stable.  It doesn’t change.  What we understand of it changes (think Newton’s Law of Gravity vs. Einstein’s Relativity), but the laws of reality (the strength of the strong and weak forces, gravity, etc) don’t change as far as we have been able to identify.  Even if we do find that they change, it is reasonable to think that they will change in a predictable way, still leaving us with a good grasp of reality, no matter how far into the future we progress.

So our past information will remain accurate, although we might find that it has a gross nuance rather than a fine nuance.  Newton’s Law of Gravity still works pretty darn well for putting satellites into orbit, but Einstein’s Relativity helps with even finer precision.  So the knowledge that something still exists, even though we could no longer see it would still be true.

If all we could see was our galaxy, Andromeda galaxy and the few other satellite galaxies in our local group - what we could expect many billion years in the future - we would still be able to recognize the existence of dark matter.  Stars orbit the center of our galaxy far faster than the observable matter would allow for.  There has to be invisible matter adding gravity to allow it.  When there is no longer any other form of energy that we can see apart from our local group of galaxies, would we detect dark energy?  I don’t know.  How fine would our observational ability be then?

And as for religion; until religion can make falsifiable claims, it can’t be proven.  Oh, wait!  Religion DOES make falsifiable claims!  It’s called intercessory prayer!  People pray because they can thereby get God’s intercession in the outcome.  So scientists have conducted experiments to test whether intercessory prayer has any affect on medical outcomes!  The results?  Those who know they are prayed for have worse outcomes than those who are not prayed for?  Probably reason?  If prayer is being offered, then their condition is probably worse than they are being told, and therefore they fear they are NOT doing very well under treatment.  Intercessory prayer clearly seems NOT to work.  Therefore it has been proven false.

#8 Anthony McCarthy (Guest) on Thursday March 18, 2010 at 6:47am

How can existence be falsified?  Show us how.

Rigging the argument, making some non-existent abstraction, “religion”, play by the rules such as those invented in order to do science, another abstraction of convenience, might give you the ability to pretend that you’ve dispelled it but anyone who doesn’t accept your ground rules is entirely within their rights to point out that you’ve not dispelled their belief in what they believe in.

Are you going to insist that philosophy follow the rules and requirements of science?  How about politics?  How about scientists in other aspects of their lives?  What other parts of the lives of even the most conventionally materialistic scientists are run entirely in accord with the rules of science?  When you find one of those, document it because they are certainly one of a kind.

I’m kind of surprised that Lawrence Krauss, who I used to respect, is going this route.  There’s no logical or political necessity for it, so I’m guessing it’s personal preference.

#9 MsColleen on Thursday March 18, 2010 at 8:50am

Your argument leads us back to Plato’s ideal Forms or Mary Baker Eddie’s Christian Science where we are inhabitants of Adam’s dream, since the Bible doesn’t ever mention that once God made him to fall asleep, he never woke back up.

We are creatures who have evolved senses to detect hazards in our environment, to promote our survival.  Ears allow us to hear patterns of noises that we come to understand as threatening our survival.  Eyes and the brain’s ability for pattern recognition allow us to detect things that look like snakes that we should avoid for survival.  That we sometimes see something that looks like a snake but isn’t does not threaten our survival, but NOT recognizing a snake CAN threaten our survival.  So our senses help to warn us but are not perfect.

So we end up with what the early Greek philosophers found as a significant problem: how to handle what our senses tell us - whether they are illusions or reality, and how to know which is which.  The Greeks didn’t solve the problem, but the tools of modern science have proven beyond reasonable doubts to have solved that problem.  How can I claim that?

Scientists repeatedly check their observations and the observations of others.  They report their observations, and other scientists either replicate their results or falsify their results—something I pointed out that we ought to be able to do for religion.  Scientists check their results for level of accuracy, and then design new instruments that will examine their observations in new ways—different approaches altogether—or looking for higher precision.  Their results are always falsifiable.  Just as with the claims of “cold fusion” the claims can either be observationally confirmed, or they can be proven to be false, therefore “falsifiable.”

And as far as philosophy “following the rules,” there is a whole field of scientific philosophy, so I think we can claim that philosophy is following along that line of thought.  Politics?  We can present information to politicians but they do not have to be persuaded, just as we can not persuade all people about civil rights - who should be granted the rights of personhood, and who should not.  And the far greater majority of scientists, well over 80%, are either atheists, agnostics or deists.  Only a small fraction are significantly religious, and those who are significantly religious are far less likely to be physicists or biologists or geologists.  They tend far more toward the less rigorous sciences, such as medicine or political science or sociology.

And I shall not try to list many scientists, because the is far too long.  Let me merely point out books by Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Victor J. Stenger as a starting point.  I would argue by definition, atheists follow the rules and requirements of science in their world view.

#10 Anthony McCarthy (Guest) on Thursday March 18, 2010 at 9:47am

MsColleen, my argument has absolutely nothing to do with Plato’s ideal forms or Mary Baker Eddy.  I didn’t mention the Bible either. 

You can pretend I was limiting my question about philosophy to the philosophy of science, though I didn’t do that, did I?  I was using the whole field that is called “philosophy” as analogous to the field that is called “religion”, both terms inclusive of quite vast areas of different ideas and practices.  As the author of this blog is a professional in the area of philosophy,  it’s quite in order to point out that it doesn’t follow the procedures of science that he and his fans want religion to be held to. 

Your ideas about the equipment we have been given by evolution are beside any of my points or questions. And are speculative to the extent that I wouldn’t include them within science.  I prefer evolution when it deals with actual, physical evidence and not with ideological speculation. 

It’s one of the habits I’ve noticed that seems to be endemic to dogmatic atheism that they have to re frame arguments and questions in order to make them fit their preferred positions. Which amounts to just more rigging of rules, one of the criticisms I’ve made of Plato and his Socrates.  His Socrates couldn’t have won a fair argument. 

So, how do you falsify existence?

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