Re: [humanism-174] nothingness discussion

From: Mark R. O.
Sent on: Tuesday, April 2, 2013 2:48 AM
Mr. Campbell: 

With Dr. Krauss one need not perform mental judo
to argue the counter point.    In fact. one could say that
it is Dr. Krauss who performing the mental judo.  Dr. Krauss
is so biased toward atheism that he makes the same argument
over and over, he loses each time and learns nothing from the
loss.   Though I am not a fan of Mr. Hitchens or Dr. Dawkins, I do
respect their debating skills.  Dr. Krauss has no debating skills
what so ever. 

I don't think Dr. Krauss has any courage.  I think he just wants
to sell a poorly written book. 

M. Orel

On[masked]:24, Tim Campbell wrote:
Dr. Krauss argues from a physicist's POV.  He DOES understand that our lack of actual knowledge of what may or may not have come before the BB is inadequate, in fact non-existent.  His hypothesis is simply that the universe COULD have come from nothing, with "nothing" being a very specific state of zero energy.  He admits that he could be wrong.  And of course, nothing in modern physics specfically excludes the possibility of "God" or gods or sentient beings existing as the makers of the universe, but makes such beings either unlikely or simply unnecessary.
The woo woo loons can ALWAYS turn an argument around and by using their special brand of mental judo try to make their God fit into the gaps. 
While he is unquestionably biased toward the no-god probability, so what? His own search for answers is no less legitimate than yours and arguably based on more solid ground (even if that ground is mostly empty space existing in a field of fields). 
I do not agree with everything Dr. Krauss says or writes.  Nor do I agree with everything Dawkins or Harris writes or what Hitchens wrote.  Nor is this a battle FOR atheism.  That is YOUR assertion and I think most of us here would disagree with you on that.  A battle for reason and science, yes; a battle AGAINST superstition and the sort of anti-intellect thinking that prevents gays from marrying, denies evolution and the human effects on climate change, and led directly to the attacks on 9/11. 
The above writers (and others) are out in front.  Their motives are their own; their action and words are their own; their capabilities are varied and subject to review and criticism well as praise. But their courage in stepping forward is--to me--undeniable.  They are not hiding.
Tim Campbell
In a message dated 4/1/2013 2:49:42 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time, [address removed] writes:
Yes, Dr. Krauss is becoming something of joke. 
his bias for atheism is so profound that he doesn't
see how simple it is to turn his argument around and
use as an argument for God. 

He lost this debate in the same way he lost it when
we discussed the subject back in 2012 July 17.

If you really do see Dr. Krauss as one of your sharper spear points,
in your fight for atheism, then you might want to look up the definition
of sharp. 

M. Orel

On[masked]:19, Tim Campbell wrote:

Physicists Debate the Many Varieties of Nothingness


                                              cosmology, existence,
                                              multiverse, nothing,
physics&more-science&?print=tru&referrer= is nothing? Sounds like a simple question—nothing is simply the absence of something, of course—until you begin to think about it. The other night the American Museum of Natural History hosted its 14th annual Asimov Memorial Debate, which featured five leading thinkers opining (and sparring, sometimes testily, but more on that later) about the nature of nothing.

“Nothing is the most important part of the universe,” said Lawrence Krauss, a physicist at Arizona State University and author of the recent “A Universe from Nothing: Why There is Something Rather than Nothing.” Of course we can imagine the (mostly) empty space between galaxies as being a sort of nothing. But we should also remember that most of the space around us is empty—even an atom is mostly empty space between the nucleus and electrons.

This sort of nothing—the absence of matter—we might consider to be the first level of nothing, clarified J. Richard Gott, a physicist and cosmologist at Princeton University and the author of “Sizing Up the Universe: The Cosmos in Perspective.” It’s what scientists call a quantum vacuum state. It’s a box with everything taken out of it—all the stuff, all the air, all the light. “It even has a color—it’s black,” deadpanned Gott, who frequently demonstrated the best comedic timing of the bunch. Yet even in this nothing, something remains. Virtual quantum particles pop in and out of being, and the empty box still contains the basic scaffolding of existence: space, time and quantum fields.

But where did these come from? Was this something always there? We can trace the history of the universe back to the first instant after the Big Bang, when the cosmos was unimaginably hot and dense and expanding rapidly. But here the laws of physics break down, and with them our ability to reconstruct what came before—indeed, if its even proper to speak of a “before.” This space outside of the universe (though it is certainly misleading to call it a “space”) is the second kind of nothing—the complete lack of space and time and quantum fields. The absence not just of matter and energy, but of the conditions necessary for being.

Much of the evening was consumed with debate over how the cosmos went from this state—the state of complete nothingness—to the universe we know today. The physicists seemed to be of two minds. Gott argued that it’s possible that there was no beginning. Just as we can continuously travel east without reaching Earth’s easternmost point, the universe may have a loop of time at its origin, a place where you can forever travel into the past but always loop back upon yourself as you do. (The idea springs from his decades-old work showing how cosmic strings can allow for time travel into the past, which Paul Davies discussed in his 2002 Scientific American article “How to Build a Time Machine” [subscription required].)

The other, more popular idea was that of the multiverse. Rather than ask how the universe came to exist from nothing, the multiversers assert that being is the natural state. Perhaps a near-infinite number of universes exist, each with slightly different sets of physical laws. We find ourselves in the universe that has physical laws conducive to advanced life-forms for one simple reason: in order for us to exist, the laws of the universe must allow it.

Krauss presented these anthropic arguments as “cosmic natural selection,” and a solution to the problem of where the universe comes from. But Jim Holt, author of “Why Does the World Exist? An Existential Detective Story,” pointed out that this line of thinking has a long and not-so illustrious history. What physicists today call the multiverse is known by philosophers as the “principle of plentitude” or “principle of fecundity”: every possible universe exists, and of all these possible worlds, the one we happen to live in is the known world.

This is something of a magic trick, said Gott—an explanation without explanatory power. It appears to answer the question of why there is something rather than nothing, but instead it shifts the blame down the line. It answers the question why are we here? with a tautology: because we are.

Here Krauss and Holt showed their sharpest differences. Krauss claims that we know exactly why the universe exists—indeed, much of his book is given over to the argument that there’s no mystery to existence at all. The universe exists because the laws of physics demand it. Once we have quantum fields, and a Big Bang, the universe had to take the shape that it now has. “What would be the characteristics of the universe built from natural law and nothing else?” he asked. “It would be our universe.”

Holt certainly agrees that quantum field theory is the best available description of our known universe, but he thinks that Krauss’s explanation is incomplete. It answers the question: why does the universe look the way it does? with another equally mysterious explanation: because quantum fields make it so. To Holt, the obvious next question is: so where do these quantum fields come from?

This line of inquiry exasperated Krauss. “The endless why? question is stupid—anyone with kids knows that. Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? The only answer is: go to bed,” he said. “The real question is: how?” Later in the program, he tried to explain the creation of the universe from nothing as being like a photon shooting out of a light bulb—it didn’t exist a second ago, but now here it is. (At which point the night’s moderator, Neil Degrasse Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium, interrupted him with “but that was energy, it wasn’t just nothing.”)

To Krauss, the endless cycles of why? are beside the point. “Science doesn’t need a first cause, religion does,” said Krauss, a vocal atheist who made his distaste for both religion and philosophy known from the get-go. Krauss’s evasions didn’t quite ring true to Holt. “You’re still in thrall to Christian metaphysics,” he charged. “You see the laws of quantum field theory as divine commands. It used to be that nothing plus God equals universe. You replaced God with the laws of nature. You are insufficiently enlightened.”

Holt later clarified that he considers laws of nature to be “effective descriptions of what’s out there,” not pre-existing entities, and so somewhat useless if we’re seeking enlightenment about why things are they way they are. But he also offered hope to those of us trying to experience the concept of nothing: just go to sleep. Every night we all enter into a brief period of dreamless sleep, with our minds free of all thought. “A little taste of nothing,” he called it. Until death or the end of the universe—whichever comes first—this is as close as we can get to truly understanding nothing.

Image of the Helix nebula courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech

About the Author: Michael Moyer is the editor in charge of space and physics coverage at Scientific American. Follow on Twitter @mmoyr.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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