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Something From Nothing? August 13, 2007

Posted by Joe in agnosticism, atheism, belief, Christianity, freethought, religion, science, skepticism, theism.
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In a recent email conversation with a Christian I was annoyed by his frequent assertion that atheism implied that at the beginning of the universe something had to have come from nothing. (Perhaps I am easily annoyed.)

The crux of my response was this: We humans have no idea what rules or conditions exist “outside” the universe. It looks highly unlikely that we will ever have any information about what things might be like outside of the universe.  For this reason no one can make any reasonable claim to knowledge of what can or cannot happen or exist outside the universe.

There may be whole civilizations of “gods” out there, or there may be nothing. Most likely there is something completely undefinable and unimaginable to us.

Atheism makes no claims about what exist outside the universe other than the reasonable: “Whatever it is, it probably isn’t intelligent and all powerful.”

What we do know is that there was a big bang and there was rapid expansion of space, creation of stars, galaxies, planets and (at least on one) life. What caused the big bang, or whether or not it needed a cause will probably never be known.

Something may have come from nothing, or maybe not.

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Comments»

1. billphillips - August 14, 2007

Joe,

It sounds like we agree–at least in part. The universe could have come from a civilization of gods or some natural source outside the universe, or a million other possible explanations (but it certainly couldn’t have come from nothing). It’s just that I’ve found evidence that it’s the God of the Bible, and become convinced of that.

The question I would have for you is: Are you examining the evidence for the Bible and for Jesus’ resurrection with an open mind, or are you biased against it?

Thanks,
Bill

2. Joe - August 15, 2007

“The universe could have come from a civilization of gods or some natural source outside the universe, or a million other possible explanations (but it certainly couldn’t have come from nothing).”
Ah well, I suppose we don’t agree as much as you think we do. The universe very well come from nothing. We don’t know enough about the way things operate outside the universe to know. It is also a possibility that the universe simply always was and will be.

“It’s just that I’ve found evidence that it’s the God of the Bible, and become convinced of that.”
What possible evidence could you have of what exists outside the universe? That is a realm entirely outside our abilities to know anything about it.

“Are you examining the evidence for the Bible and for Jesus’ resurrection with an open mind, or are you biased against it?”
Present evidence and I will examine it.

3. billphillips - August 15, 2007

What I’m saying is that if something outside the universe caused the universe, then the universe didn’t come from nothing. Science predicts that the universe hasn’t always existed. It’s going to burn out eventually, and it will be useless in doing anything. Everything points to a beginning.

What would the implications be if Jesus really rose from the dead?

First of all, coming back from the dead is physically impossible. It would prove that there is some supernatural thing in existence. It would go a long way towards proving the Bible true, because Jesus’ resurrection was predicted. Jesus also predicted that He’s going to judge every man on Judgment Day. If He’s alive today, it’s safe to say that He is who He says He is, and He will judge us all.

1. We know Jesus rose from the dead, because there are about 500 witnesses of Jesus being alive after His death. We’ve sent men to the electric chair with much fewer than 500 witnesses.

2. While Jesus was being crucified and was dead, the disciples were cowering in fear of meeting the same fate. After he rose from the dead, they were out in the streets preaching that fact. These same men would spend the rest of their lives telling people they saw Jesus after he rose again, and almost all of them died early deaths for that belief. This is different from Mohammad Atta being willing to fly his plane into the WTC for what he believes. The disciples died for something they saw. They knew whether they were telling the truth or not. Mohammad Atta believed wholeheartedly in his cause, but he didn’t have firsthand knowledge of his religion.

3. We know He rose because there was an empty tomb. It was sealed with a large rock, and guarded by Roman soldiers. If the soldiers fell asleep while on duty, they would be executed.

4. If the tomb wasn’t empty, all Jesus’ enemies would have to do is drag his body out and Christianity would have been nipped in the bud.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the topic.

Bill

4. Joe - August 15, 2007

Most of your response was really entirely off topic for this post. I will respond to some of it, but do not wish to discuss it further. (I didn’t start this blog to get preached at)

“What I’m saying is that if something outside the universe caused the universe, then the universe didn’t come from nothing.”
I agree, I believe there most have been “something”. But I have no idea as to what that something would be.

“Science predicts that the universe hasn’t always existed.”
I disagree with this. According to big bang cosmology space and time as we know them came into existence at the big bang. Therefore anything “outside” the universe does not exist inside what we know as time. Therefore though our universe appears to have a beginning from in here, it may have simply existed forever out there.

“It’s going to burn out eventually, and it will be useless in doing anything. Everything points to a beginning.”
Again from the perspective we have on the inside we see a beginning and a probable end, but we do not know how things work on the “outside.”

“What would the implications be if Jesus really rose from the dead?”
I dunno. But I do know that I won’t worry about the implications unless there is some convincing evidence that it did happen.

“1. We know Jesus rose from the dead, because there are about 500 witnesses of Jesus being alive after His death. We’ve sent men to the electric chair with much fewer than 500 witnesses.”
How many “witnesses” are there that Elvis is still alive, or that aliens routinely visit the earth? I’m sorry, witnesses are not enough. It is much more likely that those 500 people were wrong than that someone rose from the dead.

“2. While Jesus was being …”
Again they could simply have been wrong. People are wrong quite often.

“3. We know He rose because there was an empty tomb.”
We do not know any such thing. We simply cannot know what did or did not happen then. The unlikelihood of someone rising from the dead far exceeds our ability to be certain of those events.

“4. If the tomb wasn’t empty, all Jesus’ enemies would have to do is drag his body out and Christianity would have been nipped in the bud.”
Again, you do not have enough information to be so sure about these things. There may or may not have been a body. If there wasn’t, it may or may not have been disposed of in some other way.

There is no evidence to convince someone who doesn’t already believe.

5. Jordan - August 15, 2007

Joe, your becoming so philosophical your starting to sound like a theist :-)
Can you prove by the scientific method that there is an “outside” to the universe?

Not sure if you care at all, but I hope you do in some small way because I consider you and Dan on some level to be my friends:
Yellowstone National Park was nice. I recommend going.
An “awesome accident of atoms in motion” you might say…of course you already know I think it is an outpouring of God’s beauty, but that’s for another time.
Being in the back country is nice, the “Grand Canyon of Yellowstone” is amazing.

6. Joe - August 16, 2007

“Joe, your becoming so philosophical your starting to sound like a theist ”
Many atheists I know are more philosophical than most theists I know.

“Can you prove by the scientific method that there is an “outside” to the universe?”
Well if you are convinced that something can’t come from nothing that should be proof enough. But no we are not able to see beyond the universe to even know if there is any there there.

I would love to visit Yellowstone, especially knowing that the “hot spot” that powers it was at one time under eastern Oregon where I used to live. Glad to hear you enjoyed it.

7. Brody - August 16, 2007

I would be very surprised if something came from nothing, and it seems that it’s a pretty common thing among atheists (perhaps you’re an exception – I can’t quite get a handle, though it’s really of little consequence) to assert that this is precisely not the case for similar reasons that you espoused (namely, that we can’t really say that the Big Bang was the beginning of everything). The idea of an infinite universe (or multiverse) is a way of sidestepping the First Cause objection without resorting to what is at face objectionable to one’s sensibilities – that is, spontaneous coming-into-being seems more like magic than anything. It all depends on your fortitude, I guess.

(By the way, thanks for the comment.)

8. Jordan - August 16, 2007

Joe,
“Well if you are convinced that something can’t come from nothing that should be proof enough.”
Are you saying that we can know things without having empirical evidence? :) Simply because I’m “convinced” of something does not make it true, you know that. It would be like saying you can know something by pure reason alone ;)

9. Joe - August 17, 2007

Jordan,
Well I’m saying that should be enough to convince for someone who is convinced. Heh. It is not enough for me. I do not know whether something can come from nothing or not.

Brody:”The idea of an infinite universe (or multiverse) is a way of sidestepping the First Cause objection without resorting to what is at face objectionable to one’s sensibilities – that is, spontaneous coming-into-being seems more like magic than anything. It all depends on your fortitude, I guess.”

Well there are only two possibilities. Either something existed forever, or something came from nothing. Right? Theists believe that god existed forever. I don’t know which is true and if the first is true, I don’t know what the thing was that existed forever.

10. Brody - August 17, 2007

You’re right about that, indeed. All I’m really saying is that most people – atheists and theists alike – are going to favor affirming the eternal existence of something rather than the spontaneous generation of something from nothingness, and someone willing to affirm the opposite must have some sort of noetic fortitude (if you will) to bite the bullet and say that, despite what we have observed (that something doesn’t come from nothing), it very well may be the case that it did in fact happen at least once at the beginning of the universe.

I will say, though, that agnosticism when it comes to origins is perfectly okay, in my opinion; there just may be some of us who, even though we recognize our epistemic limitations to this regard, have other reasons to affirm something eternal. So, unlike the previous commenter above, I don’t have any reason to question whether you’ve thought the subject through with an open mind (which most often seems to be a veiled way of saying, “You must be either too stupid or too stubborn to see the clear conclusion and believe the same way as I do”).

11. Jordan - August 17, 2007

“You must be either too stupid or too stubborn to see the clear conclusion and believe the same way as I do”).

Yep :-)
I can’t stop laughing.

Joe: Are you still an atheist?

12. Joe - August 18, 2007

Ah understood Brody. Thanks for the comments.

“Are you still an atheist?”
Of course. Is there something that should have changed my mind? I’ve been an atheist for about 16 years so I am pretty well entrenched. ;-)

13. Jordan - August 31, 2007

Okay, this is off topic but what do you think of “The Secret”? The book. I haven’t read it, only heard people talk about it. Just wanted to get your opinion.

14. Joe - September 4, 2007

I haven’t read it.

15. Christian - September 9, 2007

For this reason no one can make any reasonable claim to knowledge of what can or cannot happen or exist outside the universe.

“Whatever it is, it probably isn’t intelligent and all powerful.”

If your first premise is correct (and I believe it is) then your second premise is without support. I think you have clearly nailed the atheist dilemma on the head.

16. Joe - September 9, 2007

Ah good catch. Way to contradict myself, though in my defense I did say “probably”. ;-) I redact that statement. I cannot say what the probability of an intelligence existing out side the universe is. Thanks for pointing that out.

This is not a dilemma however. It is still the theist that claims specific and detailed knowledge about how the universe began and what the characteristics are of a being that exists outside of it. The atheist is humble enough to admit that they do not know and therefore have no reason to believe in god.

Thanks for the comment. It is not a rational thought process that led me to that statement. I cannot rationally make any suppositions about what may or may not exist outside the universe, there may be one or hundreds of gods. But at present I have no good reason to believe in any of them.

17. Christian - September 9, 2007

But at present I have no good reason to believe in any of them.

You know, that is a very valid statement, one that I think is often glossed over by apologetics. Why should anyone believe in God just because others may believe it very strongly themselves? After all, just because some believe very strongly in an alternative to God is not incentive for a theist to change his mind.

I think there has to be good reason for this change. Often it comes on the heels of some type of ‘life changing’ event but just as often (if not more so) it does not.

I think these reasons are almost always internal reasons, functions of what we call the ‘heart’. This is why Paul talks of ‘circumcision of the heart’, the stripping away of those certainties that protect the heart from vulnerability. Based upon my own experience (as well as scriptures) vulnerability is the essential ingredient for heart soft enough that it will accept what the ‘hard’ head will not. :)

Too often, as Christians, we want to explain why we are right and others are wrong. It can’t be done.

18. Joe - September 9, 2007

What you describe is also what many atheists believe. The things that convince people to believe in god are typically emotional (i.e. of the heart). Often great tragedy or hard times drive people to the emotional comfort of knowing all the suffer had some larger purpose and that eventually they will have a better time in the afterlife.

For many atheism is not a cheery world view, but for some (like me) we find that knowing how lucky we are to be here and how this is the only shot we get makes it all the more important to treasure and enjoy the small things that make life enjoyable.

19. US - September 9, 2007

You did not ask him why he thought “God” was a better answer to the “first cause problem” than “yellow submarines”?

Eliezer Yudkowsky recently wrote a piece on this subject which I found somewhat illuminating:

http://www.overcomingbias.com/2007/08/semantic-stopsi.html

20. Christian - September 9, 2007

I personally am not concerned with the question of ‘first cause’. It probably won’t surprise you that I don’t find it to be relevent to my beleif system, either now or when I was an atheist.

Thrre is no way of ever effectively answering that question, so be it. What is relevent is how effectively your belief system improves upon your life.

21. Joe - September 10, 2007

Interesting I believe it is more important how accurately your belief system reflects reality.

22. Christian Beyer - September 10, 2007

The reality of a situation could be that I am paralyzed from the neck down. I completely rational and materialistic belief system (I think) would provide me with little comfort. Christianity would give me hope and even purpose to my reality.

23. Joe - September 10, 2007

I don’t really understand your example. Are you saying it would be better to be unaware of such a situation (being paralyzed)?

24. Jordan - September 10, 2007

I agree with you Joe. A worldview must conform with reality…like mine ;)

25. Christian Beyer - September 10, 2007

No, not unaware, but experiencing it in a different light. Look, if I outlive my wife, as she lies on her deathbed, we will share something that is inexplicable – hope. Now you could be cynical and suggest that some may need to delude themselves in order to experience ‘joy’ in what would by any standards be a painful experience. But I have been at the bedside of those who have died and faith does take the sting out of death. And it does take the sting out of adversity.

Where is the wrong in that?

26. Joe - September 11, 2007

I have too much respect for the truth, I suppose. I do not think it is admirable to live with a falsehood simply because it is comforting. Especially since as far as I can tell one can have a perfectly rosy outlook as an atheist, and I do not swallow the idea that anyone wants to die, no matter what they choose to believe happens afterwards.

27. Christian Beyer - September 11, 2007

No one ‘wants’ to die. But I’ve seen some people pass away with a smile on their lips. I’m sure that this is not exclusive to theists but I think it is more prevalent.

What is ‘admirable’? I wouldn’t find it very admirable to reject the felt presence of God because of a slavish devotion to tangible facts. Now if I lacked the imagination…..

I guess it’s what we mean when we talk about vision. If one cannot envision something perhaps it is not due to advanced mental acuity but merely a lack of perception.

It’s no accident that Paul talks of the ‘scales falling from his eyes’.

28. Joe - September 11, 2007

“I wouldn’t find it very admirable to reject the felt presence of God because of a slavish devotion to tangible facts.”
If I felt the presence of god I would consider that a tangible fact.

Yes admirable was a vague word. Carl Sagan put it much better than I could: “It is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.”

“It’s no accident that Paul talks of the ’scales falling from his eyes’.”
That’s funny. That’s what Darwin said.

29. Christian Beyer - September 11, 2007

Even funnier when you realize that Darwin wasn’t an atheist At the time he wrote “The Origen of Species” he was still a theist. Having attended seminary he was most surely aware of Paul’s epistles as well as the book of Acts. After his daughter’s death he gave up on Christianity, but never gave up all belief in the supernatural, claiming that he was agnostic.

As for a future life, every man must judge for himself between conflicting vague probabilities.

Looks like he left the door wide open.

30. Dave Id - September 19, 2007

Shim, God is Shim. He plugging holes. Is that it? From omnipotent to plugging holes. M Theory offers ideas as to what was going on before the big bang and it’s not god. It’s more universes. Just because our primitive cerebrums can’t conceive doesn’t mean god lurks.

31. Christian - September 19, 2007

True, just as our primitive brains can’t conceive of God doesn’t mean science fiction lurks, either.

32. Robert - September 26, 2007

The item by Joe seems to assume things that disagree with most phycisists. For example, cosmologists would say there is no “outside” the universe. Also, cosmologists tend to say that something did come from nothing – before Big Bang there was no matter, no energy, no space and no time, literally nothing. I don´t believe that, because it seems inherently impossible to me. But then, the results of the two-slit experiment also seem impossible. As does moving clocks going more slowly and the fact that we always measure the same speed for light irrespective of our relative speed. How can gravity bend space – what´s to bend? Going back to the beginning of the Universe, that it has existed infinitely long also seems impossible, because everything would already have happened an infinite number of times. It seems to me to be impossible that it has always existed and it also seems equally impossible that it came from absolutely nothing. There are so many weird things in cosmology, that sometimes I wonder whether there isn´t some sort of metaphysical explanation.

33. Joe - September 26, 2007

I don’t understand how a “metaphysical explanation” makes any of that less confusing.

34. Robert - September 27, 2007

In response to Joe……..
Using the word “metaphysical” I meant supernatural, to explain things which do not seem open to normal processes of reasoning – bizarre illogical things about the universe which we cannot explain now and possibly never will be able to explain. For example, many/most cosmologists say that at the moment of Big Bang all the matter in the universe was concentrated in a point at infinite density. Will we ever be able to explain that? I can´t conceive of all the matter in my car being concentrated in a point, never mind the whole universe – and what is “infinite density”?
Anyway, where did this stuff at infinite density suddenly come from? Was it magic? So many questions and I don´t think we are significantly closer to answering them than we were five hundred years ago. A few months ago, I emailed a list of all the things in cosmology that to me seem bizarre and illogical to a phycisist and asked him if he understood them – how they could possibly be. He replied that no-one understands these things – we just have to accept that they are so. This seemed a little unsatisfactory from a science that tells us that we are close to explaining everything.

35. Joe - September 27, 2007

I don’t know where you got the idea that science is close to explaining everything. I think you would be hard pressed to find a modern scientist that would say so.

I agree that there are many things about cosmology and modern physics in general that are hard to understand. I agree that we do not and may not ever understand how what eventually became the universe came to be.

What I asked was how the “supernatural” can be used to explain or help to understand anything. Can you explain that to me?

(I put supernatural in quotes because I’m really not sure what it means)

36. Robert - September 27, 2007

“The supernatural (Latin:super- “exceeding”+nature) comprises forces and phenomena that cannot be perceived by natural or empirical senses, and whose understanding may be said to lie with religious, magical, or otherwise mysterious explanation —yet remains firmly outside of the realm of science. …
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supernatural”

This is a better definition than I could have given.

I did not say that science is close to explaining everything (why there is a universe and how it works) – quite the opposite, in fact. However, one scientist who has claimed it is Stephen Hawking.
I don´t believe in a creator, but I have a lot more doubts than I did in the past. If a creator were to exist, he/she/it would be “supernatural” and then there would be no problems at all with explaining all the things which we will probably not otherwise ever be able to explain. When applied to what such a creator can and cannot do, all the rules of cause and effect and of logic cease to apply. Such a creator would be supernatural to us, even though he/etc. might consider all the things they do pretty mundane.
Of course, other questions arise – why did the creator bother to make the universe, what´s it for and can it possibly have any purpose at all, where did the creator come from etc…………I think it is possible to make strong arguments for the existence of a creator, even though I don´t ultimately believe them myself – what is beyond any sort of reason is organised religion.

37. Robert - September 30, 2007

Joe:

Are you off the air now?

I´ve just re-read your opening post, from a long time ago, and it seems to lack some clarity. For example, the Christian you refer to was being quite reasonable in suggesting that athiesm implies that the universe came from nothing. The universe is just that, the Universe – there is nothing “outside” it, at least according to most cosmologists. Also, it had a beginning, according also to most cosmologists and also according to reasoning that is pretty clear even to non-scientists. If it had a beginning, either you must believe that it came about because of some creative entity (note that I´m not saying “God”) or it came out of nothing all by itself. In fact, in both cases it came from nothing.

Regarding your second paragraph and to repeat, there is no “outside” the universe, although there could be other universes of which we can have no knowedge unless some of the way-out theories regarding worm holes turn out to be correct.

On what evidence do you base your statement that “atheism makes no claims about what exists outside the universe other than the reasonable (!!!!!)): whatever it is, it probably isn´t intelligent and all powerful”. Forgetting for the moment that there probably isn´t an “outside the universe”, if there were to be – as you seem to maintain against most current thinking – how do you know that it would not be intelligent? As for “all powerful”, well it´s certainly pretty powerful by most standards if it could make a universe. Or are you saying that whatever exists outside the universe has nothing to do with the existence of the universe. Could be, but in that case it would be fairly irrelevant.

Actually, it looks as though the universe had to come from nothing and there must have been a cause for this. We don´t know what that cause is and maybe we never will – but I find the two main possibilties put forward equally unconvincing. A fluctuation in the nothing, as Stephen Hawking (I think) suggests or a Creator.

38. Joe - October 1, 2007

“Are you off the air now?”
No I am just absent from time to time. Sorry for not replying sooner.

“I´ve just re-read your opening post, from a long time ago, and it seems to lack some clarity.”
That’s not too surprising. I tend to write when I am the most moved to, which does not always lend itself to clarity of thought.

“For example, the Christian you refer to was being quite reasonable in suggesting that athiesm implies that the universe came from nothing. The universe is just that, the Universe – there is nothing “outside” it, at least according to most cosmologists.”
I don’t believe that cosmologists can make that judgment. They have no way of seeing beyond the big bang event. There is no way to peer through it, there may never be a way to peer through it. There may be nothing, there may be something. The atheist position doesn’t presume either way.

“Also, it had a beginning, according also to most cosmologists and also according to reasoning that is pretty clear even to non-scientists. If it had a beginning, either you must believe that it came about because of some creative entity (note that I´m not saying “God”) or it came out of nothing all by itself. ”
That is a false dichotomy that I was trying to deny. There are a virtually infinite array of possible causes. The only thing we know about what existed is that it had to create the proper conditions to create our universe. Whether it was something or nothing I don’t think we can say.

“Regarding your second paragraph and to repeat, there is no “outside” the universe, although there could be other universes of which we can have no knowedge unless some of the way-out theories regarding worm holes turn out to be correct.”
I disagree. We have no way of knowing or detecting anything outside our universe. Therefor we can not know what is or is not there.

“On what evidence do you base your statement that “atheism makes no claims about what exists outside the universe other than the reasonable (!!!!!)): whatever it is, it probably isn´t intelligent and all powerful”.”
Well I would clarify that the possibility of it being intelligent is just as unlikely as any specific possibility. None of which we have any evidence to support or contradict. So I will back off from the last part of that statement. But I maintain that: “atheism makes no claims about what exists outside the universe”

“Actually, it looks as though the universe had to come from nothing and there must have been a cause for this.”
If the universe came from nothing I don’t see how there could possibly have been a cause. How can nothingness cause something?

“We don´t know what that cause is and maybe we never will – but I find the two main possibilties put forward equally unconvincing. A fluctuation in the nothing, as Stephen Hawking (I think) suggests or a Creator.”
Or a “fluctuation” in something. I don’t think we can reasonably say there is nothing. We simply can’t know either way.

39. robert - October 12, 2007

Joe:

Sorry you didn´t like my post, with references to my friend Gumble.
However, I sent it for a purpose. The atom is weird and I think the weirdness of the minute may be connected somehow with the weirdness of the immense. I used to be a convinced believer in the non-existence of a creator, but now that I´ve come back to interest in the cosmos, I have doubts. There are so many things that seem inexplicable logically – like “magic”. Moving clocks keeping different time, the absolute speed of light, elementary particles changing their behaviour if we look at them, “infinite density” at the moment of BB., something coming from nothing (either this universe or what it came from, unless one or the other has always existed, in which case a whole new set of questions arise.) How space can bend and what exactly is “space-time”, other than a mathematical concept? Atoms over 99% empty space? Instantaneous action at a distance when particles that had been together are separated. What is human (and non-human) consciousness and how did it arise?

Were there to be no “creator”, with all the quirks that such an entity might have, then I would expect that subsequent to BB the universe would work in a fairly humdrum and boring way. No “magic”. Do this and this happens – mix these two things and voila – heat this up and bingo. But it´s not like that at all and the watch in the jungle argument seems much stronger to me now than it did in the past.

40. Don Hudson - December 14, 2007

I was raised in the belief that Genesis 1:1 was fact and you were going to burn in hell if you didn’t believe that.
I am a man of science and learning. We know that indeed there was a point of singularity 13 billion years ago, give or take a few million years. We know that something happened and there was in fact a big bang. In the ensuing chaos there was only a hot soup of plasma. Hydrogen atoms formed along with a scattering of helium atoms, which gave way to the Universe. Heat and gravity did a nice job.
All that said, I will go back to the point of singularity(entropy). The first law of thermodynamics says that you can’t get something from nothing(matter/energy can neither be created or destroyed. The second law is the gateway that Dr. Stephen Hawking used to say that indeed something could have come from nothing. Law number two was interpreted to say that even in an apparent perfect vacuum there exists the tiniest of black holes from which a quantum foam may suddenly appear and exist for a very short period of time. The lifespan of the soup is dependent on how much energy it can “borrow”. This quantum foam suddenly disappears as if it never existed. Nothing has changed except the Universe has lost the borrowed energy. But, Mr. Hawking said that perhaps this was the mechanics that allowed the seed that was able to emerge.
I suppose the only thing I really have a problem with is, where did the teeny-tiny black hole come from? What was the origin of the quantum foam(soup)? It was(is) matter.
I believe in God and science, but with a great emphasis on science. Whether inside or outside the boundaries of the Universe, there should be only a perfect vacuum and nothing else. I would like to see the law or laws that predict something other than that. Mr. Einstein was clever enough to predict that time indeed did have a beginning in his theory of relativity. The Universe will fizzle when the last hydrogen atom has been burned. Time will end for this Universe.
Whether there is a God or not, faith does give one hope.
My take! Something started something that resulted in all that we are.

41. Joe - January 11, 2008

“Whether inside or outside the boundaries of the Universe, there should be only a perfect vacuum and nothing else.”
How can you say what there should and should not be? Even a perfect vacuum must occupy space. Which we know is not really nothing, correct?

“Something started something that resulted in all that we are.”
Certainly something started something, but I don’t see any need to posit that any of the somethings had an intelligence or personality.

“Whether there is a God or not, faith does give one hope.”
Gives hope in what? You would rather be wrong and hopeful?

42. robert - January 12, 2008

There was nothing, nothing at all – no space, nor time nor matter, nor energy – then, suddenly there was a universe. Science is no closer to explaining this now than it was 500 years ago and, despite the occasional talk of a “fluctuation in the nothing”, it probably will not be able to explain it before the last proton in the universe evaporates away and that´s some time away. In this situation, it would be totally irrational to rule out a creator, who put together a universe that is full of other inexplicable things apart from its own beginning. I find it a lot easier to believe in a creator than in a fluctuation in the nothing which led to an amazingly complex universe.

43. Joe - January 12, 2008

“There was nothing, nothing at all – no space, nor time nor matter, nor energy ”

Neither you, nor I, nor any astronomer know this to be true.

44. robert - January 13, 2008

There are many things in science that are not known, but are just theories. Evolution and Relativity spring to mind, together with most of the ideas about sub-atomic particles. This is what makes it possible to argue about them and life would be duller without that. The pre-Big Bang nothingness is just another theory, but it is one held by a large number of cosmologists. I don´t think it makes much difference to the argument. If pre-BB there was space, then BB was not the beginning of the universe, though how totally empty space could give rise to a fluctuation (in what?) that created a universe is also open to debate. However – when and how did the space start? There are some pretty convincing reasons for supposing it cannot have been eternal, so all we would do is move the argument back a step. There was the most absolute nothing – then there was space. Now how on earth did that happen?

45. Joe - January 13, 2008

“If pre-BB there was space, then BB was not the beginning of the universe”
Exactly. Obviously there are only two alternatives.

1. Something existed forever.
2. Something came from nothing.

Neither require god.

46. robert - January 13, 2008

I am interested to read your assertion that neither of the two possibilities you mention requires a creator. Please inform me, then, how something came from nothing. There are many scientists who will be interested in the answer as well. If you´re going to tell me that you don´t know, which will only put you alongside practically everyone else who thinks about it, including me, then how can you assert that a creator is not needed? You can only make that assertion once you know how it could have happened. Perhaps you had better settle for the fluctuation in the nothing, otherwise it can seem like a refusal to consider alternatives.

47. Joe - January 14, 2008

I’ll give you a hint. A creator is something. The creator scenario is a version of number 1.

Allow to reiterate that I am NOT saying that a creator is impossible, merely not necessary.

48. robert - January 14, 2008

Exactly – I understood you the first time. A creator is not necessary, you say, therefore you know of a viable alternative for how the universe came into being. If this is not the case, then it should be
“a creator may not be necessary if at some point in the future a reasonable alternative is discovered”. Only that would be rather trite.

On a less important point, “for ever” in the creator scenario doesn´t mean eternal in the conventional sense of the word. I think people that believe in that would say that the creator is outside time. Rather as many cosmologists say there was no before-BB, because time did not exist.

49. Joe - January 14, 2008

Yes, we have been using the word before to refer to what would better called “outside” the BB. I agree with you there. Time (as we know it) exists only “inside” the BB. (Space was too, so inside and outside aren’t the best terms either.) But we make due within the limits of our language.

In regards to the first item. This is not what I am saying: “a creator may not be necessary if at some point in the future a reasonable alternative is discovered”

This is what I am saying: “A creator is not necessary to explain the existence of the universe if the creator hypothesis could be replaced with a hypothetical natural process without changing the universe.” So in order to demonstrate the existence of a creator you have to find a property of the universe that would be different depending on whether there was or was not an intelligent creator.

Since I believe the above task would be essentially impossible, it seem clear that anything an intelligent creator could do to make the universe could also occur as the result of a natural process. Therefor there is no reason to posit that whatever caused the universe to happen (assuming something did) had any of the qualities commonly associated with a god or other creator.


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