Cosmology Logic and First Principles of right reason Physics

At Mind Matters News: How can the universe have arisen from nothing?

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We are asked to examine the problem logically:


Science writer Prudence Louise offers some realism on the topic:

The question of cosmic origins is a perennially popular question, but most theists think the answer has been known for thousands of years. God is the ultimate cause of the cosmos. While there’s room to disagree with that theistic conclusion, there are rational limits on the valid ways to reject it.

None of the outcomes of rejecting God are appealing. They’re the sort of explanatory gaps we reluctantly accept in the wider context of our philosophical commitments.

Prudence Louise, “Universes from Nothing?: Scientific euphemisms and equivocations” at Medium (November 21, 2021) (November 21, 2021)

Louise runs through a number of ideas that sound popular in the lunchroom but don’t stand the test of careful thought. Just for example, “one day science will answer the question of why the universe exists.” But that’s not what science does. Generally speaking, science answers “how” questions, not “why” questions. Science can tell us a lot about how things work. But to ask why things work is a matter for philosophy, not science.

Louise is not a fan of Lawrence Krauss’s 2013 book, A Universe from Nothing:

More here.


Takehome: It turns out that the claim that everything just happened to come from nothing is fraught with problems.

You may also wish to read: Why physicalism is failing as the accepted approach to science. The argument that everything in nature can be reduced to physics was killed by the philosophical Zombie, as Prudence Louise explains. Physicalism which depends on a mechanistic view of the universe, was challenged by observer-dependent quantum mechanics. Then the Zombie started walking…

51 Replies to “At Mind Matters News: How can the universe have arisen from nothing?

  1. 1
    zweston says:

    awaiting a quick non-related comment from our skeptical friends that dodges this question… or just overall topical silence.

  2. 2
    BobRyan says:

    The universe is a closed system. Nothing only creates nothing. You cannot get the universe without violating every law of physics, unless it was designed by God.

  3. 3
    Seversky says:

    Or, as the say in Yorkshire “You can’t get owt from nowt!”

  4. 4
    JVL says:

    BobRyan: You cannot get the universe without violating every law of physics, unless it was designed by God.

    Who can violate every law of physics!

  5. 5
    zweston says:

    @JVL… Well, since laws of physics can’t just create themselves… and cannot cause matter, time, and space to appear….

    I’m pretty sure a creating agent of the universe can do whatever they want, whenever they want, no? At least in principle?

  6. 6
    Pater Kimbridge says:

    Why do we assume that “nothing” is the default condition, and that it’s “something” that requires explaining? Maybe it’s just the opposite.

  7. 7
    ET says:

    Pater, materialism is a mechanistic position. That means it would need a mechanism to explain the starting something.

  8. 8
    Seversky says:

    If there has always been something doesn’t that mean there is no need for a creator?

  9. 9
    Lieutenant Commander Data says:

    Do we realize that our brain can’t even conceive nothingness? Nothingness is not (as we imagine)an empty space is the absence of the empty space “filled” by non-space :))

  10. 10
    jerry says:

    If there has always been something doesn’t that mean there is no need for a creator?

    Greatest mystery of all, why does anything exist?

    Aside: an infinite universe produces an infinite number of possibilities including an infinite number of entities with infinite intelligence. So while the infinite universe precludes the need for a creator it absolutely implies an infinite number of god like creatures.

    If you disagree, then explain why this is not possible.

  11. 11
    JVL says:

    Zweston: I’m pretty sure a creating agent of the universe can do whatever they want, whenever they want, no? At least in principle?

    Why would such a being create limiting laws that it is not subject to? What would be the point? Just to create a kind of ‘doll house’ to play with?

  12. 12
    doubter says:

    This reminds me of a related conundrum which arises in a thought experiment. This is with time travel: say a time machine is invented allowing travel into the past. The inventor wants to change the past presumably for the better by introducing Edison’s light bulb invention much earlier in history. Plus introducing Korngold’s best movie orchestral score for music lovers, say The Sea Hawk. So he attempts to do so.

    If he is successful he has changed the world such that it contains an invention that required Edison to spend years of painstaking experiment to originate, and a musical score that required a great movie composer years to learn enough and creatively originate the music, with these creations existing without an inventor and without a composer.

    Since that is impossible, such a time machine must be impossible. By the same token, a Universe packed with built-in very highly ordered designed information, without a creator is impossible.

  13. 13
    ET says:

    seversky:

    If there has always been something doesn’t that mean there is no need for a creator?

    It is what has happened and is happening to that “something” that makes the case for an intelligent designer.

  14. 14
    ET says:

    JVL:

    Why would such a being create limiting laws that it is not subject to? What would be the point? Just to create a kind of ‘doll house’ to play with?

    You “argue” like an infant.

    1- The PHYSICAL WORLD requires those laws. Without laws there couldn’t be a physical world
    2- The point would be to intelligently design a DYNAMIC PHYSICAL place that is self-sustaining. Those laws are what allows the universe to be both dynamic and self-sustaining.

  15. 15
    Lieutenant Commander Data says:

    You “argue” like an infant.

    Wrong. Like a spoiled infant.

  16. 16
    zweston says:

    When we put God on trial, all kinds of nonsense comes out.

    JVL, your critique is “that’s not how I would do it” or “that doesn’t make sense to me”

    -SO?

    —and just like that we are back to debating theology, completely dodging that the universe had a beginning, and it needed a cause, and materialists don’t want to engage with it.

    It’s amazing that the “stick with the science” crowd is usually the one that quickly digresses into their grievances with the almighty.

  17. 17
    JVL says:

    ET: 1- The PHYSICAL WORLD requires those laws. Without laws there couldn’t be a physical world

    Why should there be a physical world at all? What is the point?

    2- The point would be to intelligently design a DYNAMIC PHYSICAL place that is self-sustaining. Those laws are what allows the universe to be both dynamic and self-sustaining.

    Again, why? What is the point? Is it some kind of contest then?

    Look, I still don’t see the point of creating a limited physical reality for a being that is not subject to the limiting laws they create. It reminds me of a model train person who sets up a limited but careful mechanistic scene.

    But hey, if I’ve got that wrong then please, by all means, set me straight.

  18. 18
    JVL says:

    Zweston: JVL, your critique is “that’s not how I would do it” or “that doesn’t make sense to me”

    Not at all. I’m just asking why would some creative being create a limited reality that they existed outside of and were not subject to the laws they imposed on that reality.

    —and just like that we are back to debating theology, completely dodging that the universe had a beginning, and it needed a cause, and materialists don’t want to engage with it.

    And what was the cause then? Why start the whole thing in the first place?

    It’s amazing that the “stick with the science” crowd is usually the one that quickly digresses into their grievances with the almighty.

    I’m just asking: what was the point of coming up with a scenario that the creating agency didn’t exist in exactly and wasn’t subject to the limitations of the scenario?

    If it went down like you say then the creator must have had a purpose. You think there was a purpose. What was that purpose?

  19. 19
    ET says:

    JVL:

    Why should there be a physical world at all? What is the point?

    You would have to ask the designer. The evidence says this is a universe designed for scientific discovery. Perhaps an ethereal being wanted to know if physical beings could attain enlightenment.

    But thank you for once again showing there are open research questions that ID forces us to ask

  20. 20
    EDTA says:

    JVL,
    While we can certainly ask why the universe was created, if the creator is superior to us intellectually and in other ways, we have to realize that we may not know the answer. We might not even be capable of comprehending the true reason(s). We might be able to understand a watered-down version, but we will have trouble even being certain that we have even partially grasped it. This is the reality of being the inferior beings in the matter. Nothing abnormal or unexpected about this situation from my perspective.

  21. 21
    bornagain77 says:

    EDTA,

    As to:

    While we can certainly ask why the universe was created, if the creator is superior to us intellectually and in other ways, we have to realize that we may not know the answer. We might not even be capable of comprehending the true reason(s). We might be able to understand a watered-down version, but we will have trouble even being certain that we have even partially grasped it. This is the reality of being the inferior beings in the matter. Nothing abnormal or unexpected about this situation from my perspective.

    Well, although I certainly agree with the sentiment, (although we are made in the image of God), that God’s ways are far higher than our ways,,,

    Isaiah 55:9
    As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

    Yet even though God’s ways are far higher than our ways, never-the-less, Christianity, besides laying claim to the founding of modern science itself, can also lay claim to providing the correct teleological purpose for the universe in that Christ’s resurrection from the dead, via evidence gleaned from the Shroud of Turin, provides a coherent, and very plausible, solution for the much sought after ‘Theory of Everything”,

    Jesus Christ as the correct “Theory of Everything” – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vpn2Vu8–eE

    Verse

    Colossians 1:15-20
    The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

    Of supplemental note:

    The problem of pain/suffering, and how we react to tragedy in our lives, was almost central to Dr. Neal’s following talk on her near death experience.

    At around the 15:00 – 17:00 minute mark of the following video, Dr. Neal spoke about how she, when in the presence of God, and from being able to see things from that much higher “omniscient’ perspective of God, finally understood why God allows evil and suffering in the world (i.e. she finally ‘got it’) and understood how our limited perspective on ‘evil’ severely clouds our judgment and reactions to tragedies in our lives. (The take home message from her talk is to trust in God no matter what happens in your life). Of note, she had to deal with the tragedy of losing her eldest son.

    Dr. Mary Neal’s Near-Death Experience – (Life review portion of her NDE starts around the 13:00 minute mark) – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=63wY2fylJD0

    Inspirational quote:, “He (God) is right here with each of us right now, seeing what we see, suffering what we suffer… and hoping desperately that we will keep our hope and faith in Him. Because that hope and faith will be triumphant.”

    The Easter Question – Eben Alexander, M.D. – Harvard – March 2013
    Excerpt: More than ever since my near death experience, I consider myself a Christian -,,,
    Now, I can tell you that if someone had asked me, in the days before my NDE, what I thought of this (Easter) story, I would have said that it was lovely. But it remained just that — a story. To say that the physical body of a man who had been brutally tortured and killed could simply get up and return to the world a few days later is to contradict every fact we know about the universe. It wasn’t simply an unscientific idea. It was a downright anti-scientific one.
    But it is an idea that I now believe. Not in a lip-service way. Not in a dress-up-it’s-Easter kind of way. I believe it with all my heart, and all my soul.,,
    We are, really and truly, made in God’s image. But most of the time we are sadly unaware of this fact. We are unconscious both of our intimate kinship with God, and of His constant presence with us. On the level of our everyday consciousness, this is a world of separation — one where people and objects move about, occasionally interacting with each other, but where essentially we are always alone.
    But this cold dead world of separate objects is an illusion. It’s not the world we actually live in.,,,
    ,,,He (God) is right here with each of us right now, seeing what we see, suffering what we suffer… and hoping desperately that we will keep our hope and faith in Him. Because that hope and faith will be triumphant.
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/.....79741.html

  22. 22
    zweston says:

    @JVL…. Are you a materialist?

    Again, you just completely dodge the OP content to ask “why?”

    You effectively just underlined your previous comments. You want to get into the theological weeds while not acknowledging there is a creator. And when I say weeds, you want a comprehensive knowledge of “why” which “science” cannot begin to answer. It must bring you comfort to say “well, I don’t like that explanation, therefore God doesn’t exist…”

    Acknowledge the creator, then we can talk theology. If your epistemology is based on your ability to comprehensively understand something to the very depth of the reality, then I’d say you had better throw out 95% of the .0000001 percent of the world’s knowledge you have attained.

  23. 23
    EDTA says:

    Thank you for your comments, BA77. I have watched Dr. Neal’s video on her NDE and found it quite fascinating. I do believe that we have some inklings of what God is trying to do, from the Bible for instance. But our detractors want the WHOLE picture, explained in full at our level, and we simply cannot expect that.

  24. 24
    William J Murray says:

    Pater said:

    Why do we assume that “nothing” is the default condition, and that it’s “something” that requires explaining? Maybe it’s just the opposite.

    Bingo.

    “Nothing” cannot exist. It’s a logical contradiction along the lines of “square circle.” Existence isn’t just the default condition, it is the necessary condition because there’s no such thing as “nothing.”

  25. 25
    JVL says:

    ET: You would have to ask the designer.

    Okay. How would I do that?

    The evidence says this is a universe designed for scientific discovery. Perhaps an ethereal being wanted to know if physical beings could attain enlightenment.

    Perhaps. It seems like a interesting guess. Makes us sound like some kind of experiment but that’s okay with me.

    But thank you for once again showing there are open research questions that ID forces us to ask

    I thought you said all questions about the designer were beyond the scope of ID. So, what area of science would entertain those kinds of questions?

  26. 26
    JVL says:

    EDTA: While we can certainly ask why the universe was created, if the creator is superior to us intellectually and in other ways, we have to realize that we may not know the answer. We might not even be capable of comprehending the true reason(s). We might be able to understand a watered-down version, but we will have trouble even being certain that we have even partially grasped it. This is the reality of being the inferior beings in the matter. Nothing abnormal or unexpected about this situation from my perspective.

    You are making a lot of assumptions, not that I disagree with them. But they are just assumptions.

    I happy just saying: we don’t know.

  27. 27
    JVL says:

    Zweston: Are you a materialist?

    What does that have to do with the question?

    You effectively just underlined your previous comments. You want to get into the theological weeds while not acknowledging there is a creator. And when I say weeds, you want a comprehensive knowledge of “why” which “science” cannot begin to answer. It must bring you comfort to say “well, I don’t like that explanation, therefore God doesn’t exist…”

    You’ve made assumptions about my beliefs and motivations which are not correct. I really am curious as to why a powerful being would create a set of limiting rules which it is not subject to. Unless it was some kind of experiment or model. But that’s just my own personal imagination limits, which I admit.

    Acknowledge the creator, then we can talk theology. If your epistemology is based on your ability to comprehensively understand something to the very depth of the reality, then I’d say you had better throw out 95% of the .0000001 percent of the world’s knowledge you have attained.

    What’s wrong with asking a hypothetical question about a hypothetical creator?

    What kind of creator were you thinking of by the way? Again, just curious.

  28. 28
    Pater Kimbridge says:

    #16 Zweston says “When we put God on trial, all kinds of nonsense comes out.”

    Yes. Yes it does.

  29. 29
    EDTA says:

    JVL @ 26,
    >You are making a lot of assumptions,…

    Hmm…I’m trying to make good inferences to arrive at these things:
    – Creator being superior to us intellectualy and otherwise: comes from fact that we can’t even understand ourselves, let alone create anything remotely as complex.
    – We might not be capable of understanding the reason(s) for our existence: follows from previous inference.
    – We might be able to understand a watered-down version of why we’re here: inferred from observation that we understand a few things, so it might be possible to water a more complex explanation down enough for it to fit into our heads.

    And of course all the above rests on the design inference to a creator.

  30. 30
    ET says:

    How do we ask the designers of Stonehenge why they built it?

    JVL:

    I thought you said all questions about the designer were beyond the scope of ID. So, what area of science would entertain those kinds of questions?

    They are beyond ID. I just said ID forces us to ask them. Then someone will try to answer them. That’s how science goes.

    As I have been telling you for years- the ONLY possible way to answer any questions about the who, how, why or when, is by studying the design and all relevant evidence. That is how it is done in archaeology. Ask your wife. That is also how it’s done in forensics.

  31. 31
    EDTA says:

    WJM @ 24,

    I’m curious why total nothingness would be in the same category as a “square circle.” It has always seemed to me that total nothingness is the only state of affairs that would require no explanation. The existence of something/anything would require explanation as to its particulars, why it took the form it did, why it has the properties it has, etc. For that reason nothingness has to be the simplest state. I realize that by itself doesn’t mean it’s not contradictory, but I don’t yet see the contradiction.

  32. 32
    Pater Kimbridge says:

    #31 EDTA says “…. I don’t yet see the contradiction”.

    Because NOTHING not only means no matter and no energy, it also means NO RULES/NO CONSTRAINTS.

    When you have no constraints, ANYTHING can happen. As soon as something happens, you then have SOMETHING rather than NOTHING. That’s why it’s a contradiction.

  33. 33
    zweston says:

    JVL continues by tripling down on his theology questions… what is your worldview?

  34. 34
    EDTA says:

    Pater @ 32,
    There wouldn’t be any constraints, and nothing to constrain. True nothingness would mean no action and no potential for action. So nothing can or will happen. Potential for action is a thing.

    No contradiction yet with total nothingness…

  35. 35
    EDTA says:

    From the sort of true nothingness I’m envisioning, nothing can come. So if someone else’s reasoning results in something coming from nothing, their conception of nothingness is not the same as mine.

  36. 36
    JVL says:

    EDTA: And of course all the above rests on the design inference to a creator.

    Yes indeed! Anyway, thanks for having a go!

  37. 37
    JVL says:

    ET: How do we ask the designers of Stonehenge why they built it?

    Unfortunately that culture left no written records. Some inferences have been made based on positioning with respect to celestial events (that sort of thing being fairly common in other cultures and being of obvious interest). The methods of construction don’t help us EXCEPT that they clearly took a lot of participation which means it must have been seen as a valuable and worthy effort. So, yeah, we’ll never know for sure.

    They are beyond ID. I just said ID forces us to ask them. Then someone will try to answer them. That’s how science goes.

    Yup, so what branch of science would try to answer those questions? Is someone already trying to answer those questions?

  38. 38
    JVL says:

    Zweston: JVL continues by tripling down on his theology questions

    Who said they were theological questions?

    what is your worldview?

    Nothing to do with the question.

  39. 39
    ET says:

    As I have been telling you for years- the ONLY possible way to answer any questions about the who, how, why or when, is by studying the design and all relevant evidence. That is how it is done in archaeology. Ask your wife. That is also how it’s done in forensics.

  40. 40
    JVL says:

    ET: As I have been telling you for years- the ONLY possible way to answer any questions about the who, how, why or when, is by studying the design and all relevant evidence. That is how it is done in archaeology. Ask your wife. That is also how it’s done in forensics.

    And what branch of science would explore those topics? One that already exists or a new one?

    And, as usual, you’re wrong about actual archaeology. You sound like you’ve read too many Erich von Daniken and Graham Hancock books.

  41. 41
    ET says:

    JVL:

    And, as usual, you’re wrong about actual archaeology.

    So you keep saying and yet you have never supported that claim. And that is very telling.

    Please tell me how archaeologists can say something about the who, how, why or when without studying the design and all relevant evidence. Or admit that you are just a desperate loser.

    And what branch of science would explore those topics?

    Profiling

  42. 42
    Querius says:

    It’s helpful to use an example of “nothing” or “non-existence” by an actual example: I prefer using . . . the EASTER BUNNY!

    The Easter Bunny has no constraints and thus is supposedly fully capable to creating the universe or even multiple universes, right?

    Lawrence Krauss would tell us that the one thing the Easter Bunny needs is quantum gravity. Then, the Easter Bunny could create space-time, mass-energy, and everything else. But how can quantum gravity exist without space-time? Can one measure either the Easter Bunny (in nano-eggs?) or quantum gravity (N/kg)?

    -Q

  43. 43
    ram says:

    “Nothing comes from nothing… nothing ever could”

    Chapter. Verse. https://youtu.be/UetJAFogqE4?t=55

    –Ram

  44. 44
    JVL says:

    ET: Please tell me how archaeologists can say something about the who, how, why or when without studying the design and all relevant evidence.

    When I’ve done so in the past you just ignore or deny my comments. So I shan’t bother. Your opinion is unfalsifiable.

    Profiling

    Interesting answer. Very interesting answer. A lot of that is psychological. I wonder if that applies to the ‘creator’ of the universe?

  45. 45
    EDTA says:

    Querius @ 42,
    Even the Easter Bunny has a name and supposedly has many characteristics (looks like a rabbit, et al). And it takes human beings to think of it before it even becomes imaginary.

    I’m describing what hypothetically could have been the case, namely that absolutely nothing existed. This Nothing has no properties, no potential, no future, no causality, etc. For any positive property you can think of, true Nothingness doesn’t have it. It is the antithesis of existence of every kind. Nothing preceded it, and nothing follows it. It’s not even eternal, because it doesn’t exist in time, because time wouldn’t exist either. Absolute nothingness.

    This is not the case of course, but it is the only state of affairs that would require no information to describe. (I have [in a sense] been describing it using information, but only in the sense of specifying what can’t be said about it. I.e., I’m describing it by contrasting it with everything of this realm, which does have properties, etc.) So from this viewpoint, absolute Nothingness is the simplest state of affairs that could have obtained.

  46. 46
    ET says:

    Please tell me how archaeologists can say something about the who, how, why or when without studying the design and all relevant evidence.

    JVL

    When I’ve done so in the past you just ignore or deny my comments.

    Liar. You have never demonstrated I was wrong about anything with respect to archaeology. You are a pathetic loser.

    You are sick and in need of help.

  47. 47
    JVL says:

    ET: Liar. You have never demonstrated I was wrong about anything with respect to archaeology.

    I can think of two times at least.

    Once I said we know who built Stonehenge and you thought I meant a particular person instead of a known group.

    Another time I asked you what is the first thing you do with a stone you think might have been used as a hand axe and you got that wrong as well.

    Do you know what a Munsell is? What is the difference between trowels preferred by American archaeologists versus those preferred by English archaeologists? What is a small piece of pottery called? What is the difference between a pebble, a stone and a rock?

  48. 48
    JVL says:

    ET:

    What is a krotovina?

    What is FCR?

    What’s in a midden?

    I know you can look all those up but the point is that anyone familiar with archaeology already knows the answers.

    There’s a difference between thinking you know because you read a couple of books and actually doing the work in the field and interpreting it.

  49. 49
    JVL says:

    Oh good, got blocked, temporarily I hope, from another thread:

    https://uncommondescent.com/evolution/flies-do-vector-math/#comment-742767

    Who is actually running this site? And why can I post to some threads but not others? What is going on?

  50. 50
    ET says:

    JVL:

    Once I said we know who built Stonehenge and you thought I meant a particular person instead of a known group.

    Who refers to a particular person.

    Another time I asked you what is the first thing you do with a stone you think might have been used as a hand axe and you got that wrong as well.

    Liar. I said you examine it for marks that would be there is it was a hand axe.

    Not one of your childish challenges even addresses what we are talking about. Obviously you have serious issues.

    Again- how can anyone say anything about the who, how, why without studying the design and all relevant evidence?

    You are one desperate ass, and it shows.

  51. 51
    ET says:

    Munsell is a color chart, used mainly for checking soil samples.

    What is the difference between trowels preferred by American archaeologists versus those preferred by English archaeologists?

    The shape

    What is a small piece of pottery called?

    Shard

    What is the difference between a pebble, a stone and a rock?

    Size, although stone and rock are interchangeable. They are all rocks.

    What is a krotovina?

    Filled in animal burrow

    What is FCR?

    Fire cracked rock

    What’s in a midden?

    Refuse

    Again, none of this has anything to do with what we are discussing. It’s as if you are proud to be an infant.

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