Big Bang Cosmology Food for thought

At Quanta: How the Physics of Nothing Underlies Everything

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The key to understanding the origin and fate of the universe may be a more complete understanding of the vacuum.

Charlie Wood writes:

As modern physicists have grappled with more sophisticated candidates for the ultimate theory of nature, they have encountered a growing multitude of types of nothing. Each has its own behavior, as if it’s a different phase of a substance. Increasingly, it seems that the key to understanding the origin and fate of the universe may be a careful accounting of these proliferating varieties of absence.

“We’re learning there’s a lot more to learn about nothing than we thought,” said Isabel Garcia Garcia, a particle physicist at the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics in California. “How much more are we missing?”

So far, such studies have led to a dramatic conclusion: Our universe may sit on a platform of shoddy construction, a “metastable” vacuum that is doomed — in the distant future — to transform into another sort of nothing, destroying everything in the process.

Merrill Sherman/Quanta Magazine

Quantum Nothingness

Nothing started to seem like something in the 20th century, as physicists came to view reality as a collection of fields: objects that fill space with a value at each point (the electric field, for instance, tells you how much force an electron will feel in different places). In classical physics, a field’s value can be zero everywhere so that it has no influence and contains no energy. “Classically, the vacuum is boring,” said Daniel Harlow, a theoretical physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “Nothing is happening.”

But physicists learned that the universe’s fields are quantum, not classical, which means they are inherently uncertain. You’ll never catch a quantum field with exactly zero energy. Harlow likens a quantum field to an array of pendulums — one at each point in space — whose angles represent the field’s values. Each pendulum hangs nearly straight down but jitters back and forth.

Left alone, a quantum field will stay in its minimum-energy configuration, known as its “true vacuum” or “ground state.” (Elementary particles are ripples in these fields.) “When we talk about the vacuum of a system, we have in mind in some loose way the preferred state of the system,” said Garcia Garcia.

Most of the quantum fields that fill our universe have one, and only one, preferred state, in which they’ll remain for eternity. Most, but not all.

True and False Vacuums

 In the 1970s, physicists came to appreciate the significance of a different class of quantum fields whose values prefer not to be zero, even on average. Such a “scalar field” is like a collection of pendulums all hovering at, say, a 10-degree angle. This configuration can be the ground state: The pendulums prefer that angle and are stable.

In 2012, experimentalists at the Large Hadron Collider proved that a scalar field known as the Higgs field permeates the universe. At first, in the hot, early universe, its pendulums pointed down. But as the cosmos cooled, the Higgs field changed state, much as water can freeze into ice, and its pendulums all rose to the same angle. (This nonzero Higgs value is what gives many elementary particles the property known as mass.)

With scalar fields around, the stability of the vacuum is not necessarily absolute. A field’s pendulums might have multiple semi-stable angles and a proclivity for switching from one configuration to another. Theorists aren’t certain whether the Higgs field, for instance, has found its absolute favorite configuration — the true vacuum. Some have argued that the field’s current state, despite having persisted for 13.8 billion years, is only temporarily stable, or “metastable.”

If so, the good times won’t last forever. In the 1980s, the physicists Sidney Coleman and Frank De Luccia described how a false vacuum of a scalar field could “decay.” At any moment, if enough pendulums in some location jitter their way into a more favorable angle, they’ll drag their neighbors to meet them, and a bubble of true vacuum will fly outward at nearly light speed. It will rewrite physics as it goes, busting up the atoms and molecules in its path. (Don’t panic. Even if our vacuum is only metastable, given its staying power so far, it will probably last for billions of years more.)

The discovery that string theory allows nearly countless vacuums jibed with another discovery from nearly two decades earlier.

Cosmologists in the early 1980s developed a hypothesis known as cosmic inflation that has become the leading theory of the universe’s birth. The theory holds that the universe began with a quick burst of exponential expansion, which handily explains the universe’s smoothness and hugeness. But inflation’s successes come at a price.

The researchers found that once cosmic inflation started, it would continue. Most of the vacuum would violently explode outward forever. Only finite regions of space would stop inflating, becoming bubbles of relative stability separated from each other by inflating space in between. Inflationary cosmologists believe we call one of these bubbles home.

A Multiverse of Vacuums

To some, the notion that we live in a multiverse — an endless landscape of vacuum bubbles — is disturbing. It makes the nature of any one vacuum (such as ours) seem random and unpredictable, curbing our ability to understand our universe. Polchinski, who died in 2018told the physicist and author Sabine Hossenfelder that discovering string theory’s landscape of vacuums initially made him so miserable it led him to seek therapy. If string theory predicts every imaginable variety of nothing, has it predicted anything?

To others, the plethora of vacuums is not a problem; “in fact, it’s a virtue,” said Andrei Linde, a prominent cosmologist at Stanford University and one of the developers of cosmic inflation. That’s because the multiverse potentially solves a great mystery: the ultra-low energy of our particular vacuum.

When theorists naïvely estimate the collective jittering of all the universe’s quantum fields, the energy is huge — enough to rapidly accelerate the expansion of space and, in short order, rip the cosmos apart. But the observed acceleration of space is extremely mild in comparison, suggesting that much of the collective jittering cancels out and our vacuum has an extraordinarily low positive value for its energy.

In a solitary universe, the tiny energy of the one and only vacuum looks like a profound puzzle. But in a multiverse, it’s just dumb luck. If different bubbles of space have different energies and expand at different rates, galaxies and planets will form only in the most lethargic bubbles. Our calm vacuum, then, is no more mysterious than the Goldilocks orbit of our planet: We find ourselves here because most everywhere else is inhospitable to life.

Love it or hate it, the multiverse hypothesis as currently understood has a problem. Despite string theory’s seemingly infinite menu of vacuums, so far no one has found a specific folding of tiny extra dimensions that corresponds to a vacuum like ours, with its barely positive energy.

These researchers suspect that our vacuum is not one of reality’s preferred states, and that it will someday jitter itself into a deeper, more stable valley. In doing so, our vacuum could lose the field that generates electrons or pick up a new palette of particles. The tightly folded dimensions could come unfurled. Or the vacuum could even give up on existence entirely.

This instability of tiny dimensions has long plagued string theory, and various ingredients have been devised to stiffen them. In December, Garcia Garcia, together with Draper and Benjamin Lillard of Illinois, calculated the lifetime of a vacuum with a single extra curled-up dimension. They considered various stabilizing bells and whistles, but they found that most mechanisms failed to stop the bubbles. Their conclusions aligned with Witten’s: When the size of the extra dimension fell below a certain threshold, the vacuum collapsed at once.

With a large enough hidden dimension, however, the vacuum could survive for many billions of years. This means that theories producing bubbles of nothing could plausibly match our universe….Nature may not be a big fan of the vacuum. In the extremely long run, it may prefer nothing at all.

Full article at Quanta Magazine.

The discussion presented above brings up the famous philosophical question: “Why is there something rather than nothing?” The (nearly) empty vacuum of space is not “nothing.” Space itself is something. If nothing (a true “nothing” without quantum fields or anything) preceded our “something,” it could not logically give rise to something, otherwise it wouldn’t truly be nothing). If “something” preceded our something, then what gave rise to that pre-existing something? Naturalism seems to require an infinite regress of somethings, made up of matter, energy, or fields, none of which show evidence of being able to exist for infinite time (and even time seems to have had a beginning).

So, why is there something rather than nothing? if infinitely existing nature isn’t in line with logic or science, then there must have been another type of cause, a cause that is immaterial, timeless, powerful enough to give rise to a whole universe, intelligent enough to create living organisms, conscious so that it could impart consciousness, and volitional, so that it could make a choice to bring this universe into being. What do you think?

85 Replies to “At Quanta: How the Physics of Nothing Underlies Everything

  1. 1
    Seversky says:

    If we can conceive of an eternal God then why not an eternal “something”? Could an eternal God be the same as the eternal “something” – a “God-thing”?

    For me, an infinite causal regress is both unimaginable and unsatisfying. But then so is an uncaused first cause because it sounds too much like a convenient but entirely arbitrary cut-off point whose only reason for existence is to prevent the unsatisfying infinite causal regress.

  2. 2
    bornagain77 says:

    A few notes:

    March 2022 – Inflation is an ad hoc reductive materialistic model that was imagined out of thin air by theoretical physicists in order to ‘explain away’ the specific macroscopic properties of the flatness of the universe and the uniformity of the cosmic microwave background radiation (CMBR).

    Critics Respond to Stephen Meyer’s New Book (Without Mentioning Him by Name) – Brian Miller – October 16, 2021
    Excerpt: Siegel attempts to find a loophole for the conclusion of a cosmic beginning by appealing to the theory known as eternal chaotic inflation. Inflationary theory was initially developed to explain the fine-tuning implied by the “flatness” of space and the near perfect uniformity of the cosmic microwave background radiation (CMBR). The flatness represents the lack in curvature of space that the theory of general relativity would normally predict. According to the standard Big Bang model, the lack of curvature required the mass density of the early universe to have been fine-tuned to greater than 1 part in 10^60 (a 1 with 60 zeros behind it).
    Inflationary theory attempts to explain the flatness of space and the uniformity of the CMBR without the need for such extreme fine-tuning. It postulates a field permeating space that causes the universe to expand at a phenomenal rate. The earliest versions assumed that the expansion occurred a tiny fraction of a second after the Big Bang and only lasted for an exceedingly short period. This expansion purportedly flattened space and generated a CMBR with the observed uniformity.
    Unfortunately, Siegel’s claim was completely discredited by the research of leading cosmologists Arvind Borde, Alan Guth, Alexander Vilenkin. They developed the Borde, Guth, Vilenkin (BGV) theorem that demonstrates that all universes, which are on average expanding, must have had a beginning. Our universe falls into this category, so it must have had a beginning even if eternal inflation were true.

    Pop Goes The Universe – Scientific American – January 2017 – Anna Ijjas, Paul J. Steinhardt and Abraham Loeb
    Excerpt: “If anything, the Planck data disfavored the simplest inflation models and exacerbated long-standing foundational problems with the theory, providing new reasons to consider competing ideas about the origin and evolution of the universe… (i)n the years since, more precise data gathered by the Planck satellite and other instruments have made the case only stronger……The Planck satellite results—a combination of an unexpectedly small (few percent) deviation from perfect scale invariance in the pattern of hot and colds spots in the CMB and the failure to detect cosmic gravitational waves—are stunning. For the first time in more than 30 years, the simplest inflationary models, including those described in standard textbooks, are strongly disfavored by observations.”
    “Two improbable criteria have to be satisfied for inflation to start. First, shortly after the big bang, there has to be a patch of space where the quantum fluctuations of spacetime have died down and the space is well described by Einstein’s classical equations of general relativity; second, the patch of space must be flat enough and have a smooth enough distribution of energy that the inflation energy can grow to dominate all other forms of energy. Several theoretical estimates of the probability of finding a patch with these characteristics just after the big bang suggest that it is more difficult than finding a snowy mountain equipped with a ski lift and well-maintained ski slopes in the middle of a desert.”
    “More important, if it were easy to find a patch emerging from the big bang that is flat and smooth enough to start inflation, then inflation would not be needed in the first place. Recall that the entire motivation for introducing it was to explain how the visible universe came to have these properties; if starting inflation requires those same properties, with the only difference being that a smaller patch of space is needed, that is hardly progress.”
    “…inflation continues eternally, generating an infinite number of patches where inflation has ended, each creating a universe unto itself…(t)he worrisome implication is that the cosmological properties of each patch differ because of the inherent randomizing effect of quantum fluctuations…The result is what cosmologists call the multiverse. Because every patch can have any physically conceivable properties, the multiverse does not explain why our universe has the very special conditions that we observe—they are purely accidental features of our particular patch.”
    “We would like to suggest “multimess” as a more apt term to describe the unresolved outcome of eternal inflation, whether it consists of an infinite multitude of patches with randomly distributed properties or a quantum mess. From our perspective, it makes no difference which description is correct. Either way, the multimess does not predict the properties of our observable universe to be the likely outcome. A good scientific theory is supposed to explain why what we observe happens instead of something else. The multimess fails this fundamental test.”

    In the following video Stephen Meyer touches on multiverse models and found the Theistic model to be favored over the multiverse, I.e. ‘multimess’, models

    Stephen Meyer Discusses the Big Bang, Einstein, Hawking, & More – Science Uprising Expert Interviews

  3. 3
    relatd says:

    The so-called Big Bang describes a beginning where the universe starts at a very small “Planck length.” It then detonates. [Why?] And expands. It is supposed that there is a great deal of energy, radiation and a period where everything remains very hot. Then things begin to cool down and the universe, somehow, orders itself.

    At this moment, other galaxies are moving away from our own at a high rate of speed. Some appear to be moving at faster than light speeds, called superluminal. There is another problem called redshift. This is an observed shift in the spectral data obtained from the movement of other galaxies. It is assumed that the greater the redshift, the greater the speed at which they are moving away. But there is a problem with that. Halton Arp, who worked with Edwin Hubble, has observed low redshift objects in space where they should not be. But as Hubble himself mentioned, if redshift does not measure distance then it is wrong and an indication of something else.

    It would appear that Einstein had at least one significant flaw in his calculations, primarily, it would appear, because he did not have access to cosmic ray data. “As an object approaches the speed of light, the object’s mass becomes infinite and so does the energy required to move it.”

    This is not true. It would imply that particles would gain infinite mass. Photons are waves and particles and move at the speed of light.

    “Cosmic rays, which are ultra-high energy particles originating from all over the Universe, strike… [+] The fast-moving charged particles also emit light due to Cherenkov radiation as they move faster than the speed of light in Earth’s atmosphere, and produce secondary particles that can be detected here on Earth.”

    So, here are some very fundamental problems. And even though gravity waves have not been detected, gravity can bend photons coming toward us from space, referred to as gravitational lensing.

    “Gravitational lensing occurs when a massive celestial body — such as a galaxy cluster — causes a sufficient curvature of spacetime for the path of light around it to be visibly bent, as if by a lens.”

  4. 4
    BobRyan says:

    The universe remains full of wonders yet to be discovered.

  5. 5
    bornagain77 says:

    BobRyan: “The universe remains full of wonders yet to be discovered.”

    And to presuppose that such undiscovered wonders of the universe will be intelligible to the human mind is to presuppose Theism to be true. In fact, the Judeo-Christian presupposition of ‘intelligibility’ of the universe was one of the essential presuppositions that led to the founding of modern science in Medieval Christian Europe.

    Physics and the Mind of God: The Templeton Prize Address – by Paul Davies – August 1995
    Excerpt: “People take it for granted that the physical world is both ordered and intelligible. The underlying order in nature-the laws of physics-are simply accepted as given, as brute facts. Nobody asks where they came from; at least they do not do so in polite company. However, even the most atheistic scientist accepts as an act of faith that the universe is not absurd, that there is a rational basis to physical existence manifested as law-like order in nature that is at least partly comprehensible to us. So science can proceed only if the scientist adopts an essentially theological worldview.”

    “Science in its modern form arose in the Western civilization alone, among all the cultures of the world”, because only the Christian West possessed the necessary “intellectual presuppositions”.
    – Ian Barbour
    Presupposition 1: The contingency of nature
    “In 1277, the Etienne Tempier, the bishop of Paris, writing with support of Pope John XXI, condemned “necessarian theology” and 219 separate theses influenced by Greek philosophy about what God could and couldn’t do.”,,
    “The order in nature could have been otherwise (therefore) the job of the natural philosopher, (i.e. scientist), was not to ask what God must have done but (to ask) what God actually did.”
    Presupposition 2: The intelligibility of nature
    “Modern science was inspired by the conviction that the universe is the product of a rational mind who designed it to be understood and who (also) designed the human mind to understand it.” (i.e. human exceptionalism),
    “God created us in his own image so that we could share in his own thoughts”
    – Johannes Kepler
    Presupposition 3: Human Fallibility
    “Humans are vulnerable to self-deception, flights of fancy, and jumping to conclusions.”, (i.e. original sin), Scientists must therefore employ “systematic experimental methods.” (Francis Bacon’s championing of inductive reasoning over and above the deductive reasoning of the ancient Greeks)
    – Stephen Meyer on Intelligent Design and The Return of the God Hypothesis – Hoover Institution

    The Judeo-Christian Origins of Modern Science – Stephen Meyer – video – (April 2022)

    Michael Egnor: Judeo-Christian Culture and the Rise of Modern Science – July 23, 2022

    Science and Theism: Concord, not Conflict* – Robert C. Koons
    IV. The Dependency of Science Upon Theism (Page 21)
    Excerpt: Far from undermining the credibility of theism, the remarkable success of science in modern times is a remarkable confirmation of the truth of theism. It was from the perspective of Judeo-Christian theism—and from the perspective alone—that it was predictable that science would have succeeded as it has. Without the faith in the rational intelligibility of the world and the divine vocation of human beings to master it, modern science would never have been possible, and, even today, the continued rationality of the enterprise of science depends on convictions that can be reasonably grounded only in theistic metaphysics.

    Einstein himself considered the ‘comprehensibility’ of the universe to be a “miracle’ and even chastised ‘profession atheists’ in the process of calling it a miracle,

    You find it strange that I consider the comprehensibility of the world (to the extent that we are authorized to speak of such a comprehensibility) as a miracle or as an eternal mystery. Well, a priori one should expect a chaotic world which cannot be grasped by the mind in any way.,,,
    ,,, the kind of order created by Newton’s theory of gravitation, for instance, is wholly different. Even if the axioms of the theory are proposed by man, the success of such a project presupposes a high degree of ordering of the objective world, and this could not be expected a priori. That is the “miracle” which is being constantly reinforced as our knowledge expands.
    There lies the weakness of positivists and professional atheists who are elated because they feel that they have not only successfully rid the world of gods but “bared the miracles”.
    – Einstein

  6. 6
    Seversky says:

    It seems to be a truism about science that the more we learn the more we realize just how much there is that is still unknown. Saying that we don’t know when we don’t is just more honest that saying it is God’s will or an inscrutable purpose in the mind of some unspecified designer, which all amount to the same thing.

  7. 7
    bornagain77 says:

    Seversky, fails to realize, and/or more likely, refuses to ever honestly admit, that his worldview of Darwinian materialism cannot possibly ground the ‘intelligibility’ of the universe, nor the ‘rationality” of the human mind, that are necessary cornerstones for us to even ‘do science’ in the first place.

    For instance, if Darwinian evolution were actually true, then, as Donald Hoffman has shown, ALL of our perceptions of reality would be illusory,

    Donald Hoffman: Do we see reality as it is? – Video – 9:59 minute mark
    Quote: “fitness does depend on reality as it is, yes.,,, Fitness is not the same thing as reality as it is, and it is fitness, and not reality as it is, that figures centrally in the equations of evolution. So, in my lab, we have run hundreds of thousands of evolutionary game simulations with lots of different randomly chosen worlds and organisms that compete for resources in those worlds. Some of the organisms see all of the reality. Others see just part of the reality. And some see none of the reality. Only fitness. Who wins? Well I hate to break it to you but perception of reality goes extinct. In almost every simulation, organisms that see none of reality, but are just tuned to fitness, drive to extinction (those organisms) that perceive reality as it is. So the bottom line is, evolution does not favor veridical, or accurate perceptions. Those (accurate) perceptions of reality go extinct. Now this is a bit stunning. How can it be that not seeing the world accurately gives us a survival advantage?”

    The Evolutionary Argument Against Reality – April 2016
    The cognitive scientist Donald Hoffman uses evolutionary game theory to show that our perceptions of an independent reality must be illusions.
    Excerpt: “The classic argument is that those of our ancestors who saw more accurately had a competitive advantage over those who saw less accurately and thus were more likely to pass on their genes that coded for those more accurate perceptions, so after thousands of generations we can be quite confident that we’re the offspring of those who saw accurately, and so we see accurately. That sounds very plausible. But I think it is utterly false. It misunderstands the fundamental fact about evolution, which is that it’s about fitness functions — mathematical functions that describe how well a given strategy achieves the goals of survival and reproduction. The mathematical physicist Chetan Prakash proved a theorem that I devised that says: According to evolution by natural selection, an organism that sees reality as it is will never be more fit than an organism of equal complexity that sees none of reality but is just tuned to fitness. Never.”

    of related note is this quote from Steven Novella

    “our brains evolved to have, a very compelling and persistent illusion – namely that the reality we perceive is real, rather than a constructed representation.”
    – Steven Novella

    Yet, although the Atheistic Materialist is forced to believe that ALL of his perceptions of reality are illusory, the scientific method itself, in its very first step, assumes, as an essential presupposition, that our perceptions of reality are, by and large, reliable and trustworthy and that they are not merely illusions.

    The scientific method
    At the core of biology and other sciences lies a problem-solving approach called the scientific method. The scientific method has five basic steps, plus one feedback step:
    1. Make an observation.
    2. Ask a question.
    3, Form a hypothesis, or testable explanation.
    4. Make a prediction based on the hypothesis.
    5. Test the prediction.
    6. Iterate: use the results to make new hypotheses or predictions.
    The scientific method is used in all sciences—including chemistry, physics, geology, and psychology. The scientists in these fields ask different questions and perform different tests. However, they use the same core approach to find answers that are logical and supported by evidence.

    Thus, since Darwinian evolution is forced to hold that ALL our observations of reality are illusory, and therefore denies that any of our observations of reality can be reliable, then Darwinian evolution, obviously, can never be based upon the scientific method itself and Darwinism is therefore, (once again), falsified in its claim to be a scientific theory.

    1 Thessalonians 5:21
    but test all things. Hold fast to what is good.

  8. 8
    Pater Kimbridge says:

    Why must “nothing” be the default, and “something” be what needs explaining?
    At the level of the cosmos, it may be the other way around.

  9. 9
    EDTA says:

    Pater @ 8,
    Nothing (true nothingness, not the pseudo-nothingness physicists are always tossing about) is the default because it is the simplest state that could have obtained. And had it obtained, it always would be the case (as someone above points out). Any non-nothing state immediately requires additional answers to questions such as “ok, now why did _this_ specific not-nothing state obtain?”

  10. 10
    kairosfocus says:

    EDTA et al, the true nothing is non being. Were there ever utter non being, as such can have no causal powers, it would indeed always be the case. That a world is demands in the end a necessary being world root. The real issue is the nature of such. Especially with a world that has rational, responsible, morally governed creatures, us. KF

  11. 11
    Red Reader says:

    Everybody gets to choose what they want to believe.
    We can choose to believe this “something” of the universe came from nothing or we can choose to believe this “something” is the work of an intelligent Creator.
    The question is: What makes sense?

    The idea of “something out of nothing” doesn’t make sense. The human brain cannot handle the idea; the moment we imagine something comes from nothing, our brains immediately identify nothing as actually being something.

    The idea of a Creator external to the something of this space/time makes perfect sense; our brains have no trouble understanding the Creator to be “something” though not something of this space/time. Even people who choose to pooh-pooh the idea of finite space/time—something that had a beginning—have no trouble understanding the idea.

    I suggest that the reason people choose to believe that the universe could come from nothing is not scientific, but personal. It is humbling to consider an infinite, all-powerful Creator with intelligence vastly beyond our own who created all that exists for His own purpose rather than ours.

    And humility does not come naturally to human beings.

  12. 12
    PaV says:

    Seversky @6:

    There is this difference. E.g., I leave home and as I do, I place the NY Times in the trash can, go out the front door and lock it. I return 10 hours later. I unlock the front door, walk in and find the NY Times not in the trash can, but on my kitchen table. I “don’t know” who did it; but I “know” that some human being did it, since there is no other natural explanation.

    Why is it not obvious that likewise, what we see in nature bespeaks a “Prime Mover,” to use the Aristotelian term, that lies behind what nature reveals? Even the Greeks, using nothing other than logic, arrived at the notion of an “Unmoved Mover.” That we “don’t know” <b<who this Unmoved Mover is, doesn’t mean that we “don’t know” that this “power” must exist.

  13. 13
    chuckdarwin says:

    You are fond of quoting Paul Davies. However, I just got done re-reading Davies’ Cosmic Jackpot and feel that it important to be clear that Davies rejects both theism and intelligent design. He devotes an entire chapter to debunking the latter. His description of “God” is a bit, although not exactly, similar to that of Einstein, and ultimately Spinoza. All three reject the Bible as revealed truth. Davies is also very clear that, as a cosmologist, the answers to the “big questions” such as origin of the cosmos and life will be answered by the hard work of “traditional” research and not by importing ID concepts which he reiterates are simply God- of- the -gaps arguments.

  14. 14
    bornagain77 says:

    Chuckdarwin, I am well aware of Davies trying to distance himself from traditional religion, and also from ID in particular. but unfortunately for Davies, and no matter how much he may try to resist it, the science itself keeps pointing to ID, (and even to traditional religion).

    For instance,

    Hey, Paul Davies — Your ID Is Showing
    Robert F. Shedinger – March 6, 2020
    Excerpt: No better advertisements for intelligent design exist than works written by establishment scientists that unintentionally make design arguments. I can think of few better examples than well-known cosmologist Paul Davies’s recently published book The Demon in the Machine: How Hidden Webs of Information Are Solving the Mystery of Life (2019).

    With a nod toward James Clerk Maxwell’s entropy-defying demon, Davies argues that the gulf between physics and biology is completely unbridgeable without some fundamentally new concept. Since living organisms consistently resist the ravages of entropy that all forms of inanimate matter are subject to, there must be some non-physical principle allowing living matter to consistently defy the Second Law of Thermodynamics. And for Davies there is; the demon in the machine turns out to be information.

    Order from Chaos
    Throughout the book, Davies marvels at the stunning complexity of life, especially at the cellular and molecular levels. He wonders at the existence of molecular machines like motors, pumps, tubes, shears, and rotors — paraphernalia familiar to human engineers — and their ability to manipulate information in clear and super-efficient ways, in Davies’s words “conjuring order out of chaos.” In fact, he calls the cell “a vast web of information management,” observing that while molecules are physical structures, information is an abstract concept deriving from the world of human communication.

    Yet despite all these analogies between the nanotechnology of life and the world of human engineering, Davies deftly ignores the obvious conclusion — the nanotechnology of life must have been designed, just like human-engineered machinery. Though he tries valiantly to ignore this obvious conclusion, Davies cannot completely run and hide, for he explicitly says, “It is hard not to be struck by how ingenious all this machinery is, and how astonishing that it remains intact and unchanged over billions of years.” (Emphasis in the original.) Indeed! Anything so ingenious must, almost by definition, be the product of intelligence if we are not to drain the word “ingenious” of its meaning.

    His Work and Its Implications
    But trying to ignore the implications of his own work, Davies soldiers on with more unintentional ID statements:

    Life’s ability to construct an internal representation of the world and itself — to act as an agent, manipulate its environment and harness energy — reflects its foundation in the rules of logic. It is also the logic of life that permits biology to explore a boundless universe of novelty.
    Logic, of course, is a product of mental activity. So is Davies implying an active intelligence working at the cellular and molecular level? It appears so even if he would never admit it. Yet he does practically admit it when he throws up his hands and declares, “Indeed, life’s complexity is so daunting that it is tempting to give up trying to understand it in physical terms.”

    If the molecular machinery of the cell has overwhelmed Davies with its sublime complexity, he is equally astounded by the field of epigenetics: “In the magic puzzle box of life, epigenetic inheritance is one of the more puzzling bits of magic.” He discusses the research on directed mutation by John Cairns in the 1980s, more recent work on epigenetics by Eva Jablonka, and the early work on transposition by Barbara McClintock and its flourishing in James Shapiro’s Natural Genetic Engineering and concludes: “…it’s tempting to imagine that biologists are glimpsing an entire shadow information-processing system at work at the epigenetic level.” Tempting indeed! And lest we forget, information processing derives from and is a property of intelligence.

    The Mystery of Life’s Origin
    Finally, Davies turns to the origin of life question which he brands as “almost a miracle.” He agrees that chemistry alone cannot explain the origin of life because one also needs to account for the origin of information. For Davies:

    Semantic information is a higher-level concept that is simply meaningless at the level of molecules. Chemistry alone, however complex, can never produce the genetic code or contextual instructions. Asking chemistry to explain coded information is like expecting computer hardware to write its own software.
    The origin of coded information is, according to Davies, the toughest problem in evolutionary biology. But, of course, it is only a tough problem for those who have excluded intelligence from the equation a priori. From an ID perspective, the origin of information is no mystery at all. It is always the creation of intelligent minds, a point made consistently by Stephen Meyer.

    Beyond Chemistry
    To explain all this, Davies can do no better than to speculate that somehow new laws and principles emerge from information processing systems of sufficiently great complexity. But he entirely ignores the question of the origin of the information processing system itself, which he has already pronounced as beyond the ability of chemistry alone to explain.

    It is likely that Davies would never want to align himself with the ID community. He might believe that the professional cost is just too great. But if I didn’t know any better, I would swear that The Demon in the Machine had rolled right off the presses of Discovery Institute. If abstract information is truly at the root of life, then intelligence has to be factored into the equation. Davies has made a compelling case for the former, so by extension — and much to his chagrin — he seems to be making a compelling case for the latter.

    Of note to Einstein,

    December 2021 – Thus in conclusion Einstein himself may not have personally believed in life after death, (nor in a personal God), but Special Relativity itself contradicts Einstein’s personal beliefs and offers stunning confirmation that Near Death Testimonies are accurate ‘physical’ descriptions of what happens after death, i.e. of going to a ‘higher timeless/eternal dimension’, i.e. heavenly dimension, that exists above this temporal realm.,,,

    Like Davies’s personal beliefs are contradicted by the science, the science itself contradicts Einstein’s personal beliefs.

  15. 15
    Pater Kimbridge says:

    If there was truly nothing, not only would there be no matter, energy, or fields, but there would also be no rules or constraints on what can or cannot happen. Remaining as nothing is only one thing that could happen. There are infinitely many “somethings” that could occur, but only one “nothing”. Which means that the probability of “something” emerging is pretty close to 100%.

  16. 16
    relatd says:

    The sticking points for those who reject ID are these:

    1) Living things only look designed. No, living things are actually designed.

    2) The great fear that the intelligence behind design will be chosen to be the Christian God.

    3) This will lead to the biggest disaster imaginable. It will get into public schools as science. Now the science teacher and the textbooks will not mention God, but religious schools will.

    4) The final blow. Politicians will develop policies based on this. And something approaching a true Christian nation will reemerge from decades of damage caused by Marxist-Atheists infiltrating education and creating a state within a state. In fact, all moral peoples will support this.

  17. 17
    EDTA says:

    Pater @ 15,

    >If there was truly nothing, not only would there be no matter, energy, or fields, but there would also be no rules or constraints on what can or cannot happen.

    There would be no constraints, but as you immediately observed:

    >Remaining as nothing is only one thing that could happen.

    >There are infinitely many “somethings” that could occur, but only one “nothing”. Which means that the probability of “something” emerging is pretty close to 100%.

    That presumes that all the possibilities had equal probability. But, as we seem to agree, none of the non-nothing possibilities would ever obtain.

  18. 18
    kairosfocus says:


    >>If there was truly nothing, not only would there be no matter, energy, or fields,>>

    1: Yes, utter-non being would obtain.

    >>but there would also be no rules or constraints on what can or cannot happen.>>

    2: More to the point, we know that there would be no causal capability, that is why such a state would obtain, i.e., always would hold as the case.

    >>Remaining as nothing is only one thing that could happen. >>

    3: You have tried to pull a non-existing rabbit from an equally non-existent hat, through non existent forces, causes etc.

    4: Thus, you have tried to smuggle in the back door what was locked out by the realities of utter non-being.

    5: What you really imply is, that a contingent world such as ours demands a necessary being world root.

    >>There are infinitely many “somethings” that could occur,>>

    6: Just the opposite, were there utter non being there is no possibility of any thing happening.

    >>but only one “nothing”. >>

    7: Not even abstract structure, quantity or numbers would obtain.

    >>Which means that the probability of “something” emerging is pretty close to 100%.>>

    8: This fails to follow, utter non being, having no causal powers or other capabilities, utter non being were it ever so would forever obtain.

    9: A quantum foam or the like is not non-being.


  19. 19
    Pater Kimbridge says:

    @KF @EDTA

    You are both attributing rules and constraints to something that by definition has none.

    And you both have the same curious use of the word “obtain”. Not saying it’s wrong, just unusual. It makes me think the two of you are the same person.

  20. 20
    PaV says:

    Pater K @ 15:

    Which means that the probability of “something” emerging is pretty close to 100%.

    Cambridge Dictionary:–(1st American Dictionary Verb meaning):
    “to appear by coming out of something or out from behind something”

    What did this “something” you speak of emerge from?

    The better way of putting it is that “something” emerging from “nothing” is Creation.

  21. 21
    EDTA says:

    Pater @ 19,

    On the use of the word “obtain”, see here

    As far as attributing rules and constraints, the only one I am trying to apply is the fact that from total nothingness, only more of the same can obtain.

  22. 22
    kairosfocus says:

    PK, nonsense. I only note that what is not there has no capability to cause. In this case, utter non being implies no world of any form whatsoever. The quantum foam or the like is not utter non being. Yes, it is hard to imagine utter non being; similar to the null set or the transfinite or complex numbers or negative numbers once were, but it can be conceived, stated and logically analysed. What is not cannot cause what becomes, and utter non being means no reality, no-verse if you will. By conceptual error, you have constructed a form of words that is self-defeating but potentially misleading. KF

  23. 23
    kairosfocus says:

    PS, I suspect EDTA may be taking up that rare usage as I have pointed it out for years, we are quite different people.

    PPS, AmHD:

    ob·tain (?b-t?n?, ?b-)
    v. ob·tained, ob·tain·ing, ob·tains
    To succeed in gaining possession of as the result of planning or endeavor; acquire.
    1. To be in existence, in effect, or customary: “standards, proprieties that no longer obtain” (Meg Greenfield).
    2. Archaic To succeed.
    [Middle English obteinen, from Old French obtenir, from Latin obtin?re : ob-, intensive pref.; see ob- + ten?re, to hold; see ten- in Indo-European roots.]
    ob·tain?a·ble adj.
    ob·tain?er n.
    American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

  24. 24
    kairosfocus says:

    EDTA, your link is interesting, esp the answer: >>’Obtains’ is used instead of ‘is true’ because states of affairs are not linguistic or abstract entities like sentences and propositions. The sentence “the cat is on the mat” can be true. The proposition expressed by “the cat is on the mat” can be true. But the cat’s being on the mat is not the sort of thing that can be true. Instead, it can ‘obtain’, exist, be happening, be realized, and so on. Of course, if neither of those alternative notions is clearer to you than ‘obtains’, this won’t answer your question.>> KF

  25. 25
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: I propose a new term, no-verse to denote a conceived state of affairs whereby utter non-being obtains. The no-verse implies that such a state of affairs would forever obtain as non-being has no causal capability. The notion that infinitely many possibilities obtain for a no-verse is tantamount to imagining it is a substantial entity with capabilities, precisely what such a state of affairs could not be. KF

  26. 26
    EDTA says:

    The “no-verse”? I like it! I shall adopt the term.

  27. 27
    WitnessFTP says:

    I like U-no-verse even better. 🙂

  28. 28
    Querius says:

    It might be helpful to think of “nothing” as non-existence. For example, the Easter Bunny is non-existent, and so we are led to believe that Pater Kimbridge @15 is asserting that the universe came from the Easter Bunny!

    I don’t think so.


  29. 29
    Querius says:

    Since Pater Kimbridge hasn’t responded, let me point out the other major problem with the universe coming out of non-existence. And that is, non-existence, by definition has no space-time, and without time there are no millions of years nor are there any probabilities.


  30. 30
    William J Murray says:

    To be fair, it seems to me to be a natural progression from: (1) highly complex, functional, interdependent, organized structures generated from random forces, to (2) fully functioning universe capable of producing intelligent life generated from nothing.

    It also seems to me to be the inevitable perspective of existential nihilism to consider your ultimate origin to be “nothing.”

  31. 31
    chuckdarwin says:


    There’s a third alternative answer to the question of “your ultimate origin.” That answer is “I don’t know.” It’s the most honest answer for sure. I always liked Michael Shermer’s answer which he calls militant agnosticism: “I don’t know and neither do you……”

  32. 32
    William J Murray says:

    CD @31,
    I have no problem admitting I don’t know, but I can’t say that nobody else knows. I don’t know what other people do and do not know.

    Admittedly not knowing doesn’t reduce my enjoyment of talking about it, though. It’s quite a mysterious thing when trying to apply reason. Infinite regress at least appears nonsensical, but the idea of a beginning of spacetime appears equally nonsensical.

  33. 33
    kairosfocus says:


    we have a serious cultural problem of selective hyperskepticism rooted in willful denial. Often, of the self evident. The unwelcome self evident.

    Start with, the origins and causal roots of the cosmos must be compatible with our existence in a going concern world. One where, on pain of self referential absurdity, we are rational, responsible, significantly free, knowing and potentially knowing, morally governed [i.e. there are naturally evident first duties/laws connected to the good/right etc . . . starting with duties to truth, right reason, warrant etc], contingent creatures.

    Deny these and one immediately undercuts his or her own ability to reason.

    That points to things we can, should and for the most part do know:

    1: once there is a definable topic, a certain minimum of objective knowledge is undeniable. As, attempted denial or pretence of radical across the board ignorance or of un-know-ability is self referential and self refuting.

    2: This includes, Mathematics, logic, general topics, morals, history etc. Yes, for example the claim there are no objective, knowable moral truths is a claimed objective truth on that topic and refutes itself.

    3: On origins and logic of being, the weak form principle of sufficient reason, wPSR, undeniably obtains. Namely, for what is/is not/may be/etc, we can ask and inquire as to why such a state of affairs is the case, with some hope of an answer.

    4: This includes that entities and states of affairs or candidate worlds etc fall under: impossible vs possible of being, and of the latter, contingent vs necessary being.

    5: Thus a possible world is a sufficiently complete description of a feasible state of affairs, and impossibility of being traces to requiring that some aspect x both be and not be, as with a Euclidean square circle.

    6: In this context, we inhabit a common, evidently contingent world, which thus is not ultimate or root reality. For instance, credibly, it began. (It is root reality, not our shared space time domain, which would have to hold necessary being, eternal character.)

    7: Were there ever utter non-being, such having no causal capability, that state of affairs would forever obtain. Put another way, that a world now is entails that there is a necessary being world root with adequate causal capacity to be source of our world.

    8: Nor does circular retrocausation obtain, as the not yet being is a form of non being.

    9: It can be shown that, given that time at cosmological scale is a thermodynamic, causally successive process in which concentrations of energy are gradually dissipated . . . time’s arrow . . .

    10: It can be shown that . . . such a causal-temporal thermodynamic, dissipative process cannot have been limitless in the past, i.e. the past is finitely bound in say number of years.

    11: This points to a necessary being world root, on logic of being and of structure and quantity [mathematics].

    12: Further, such must be adequate to ground moral government, requiring the inherently good, utterly wise and powerful.

    So, professions of ignorance and attempts to impose an empire of ignorance or a u-no-verse . . . I accept that amendment with a hint of imperialistic ignorance . . . fail.


  34. 34
    kairosfocus says:

    WJM, the singularity, aka bang. Wider spacetime or quasi, run into thermodynamic dissipation and traversal of the implicitly transfinite actual past. We are forced to contemplate necessary being. KF

  35. 35
    Querius says:

    Kairosfocus @33,

    we have a serious cultural problem of selective hyperskepticism rooted in willful denial. Often, of the self evident. The unwelcome self evident.

    Well said!

    While we need to use the phrase, “we absolutely, definitely don’t know,” much more often in science, our admitted scientific ignorance should NOT be selective, Procrustean , and philosophically convenient!

    We also need to eschew the vacuous “musta, coulda, and shoulda” rationalizations not supported by observational, testable science, but that are rather a scientific mythology in support of a certain worldview.

    For example, punctuated equilibrium was/is enthusiastically embraced by the Marxist worldview principally due to philosophical compatibility—it just “hasta” be true.

    For another example, considering what we can actually observe and test, we see . . .

    Entropy in action everywhere, including genomic entropy such as the narrowing of genetic variation in the tiger genome among the world’s 4,000 remaining tigers and the 100-150 mutations per generation in humans, who also have low genetic diversity compared with chimpanzees.

    The fossil record shows a completely different story than our current scientific mythology. Rather than an imaginative tale of ever-more evolved organisms, the record plainly shows stratification by microbiome, aquatic-flow deposition, mixtures of modern-looking and extinct species, which demonstrate a history with a far richer biodiversity than today and with a much greater continuity between a much larger number of species. Think of a long comb with two-thirds of its teeth missing: the remaining teeth did not “evolve” from the other teeth.

    Ubiquitous and intrinsic background radiation should have turned ancient cells and DNA into powder. According to research published in Nature, the half-life of DNA under *ideal* (-5 deg. C) conditions is 521 years. Thus, “Even in ideal preservation conditions, the scientists calculated that every single DNA bond would be broken at 6.8 million years” (emphasis added).

    Nevertheless, from another published article . . .

    A bacterial spore was revived, cultured, and identified from the abdominal contents of extinct bees preserved for 25 to 40 million years in buried Dominican amber. Rigorous surface decontamination of the amber and aseptic procedures were used during the recovery of the bacterium. Several lines of evidence indicated that the isolated bacterium was of ancient origin and not an extant contaminant. The characteristic enzymatic, biochemical, and 16S ribosomal DNA profiles indicated that the ancient bacterium is most closely related to extant Bacillus sphaericus.

    So, the observational, factual conclusion is that if the extinct bacteria were revived, they could not possibly be older than 6.8 million years under ideal conditions. So something must give way!

    But it hasn’t.


  36. 36
    relatd says:

    CD at 31,

    Cut the crap, OK? There’s a sock waiting for you. Do you worship “I don’t know”? Are you a MILITANT whatever? And why is the word militant even used? To tell me I should agree with someone who gives “I don’t know” as the answer?

  37. 37
    Viola Lee says:

    I’m not sure what “There’s a sock waiting for you”, but in reference to the question of “ultimate origins” or whether a God of the theistic type exists, CD’s invoking the the position of strong agnosticism is quite reasonable: “I don’t know and you don’t know either.” Calling that crap is, well, a bunch of crap.

    And asking if CD “worships ‘I don’t know'” is a silly question. No wonder I don’t bother to interact here anymore. (Although obviously I did step in to make this comment.)

  38. 38
    Viola Lee says:

    Edit: “I’m not sure what “There’s a sock waiting for you” means.

  39. 39
    Querius says:

    Viola Lee @37,

    Welcome back, at least for the moment. Glad you asked.

    In the Uncommon Descent drop-down options, hover over COMMENT POLICY and click the second option called “Put A Sock In It” to see the reference.

    For a slang definition, a search yields the following definition: “verb, To stop talking; to be quiet; to shut one’s mouth.”

    I think the intent of the expression here is not to continually bring up issues that have already been addressed repeatedly, including the following in the list provided (along with answers):

    • Who Designed the Designer
    • Intelligent Design is Creationism in a Cheap Tuxedo
    • Since Intelligent Design Proponents Believe in a “Designer” or “Creator” They Can Be Called “Creationists”
    • Intelligent Design is an Attempt by the Religious Right to Establish a Theocracy
    • Bad Design Means No Design
    • No Real Scientists Take Intelligent Design Seriously
    • “Evolution” Proves that Intelligent Design is Wrong
    • Real Scientists Do Not Use Terms Like Microevolution or Macroevolution
    • Intelligent Design Tries To Claim That Everything is Designed Where We Obviously See Necessity and Chance
    • The Explanatory Filter Implies that a Snowflake is Designed by an Intelligent Agent. This Proves that the Design Inference is Not Reliable!
    • What About the spreading of antibiotic resistance?
    • What Do You Mean by “Constructive” Beneficial Mutations Exactly?
    • Intelligent Design proponents deny, without having a reason, that randomness can produce an effect, and then go make something up to fill the void
    • Intelligent Design is Not a Valid Theory Since it Does Not Make Predictions
    • The Evidence for Common Descent is Incompatible with Intelligent Design
    • It is certainly true that evolution predicts only minor changes from generation to generation – but when you look at the cumulative effect of hundreds of millions or billions of replications then those many, many changes can incrementally lead to large changes
    • Macro-evolution *is* nothing but lots and lots of microevolution!
    • Nothing is Wrong with the Modern Synthesis!
    • The Information in Complex Specified Information (CSI) Cannot Be Qualified
    • What types of life are Irreducibly Complex? Or which life is not Irreducibly Complex?
    • In the Flagellum Behe Ignores that this Organization of Proteins has Verifiable Functions when Particular Proteins are Omitted, i.e. in its simplest form, an ion pump
    • Darwinian evolution is a Vastly More Simplistic Argument than Intelligent Design
    • The Designer Must be Complex and Thus Could Never Have Existed
    • Intelligent Design is Completely Out of Date! It’s arguing against old idea and not modern evolutionary theory
    • Intelligent Design Does Not Do Research
    • Intelligent Design Cannot Be Falsified
    • William Dembski “Dispensed” with the Explanatory Filter (EF) and thus Intelligent Design Cannot Work
    • ID Proponents Wrongly Claim that Natural Selection Does Not Work
    • Intelligent Design Makes No Scientific Observations
    • Behe is Jumping to Conclusions. P.falciparum Did Not Evolve Because It Did Not Need to Evolve. In Other Words It is So Perfect Already That It Cannot Improve Upon Itself.
    • ID Proponents Talk a Lot About Front-Loading But Never Explain What It Means
    • Lenski’s Research on Citrate-Eating E. Coli Refututes Behe’s Edge of Evolution Hypothesis
    • The Evidence for Gradualism in the Phylogenetic Tree of Life is Overwhelming
    • Lateral (Or Horizontal) Gene Transfer (LGT) is Strong Evidence Against ID
    • Genetic Entropy is False and Thus ID is Falsified as Well


  40. 40
    Alan Fox says:

    Rule 1: My obstinacy is victory. The object of argument is to convince me. If I am not convinced, I win.
    Rule 2: My ignorance is the best preservative for my obstinacy. If I learn things, these things may alter my views. Therefore, best to learn nothing, so that I will never need to concede any ground, anywhere.

    Saw this in a comment thread elsewhere. Anyone here think it applies? To me? To Querius? Anyone?

    (H/T Puck)

  41. 41
    chuckdarwin says:

    Viola Lee/38

    In my experience, most blog comment sections have a list of discouraged behaviors relating to decorum, civility and language which is okay insofar as they do not attempt to censor content. The UD “Put a Sock in It” guidelines, again, from my perspective, are unprecedented in the attempt to censor comments that go to the heart of ID claims. UD’s “rationale” is that these topics have been put to bed by ID proponents and are not worth further discussion. But, if you look at the list, the claim that these issues have been resolved in any way, shape or form is preposterous.

    However, UD is perfectly free to run its blog(s) however it wants. There isn’t any real enforcement, so the guidelines are more or less window dressing. Besides, some of the worst transgressors are the pro-ID commenters themselves……

  42. 42
    kairosfocus says:


    1: Does or does not the living cell use complex coded algorithms to build proteins? Why/why not? ______

    2: Are there self evident first truths/principles and first duties of reason, which allow us to evaluate warrant? ______

    These are pivotal,


  43. 43
    Alan Fox says:

    1. No. As to why not, it doesn’t need to. Occam’s razor.

    2. No. All is subjective.

  44. 44
    Viola Lee says:

    Thanks, Q. However, as CD points out, that list basically excludes further arguments about ID and evolution, and as Alan points out, just declares victory and tells everyone else to go away.

    However, strong agnosticism is not about evolution, and not on that list, for what that’s worth.

  45. 45
    Alan Fox says:

    Entropy in action everywhere…

    Yet fridges? How do they manage to defy entropy, at least temporarily? Entropy is dispersal of energy. But if you can find an energy source, you can remain out of equilibrium with your environment, or live – in other words, at least temporarily.

  46. 46
    kairosfocus says:

    AF, your denial of multiple Nobel Prize winning reality that the cell uses coded algorithms to build proteins is duly noted. You confirm your negative credibility by that refusal. Your attitude to basics of reasoning and rational responsibility simply clenches over the nails in the coffin for your credibility. Sad. KF

    PS, I think you would do well to start with Epictetus, c mid C2, what 1900 years behind the curve:


    How is logic necessary?

    When someone in [Epictetus’] audience said, Convince me that logic is necessary, he answered: Do you wish me to demonstrate this to you?—Yes.—Well, then, must I use a demonstrative argument?—And when the questioner had agreed to that, Epictetus asked him. How, then, will you know if I impose upon you?—As the man had no answer to give, Epictetus said: Do you see how you yourself admit that all this instruction is necessary, if, without it, you cannot so much as know whether it is necessary or not? [Notice, inescapable, thus self evidently true and antecedent to the inferential reasoning that provides deductive proofs and frameworks, including axiomatic systems and propositional calculus etc. We here see the first principles of right reason in action. Cf J. C. Wright]

  47. 47
    kairosfocus says:

    VL (attn CD et al), no, the weak argument correctives manifestly actually clear away rubble and open room for serious discussion. Clinging to such weak arguments shows that there is a long term, basic weakness problem for most common objections to the design inference. Sadly telling. KF

  48. 48
    kairosfocus says:

    AF, please, go study some thermodynamics. Refrigerators USE thermodynamics through a process of sophisticated design, to provide cooling. They export heat and net create entropy. KF

  49. 49
    Querius says:

    Viola Lee @44,

    However, as CD points out, that list basically excludes further arguments about ID and evolution, and as Alan points out, just declares victory and tells everyone else to go away.

    The intent is that raising the listed issues is a waste of everyone’s time since the ID answers are already posted. However, if evidence is presented to object to part of one of the answers, I think that’s fair game.

    Let’s take the first one, for example:
    • Who Designed the Designer

    The answer proposed is

    This argument points out that, by inferring a designer from complexity in machines, the designer must also be complexity. Why? Well just because it seems like he/she/it would. This of course then plunges into an infinite loop of who designed the designer. This infinite loop makes Intelligent Design somehow impossible. The really weird part is the argument is broadcast to us using a computer that was the result of intelligent design. Intelligent design does not speak to the nature of designers anymore than Darwin’s theory speaks to the origin of matter.

    If the answer to this question is deemed inadequate by a participant, then it seems to me that they can legitimately question whether, for example, the “plunges into an infinite loop” of designer designers ™ is really such a bad thing after all, if one already accepts an infinite past for the universe. Make sense?

    However, strong agnosticism is not about evolution, and not on that list, for what that’s worth.

    Agreed. Also, note that the set of ID proponents that are strong agnostics is not empty. Considering recurring themes and objections to ID, maybe another question should be added:

    • ID Depends on the Existence of an Unfair God

    As a strong agnostic, how would you respond to that assertion?

    And considering the title of this post, it even seems to be relevant. Imagine that ! (smile)


  50. 50
    kairosfocus says:

    Q, an infinite actual past for our cosmos and q foams etc behind it is a thermodynamic implausibility. Worse, it requires an infinite succession of past years which cannot be traversed stepwise. KF

  51. 51
    Viola Lee says:

    I wrote, “However, strong agnosticism is not about evolution.

    Q agreed. That’s good. Q writes, “Also, note that the set of ID proponents that are strong agnostics is not empty.” Also good. Can you name some?

    Also, KF wrote, “AF, please, go study some thermodynamics. [Condescension] Refrigerators USE thermodynamics through a process of sophisticated design, to provide cooling. They export heat and net create entropy.”

    I’m sure AF knows that. But AF was talking about a local effect, which he made perfectly clear: AF wrote, “But if you can find an energy source, you can remain out of equilibrium with your environment, or live – in other words, at least temporarily.” What he wrote does not show a lack of understanding of thermodynamics.

  52. 52
    Querius says:

    Viola Lee @51,

    Q writes, “Also, note that the set of ID proponents that are strong agnostics is not empty.” Also good. Can you name some?

    Yes, I can. Can you first answer my question:

    • ID Depends on the Existence of an Unfair God

    As a strong agnostic, how would you respond to that assertion?


  53. 53
    Querius says:

    Kairosfocus @51,

    Worse, it requires an infinite succession of past years which cannot be traversed stepwise.

    Not to mention the magic of probability over an infinite number of years as a device for explaining anything and everything! This would be the tombstone of science.


  54. 54
    William J Murray says:

    KF @50,

    The problem with the perspective that our spacetime world began is that, in order to avoid the same problem of infinite regress, that which caused this spacetime world to begin must not be a spacetime framework. If it is, you have the same problem: an infinite succession of backwards time for the event to occur that generated our spacetime world in what one would presume to be already existent available space. Where did that, let’s say “higher dimensional” spacetime world come from?

    There is as essential a problem postulating a creative entity that makes a decision to deliberately create a spacetime universe because it requires an already existent spacetime framework in order to do that; there must be the sequence of before and after the creation of that world, and there must be someplace to put it. So, we do not escape the logical problems of spacetime by saying “it began” or “it was caused.” It just kicks that can up a step.

  55. 55
    Alan Fox says:

    Not to mention the magic of probability over an infinite number of years as a device for explaining anything and everything!

    Not to mention selection, either? Oh, disingenuous one!

    Regarding these agnostic ID proponents, would David Berlinski be among the “yes, I can”?

  56. 56
    chuckdarwin says:


    Sadly telling, indeed….

  57. 57
    Querius says:

    William J Murray @54,

    A good point. The problem is that we, as humans, cannot envision an extra-temporal existence or mind. I try to explain it as our comparison of looking down a meter stick of time, where events have a causal progression to turning that meter stick sideways where we can see all events on it occurring at the same time.

    But how can one take time out of that perspective? This is hard to do. I’m imagining a state machine where change can occur, but all at once. My best analogy is a large spreadsheet with formulas connecting all the cells and changes propagate instantly without requiring time, but change can occur probabilistically from a realm of all possibilities.

    Is this how it works with the Creator? I have no idea.

    A postulated entity to be the intelligence behind ID, is likely to be as inconceivable and incomprehensible to me as any attempt on my part to explain quantum mechanics to my poodle snoozing peacefully at my feet.


  58. 58
    Alan Fox says:

    But AF was talking about a local effect, which he made perfectly clear: AF wrote, “But if you can find an energy source, you can remain out of equilibrium with your environment, or live – in other words, at least temporarily.” What he wrote does not show a lack of understanding of thermodynamics.

    Entropy was something I struggled with for a long time before I was introduced to the idea of energy dispersal by Allan Miller, who shall remain nameless. (Oops)

    There is no avoiding it eventually. In the meantime, eat, drink and be merry…

  59. 59
    Viola Lee says:

    Q writes,

    Yes, I can. [Name some ID proponents who are strong agnostics.] Can you first answer my question:

    • ID Depends on the Existence of an Unfair God

    As a strong agnostic, how would you respond to that assertion?

    There are many different ideas about what ID might posit about the world, some of which don’t even include a God, much less a God that has anything to do with “fairness”. However, strong agnosticism is not about ID per se: it’s broader than that. Strong agnosticism is the position that we can’t know what the nature of the ultimate origin of existence is. Perhaps, someone believes that “ID Depends on the Existence of an Unfair God”, but I don’t know, and am not interested in, whatever the arguments are for that assertion, and I don’t know why you brought it up to me.

    Now, strong agnostic ID proponents? AF mentions Berlinksi. Anyone else?

  60. 60
    relatd says:

    Queriu at 57,

    In an attempt to answer your comments, a few things. God is outside of space-time. He is the uncaused cause. He created everything from nothing. Now some would not accept this but that is one explanation.

  61. 61
    vividbleau says:

    “We’re learning there’s a lot more to learn about nothing than we thought,”

    This is an example of the manipulation of language. Can anyone tell me exactly what there is to learn about nothing? I am not asking about what we can learn from the quantum world which is a different kind of something but about no thing.


  62. 62
    Querius says:

    Viola Lee @59,

    Thanks for taking a shot at my question. The reason that I asked was so you would think about the nature of design, the origin of design, and how we recognize design from randomness; whether design requires God or just intelligence; and from where we get the concept of “fairness.”

    For my part, here are a variety of different reactions to a post on the appropriately named

    Intelligent design
    Is believing in the possibility of Intelligent Design at odds with being an Agnostic? The more I read about, and understand the theory of Intelligent Design, the more sense it makes to me. However, I don’t feel this proves a God or God’s are responsible for our universe.

    And here’s the answer to your question about agnostic supporters of ID. Nonreligious scientists and scholars who doubt modern Darwinian theory include former U.S. National Academy of Sciences biologist Lynn Margulis, medical professor Raymond Tallis, Rutgers cognitive scientist Jerry Fodor, and New York University philosopher and legal scholar Thomas Nagel—all of whom have publicly challenged neo-Darwinism and/or sympathized with ID.

    Also note that archaeologists and anthropologists frequently must decide whether a presumed artifact was designed by a human or natural in origin. This is not always easy. I once asked on this forum whether anyone would doubt that three rocks stacked on each other in the middle of a desert had a human or a natural origin. One person replied that in their experience, even two rocks stacked alone in the desert wasn’t something natural.

    So, do you believe that after billions of years of earthquakes, that the added complexity apparent in three rocks stacked on each other are a sign of intelligent origin?


  63. 63
    Querius says:

    Relatd @60,
    According to John 1:1 . . .

    In the beginning was the Word (gr. Logos) and the Word was with God and the Word was God. This one was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and apart from him not one thing came into being that has come into being.

    I don’t pretend to understand this, but it seems like the source of all creation was information.

    Design is intimately related to the application of information. I find this pretty profound.


  64. 64
    Querius says:

    Vividbleau @61,

    “We’re learning there’s a lot more to learn about nothing than we thought,”

    This is an example of the manipulation of language. Can anyone tell me exactly what there is to learn about nothing? I am not asking about what we can learn from the quantum world which is a different kind of something but about no thing.

    Yes, exactly! Nothingness is synonymous with non-existence. The Easter Bunny is also non-existent, thus the statement you quoted is equivalent in insight and scientific significance to:

    “We’re learning there’s a lot more to learn about the Easter Bunny than we thought,”

    Be still my beating heart . . . LOL


  65. 65
    Alan Fox says:

    Jerry Fodor?

    Was he agnostic?

    Was he an “Intelligent Design” proponent?

    Seems his book What Darwin Got Wrong got a few things wrong.

  66. 66
    Alan Fox says:

    Lynn Margulis?

    Agnostic, yes. Supporter of ID?

  67. 67
    Alan Fox says:

    Thomas Nagel?

    Ok, seems he did say some kind things about ID.

  68. 68
    Alan Fox says:

    Raymond Tallis?
    Humanist, yes. ID supporter?

  69. 69
    kairosfocus says:

    WJM, it just means that a causal-temporal, thermodynamically constrained cosmos is inherently finite in the past and so contingent. The onward discussion is how to characterise the root world, the world of necessary being, which must inherently be of eternal character. That is a big onward question but first we must be clear that as time is inextricably thermodynamic at cosmological scale and has finite durations — years for convenience — that succeed one another causally as thermodynamically constrained, it cannot have traversed an implicit or explicit past transfinite. And yes, I am pointing to the nature of time for a physical, thermodynamically constrained world; one with an arrow of time. KF

  70. 70
    kairosfocus says:

    CD, yes, kindly look in a mirror. Just above, I have pointed out one of the onward discussions we need to have, which has actually been under the hammer on the anvil here since 2016. Among other things, it is tied to our need to move our base vision of numbers to the hyperreals. Something that also makes a big difference to our vision of Calculus, the math of rates and accumulations of change. KF

  71. 71
    kairosfocus says:

    Vivid, first, we need to learn that the senior discipline is actually philosophy, not science. For, it is logic of being that enables us to identify a true nothing: non-being. As in, what rocks dream of. Thus we see the u-no-verse, utter non being which having no causal capacity, were it ever the state of affairs, would forever obtain. So, as a world now is, something is necessary being and always was. So, we are debating root of reality, ground world w0. From that, we instantly realise that quantised fields with virtual particles and fluctuations etc are not a true nothing. So, while there is a lot of touting of a misnomer, causing confusion, we are seeing discussion of a hypothesised sub-verse, with clearly thermodynamically constrained processes. Therefore, the speculative q-foam subverse . . . it has not been observed . . . is not W0. So, we can clarify that it too would not be transfinite in the past. We have not here found a viable candidate for W0. KF

  72. 72
    Lieutenant Commander Data says:

    Logic doesn’t work from outside of a person with worldview problem. A worldview it’s like a toddler you love, take care of and invest emotionally everything you have . If someone come and tell you that you have to kill that toddler you can’t even hear the logical argument of that person. To rebuild your worldview from the foundation you have to destroy the old one in which you invested love, years, energy . You don’t have the stamina, the enthusiasm to start again at 40-50-60 years old to rebuild your worldview so you face a dilemma : you play dumb or start the most painfull endeavour ever .If you don’t play dumb you have to accept that you practically lost all those years of your life in delusion having a false worldview.

  73. 73
    William J Murray says:

    KF @69:
    You are apparently referring to the theoretical consequences of a particular model of physics that predicts a temporal origin and an entropy-guided arrow of time towards the eventual heat death of the universe. This theory is just that: a theory that takes some (not all) evidence and interprets that evidence into a particular conclusion.

    That interpretive prediction is not a fact. It’s just one way of interpreting SOME of the available evidence.

    That interpretation does not take into account, for example, the relativistic relationship between space and time, what physicists refer to as “spacetime.” In this model, the past, present and future all eternally exist at the same time. IOW, if a big bang occurred (and recent Webb telescope images cast doubt on that,) and if there is an eventual entropic heat death of the universe, those things and everything in-between have always existed and will always exist. Therefore, if this universe was created, it was created beginning to end.

    However, the idea that it was “created” calls into question the before and after of that creation, which places the necessary “world zero” in a state not experienced by that creator as a passage through already-existent sequences of spacetime, because that just kicks the same can of worms up a notch, as I said.

    The big-bang to the entropic end of the universe scenario also does not take into account the accumulative evidence of 100 years of experimental research into quantum physics, which has clearly demonstrated that the essential requirement of the heath-death theory – the existence of matter and energy with objective states and characteristics that lead to that heat-death – do not actually exist. Rather, it has been demonstrated that our entire experience of reality is fundamentally one of mind and consciousness, not matter and energy.

    Your position is about one theoretical prediction that basically ignores over a hundred years of conflicting evidence, that conflicting evidence now increased dramatically by the pictures coming in from the Webb telescope. However this universe exists, it is *not* governed by self-existent thermodynamic process and a universal objective entropic arrow of time. That has clearly been demonstrated to be entirely artifacts of our experience at this point, not artifacts of “what the universe is” via spacetime relativity or quantum physics.

    The only way to escape the infinite regress of time problem is if this universe – whatever is – always existed and will always exist within a higher dimensional framework where time and location are aspects of relative personal experience moving through a static, eternal field of “all things that exist.”

  74. 74
    chuckdarwin says:

    I have it on the best of authority that rocks dream of being dogs, because everyone loves dogs. Folks are more ambivalent about rocks. The reason I know this is because my pet rock, who’s getting up there, tells me so on occasion when it’s in its more philosophical moods…..

  75. 75
    kairosfocus says:

    WJM, no, while I do associate time’s arrow with heat death eventually ~ 10^25 s after singularity as yardstick, that is not focal. My question has been, what is time on a cosmological scale. Where, we can profitably talk of a big bang 13.8 BYA, so a cosmological clock/calendar. Where, too, before/after by x years can make sense. The answer is, time is causally successive and proceeds by rates that are thermodynamically driven and yes at cosmological level. Where, further, the associated modern cosmology is intimately tied to General Relativity, thus of course factors in spacetime. That now allows us to see succession of stages of finite duration, years for convenience. It is that succession of stages that runs into logic of structure and quantity structure when one suggests or implies a transfinite past having been completed to reach our current epoch. That is the problem with infinite quasi-physical past cosmologies. Of course, going forward we reach an epoch where even white dwarfs have reached thermal equilibrium, heat death. There would be no clock process possible in such a cosmos and time would have run down to a stop much as an old fashioned spring driven clock. That is a consequence, not a main focus. I repeat, the focus is, what is time at cosmological scale. KF

    PS: Wikipedia confesses, having been shown the thumb screws:

    Cosmic time, or cosmological time, is the time coordinate commonly used in the Big Bang models of physical cosmology.[1][2][3] Such time coordinate may be defined for a homogeneous, expanding universe so that the universe has the same density everywhere at each moment in time (the fact that this is possible means that the universe is, by definition, homogeneous). The clocks measuring cosmic time should move along the Hubble flow.

    Cosmic time t[4][5] is a measure of time by a physical clock with zero peculiar velocity in the absence of matter over-/under-densities (to prevent time dilation due to relativistic effects or confusions caused by expansion of the universe). Unlike other measures of time such as temperature, redshift, particle horizon, or Hubble horizon, the cosmic time (similar and complementary to the comoving coordinates) is blind to the expansion of the universe.

    There are two main ways for establishing a reference point for the cosmic time. The most trivial way is to take the present time as the cosmic reference point (sometimes referred to as the lookback time).

    Alternatively, the Big Bang may be taken as reference to define t as the age of the universe, also known as time since the big bang. The current physical cosmology estimates the present age as 13.8 billion years.[6] The t = 0 doesn’t necessarily have to correspond to a physical event (such as the cosmological singularity) but rather it refers to the point at which the scale factor would vanish for a standard cosmological model such as ?CDM. For instance, in the case of inflation, i.e. a non-standard cosmology, the hypothetical moment of big bang is still determined using the benchmark cosmological models which may coincide with the end of the inflationary epoch. For technical purposes, concepts such as the average temperature of the universe (in units of eV) or the particle horizon are used when the early universe is the objective of a study since understanding the interaction among particles is more relevant than their time coordinate or age.

    Cosmic time is the standard time coordinate for specifying the Friedmann–Lemaître–Robertson–Walker solutions of Einstein’s equations.

  76. 76
    kairosfocus says:

    CD, we both know rocks have no dreams. KF

  77. 77
    chuckdarwin says:

    My Druid forebears communicated with rocks all the time, including sharing stories of dreams and hopes. One of those dreams, and hopes, was that humans would treat them and the rest of Mother Nature with a bit more respect. But then Christians came along with their scriptural mandate to exercise dominion over the world and, well, we all know the rest of the story…….

    Christianity gave Eros poison to drink; he did not die of it, certainly, but degenerated to Vice. — Friedrich Nietzsche, BGE

    Perhaps you don’t remember, or maybe it was before your time, but a number of years back, pet rocks were all the rage….

  78. 78
    Lieutenant Commander Data says:

    CD, we both know rocks have no dreams. KF

    I didn’t know that you are such a rockcist.

  79. 79
    Querius says:

    . . . And thus the Darwinists once again retreat into the fatuous.

    “There is no avoiding it {i.e. entropy} eventually. In the meantime, eat, drink and be merry”

    “Rocks dream of being dogs”

    “My Druid forebears communicated with rocks all the time”

    Topic: “At Quanta: How The Physics Of Nothing Underlies Everything”

    Problem: “Why is there something rather than nothing?”

    Solution is NOT: “The preexisting attributes of the universe musta caused the universe.”


  80. 80
    relatd says:

    Querius at 79,

    I just opened my box of How to Make Life. On the back: Guaranteed NOT to Work!

    It was empty…

  81. 81
    chuckdarwin says:

    You suffer from a case of no-sense-of-humorousness. It’s hard to tell what’s worse, that or KF’s chronic case of the-glass-is-half-emptyousness.
    You two must be a real hoot at parties……

  82. 82
    Querius says:

    Relatd @80,

    I just opened my box of How to Make Life. On the back: Guaranteed NOT to Work!

    Ha ha! But is there is a prize in the otherwise empty box? Or is the box simply there for display, since it occupies a conspicuous empty space on the shelf of scientific understanding?

    This is why I appreciate Sabine Hossenfelder’s adamant but honest position of “we simply don’t know.”

    The darker side of putting “empty boxes on shelves” is that they obscure areas of scientific uncertainty and squash the natural curiosity of students from pursuing these areas.

    An example of this in my education was when I discovered in an astrophysics class that the Oort Cloud(s) was basically “an empty box” needed to explain why there are still long-period comets in our solar system after billions of years. The Oort Cloud functions as sort of a gumball machine around the solar system releasing new comets due to chaotic gravitational disturbances. Maybe it’s true, but then, maybe not.

    From the NASA website:

    The Oort Cloud is a predicted collection of icy objects farther away than everything else in the solar system. It fits with observations of comets in the planetary region of the solar system, but scientists have yet to observe any object in the Oort Cloud itself.


  83. 83
    relatd says:

    Querius at 82,

    It is valuable to throw out ideas in astronomy. Or, could it be this, or could it be that? Imaginative speculation combined with known information can create new frameworks that can be compared to the data. It is not uncommon in physics to get good agreement between a new idea and most of the data. In other words, different plausible explanations can lead to discovering how things actually work.

    I suspect long-period comets follow an orbital path and then enter our solar system.

    There was no prize in my empty box, but there was a small, dead beetle at the bottom…

    I have known a few brilliant people. One was a scientist. The empty box problem was not an issue. They pursued their work.

  84. 84
    Alan Fox says:

    I have known a few brilliant people.

    Is this when you were working with professional writers?

  85. 85
    Querius says:

    Relatd @83,

    It is valuable to throw out ideas in astronomy. Or, could it be this, or could it be that? Imaginative speculation combined with known information can create new frameworks that can be compared to the data.

    Oh, absolutely! But they need to be termed speculations or hypotheses.

    For example, since Einstein, it’s widely held that gravity is not a force but a local curvature or deformation of space-time. And whatever gravity is, it’s NOT a dimension (or at least not a linear dimension). Ok, fine. So, what is gravity?

    There are lots of ideas, but the truth is simply, “we don’t know” and shouldn’t pretend to be certain.


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