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God of the Gaps
Posted: 19 November 2007 10:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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Well, I see both creationism and the big bang theory arguments both coming down to “nothingness.”

In both arguments, we end up with “something being created by nothing.” It’s hard for us to understand this, so it may be a topic we should further discuss and examine.

For creationism, I can ask, If god created the universe, then who created god? And who created gods creator…and so forth, which leads us into an infinite regression. We either get lost in this infinite regression or we finally say that at some point that, “something had to come from nothing.” or “the first creator would have had to of come from nothing.”

With the big bang theory, we eventually run into the same issue. Except without any God involved. Where we are left with asking how did “something came from nothing.”

Why choose one belief over the other? Obviously we have to look at the evidence. You can’t just add “God” in the spots where you don’t have the answers and sell it as truth. We have limits to what we are capable of understanding, but we shouldn’t patch the holes with a piece of gum.

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Posted: 19 November 2007 10:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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I see the “something out of nothing” problem as largely artificial. It arises because it’s hard for us to imagine, based on living in and having brains evolved for an environment in which antecedant causes seem to always exist and in which figuring out what they are has practical value. But just like space/time or quantum mechanics, our intuition breaks down at scales of size or time that are far beyond what we are accustomed to or “designed” for. So we get all worked up when we come to the conclusion that not only is the antecedant cause for everything possibly unknowable, but there may not even be one. This leads to inventing placeholder causes, like god or Tao or whatever. But being hard to imagine is not an argument against something. Maybe some day we’ll have the ability to formulate a coherent scientific explanation of how something comes from nothing, or maybe we won’t (because it seems reasonable to assume there are some things our brains aren’t capable of). Or maybe, like Xeno’s paradox, it’s an artificial problem that comes from how we look at things. Either way, I don’t personally find arguments based on the central fact of nothingness or unknowability compelling or interesting. There are plenty of questions to work on in the world of something and knowable.

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Posted: 19 November 2007 06:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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We think we are talking about something just about eternal when we talk about four billion years or fifteen billion years, however, that is a meaningless moment if we consider an infinity of time.  So, let’s just imagine an existence of nothing for an infinite time.  It would seem that over an infinite time the probability of ANYTHING happening would be one.  Based on this I can visualize a sudden split where nothingness splits into a positive and a negative somethingness.  And surprise - we have a couple of universes, adjacent but not connected.  No need for a cause, no need for an entity.

Occam

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Posted: 19 November 2007 09:35 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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interesting theory. I like it.

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Posted: 20 November 2007 05:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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Yes.  There it only makes sense that there would be something.

I think that the taoism symbol does have something to contribute to this topic.  For there to be nothing there must be something for there to be nothing of.  Is not a void defined by its lacking of something?  Yin/Yang?

Is it even possible for there to be a complete cosmos that is utterly void?  I make no certain statement.  But since we are speculating, I am skeptical.

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Posted: 20 November 2007 06:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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IIRC, the physicist Victor Stenger likes to say that nothingness is unstable.

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Posted: 20 November 2007 08:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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Occam,

What you suggested “So, let’s just imagine an existence of nothing for an infinite time.  It would seem that over an infinite time the probability of ANYTHING happening would be one.  Based on this I can visualize a sudden split where nothingness splits into a positive and a negative somethingness” is precisely what taoist philosophy call the manifestation of the Tao(nothingness) as the yin(passive)(matter) and the yang(active) (energy) in the universe.

Quantum field theory states that vacuum energy exists in “empty space” or nothingness.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vacuum_energy

Vacuum energy is an underlying background energy that exists in space even when devoid of matter (known as free space).

Vacuum energy can also be thought of in terms of virtual particles (also known as vacuum fluctuations) which are created and destroyed out of the vacuum. These particles are always created out of the vacuum in particle-antiparticle pairs, which shortly annihilate each-other and disappear. However, these particles and antiparticles may interact with others before disappearing, a process which can be mapped using Feynman diagrams. It is these fundamental interactions which give rise to all physical forces.

So “empty space” or nothingness has potential for producing somethingness.

Dark energy, found in 1998 is another candidate for nothingness:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_energy#Evidence_for_dark_energy

The most recent WMAP observations are consistent with a Universe made up of 74% dark energy, 22% dark matter, and 4% ordinary matter.

The exact nature of this dark energy is a matter of speculation. It is known to be very homogeneous, not very dense and is not known to interact through any of the fundamental forces other than gravity. Since it is not very dense—roughly 10−29 grams per cubic centimeter—it is hard to imagine experiments to detect it in the laboratory. Dark energy can only have such a profound impact on the universe, making up 70% of all energy, because it uniformly fills otherwise empty space. The two leading models are quintessence and the cosmological constant

Without dark energy, which acts like negative gravity, the universe would collapse in a big crunch because of gravity! Einstein introduced the cosmological constant to balance out gravity. However, quantum field theory predictions of the cosmological constant presents huge anomalies.

A major outstanding problem is that most quantum field theories predict a huge cosmological constant from the energy of the quantum vacuum, up to 120 orders of magnitude too large. This would need to be cancelled almost, but not exactly, by an equally large term of the opposite sign. Some supersymmetric theories require a cosmological constant that is exactly zero, which does not help. The present scientific consensus amounts to extrapolating the empirical evidence where it is relevant to predictions, and fine-tuning theories until a more elegant solution is found. Philosophically, our most elegant solution may be to say that if things were different, we would not be here to observe anything - the anthropic principle.[7] Technically, this amounts to checking theories against macroscopic observations. Unfortunately, as the known error margin in the constant predicts the fate of the universe more than its present state, many such “deeper” questions remain unknown

.

Some theorists think that dark energy and cosmic acceleration are a failure of general relativity on very large scales, larger than superclusters. It is a tremendous extrapolation to think that our law of gravity, which works so well in the solar system, should work without correction on the scale of the universe. Most attempts at modifying general relativity, however, have turned out to be either equivalent to theories of quintessence, or inconsistent with observations.

Quintessence, an exotic “fifth element” has been proposed instead of the cosmological constant to account for the accelerating universe.

http://www.astronomytoday.com/cosmology/quintessence.html/

The new buzz word in cosmology these days is ‘quintessence’, borrowed from the ancient Greeks who used the term to describe a mysterious ‘fifth element’ - in addition to air, earth, fire and water - which held the moon and stars in place. Quintessence, some cosmologists say, is an exotic kind of energy field that pushes particles away from each other, overpowering gravity and the other fundamental forces.

But what is quintessence made of? No one knows for sure. Radiation, ordinary matter and likely dark matter all have positive pressure. They therefore exert a gravitationally attractive force. Anything with negative pressure, the general theory of relativity dictates, would have a gravitationally repulsive force.

For quintessence, the quantum field would have a very long wavelength, about the size of the universe. Its kinetic energy depends on the rate of oscillations in the field strength; its potential energy depends on the interaction of the field with matter. The more kinetic energy, the more positive the pressure - which isn’t so likely for a universe-long wavelength. So for now, potential energy and negative pressure dominates. Hence, quintessence is a repulsive force.

Fascinating stuff, but it is getting queerer and queerer. This is the crisis in physics and cosmology today.

[ Edited: 20 November 2007 08:07 AM by kkwan ]
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Posted: 20 November 2007 03:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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Damn it, KKwan, you’re still thinking like an empirical physicist.  When I said “nothing” I meant NOTHING.  In other words, before anything, even dark or vacuum energy.  Don’t try to slip a something into my nothing.  Get your own nothing if you want to do that.  LOL

Occam

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Posted: 20 November 2007 06:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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I have a real hard time imagining “absolute nothingness.”

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Posted: 20 November 2007 06:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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Morgantj,

Exactly! HUmans are wonderful at taking our own difficulty in imagining something as evidence against it. Intelligent design theory, the argument from design for god, and lots of other ideas are based fundamentally on the fact that we have trouble accepting what we cannot easily imagine. But science can prove to us that time-dilation is real, that quantum phenoena don’t obey Newtonian rules that are built into our perceptual apparatus, and that far out ideas like uncaused effects and absolute nothingness might be real. That’s why I argue that the problem is largely illusory.

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Posted: 20 November 2007 06:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
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I’m not saying I disbelieve in “absolute nothingness.” just that it’s hard to recreate the imagery in my head. Because there is no imagery to imagine for “nothingness”. The best I can do is try to let myself go blank.

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Posted: 20 November 2007 07:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]
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Sorry, I didn’t mean to imply you didn’t believe in nothingness or sound accusatory. I’ve been debating ID in another thread, and the primary evidence given there for it is that it’s hard to imagine things being what they are without a designer.

It is interesting how one can train oneself to have counterintuitive perceptions. Meditation often aspires to that. Stilling the mind, damming the stream of consciousness, dissolving the self, etc. Perhaps nothingness can be made less foreign a concept with practice? I wonder.

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Posted: 20 November 2007 07:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]
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mckenzievmd - 20 November 2007 07:03 PM

It is interesting how one can train oneself to have counterintuitive perceptions. Meditation often aspires to that. Stilling the mind, damming the stream of consciousness, dissolving the self, etc. Perhaps nothingness can be made less foreign a concept with practice? I wonder.

Perhaps death best illustrates this sort of nothingness, although it would be awfully difficult to experience it if we were dead.  After all, being dead is most certainly the clearest the mind can get, isn’t it?  Still mind, complete halt of consciousness, emptiness of self?

And as I said before, death is only possible if there was once life.  Personally I find life far more attractive.

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Posted: 20 November 2007 08:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]
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mckenzievmd - 20 November 2007 07:03 PM

Sorry, I didn’t mean to imply you didn’t believe in nothingness or sound accusatory. I’ve been debating ID in another thread, and the primary evidence given there for it is that it’s hard to imagine things being what they are without a designer.

It is interesting how one can train oneself to have counterintuitive perceptions. Meditation often aspires to that. Stilling the mind, damming the stream of consciousness, dissolving the self, etc. Perhaps nothingness can be made less foreign a concept with practice? I wonder.

Check out “Zen”. It focuses on emptiness.

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Posted: 21 November 2007 08:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]
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The Zen school’s focus on emptiness comes out of the older Buddhist school of Madhyamika started by the philosopher Nagarjuna in the 2nd-3rd C. CE. Madhyhamika is a quasi-nihilist philosophical stance, that asserts that all things we believe are true are only true conventionally. In the deepest sense, nothing is true; all true claims can be refuted by careful argumentation.

... including that claim itself, of course, which is why they claim not to be nihilist.

This leads one to an appreciation of “Shunyata” or “emptiness”. (Interestingly, the Sanksrit word “shunya” is the root of our word “zero”. It was translated into Arabic as “shafira” and then into the romance languages both as “cypher” and “zero”. Zero and the other so-called “arabic numerals” actually came from India).

FWIW, this school is the foundation of Tibetan Buddhism. Zen was a mix of Madhyamika and Mind Only, which is why you get a lot of Zen Koans that imply the world is a figment of our imagination, but then you get the Sensei whacking the guy on the head if he takes that too literally.

I’ve done Zen meditation and enjoyed it. One nice thing about it coming out of the Madhyamika school is that they don’t take any of their religious theory too literally. Of course, I think Madhyamika is about as absurd as a philosophical school can be, but fortunately it seems most Zen practitioners are more interested in calming the mind than filling it with specious silliness.

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