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On pulling a cosmos out of a non-existent hat . . .

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This morning, CH has by implication raised the issue that has been hotly debated recently: getting a cosmos out of “nothing.”

I thought it would be helpful to headline my comment:


>>  . . . “Something from nothing” is always problematic.

Now, I know I know, here is Ethan Siegel of Science Blogs in partnership with Nat Geog, inadvertently illustrating the problem:

It’s often said that you can’t get something from nothing. And while this may be true for most practical applications of your life, it isn’t true for our physical Universe.

And I don’t just mean some tiny part of it; I mean all of it. When you take a look at the Universe out there, whether you’re looking at the wonders of this world or all that we can see for billions of light years, it’s hard not to wonder — at some point — where it all came from.

And so we try to answer it scientifically. In order to do that, we want to start with a scientific definition of nothing. In our nearby Universe, nothing is hard to come by. We are surrounded by matter, radiation, and energy everywhere we look. Even if we blocked it all out — creating a perfect, cold, isolated vacuum — we still wouldn’t have nothing.

We would still exist in curved spacetime. The very presence of nearby objects with mass or energy distorts the very fabric of the Universe, meaning that if we want to truly achieve a state of physical nothingness, we cannot have anything in our Universe at all.

Physically, that ideal case would be true nothingness. No matter, no radiation, no energy, no spatial curvature. We can imagine existing in completely empty, void space, infinitely far away from the nearest star, galaxy, atom or photon. The spacetime around us, rather than having curvature to it, would appear as completely flat . . . .

The only physical freedom that such nothingness could have is the freedom to expand or contract, depending on the nature of this nothingness. Recently, Edward Feser picked on me — among others such as Hawking, but me in particular — for using this scientific definition of nothing. (Which yes, I’m fully aware is not the same as philosophical nothingness, which I explicitly stated in the fourth sentence of the post Feser criticizes.)

Yet it is a form of this very nothingness that I have just imagined with you that — to the best of our scientific knowledge — the entire Universe is born from, and that it will return to in the distant future.

Here’s how.

You removed all the matter, energy, and sources of curvature from your Universe. You are left with empty spacetime. On large scales — where “large” means larger than the size of a subatomic particle like a proton — spacetime indeed looks like that flat grid we referred to earlier. But if you start looking at ever smaller scales, this picture breaks down.

On the tiniest physical scales — the Planck scale — spacetime isn’t flat at all. Empty space itself vibrates and curves, and there is a fundamental uncertainty in the energy content — at any given time — of nothingness . . .

See the inadvertent switcheroo?

A space-time continuum, at whatever scale, is plainly not genuinely nothing.

{It’s worth adding a picture and a video May 13, HT CR:


embedded by Embedded Video

YouTube Direkt

But by imagining that — by virtue of wearing the lab coat — one can redefine something as nothing and add an adjectival prefix: physical, one has nothing, one then thinks one can pull a cosmos out of the hat, as if by magic.

Not so.

In the relevant sense, nothing is non-being: no matter, energy, space, time, information, mind, ideas, etc. Therefore, no properties or capacities. An empty blackboard, write a zero, then erase it then erase the board and the space in which the board is. (That is the error in the above.)

Nothingness, classically, is what rocks dream of — as, rocks do not dream.

Nothing, then, cannot be a credible causal matrix from which something comes.

That is, if you appeal to a speculative high-energy quantum vacuum in which there are nano-scale fluctuations, that is not nothing. If you appeal to the forces summed up by laws of gravitation etc, that is not nothing.

Space is not nothing.

A vacuum is not nothing.

Nothing is what rocks dream of.

It is therefore a reasonable first premise of scientific thought, that nothing — non-being — is not a credible appeal as a causal root of being.

So, we can safely say that if something now is, a cosmos with us in it, something always was, with capacities that can credibly account for a cosmos with us in it.

Is it some form of matter-energy in space-time, as an eternal entity? That was what was once thought via what was called the Steady State cosmological model.

It collapsed.

We are stuck with a cosmos that appears strongly to have had a beginning 10 – 20 BYA.

That which begins, is contingent, there is some enabling factor that once set allows emergence.

So, there is something beyond our observed cosmos.

Oscillating models, inflationary bubbles, etc etc all point to that.

The issue is, that at that point we are beyond empirical observation, and we have crossed over into philosophy, unannounced and perhaps unrecognised. Which, means that we have no right to exclude any serious alternative, including that it is not merely something beyond, but at root — even through a multiverse — someONE.

Multiply that by a cosmos that appears fine tuned for C-chemistry, aqueous medium, gated metabolising automaton, molecular nanotech, self replicating, code using cell based life, and we have some relevant empirical facts that point to contrivance.

Not of some small thing, but of a whole universe.

No wonder, Sir Fred Hoyle went on record:

Once we see that life is cosmic it is sensible to suppose that intelligence is cosmic. Now problems of order, such as the sequences of amino acids in the chains which constitute the enzymes and other proteins, are precisely the problems that become easy once a directed intelligence enters the picture, as was recognised long ago by James Clerk Maxwell in his invention of what is known in physics as the Maxwell demon. The difference between an intelligent ordering, whether of words, fruit boxes, amino acids, or the Rubik cube, and merely random shufflings can be fantastically large, even as large as a number that would fill the whole volume of Shakespeare’s plays with its zeros. So if one proceeds directly and straightforwardly in this matter, without being deflected by a fear of incurring the wrath of scientific opinion, one arrives at the conclusion that biomaterials with their amazing measure or order must be the outcome of intelligent design. No other possibility I have been able to think of in pondering this issue over quite a long time seems to me to have anything like as high a possibility of being true.” [[Evolution from Space (The Omni Lecture[ –> Jan 12th 1982]), Enslow Publishers, 1982, pg. 28.]

From 1953 onward, Willy Fowler and I have always been intrigued by the remarkable relation of the 7.65 MeV energy level in the nucleus of 12 C to the 7.12 MeV level in 16 O. If you wanted to produce carbon and oxygen in roughly equal quantities by stellar nucleosynthesis, these are the two levels you would have to fix, and your fixing would have to be just where these levels are actually found to be. Another put-up job? . . . I am inclined to think so. A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super intellect has “monkeyed” with the physics as well as the chemistry and biology, and there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. [F. Hoyle, Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics, 20 (1982): 16]

The big problem in biology, as I see it, is to understand the origin of the information carried by the explicit structures of biomolecules. The issue isn’t so much the rather crude fact that a protein consists of a chain of amino acids linked together in a certain way, but that the explicit ordering of the amino acids endows the chain with remarkable properties, which other orderings wouldn’t give. The case of the enzymes is well known . . . If amino acids were linked at random, there would be a vast number of arrange-ments that would be useless in serving the pur-poses of a living cell. When you consider that a typical enzyme has a chain of perhaps 200 links and that there are 20 possibilities for each link,it’s easy to see that the number of useless arrangements is enormous, more than the number of atoms in all the galaxies visible in the largest telescopes. This is for one enzyme, and there are upwards of 2000 of them, mainly serving very different purposes. So how did the situation get to where we find it to be? This is, as I see it, the biological problem – the information problem . . . .

I was constantly plagued by the thought that the number of ways in which even a single enzyme could be wrongly constructed was greater than the number of all the atoms in the universe. So try as I would, I couldn’t convince myself that even the whole universe would be sufficient to find life by random processes – by what are called the blind forces of nature . . . . By far the simplest way to arrive at the correct sequences of amino acids in the enzymes would be by thought, not by random processes . . . .

Now imagine yourself as a superintellect working through possibilities in polymer chemistry. Would you not be astonished that polymers based on the carbon atom turned out in your calculations to have the remarkable properties of the enzymes and other biomolecules? Would you not be bowled over in surprise to find that a living cell was a feasible construct? Would you not say to yourself, in whatever language supercalculating intellects use: Some supercalculating intellect must have designed the properties of the carbon atom, otherwise the chance of my finding such an atom through the blind forces of nature would be utterly minuscule. Of course you would, and if you were a sensible superintellect you would conclude that the carbon atom is a fix . . . .

I do not believe that any physicist who examined the evidence could fail to draw the inference that the laws of nuclear physics have been deliberately designed with regard to the consequences they produce within stars. [[“The Universe: Past and Present Reflections.” Engineering and Science, November, 1981. pp. 8–12]

It is time for us to rethink.

PS: Feser’s comment on the concepts restated in the clip from Segal.>>


So, everything from nothing morphs into effectively rebranding a quantum vacuum as “nothing” and allowing it to bubble and froth up our cosmos.

Is such truly nothing?

And, is that something genuinely debatable?

What about what happens if we rebrand something as nothing? Is that akin to asking how many legs a sheep has if we rebrand the tail a leg? Or, was Lincoln right to point out that relabelling like that has not addressed the reality of what makes tails and legs inherently different? END

PS, Jan 10 2014: This came up again, and I have provided clips from Feser and Albert, here on:

EXHB A, Feser: >> 404kairosfocus

F/N: Feser nailing the key point, on a Krauss interview with Australian TV. I add a parenthesis or emphasis or two in the Krauss clip within the clip:

about 27 minutes in, where a questioner asks Krauss to explain how the universe could arise from nothing. Krauss answers:

[E]mpty space [–> oopsie!!], which for many people is a good first example of nothing, is actually unstable. Quantum mechanics will allow particles to suddenly pop out of nothing and it doesn’t violate any laws of physics. Just the known laws of quantum mechanics and relativity can produce 400 billion galaxies each containing 100 billion stars [–> reification, mere laws can have no causal force in themselves . . . ] and then beyond that it turns out when you apply quantum mechanics to gravity, space itself can arise from nothing, as can time. [–> reification on steroids; contrast, In the beginning was the LOGOS, and the concept that same upholds all things by the word of his power, i.e. words, decrees, laws only take force from who stands behind them . . . as in, K has inadvertently given away the game: In the beginning . . . God said . . . ] It seems impossible but it’s completely possible and what is amazing to me is to be asked what would be the characteristics of a universe that came from nothing by laws of physics. It would be precisely the characteristics of the universe we measure.

This is, of course, a summary of the argument of Krauss’s book. And the problem with it, as everybody on the planet knows except for Krauss himself and the very hackiest of his fellow New Atheist hacks, is that empty space governed by quantum mechanics (or any other laws of physics, or even just the laws of physics by themselves) is not nothing, and not even an “example” of nothing (whatever an “example of nothing” means), but something. And it remains something rather than nothing even if it is a “good first approximation” to nothing (which is what Krauss presumably meant by “good first example”). When people ask how something could arise from nothing, they don’t mean “How could something arise from almost nothing?” They mean “How could something arise from nothing?” That is to say, from the absence of anything whatsoever — including the absence of space (empty or otherwise), laws of physics, or anything else. And Krauss has absolutely nothing to say about that, despite it’s being, you know, the question he was asked, and the question he pretended to be answering in his book. (Krauss has the brass later in the show to accuse a fellow panelist of a “bait and switch”!) . . .

In short, just remember, nothing, proper is non-being. Anything else standing in to claim the title is a case of not the real McCoy.


EXHB B, Albert: >>405 kairosfocus

F/N 2: David Albert (philosopher with a background in physics) in his critical review of Krauss:

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

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

Again, nothing is non-being. Anything standing in for non-being is something, not nothing.

Fallacy of equivocation, anyone?

And, onlookers, if it takes so much to hammer home a patent even trivial point in responding to the Darwinist objectors to design thought we tend to see, what does that tell us about matters where we deal with inference to best explanation regarding traces from an unobserved remote past of origins?

As in, fallacies of selective hyperskepticism, here we come.

KF  >>


28 Replies to “On pulling a cosmos out of a non-existent hat . . .

  1. 1

    The spacetime around us …

    Get your own spacetime!

  2. 2
    bornagain77 says:

    related note:

    Zeilinger Group – Photons run out of loopholes – April 15, 2013
    Excerpt: A team led by the Austrian physicist Anton Zeilinger has now carried out an experiment with photons, in which they have closed an important loophole. The researchers have thus provided the most complete experimental proof that the quantum world is in conflict with our everyday experience.,,,
    The young academics in Anton Zeilinger’s group,, have now achieved an important step towards delivering definitive experimental evidence that quantum particles can indeed do things that classical physics does not allow them to do. For their experiment, the team built one of the best sources for entangled photon pairs worldwide and employed highly efficient photon detectors designed by experts at NIST. These technological advances together with a suitable measurement protocol enabled the researchers to detect entangled photons with unprecedented efficiency. In a nutshell: “Our photons can no longer duck out of being measured,” says Zeilinger.
    This kind of tight monitoring is important as it closes an important loophole. In previous experiments on photons, there has always been the possibility that although the measured photons do violate the laws of classical physics, such non-classical behaviour would not have been observed if all photons involved in the experiment could have been measured. In the new experiment, this loophole is now closed. “Perhaps the greatest weakness of photons as a platform for quantum experiments is their vulnerability to loss – but we have just demonstrated that this weakness need not be prohibitive,” explains Marissa Giustina, lead author of the paper.

    background info:

    Physicists close two loopholes while violating local realism – November 2010
    Excerpt: The latest test in quantum mechanics provides even stronger support than before for the view that nature violates local realism and is thus in contradiction with a classical worldview.


    a photon is not a self existent entity but is always dependent on a ‘non-local’, beyond space and time, cause to explain its continued existence within space-time. i.e. God ‘sustains’ the universe!

    supplemental note:

    Quantum Foam Paper Suggests Einstein Was Right About Space-Time Being ‘Smooth’ – January 2013
    Excerpt: It appears Albert Einstein may have been right yet again.
    A team of researchers came to this conclusion after tracing the long journey three photons took through intergalactic space. The photons were blasted out by an intense explosion known as a gamma-ray burst about 7 billion light-years from Earth. They finally barreled into the detectors of NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope in May 2009, arriving just a millisecond apart.
    Their dead-heat finish strongly supports the Einsteinian view of space-time, researchers said. The wavelengths of gamma-ray burst photons are so small that they should be able to interact with the even tinier “bubbles” in the quantum theorists’ proposed space-time foam.
    If this foam indeed exists, the three protons should have been knocked around a bit during their epic voyage. In such a scenario, the chances of all three reaching the Fermi telescope at virtually the same time are very low, researchers said.
    So the new study is a strike against the foam’s existence as currently imagined,,, “If foaminess exists at all, we think it must be at a scale far smaller than the Planck length,”

    Verse and Music:

    “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”

    Rich Mullins – Creed

  3. 3
    EvilSnack says:

    Before answering the question on how something can come from nothing, should we not bother to check whether something actually did come from nothing?

    It seems much like the rest of Darwinist reasoning, and is why evolution can never be as proven as gravity. I can observe events caused by gravity, and I can bring such events into being at will. I can create situation X, which gravity turns into situation Y.

    With evolution it is different. We can only observe Y. Everything we could say about X rests to a greater or lesser degree on assumptions. Darwin, and his followers, have assumed an X that only evolution can transform in the Y we observe.

  4. 4
    Axel says:

    Our atheists friends don’t have a leg to stand on, Phil. They don’t have nuthin’…. even. Not even a legitimate double negative, swallowed up, doubtless, by some ‘random’ vacuum foam.

    Dawkins is still, doubtless, pondering the best ‘scientific’ way to describe nothing.

  5. 5
    bornagain77 says:

    As to Ethan Siegel’s comment here trying to redefine space-time and virtual photons as ‘nothing’:

    You removed all the matter, energy, and sources of curvature from your Universe. You are left with empty spacetime. On large scales — where “large” means larger than the size of a subatomic particle like a proton — spacetime indeed looks like that flat grid we referred to earlier. But if you start looking at ever smaller scales, this picture breaks down.

    On the tiniest physical scales — the Planck scale — spacetime isn’t flat at all. Empty space itself vibrates and curves, and there is a fundamental uncertainty in the energy content — at any given time — of nothingness .

    Uhh,, Einstein’s general relativity equation has now been extended to confirm not only did matter and energy have a beginning in the Big Bang, but space-time also had a beginning. i.e. The Big Bang was an absolute origin of space-time, matter-energy, and as such demands a cause which transcends space-time, matter-energy.

    “Every solution to the equations of general relativity guarantees the existence of a singular boundary for space and time in the past.”
    (Hawking, Penrose, Ellis) – 1970

    Big Bang Theory – An Overview of the main evidence
    Excerpt: Steven Hawking, George Ellis, and Roger Penrose turned their attention to the Theory of Relativity and its implications regarding our notions of time. In 1968 and 1970, they published papers in which they extended Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity to include measurements of time and space.1, 2 According to their calculations, time and space had a finite beginning that corresponded to the origin of matter and energy.”3
    Steven W. Hawking, George F.R. Ellis, “The Cosmic Black-Body Radiation and the Existence of Singularities in our Universe,” Astrophysical Journal, 152, (1968) pp. 25-36.
    Steven W. Hawking, Roger Penrose, “The Singularities of Gravitational Collapse and Cosmology,” Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, series A, 314 (1970) pp. 529-548.

    Of note:

    “When this paper was published (referring to the circa 1970 Hawking, Penrose, Ellis papers) we could only prove General Relativity’s reliability to 1% precision, today we can prove it to 15 places of decimal.”
    Hugh Ross PhD. Astrophysics – quote taken from 8:40 mark of the following link

    Of related interest, Roger Penrose exposed Stephen Hawking’s complete lack of empirical evidence to support his book ‘The Grand Design’:

    ‘What is referred to as M-theory isn’t even a theory. It’s a collection of ideas, hopes, aspirations. It’s not even a theory and I think the book is a bit misleading in that respect. It gives you the impression that here is this new theory which is going to explain everything. It is nothing of the sort. It is not even a theory and certainly has no observational (evidence),,, I think the book suffers rather more strongly than many (other books). It’s not a uncommon thing in popular descriptions of science to latch onto some idea, particularly things to do with string theory, which have absolutely no support from observations.,,, They are very far from any kind of observational (testability). Yes, they (the ideas of M-theory) are hardly science.” – Roger Penrose – former close colleague of Stephen Hawking – in critique of Hawking’s new book ‘The Grand Design’ the exact quote in the following video clip:

    Roger Penrose Debunks Stephen Hawking’s New Book ‘The Grand Design’ – video

    Cosmologist Alexander Vilenkin, of Tufts University in Boston, delivered a paper at Stephen Hawking’s 70th birthday party a paper characterized as the ‘Worst Birthday Present Ever’, a paper that went much further than Hawking, Penrose, Ellis’s original paper:

    Mathematics of Eternity Prove The Universe Must Have Had A Beginning – April 2012
    Excerpt: Cosmologists use the mathematical properties of eternity to show that although universe may last forever, it must have had a beginning.,,, They go on to show that cyclical universes and universes of eternal inflation both expand in this way. So they cannot be eternal in the past and must therefore have had a beginning. “Although inflation may be eternal in the future, it cannot be extended indefinitely to the past,” they say.
    They treat the emergent model of the universe differently, showing that although it may seem stable from a classical point of view, it is unstable from a quantum mechanical point of view. “A simple emergent universe model…cannot escape quantum collapse,” they say.
    The conclusion is inescapable. “None of these scenarios can actually be past-eternal,” say Mithani and Vilenkin.
    Since the observational evidence is that our universe is expanding, then it must also have been born in the past. A profound conclusion (albeit the same one that lead to the idea of the big bang in the first place).

    “All the evidence we have says that the universe had a beginning.” –
    Cosmologist Alexander Vilenkin of Tufts University in Boston – 2012

    And please note, Vilenkin’s 2012 paper was even more certain in its conclusion than the already devastating 2003 Borde-Guth-Vilenkin paper:

    Inflationary spacetimes are not past-complete – Borde-Guth-Vilenkin – 2003
    Excerpt: inflationary models require physics other than inflation to describe the past boundary of the inflating region of spacetime.

    God Is the Best Explanation for the Origin of the Universe – William Lane Craig – video

    “It is said that an argument is what convinces reasonable men and a proof is what it takes to convince even an unreasonable man. With the proof now in place, cosmologists can long longer hide behind the possibility of a past eternal universe. There is no escape, they have to face the problem of a cosmic beginning.” Alexander Vilenkin – Many Worlds In One – Pg. 176

    “The conclusion is that past-eternal inflation is impossible without a beginning.”
    Alexander Vilenkin – from pg. 35 ‘New Proofs for the Existence of God’ by Robert J. Spitzer (of note: A elegant thought experiment of a space traveler traveling to another galaxy, that Borde, Guth, and Vilenkin, used to illustrate the validity of the proof, is on pg. 35 of the book as well.)

    As to the ‘fundamental uncertainty in the energy content’ that Ethan Siegel referred to as ‘nothing’, the uncertainty in the energy content is far less uncertain than he imagines it to be. ‘Exotic’ virtual photons, which fleetingly pop into and out of existence, are tied directly to the anthropic principle through the 1 in 10^120 cosmological constant for ‘dark energy’ (postulated expansion of the space-time of the universe by ‘dark energy’):

    Shining new light on dark energy with galaxy clusters – December 2010
    Excerpt: “Each model for dark energy makes a prediction that you should see this many clusters, with this particular mass, this particular distance away from us,” Sehgal said. Sehgal tested these predictions by using data from the most massive galaxy clusters. The results support the standard, vacuum-energy model for dark energy.

    Yet a “‘True’ cosmological constant” is found to rule out the materialistic theories for ‘uncertain’ Dark Energy since it is far more precise than the materialistic Dark Energy models allow:

    Dark energy alternatives to Einstein are running out of room – January 9, 2013
    Excerpt: Last month, a group of European astronomers, using a massive radio telescope in Germany, made the most accurate measurement of the proton-to-electron mass ratio ever accomplished and found that there has been no change in the ratio to one part in 10 million at a time when the universe was about half its current age, around 7 billion years ago. When Thompson put this new measurement into his calculations, he found that it excluded almost all of the dark energy models using the commonly expected values or parameters.
    If the parameter space or range of values is equated to a football field, then almost the whole field is out of bounds except for a single 2-inch by 2-inch patch at one corner of the field. In fact, most of the allowed values are not even on the field. “In effect, the dark energy theories have been playing on the wrong field,” Thompson said. “The 2-inch square does contain the area that corresponds to no change in the fundamental constants, (a ‘true cosmological constant’), and that is exactly where Einstein stands.”

    Here are the verses in the Bible, which were written well over 2000 years before the discovery of the finely tuned expansion of the universe by ‘Dark Energy’, that speak of God ‘Stretching out the Heavens’; Job 9:8; Isaiah 40:22; Isaiah 44:24; Isaiah 48:13; Zechariah 12:1; Psalm 104:2; Isaiah 42:5; Isaiah 45:12; Isaiah 51:13; Jeremiah 51:15; Jeremiah 10:12. The following verse is my favorite out of the group of verses:

    Job 9:8
    He alone stretches out the heavens and treads on the waves of the sea.

  6. 6
    Barb says:

    I started looking up comments and quotes about nothingness based on this post. I found an interesting point made on a forum devoted to physics: “I think it is safe to say that absolute nothingness cannot exist in our universe because the universe, as well as “what it is in”, are both the universe. The universe is both the contents and the space-time continuum the contents are ‘in’. Anywhere that isn’t solid liquid gaseous or plasma, there are still fields and other results of energy forms existing and/or reacting within their environment. I am assuming that ‘nothingness’ cannot be made, and so, since space-time was developed along with everything else when things commenced, none of it is empty/devoid, and all of it is indeed ‘somethingness’.”

    I tend to agree with this point; there is always “something” out there, even if human technology cannot detect it yet.

  7. 7
    kairosfocus says:

    Hi Barb:

    The problem is that the space-time continuum itself is not nothing. Nothing is quite literally just that: NO + THING, i.e. non being, something like a square circle or what rocks dream of.

    AmHD may help some people realise that this is not an idiosyncrasy of suspect people like me. Though, this is at risk of a strawman dismissal. Nope, I am simply citing the AmHD to show that this is a reasonable usage:

    noth·ing (nthng)
    1. No thing; not anything: The box contained nothing. I’ve heard nothing about it.
    2. No part; no portion: Nothing remains of the old house but the cellar hole.
    3. One of no consequence, significance, or interest: The new nonsmoking policy is nothing to me.
    1. Something that has no existence.
    2. Something that has no quantitative value; zero: a score of two to nothing.
    3. One that has no substance or importance; a nonentity: “A nothing is a dreadful thing to hold onto” (Edna O’Brien).

    The whole project of trying to relabel something to be nothing, is misconceived. But, it seems that some find it very hard to grasp that point. KF

  8. 8
    Barb says:

    KF: That was the point made by the person I quoted, although he posited that the space-time continuum was part of the universe itself. I will leave that debate to the astrophysicists and philosophers.

    I’m wondering why they’re trying to relabel spacetime as nothing. Is God monkeying around with their physics again?

  9. 9
    kairosfocus says:

    Barb: I know, I was writing for the benefit of those confused by the rhetoric out there. The problem here of course is that a beginning implies a begin-ner. Or, maybe that should have a capital B. KF

  10. 10
    Eugen says:

    “The problem is that the space-time continuum itself is not nothing.”

    Thanks Kairos,

    The empty space is not really empty. Our reality needs a structured framework where different activities can happen: energy will propagate, condense, interact etc This framework is resilient, transparent and superconducting. We call this space time.

    In his book, The Lightness of Being, Frank Wilczek (Nobel prize for asymptotic freedom- physics) goes into detail about this idea of a space-time as a framework.

    As side note-interesting visualization; if we could somehow appear in an intergalactic void we would find about one hydrogen atom and a few hundred thousand photons in each cubic meter of space. The photons would mostly be leftovers of the Big Bang. They are transferring energy i.e. equalizing temperature between different regions of the universe.

  11. 11
    bornagain77 says:

    Notes: Einstein showed, in General Relativity, that time, as we understand it, is tied directly to space. i.e. 4-D space-time,,,

    Centrality of Earth Within The Expansion of The 4-Dimensional Space-Time of General Relativity – video

    ,,,Thus the expansion of space-time coincides directly with the ‘march of time’ into the future. Which is exactly why they are able to mathematically deduce an absolute beginning for both space and time for our expanding universe. Moreover, both the expansion of 4-D space-time and curvature of space-time, i.e. Gravity (General Relativity), are tied directly to entropy which is, by far, the most finely tuned of initial conditions of the universe:

    The Physics of the Small and Large: What is the Bridge Between Them? Roger Penrose
    Excerpt: “The time-asymmetry is fundamentally connected to with the Second Law of Thermodynamics: indeed, the extraordinarily special nature (to a greater precision than about 1 in 10^10^123, in terms of phase-space volume) can be identified as the “source” of the Second Law (Entropy).”

    How special was the big bang? – Roger Penrose
    Excerpt: This now tells us how precise the Creator’s aim must have been: namely to an accuracy of one part in 10^10^123.
    (from the Emperor’s New Mind, Penrose, pp 339-345 – 1989)

    Evolution is a Fact, Just Like Gravity is a Fact! UhOh! – January 2010
    Excerpt: The results of this paper suggest gravity arises as an entropic force, once space and time themselves have emerged.

    Big Rip
    Excerpt: The Big Rip is a cosmological hypothesis first published in 2003, about the ultimate fate of the universe, in which the matter of universe, from stars and galaxies to atoms and subatomic particles, are progressively torn apart by the expansion of the universe at a certain time in the future. Theoretically, the scale factor of the universe becomes infinite at a finite time in the future.

    For another thing, it is interesting to note just how foundational entropy is in its explanatory power for time:

    Shining Light on Dark Energy – October 21, 2012
    Excerpt: It (Entropy) explains time; it explains every possible action in the universe;,,
    Even gravity, Vedral argued, can be expressed as a consequence of the law of entropy. ,,,
    The principles of thermodynamics are at their roots all to do with information theory. Information theory is simply an embodiment of how we interact with the universe —,,,

    In fact, it has been noted many times that if you ran a film backwards one of the first things that would stand out to you is the reversal of entropic processes.

    Evolution is a Natural Process Running Backward – Granville Sewell – video

    Also of interest, higher dimensional mathematics had to be developed before Einstein could elucidate General Relativity (4-D space-time),,

    The Mathematics Of Higher Dimensionality – Gauss and Riemann – video

    The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences – Eugene Wigner – 1960
    Excerpt: We now have, in physics, two theories of great power and interest: the theory of quantum phenomena and the theory of relativity.,,, The two theories operate with different mathematical concepts: the four dimensional Riemann space and the infinite dimensional Hilbert space,

  12. 12
    bornagain77 says:

    And yet, contrary to the many untestable ‘folded up’, i.e. extra, dimensions of string/M-theory, both General and Special Relativity give us hard evidence for higher ‘eternal’ dimensions above this temporal dimension. It is important to note that higher dimensions are invisible to our physical 3 Dimensional sight. The reason why ‘higher dimensions’ are invisible to our 3D vision is best illustrated by ‘Flatland’:

    Dr. Quantum in Flatland – 3D in a 2D world – video

    Yet these higher invisible dimensions, again contrary to the untestable dimensions of string theory, are corroborated by Special Relativity when considering the optical effects for traveling at the speed of light. Please note the optical effect, noted at the 3:22 minute mark of the following video, when the 3-Dimensional world ‘folds and collapses’ into a tunnel shape around the direction of travel as a ‘hypothetical’ observer moves towards the ‘higher dimension’ of the speed of light:

    Approaching The Speed Of Light – Optical Effects – video

    The preceding video was made by two Australian University physics professors.,, As well, as with the scientifically verified tunnel for special relativity to a higher dimension, we also have scientific confirmation of extreme ‘tunnel curvature’, within space-time, to an eternal ‘event horizon’ at black holes;

    Space-Time of a Black hole

    As well it is important to note the now verified ‘time dilation’ of General and Special relativity:

    Albert Einstein – Special Relativity – Insight Into Eternity – ‘thought experiment’ video

    “The laws of relativity have changed timeless existence from a theological claim to a physical reality. Light, you see, is outside of time, a fact of nature proven in thousands of experiments at hundreds of universities. I don’t pretend to know how tomorrow can exist simultaneously with today and yesterday. But at the speed of light they actually and rigorously do. Time does not pass.”
    Richard Swenson – More Than Meets The Eye, Chpt. 12

    ‘There is no way to tell whether minutes, hours or years go by. Existence is the only reality and it is inseparable from the eternal now.’ – John Star – Near Death Experience Testimony

    Moreover, we have hard evidence for two very different qualities of eternity/time dilation for both special relativity and General Relativity. One ‘precisely organized’, and the other ‘totally chaotic’:

    “But why was the big bang so precisely organized, whereas the big crunch (or the singularities in black holes) would be expected to be totally chaotic? It would appear that this question can be phrased in terms of the behaviour of the WEYL part of the space-time curvature at space-time singularities. What we appear to find is that there is a constraint WEYL = 0 (or something very like this) at initial space-time singularities-but not at final singularities-and this seems to be what confines the Creator’s choice to this very tiny region of phase space.”
    Roger Penrose – How Special Was The Big Bang?

    And we have testimony from Near Death Experiences of both going up through a tunnel to a higher heavenly dimension and falling down through a tunnel to hellish eternal dimension:

    The NDE and the Tunnel – Kevin Williams’ research conclusions
    Excerpt: I started to move toward the light. The way I moved, the physics, was completely different than it is here on Earth. It was something I had never felt before and never felt since. It was a whole different sensation of motion. I obviously wasn’t walking or skipping or crawling. I was not floating. I was flowing. I was flowing toward the light. I was accelerating and I knew I was accelerating, but then again, I didn’t really feel the acceleration. I just knew I was accelerating toward the light. Again, the physics was different – the physics of motion of time, space, travel. It was completely different in that tunnel, than it is here on Earth. I came out into the light and when I came out into the light, I realized that I was in heaven.
    Barbara Springer

    A man, near the beginning of this following video, gives testimony of falling down a ‘tunnel’ in the transition stage from this world to hell:

    Hell – A Warning! – video

    Seeing as the Theistic postulations are validated by modern physics, and materialistic conjecture for many ‘folded up dimensions’ are found to be wanting for validating evidence, I think it wise to heed Jesus’ words,,,

    Matthew 10:28
    “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

    Perhaps some hardcore atheists will, once again, scoff at this evidence but,,

    “,,,as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD”
    Joshua 24:15

    Evanescence – The Other Side (Lyric Video)

  13. 13
    kairosfocus says:

    E: Good catch. I want to keep this very simple: nothing is non being, and you cannot relabel something as nothing, then hope to gain the advantage of starting from nothing. KF

  14. 14
    ellijacket says:

    I’ve always found the following intriguing:

    1. Matter can not be created or destroyed. It only changes forms.
    2. Energy can not be created or destroyed. It only changes forms.
    3. The Bible describes God as neither matter no energy but as spirit.

    We know that our universe is made of matter and energy and that the two are related E=mc^2. We also know that these things can not be created by our universe per 1. and 2. above.

    God being spirit is in a different category of “stuff” and must not be bound by those laws.

  15. 15
    DonaldM says:

    “What we have here is a failure to communicate” as the famous movie quote goes. It’s the Kalaam Cosmological Argument in a nutshell.

    1. Anything which begins to exist must have a cause.
    2. The universe began to exist.

    Ergo, the universe must have a cause.

    Premise 2, for the most part, seem unproblematic. The idea of an actual beginning to the cosmos seems more and more widely accepted among cosmologists, astrophysicists and such. Premise 1, should be rather obvious, but apparently if your a philosophical naturalist, it is a huge problem. Apparently the actual premise for the naturalist is “anything which begins to exist must have a cause, except space-time, or a vacuum, or…some energy field or other.”

    I’ve actually seen (though I can’t recall who…possibly Dawkins, but don’t hold me to that) one of the more popular atheists restate premise 1 as “anything which exists must have a cause”, leaving out the key word “begins”. I do recall Dawkins in The God Delusion trying to argue that God needs an explanation too.

    The short and long of all this is that KF is absolutely right. Science can’t just re-define “nothing” to include an actual something, which isn’t actually nothing. So all the claims that we actually can have an entire cosmos from “nothing” is hand-waving wishful speculation.

  16. 16
    Axel says:

    It’s surreal that it’s even being discussed. The proper response was the loud guffaws of the audience, during a panel discussion at one of the Oxbridge colleges, I believe – to Dawkins’ utter bewilderment – as he tried to define ‘nothing’ ‘scientifically'(!),(and not as an absence of anything).

    Then, when Dawkins asked why the mirth, the priest on the panel spelt it out. Louder laughter ensued, and Dawkins sat there looking utterly dumbfounded, as you could see there was a battle going on in his wee bonce, between his acute embarrassment and a struggle to think of a way to respond; mouth agape.

    It’s only the inevitable, final flat-lining of the materialists’ brains’, the galloping course of which evidently elicited such profound contempt from the likes of Einstein, Planck, Bohr, Pauli and Godel.

    Bohr’s arguably being the most profound contempt, for being expressed in its affably patronising way. He’s claimed as an atheist, of course, like just about every deistic and theistic, genuine luminary. But he evokes Buddhism and Taoism, I believe for a closer understanding of a world-view offering a window onto the deepest truths of physics. Their explanatory powers, however, as we know, fall short of those currently evinced by Christianity.

    Einstein is even claimed as a pantheist, when he was manifestly a panentheist, who believed absolutely in an almighty and all-knowing Spirit, which indeed he expressly revered.

  17. 17
    Chance Ratcliff says:

    On the subject of nothing, this video has some fun with Dawkins’ troubles with philosophy. Don’t miss Sir Anthony Kenny’s rundown on the difference between complexity of structure and complexity of function after the six minute mark.

    “The ‘nothing’ that Lawrence Krauss is talking about, whether or not it’s what a naive person would conceive as nothing or what a sophisticated physicist would consider to be nothing, it is going to be something much, much simpler than a creative intelligence…”

    Yes indeed, ‘nothing’ is quite parsimonious. 😉

  18. 18
    kairosfocus says:

    Nothing explains . . . gnihton. KF

  19. 19
    kairosfocus says:

    CR: Added the vid and some image clips. KF

  20. 20
    Chance Ratcliff says:

    KF, great picture addition. 🙂

  21. 21
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: Updated pic. KF

  22. 22
    bornagain77 says:

    Of note: New principle may help explain why nature is quantum – May 14, 2013
    “An information-theoretic principle implies that any discrete physical theory is classical”, Nature Communications, (2013)
    Excerpt: Corsin and Stephanie show that this principle rules out various theories of nature. They note particularly that a class of theories they call ‘discrete’ are incompatible with the principle. These theories hold that quantum particles can take up only a finite number of states, rather than choose from an infinite, continuous range of possibilities.,,,
    ,,discrete ‘state space’ has been linked to quantum gravitational theories proposing similar discreteness in spacetime, where the fabric of the universe is made up of tiny brick-like elements rather than being a smooth, continuous sheet.

  23. 23
  24. 24
    Axel says:

    I seem to recollect that you bods have routinely referred to space-time as a part of the material universe.

    DonaldM’s hilarious joke in the Darwinism/ID thread seems appropriate here, too:

    “… fact, we’ve progressed so much, we now create life from scratch.” “Really?”, replies God, “show me!” So, the scientist reaches down and scoops up a handful of dirt to begin. “Stop!”, says God, “Go get your own dirt!”

  25. 25
    kairosfocus says:

    Axel: It’s worse than that — go get your own energy-rich space-time continuum, quantum foam etc. (It is too funny that we now have the pretence that something is effectively nothing, in a context that seeks to undermine causality, where to get an effect — and to scientifically explain it — we need adequate, empirically grounded cause.) KF

  26. 26
    Axel says:

    William J Murray, @ your #1, not an historic event, I’ll concede, but the penny’s finally dropped. Well spotted!

  27. 27
    Axel says:

    ‘….where to get an effect — and to scientifically explain it — we need adequate, empirically grounded cause.’

    You couldn’t get more fundamental than that, KF. The irony of it! These guys are without shame, never mind grey cells.

  28. 28
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: Clips from Feser and Albert in reply to Krauss:

    As in something is not nothing, and the force of laws depends on who provides the backative. KF

    PS: Added to the foot of the OP, for reference. The onward exchange on “nothing” is simply incredible, it has to be seen to be believed!

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