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Switch to Forum Live View Scientist Solves "The Mystery of the Universe": It Came From Nothing
3 years ago  ::  Jun 12, 2012 - 7:01AM #1
Adelphe
Posts: 28,744


Richard Dawkins, "Devastating."

From the New York Times Sunday Book Review by David Albert,



"Lawrence M. Krauss, a well-known cosmologist and prolific popular-science writer, apparently means to announce to the world, in this new book, that the laws of quantum mechanics have in them the makings of a thoroughly scientific and adamantly secular explanation of why there is something rather than nothing. Period. Case closed. End of story. I kid you not. Look at the subtitle. Look at how Richard Dawkins sums it up in his afterword: “Even the last remaining trump card of the theologian, ‘Why is there something rather than nothing?,’ shrivels up before your eyes as you read these pages. If ‘On the Origin of Species’ was biology’s deadliest blow to super­naturalism, we may come to see ‘A Universe From Nothing’ as the equivalent from cosmology. The title means exactly what it says. And what it says is ­devastating.”

Well, let’s see. There are lots of different sorts of conversations one might want to have about a claim like that: conversations, say, about what it is to explain something, and about what it is to be a law of nature, and about what it is to be a physical thing...



THIS is just ONE reason why science needs philosophy and, btw, can't help but engage in it.

btw, a link to the book on Amazon if anyone is interested.

Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason, my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not retract anything, for to go against conscience would be neither right nor safe.  Here I stand.  I can do no other.  God help me.  Amen.
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3 years ago  ::  Jun 12, 2012 - 7:39AM #2
Daldianus
Posts: 32,442

Jun 12, 2012 -- 7:01AM, Adelphe wrote:

"all that gets offered to us now, by guys like these, in books like this, is the pale, small, silly, nerdy accusation that religion is, I don’t know, dumb."



Well, religion IS dumb to a big degree. Especially if it takes myths and legends as actual, real history and rejects scientific findings because it contradicts its religious dogmas.

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“After your death you will be what you were before your birth.” - Arthur Schopenhauer
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3 years ago  ::  Jun 12, 2012 - 8:44AM #3
Adelphe
Posts: 28,744

Some further info on Lawrence Krauss, btw:


"one of the few living physicists referred to by Scientific American as a "public intellectual",[10] and he is the only physicist to have received awards from all three major U.S. physics societies: the American Physical Society, the American Association of Physics Teachers, and the American Institute of Physics.[11]


 "currently serves on the advisory board of Scientists and Engineers for America, an organization focused on promoting sound science in American government."


What is the potential impact of one in a position of influence like that who concludes "a thoroughly scientific and adamantly secular explanation of why there is something rather than nothing. Period. Case closed. End of story. "


Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason, my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not retract anything, for to go against conscience would be neither right nor safe.  Here I stand.  I can do no other.  God help me.  Amen.
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3 years ago  ::  Jun 12, 2012 - 8:47AM #4
Daldianus
Posts: 32,442

Jun 12, 2012 -- 8:44AM, Adelphe wrote:

That's all you can say?  "Religion is dumb."



Actually, no, that's not all I can say. What I wrote was: "Well, religion IS dumb to a big degree. Especially if it takes myths and legends as actual, real history and rejects scientific findings because it contradicts its religious dogmas."


That's quite different from: "Religion is dumb."

Moderated by Adelphe on Jun 12, 2012 - 02:50PM
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3 years ago  ::  Jun 12, 2012 - 9:04AM #5
whatson2nd
Posts: 2,936

Jun 12, 2012 -- 8:51AM, Adelphe wrote:


Jun 12, 2012 -- 8:47AM, Daldianus wrote:


Jun 12, 2012 -- 8:44AM, Adelphe wrote:

That's all you can say?  "Religion is dumb."



Actually, no, that's not all I can say. What I wrote was: "Well, religion IS dumb to a big degree. Especially if it takes myths and legends as actual, real history and rejects scientific findings because it contradicts its religious dogmas."


That's quite different from: "Religion is dumb."




That quite obviously isn't the point of the thread.


If you think so, again, "that's "dumb. To a big degree."


I'll thank you not to derail it into one of your "thought" "provoking", "scintillating" sort of OPs like "naked face chewing cannibals", "is Jesus his Father", and the "like."




Adelphe, you made the point in your OP about religion being "dumb" that Daldianus commented on, and BTW, religion is plain dumb "if it takes myths and legends as actual, real history and rejects scientific findings because it contradicts its religious dogmas."


More and more people are discarding religion for the reasons Daldianus pointed out and are getting on with their lives just fine without it.


Besides, observation suggesting how it is that there is something rather than nothing has nothing to do with religion.

Moderated by Adelphe on Jun 12, 2012 - 02:52PM
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3 years ago  ::  Jun 12, 2012 - 9:05AM #6
Daldianus
Posts: 32,442

Jun 12, 2012 -- 9:04AM, whatson2nd wrote:

Adelphe, you made the point in your OP about religion being "dumb" that Daldianus commented on, and BTW, religion is plain dumb "if it takes myths and legends as actual, real history and rejects scientific findings because it contradicts its religious dogmas."


More and more people are discarding religion for the reasons Daldianus pointed out and are getting on with their lives just fine without it.


Besides, observation suggesting how it is that there is something rather than nothing has nothing to do with religion.



It's nice to see that there are still rational people in this forum.

>> Feed your brain with awesome!
“After your death you will be what you were before your birth.” - Arthur Schopenhauer
"Eternity is very long, especially towards the end." - Woody Allen
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3 years ago  ::  Jun 12, 2012 - 9:14AM #7
Adelphe
Posts: 28,744

First, let me highlight:


Jun 12, 2012 -- 7:01AM, Adelphe wrote:


THIS is just ONE reason why science needs philosophy and, btw, can't help but engage in it.



Agree?


Disagree?

Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason, my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not retract anything, for to go against conscience would be neither right nor safe.  Here I stand.  I can do no other.  God help me.  Amen.
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3 years ago  ::  Jun 12, 2012 - 9:16AM #8
Adelphe
Posts: 28,744

Now you don't have to know anything per se about Quantum Mechanics (although those of you who do are more than welcome to comment)--if so, I would have put this on the Science & Religion board instead:



"...Where, for starters, are the laws of quantum mechanics themselves supposed to have come from? Krauss is more or less upfront, as it turns out, about not having a clue about that. He acknowledges (albeit in a parenthesis, and just a few pages before the end of the book) that every­thing he has been talking about simply takes the basic principles of quantum mechanics for granted. “I have no idea if this notion can be usefully dispensed with,” he writes, “or at least I don’t know of any productive work in this regard.” And what if he did know of some productive work in that regard? What if he were in a position to announce, for instance, that the truth of the quantum-mechanical laws can be traced back to the fact that the world has some other, deeper property X? Wouldn’t we still be in a position to ask why X rather than Y? And is there a last such question? Is there some point at which the possibility of asking any further such questions somehow definitively comes to an end? How would that work? What would that be like?


Never mind. Forget where the laws came from. Have a look instead at what they say. It happens that ever since the scientific revolution of the 17th century, what physics has given us in the way of candidates for the fundamental laws of nature have as a general rule simply taken it for granted that there is, at the bottom of everything, some basic, elementary, eternally persisting, concrete, physical stuff. Newton, for example, took that elementary stuff to consist of material particles. And physicists at the end of the 19th century took that elementary stuff to consist of both material particles and electro­magnetic fields. And so on. And what the fundamental laws of nature are about, and all the fundamental laws of nature are about, and all there is for the fundamental laws of nature to be about, insofar as physics has ever been able to imagine, is how that elementary stuff is arranged. The fundamental laws of nature generally take the form of rules concerning which arrangements of that stuff are physically possible and which aren’t, or rules connecting the arrangements of that elementary stuff at later times to its arrangement at earlier times, or something like that. But the laws have no bearing whatsoever on questions of where the elementary stuff came from, or of why the world should have consisted of the particular elementary stuff it does, as opposed to something else, or to nothing at all.


The fundamental physical laws that Krauss is talking about in “A Universe From Nothing” — the laws of relativistic quantum field theories — are no exception to this. The particular, eternally persisting, elementary physical stuff of the world, according to the standard presentations of relativistic quantum field theories, consists (unsurprisingly) of relativistic quantum fields. And the fundamental laws of this theory take the form of rules concerning which arrangements of those fields are physically possible and which aren’t, and rules connecting the arrangements of those fields at later times to their arrangements at earlier times, and so on — and they have nothing whatsoever to say on the subject of where those fields came from, or of why the world should have consisted of the particular kinds of fields it does, or of why it should have consisted of fields at all, or of why there should have been a world in the first place. Period. Case closed. End of story.


What on earth, then, can Krauss have been thinking? Well, there is, as it happens, an interesting difference between relativistic quantum field theories and every previous serious candidate for a fundamental physical theory of the world. Every previous such theory counted material particles among the concrete, fundamental, eternally persisting elementary physical stuff of the world — and relativistic quantum field theories, interestingly and emphatically and unprecedentedly, do not. According to relativistic quantum field theories, particles are to be understood, rather, as specific arrangements of the fields. Certain ­arrangements of the fields, for instance, correspond to there being 14 particles in the universe, and certain other arrangements correspond to there being 276 particles, and certain other arrangements correspond to there being an infinite number of particles, and certain other arrangements correspond to there being no particles at all. And those last arrangements are referred to, in the jargon of quantum field theories, for obvious reasons, as “vacuum” states. Krauss seems to be thinking that these vacuum states amount to the relativistic-­quantum-field-theoretical version of there not being any physical stuff at all. And he has an argument — or thinks he does — that the laws of relativistic quantum field theories entail that vacuum states are unstable. And that, in a nutshell, is the account he proposes of why there should be something rather than nothing.


But that’s just not right. Relativistic-quantum-field-theoretical vacuum states — no less than giraffes or refrigerators or solar systems — are particular arrangements of elementary physical stuff. The true relativistic-quantum-field-­theoretical equivalent to there not being any physical stuff at all isn’t this or that particular arrangement of the fields — what it is (obviously, and ineluctably, and on the contrary) is the simple absence of the fields! The fact that some arrangements of fields happen to correspond to the existence of particles and some don’t is not a whit more mysterious than the fact that some of the possible arrangements of my fingers happen to correspond to the existence of a fist and some don’t. And the fact that particles can pop in and out of existence, over time, as those fields rearrange themselves, is not a whit more mysterious than the fact that fists can pop in and out of existence, over time, as my fingers rearrange themselves. And none of these poppings — if you look at them aright — amount to anything even remotely in the neighborhood of a creation from nothing.


Krauss, mind you, has heard this kind of talk before, and it makes him crazy. A century ago, it seems to him, nobody would have made so much as a peep about referring to a stretch of space without any material particles in it as “nothing.” And now that he and his colleagues think they have a way of showing how everything there is could imaginably have emerged from a stretch of space like that, the nut cases are moving the goal posts. He complains that “some philosophers and many theologians define and redefine ‘nothing’ as not being any of the versions of nothing that scientists currently describe,” and that “now, I am told by religious critics that I cannot refer to empty space as ‘nothing,’ but rather as a ‘quantum vacuum,’ to distinguish it from the philosopher’s or theologian’s idealized ‘nothing,’ ” and he does a good deal of railing about “the intellectual bankruptcy of much of theology and some of modern philosophy.” But all there is to say about this, as far as I can see, is that Krauss is dead wrong and his religious and philosophical critics are absolutely right. Who cares what we would or would not have made a peep about a hundred years ago? We were wrong a hundred years ago. We know more now. And if what we formerly took for nothing turns out, on closer examination, to have the makings of protons and neutrons and tables and chairs and planets and solar systems and galaxies and universes in it, then it wasn’t nothing, and it couldn’t have been nothing, in the first place. And the history of science — if we understand it correctly — gives us no hint of how it might be possible to imagine otherwise..."



Thoughts?


Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason, my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not retract anything, for to go against conscience would be neither right nor safe.  Here I stand.  I can do no other.  God help me.  Amen.
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3 years ago  ::  Jun 12, 2012 - 9:22AM #9
nieciedo
Posts: 5,617

Jun 12, 2012 -- 9:14AM, Adelphe wrote:


First, let me highlight:


Jun 12, 2012 -- 7:01AM, Adelphe wrote:


THIS is just ONE reason why science needs philosophy and, btw, can't help but engage in it.



Agree?


Disagree?




Absolutely. Without philosophy, we just end up with incoherent messes of "thought" like what Dawkins excretes.

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3 years ago  ::  Jun 12, 2012 - 9:25AM #10
Daldianus
Posts: 32,442

Jun 12, 2012 -- 9:14AM, Adelphe wrote:


First, let me highlight:


Jun 12, 2012 -- 7:01AM, Adelphe wrote:


THIS is just ONE reason why science needs philosophy and, btw, can't help but engage in it.



Agree?


Disagree?




Philosophy, yes. Religion, no.

>> Feed your brain with awesome!
“After your death you will be what you were before your birth.” - Arthur Schopenhauer
"Eternity is very long, especially towards the end." - Woody Allen
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