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At Mind Matters News: How easy is it to imagine absolutely nothing?

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Theories around the Big Bang provide an interesting test of the concept. Some argue that our universe is constantly coming into and going out of existence, in an endless series of Big Bangs and Big Crunches:

It does not appear that the Big Bang had a natural beginning. It was the beginning. Before it, there was nothing at all, which is a hard concept for us to grasp. In a debate with naturalist philosopher David Papineau, theistic neurosurgeon Michael Egnor described it as an effect with no physical cause. Despite their other differences Papineau agreed with that.

Some have argued that there were multiple Big Bangs, each building on the ashes, so to speak, of the last…

Perhaps the laws of reality (the metaverse, whatever) simply do not allow for a state that we would understand as completely nothing. We think of nothing as simply the absence of stuff, of matter and energy, but perhaps it’s more complicated than that. It may simply be impossible for there to be truly nothing in that simplistic sense. This, of course, deals with the ultimate nature of reality, where physics borders metaphysics…

What if the maximally expanded and cold universe mathematically approaches the identical state as the singularity that resulted in the Big Bang? Again, our human minds limited by the frame of the Earth cannot wrap around this concept, but we can crunch the numbers. At some point the heat death universe becomes a singularity, and then starts another cycle of the universe. If you want to really blow your mind, some physicists even speculate that this would be the same universe. Not another version of the same matter and energy, but the actual same universe in space and time. Essentially the end of the universe and the beginning of the universe are the same moment in time, the universe loops back in on itself in one giant self-contained temporal cycle.

The universe would then be temporally finite but unbound (Stephen Hawking discussed this in his book, A Brief History of Time). The best analogy is a ring, we just keeping going around the ring forever, but there is no true beginning or end. In this concept there is no beginning or end, there is no before, there is just a bound infinite loop. This solves the “something from nothing” problem, because the universe did not come from anything, it just always was. This still leaves us with the deeper question – why is there something instead of nothing, but that may not be a useful line of inquiry.

Steven Novella, “Was the Big Bang Something from Nothing” at Neurologica Blog (January 20, 2022)

The non-theistic explanations are colorful but it is not clear that they solve problems. Rather, they demonstrate the difficulty we have imagining… absolutely nothing.

News, “How easy is it to imagine absolutely nothing?” at Mind Matters News (February 6, 2022)

Takehome: The non-theistic explanations are colorful but it is not clear that they solve problems. Rather, they demonstrate the difficulty we have imagining… absolutely nothing.

You may also wish to read:

Freebits: An interesting argument from the Big Bang for free will There are two types of uncertainty, we learn, only one of which could create free will. Astrobiologist Caleb Scharf argues that “information isn’t just a way to probe the fundamentals of nature; it may be part of the fundamentals.”


Round 3: Egnor vs Papineau: The Big Bang has no natural beginning, In the debate between theistic neurosurgeon Michael Egnor and naturalist philosopher David Papineau, the question gets round to the origin of the universe itself. Egnor maintains that the Big Bang, which is held to have created the universe, is an effect with no physical cause. Papineau agrees.

Oh my God it’s the Krause nothing isn’t actually “nothing” it’s something. This is honestly old and tired AaronS1978
“Of all the pursuits open to men, the search for wisdom is most perfect, more sublime, more profitable, and more full of joy.” -- St. Thomas Aquinas "It belongs to wisdom to consider the highest cause. By means of that cause we are able to form a most certain judgment about other causes, and according thereto all things should be set in order. ... he who knows the cause that is simply the highest ... is said to be wise simply, because he is able to judge and set in order all things ..." Summa Theologica Q 45 A 1 Atheism denies causality or a hierarchy of causes - so it cannot understand the highest cause of things. So, atheism lacks wisdom, and as a result, lacks perfection, that which is profitable and joy. Materialism reduces everything to a single value - one level. So, it cannot appreciate the greatness of anything. It cannot have any reverence for what is precious - not even one's own life or the life of anyone else, or the greatness of nature or what humans produce. A diamond is a rock. A rainbow; some light and moisture (and a flag). A symphony; some vibrations. A child in the womb; some cells. A letter to his beloved from a man dying on the battlefield; a genetic mutation. Atheism is tasteless and meaningless. It's just ignorance, darkness, selfishness and confusion. Individual atheists, while affected by all of that, always rise above their stated-beliefs. That in itself is an argument against the atheistic worldview. Silver Asiatic
Who can imagine non-space? Brain can't conceive something like that. PS: Non-space is not a space filled with something . Lieutenant Commander Data
>"This still leaves us with the deeper question – why is there something instead of nothing" And that's where you have to jump with both feet into metaphysics. And this is where you need the concept of complete non-being that I have brought up before (usually to WJM's annoyance). This is the author's deeper question above: Why was complete non-being not the state of affairs that obtained (and always would have obtained)? (*If you think complete non-being is somehow a contradiction, a formal argument of its impossibility would be nice; nobody has offered one so far, only informal arguments.) EDTA
To help us imagine "nothing" before the big bang, consider the model of the Universe as simulation. When I simulate some system or physical situation, I set up the model (controlling equations) and the starting point (initial conditions), set time = zero Then I press "go" and watch what happens. Inside this simulation, what happened before t = 0? Nothing, of course, because there was no simulated time, nor the simulation itself until I started it at t = 0. Of course, in my own space-time, there is a "before" as I prepare the simulation, but within the simulation itself, there is truly "nothing"; no time, no "space" no rules or conditions. In a sense, the only "before" is information as I do the preparations and set up the simulation. This could also apply to our Universe: information comes before reality! While I don't believe our Universe is a simulation, thinking about it in those terms does make it somewhat easier to consider these metaphysical questions about the Universe and our reality, as well as a few interesting and potentially disturbing possibilities: https://thopid.blogspot.com/2019/01/our-simulated-world.html Fasteddious
BA77, the self referential incoherence gets them every time. KF kairosfocus
Elsewhere Novella claimed that,
"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 https://mindmatters.ai/2019/07/tales-of-the-mind-a-neurologist-encounters-the-house-of-mirrors/
Steven Novella, a Yale University neurologist, via his claim that our perceptions of reality are merely 'constructed representations', i.e. 'illusions', of reality, has simply disqualified himself from having anything meaningful to say 'scientifically' about anything. This disqualification of himself by himself to have anything meaningful to say about science includes disqualifying him from his own field of expertise, neurology, and also, especially. disqualifies him from having anything meaningful to say about the other scientific fields of physics and cosmology (which are obviously not his fields of expertise). First off, although Atheistic Materialists will often argue that 'some' of our perceptions of reality must be more reliable than others, (lest we die for falsely believing that a lion is a bunny rabbit), none-the-less Darwinists themselves honestly admit, “Sometimes you are more likely to survive and propagate if you believe a falsehood than if you believe the truth.”
“Sometimes you are more likely to survive and propagate if you believe a falsehood than if you believe the truth.” – Eric Baum https://larryemarshall.wordpress.com/2015/04/06/the-implosion-of-evillutionary-theory/ “Our brains were shaped for fitness, not for truth. Sometimes the truth is adaptive, but sometimes it is not.” - Steven Pinker https://evolutionnews.org/2015/03/why_evolutionar/ etc.. etc.
Moreover, although Atheistic Materialists will often argue that 'some' of our perceptions of reality must be more reliable than others, (lest we die for falsely believing that a lion is a bunny rabbit), the fact of the matter is that the Darwinist, because of his materialistic presuppositions, is actually forced to believe that ALL the perceptions that he is having of reality are illusory, (and/or 'constructed representations' as Novella himself succinctly put the situation). Donald Hoffman, a cognitive scientist, via extensive analysis of the mathematics of population genetics, has proven that, if Darwinian evolution is assumed as being true, then 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?” https://youtu.be/oYp5XuGYqqY?t=601 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.” https://www.quantamagazine.org/20160421-the-evolutionary-argument-against-reality/
Yet, although the Atheistic Materialist is forced to believe that ALL of his perceptions of reality are illusory, i.e. 'constructed representations', 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 'constructed representations' and/or illusions of reality.
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. https://www.khanacademy.org/science/high-school-biology/hs-biology-foundations/hs-biology-and-the-scientific-method/a/the-science-of-biology
As should be needless to say, since reliable observation is an indispensable part, (and/or essential presupposition), of the scientific method itself, then the Darwinian claim that ALL our perceptions of reality are illusory, and/or 'constructed representations, undermines the scientific method itself. And therefore undermines any claim that Darwinian evolution can possibly be based upon the scientific method. Fortunately for us, science itself, (real science, and not the evidence-free ‘scientism’ of Atheistic materialists), could care less if Darwinists are forced to believe that ALL their perceptions of reality are illusory. Specifically, advances in Quantum Mechanics have now experimentally proven that our observations of reality far more integral to reality, and therefore reliable of reality, than Darwinists are forced to claim via the mathematics of population genetics. As the following Wheeler Delayed Choice experiment that was conducted with atoms found, “It proves that measurement is everything. At the quantum level, reality does not exist if you are not looking at it,”
New Mind-blowing Experiment Confirms That Reality Doesn’t Exist If You Are Not Looking at It – June 3, 2015 Excerpt: Some particles, such as photons or electrons, can behave both as particles and as waves. Here comes a question of what exactly makes a photon or an electron act either as a particle or a wave. This is what Wheeler’s experiment asks: at what point does an object ‘decide’? The results of the Australian scientists’ experiment, which were published in the journal Nature Physics, show that this choice is determined by the way the object is measured, which is in accordance with what quantum theory predicts. “It proves that measurement is everything. At the quantum level, reality does not exist if you are not looking at it,” said lead researcher Dr. Andrew Truscott in a press release.,,, “The atoms did not travel from A to B. It was only when they were measured at the end of the journey that their wave-like or particle-like behavior was brought into existence,” he said. Thus, this experiment adds to the validity of the quantum theory and provides new evidence to the idea that reality doesn’t exist without an observer. https://themindunleashed.com/2015/06/new-mind-blowing-experiment-confirms-that-reality-doesnt-exist-if-you-are-not-looking-at-it.html
And as the following violation of Leggett’s inequality found, “Leggett’s inequality is violated – thus stressing the quantum-mechanical assertion that reality does not exist when we’re not observing it.”
Quantum physics says goodbye to reality – Apr 20, 2007 Excerpt: Many realizations of the thought experiment have indeed verified the violation of Bell’s inequality. These have ruled out all hidden-variables theories based on joint assumptions of realism, meaning that reality exists when we are not observing it; and locality, meaning that separated events cannot influence one another instantaneously. But a violation of Bell’s inequality does not tell specifically which assumption – realism, locality or both – is discordant with quantum mechanics. Markus Aspelmeyer, Anton Zeilinger and colleagues from the University of Vienna, however, have now shown that realism is more of a problem than locality in the quantum world. They devised an experiment that violates a different inequality proposed by physicist Anthony Leggett in 2003 that relies only on realism, and relaxes the reliance on locality. To do this, rather than taking measurements along just one plane of polarization, the Austrian team took measurements in additional, perpendicular planes to check for elliptical polarization. They found that, just as in the realizations of Bell’s thought experiment, Leggett’s inequality is violated – thus stressing the quantum-mechanical assertion that reality does not exist when we’re not observing it. “Our study shows that ‘just’ giving up the concept of locality would not be enough to obtain a more complete description of quantum mechanics,” Aspelmeyer told Physics Web. “You would also have to give up certain intuitive features of realism.” http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/news/27640
The Theistic implications of these experiments are fairly, (and pleasantly), obvious. As Scott Aaronson of MIT put it, "Look, we all have fun ridiculing the creationists,,, But if we accept the usual picture of quantum mechanics, then in a certain sense the situation is far worse: the world (as you experience it) might as well not have existed 10^-43 seconds ago!"
“Look, we all have fun ridiculing the creationists who think the world sprang into existence on October 23, 4004 BC at 9AM (presumably Babylonian time), with the fossils already in the ground, light from distant stars heading toward us, etc. But if we accept the usual picture of quantum mechanics, then in a certain sense the situation is far worse: the world (as you experience it) might as well not have existed 10^-43 seconds ago!” – Scott Aaronson – MIT associate Professor quantum computation – Lecture 11: Decoherence and Hidden Variables
In short, our conscious observations, and/or perceptions, of reality are found to be far more integral to, and therefore far more reliable of, reality than is presupposed within Darwinian thought. Thus in conclusion, fortunately for us, science itself could care less if Darwinian Materialists are forced to believe that ALL of their perceptions of reality are illusions, and/or 'constructed representations'. As far as experimental science itself is concerned, the Darwinist’s materialistic belief that ALL our perceptions of reality are illusions, and/or 'constructed representations', has now been neatly, and cleanly, experimentally falsified. Quote and Verse
"If it disagrees with experiment, it’s wrong. In that simple statement is the key to science. It doesn’t make any difference how beautiful your guess is, it doesn’t matter how smart you are who made the guess, or what his name is … If it disagrees with experiment, it’s wrong. That’s all there is to it." - Richard Feynman 1 Thessalonians 5:21 Test all things; hold fast what is good.

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