Friday, August 10, 2012

If everything came from nothing, and God is nothing, then...

"Nothing" Himself, as in "everything came from..."


There's nothing funnier than an atheist scientist dipping his toe in metaphysics.

Recently atheist physicist Lawerence Krauss got pwned by... Stephen Colbert. Krauss has argued emphatically that science has proven that the universe came from "nothing".

From Philip Clayton:

The perfect example of this debate was played out in a Colbert interview with Lawrence Krauss recently; it's worth re-watching in the wake of the Higgs. Krauss, the New Atheist, touts his new book, "A Universe from Nothing." There are three kinds of nothing, he insists, and according to the laws of quantum mechanics, each one left to itself will produce the something that we see around us. "It sounds like the ultimate free lunch," Krauss admits, but there you have it; it's just science. "The universe is more remarkable than the fairy tales that were talked about by Bronze Age illiterate peasants."


"Why does it have to be an attack on my God?" Colbert asks. "There's just no evidence for God," replies Krauss, "All I've said is that you don't need Him." Colbert, as always, gets the last word, however. Suppose that something always comes from nothing. "If there is no God, no 'thing' called God, if He is nothing," concludes Colbert, then by your own theory "can't something come from Him?"
If everything came from nothing, and God is nothing, then...

I love this stuff. We Christians should pay atheists to publicly debate metaphysics. 

31 comments:

  1. The joke's on you, Mike. Colbert does a funny impression of a smug cultural conservative and he is fully in character in this episode. His last word—if God does not exist then He is nothing, therefore Krauss proves the existence of God—is a hilarious spoof of arguments made by serious theologians like Craig.

    If you took the trouble to flip through the first few pages of Krauss's book, you would know that he wrote it fully anticipating the silly debates about nothing that would ensue. (Furthermore, I strongly suspect that he deliberately set the bait.) In the preface, he writes:

    Before going further, I want to devote a few words to the notion of “nothing”—a topic that I will return to at some length later. For I have learned that, when discussing this question in public forums, nothing upsets the philosophers and theologians who disagree with me more than the notion that I, as a scientist, do not truly understand “nothing.” (I am tempted to retort here that theologians are experts at nothing.)

    “Nothing,” they insist, is not any of the things I discuss. Nothing is “nonbeing,” in some vague and ill-defined sense. This reminds me of my own efforts to define “intelligent design” when I first began debating with creationists, of which, it became clear, there is no clear definition, except to say what it isn’t. “Intelligent design” is simply a unifying umbrella for opposing evolution. Similarly, some philosophers and many theologians define and redefine “nothing” as not being any of the versions of nothing that scientists currently describe.

    But therein, in my opinion, lies the intellectual bankruptcy of much of theology and some of modern philosophy. For surely “nothing” is every bit as physical as “something,” especially if it is to be defined as the “absence of something.” It then behooves us to understand precisely the physical nature of both these quantities. And without science, any definition is just words.


    [end of quote]

    That Stephen Colbert does as well as expert theologians in such "debates" is not a healthy sign for the field. I can't think of a similar situation where a comedian would produce a physics argument worthy of Newton or Einstein. It can't be done because you actually need to know something, and not just have a degree.

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  2. Clayton got a few things wrong in his column. His story of two groups of scientists arguing whether to call the Higgs boson the God particle or the God-damn particle is apocryphal. Nether term had any circulation in the physics community. Both terms originated with Nobel prize winner Leon Lederman when he wrote a popular science book. Physicists themselves have never taken to using those.

    That said, the penultimate paragraph in Clayton's piece is right on target:

    When they announced the discovery of physics' most elusive particle this week, scientists didn't overreach. They just did damn good science. The fans and the foes of religion, by contrast, are overreaching on both sides. The quest for the Higgs boson, and its ultimate discovery, neither proves nor disproves God.

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  3. Lawrence Krauss knows that Richard Dawkin$ made a lot of money by denying God in biology by directing his prose at the feeble minded with cash. Now Krau$$ is trying his chance with physics for the same reason and by the same mean.

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    1. "Richard Dawkin$ made a lot of money by denying God "

      He could make more money by declaring God's existence, and writing a book about it. He would almost certainly when the Templeton Prize, currently set at Ł1 000 000. Purposefully bigger than the Nobel. And they are handing them out to scientists mostly now. Seven out of the last ten winners as opposed to Zero of the first ten.

      Dawkins does quite well for himself, but there is more money in religion. The Templeton always brings to mind Dennet's quip to Dawkins: "Richard, if ever you should fall on hard times ..."

      L

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    2. Krauss is a remarkable physicist. More explicitly than most physicists, he seems to base his thinking on atheistic assumptions. Well before it was discovered that the expansion of the universe was accelerating, and before detailed maps and analysis of the cosmic microwave background where available, Krauss predicted a flat zero energy universe because it was the only one that didn’t violate conservation principles and thus would be allowed to exist per the rules of quantum mechanics without having to be bootstrapped by some unknown physics or a deity. Remarkable achievements suck as Krauss’s are only possible if you start with the assumption there is no God.

      Please let me know of a single scientific prediction later confirmed to be true that was made possible by assuming the existence of God. Just one. You can’t, because science critically depends on embracing a thoroughly materialistic world-view.

      -KW

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    3. KW wrote: "Please let me know of a single scientific prediction later confirmed to be true that was made possible by assuming the existence of God. Just one."

      The Bible predicted, no sorry, asserted that the universe had a beginning a very very long time before that fact was finally accepted in the 20th century.

      "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" (Genesis 1:1.)

      There you go, my boy!

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    4. That assertion goes awry with “God created” that’s a factual claim that is totally unsupported by the evidence, and is superfluous to our understanding of the universe. Of course the Bible then goes on in some detail about the events of creation, and that’s where it really falls flat on its face.

      -KW

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    5. You asked for one example and I gave it to you. If you don't like it (or understand it) that's your problem.

      My example stands on its own!

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    6. You apparently don’t know the definition of “stands”.

      -KW

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  4. Krauss’s critics don’t like the several different kinds of nothing that Krauss shows result is something because these nothings are not the absolute nothing that exists, not formally defined, in their imaginations.

    The fact that there is something rather than nothing demonstrates that this imaginary absolute nothing does not and can not exist, for it must have either a potential that results in the something, or at the very least, a description that precludes it’s absoluteness. It makes no sense to talk of some ill-defined absolute nothingness because it would have no properties to talk about. We have no evidence or reason to believe that absolute nothing ever existed, and plenty of evidence that it didn’t. You’ve now moved the goalpost to la la land. Insisting Atheists like Krauss deal with this imaginary absolute nothingness to your satisfaction is like insisting they explain unicorns.

    Krauss and his colleagues in many fields have shown how incredible complexity can arise from the laws of physics working on incredibly simple initial conditions. A zero energy flat universe, possibly infinite in extent, from the decay of a simple inflation field. The details are not well understood, and will undoubtedly change as we refine our understanding, but we do know the nature of the events that have resulted in everything we see, and it’s reasonable to say that it all came from a reasonably defined nothing.

    -KW

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  5. @KW:

    "...this imaginary absolute nothing does not and can not exist,"

    Goodness gracious you're funny. Of course nothing doesn't exist.

    Because nothing doesn't exist, something can't come from nothing. The materialist crap about quantum fields spontaneously giving rise to matter has noting (pardon the pun) to do with the metaphysics of nothing and existence. A quantum field is something, so anything that arises from it or in accordance with it came from something, not nothing.

    At the core of this issue is the cosmological argument, which proves God's existence. Your arguments (and Krauss' arguments) are puerile.

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    1. We are living in the golden age of cosmology. Cosmologists themselves are astounded by how much we have learned in the past couple of decades. We live in a universe composed primarily of dark matter and dark energy, 13.75 billion years old, with a flat geometry and zero net energy; we now know that the expansion of the universe has transitioned from a gravity dominated deceleration, to a cosmological constant dominated acceleration after having undergone a brief moment of superluminal expansion. May of the observationally confirmed facts of modern cosmology where literally unimaginable just decades ago.

      Krauss’s arguments are based on this new-found understanding of our universe. Krauss predicted that the universe is flat based on little more than his metaphysical beliefs and it turns out he was right. Puerile? Hardly. Aquinas never had anything close to that kind of success. Perhaps Aquinas spent too much time trying to figure out how many angels can fit on the tip of a needle, now that’s puerile.


      -KW

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    2. You didn't address my argument.

      Is a quantum field something, or nothing?

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    3. A quantum field is something. We agree that there is no absolute nothing. Having said that, does the spontaneous generation of particles due to the Heisenberg uncertainty principle depend on the pre-existence of a quantum field? I don’t think so. The delta in forces acting on casimir plates comes from the strength of the fields generated by the virtual particles, not the other way around.

      -KW

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    4. We're making progress.

      What is the cause of the quantum field?

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    5. This is a hilarious thread. Mike Egnor, a famed expert on nothing, is going to enlighten us about the origin of "the quantum field." Which quantum field, by the way?

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    6. No changing the subject, oleg.

      What is the cause of the quantum field?

      There are three options:

      1) It causes itself
      2) Something other than itself causes it
      3) It is uncaused

      Which is it?

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    7. That's a cute trichotomy, Mike, but this scholastic approach is entirely useless. I'll give you an example, also from physics.

      I'm sure you've heard of Faraday's induction. A magnetic field changing in time creates an electric field. One can say that electricity generated by an induction motor is caused by a varying magnetic field.

      You've probably not heard of displacement current. It represents a reverse effect, whereby a changing electric field gives rise to a magnetic field. From the scholastic point of view, the magnetic field is caused by an electric field.

      Are you still with me, my hylomorphic friend? We're almost there. Let's take an electromagnetic wave. It contains a time-dependent electric field as well as a time-dependent magnetic field. Which causes which? They are pretty much on an equal footing here. Is the propagation of the electromagnetic wave self-caused? Uncaused? And most importantly, who cares? Maxwell's equations provide all the answers one may reasonably ask in this regard. Without getting bogged down in questions like who caused whom. The Aristotelean-Thomist framework you love so much turned out to be useless, which is why it fell into obscurity. The questions you asked are not even interesting and any possible answers are utterly irrelevant.

      So now go ahead and tell me what causes "the quantum field." Make me laugh.

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    8. I think what Oleg is trying to say in his customary dispeptic, arrogant style is that the field causes itself.

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    9. oleg:

      You're pitiful. You have no answers, so you declare that the questions are uninteresting.

      You're a fool.

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    10. I may be a fool, but the answer you provided below is entirely useless. Who's the fool now?

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  6. What is the cause of the quantum field?

    I don’t know, enlighten me master.

    -KW

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    1. KW asked: "What is the cause of the quantum field?"

      Tentative answer: your bowel movements?

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    2. [What is the cause of the quantum field?

      I don’t know, enlighten me master.]

      The First Cause is the primary cause of the quantum field, and everything else. The First Cause-- God-- is pure act, without potency (philosophical terms), and His essence is existence.

      Loosely speaking, He is uncaused, because He is existence.

      The cosmological argument is a very old, and irrefutable, argument. Naifs like Krauss are out of their league on this matter. They should stick to their areas of competence. Metaphysics, logic, and philosophy are manifestly not their areas of competence.

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    3. Egnor: The First Cause is the primary cause of the quantum field, and everything else. The First Cause-- God-- is pure act, without potency (philosophical terms), and His essence is existence.

      One can replace the quantum field with anything else, as you say. For example, we can substitute it by bullshit, and it will apply equally well. Needless to say, this theory sheds no light whatsoever on the properties of either a quantum field or bullshit.

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  7. KW said "We are living in the golden age of cosmology."

    The pot must be getting stronger because what he says after that is "out of this world man".

    Reminds me of the sixties... and the seventies... and the eighties!

    Gee THAT STUFF IS SOOOOOOOOO STRONG!

    So stop inhaling and get a life you low life...

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  8. I apologize for my previous comments.

    But KW and other Anonymouses are so deluded I wish they could get free medical care.

    Really I do! I am an animal lover!

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  9. It is so cute when Egnor tries to talk about cosmology. Its kind of like the kid who has gotten to sit at the grow-up table and trying to keep up with their conversations.

    Pépé on the other hand, is the brat that tries to lecture the grown-ups despite having pooped in his pants.

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  10. "Gee THAT STUFF IS SOOOOOOOOO STRONG!

    So stop inhaling and get a life you low life..."

    Annnnd thats why i havent been on here much lately. I stop in one day to peruse a few threads and this is what its come to. Don't like an answer? call someone a low-life and accuse them of smoking pot. Oh, and make sure you "apologize" next and insult them further, with absolutely no argument of your own to back up your position.

    (Rolls eyes)

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