Why is there something and not nothing ?

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Discussion by: vince78

Dear all,
 

There is a thing that I find disturbing in my atheist world view, some kind of "elephant in the room" : why is there something and not nothing ?
 

This is a topic I would like to discuss here, because I think atheist forum are the only place to have a constructive conversation about this question. In any other place, you are likely to have answers like "there is something and not nothing, therefore God", which are answers that answers nothing.
 

I think understanding the universe and life is the most important thing you can do. Not only as curiosity (even if this reason you be enough) but also because this understanding will be the root on how we decide to drive our life. I made a lot of efforts for this, I have graduate degrees in chemistry and biology and a PhD in artificial intelligence. I also read a lot about religion, until I read "the selfish gene" and realized most answers were there.

But as much as we get to understand the universe and life, the thing that keeps sliding through our fingers and to which we keep having absolutely no clue is: why there is something ? To put it shortly: we understand "how" better and better, but not "why".

Some people will certainly point out that maybe such question do not even have an answer, either because the answer is not accessible to us, or because this is not a valid question that have valid answers. I am likely to agree with them. But this does not change the fact that I have this feeling to have absolutely no clue of what is going on.
 
My questions to my fellow atheists is if they also have the feeling to have no clue, if and how this impact their life, how they deal with this and/or if they would have some interesting insight about this topic. I know, I know, a big question for a forum, but I believe this is the best place to have interesting view points.
 
Thanks in advance for your reflexions on this topic,

Vincent

ps: I am not an hidden theist messing up with you. I certainly do not want to bring this topic to the angle "science explains how, religion explains why": I assume everybody here knows better.
 

 

154 COMMENTS

  1. I have no clue but I don’t worry about it either.
    But if we wish to get philosophical about it, perhaps there is a false premise in the question. Why is the question “Why is there something rather than nothing” and not “Why should there be nothing and not something?”.

    Why do we consider the null situation more probable than the matter situation in which we find ourselves. An accident of circumstance perhaps.

  2. The very short, and apparently unsatisfactory, answer is: We don’t know.

    All physical models, thermodynamic laws, and logic itself, is solely designed to work within the natural universe we happen to find ourselves in. The closer we get to big bang itself, the less these seem to apply. Now, there are numerous ideas concerning what caused the big bang, but nothing so well evidenced that we can claim it as knowledge. We simply do not know the state, nature, or anything else about what is outside the universe. It is completely ALIEN. That said, we cannot presently know what caused the big bang, or if the universe even could have transpired any other way. We have no idea what, if any, other possible configurations the big bang could have even led to; making the very question unanswerable.

    I know it isn’t very satisfying, but we must be patient and see what future evidence and discoveries may tell us about the wonder of existence itself.

    • In reply to #2 by Tlhedglin:

      The very short, and apparently unsatisfactory, answer is: We don’t know.

      All physical models, thermodynamic laws, and logic itself, is solely designed to work within the natural universe we happen to find ourselves in. The closer we get to big bang itself, the less these seem to apply. Now, there a…

      Awesome answer. I would like to add, if we are a product of the universe that came from the big bang, how can we possibly explain anything before or after the big bang when we ourselves are so intertwined within it.

  3. The question is a perplexing one. Consider this, vince78. What is nothing? If there was nothing, where would it be? Why should we be surprised that there is NOT nothing? This universe began with the Big Bang. What was there, before the big bang? Lawrence Krauss explains a scientific view of nothing, and how the universe came to be, from nothing.

    As non-intuitive as it is, it is true that matter comes into being from non-matter or complete vacuum all the time, even now. Take a look at the links:
    How the universe appeared from nothing
    , or
    Generating Matter and Antimatter from Nothing. The truth about the universe is very weird, difficult to understand, and still being looked into by scientists.

    We do not have a full understanding yet, but plugging in “God” as a supposed answer, is not a good way to go, in my opinion. Many things were at one time not understood, such as how the tides work, how lightning happens, why earthquakes and volcanoes wreak havoc at times, how life came be as it is, and so on and so forth. At one time in history, these were attributed to supernatural “God”-causes. Now we know better.

    Will the origin of matter, and why there is something rather than nothing ever be understood? Who knows, but attributing it to “magic” is likely to stop us looking for a materialistic and more rational set of answers. Couldn’t it be that there has always been something, even if it was not matter as we know it?

  4. I don’t know, but why does the concept of a god make this question more palatable? In other words, why would the question ‘why is there a god instead of no god’ make any more sense?

  5. I think understanding the universe and life is the most important thing you can do.

    I’m just wondering why you think this ? What happens to you and me if the answer is not worked out until 2302 ? Or what if the answer is worked out next year but it’s only intelligible to a small circle of very smart physicists ?

    I also wonder what you mean by “life”. Do you mean how it began or how it works or how we, as upright standing primates, should best live it ?

    A few more big questions for you :-)

    Michael

  6. At the risk of being a little pedantic it’s worth remembering that we don’t know there was a big bang. All we know is that the universe is expanding and that if you run that expansion backwards in time you get to a point where everything was so close together quantum effects dominate everything else and you are in the Planck Epoch. “Before” that (if before even makes sense) our model breaks down without a working theory of quantum gravity. We can extrapolate back to a time zero in the model but it’s an extrapolation of our model not of the real world.

  7. From my limited knowledge of Quantum Mechanics theories, it does seem that ‘empty’ space has a high likelihood of paired particles (particles and anti-particles?) appearing and disappearing at a high rate. It may be that the universe is an expansion of such a pair, with the net balance of ‘positive energy’ being balanced by ‘negative energy’ (gravity??). In other terms, zero can equal zero, but 1-1 also equals zero and 1,000,000,000 – 1,000,000,000 (etc) also equals zero.

    Another tack – why the question? I think humans have a natural curiosity, perhaps adaptive in terms of finding new opportunities and means to survive, which leads us to question everything. This is most evident in young children: I’m afraid a lot of what passes for ‘education’ (not to say religious teaching) consists of suppressing such ‘childish curiosity’ and replacing it with ‘common sense’ – or exam-passing rote learning.

  8. In reply to #9 by Peter Grant:

    Good philosophy teaches us that that nothing is self caused. Quantum mechanics demonstrates that nothing is also unstable.

    There seems to be an inductive leap there. Everything we can understand is not self-caused. But maybe reality IS the exception and IS self-caused.

    • In reply to #11 by angry_liberal:

      There seems to be an inductive leap there.

      As in all good science.

      Everything we can understand is not self-caused.

      Yup.

      But maybe reality IS the exception and IS self-cause…

      I wouldn’t go that far, but as far as we can tell it’s entangled.

  9. Why is there something and not nothing ?

    All “Why?” questions have “How?” answers, and tracking these back as far as knowledge permits, eventually leads to the boundary of present knowledge, beyond which the honest answer is, “We don’t know”!
    In the case of our universe, this frontier of knowledge point is somewhere around the inflationary period of the Big-Bang!

  10. if they also have the feeling to have no clue

    Sure. After all, it seems that only unhealthy brains don’t feel that.

    how they deal with this

    If you have an itch from the neck up, scratch it; anywhere else, see a dermatologist. :-j

    some interesting insight about this topic.

    “You don’t need something more to get something more. That’s what emergence means.”~ Murray Gell-Mann

    Welcome to this forum,

    Mike

  11. In layman’s terms:

    Causes are stable, chaos is unstable.

    Nothing is an idealised state and, since idealism breaks down very quickly in the real world, almost immediately degrades into something.

  12. The question of why there is something rather than nothing is not a problem for atheism; it’s a problem for anyone who’s noticed that statements claiming something exists can only be deduced from your premises if at least one of them is of that form. It doesn’t matter whether you add a god in to the mix or not. But seriously, read Krauss.

    For what it’s worth, a space containing no particles generates bosons as it expands or contracts, due to an effect called a Bogoliubov transformation. “Nothing” isn’t an absolute concept in quantum field theory; there are different kinds of “vacuum”.

  13. The very idea of nothing seems to have scared humanity right from the get go: the fear that when we die that’s where we return and the idea that nearly every creation myth has that the universe was created from nothing. We still casually refer to much of the universe as a vast nothingness despite it being filled with quite a huge number of things.

    In context I think nothing as a word is being misrepresented. As others have mentioned Krauss has written a book on this very subject but even without it think about this: what is nothing? Nothing seems to be used more as an abstract than a verifiable thing most of the time. Nothing is an admission of a lack of knowledge more often than not. How did the universe come into being? In myth it always starts from a vast nothing or a single object in a vast sea of nothingness. It’s an abstract way of saying we don’t know.

    Our current understanding most certainly contradicts that idea as there is no place in the universe where nothing exists, even if we don’t understand what it is.

    Now as for events before the universe, where theists seem to have the most fun playing storytime, one cannot measure before time. One cannot perform any event before there is time to do so, and all actions in the universe require time, even if that time is difficult for man to measure. So obviously positing any entity before time is not only impossible but pointless as it creates more confusion that explanation.

    So, in all honesty I’m not certain where the question fits beyond profound philosophical query. I suspect we shall always be curious as to how things came to be and as we find more answers, we will no doubt ask more questions. But the nothing part of this question literally doesn’t exists in any physical sense.

  14. The question, “Why is there something rather than nothing?”, is as incoherent as, “Why are circles square”?

    Are you expecting the “reason” or “cause” to exist or not exist?

    Reality is the set of all possible worlds including this one;
    It is impossible for reality to have a reason or a cause, because the reason or cause must first be real.

  15. Certainly, I am not looking to derail this topic, BUT, i have always been puzzled by an observation. Here goes:

    As a Biologist, i am constantly besieged by folks who have issue with evolution (the idea that living things change over time). Meanwhile, my Physicist friends have a LAW that states “matter cannot be CREATED or destroyed”….. or “energy cannot be CREATED or destroyed”.

    i am wondering why the physicists get the free pass. They are down right screaming that creation is impossible. I am saying things change. They are saying creation is impossible. I do not get it.

    • In reply to #20 by crookedshoes:

      Because I like to look for “zebras” (when the answer is usually staring me in the face) I’ll just throw this out there:

      No kid is going to take physics in high school unless they already have an interest in being scientifically literate. Biology was required in 9th grade (or a soft-science alternative like natural history) while physics was purely an elective that I took in 12th grade. In other words, physics is perhaps out of sight and therefore out of mind for most US kids and their parents? But I see your point and I’m sure many will chime in about all the “wildebeests” that probably provide a better answer.

      Mike

  16. I just don’t comprehend the relevance of “why”. All we can discover is “how”. One wouldn’t ask a star “why” it went supernova.

    It is a product of our primate minds to assume purpose, in what surrounds us. There is no guarantee our species, as we know it, will crack the biggest questions of existence. The excitement is in trying. Finding out all the ‘hows’ and ditching the ‘whys’ we used to demand.

    • In reply to #23 by Timothy McNamara:

      I just don’t comprehend the relevance of “why”. All we can discover is “how”. One wouldn’t ask a star “why” it went supernova.

      It is a product of our primate minds to assume purpose, in what surrounds us. There is no guarantee our species, as we know it, will crack the biggest questions of existenc…

      Perhaps the “how” of why we ask certain why questions will be the interesting thing to discover (separate sections of the brain eventually evolving to “communicate” with each other [seeing the whole of an experience] but nevertheless producing vince78′s question as an artifact of that phenomenon). Who knows. :)

      Mike

  17. The “why” and the “how” could be a matter of semantics. As children, we don’t ask “how,” we ask “why.” Now that we’re adults and are able to differentiate the semantics of the “why” and “how” and now that we have answers to the “how,” the “why” questions still lingering in our psyche and pushing for answers. Not to mention, our religious indoctrination instilled and emphasized the “why” in our up bringing in order to attribute all the answers to one source which is “God.”
    So, in essence there is no real distinction between the two when it comes to science. It’s just a matter of language.
    I hope I am making sense but it’s something to think about :)

    • In reply to #25 by vnsr2012:

      The “why” and the “how” could be a matter of semantics. As children, we don’t ask “how,” we ask “why.” Now that we’re adults and are able to differentiate the semantics of the “why” and “how” and now that we have answers to the “how,” the “why” questions still lingering in our psyche and pushing for…

      Definitely making sense. I must agree, albeit a different framing from my statement, that yes; “Why” is a childish thing to ask about existence. Telling in the extreme is it, that religions deal in the “Why”. Trebek, I’ll take… “Catering to Underdeveloped Minds” for 500.

    • In reply to #25 by vnsr2012:

      The “why” and the “how” could be a matter of semantics. As children, we don’t ask “how,” we ask “why.” Now that we’re adults and are able to differentiate the semantics of the “why” and “how” and now that we have answers to the “how,” the “why” questions still lingering in our psyche and pushing for…

      Yes, the “why” holds the assumption of intentionality, that is its link to the psychological power. We don’t have the same attachment to why the rock fell down on me as we do to why you hit me, or why was I punished. The same mental attitude that is more likely to mistake rustling grass for lion movements rather than wind action, is going to reach for “why” before “how.”

      As for how there came to be something rather than nothing (see how I dodged the teleology, there), you first have to decide what kind of ‘nothing’ are you talking about? Are you using the metaphysical ‘nothing’ of Aristotle and Leibniz, or the physical ‘nothing’ of Lawrence Krauss? If you don’t know what you mean by ‘nothing’ you can’t approach the question.

  18. There is a thing that I find disturbing in my atheist world view, some kind of “elephant in the room” : why is there something and not nothing ?

    As with most of the questions like these, the ones theists often use to trump atheists: “ha, can’t answer that one can ya!” the simplest answer is “we don’t know”. And up to about three years ago I would have said “and quite probably we never will know” and then I read Krauss’s book. Not that he has a definitive answer by a long shot but its a start and actually I think its amazing that we can even begin to answer such a question given how long as a species we’ve been doing science.

    I also read a lot about religion, until I read “the selfish gene” and realized most answers were there.

    I disagree that most answers are in The Selfish Gene and I actually suspect Prof. Dawkins would as well. For a start there is your question for this discussion thread which genes have nothing to say about. But also Dawkins says in the intro that there are areas (e.g. human ethics) that people might try to apply the content of the book to and that they shouldn’t do that. IMO looking for any one single theory or person to give you most of the answers is contrary to the scientific method that Dawkins so poetically articulates.

  19. “Why” often implies a question about the motives of some sentient being.

    I think you mean “how did it come to be that there is something”. It is a side effect of quantum mechanics.It is the nature of space to spawn matching pairs of particles and antiparticles. You could then ask why does space do that. That question is fundamental. Why does space, time, mass have the properties it does. Why does an electron weigh what it does? There are theories that predict that the properties of as yet undetected particles. There is math that constrains many of these properties. So you might answer if space did not do this, it would have to be a totally different universe, not the one we observe.

    • Why is there Quantum mechanics rather than no quantum mechanics? Why is there existence rather than non-existence? Or why are there particles rather than no particles? In other words why is there ANYTHING rather than nothing? To say “we don’t have the answers YET but we know its not God” seems like the same cop out answer that theists use when they say ” because God”, only we say “because No-God”.
      I hate dancing around the hard questions. We need to boil it down and ask the hard questions without being afraid of them.
      And here is another…what if there is a God that put it all in motion? If we can’t prove God but he does exist then what?

      • In reply to #135 by Donny10000:

        Why is there Quantum mechanics rather than no quantum mechanics? Why is there existence rather than non-existence? Or why are there particles rather than no particles? In other words why is there ANYTHING rather than nothing?

        All “Why?” questions, have “How?” answers, and regress to the point where the honest answer is “We don’t know”!

        “We don’t know”, does not equal ” – “Any speculative suggestion or magical story is possible or likely”!

        Giant aliens/gods is a very unlikely explanation for generating the physical properties of the universe, and an infinite regression of creators (Who was the creator of the creator of the creator…. ) is even less likely.

        The most probable explanation for these notions, is the egotistical anthropomorphic projection of the (often vengeful) human persona on to unexplained physical phenomema. It has been a characteristic of religions since time immemorial. (Volcano gods, thunder-gods, Tree spirits, fertility gods, war-gods, rain-gods, ocean-gods sky-gods, storm-gods etc) – With priests and political leaders in cahoots to make a living from exploiting the population, selling their pseudo-knowledge.

  20. It’s the wrong question. ‘Why’ implies a prior assumption of a possible agency (supernatural) being involved, hence leading to mystical explanations etc. And as such is unanswerable.
    The question should be ‘How (come) there is something rather than nothing?’. Then you can seek for factual evidence of the ‘How’ without any prior assumption of the ‘Why’ (supernatural agency).
    Sounds clumsy, though.

  21. Zen practitioners think the question “Where does the fist go when the hand opens?” a worthwhile question. Had you asked it here, you’d have had the same rubbishing of it as you have already. There would have been explanations which carefully and intentionally missed the point by referring to joints, ligaments, knuckles and so on and there would have been friendly but firm assertions that it’s not a question because there’s no such thing as a fist, it’s just a configuration of the hand. And many’s the Krauss-like books on anatomy you’d have been encouraged to read. The constant refrain is “We haven”t the faintest idea – which is certainly good enough to allow us to tell you what’s what”. Truth is none of us knows, none of us. And history is littered with powerfully asserted and sometimes well-reasoned ideas which turn out to be just that, ideas but not facts. Until anybody knows (no time soon, I think), metaphysics may be just as good a guide as anything else. Krauss, whose book I haven’t read, by all accounts offers striking and well-reasoned ideas – good, and until he’s revealed as God, why don’t you carry on wondering about “Why existence?”, at least in my company, if no one else’s.

    • In reply to #34 by jburnforti:

      Zen practitioners think the question “Where does the fist go when the hand opens?” a worthwhile question. Had you asked it here, you’d have had the same rubbishing of it as you have already. There would have been explanations which carefully and intentionally missed the point by referring to joints,…

      In the following quote, emptiness refers to the absence of inherent existence in all phenomena.(mahayana buddhist definition)

      “Usually we think that if a given phenomenon is not something, it must be nothing, and if it is not nothing, it must be something. But emptiness is just a word for pointing out the fact that no matter what we say or think about something, it does not really correctly characterize that something because our dualistic mind just gets stuck in one extreme or the other. Thus, we could say that emptiness is like thinking outside of the box, that is, the box of black-and-white thinking or dualistic thinking. As long as we stay within the ballpark of dualistic thinking, there is always existence, nonexistence, permanence, extinction, good, and bad. Within that frame of reference, we will never get beyond it, no matter if we are religious, a scientist, a Buddhist, an agnostic, or whatever. Emptiness tells us that we have to step out of that ballpark altogether. Emptiness points to the most radical transformation of our entire outlook with regard to ourselves and the world. Emptiness not only means the end of the world as we know it, but that this world never really existed in the first place.”

  22. Why ask Why?

    There is no inherent reason for life. It is simply natural causes doing what they do. Physics does what physics does. It makes more sense to me that particles and certain dynamics of the Universe have always existed more than a complex Grand Designer. Yet we wonder why the universe existed in it’s most simplistic form and not nothing at all? We don’t know. We can rack our brains chasing our tails and maybe make up some stories just to provide an easy answer. The question for me is – Can I be comfortable waiting for an answer or never knowing why? Can I create personal meaning in my own life’s journey (my own personal answer to why) without assuming that life itself has any meaning or intention?

    We are naturally curious beings with the inclination to learn and better understand the world around us. At times this is productive, while at other times we go into overdrive when faced with uncertainty and indecision. We reverse engineer life down to it’s simplest origin and are stuck wondering if we can go even further to get more answers. Maybe we can one day, but today I just have this day and I get to choose how I live it. I might not be completely certain how I want this day to turn out nor do I know everything that will occur, but I move through the day accepting that I don’t need all the answers yesterday in order to know how to live today. Many of us have the need to feel a sense of control – live and let live – is a very difficult feat and I know others are in the same boat. I think it’s best to do the best we can with what “information” we have. Maybe science is a little bit like this also.

    • However, IMO vince78′s OP was not necessarily a religio/mystico/spiritual “Why?” in the sense of asking what the purpose is. I took it to question what the scientific ( actual, most reasonable, most likely, best supported by evidence) explanation for Existence is. The problem with the question is, of course, it shows every likelihood of being unanswerable and this frightens the horses since it smells of an instant leap to God type answers. Of course, I can’t speak for vince78, but for myself am open to wherever the evidence points; I have no ideological convictions about it and couldn’t care less whence the answer comes if it ever should. I’d be extremely surprised if it turned out to be a Fairy in the Sky who is responsible (and don’t bother to stay awake near the fireplace , in our case a radiator, on Christmas Eve) but I don’t think materialistic reductionism is a realistic tool for this task – I think it, dare I say it?, unscientific as is any method which tailors the facts to the theory rather than the theory to the facts. Einstein will back me up on this one with reams of imaginative comments to this end. As for the impossibility of answering this, it’s enjoyable speculating and, anyway, is what we all do.
      reply to #35 by QuestioningKat:*

      Why ask Why?

      There is no inherent reason for life. It is simply natural causes doing what they do. Physics does what physics does. It makes more sense to me that particles and certain dynamics of the Universe have always existed more than a complex Grand Designer. Yet we wonder why the universe exi…

  23. Hi,

    I know that I’m skirting the edges of the subject here, but I figured I’d bring in the religious argument. Sort of. More specifically, the cosmological argument.

    As far as I know, it essentially boils down to the “first cause”, the beginning of everything, being required to be…
    1) Immaterial.
    2) Timeless.
    3) Uncreated.
    4) Necessary for existence.
    5) Conscious, because apparently only intent can cause reactions.

    Now, I admit I think the fifth criteria is nonsense, while the first four vaguely makes some sort of sense. However… Will not quantum mechanics satisfy the first four criteria? While also, compared to god, have the added advantage of actually having observable effects in the universe in which we find ourselves?

    • In reply to #38 by Imlekk:
      Numerous threads and posts at this site go toxic if the word god or “God” is used. I couldn’t care less whether explanations for the “First Cause” come from mysticism, quantum mechanics or vegetarianism as long as interesting and credible ones are offered. But my family background is entirely atheist, my boarding school religious obligations utterly uninteresting and easily endured and I have never experienced the white heat that seems to possess many posters when anything faintly construable as religious enters the discussion – many of them reliving, no doubt, the agonies of Jesuit rigidities or whatever previously suffered. But though I sympathise, I don’t support them (though barbarities in religion’s name is something else) and think scientific thinking can afford to consider other perspectives where understanding Existence is not conventionally explicable.

      Hi,

      I know that I’m skirting the edges of the subject here, but I figured I’d bring in the religious argument. Sort of. More specifically, the cosmological argument.

      As far as I know, it essentially boils down to the “first cause”, the beginning of everything, being required to be…
      1) Immaterial…

    • In reply to #38 by Imlekk:

      I know that I’m skirting the edges of the subject here, but I figured I’d bring in the religious argument. Sort of. More specifically, the cosmological argument.

      Okay

      As far as I know, it essentially boils down to the “first cause”…

      The law of causality, is a logical and scientific principle created to describe action-based relationships we observe inside the framework of the naturalistic universe we appear to find ourselves in. We do not know IF, or what form, such relationships would outside of this universe. As such, the Law of Causality only logically and scientifically applies to post-big bang events, not the big bang itself.

      …the beginning of everything, being required to be…

      In order to assume what is required for the “cause” of the big bang, we would have to know the state and physics of things outside of the observable universe, which we obviously do not. We do not know what is required to cause a big bang, we do not know if the big bang could have even led to any other type of universe, or how something like the big bang could even happen before time existed for it to happen in. This, fundamentally, makes any assertions of what is required utterly empty and entirely presumptive.

      1) Immaterial.

      We cannot know if any material exists outside our observable universe or not.

      2) Timeless.

      We cannot know if time exists outside our universe or not, or what form it would take outside our universe.

      3) Uncreated.

      Why? Could not a created god, created by another created god, create the universe? I don’t know, and I can be fairly sure you do not either, so anyone who claims to is being ignorant or dishonest.

      4) Necessary for existence.

      Given that absolutely no one knows what is necessary for existence, this is just bald assertion.

      5) Conscious, because apparently only intent can cause reactions.

      I call bullshit, and I bet you will too.

      Now, I admit I think the fifth criteria is nonsense, while the first four vaguely makes some sort of sense.

      Indeed. Also, the first four only make sense if you make some rather axiomatic assumptions about what lies beyond our observable universe.

      However… Will not quantum mechanics satisfy the first four criteria?

      Possibly, but I rather doubt we can simply assume that Quantum Mechanics works the same inside, and outside, our universe.

      While also, compared to god, have the added advantage of actually having observable effects in the universe in which we find ourselves?

      Possibly, but even if it didn’t, god still would not be a valid answer. Hell, it isn’t even an answer, it explains precisely nothing at all.

  24. I have travelled from atheism through buddhism to utter nihiistic despair and finally into non-dualism.
    It is no good having this theory or explanation or that for existence.
    It is essential to know for ourselves what we are.
    This is not a matter of reading philosophical books or studying the minutiae of matter or of learning to quiet the mind or becoming mentally healthy – although all these are fun and helpful and I like them – in small doses.
    We need to look directly at our experience.
    What we are is what is conscious of everything.
    We are not any object in consciousness – so what are we?
    You cannot directly experience what you are because you are the experiencer but you can cease to identify with objects.
    Once this happens there is clear seeing as yourself.
    With clear seeing your question will disappear.
    Non-duality is science in this respect; it is interested only in how not why.
    We see the world from a deluded self centred position.
    It is impossible to understand from this point.
    The self has to be seen as a concept and discarded before things can be seen as they are.
    Science tells us that we are all just the same stuff – mental and physical processes floating in space but we insist on believing that we are separate, important individuals who must know and control.
    Once this common fallacy is seen through we are free to float on unimportantly without the need to know because we do.
    So how?
    Well, if you want to know – you’ll ask.

    • amusing dogma – but I’m wanted back here on planet earth…..

      In reply to #42 by myojo:

      I have travelled from atheism through buddhism to utter nihiistic despair and finally into non-dualism.
      It is no good having this theory or explanation or that for existence.
      It is essential to know for ourselves what we are.
      This is not a matter of reading philosophical books or studying the minuti…

      • Ok , it seems that this guy is getting a bit of negative press but I think the position has some meaning , in terms of experience.

        He articulates that we are all basically made of the same stuff , in general we have similar base emotions and motivations. This for me is a basic tenant of humanism and is what real empathy is about i.e we see and understand emotions in other people because we feel and understand them in our selves and vice versa. Why? Because we are human , all made of the same stuff , and it impresses the fact that we are not really very different. Its class , culture , education that distinguishes us.

        Regarding the ‘subjectivity’ stuff , this is articulated in mindfulness techniques , where for a few minutes every day we feel and listen and soak in through our senses what’s happening around us , without making assumptions , jumping to conclusion , making inferences , etc. You don’t need to meditate to even do this. It’s about getting you out of your head and into the present moment.

        Of course the dogma comes when we deny our identity and our right to express ourselves.

        In reply to #43 by rzzz:

        amusing dogma – but I’m wanted back here on planet earth…..

        In reply to #42 by myojo:

        I have travelled from atheism through buddhism to utter nihiistic despair and finally into non-dualism.
        It is no good having this theory or explanation or that for existence.
        It is essential to know for ourselv…

    • In reply to #42 by myojo:

      I have travelled from atheism through buddhism to utter nihiistic despair and finally into non-dualism.

      Did you really just argue for discarding experience and identity for assumption and solipsism?

    • In reply to #42 by myojo:

      I have travelled from atheism through buddhism to utter nihiistic despair and finally into non-dualism.

      Okay, good for you, but that does not mean the rest of us should.

      It is no good having this theory or explanation or that for existence.

      Just like it isn’t good to have this theory or that for the diversity of life, right? Well, the thing is, it is good. Science is the ultimate utilitarian principle, we can use what we learn to make stuff, and that stuff is useful. Your computer, medicine, and all other modern luxuries you enjoy including your phone and the light bulbs in your home were developed through the utilization of explanations. If you don’t like people trying to explain our existence, and the existence of everything else, you might as well live in a cave.

      It is essential to know for ourselves what we are.

      Science is infinitely more essential to knowing what we are, than any amount of spiritual woo-woo you choose to promote in its stead. Everything you really KNOW about what you are, is based on discoveries in science, not your favorite flavor of spirituality.

      This is not a matter of reading philosophical books or studying the minutiae of matter or of learning to quiet the mind or becoming mentally healthy – although all these are fun and helpful and I like them – in small doses.

      Actually, what we know about what we are is based on the very activities you seem determined to undermine.

      We need to look directly at our experience.

      Indeed? We need to assume our experience is complete and objective? That is preposterous.

      What we are is what is conscious of everything.

      Whatever it is you “are smoking, we all need some. To be able to sit there and say, with a straight face no less, that you are “conscious of everything” is the ultimate claim. If that were the case, we would never ‘learn’ anything, because we would already know it. However, anyone with more than two brain cells to rub together sees the flaw in that argument. We are not conscious of everything, we are not even conscious of 90% of what goes on in reality, and the assumption we are is ludicrous and dangerous.

      We are not any object in consciousness – so what are we?

      Indeed, I suppose you do not need a brain to be conscious then, do you?

      You cannot directly experience what you are because you are the experiencer but you can cease to identify with objects.

      Actually, it is that interaction with objects that defines what we are, and allows us to know what we are in the first place. However, please stop identifying objects outside yourself and acting on them for a week, that should be interesting. Please, don’t call me when you fall off a cliff or get hit by a bus, though.

      Once this happens there is clear seeing as yourself.

      No, you merely stop seeing anything as distinct. This does not mean you are perceiving yourself accurately, you just stop perceiving ‘yourself’ entirely. Refusing to acknowledge the chasm in front of you does not make it disappear, and does not magically keep you from falling over the side of it. Refusing to perceive yourself is not the same a perceiving yourself ‘clearly’.

      With clear seeing your question will disappear.

      No, it just becomes irrelevant, as you can have to epistemology whatsoever.

      Non-duality is science in this respect; it is interested only in how not why.

      Really? It seems far more interested in ‘why not’ than ‘how’.

      We see the world from a deluded self centred position.

      So, the view that we are distinct and insignificant conscious objects acting on each other and the little matter around us is self-centered? Oh, I am sorry, Mr.’I am everything and everything is me’.

      It is impossible to understand from this point.

      Actually, the only way to accurately perceive anything is to observe it without adding baggage to it. You, sir, add baggage you cannot even BEGIN to justify.

      The self has to be seen as a concept and discarded before things can be seen as they are.

      Indeed, denying your own existence is the only way to perceive anything… RRRRIIIIIGHT…

      Science tells us that we are all just the same stuff – mental and physical processes floating in space but we insist on believing that we are separate, important individuals who must know and control.

      A. Indeed, trees and rocks are also made of the ‘same’ stuff, that does not make them identical or part of each other.
      B. ‘floating in space’? Really? You didn’t notice the whole ‘planet’ or ‘physical body’ thing at all?

      Once this common fallacy is seen through we are free to float on unimportantly without the need to know because we do.

      Then you are free to stop learning anything and assume you know all, simply because you happen to exist, how wonderful for you. Meanwhile, science and most of the other humans, will be glad to do all the work for you.

      So how? Well, if you want to know – you’ll ask.

      Yeah, no thanks, got it already. You just assume everything and know nothing.

      • Well, the OP still stands: Why is there something and not nothing? We’re clear that Science can criticise non-scientific approaches to an answer – what is Science bringing to the table itself apart from cold water?reply to #45 by Tlhedglin:*

        In reply to #42 by myojo:

        I have travelled from atheism through buddhism to utter nihiistic despair and finally into non-dualism.

        Okay, good for you, but that does not mean the rest of us should.

        It is no good having this theory or explanation or that for existence.

        Just like it isn’t good to ha…

        • In reply to #46 by jburnforti:

          Well, the OP still stands: Why is there something and not nothing?

          I have continuously stated that science does not claim to know. Quite simply, we don’t know if there ever even was ‘nothing’. The idea that there is ‘nothing’ beyond this universe is more a theistic than a scientific claim.

          We’re clear that Science can criticise non-scientific approaches to an answer…

          When the approach is to assume you are right, claim to KNOW why, and utterly fail to show anything remotely resembling evidence? Indeed it can.

          …what is Science bringing to the table itself apart from cold water?

          Look down at the keyboard you are using, look at your light bulb, look at your speakers, look all around you…THAT’S what science has brought to the table. If you have any better way of approaching physics, biology, or geology; go right ahead and spill it. Until then, how about we continue not assuming crap we can’t even begin to falsify, and not pretend it is magically true because we think it is..

          • The examples you have given are excellent and widely used products of Science’s discoveries. I was asking what Science brings to the table to explain why there is something rather than nothing (the OP) and don’t think those examples relate to that. If you believe they do, I have failed to understand your point. If Science is clear in stating (I think scientists rather than Science) that Science can’t, at any rate now, help with this question, then it’s reasonable, surely, to suggest where Science might look to help its skills become more appropriate to the problem. Science already offers judgement, examination, accuracy, experimentation, repeatability and many other skill sets (to which I probably fail to do justice). Some think, anyway I do, that what you refer to as a theistic claim and what Krauss is quoted on another thread as calling “meta laws” may need considering for us to advance in our understanding of why there is something rather than nothing. t.In reply to #47 by Tlhedglin:

            In reply to #46 by jburnforti:

            Well, the OP still stands: Why is there something and not nothing?

            I have continuously stated that science does not claim to know. Quite simply, we don’t know if there ever even was ‘nothing’. The idea that there is ‘nothing’ beyond this universe is more a theistic t…

          • In reply to #61 by jburnforti:

            The examples you have given are excellent and widely used products of Science’s discoveries.

            Indeed.

            I was asking what Science brings to the table to explain why there is something rather than nothing (the OP) and don’t think those examples relate to that.

            A. Considering science discovered and showed that there was a ‘big bang’, the event that caused the universe as we know it, I would say they have fulfilled that criteria. The big bang is a very good reason why there is ‘something’ rather than ‘nothing’.

            B. Science is a progression, pretty much everything we have learned has been turned to the task of learning about our universe, we use everything in our arsenal to help us reach greater heights of understanding. Take the computer in front of you, for example. Computers not much different than it are connected to the various radio telescopes we have had scouring our universe for more information, to a hadron collider which recently found the Higgs Boson, and enables us to share complex ideas and information about them both over vast distances almost instantaneously. How important are computers to discovering the origin of the universe? We couldn’t do it without them.

            If you believe they do, I have failed to understand your point.

            Perhaps.

            If Science is clear in stating (I think scientists rather than Science) that Science can’t, at any rate now, help with this question, then it’s reasonable, surely, to suggest where Science might look to help its skills become more appropriate to the problem.

            We don’t currently know. We have turned our focus and evolving technology, and understanding, toward understanding the very fabric of energy and matter in the universe, in hopes it will unlock just such discoveries and information. While we may not currently know the answer, science is still out best bet in finding a real answer, and the scientists involved are investigating it voraciously. Just because we can’t claim to know it now, and are honest enough to admit as much, does not mean we can or should abandon it. We may not be able to help with the question much right now, or even in the next decade, but that does not make science meaningless.

            Science already offers judgement, examination, accuracy, experimentation, repeatability and many other skill sets (to which I probably fail to do justice).

            Indeed, science is underrated and amazing.

            Some think, anyway I do, that what you refer to as a theistic claim and what Krauss is quoted on another thread as calling “meta laws” may need considering for us to advance in our understanding of why there is something rather than nothing.

            The idea that absolutely nothing exists beyond our universe is a claim, and given that we have no evidence to support such a claim, we cannot assume it to be true. There may yet be ‘something’ beyond the universe, making the question “Why is there something instead of something else?” more accurate. We simply do not know, and until we do, it is best not to make too many assumptions we can’t justify.

          • I believe you misunderstand the OP but hope vince78 will correct me if I’m wrong. The Big Bang has nothing to do with explaining why there is Existence which is a metaphysical question. The Big Bang allows of explanation as to how what now exists and has existed resulted from the Big Bang – this is a materialist explanation of a different question. The computers you refer to are the result of a set of results succeeding each other with the Big Bang being the origin. They are in no sense an explanation of their own existence simply because they represent a scientific achievement and have nothing to do with the OP which asks “Why is there something and not nothing?”. vince78 was clear that he (?) didn’t want to go down the teleological road I probably am heading towards but he also made clear that a wavering part of him was drawn in that direction. I stand by my conviction that materialist science needs the very tools it doesn’t want to employ if it wants to satisfy the question he asks. If it continues to turn the question into “How far back into history can we go?”, it demonstrates that it doesn’t want to address the real question the OP poses – and which you completely lost track of in your last paragraph. And I neither agree with you about the number of assumptions we’re entitled to make nor recognise your sniping at any which may be unjustified. All assumptions are unjustified and, once justified, stop being assumptions. How do you suggest progressing without some?.In reply to #70 by Tlhedglin:*

            In reply to #61 by jburnforti:

            The examples you have given are excellent and widely used products of Science’s discoveries.

            Indeed.

            I was asking what Science brings to the table to explain why there is something rather than nothing (the OP) and don’t think those examples relate to that.

            A. Consi…

          • In reply to #76 by jburnforti:

            I believe you misunderstand the OP but hope vince78 will correct me if I’m wrong.

            We will see, then, I suppose.

            The Big Bang has nothing to do with explaining why there is Existence which is a metaphysical question.

            So, how the universe(which is literally all we know to exist) came to be, doesn’t explain how the existence of everything we know came to be? That makes no sense. Metaphysical? In what sense? Everything known to exist is entirely physical mass and energy, it is the basics of existence itself, there is no reason to divorce existence from the physical.

            The Big Bang allows of explanation as to how what now exists and has existed resulted from the Big Bang – this is a materialist explanation of a different question.

            Indeed, it is a PHYSICAL account of how the EXISTENCE of everything we know to EXIST came to be. It makes no claims or assumptions beyond just that. How this existence came to be, is how it came to be.

            The computers you refer to are the result of a set of results succeeding each other with the Big Bang being the origin.

            I made no claim otherwise, because I do not need to.

            They are in no sense an explanation of their own existence simply because they represent a scientific achievement and have nothing to do with the OP which asks “Why is there something and not nothing?”.

            They do, however, aide us in discovering explanations for existence in Big Bang physics. Which is the one and only point I tried to make. Science works, woo-woo does not.

            vince78 was clear that he (?) didn’t want to go down the teleological road I probably am heading towards but he also made clear that a wavering part of him was drawn in that direction.

            I think I, and others, have already addressed many of the teleological arguments you could possibly even make.

            I stand by my conviction that materialist science needs the very tools it doesn’t want to employ if it wants to satisfy the question he asks.

            Which tools would that be? The assumption of the supernatural nonphysical? We have established, already, that such ideas lead to more problems than solutions.

            If it continues to turn the question into “How far back into history can we go?”, it demonstrates that it doesn’t want to address the real question the OP poses – and which you completely lost track of in your last paragraph.

            No I didn’t, I stated exactly what the facts are:

            -We don’t know, but we are working on it.
            -Assuming too much is not good practice.

            And I neither agree with you about the number of assumptions we’re entitled to make nor recognise your sniping at any which may be unjustified.

            Entitled? Recognize? None of that even matters. Science ONLY recognizes assumptions that can be justified as useful. If we abandon that, we might as well claim everything anyone ever though is necessarily true, and that way lies stagnation and decay of epistemology itself.

            All assumptions are unjustified and, once justified, stop being assumptions.

            True, but they remain assumptions until they are justified. Pretending these assumptions are necessarily true, or congruent with reality, is patently dishonest. Such tactics are best left for theistic apologists.

            How do you suggest progressing without some?

            Don’t assume anything is true until you can justify it with evidence, and never assume an idea is right until it is verified. This does not mean you can’t come up with new ideas and try to verify them, only that until they are verified you shouldn’t claim them as fact. Honesty seems to be my main concern here, what is yours?

  25. I think the why might indeed be invalid. It is my opinion that as unsatisfying as it may be the infinity may indeed be the only actually truth whether that be infinite universes continuously creating new universes or an infinite big crunch big bang (not as likely in my opinion) the idea that there is no nothing is indeed hard to swallow. how ever I have come to terms that since our brains did not evolve o understand cosmology and quantum mechanics (all the more remarkable that we can) we may never be capable (as humans) to make sense of the ontological reality. Perhaps many thousands if not millions of years from now our descendants ( assuming we do not become extinct) will have these answers and have them whilst standing upon our shoulders and the shoulders of those whom preceded us.

    • My bad…

      Anyway getting back to it , is science ever going to demonstrate in a tangible way the theory that the universe was born out of logical and rational criteria? I doubt it. If there is a theory how will we ever test the predictions it makes , in a manner that it could satisfy the vast generations of matter and energy.

      Just an abstraction…We relate everything to time. What would it be like if it didn’t exist. Is that the real definition of nothingness. It has to be something along those lines , Infinity can lead people to a all sorts of conclusion , but it’s context still exists within time, its still relative to time by its sheer definition.

      I think we need some thought experiments along the lines of Einstein and Relativity.

      Something without time would need a whole branch of new physics, But it goes back to the whole problem how could you ever make predictions in it’s context. How could you satisfy them in experiment.

      Also if something can’t be rationalised…., its not worth describing. It has no benefit to our knowledge base whatssoever

      Ahhh its pointless.

      In reply to #50 by Moderator:

      Mods’ message

      A reminder that our Conditions of Use require users to stay on the topic of the OP, please. Please don’t post any further off-topic comments.

      Thank you.

      The mods

  26. I hear your contempt loud and clear. There is a saying; “There is one thing which is proof against any argument and that is contempt prior to investigation”. This is true of course but regardless of the fact that I would prefer a more respectful manner on your part and that I suspect that this will be a fruitless exchange – well, why not? It’s sunday and I am at leisure.
    Trying to explain existence is not the same as investigating it.
    Also being happy and content and understanding one’s existence is not dependent upon computers and light bulbs – although they are nice if not misused.
    No. Science has not told me anything about what I am and neither have you.
    What we are cannot be discovered through modification of the organism but through study of it. Why is this not obvious to a ‘scientist’. I can understand that it might seem difficult to believe that it is possible to investigate oneself objectively but to refuse to attempt it because o that assumption seems a bit of a missed opportunity.
    Oh yes, you have the ability to see clearly. I assure you if you care to let go of your assumptions and look directly you can see quite clearly. It’s up to you though.
    We are conscious of everything. Everything is what we are conscious of. Have a look. It is obvious that I can only be sure of the existence of what I am conscious of. I am not saying that everything else does not exist but that at this moment it exists only as imagination. The rest of the world is there – maybe – but it is not as I imagine it to be. I can have an image of my mother cooking in Norton but that is not what is happening. People have a tendency to believe their images about the rest of the world – well more than a tendency – and this is the cause of a lot of trouble. If you investigate your own functioning it will tell you what you need to know.
    Do we need a brain to be conscious? That is the ultimate experiment. It comes to us all. I’m happy to wait.
    I did not say stop identifying objects. I said stop identifying with objects. I can know a body. It is not ‘my’ body. I can know a car. It is not ‘my’ car. People say that this is france and that is spain and this is a jew and that is a muslim. Ok. I’m prepared to play along up to a point – for the sake of convenience – but don’t ask me to believe it please.
    When you say ‘perceiving yourself’ – what are you referring to? This is a real question. Try to perceive yourself. Can you do it?
    You seem to assume that the concept of me is necessary for the functioning of the organism. Are you sure?
    Just because I don’t have a concept of self doesn’t mean that trees, dogs, tea, ideas etc. disappear just that the concept of self is not present. In fact the concept of self is not present most of the time in a happy person. they tend to become unhappy when it does appear and if it won’t go away then – well, mental illness. Of course this is a thing which must be observed in oneself to be understood. The theory is not enough.
    You are right about the irrelevance. Without a person to ask there is no need of a question.
    On the subject of How and Why, there is a very precise set of inquiries which lead to understanding. It is not useful to just adopt a philosophical standpoint and pretend that to be your experience, I am sure you would agree. If a person want’s to go to France (the piece of earth we refer to as France that is) then they have to find out how to get there. Some routes may be better than others but one thing is certain it’s moot if the person doesn’t really want to go or if they don’t believe that France exists. If you want to investigate along these lines it’s worth discussing how. If you don’t it’s just as fruitless as planning a trip you don’t intend to take. Until then I suppose it’s a matter of discussing the destination to see if any interest arises.
    Yes. the view that we are distinct and insignificant conscious objects acting on each other and the little matter around us is self centred. There is an unquestioned assumption in what you say that you are a separate entity – have you ever found the location of this entity? Where does it begin and end?
    Yup, the only way to accurately perceive anything is to observe without adding any baggage to it. I couldn’t agree more. What baggage am I adding in your opinion?
    Absolutely riiiight the only way to perceive anything clearly is without the baggage of the self concept. It is not a matter of denying it but of observing it to see what it consists of. The proposition is that the self is a construct not an entity. We observe systematically to see if this is true. If the idea of self is seen through then a very different way of relating to the world results which is free from a lot of the distortions which people suffer from. Ok. None of this may be true but if one investigates one can know. If not? Ok.
    Yes, I noticed the matter. I also noticed that it all floats in space. Space is the common denominator it is everywhere. As I sit here at the computer the most obvious part of my experience is space. Hands on keys in space. Space between the fuzzy edges of my face and the computer screen. Space between all the objects in the room. The way I feel it is as a whole not as a bunch of separate things.
    This is a very different perception from the one I had for most of my life which ignored space almost entirely. Now it is the thing which is most obvious. Space absolutely everywhere. I find it increasingly difficult to think in terms of separation.
    Of course separation and the perception of it occurs but it is no longer believed in as an absolute. By the way I’m not sure what your objection is here. it does seem self evident that everything is floating in space planets etc. I don’t mean to be patronising it just seems a bit obvious bar an assumption to the contrary. Objects appear in space no? They are mainly space no? Matter is an event rather than an entity no? What is your view?
    The end of knowing is the beginning of true investigation. There’s no end of new things to dsicover about the universe and that’s wonderful. I learn new things every day it’s fun and interesting and woopee!
    What is known is what I am and am not.
    I am very familiar with the kind of contemptuous, aggressive technique you are employing here. It’s ok. I have used them all myself in the past. Please carry on if it gives you any satisfaction. I am only saying that there is an area of investigation open to you which you are refusing to even consider because of your prejudices.
    If you were to at least suspend your indignation for a while and really investigate then you would at least be able to more effectively refute me without resorting to mockery, ridicule and suggestions of drug taking.
    Salaam, namaste and a good old fashioned English up yours!
    With a pinch of salt,
    No one.

    • In reply to #52 by myojo:

      Trying to explain existence is not the same as investigating it.

      Investigation comes first to provide evidence, the rational interpretation provides the explanation when sufficient evidence is obtained.

      Also being happy and content and understanding one’s existence is not dependent upon computers and light bulbs – although they are nice if not misused.

      Being happy does not necessarily relate to objective understanding. People in drug induced delusions may be quite happy at the time.

      No. Science has not told me anything about what I am and neither have you.

      That depends on if you are seeking scientific information. “Not hearing” is not the same as “not listening”.

      What we are cannot be discovered through modification of the organism but through study of it. **Why is this not obvious to a ‘scientist’. **

      It is obvious that both modification and study contribute! That is why science studies, biology, genetics, ecology, anatomy, medicine, and numerous specialisms focussed are on particular life forms.

      I can understand that it might seem difficult to believe that it is possible to investigate oneself objectively but to refuse to attempt it because of that assumption seems a bit of a missed opportunity.

      As I explained on another thread, humans brains cannot do self analysis of their own sub-conscious. The claim that introspection is “objective” is spurious.

      Oh yes, you have the ability to see clearly. I assure you if you care to let go of your assumptions and look directly you can see quite clearly. It’s up to you though.

      I think you are suffering from psychological projection here.

      We are conscious of everything. Everything is what we are conscious of.

      No we aren’t! That is why scientists have to use instruments which can sense areas and scales beyond human sensory perception.

      Have a look. It is obvious that I can only be sure of the existence of what I am conscious of. I am not saying that everything else does not exist but that at this moment it exists only as imagination.

      No! It exists beyond your imagination. You seem wrapped up in confused self-centred philosophy.

      The rest of the world is there – maybe – but it is not as I imagine it to be.

      Then you need to study to expand your horizons to better match your perceptions to the physical universe.

      The physical universe is “something” with science explaining the nature of the physical “somethings” involved.

      I’ll leave it at that, as this definitely wandering off topic.

  27. Aren’t many of you guys evading vince78′s question? He is talking about the underlying mystery. THE MYSTERY. It is not enough saying ‘it has to do with quantum effects, and ‘something’ is more stable than ‘nothing’, or stuff like that. That doesn’t tell you anything. I firmly believe that the human brain (of scientists) is well capable of unlocking the secret of existence (the ‘something’) in the future. We are a product of the cosmos, so why should there be a limit to what we can know? But until these fundamental questions are answered, most of us should keep quiet and enjoy racking our brains five minutes a day reflecting on the ‘mystery of life’.

    • Why put understanding in the future? The most obvious thing surely is that there is no future – it is a fantasy happening now. there is no past for that matter it is an image in the mind happening now. There is no such thing as what is not present here and now. If this is clearly understood then we give up conjecture, give our full attention to the present and then it is possible to discover the answer to such questions as the one posed here.In reply to #53 by Lonard:

      Aren’t most of you guys evading vince78′s question? He is talking about the underlying mystery. THE MYSTERY. It is not enough saying ‘it has to do with quantum effects, and ‘something’ is more stable than ‘nothing’, or stuff like that. That doesn’t tell you anything. I firmly believe that the human…

    • In reply to #53 by Lonard:

      Aren’t many of you guys evading vince78′s question?

      Au contraire, I’d say most of the posts here are taking the question very seriously. They have engaged with it incisively, from pointing out the assumptions in the question to grappling with the scientific and philosophical meanings of the terms used, and identified what the current positions in physics are. I’d take that over pointless mystery-mongering any day of the week.

      • To grope in the dark for a light switch isn’t mystery mongering just because one hasn’t found it and is talking with other people in the same room about where it might be.
        In reply to #56 by Zeuglodon:*

        In reply to #53 by Lonard:

        Aren’t many of you guys evading vince78′s question?

        Au contraire, I’d say most of the posts here are taking the question very seriously. They have engaged with it incisively, from pointing out the assumptions in the question to grappling with the scientific and philosoph…

        • “Grope” , “Switch”, “Dark” , “Light” , “Mystery” , “Found It” ,”Room”, “Where it might be”

          You will never be informed of anything if this is your criteria for acquiring knowledge.

          The point being, you are already biased , the below is littered with terms that symbolise a purposeful, intelligent and moral universe.

          In reply to #63 by jburnforti:

          To grope in the dark for a light switch isn’t mystery mongering just because one hasn’t found it and is talking with other people in the same room about where it might be.
          In reply to #56 by Zeuglodon:*

          In reply to #53 by Lonard:

          Aren’t many of you guys evading vince78′s question?

          Au contraire,…

        • In reply to #63 by jburnforti:

          To grope in the dark for a light switch isn’t mystery mongering just because one hasn’t found it and is talking with other people in the same room about where it might be.

          That’s a better description of how the scientific and philosophical discussions and investigations work – collaborative efforts to find the answer in spite of present ignorance. I find the analogy harder to reconcile with the suggestion that sitting in a room trying to work out the answer from the armchair is less evasive than taking a scientific and philosophical account.

          • I agree and was only arguing for parity, in effect. But, yes, I don’t propose what I hope for is more worth doing than good science, only, I feel, as worth doing or better still, incorporating.In reply to #65 by Zeuglodon:

            In reply to #63 by jburnforti:

            To grope in the dark for a light switch isn’t mystery mongering just because one hasn’t found it and is talking with other people in the same room about where it might be.

            That’s a better description of how the scientific and philosophical discussions and investigat…

    • I firmly believe that the human brain (of scientists) is well capable of unlocking the secret of existence (the ‘something’) in the future.

      The problem , the manner of investigation , the variables , the conclusion would all have to be rationalised first , it would have to go way beyond subjectivity and pseudo-intellectualism. Why else should we believe it?

      We are a product of the cosmos, so why should there be a limit to what we can know?

      So are metals , rocks , etc

      But until these fundamental questions are answered, most of us should keep quiet and enjoy racking our brains five minutes a day reflecting on the ‘mystery of life’.

      Without the expertise to investigate this , what could we possibly know? Allegory and opinion that’s about it. That goes for science and philosophy and all the pseudos in between.

      In reply to #53 by Lonard:

      Aren’t many of you guys evading vince78′s question? He is talking about the underlying mystery. THE MYSTERY. It is not enough saying ‘it has to do with quantum effects, and ‘something’ is more stable than ‘nothing’, or stuff like that. That doesn’t tell you anything. I firmly believe that the human…

  28. On the point of having no clue about what is going on.
    Life is now. You can experience now directly – in which case there is no question.
    You can attempt to analyse what just happened with questions such as; why?
    Why do you want to know?
    Who wants to know?
    At a certain point in our development we split into two people; who we are (direct experience in the moment) and who we think we should be. The latter is reinforced by society and the former is given no importance or attention.
    Only one of these people is real.
    Which one?
    Which one wants to know why?

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  30. Maybe future scientist will view the concept “Nothing” is an idealisation. The human brain is good at inventing idealisations. Points, lines, never changing objects, materials that can be divided ad Infinitum, ever lasting objects, eternal life, infinite surfaces, infinitely smooth surfaces etc. are examples of idealisations. Maybe science eventually will look at such idealisations as products of an imperfect brain, rather than “real” possibilities.

    • In reply to #66 by SorenR:

      Maybe future scientist will view the concept “Nothing” is an idealisation.

      That would seem to be the consensus. Something without dimensionality, mass, energy(including thermodynamic energy), temporal value, or any other aspect of existence is simply incomprehensible.

      The human brain is good at inventing idealisations.

      Far, far, too adept at it. We need that creativity, but it does have cost.

      Points, lines, never changing objects, materials that can be divided ad Infinitum, ever lasting objects, eternal life, infinite surfaces, infinitely smooth surfaces etc. are examples of idealisations.

      Indeed, and all of them are infinite. Living in what appears to be a finite universe, infinity becomes a problem. So does its opposite, nonexistence. We lie between infinity and nonexistence, imagining both and finding neither.

      Maybe science eventually will look at such idealisations as products of an imperfect brain, rather than “real” possibilities.

      Seems to be the way this is all turning.

  31. I can’t imagine what its purpose might be and so have no idea if one could call it purposeful, have never thought of it as intelligent or otherwise and think morals entirely local concerns of interest only to humans on a tiny and unimportant fragment of dust. I’m not sure what you mean by criteria for acquiring knowledge but freely concede I’m likely to have my biases. Why is there something and not nothing?In reply to #64 by Pauly01:

    “Grope” , “Switch”, “Dark” , “Light” , “Mystery” , “Found It” ,”Room”, “Where it might be”

    You will never be informed of anything if this is your criteria for acquiring knowledge.

    The point being, you are already biased , the below is littered with terms that symbolise a purposeful, intelligent an…

    • I’m not sure what you mean by criteria for acquiring knowledge

      I read your post and although one poster pointed it out as an analogy , it sounded allegorical to me. Is it fair to say that your point of view is really only concerned with making sense of experience and conciousness rather than the material. All I would say is that the meaning of conciousness does not equate to the reality of life or the reality of the universe. ‘Science’ is as good as it get’s , it’s our best way out of all this ‘what is knowledge’ business.

      In reply to #68 by jburnforti:

      I can’t imagine what its purpose might be and so have no idea if one could call it purposeful, have never thought of it as intelligent or otherwise and think morals entirely local concerns of interest only to humans on a tiny and unimportant fragment of dust. I’m not sure what you mean by criteria f…

  32. Well, since I have not heard a single sensible definition of “nothing” I really can’t find this topic meaningful… In my opinion these discussions tend to be more about semantics than physics. As far as I’m concerned nothing by definition can’t exist. Hence, the whole question “why is there something rather than nothing” seems like a nonsense question from the start.

    • In reply to #69 by Nunbeliever:

      Well, since I have not heard a single sensible definition of “nothing” I really can’t find this topic meaningful… In my opinion these discussions tend to be more about semantics than physics. As far as I’m concerned nothing by definition can’t exist. Hence, the whole question “why is there something rather than nothing” seems like a nonsense question from the start.

      True, Nothing is a concept with multiple meanings and uses. It is a null value(0), a lack of matter(physically empty space), and a concept of nonexistence. The convolution occurs when we confuse the latter with either of the former. A nothing, with no extant attributes whatsoever, does not exist by definition. The question is really asking why existence exists, which is problematic and paradoxical. How could existence not exist? It exists by definition! Such problems ofter render much careful consideration a waste of time. That is why we try to leave semantics at the door, as much as possible, and move forward as carefully as possible.

      • 76′s tone grew a bit churlish towards the end for which I apologise. Moving on, I entirely disagree that asking why Existence exists is paradoxical as though it were wordplay – it is the nub of the OP and if anyone wants to call it semantics, that changes nothing for me. I.n reply to #75 by Tlhedglin:*

        In reply to #69 by Nunbeliever:

        Well, since I have not heard a single sensible definition of “nothing” I really can’t find this topic meaningful… In my opinion these discussions tend to be more about semantics than physics. As far as I’m concerned nothing by definition can’t exist. Hence, the who…

        • In reply to #78 by jburnforti:

          76′s tone grew a bit churlish towards the end for which I apologise.

          No need, as long as I understand the point you are trying to make, I care very little for its politeness.

          Moving on, I entirely disagree that asking why Existence exists is paradoxical as though it were wordplay – it is the nub of the OP and if anyone wants to call it semantics, that changes nothing for me.

          Infinite regression. If our universe does NOT turn out to be all that exists, do we now have to explain all existent things outside of it, even if they are infinite? We, necessarily, need to confine our speculations to the singular event we are trying to explain(Big Bang), and not try to explain the existence of things not even known to exist. We need to focus, singularly, on this universe instead of all possible existences. Does this sound fair?

          • Existence isn’t dependent on the number of things which exist, I think. It’s a puzzle, to those it puzzles, innately. And it’s an unsupported assumption, isn’t it, that the Big Bang is the necessarily central object of enquiry from whose riddle all answers should eventually flow? Where we disagree, I think, is this. You think the Big Bang is the First Cause in the chain of Cause and Effect (as we’ve identified it), we perceive to be History while I think it may be the First Effect, but anyway isn’t the First Cause. To my mind, the moment/reason Existence begins is the First Cause which it would be fascinating to explain. As for Infinite Regressions, what makes them so much more frightening or tedious than many other objects/features of inquiry such as Nature or Nurture, say, or origins of consciousness or any one of dozens you can think of? Part of the fun of having a mind. And no more than an obstacle, otherwise Fermat’s Last Theorem would have remained endlessly on the To-Do List (Tomorrow).

            Re. JackR’s cute question, yes, nice one. Worth giving thought to. to #81 by Tlhedglin:*

            In reply to #78 by jburnforti:

            76′s tone grew a bit churlish towards the end for which I apologise.

            No need, as long as I understand the point you are trying to make, I care very little for its politeness.

            Moving on, I entirely disagree that asking why Existence exists is paradoxical as though it…

      • Yes I understand that Lawrence Krauss and other physicist use the term nothing in order to explain the origin of the universe. I think they should invent another word for what they are talking about since using the term “nothing” only leads to confusion. Nothing is not a scientific term, since nothing by definition can’t be a real entity (except as a null hypothesis, as you mentioned in your comment). In reply to #75 by Tlhedglin:

        In reply to #69 by Nunbeliever:

        Well, since I have not heard a single sensible definition of “nothing” I really can’t find this topic meaningful… In my opinion these discussions tend to be more about semantics than physics. As far as I’m concerned nothing by definition can’t exist. Hence, the who…

        • In reply to #111 by Nunbeliever:

          Yes I understand that Lawrence Krauss and other physicist use the term nothing in order to explain the origin of the universe. I think they should invent another word for what they are talking about since using the term “nothing” only leads to confusion. Nothing is not a scientific term, since nothi…

          I would agree.. The closest to nothing in physics that I am aware of is a perfect vacuum state where there are no particles, atoms, stars, or galaxies ect. It’s not literally nothing but rather an unstable vacuum state. Lawrence shouldn’t be using the term “nothing” but rather the term “Perfect vacuum” in which is a state so unstable that scientists aren’t even sure such a state is even possible. Existence has a interesting ability to interfere with itself… But if you really want to confuse a theist on the subject of causality, tell them Existence itself is Causality and then ask them these questions:

          1. What is God without existence?
          2. If Existence is God, then what in and of existence is not?
          3. Existence is not God, then what in and of existence is?
          4. Explain causality without existence.

          Existence simply exists without creation because nothing and non-existence can not literally be an existing person, place, object, substance or thing. Existence is a Universal set of all sets to which is and governs everything. It’s every force to cause, rule, law, system, state, function, level of complexity, person, place, object, substance, or thing. And it’s not something anyone or anything can literally create, and that means all things are either forms, states, functions, rules, laws, or emergent properties of existence itself. The big bang is an emergent property of existence regardless of the existential process in which produced it. Even a conscious state can not exist without cause, or more specifically the inertia of information within a complex adaptive system with feedback.. The conscious state is a emergent property of processes just as the image on your computer screen is. And most people don’t get that information and energy are interchangeable as two sides of the same coin as you can note by this very post you are reading on your computer screen. Now that is food for thought ;)

          • In reply to #113 by TheJackel:

            In reply to #111 by Nunbeliever:

            Yes I understand that Lawrence Krauss and other physicist use the term nothing in order to explain the origin of the universe. I think they should invent another word for what they are talking about since using the term “nothing” only leads to confusion. Nothing is…

            Indeed, Krauss merely points out that under some conditions, a null(positive=negative) universe could come into being from a perfect vacuum. No mass or energy is necessary for such a thing to happen.

        • In reply to #111 by Nunbeliever:

          Yes I understand that Lawrence Krauss and other physicist use the term nothing in order to explain the origin of the universe.

          Actually, Krauss argues that since positive and negative forces are equal, the origin could have a null value. 1 quadrillion minus 1 quadrillion is still zero. If he is right, no mass or energy would be needed to create this universe.

          I think they should invent another word for what they are talking about since using the term “nothing” only leads to confusion.

          True, but they probably forget the need, because they understand it and assume others will. They likely think that even if they created another word to describe it, the apologists will just twist it as well, convoluting the argument further.

          Nothing is not a scientific term, since nothing by definition can’t be a real entity (except as a null hypothesis, as you mentioned in your comment).

          He is, actually, talking about a null value. I watched the lecture, it is about matter and energy being unnecessary for the big bang. He does not outright claim that it happened in such a fashion, just that it would have been possible.

  33. In reply to #48 by Pauly01:

    Ok , it seems that this guy is getting a bit of negative press but I think the position has some meaning , in terms of experience.

    He articulates that we are all basically made of the same stuff , in general we have similar base emotions and motivations. This for me is a basic tenant of humanism an…

    Personally, I’ve found that antidepressants are useful in mollifying the ennui caused by the contemplation of unfounded doubts.

    • Your right, the comment on ‘mindfulness’ was ill thought out

      In reply to #74 by rzzz:

      In reply to #48 by Pauly01:

      Ok , it seems that this guy is getting a bit of negative press but I think the position has some meaning , in terms of experience.

      He articulates that we are all basically made of the same stuff , in general we have similar base emotions and motivations. This for me is…

  34. In reply to #72 by Pauly01:

    ‘Science’ is as good as it get’s , it’s our best way out of all this ‘what is knowledge’ business.

    I really liked this. Epistemology might turn the thread off on a tangent, we need to stick to how we can reasonably verify and utilize ‘knowledge’ in the most efficient way possible.

  35. As others have noted above, we don’t know, and yet divine intervention is a terrible answer, partly because it it’s not a real answer (any more than a wizard did it or magic). It doesn’t better explain the process by which the universe was formed. It doesn’t bring us any closer to moment of the big bang.

    But also, because imposing a god limits the imagination as to what are the possibilities. String theory posits (or posited — large dimensions outside of our own might have been disproven by recent observations at the LHC) that the manifold of our universe is one of an innumerable quantity (like grains of sand in the Sahara — 8.0 x 10^27) in a manifold of a higher magnitude, and that our universe was itself caused by a natural phenomenon.

    While this does not answer the question of first cause, it does raise the possibility that first cause is not necessary in a manifold whose time is not the same as ours. According to cosmic inflation, the time we observe begins with the big bang. There is no before in which anything could have caused it. Any dimension that serves (or dimensions that serve) as time for an exterior manifold would have its own properties unrelated to the time of our universe. Time there could be infinite, or recursive, or circular (toroidal! hyperspherical!). But whatever it is, it’s presently outside the scope of our means to observe, so we can only conjecture.

    Intelligent creatures that create universes but need not to have been created, themselves, represent a form of special pleading. And just because such a thing is named (by some) as God doesn’t mean it is not subject to the same scrutiny or rules to which everything else is.

  36. Perhaps the pursuit of knowledge (with the associated satisfaction of having gained some) persuades the intellect of the validity of the notion that the ability to pose a question assumes that there is, in fact, an answer. Having pondered the OP for many years, I have concluded that the question of existence versus nonexistence is perhaps an artifact of our evolution that we have, as yet, failed to “rise above”. It is the nature of some members of our species to aspire to knowledge. This is more important to some than to others, and to be honest, it is more attainable for some than for others. I have taken solace in the fact that I am desirous of and able to pursue knowledge. I do not pretend to know that which may not be knowable, but I am quite happy to keep trying rather than give up and give in to any religious dogma, which answers nothing.
    I have proposed (only to myself) that concepts such as teleology and ontology had their origins in the REM state in the early development of the species. Dreams sometimes make perfect sense until the dreamer awakens. This concept is useful to me more in the realm of mental self-preservation than as any sort of workable theory. My life as a useful and moral human being is not predicated on my ability to answer philosophical questions. I am content with my ability to ponder them. Vincent, I hope this helps.

    • In reply to #86 by jburnforti:

      Existence isn’t dependent on the number of things which exist, I think.

      But it is contingent on the existence of the things which exist. No existent things, no existence.

      It’s a puzzle, to those it puzzles, innately.

      That is pretty much obvious, like circles being round.

      And it’s an unsupported assumption, isn’t it, that the Big Bang is the necessarily central object of enquiry from whose riddle all answers should eventually flow?

      All answers? Who is saying that? Solving all questions related to the big bang will only explain why THIS universe exists as it is, no more or less.

      Where we disagree, I think, is this. You think the Big Bang is the First Cause in the chain of Cause and Effect (as we’ve identified it), we perceive to be History while I think it may be the First Effect, but anyway isn’t the First Cause.

      If there was no time or space(nothing) before the big bang, there could be no cause. If there was time and space before the big bang(something), existence is not much of a surprise. It is what it is, and no amount of logical convolution will change it. If you assume a cause, based on the law of causality that we can only know applies to that which is within the universe, you assume existence did not start with the big bang at all. If existence did not start with the big bang, then knowing the cause of the big bang will NOT tell you a damn thing about why existence exists. Hence, the paradox.

      To my mind, the moment/reason Existence begins is the First Cause which it would be fascinating to explain.

      From what we know, the big bang may very well be the moment/reason existence begins, fulfilling your own criteria for a first cause, whether you choose to recognize it as such or not.

      As for Infinite Regressions, what makes them so much more frightening or tedious than many other objects/features of inquiry such as Nature or Nurture, say, or origins of consciousness or any one of dozens you can think of?

      We can find sound scientific arguments for all the supposed phenomenon above, which gives us real and useful answers. Infinite regression is a non-answer, it tells us nothing, and has no uses.

      Part of the fun of having a mind. And no more than an obstacle, otherwise Fermat’s Last Theorem would have remained endlessly on the To-Do List (Tomorrow).

      Pointing to an exclusionary mathematical principle that prevents infinite progressions, as somehow being an infinite regression, confuses me.

      Re. JackR’s cute question, yes, nice one. Worth giving thought to.

      In reply to #84 by JackR:

      Your question seems to contain the a priori assumption that “something” is a less probable state of reality than “nothing”.

      Yes! Exactly!

      Why do you think that?

      They are assuming that “nothing” existed before the big bang. I have said before that the question may need to be “Why is there THIS rather than something else that is potentially EQUALLY probable?” We don’t know. We can’t even know anything about the conditions of presumed existence or nonexistence before the big bang, so we HAVE to focus on the one event we can possibly show the conditions, therefore requirements, of.

      • Why is there something and not nothing? is the OP. I rephrase that to mean “Why is there Existence?” because I believe that’s what it means and find it easier to marshall my thoughts using that form. I take you to believe that understanding the Big Bang will answer that and so reply, according to my opinion, that an understanding of the Big Bang may well explain everything subsequent but needn’t and, I believe, won’t explain why first there’s nothing, then there’s something (the Big Bang); I happen not to believe that there is a materialist answer to what I see as a metaphysical problem – which is what I believe the OP is asking and which is why I have offered the comments as above. I don’t believe your comments do address the OP. They may well address what you believe the OP should ask. And I’m afraid that commenting on your comments on my comments may lead to an infinite regression of our own. So, sorry as I am for apologising, as I understand you’ve little truck with that sort of thing, I nonetheless apologise for not being prepared to continue what is becoming a sterile debate. .reply to #87 by Tlhedglin:*

        In reply to #86 by jburnforti:

        Existence isn’t dependent on the number of things which exist, I think.

        But it is contingent on the existence of the things which exist. No existent things, no existence.

        It’s a puzzle, to those it puzzles, innately.

        That is pretty much obvious, like circles being…

        • In reply to #88 by jburnforti:

          Why is there something and not nothing? is the OP. I rephrase that to mean “Why is there Existence?” because I believe that’s what it means and find it easier to marshall my thoughts using that form. I take you to believe that understanding the Big Bang will answer that and so reply, according to my…

          Or……you could be honest with yourself and say that you don’t know, as with the rest of us. I believe this now bookends the first comment by Tihedgelin.

        • In reply to #88 by jburnforti:

          I happen not to believe that there is a materialist answer to what I see as a metaphysical problem…

          This is the disconnect, then. I believe this problem, like every other problem ever solved, will have a ‘materialist’(matter and/or energy) answer. You believe this problem, like no other problem ever solved, will have a metaphysical(unrelated to matter or energy) answer. I see we have a fundamental difference of opinion on this topic. I have to confine my assumptions to the things I can actually verify and prove, while you can simply assume your fairy of choice and pretend it is “just as reasonable” as a materialistic explanation because “we can’t yet prove it isn’t”. Sorry, you are absolutely right, we will obviously not ever agree on existence or anything else you posit a metaphysical answer for.

  37. In the end evolved emotional intelligence will give the enlightenment your species craves

    It’s hard to know what to say to you, but you have undoubtedly the most entertaining username on RDFRS. Kudoz on that score. But the rest, not so much.

    In reply to #83 by Apeshit:

    In the end evolved emotional intelligence will give the enlightenment your species craves. As of now you are stuck between paradigms. The current evolved emotional state of your species inclines you to search for external values and meaning to your lives in a place which has none, and is indifferent…

  38. It appears you are presupposing nothing has a greater likelihood to exist than something. It could simply be a feeling or intuition that the existence of something is improbable, and that the existence of nothing is more probable. Intuitions are often drastically wrong. Were I to walk outside and look around at the world, my intuition would tell me incorrectly that the world is flat, non moving, and that the sun is smaller and moves through the sky. The existence of nothing might be what is improbable.

    • In reply to #90 by cordt1:

      It appears you are presupposing nothing has a greater likelihood to exist than something. It could simply be a feeling or intuition that the existence of something is improbable, and that the existence of nothing is more probable. Intuitions are often drastically wrong. Were I to walk outside and look around at the world, my intuition would tell me incorrectly that the world is flat, non moving, and that the sun is smaller and moves through the sky. The existence of nothing might be what is improbable.

      Indeed. A single subatomic particle or wave is all that is necessary for their to be something, nothing would be a total absence of anything. To me, nothing does not really seem all that likely, even in the conditions “before” the big bang.

  39. In reply to #89 by Nitya:

    Or……you could be honest with yourself and say that you don’t know, as with the rest of us. I believe this now bookends the first comment by Tihedgelin.

    Indeed, people seem too ashamed or embarrassed to admit when they really don’t know, as if it somehow diminishes their argument or intelligence. I am not sure why this is, but we all must let go of that kind of empty vanity before we can move forward with this discussion, or even honestly approach it.

  40. Empty vanity? Why the personal attack? I’ve argued reasonably and courteously but not to your taste. My unwillingness to admit I’m wrong is no more in evidence than yours and I have attempted to address the OP and to remind us to do so when I felt we strayed. For the rest, I’ve withdrawn from the debate because I recognise our opposed viewpoints are not getting closer.
    As a footnote to that though, I make at least 2 references earlier disdaining or mocking fairies in the sky and think you ought to impute motives to this atheist on the evidence – it’s the scientific method. Equally, I make frequent admissions of doubt or lack of knowledge earlier on and believe they ought to be referenced before anyone starts in on my lack of ability to think I may be wrong. i sensed bad-temper start to surface, knew ad hominem arguments wouldn’t be far behind (as they haven’t) and left as debate breaks down. It’s not what I signed on for.

    • In reply to #94 by jburnforti:

      Empty vanity?

      Indeed, false pride.

      Why the personal attack?

      Did I say “Jburnforti must”? No? Ah, that’s right, it said “we all must”. Believe it or not, sometimes when I speak, I am not talking about you.

      I’ve argued reasonably and courteously but not to your taste.

      Agreed.

      My unwillingness to admit I’m wrong is no more in evidence than yours and I have attempted to address the OP and to remind us to do so when I felt we strayed.

      Indeed? I remember explicitly stating many times I did not know what, if any, conditions precipitated the big bang. Can I possibly be wrong about that? Do I actually know without knowing it? The only argument we have really had, was about you inserting unnecessary assumptions into the mix.

      For the rest, I’ve withdrawn from the debate because I recognise our opposed viewpoints are not getting closer.

      Yes, they seem to be growing farther apart at an exponential rate.

  41. Hi Vince,

    My questions to my fellow atheists is if they also have the feeling to have no clue, if and how this impact their life, how they deal with this and/or if they would have some interesting insight about this topic. I know, I know, a big question for a forum, but I believe this is the best place to have interesting view points.

    Yes, I often feel as though I have no clue. :^) I often have no clue.

    I like this take on Plato’s Cave from The Republic. Understanding Plato’s Cave

    I feel like the guy that just left the cave all the time. :P I study when I’m motivated. Studying helps me feel like I’m moving towards having a grasp on what is happening, or at least like I’m learning to use tools that can help me make sense of what’s going on and even discover for myself what is real, and what I think about what is real.

    The absurdity of existence is a motivator.

  42. I am an agnostic atheist, the How = Science, the Why = God. The Why will never be known at the God level (not an ape God but a universal or multiversal God) as it can only be represented as infinity at this level, as one God would be preceded by another and so on to infinity. So the Why could be = Something = God = Infinity = Nothing (or not understood for example dark matter) = Something = God…

    • In reply to #98 by Apeshit:

      I am an agnostic atheist…

      So am I, and I bet, so are most the other people here.

      …the How = Science, the Why = God.

      Hmm, why? Why not How = Science and Why = Unicorns/Aliens/Faeries? Why is it that we must define things we do not know or comprehend as divine or willful, that just seems like baggage we could not hope to justify.

      The Why will never be known at the God level (not an ape God but a universal or multiversal God) as it can only be represented as infinity at this level, as one God would be preceded by another and so on to infinity.

      Isn’t that just redefining god into existence? Spoons are god, spoons exist, therefore god does? Asserting god is like infinity, despite the fact that it isn’t necessary, equivocates and conflates two separate concepts.

      So the Why could be = Something = God = Infinity = Nothing (or not understood for example dark matter) = Something = God…

      Why not just say it was “something”, it is vague enough to suit the purpose we need it for, and adds NO baggage to the debate that we cannot justify.

    • In reply to #98 by Apeshit:

      I am an agnostic atheist, the How = Science, the Why = God. The Why will never be known at the God level (not an ape God but a universal or multiversal God) as it can only be represented as infinity at this level, as one God would be preceded by another and so on to infinity. So the Why could be = S…

      Finally someone gets it.

  43. Hey guys, I was wondering something….perhaps a bit naive….yes definitely naive…but is there any evidence that this universe is cyclical? In comparison, universes of “forests” in which each “tree” is in a particular season and stage of growth. Even though there is a Winter which is seemingly void and lacking all life, deep within are stirrings of the potential of life and new growth. There really is no beginning nor end, a “tree” might die, but then another new universe begins. (Sorry for the obvious Taoist analogy.)

    Frequently these types of conversations of “why there is something and not nothing” assumes that there is a beginning after absolutely nothing. It is implied that it is linear with only one universe. What if it is one massively massively continuous cycle in which the Universe has periods of near nothingness to extreme activity and then it collapses and starts over at near nothingness and follows through the cycle again? Perhaps there are even millions of universes in which they vary in “maturity” to different degrees. If I look outside and see a star, it may be have taken millions of years for the light to travel and reach my attention. I also understand that this sight may be a remnant of a universe that no longer exists. Perhaps we limit the conversation when see only our solar system. ?

    • In reply to #102 by QuestioningKat:

      Hey guys, I was wondering something….perhaps a bit naive….yes definitely naive…but is there any evidence that this universe is cyclical?

      Not likely, the current universe exists on a flat plane(according to WMap), meaning that there is not enough gravity to cause a collapse with the distances involved. Had it been curved or closed, it would have been possible, perhaps even probable.

      In comparison, universes of “forests” in which each “tree” is in a particular season and stage of growth. Even though there is a Winter which is seemingly void and lacking all life, deep within are stirrings of the potential of life and new growth. There really is no beginning nor end, a “tree” might die, but then another new universe begins. (Sorry for the obvious Taoist analogy.)

      Sounds a lot like the multiverse hypothesis.

      Frequently these types of conversations of “why there is something and not nothing” assumes that there is a beginning after absolutely nothing.

      True, we have no real reason to assume there was nothing, nor good reason to assume there was something.

      It is implied that it is linear with only one universe.

      We do operate as if this is the only universe, because this is the only one we know to exist. In science, we try to to make too many unjustified assertions, because people might confuse speculation with fact.

      What if it is one massively massively continuous cycle in which the Universe has periods of near nothingness to extreme activity and then it collapses and starts over at near nothingness and follows through the cycle again?

      We are not certain, but what we know of the universe makes this quite unlikely.

      Perhaps there are even millions of universes in which they vary in “maturity” to different degrees.

      Perhaps, but it is problematic to assume such things as fact, so until we can test it, we must put that back on the shelf.

      If I look outside and see a star, it may be have taken millions of years for the light to travel and reach my attention.

      Indeed. It is fascinating that many of these lights are probably dead.

      I also understand that this sight may be a remnant of a universe that no longer exists.

      Uh, the universe is all the stars and galaxies, so no. All you see is part of this universe.

      Perhaps we limit the conversation when see only our solar system. ?

      No, we limit it to this universe, which is known to exist. Not our solar system, not our galaxy, our universe. The universe IS finite, it has a border that we do not observe anything beyond.

  44. Dear Vincent,

    I have thought about this for over 20 years, eventually even getting an M.A. in Philosophy. “Why is there something rather than nothing?” The best description of “nothing” that I have ever heard goes something like this: draw a circle on a blackboard with “nothing” inside that circle, then erase the circle. The originator of this description coined the expression “nothing nothing” as a name for it, to emphasize the fact that nothing really must be nothing. There are three possible answers:
    1) Something was caused by nothing. Question – Can something really be caused by “nothing nothing”? (I don’t think so.)
    2) Something was caused by itself. Question – Can something really cause itself? (If so, the original question remains to be answered.)
    3) Something was caused by some other thing. Question – Can something be caused by some other thing? (Yes, but the cause must be sufficient to explain the “something” or you end up needing a cause for the cause, etc. etc. without a beginning cause. Even if we suppose that this series of causes continues infinitely, the original question remains to be answered.) Some, including me, would say there is a Sufficient Cause.

  45. Here is a simple answer… Nothing can’t literally exist in the literal context. Even a perfect vacuum or void is not actually “Nothing” but rather something not well understood. If nothing exists, we wouldn’t be here or possible. If nothing actually existed, not even nothing would exist by definition. It’s a self-refuting concept and thus it could never exist. Existence simply exists because nothing doesn’t and can’t actually be an existing person, place, object, substance, or thing. It’s a simple understanding of the definitions of the words.

  46. Thanks Tlhedglin. …more naive questions here…Based on what you say…that there is one universe…I assume that my tree analogy would work for various GALLAXIES within this universe.

    forests” in which each “tree” is in a particular season and stage of growth. Even though there is a Winter which is seemingly void and lacking all life, deep within are stirrings of the potential of life and new growth. There really is no beginning nor end, a “tree” might die, but then another new GALLAXY begins. (I assume this analogy could also work for individual solar systems within a gallaxy.)

    I assume this because of my ability to observe dead stars today.
    Regarding the Big Bang theory, does it hold that all gallaxies, solar systems, etc. were created at once? I assume not if the universe is expanding. Could I then assume that other gallaxies were already in existence before our own? (Sorry, I’m having difficulty trying to put my thoughts into words. Hopefully, I’m making sense. I have more questions based on your answer.) Thanks

    • In reply to #106 by QuestioningKat:

      Thanks Tlhedglin. …more naive questions here…Based on what you say…that there is one universe…I assume that my tree analogy would work for various GALLAXIES within this universe.

      Nearly perfectly. Different galaxies are at different maturation stages, and often take very different forms as our own.

      I assume this because of my ability to observe dead stars today.

      It appears to be a valid assumption, considering the evidence that we have.

      Regarding the Big Bang theory, does it hold that all gallaxies, solar systems, etc. were created at once?

      NO! Not by any means, new stars and galaxies emerge all the time, just as some die. While we do not currently believe the UNIVERSE is cyclic, we KNOW matter within the universe IS. Any element in your body other that hydrogen and helium, was made in stars through thermonucleosynthesis. YOU are stardust too.

      I assume not if the universe is expanding.

      Bingo.

      Could I then assume that other gallaxies were already in existence before our own?

      Absolutely. It is a fact.

      (Sorry, I’m having difficulty trying to put my thoughts into words. Hopefully, I’m making sense. I have more questions based on your answer.) Thanks

      Don’t worry, if you confuse me, I will definitely let you know. So far, I think I have understood you well enough.

  47. You have two options:

    1. Reject the question and hold on to your materialist world view. In fact, if you ascribe to such a world view such a question is, by logical necessity, absurd. You can’t have your cake and eat it too my friend.
    2. Open up your mind to the transcendent and set yourself off on a journey towards a possibly broader understanding of reality.

    I suspect that deep down inside you’re really questioning the rational integrity of atheism. Run with your instincts…that’s my advice to you.

    • In reply to #108 by Oldschoolsaint:

      You have two options:

      • . Reject the question and hold on to your materialist world view. In fact, if you ascribe to such a world view such a question is, by logical necessity, absurd.

      Without a comprehensive definition of “something”, the concept of nothing is absurd!

      • You can’t have your cake and eat it too my friend.

      ?????

      • . Open up your mind to the transcendent and set yourself off on a journey towards a possibly broader understanding of reality.

      Transcendent thinking is well known for dwelling in the world of unreality. – trance induced, drug induced, or theistically deluded! Transcendent introspection may produce the self-referencing delusion of “opening up the mind”, but is in fact closing it to the objective external reality.

      However, objective material science is working on the analysis of transcendental effects in the brain.

      Although it is well established that all behaviors and experiences, spiritual or otherwise, must originate in the brain, true empirical exploration of the neural underpinnings of spirituality has been challenging. However, recent advances in neuroscience have started to make the complex mental processes associated with religion and spirituality more accessible.

      “Neuroimaging studies have linked activity within a large network in the brain that connects the frontal, parietal, and temporal cortexes with spiritual experiences, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100210124757.htm

      • In reply to #109 by Alan4discussion:

        In reply to #108 by Oldschoolsaint:

        You have two options:

        . Reject the question and hold on to your materialist world view. In fact, if you ascribe to such a world view such a question is, by logical necessity, absurd.

        Without a comprehensive definition of “something”, the concept of nothing…

        Was this comment directed at me or the originator of this thread? You and a agree that the question is absurd, although for quite different reasons. Perhaps your objection to use of the term “nothing” could be obviated by simply asking why the universe exists.

        The meaning behind my cake reference was simple: you can not simultaneously claim to be a materialist and suggest that there is legitimacy to the “why” question.

        Everything you said about transcendence is true if materialism is true. Of course you can not demonstrate conclusively that materialism is true. Hence your assertion is faith based. Welcome to my world.

        • In reply to #110 by Oldschoolsaint:

          You and a agree that the question is absurd, although for quite different reasons. Perhaps your objection to use of the term “nothing” could be obviated by simply asking why the universe exists.

          The universe exists, because physical “nothing” does not.

          “Why?” questions either have “How?” answers or lead to the limits of knowledge, at which point the honest answer is, “We do not know”.

          Nobody knows “Why?” the universe exists but we do know that it physically evolved from the inflationary period of the Big-Bang as the best explanation we have consistent with objective observations.

          The meaning behind my cake reference was simple: you can not simultaneously claim to be a materialist and suggest that there is legitimacy to the “why” question.

          There is no ultimate legitimacy of the “Why?” question. The ultimate honest answer is “We do not know”! There are however various speculations based on projecting back from proven physics.

          Everything you said about transcendence is true if materialism is true. Of course you can not demonstrate conclusively that materialism is true.

          Not conclusively yet, – only probable indicators of material transcendence. In time the evidence will build up. Neuroscientists are working on it!
          http://www.richarddawkins.net/discussions/2013/7/14/potentially-naive-suggestion-on-how-to-re-invigorate-the-debate-on-evolution#comment-box-23

          Hence your assertion is faith based.

          Nope! It is based on limited evidence which is only indicative. It is the only evidence we have. Other claims have no substance or supporting evidence at all, so I will provisionally go with the most probable.

          Welcome to my world.)!

          Thanks, – but I have seen many versions of it before.

        • In reply to #110 by Oldschoolsaint:

          Perhaps your objection to use of the term “nothing” could be obviated by simply asking why the universe exists.

          That does not appear to be the case. He has stated a few times that the “why” question assumes intent and purpose, despite there being NO reason to assume anything of the sort. Ask “How” the universe came to exist in its current state, instead.

          The meaning behind my cake reference was simple: you can not simultaneously claim to be a materialist and suggest that there is legitimacy to the “why” question.

          Has he?

          Everything you said about transcendence is true if materialism is true. Of course you can not demonstrate conclusively that materialism is true.

          If it is not true, then every single perception you have(including this conversation) is meaningless, and you are adrift in a solipsistic sea. Unable to “know” or “perceive” anything about the reality around you, you might as well assert that there is not universe at all, only your imagination of such a place. Forgive us if we disagree.

          Hence your assertion is faith based.

          Actually, observations made by purely materialistic means are useful. We can test and repeat them. He does not have to put blind faith in something he can simply test and verify, and have others repeat and verify.

          Welcome to my world.

          Nah, he still lives in a different paradigm than you do.

      • In reply to #109 by Alan4discussion:

        In reply to #108 by Oldschoolsaint:

        You have two options:

        . Reject the question and hold on to your materialist world view. In fact, if you ascribe to such a world view such a question is, by logical necessity, absurd.

        Without a comprehensive definition of “something”, the concept of nothing…

        Anyone with the idea of immateriality is essentially claiming nothing can be a person, place, object, substance, or thing.. It’s a self-refuting argument false by consequence of it’s premises.. Nothing cannot have the capacity to be anything or support the existence of anything.. There is already a comprehensive definition of the terms nothing and something, and woeful ignorance of those definitions are simply what religious folk rely on as they often take such things a try to make them mean the entire opposite of what they actually mean.. Nothing is synonymous with non-existence, and I would suggest looking up that definition to.

        Now here is a challenge.. Describe for me a world made of nothing, and do so without physical descriptors such as “Color, shapes, light, dimensional values ect. Describe for us how one feels, has, and can express emotion without physically feeling, having, or expressing such. You will find that they can not fundamentally describe any such world different from the physical world we live in. It’s nonsense, and it only takes a fraction of a critical thought to discount such a notion.

  48. Thanks again Tlhedglin for clarifying my thoughts.

    I asked: Regarding the Big Bang theory, does it hold that all gallaxies, solar systems, etc. were created at once?
    You responded:

    NO! Not by any means, new stars and galaxies emerge all the time….Any element in your body other that hydrogen and helium, was made in stars through thermonucleosynthesis. YOU are stardust too.

    I asked: Could I then assume that other gallaxies were already in existence before our own?
    You responded:

    Absolutely. It is a fact.

    Based upon these two facts, I assume that when we consider our own gallaxy/solar system’s origins, something (particles, etc) had to exist before its creation/big bang. The concept of “true” nothingness” a void etc. cannot be. I realize Lawrence Krauss explains how the universe came to be out of “nothing” perhaps as an argument to theists. (I agree with the other post that this is confusing.)

    What in a nutshell is the “something” in the “nothingness?”

    What dynamics are going on/exists in in this simplest state for the beginnings of a gallaxy vs. the universe to happen? I consider it to be particles and certain properties/activities of physics, but I cannot really verbalize this to anyone other than myself which is really a lousy job, because I do not really understand precisely what this state is for myself to understand this.

    Regarding the universe being cyclical – This would apply only to the continuous formation of gallaxies (trees) and not the universe (forest) I assume that the universe is more of a “cummulative” concept of all it contains, but not in and of itself. A forest is not in and of itself, but it made up of trees, plants, animals and all that lives within it’s “realm. The lifespan of a single gallaxy/solar system would be linear. The lifespans of a multitude of gallaxies/solar systems would then give the perception of being cyclical though it would really be the overlapping time of them in different stages.

    Could it be that there was never a beginning nor will there be an end to the universe? It just keeps going on and on and has always done this? (I’m assuming that the universe is like a forest, correct me if I’m wrong.)

    Also, you mentioned that the universe is likely flat. Is it more like a balloon or a crumbled up piece of paper or something else?

    • In reply to #115 by QuestioningKat:

      I realize Lawrence Krauss explains how the universe came to be out of “nothing” perhaps as an argument to theists. (I agree with the other post that this is confusing.)

      Krauss’s argument is physics not philosophy or theology. The only way theism comes in is that he rightly points out that if the physics is correct it stands as an answer to one of the big “gaps” that until recently science didn’t even have any hypothesis for, what came before the Big Bang. The standard answer is that since time began with the big bang the question doesn’t even make sense but Krauss describes a theory where quantum foam existed before the big bang and random fluctuations in the foam resulted in the big bang.

      I’m probably saying some of that wrong, the physics he describes is way beyond my understanding but I am certain it is physics and not metaphysics.

      The objection “its not really nothing” to the quantum foam is of course true in a strict sense. What the theory postulates is that even nothing has some structure to it, its not completely unlike the old idea of the ether that people thought pervaded all of space to provide a medium for waves like light.

      IMO wrangling over metaphysical questions like “well is it really nothing?” are a waste of time, call it nothing or call it the mcguffin what matters is that there is a precised mathematical definition that may one day lead to predictions and testable experiments.

    • In reply to #115 by QuestioningKat:

      I assume that when we consider our own gallaxy/solar system’s origins, something (particles, etc) had to exist before its creation/big bang.

      Not necessarily. A universe with a sum of zero mass and energy, where positive and negative values fully negate each other perfectly, can come to be without any mass or energy being necessary at all.

      The concept of “true” nothingness” a void etc. cannot be.

      Probably not, even a perfect vacuum is “something”.

      I realize Lawrence Krauss explains how the universe came to be out of “nothing” perhaps as an argument to theists. (I agree with the other post that this is confusing.)

      Indeed, he conflates a null value with a state of nonexistence.

      What in a nutshell is the “something” in the “nothingness?”

      A perfect vacuum, devoid of all mass and energy.

      What dynamics are going on/exists in in this simplest state for the beginnings of a gallaxy vs. the universe to happen?

      Current galactic models show that most, if not all, galaxies orbit around super-massive black holes. I do not know if solar systems are pulled to and orbit these black holes, or if the speed and gravity around them have some quality that cause them to form. I lean toward the latter, for I have never heard of an unbound(nongalactic) solar system.

      I consider it to be particles and certain properties/activities of physics, but I cannot really verbalize this to anyone other than myself which is really a lousy job, because I do not really understand precisely what this state is for myself to understand this.

      Having ideas that are too involved for you to articulate is not necessarily lousy, but it does make expression of them difficult. For instance, I think a certain amount of thermodynamic energy is necessary for matter to form and maintain(which is why they congregate around black holes), but have a difficult time explaining the details.

      Regarding the universe being cyclical – This would apply only to the continuous formation of gallaxies (trees) and not the universe (forest) I assume that the universe is more of a “cummulative” concept of all it contains, but not in and of itself. A forest is not in and of itself, but it made up of trees, plants, animals and all that lives within it’s “realm. The lifespan of a single gallaxy/solar system would be linear. The lifespans of a multitude of gallaxies/solar systems would then give the perception of being cyclical though it would really be the overlapping time of them in different stages.

      I see, but for out purposes, we assume the forest is also an entity. Even if it is contingent upon the trees, and is an accumulation of “things”, we also tend to consider it a entity as well.

      Could it be that there was never a beginning nor will there be an end to the universe? It just keeps going on and on and has always done this? (I’m assuming that the universe is like a forest, correct me if I’m wrong.)

      It does not appear so. Given that it is flat, there does not appear to be a way for it to collapse in on itself. Also, the “trees” are moving farther apart at an accelerated rate. The current model holds that this will continue to do so, resulting in thermodynamic death(heat-death). Of course, that will not happen for trillions of years, if at all.

      Also, you mentioned that the universe is likely flat. Is it more like a balloon or a crumbled up piece of paper or something else?

      If I had to make an analogy, I would posit it is more like a coin, though even that is a misnomer.

  49. Indeed, Krauss merely points out that under some conditions, a null(positive=negative) universe could come into being from a perfect vacuum. No mass or energy is necessary for such a thing to happen.

    This is where I disagree as in physics the vacuum should be considered the ground state of matter and energy. What I think this ought to be in reference to is zero point energy:

    Zero-point energy, also called quantum vacuum zero-point energy, is the lowest possible energy that a quantum mechanical physical system may have; it is the energy of its ground state. All quantum mechanical systems undergo fluctuations even in their ground state and have an associated zero-point energy, a consequence of their wave-like nature. The uncertainty principle requires every physical system to have a zero-point energy greater than the minimum of its classical potential well. This results in motion even at absolute zero.

    And the following:

    Vacuum energy is the zero-point energy of all the fields in space, which in the Standard Model includes the electromagnetic field, other gauge fields, fermionic fields, and the Higgs field. It is the energy of the vacuum, which in quantum field theory is defined not as empty space but as the ground state of the fields. In cosmology, the vacuum energy is one possible explanation for the cosmological constant.[3] A related term is zero-point field, which is the lowest energy state of a particular field.[4]

    So I would beg to differ on this argument:

    No mass or energy is necessary for such a thing to happen.

    We know from physics that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, and I would argue that a perfect vacuum would likely be both the ground state of energy and matter to which is unstable.. So when I hear Cross talk about zero energy concerning the inflationary event of the Big Bang, I am assuming he’s talking net energy and zero-point energy. Hence gravity is a negative energy force and that repulsive force causing the universe to expand as a positive energy to where the net is zero (not literally zero, but zero as a starting point) to which we may consider as zero point energy.

    • In reply to #121 by TheJackel:

      Indeed, Krauss merely points out that under some conditions, a null(positive=negative) universe could come into being from a perfect vacuum. No mass or energy is necessary for such a thing to happen.

      This is where I disagree as in physics the vacuum should be considered the ground state of matter a…

      I see, I was not aware of this, thank you for the information. I will learn more about this, and promise to correct my mistake in future arguments.

      • I see, I was not aware of this, thank you for the information. I will learn more about this, and promise to correct my mistake in future arguments.

        you’re welcome :) I just wish Krauss would stop trying to challenge the definition of nothing or redefine it. Heck I would even argue that he needs to stop using the term. It’s this confusion that causing people to not take science seriously as it seems to be proclaiming magical emergence from literal nothing when that is not at all true. I swear, I would slap him every time he does that.. Yes the initial joke “Nothing isn’t nothing anymore” was funny considering that is what space was once thought to be, but to take it literally would suggest someone is getting lost in meaning, is delusional, or is being obtuse. :/

  50. For most of us it seems strange to think of something coming from nothing without redefining the very word nothing. Too bad we couldn’t use the title God as an abstract honorary title for this very important question for what started the “All”. A title that’d be understood by all to mean different things to different people.

    In order to study something we must first give “IT” a name.

    Then instead of telling people “there is no God” we could show them the proper path of understanding which involves the scientific method and the collective whole (Life,Nature,the Universe) that proves this “Something” (whether Something,or Nothing it becomes at least Something because all that is comes from IT) is real. Great post Vincent!

    PS I’m a Deist who leans towards “Theism” (I believe the revelations or truths found in Life that I feel have been deliberately reveled to me in some divine way..some form of Providence if you will) as well as an “active” Atheist as I actively deny the Theism or so called truths that Abrahamic faiths proselytize.

    • In reply to #125 by DeistReality:

      For most of us it seems strange to think of something coming from nothing without redefining the very word nothing. Too bad we couldn’t use the title God as an abstract honorary title for this very important question for what started the “All”. A title that’d be understood by all to mean different t…

      Isn’t that just redefining god into existence. If you called the sun a god, I doubt you would find many that would argue its existence. It is not the event of everything starting that would be in doubt, but your deification of it, as it adds baggage. Unless it has consciousness, supernatural power, or some other godlike quality, why call it god at all? You might as well call a spoon “god”, it doesn’t really change anything, and only serves to muddy already filthy waters.

  51. I Think it makes no difference if God exists or does not. My rational mind views any omnipotent being as aloof to our existence in the first place If you were an all powerful being, why would it make any difference to you if I believed in you or not? Or any one else for that matter? What sort of “God” creates people that he needs to adore him? To worship him? To devote their lives to him? Is GOD insecure in his realm? Would my devotion make him feel better? Sounds stupid to me. All religions sound stupid to me. Why don’t people devote their time to helping us all live and evolve instead of dividing us up by beliefs and killing whoever does not agree?

    • In reply to #126 by RayEdMcG:

      I Think it makes no difference if God exists or does not. My rational mind views any omnipotent being as aloof to our existence in the first place If you were an all powerful being, why would it make any difference to you if I believed in you or not? Or any one else for that matter? What sort of “…

      Watch out, every single time I have posed similar arguments, I have been called arrogant for not simply expecting omnimax deities to consider me of ultimate significance.

  52. Having followed this thread from its OP, there seems to be consensus that the question (why something rather than nothing) is not worth asking within the confines of our known universe. However, Vincent is certainly not alone in positing some credence to the question. So maybe we need to increase our scope. Imagine a sphere. It exists only as an idea. On the surface of this sphere is a circle. The relative size of the sphere and the circle is unimportant with the caveat that the area of the circle can be no greater than the surface area of the sphere. The circle represents our known universe. If our known universe is indeed flat, then the radius of the sphere must be much greater than the radius of the circle. Since our universe is expanding, the circle must also expand. If it is to maintain the same “flatness” then the sphere must expand with the circle. If more universes are postulated, add more circles. They cannot overlap in this imaginary model, unless science indicates that possibility. Keep in mind that this is “my” imaginary construct. Feel free to modify it to your needs or desires.
    I think what concerns Vincent is what may or may not lie outside the circle. To me it is unimportant, but to others, it may be very important. I treat these concerns the same way I treat the concerns of my friends who have “faith”. If it it makes you happy, bully for you. I am admittedly unable to reach that level of self-delusion.

  53. It’s apparent that Atheists simply don’t have a leg to stand on when it comes to the origin of the universe. The evidence so clearly points to an intelligent creator. Open your minds. Question the science that so boldly claims that evolution is the only answer. Once you remove your evolutionary minded spectacles, you’ll start to see evolution for what it is: A fairy tale of the grandest proportions, perpetuating the biggest lie that mankind has ever faced.

    Produce the evidence, and perhaps I might be convinced otherwise.

  54. In reply to #130 by DrJon:

    It’s apparent that Atheists simply don’t have a leg to stand on when it comes to the origin of the universe. Produce the evidence, and perhaps I might be convinced otherwise.

    Really! Perhaps you could produce some (any) evidence of the existence of an intelligent creator. If you are pursuing first causes, perhaps you could explain who created the creator… and the one before that, and so on. Faith and belief cannot replace evidence. But I will certainly allow that they seem to comfort some people. I am happy for them. By all means, if you are warm and happy… However,
    some of us require evidence and we find more of it as we continue to investigate. So we continue to look. Faith is generally not interested in evidence, so faith is a bit out of its element in the area of deductive reasoning. Believing alone does not make it so.

  55. We need to boil it down and ask the hard questions without being afraid of them. And here is another…what if there is a God that put it all in motion? If we can’t prove God but he does exist then what?

    This question is a contradiction. If God can’t be proven then there would be no way to know that he exists. There is no fear in acknowledging that. That which can be introduced without evidence can be dismissed the same way.

    As for the God that sets everything in motion there are a multitude of issues there:

    1. Defining what god is.

    2. Establishing there is any way a creative force could be responsible and demonstrating it.

    3. Based on the first postulate, discern which deity of the vast amount of them it is.

    4. Demonstrate that anyone or anything would have the ability to communicate with such a force, much less express its will.

    Not only can none of these be demonstrated but you can’t throw a deity in the mix without proof. It puts the cart before the horse. You need to demonstrate that such a thing is plausible and necessary for thing to exists as they do. That has never been demonstrated.

    The question is not as hard as you think.

    • In reply to #138 by robot:

      I think,
      if there is nothing, there is also the opposite – that is everything or infinity. And something is a little particle of it all. So simple :-)

      Except that there is no evididence that neither nothing nor infinity exist other than as concepts in some brain.

      Matter energy and forces, clearly do exist.

      • In reply to #140 by Alan4discussion:

        In reply to #138 by robot:

        I think,
        if there is nothing, there is also the opposite – that is everything or infinity. And something is a little particle of it all. So simple :-)

        Except that there is no evididence that neither nothing nor infinity exist other than as concepts in some brain.

        Matter…

        Except that there is no evididence that neither matter energy nor forces exist other than as concepts in some brain.

        • You could be right. I suggest you put it to the test by attempting to walk through a wall. Let us know how you get on.

          In reply to #141 by robot:

          In reply to #140 by Alan4discussion:

          In reply to #138 by robot:

          I think,
          if there is nothing, there is also the opposite – that is everything or infinity. And something is a little particle of it all. So simple :-)

          Except that there is no evididence that neither nothing nor infinity exist other t…

  56. Ask yourself this question: Could “nothing” actually exist? I mean, what is nothing? If you define ‘nothing’ as the total and complete non-existence of anything, then how could something that doesn’t exist, exist? In other words, how can non-existence exist? If nothing somehow could exist, wouldn’t it actually be something?

    Theists try to appeal to a law of causality to say that the universe needed a cause, but if the law of causality existed before the universe did, than the universe did not and could not have come from nothing. For if laws existed before the universe, then it is impossible that “nothing” ever existed. So by even making an argument like the cosmological argument, theists are unwittingly admitting that it is impossible for “nothing” to have ever existed.

    So why is there something rather than nothing? The answer is because “nothing” is logically impossible to have existed. Non-existence cannot exist. So “nothing” is not the ontological default, rather, “something” is the ontological default. Something will always exist, nothing is impossible.

    I hope that answers your question.

  57. Of course it is possible to trasform the question into something a little more meaningful, such as: how did matter and energy come into existence. Then we must say we don’t know. If we consider the singularity now proposed as the beginning of everything, we must say we don’t understand this, and it is at present an unverifiable hypothesis. Will it always be so? Again we must honestly answer, ‘We dont know.’ Franky i havé betterave things to do than to pursue such a question.

  58. Hi Vincent,

    There is a thing that I find disturbing in my atheist world view, some kind of ’elephant in the room’: why is there something and not nothing?

    • What has your question got to do with a lack of belief in the existence of a God or gods? What is an Atheist’s world view?

    • What is ’something’?

    • What is ’nothing’?

    • When you say that something is “there” I assume you mean it exists? What do you mean, exactly, by existence? Does nothing ’exist’? If ’nothing’ doesn’t ’exist’, what does the word nothing describe in your question?

    • In what way is asking Why? a useful question? More on this below.

    [An] atheist forum [is] the only place to have a constructive conversation about this question.

    I don’t think it is – nor does it seem to me to be the best place. Surely a philosophy or physics forum would be far better?

    … understanding the universe and life is the most important thing you can do.

    Why?

    … curiosity [plus, any resulting] understanding will be the root on how we decide to drive our life.

    Even if I understood what your question means … and even if I could come to any conclusion on what the best response is … I couldn’t give a flying fling$ when thinking about the rest of my life. For one thing my life’s too short. For another ’existence’ can go hang – it’s my life.

    [$: To those in the know, yes, I’m being twee.]

    I don’t understand why you think there is a connection between ’existence’ and living a life?

    “I know what’s coming, I know no one beats these odds. It’s a matter of getting used to that, growing up and realizing that you’re expelled from your mother’s uterus as if shot from a cannon, towards a barn door studded with old nail files and rusty hooks. It’s a matter of how you use up the intervening time in an intelligent and ironic way.”

    Christopher Hitchens

    I made a lot of effort [studying likely subjects that seemed like they might answer this question].

    Good for you.

    … until I read “The Selfish Gene” and realized most answers were there.

    I don’t see the connection from ’existence’, ’something’, ’nothing’, etc. to biology? I also don’t see a connection with Why?

    Moving on.

    To put it shortly: we understand “how” better and better, but not “why”.

    Why are elephants pink? Why is magnetism? What is the color of envy?

    Envy: Just because you can make a coherent-sounding question by putting words together, doesn’t actually make it a coherent question.

    Pink Elephants: Even if your question is, internally and externally, coherent the answer may be that you’re drunk, deluded, or both. Asking the question says something about you – but the answer is probably not a universal truth.

    Magnetism: A why question may appear to be coherent, but the answer may prove that the question is malformed. Magnetism is better addressed by What? questions. Do not be dismissive of what questions – they are often far more inspiring and illuminating than why.

    Some people will certainly point out that maybe such question do not even have an answer, either because the answer is not accessible to us, or because this is not a valid question that have valid answers.

    You’ve got me there.

    I am likely to agree with them. But this does not change the fact that I have this feeling to have absolutely no clue of what is going on.

    Arthur: All my life I’ve had this strange feeling that there’s something big and sinister going on in the World.

    Slartibartfast: No, that’s perfectly normal paranoia. Everyone in the Universe gets that.

    Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

    My questions to my fellow atheists is if they also have the feeling to have no clue …

    Yes, I’m clueless.

    … how this impact their life …

    It doesn’t.

    … how they deal with this and/or if they would have some interesting insight about this topic.

    See the above quotes. It’s important to be humble. Be clear that the Universe owes us nothing – it gave us life and will take it away. In the meantime; live.

    I know, I know, a big question for a forum …

    Without wishing to be rude, Vincent, the question seemed very confused but, basically, you appear to be asking a philosophical question, or maybe three.

    The important thing about philosophy for those of us who are usually confused – the clueless ones – is to ask: Is this a question that I can usefully answer, and why – what will I gain?

    With that in mind I can say, with some conviction: If all the philosophers go on strike tomorrow – nothing will happen. Therefore, I’ll worry about philosophy later – mañana.

    Thanks in advance for your reflexions on this topic.

    No worries.

    Peace.

  59. Why is there something and not nothing? I don’t know, nor do I know “why” there are such things as gravity, electricity, magnetism, time and dimensions, but it is just possible that if the universe was stuffed to the brim with nothing, then we wouldn’t be here scratching our heads trying to answer the question. Nor do I know why some people keep insisting that the entire universe mushroomed in a big bang from nothing into countless galaxies, as if out of the mouth of a biblical god. Why is it that no one is willing to speculate on what exactly was it that banged.

    It couldn’t have been mass, because before it banged the entire mass of the universe would have been confined into such a small space that it would have made it the mother and father of all black-holes (by definition) from which nothing can ever escape.

    It couldn’t have been energy, because energy has no mass and, therefore, it could not have gravitated into a tiny space, without the agency of an almighty god squeezing it together, then the same or some other god deciding to pull the trigger, for a reason better known to himself but not entirely clear to the rest of us, bar sages, gurus and prophets.

    Anyway, the universe is here, whether we like it or not, so please indulge me a little bit with my notion on the subject. It is not a theory, not even a postulate, just an idle thought.

    Just suppose that nothingness is a state of perfect balance like a razor blade standing on its edge. The blade wouldn’t need an almighty god to knock it over, in fact the force required to topple it would be so tiny that we may as well call it zero-force. What is then to stop quantum-sized parcels of nothingness all over space, in perfect balance and, therefore, in a state of maximum instability, from flipping over into primitive particles, which we shall, for the sake of argument, call neutrons.

    Bingo; in about twelve minutes a free neutron would split into a proton, an electron, and a small parcel of energy which confuses some cosmologists into believing that it is a Cosmic Background Radiation resulting from some biblical big bang.

    With stacks of hydrogen atoms coming into being (not created) all over space at the rate of one hydrogen atom in the space of about 550,000 cubic metres over the course of a year (worked out from the rate at which the infinite universe is expanding), it is only a matter of time when these atoms come together to form suns and galaxies and even you and me.

    Like I said, just an idle thought.

  60. Hmm… try this on; Ask nothing…

    The ‘nothing’ created something (the entire universe to date, you included) and is still doing so as the universe expands rapidly and time is still being created in this moment.

    So given that it is still up to its old tricks, ask ‘the nothing’ what it is up to and why it is still doing what it is doing, then wait a while… see what it comes up with.

    Then, when no answer comes, ask yourself “Who is doing the asking?”.

    And all will be clear ;)

  61. A very interesting thread for me. Why? Because I was a “Atheist” in my early teens (past 70 now), still so, & dared not voice my disbelief of god except on 1 occasion. I mentioned to an older person, whom I trusted, that I did not believe in any religion or in creation by some god. His reply was “Surely you must realize that all this (something) could not have come from nothing so there MUST be a god.” End of discussion.

    Well that seemed to make a bit of sense but I gave it a lot of thought & came to the opinion that is still with me today. My opinion about that matter is that there could not be any such state as “nothing” & that “something” is forces that have been existing for infinite time & time itself is infinite. Thus space must be infinite. Infinite time is hard to grasp considering that everything evolves & that could not be so if time had been there forever. Thus there must be a point in time when what ever is collapses & starts out again in an infinite cycle.

    How wonderful it is these days to be able to say “I’m an Atheist” & be proud of my belief in common sense.

  62. Well the fact is there has always been something. The elements we have today can not have spontainiously arrisen out of nothing. Nothing can’t produce something. Our brains can’t comprehend this, as we are so used to the cycle of birth death, and rebirth. Yet the truth remains something has always existed.

    For me I believe there is a God, I have had many experiences with Him that have convinced me he is real. See what God has done for me to proove his existance at http://www.futureandahope.net

    • In reply to #153 by FutureAndAHope:

      Well the fact is there has always been something.

      Well that is true, but not in the way you infer.

      The elements we have today can not have spontainiously arrisen out of nothing.

      Well that is true, but not in the way you infer.

      Nothing can’t produce something.

      Depends on your definition of nothing. But in the quantum world, yes it can.

      Our brains can’t comprehend this, as we are so used to the cycle of birth death, and rebirth.

      Speak for yourself. You mean your brain can’t comprehend it…argument from personal incredulity by projection.

      Yet the truth remains something has always existed.

      Not known.

      For me I believe there is a God, I have had many experiences with Him that have convinced me he is real.

      Purely anecdotal, so doesn’t count for anything…evidence is the order of the day around here..got evidence?.

      See what God has done for me to proove his existance at http://www.xxxxxxxxxx.net

      Flagged!

  63. Futureandhope,

    Stop preaching (it will get you banned), and you clearly have spent no time reviewing what nothing means in the context of much of this discussion. That would be assuming you’ve read and aren’t just shilling for your site.

    Oh, and can you prove this rebirth bit you just saw fit to throw in? And don’t say check out the site, because that’s not going to happen.

    Sincerely,

    Someone who needs neither your future or hope.

  64. Q. Why is there something rather than nothing?

    A. The ‘nothing’ was in a super-deep void state of ‘now’ and it did not like it. So it rejected itself by thrusting away. And it became ‘something’. The something included ‘time1′. But ‘the something’ was still stuck in ‘now’ and did not like it. So it kept thrusting away and away and away… and then one day,… it woke up!… inside a person, a baby… a mere avatar. And the avatar looked around at what it had made but did not know it had made it. Then the avatar slowly tricked itself into believing it was distinct and separate to all else, and not part of it. But it was ONE. Though this trick gave it questions about it’s place. So the avatar, along with seven billion others, looks for its place. It is hungry for knowledge to answer the questions it has made for itself. But it looks without rather than within to gain a purchase on the truth,… because within is an insatiable void… and we still reject it. So onward the avatars stumble with the clumsy questions… collectively afraid to allow themselves the other story, disallowing an effortless truth about what they really are…

  65. Am I the only one that realizes that the definition of “nothing” lawrence krauss uses is NOT nothing? If it can be observed, measured, it can created, or originate, it is NOT nothing, by definition, it is something.

  66. When we consider the literal sense of the word ‘Nothing’ then we are talking about an utter lack of parameters. ‘Nothing’ cannot be hot, cold, high, low, big, small, vast, deep, or wide open. You cannot move right, left, up, down, or through nothingness. If there is a cosmic space of emptiness, the space itself is something, and that space must always contain something (else it would collapse). The existence of a State of Absolute Nothing is impossible.

  67. The “question of existence” is not actually a question, I maintain, because it has no possible answer. Whatever is included in the totality designated by “the set of all things that actually exist,” that totality itself cannot possibly be explained (and this is true even if the set in question is infinite). Explanation is a procedure whereby one existing thing is related to, or accounted for by, other existing things. Because there is nothing outside the set of ALL existing things, there is nothing by which to explain that set as a totality.

    Melville in Moby Dick, and I believe Milton also in Paradise Lost, observed that if the God of the Christians exists, he cannot account for his own existence. That is another way of saying the same thing as I said in the previous paragraph. This, by the way, powerfully refutes the idea that the existence of a God would somehow solve the riddle of existence. Some will say that God is “sufficient unto himself.” Well then, the possibility that a thing can be sufficient unto itself being thus admitted, why might not the material universe, sans God and angels, be such a thing?

    We may wonder why anything exists at all, or why what exists consists of what it does instead of something else, but since these “questions” can never find answers, it is unwise to spend much time with them.

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