Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Basics of Non-Belief


In my previous post, I noted that in conversions between Christianity and atheism, the stories people typically tell about their own conversion experience are starkly different.  The convert to religion is often driven by emotion, while de-conversion is often rational in nature.  This may have led some readers to think that my opinion of emotional experiences in general is negative, and that I treat those religious conversions derisively.  I certainly didn't mean to convey that impression.  Nevertheless, as an empiricist, it is my opinion that a belief that derives from a rational thought process based on objective evidence is likely to have better epistemic justification than a belief that stems from emotional experience.

In the comments, I was asked by Mortal  to respond to a post made a year ago by Ilíon that raises some common stereotypes of the atheistic mindset.  In that post, Ilíon quotes my old friend Bob Prokop on the idea that critical thinking leads to atheism:
It's not gonna happen, because there is simply no conceivable way that honest, critical thinking will ever lead to atheism.

(1) Atheism demands that one close one's mind to the illogic of something coming from nothing (or else one has to redefine "nothing" to the point where it is actually "something").

(2) Atheism demands that one overlook the fact that atheism necessarily means there is no objective morality, that good and evil are nothing more than subjective judgements of a mind that one can't actually trust to make such judgements.

(3) Atheism demands that one ignore the fact that 99.9 percent of humanity since the Dawn of Time have believed in, worshiped, and prayed to God (or to gods). Atheists are required to think their tiny minority are "right" and the overwhelming majority of people are "wrong" about the most important of all imaginable questions.

(4) Atheists must insist that all questions can be reduced to matters of empirical evidence and "science" - that art, literature, history, music, architecture, personal experience, all are somehow defective or fundamentally lacking, not quite worthy of trust, ultimately to be (negatively) evaluated against the one-and-only objective standard given the atheist seal of approval.

(5) Atheists must never, ever allow themselves to realize that atheism means that everything is meaningless, that in the end of ends it does not matter what kind of life one leads, or even whether one is or is not an atheist - because a single microsecond after one's death, it is all as though it never happened, so who cares?

(6) Atheists must never face up to the inevitable implication of materialism that individual identity does not really exist - that we are simply complex bundles of matter and energy, which, if its configuration is somehow altered or destroyed, becomes something else.

(7) Atheists must believe that our noblest traits, our highest aspirations, our sublimest thoughts, are nothing more than electrical impulses and chemical reactions in a soulless meat machine, of no greater significance than combustion or sublimation. The love I feel for my family is simply a Darwinian survival mechanism.

I could go on, but you get the idea. Atheism is the very negtion of critical thinking. To the contrary, a case can be made for its being perilously close to insanity - Bob Prokop (quoted by Ilíon, with numbering added by me)  
I would like to address each of the issues raised by Bob, which I will refer to by number.  (Ilíon himself adds little of value to the discussion.)

(1) It always struck me as odd that the religionist dismisses the idea of something coming from nothing.  Where does he think the universe sprang from?  If God created it, didn't it still come from nothing?  Or if there was some substrate already present that God made the universe from, what is that something, and where did it come from?  Perhaps that substrate has always existed.  Then why couldn't it be equivalent to the thing that the universe naturally arose from?  The real question here is how do we define 'nothing'?  To me, it's just what you have when you remove all matter and energy, but your idea might be different from that.  Whose conception of 'nothing' corresponds better to natural reality?

(2) I have no problem with the idea that there is no objective or absolute morality.  Morality is expressed in terms of values, and values (like beauty) are something that have meaning to the beholder. Our moral values are based on our culture and learning, as well as our desires and needs.  They are demonstrably NOT universal.  What's morally acceptable in one time and place may not be in another time and place.  What's good for me may not be good for you.  If God is the source of absolute, objective morality, then why does he keep changing his mind?  Why can't we all agree on these absolute moral values?  Every religionist makes the mistake of thinking that God's morality agrees completely with his own.  How absurd is that?

(3) I don't ignore the fact that the majority can be, and often are, wrong about some particular question.  Until the rise of science in recent history, the vast majority of humanity was wrong about practically everything.  This is nothing but argumentum ad populum.

(4) This issue is at the heart of the present discussion.  It is the trope of 'scientism', and it is pure bullshit.  This is something I have adderssed numerous times before.  Please see this and this, for example.  The key point is that empiricism claims that knowledge is based on empirical evidence, but that doesn't imply that our lives are sterile and emotionless.  I agree completely that our lives would be joyless and empty in the absence of any love and beauty and all the things that add richness to our experience.  Emotion is very much part of our lives, and no honest atheist would deny that.  But we understand the difference between knowledge and feeling.  We don't claim that subjective experience is a source of objective knowledge.

(5) This, too is bullshit.  What the religionist does here is to conflate two different ideas.  One is the notion that there is no ultimate meaning, and the other is that there is no meaning for us.  As I discusses in item (2), there can be no meaning without some mind that perceives it.  When two different people think about some particular proposition P, it may have different meanings to them, based on their learning and experience.  That implies that meaning is subjective.  Is there an absolute objective meaning for P?  No.  If there are no people to think about it, there is no meaning.  But the fact remains that as long as there are people, there is meaning.  To claim that everything is meaningless for atheists is just another religionist trope that bears no resemblance to the reality.

(6) I don't deny my own identity.  But as in the previous issue, there are different levels at which we can understand things, and it is not reasonable to conflate them.  At one level, there are particles and forces, and everything behaves in accordance with physical laws.  Materialists understand that we are composed of these things and nothing more.  But we also understand that there are emergent realities, such as mind, that can't easily be described in terms of basic physics.  We don't need to ascribe these realities to God simply because their explanation is difficult to grasp.  That's god-of-the-gaps reasoning.  But to claim that we must deny these realities altogether is just another religionist trope that bears no resemblance to the the truth.

(7) This is closely related to issue (4).  Just because we have a more scientific understanding of mind and psychology, there is no implication that we must deny the realities of human experience.  Try to follow the logic here.  Sure, we understand love is something that developed from our evolutionary history.  So what?  Does that mean we don't feel love?  Religionists think it comes from God or some non-existent source.  Does that imply that Christian love doesn't exist?  No.  It simply means that we disagree about where it comes from.

The sad thing about the religionist world-view is that they are so utterly dependent on their belief in God that they can't stand on their own feet and take responsibility for themselves and their lives, and make something meaningful of their own existence.  Without God dictating their moral opinions to them, they'd have no morality at all.  Without God dictating meaning to them, they'd have no understanding at all.  That's pathetic.  The stereotypes of atheism that they purvey are nothing more than a religionist's conception of what is entailed by a godless world, in accordance with his own pathetic misunderstanding of reality.  But don't make the mistake of thinking that we atheists agree with any of that.  It isn't a reflection of what we actually think.

101 comments:

  1. First of all, thank you for your response!

    (1) A bit beyond me. The first lines of Genesis almost sound like there's "something" there before Creation. But John is emphatic that Christ preexists all created things, as does Paul. The 24th Chapter of Sirach says pretty much the same thing, if you replace "Christ" with "Wisdom".

    (2) If you do not believe in objective morality (regardless of where it comes from), then you have no grounds to ever criticize anyone for whatever they do. I can't recall where I saw this (somewhere on the internet), but I really like the idea of comparing morality to the rules of baseball. Without an umpire (that is, someone not themselves playing the game), definitive rulings on a play are impossible. Therefore: either God, or no objective morality. But you already said you don't believe in it.

    (3) I don't see that as argumentum ad populum at all (at least, not the way it was presented over on Illiocentrism), but rather a refreshing humility - an unwillingness to regard oneself as smarter than 99 percent of humanity.

    (4) "We don't claim that subjective experience is a source of objective knowledge." Well, there's one place where we differ. I believe that what you term "subjective experience" can very well be a reliable source of knowledge, and even truth (a different thing altogether).

    (5) Wow. Now we are in the realm of total disagreement. I cannot comprehend how anything can be said to be "meaningful" if it is not eternal. I hate to say it sounds self-evident, but it does.

    (6) I don't think Ilion is saying atheists deny these things, but that they're inconsistent by not doing so.

    (7) I actually like Point Number 7. It approaches pure poetry. But I'll freely admit I might be influenced by the elegance of the thing.

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  2. Oops! Meant to write "John is emphatic that Christ preexists all created things, as is Paul." (not "does")

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    1. Christ preexists all created things
      - That doesn't answer the question. If God (or Christ) created the universe, what did he make it from? Evidently, he made it from noting. So why should this be a problem for atheists but not for theists?

      Without an umpire (that is, someone not themselves playing the game), definitive rulings on a play are impossible.
      - There are no definitive rulings. That was my whole point. There is no agreement on the "rules" of objective morality. But we still abide by our own morality.

      i I don't see that as argumentum ad populum at all (at least, not the way it was presented over on Illiocentrism), but rather a refreshing humility - an unwillingness to regard oneself as smarter than 99 percent of humanity.
      - It's not humility so insist that you are right because you agree with the majority.

      I believe that what you term "subjective experience" can very well be a reliable source of knowledge, and even truth (a different thing altogether).
      - You are not an empiricist. I am.

      I cannot comprehend how anything can be said to be "meaningful" if it is not eternal. I hate to say it sounds self-evident, but it does.
      - I cannot comprehend how you think something can be meaningful without a mind to which it means something.

      I don't think Ilion is saying atheists deny these things, but that they're inconsistent by not doing so.
      - In item (6), Bob specifically says that materialism implies that there is no individual identity. Materialism implies no such thing. There are emergent phenomena that are fully consistent with physical reality, and mind is one such thing.

      (Bob:) ... nothing more than electrical impulses and chemical reactions in a soulless meat machine, of no greater significance than combustion or sublimation
      - That's not a very elegant way of describe a world-view that he doesn't understand.

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  3. It's apparent that we approach reality in two very differing fashions. I regard the Quest for Truth as a "full body" experience - one that not only requires the employment of every means at our disposal, but also that one does not favor one means of attaining knowledge over another, and also does not use them inappropriately. I'm not going to determine what is the best way to treat cancer by listening to a Bach concerto. But equally so, I am not going to decide whether a career change is advisable on the the basis of a mathematical decision model. That answer, I'll get from prayer.

    Listen to what British composer Ralph Vaughan Williams had to say about this (in a letter to Swaffham Primary School):

    "The practical side of living of course is important, and this, I feel sure is well taught in your school: such things teach you how to make your living. But music will show you what to do with your life. It is necessary to know facts, but music will enable you to see past facts to the very essence of things in a way which science cannot do. The arts are the means by which we can look through the magic casements and see what lies beyond."

    Every time I see an atheist insisting that he acknowledges the part music, art, and emotion play in his life, it is inevitably followed by a qualification. "They are very important to me, but I do not put the same stock in them as I do for empirical evidence and reason." (or words to that effect)

    And that's were we most fundamentally differ. I believe them to be equals, in the way that our various bodily organs are equal. It doesn't matter whether you lose your lungs, your heart, or your liver. You're going to die either way.

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    1. Every time I see an atheist insisting that he acknowledges the part music, art, and emotion play in his life, it is inevitably followed by a qualification. "They are very important to me, but I do not put the same stock in them as I do for empirical evidence and reason."

      The problem is that I do not espouse words to that effect. If we are talking about the experience of life, then yes, emotions are en essential part of it. Recall what I said: "I agree completely that our lives would be joyless and empty in the absence of any love and beauty and all the things that add richness to our experience."

      But if we are talking about epistemology - what things do we know and how do we know them - then empiricism rules. You can't learn anything real about your world by having inner feelings.

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  4. And there's where we disagree.

    I know that it is my duty to assist people in need whom I will never know and who will never even know that I exist. I do not believe I could ever have learned that from empirical reasoning.

    I know that, even if I would personally benefit from some hypothetical public policy, if it does harm to others, I must not only not support it, I must oppose it. This knowledge actually runs contrary to empiricism, but it is nevertheless true.

    I know that the music of Ralph Vaughan Williams is beauty incarnate whilst rap "music" is the very vomit of hell - but I would never learn this from the scientific method.

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    1. Those things you claim to know are really opinion. They are based on your values. others might have different values and different opinions. These things are not objective facts.

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  5. And there in a nutshell, your last comment epitomizes the atheistic attitude I mentioned above. ("music, art, and emotion ... are very important to me, but I do not put the same stock in them as I do for empirical evidence and reason.") Although your initial response was "I do not espouse words to that effect" ... you just did.

    However, it's interesting how this conversation has progressed. It started out with my response to your assertion that the primary driver behind most conversions was subjective feelings. I pointed out that there is solid historical evidence for the Christian faith. I still say that. But I readily agree that "emotion" and life circumstances play a huge role in convincing a person to accept that evidence and become a Christian. No argument there. Where we do differ is you apparently regard that as somehow a human failing and something to be avoided, whereas I embrace it as acknowledging our humanity and making use of every means we possess to arrive at the Truth.

    When I was much younger, I used to play a lot of tennis - almost every day in fact. I quickly found out that the more I thought about what my eyes, hands, arms, and legs were doing, the more I would miss the return, or else would drive the ball into the net. But the more I let my body do the "thinking" for me, the better player I'd become.

    There are times when sola ratio is simply not appropriate, or effective.

    Some processes are not irrational, but rather a-rational. Yet they can still lead to objective fact. Indeed, they are often the only way.

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    1. So the question you raise here is what dos it mean to say that I "place stock" in something. I have taken that phrase in an epistemological sense. In other words, are they reliable sources of knowledge. You evidently mean something different, as in are they of value. In the epistemological sense, I'd say no - they are not reliable sources of knowledge. In the latter sense, yes - they are valuable experiences to me. I derive great pleasure from the experience of good music, for example, but I don't learn any objective facts about the world from it. Yes, it has value to me, just as it does for you.

      It is not a human failing to have appreciation for emotional experiences. It is a human failing to think that those experiences give you factual information that you didn't already have. Sure, they can play a strong role in convincing you of something (such as belief in God). But an emotional understanding is not a rational understanding.

      I have no problem with people having emotionally-based understandings and beliefs, and I don't denigrate that. But then they should not make claims that their belief is rational.

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  6. You evidently mean something different, as in are they of value.

    No, you actually got me right the first time around. I believe what you call "subjective" experiences can be reliable sources of knowledge, as well as being of value. I am not one of those people who believe that atheists do not value art, literature, music, love, etc. I know they do. But I do agree with Ilion that atheists ignore (or even deny) the logical consequences of their worldview by doing so. (And that's a Good Thing! They would be truly evil, or at the very least truly miserable, people if they did not.)

    I just watched Roger Staubach on Youtube making his legendary "Hail Mary" pass in the 1975 game against the Minnesota Vikings. Now there is no way he analyzed the vectors involved, measured the wind speed, calculated the receiver's future position, etc. - he just threw by instinct and the ball landed right in Drew Pearson's hands. This is a perfect example of subjective gut feeling being precisely the right tool to use in appropriate situations.

    True fact: The first time I ever saw my then future wife, I knew I was going to marry her instantly. I mean that literally. There was no measurable time span between first sight and this knowledge. Four decades later, I have never regretted going by a very subjective experience.

    I have no idea how many books I have read over the years about the New Testament. I can debate with the best of them (I would wager even against you) the various arguments about its historical accuracy, and am convinced that the case for its reliability is strong and rational. But of equal importance is the sense of "rightness" that I get when reading the Scriptures. I have never read any other book - ever - that simply exudes what J.B. Phillips called "the Ring of Truth". (His book by that name is well worth a read, by the way.) I respect my instincts in these matters, the same way Staubach trusted his in throwing the game-winning pass. (Essential caveat: both were the result of hard work and practice; not just a random trusting of gut instinct. For them to be of value, you have to train your feelings in the same manner you exercise your body.)

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    1. It is interesting that you cite the thing we call "muscle memory" as an example of knowledge. It is learned (by practice), but it isn't rational. It is a-rational, as you say. It is something that we all have. It is used more than most of us realize. But it's not the kind of knowledge that you can articulate. It does nor form the basis of any rational argument, nor is it the subject of epistemology. In philosophy, knowledge is defined as "True, justified belief; certain understanding, as opposed to opinion."

      The other example you give is different from that. When you first saw your wife, you fell in love. You wanted to marry her, but you didn't actually know that you would. That's a mistake you're making. It is possible that events could have intervened, and you would not end up marrying her. What you actually knew at the time is that you wanted to marry her, or that you intended to marry her, but you didn't really know that you would marry her. You can say that you know you will get up from bed tomorrow morning, and you may firmly believe that it's true, but you don't really know that.

      I think it goes without saying that my discussion relates to rational or philosophical knowledge. If you claim a non-rational source for your belief, then you can make no claim to having epistemic justification for that belief.
      You can say your belief is based on a feeling you have, and that's fine. I won't argue about that. But I will argue that your belief is not rational.

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  7. But I will argue that your belief is not rational.

    But that is exactly what I also am saying! Well... more accurately, I am saying that is it more than just rational - which is a good thing. The "rational" part of my belief comes from hearing the historical evidence (which is strong and reasonable). The a-rational part (a term I prefer to non-rational) simply employs those aspects of my humanity which even you admit "we all have". Why fight with one hand tied behind your back?

    It's not the kind of knowledge that you can articulate.

    Also correct! Not all knowledge can be put into words. That's why the Church employs icons, architecture, music, incense, statuary, bells, vestments, liturgy, candles, stained glass, processions, even silence - all to convey truths that may not easily translate into words, or perhaps might lose something in the translation.

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  9. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but you appear to believe that all truth can be expressed in words. That is an astounding claim for human language. And one, by the way, which be easily disproven. Observe:

    How often have you said, “Words fail me.” When faced with some astounding event or an object of surpassing beauty? That’s more than just a figure of speech. It means there simply aren’t any words adequate to the task – they do not exist. To paraphrase Shakespeare, “There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are describable in your language.”

    I was recently admiring a Rothko painting, and was asked by a family member “But what does it mean?” I could only respond, “It means that (pointing to the picture). If he could have communicated what he had to say in words, he wouldn’t have painted this. What he has to tell us cannot be reduced to words.” (The term “reduced” was chosen with care, because that is precisely what any such attempt would do. It would reduce the artist’s intent to a caricature of what he had in mind.)


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    1. The a-rational part (a term I prefer to non-rational) simply employs those aspects of my humanity which even you admit "we all have". Why fight with one hand tied behind your back?

      This is the distinction between belief and knowledge. I don't take issue with you saying that you believe something for a-rational reasons. I take issue with you saying you know without epistemic justification.

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  10. And on that note, I think we understand each other... somewhat.

    Yet another problem with the idea that all truth is expressible in words is (as any professional translator will tell you) that words are slippery things. They don't really have precise meanings at all, and such meaning as they do have is freighted with millennia of cultural artifacts and allusions. Even the very sound of a word can influence how we respond to it. The idea that you can "know" something better solely by restricting yourself to words (which in the end is all your "epistemic justification' boils down to) is poisoned at the very root.

    But I believe (there's that word again) we have made measurable progress in this discussion!

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    1. The idea that you can "know" something better solely by restricting yourself to words (which in the end is all your "epistemic justification' boils down to) is poisoned at the very root.

      Epistemology is not restricted to atheists.

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  11. MortalApril 13, 2017 at 5:12 PM

    (1) Krauss is a woo monger.

    (2) "If you do not believe in objective morality (regardless of where it comes from), then you have no grounds to ever criticize anyone for whatever they do. "
    My grounds, the grounds most people I communicate with, the individual's own stated grounds in the case of hypocrisy.


    (3) "an unwillingness to regard oneself as smarter than 99 percent of humanity."
    On the subject of god I am smarter than almost all other human beings, yes, I realize what nonsense theism is and they don't.

    (4)" truth (a different thing altogether)."
    Most assessments of truth rest upon fundamental postulates.

    (5) I cannot comprehend how anything can be said to be "meaningful" if it is not eternal. "
    Meaning is relative and personal and subjective. One thing has meaning in relation to something else. Existence itself has nothing else to be in relation to, and therefore has no meaning.

    (6) "individual identity does not really exist - that we are simply complex bundles of matter and energy, which, if its configuration is somehow altered or destroyed, becomes something else."
    Yes, we are simply complex bundles of matter and energy, so complex that I have become aware of myself. When I die that awareness will end and my material constituents will disburse into the universe.

    (7) "Atheists must believe that our noblest traits, our highest aspirations, our sublimest thoughts, are nothing more than electrical impulses and chemical reactions in a soulless meat machine, of no greater significance than combustion or sublimation. The love I feel for my family is simply a Darwinian survival mechanism."
    Ok, that doesn't bother me, should it?

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    1. Krauss is a woo monger.

      Question for you, and it's the same thing I ask the theists: If the universe did not come from nothing, then what did it come from?

      How do you explain the theory of cosmic inflation, which seems to be the consensus among physicists these days? It doesn't require any "stuff" to be present before a universe comes into existence.

      If the "nothing" that gives rise to the universe doesn't match a philosophical definition of "nothing", I don't have a problem with that. It only means that the philosophical nothing doesn't exist.

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  12. im-skepticalApril 15, 2017 at 8:30 PM

    SP - Krauss is a woo monger.

    "Question for you, and it's the same thing I ask the theists: If the universe did not come from nothing, then what did it come from?"
    Nobody knows. That is the great, ancient, unsolved existential riddle.

    Creation ex nihilo is irrational.
    An infinite regression of a time sequence of events is irrational.

    No valid solution to this riddle has ever been published into general circulation. So something beyond present human understanding is clearly the case, since I absolutely know I exist in some form, and therefore it is absolutely certain there is an existence as opposed to absolutely nothing at all.



    "How do you explain the theory of cosmic inflation, which seems to be the consensus among physicists these days? It doesn't require any "stuff" to be present before a universe comes into existence."
    Inflation presupposes an existent universe of stuff to expand, and begins at some 10^-36 seconds after the presumed big bang event.

    Creation ex nihilo and inflation are two separate subjects. If the multiverse is the case and our big bang is merely some sort of offshoot of other pre-existing stuff inflation can still be valid.

    "If the "nothing" that gives rise to the universe doesn't match a philosophical definition of "nothing", I don't have a problem with that. It only means that the philosophical nothing doesn't exist."
    Absolutely nothing at all does not exist, since there is nothing in nothing to exist. If it were the case that there was no existence of any sort and then suddenly an existence occurred that would be creation ex niliho, which is both irrational and utter absent any valid descriptive physics any human being has ever published.

    Krauss does not have a valid mathmatical formulation, nor any sort of descriptive physics for creation ex nihilo.

    Krauss equivocates. His woo mongering is just one big fat equivocation. He speculates some sort of pre-existing stuff he merely labels as "nothing", which is a preposterous and profoundly dishonest act far below the former character of this former champion of reason and public rational discourse.

    I was saddened to watch his descent to the level of theistic apologetics with his absurd stories about something from nothing, but there it is.

    The evidence we have, however, is massive and very one sided. Conservation tells us that stuff somehow can be eternal. We never observe creation ex nihilo and we always observe conservation, so based on present evidence it seems the irrationality of an infinite regression of stuff is the more likely case.

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    1. Creation ex nihilo is irrational.
      - That's what some philosophers say. Physicists disagree.

      Inflation presupposes an existent universe of stuff to expand, and begins at some 10^-36 seconds after the presumed big bang event.
      - That is not the cosmic inflation theory. I suggest you do some reading.

      Krauss does not have a valid mathmatical formulation, nor any sort of descriptive physics for creation ex nihilo.
      - You're wrong. He didn't make this stuff up himself. It is the most widely accepted theory.

      Krauss equivocates. His woo mongering is just one big fat equivocation. He speculates some sort of pre-existing stuff he merely labels as "nothing", which is a preposterous and profoundly dishonest act far below the former character of this former champion of reason and public rational discourse.
      - That's not what he claims. I suggest you do some reading.

      We never observe creation ex nihilo ...
      - That's exactly what we observe with virtual particles.

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  13. "(Ilíon himself adds little of value to the discussion.)"

    Well, Duh! When did he ever?

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    1. Now you're being intellectually dishonest.

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    2. Okay. He did write some somewhat cleaver insults but only of the 'your mother wears army boots' caliber.

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  14. im-skepticalApril 16, 2017 at 12:46 PM

    "Creation ex nihilo is irrational.
    - That's what some philosophers say. Physicists disagree."
    There is no theory of creation ex nihilo. If you think there is please provide the link to the multitude of papers describing it in detail, and connecting the supposed creation ex nihilo to the standard model.

    "Inflation presupposes an existent universe of stuff to expand, and begins at some 10^-36 seconds after the presumed big bang event.
    - That is not the cosmic inflation theory. I suggest you do some reading."
    That is when the inflationary epoch is said to have begun. No actual physics theory, much less experiment, goes back much farther than that because there is no unification theory before the electroweak time.

    "Krauss does not have a valid mathematical formulation, nor any sort of descriptive physics for creation ex nihilo.
    - You're wrong. He didn't make this stuff up himself. It is the most widely accepted theory."
    Nonsense. Krauss does not start from nothing, he starts from a quantum vacuum.

    "Krauss equivocates. His woo mongering is just one big fat equivocation. He speculates some sort of pre-existing stuff he merely labels as "nothing", which is a preposterous and profoundly dishonest act far below the former character of this former champion of reason and public rational discourse.
    - That's not what he claims. I suggest you do some reading."
    Please provide the link to the theory of creation ex nihilo.

    "We never observe creation ex nihilo ...
    - That's exactly what we observe with virtual particles."
    Wrong again, and one of the popular misunderstandings that woo mongers like Krauss prey upon.

    Virtual particles are said to pop in an out of a quantum vacuum, not ex nihilo.

    I am sorry that you have been taken in by the equivocations and arm waving of the charlatan Krauss. He has traded on his former reputation as a great public rationalist, with the simplest explanation being that he just decided to cash in on some of the Chopra action.

    If you search for terms like "creation ex nihilo" or "Spontaneous creation of the Universe Ex Nihilo" or similar terms about something from nothing what you will get is a smattering of religious sites, crackpot junk "science" sites, and a few papers that provide no actual theory, rather just some general speculative hypotheticals. That's it.

    Try searching instead on "quantum mechanics" or "general relativity" or "electroweak theory". Now you will get thousands of actual science papers that go into as much mathematical detail and experimental evidence as you wish to pursue. See the difference?

    General Relativity, Quantum Mechanics, and Electroweak Theory are actual physics theories, not arm waving speculations and equivocations, which is all creation ex nihilo is.

    I suggest you do some more thinking on what "absolutely nothing at all" means and how very different that term is from "vacuum".

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    1. You have a problem with the idea that stuff can come from nothing, but quantum mechanics is fine with it. But because people have this problem, they want to insist that it must be something that gives rise to stuff, so they call it quantum vacuum. You should understand, though that quantum vacuum consists of nothing at all. Yes, it gives rise to quantum fluctuations, because (as Krauss says) nothing is unstable.

      As i said before, this all comes down to what we define as nothing. If you don't want to call it nothing, fine. I don't care. But it still consists of nothing that you (or anyone else) can identify as being "something".

      Here's a primer for you (not by Krauss). And please note what it has to say about stuff coming from nothing.

      Delete
  15. SP, how did you arrive at the idea Krauss is a 'woo-monger'? I'm interested in the actual evidential basis that supports your assertion. I am keenly interested in reading your evidence to why I should I should go with your words or those of Krauss. What's your background in cosmology?

    At the moment i happen to reside in the Krauss camp because his perspective has provided an insight which seems much more reasonable than the religious/philosophical view of creation. Perhaps you are in the David Albert camp? Then again, Jim Holt has a cautionary perspective on the Krauss-Albert 'kerfuffle'.

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    1. It is worth noting that the "quantum fields" Albert speaks of are a mathematical construct.

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  16. When it comes to 'something from nothing' debate, I have next to nothing to say. I do recommend the book, "Void: the strange physics of nothing" by James Owen Weatherall. While it is a small book of only 136 pages, the author explores the topic of 'nothing' very well, leaving nothing left to hide.

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  17. im-skepticalApril 16, 2017 at 8:08 PM

    "You have a problem with the idea that stuff can come from nothing, but quantum mechanics is fine with it. "
    There is no such thing as the quantum mechanics of nothing.

    " You should understand, though that quantum vacuum consists of nothing at all."
    You really need to do some serious thinking about about what the term "absolutely nothing at all" means.

    Can nothing have volume? Can nothing have properties? Can nothing be curved?

    "nothing is unstable."
    Laughable. Sorry, but your handle says you are skeptical. I suggest you apply that skepticism to people who wave their arms and claim to have solved what no human has ever solved.

    "As i said before, this all comes down to what we define as nothing. If you don't want to call it nothing, fine."
    There is only one sort of nothing. Again, I strongly suggest you think much more carefully about the term "absolutely nothing at all".


    " I don't care. But it still consists of nothing that you (or anyone else) can identify as being "something"."
    I can identify space as many sorts of something, for example, what are these properties of space?
    Vacuum permeability (u0)
    Vacuum permittivity (e0)
    Speed of light in a vacuum (c0)

    What is the relationship between these properties of space?
    c0 = 1/sqrt(u0*e0))

    How would "absolutely nothing at all" have any properties at all, much less these well known and measurable properties?

    So, clearly space is something, but how about those virtual particles being creation ex nihilo?

    You have probably heard of Hawking radiation, or as Hawking said "Black holes ain't so black". The theory goes that at the event horizon virtual particle pairs form, with one particle escaping and the other falling into the black hole, thus causing the black hole to lose mass.

    Focus on "lose mass". If the virtual particle were an example of creation ex nihilo why would the black hole lose mass? It should gain mass! If the particle pair is spontaneously created out of absolutely nothing at all then the particle falling into the black hole would cause the mass of the black hole to increase.

    But the theory says the mass of the black hole decreases. Therefore the virtual particle pair was not created ex nihilo, rather, from the mass of the black hole.


    "Here's a primer for you (not by Krauss). And please note what it has to say about stuff coming from nothing."
    Krauss is not the only person out there using sloppy, indefensible language, that is true.

    Krauss is now pulling in some $20,000 to $30,000 per speaking event. Not as good as the $50,000 to $100,000 of Chopra, but still some serious cash.

    Woo mongering pays big money.

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  18. PapalintonApril 16, 2017 at 7:52 PM

    That's kind of a lot of questions:-) Listening to Krauss converse/debate publicly on the subject is quite enough to quickly expose the fraudulent nature of his assertions.

    I mean, it's embarrassing to listen to him get trounced by a theist on this subject.

    "Perhaps you are in the David Albert camp? "
    No, not in a camp or a school of thought or anything like that.

    I detailed a few items for Skep about how very apparently space is not absolutely nothing at all. Space has properties. If space can be curved what exactly is being curved? How does absolutely nothing at all take on a curvature?

    To speak of space as "nothing" is naive at best. When done for $20,000 a crack it is simply fraudulent.

    As for virtual particles being creation ex nihilo I mentioned the case of Hawking radiation to Skep. If the virtual particles created at the event horizon came out of absolutely nothing at all then the ones that fall into the black hole should increase the mass of the black hole, but the theory says just the opposite, the mass of the black hole decreases, showing that the virtual particles that escape the black hole were created from the mass of the black hole, not ex nihilo.

    "At the moment i happen to reside in the Krauss camp because his perspective has provided an insight which seems much more reasonable than the religious/philosophical view of creation."
    Neither are correct. The correct answer is "nobody knows".

    That is one of the great things about science that we atheists typically convey with excitement and vigor when the theist demands an explanation for everything. "Goddunnit" has no explanatory value and neither does equivocating on the word "nothing".

    That's one of the exciting things about science, the unknowns, the things nobody knows, that quest to learn more and more, and the intellectual superiority of saying "nobody knows but it fascinating to gain knowledge through science", as opposed to making up stories about a magic man in the sky. Unfortunately, Krauss has failed to take the honorable path and instead is cashing in on his own version of woo.

    It's worth noting that the world is not beating a path to his door. The argument from first cause has not been rendered obsolete nor has the notion of an infinite regress been placed into the dustbin by Kraussian creation ex nihilo theory.

    There is no creation ex nihilo theory, Kraussian or any other.


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    1. .......
      "At the moment i happen to reside in the Krauss camp because his perspective has provided an insight which seems much more reasonable than the religious/philosophical view of creation."
      Neither are correct. The correct answer is "nobody knows". ..............

      SP, it's OK to say, "Nobody knows". But I tend to think Krauss's contribution to understanding the cosmos will form a small but useful segment in the DNA strand [for want of a better analogy] toward that understanding than say a Plantinga, or N T Wright or William Lane Craig.

      Cheers

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    2. PapalintonApril 17, 2017 at 9:27 PM
      "SP, it's OK to say, "Nobody knows". But I tend to think Krauss's contribution to understanding the cosmos will form a small but useful segment"

      Unfortunately Krauss has been a major negative contribution to public understandings of the origin of existence. He is spreading idiotic equivocations and cashing in on woo. His "contribution" is misinformation at best, lies for profit more likely, given his educational background.

      Krauss employees the tried and true method of the shock jock, say some outlandish nonsense, whip up a controversy over drivel "explanations", pump up your ratings, sell stuff like books and speaking engagements at $20,000 a pop.

      By the time serious people have a chance to call out the outrageous falsehoods it is too late, the damage has already been done. The charlatan has soaked the public for millions and pumped another load of bullshit into the public literature.

      He can retire a millionaire laughing all the way to the bank as people who have thought carefully about this subject grumble about what a bullshitter Krauss is.

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    3. Doy you know who hasn't contributed anything to public understanding? YOU. Nor do you apparently even understand the theory that you criticize so strongly. You have a religious devotion to a particular conception of reality, and you won't even listen to what others have to say about it. I tried over and over again to explain that this whole disagreement is a matter of definition. Perhaps there's more ground for agreement than you realize, but you won't even listen. You call Krauss a charlatan, but I don't hear you saying the same thing about all the other scientists who postulate the very same theory. Why do you admire Sean Carroll? Is it simply because he uses different language to say essentially the same thing?

      Maybe you should listen a little more carefully to what Krauss actually says. I think there's a little more room for mutual understanding than you seem to think. Krauss NEVER said the universe comes from metaphysical nothingness. (And I didn't either, for that matter.)

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  19. nothing is unstable

    For "nothing" to be unstable it must possess the quality of instability. To possess a quality necessitates being a "thing".

    To be nothing means having no qualities. It means being subject to no rules (since there is nothing to be subjected to them), and therefore you cannot punt to the "Laws of Physics, or of Gravitation" to explain creation ex nihilo.

    You cannot measure nothing, for that implies there is "something" to be measured. You cannot characterized or define it, because the moment you do so, you're talking about a "thing". "Nothing" does not exist within our material universe.

    Creation ex nihilo basically amounts to saying "The universe did not create itself, nor did it originate due to anything now in existence within the universe, nor to any property, law, characteristic, or principle by which it is now defined."

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    1. Creation ex nihilo basically amounts to saying "The universe did not create itself, nor did it originate due to anything now in existence within the universe, nor to any property, law, characteristic, or principle by which it is now defined."

      That's exactly right. Please read my response to Stardusty. The one thing I would add is that nothing in nature happens because of physical laws, properties, or principles. Those are things that we use to describe how things things behave. They are not entities that exist in their own right, and have no causal efficacy in their own right. When you say "You cannot measure nothing", I agree. The nothing from which the universe spawns has no extent, no temperature, etc. Because it is NOTHING.

      Delete
  20. Stardusty,

    It is clear that you have a religious adherence to metaphysical principle. I keep trying to tell you that this is all a matter of how you define "nothing". If true philosophical "nothingness" doesn't exist, it makes no difference to me, or to the world. There is still the kind of nothing that you have when you take away all the stuff.

    If you can ascribe "properties" to this nothing and then declare that it must be something, you are playing the same game as the theists who use the ontological argument to "prove" that God exists. But that's bullshit. And it has no bearing on the truth of the metaphysical principle that you espouse. The fact remains that you can take away all the stuff, and still spawn a whole universe. Here is a brief article from Secular Web that discusses the idea of something from nothing.

    I know that you previously stated that matter/energy must exist eternally, and derided the notion of negative energy, claiming that the concept of it is just an accounting trick, but it is a genuine physical principle at the heart of this topic. I urge you to read the paper that I pointed out. Or perhaps the book that jdhuey suggested, to see how it fits with conservation of energy and matter.

    Beyond that, if you're not willing to listen to what physicist have to say about it, I don't know what more I can say.

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  21. Creation ex nihilo is a fundamentally religious concept - indeed, (as far as I know) it is a specifically Christian idea. Judaism knew nothing of it ("and the Spirit of God hovered over the waters") The ancient Greeks and Romans certainly has no such idea. The very gods themselves were a product of a preexistent chaos. And as far as I understand them, most Eastern religions appear to regard the universe as eternally existent - it was always here. Mormonism has its own unique chain-of-creation concept, which stretches infinitely backward in time.

    But as far as I can tell (someone please correct me if I am wrong) Christianity is unique in proclaiming that everything ("all things visible and invisible") was created by an act of God, specifically through His Word.

    In the Christian sense then, ex nihilo most emphatically does not mean "by means of nothing" but rather "out of nothing" - that is, no preexistent materials were used to create the universe.

    People like Stephen Hawking or Lawrence Krauss are therefore simply embarrassing themselves when they try to claim ownership of creation ex nihilo. Any purely materialist explanation for existence is going to have to embrace some form of eternally existent cosmos, either through the (now thoroughly debunked) steady state theory or through some variant of the multiverse concept (or through some as yet undreamed of theory).

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  22. Arrggh! "The ancient Greeks and Romans certainly had no such idea."

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    1. But as far as I can tell (someone please correct me if I am wrong) Christianity is unique in proclaiming that everything ("all things visible and invisible") was created by an act of God, specifically through His Word.

      Interesting. I made this point in response to Bob's issue (1). Christians claim it, but if atheists make the same claim, they say it's illogical. (Incidentally, it wasn't really a Christian concept until scientific discovery suggested a beginning to the universe.) What I've been saying is that it's not illogical (despite what Stardusty thinks). And it really doesn't matter who was the first to make such a claim. What matters is whether it corresponds to reality. Quantum mechanics not only allows it, but it predicts it. In fact, it tells us that our universe should not be the only one.

      Delete
  23. im-skepticalApril 17, 2017 at 9:13 AM

    "It is clear that you have a religious adherence to metaphysical principle."
    Projection? Dunno, you seem to be reading my mind now, can't say why really.

    " I keep trying to tell you that this is all a matter of how you define "nothing"."
    Equivocation for profit pays big, that is true.

    " If true philosophical "nothingness" doesn't exist, it makes no difference to me, or to the world."
    Which world? The question of the origin of existence remains unsolved, and remains one of the most fundamental questions to occupy minds over millennia.

    It matters so much to the world that charlatans like Krauss can make a fortune with phony "theories" that purport to answer the question "Why There Is Something Rather Than Nothing".

    That's a very great deal of attention being paid to what you say makes no difference to the world.


    "There is still the kind of nothing that you have when you take away all the stuff."
    Which is absolutely nothing at all. There are not different sorts of absolutely nothing at all. You really do need to do some careful thinking on this subject.

    "If you can ascribe "properties" to this nothing ... But that's bullshit. "
    Right, nothing has no properties, no volume, no permittivity, no permeability, and no curvature. That's what I said.

    " The fact remains that you can take away all the stuff, and still spawn a whole universe. "
    Fact? How is this somehow a "fact"? If a universe can spawn out of nothing why aren't they spawning everywhere all the time? The notion is preposterous and completely contrary to observation.

    "Here is a brief article from Secular Web that discusses the idea of something from nothing."
    Yes, I have read a number of such articles. They all contain the same sorts of fuzzy thinking.

    "I know that you previously stated that matter/energy must exist eternally,"
    No, I never said that. I would appreciate you characterizing my views more accurately.

    " and derided the notion of negative energy,"
    Please cite the particle in the standard model that has a negative mass (mass being expressed as energy, electron volts).

    " claiming that the concept of it is just an accounting trick, "
    It is an accounting tool, not a trick. If one presupposes the existence of two masses next to each other then one presupposes a source of energy to push them apart against classical gravity work is done and that can be expressed using a negative sign such that when the masses fall toward each other the energy is transferred to the masses as kinetic energy and properly accounted for. This is the kind of thing an undergraduate calculates in physics class with careful attention to the negative sign in the gravity term to get the correct answer on the test.

    Never in any of my physics classes did the notion of "negative energy" arise. My professors never mentioned it.

    "Negative energy" is like "negative velocity", just a sign convention to make the bookkeeping come out correctly once an arbitrary reference point has been selected.

    "but it is a genuine physical principle at the heart of this topic."
    Interesting then that it appears nowhere in the standard model of particles or any physics course I took or any physics textbook I studied from.


    "Beyond that, if you're not willing to listen to what physicist have to say about it, I don't know what more I can say."
    For starters you can learn to think more clearly about what the term "absolutely nothing at all" means. Then you can learn that space is very much something.

    Hopefully, after you do some more careful thinking on the subject, you will realize that a theory showing how stuff arises from space is not a theory of something from nothing, it is a theory of something from something.

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    1. For starters you can learn to think more clearly about what the term "absolutely nothing at all" means. Then you can learn that space is very much something.

      You see, this just shows that you don't know what the theory says. Whether or not you consider space to be something is irrelevant. Cosmic inflation creates space, too. So what kind of stuff do you suppose that came from? I suggested you do some reading. Please do.

      Delete
  24. I see your "interesting" and raise you a "fascinating". It can be argued that the idea of creation ex nihilo dates to the New Testament:

    "All things were made through [the Word], and without him was not anything made that was made." (John 1:3)

    "For in [Jesus] all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible." (Colossians 1:16)

    "In these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature, upholding the universe by his word of power." (Hebrews 1:2-3)

    I realize the third quotation has less bearing on ex nihilo, but I like its inclusion of "upholding", implying that creation was not a one-time event, but rather an ongoing process continuing to this moment.

    Note: I cite these scriptural passages only to suggest that was a Christian concept from the earliest days. At the very least, the groundwork for it was there.

    And contra your assertion that quantum mechanics allows for and predicts creation , it does no such thing. The "spontaneous" creation of isolated subatomic particles is a result of physical laws - which are most definitely "something".

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    1. MortalApril 17, 2017 at 4:28 PM

      " It can be argued that the idea of creation ex nihilo dates to the New Testament:"
      Not validly.

      God is presupposed to be something. He is said to have created using his "word", whatever that means. It is really just primitive mythology, but the mythology presupposes an eternally existent god that somehow created stuff by some sort of undefined action called "word".

      Unless god is nothing and his word is nothing there is no creation ex nihilo being described.

      BTW, here is one of a gazillion links to gravitational "negative energy"
      http://www.sparknotes.com/testprep/books/sat2/physics/chapter11section3.rhtml
      "Off the surface of the Earth, there’s no obvious reference point from which to measure gravitational potential energy. Conventionally, we say that an object that is an infinite distance away from the Earth has zero gravitational potential energy with respect to the Earth. Because a negative amount of work is done to bring an object closer to the Earth, gravitational potential energy is always a negative number when using this reference point."

      Like I said, it is just a sign convention with respect to an arbitrary reference point. When I solved these problems for grade credit the professor never even mentioned any notion that this sign represented some sort of actual negative energy.

      Energy is like speed, always a positive or zero quantity. We just employ arbitrary reference points and sign conventions to do the bookkeeping of how this positive energy is being transferred from place to place.

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    2. Mortal,

      The "spontaneous" creation of isolated subatomic particles is a result of physical laws - which are most definitely "something".

      - Physical laws are nothing more than concepts in the minds of people about the way things behave. They are not "something".


      Stardusty,

      Like I said, it is just a sign convention with respect to an arbitrary reference point. When I solved these problems for grade credit the professor never even mentioned any notion that this sign represented some sort of actual negative energy.

      - I'm sorry you didn't learn about the concept in your physics course, but real physicists who have studied this topic all their adult lives take this concept quite seriously.

      Delete
    3. about the way things behave

      Exactly so. About the way THINGS behave. Not nothing. Physical laws do not apply to nothing. There is nothing for them to apply to.

      Delete
    4. Physical laws do not apply to nothing. There is nothing for them to apply to.

      What's your point? When something comes into existence it does so in a way that is described by physical laws. Those laws apply to the thing - not to nothing. None of this implies that there is something must pre-exist that thing.

      Delete
  25. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  26. God is presupposed to be something."

    Yes, indeed. But ex nihilo does not mean "by means of nothing" but rather "out of nothing". God did not create the universe "out of" His Word, but "through" (i.e., by means of) His Word. Big difference.

    Your comment even affirms this distinction. You wrote "by some sort of undefined action" (my emphasis). Note your use of the word "by" - not "out of".

    So there being a creator and there being a means of creation does not violate the concept of ex nihilo as long as the creator does not make use of preexistent materials in his creation.

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    1. And you know all this, how?
      Really, Mortal, this form of theistic weasle-wording is simply little more than a philosophical caricature. Christians have been hammering on about this for millennia and are no closer to substantiating the assertion. Indeed it is becoming increasingly estranged and unhinged from the diet of normal everyday conversation as the community becomes more sophisticated, educated and discerning about what constitutes 'reality' going forward. Still a long way to go, most assuredly, as society meets the forwarding challenges of living in a post-Christian environment.

      Quoting the Bible in an earlier comment, as if it were some absolute, inalienable authoritative source, just doesn't cut it anymore. It shares about the same level as an authoritative source about reality, that reading Harry Potter has in confirming the existence of Hogwarts.

      Delete
    2. I think Mortal is quite confused. He proudly proclaims that Christians originated the idea of creation ex nihilo (I think the Greeks actually thought of it first), but if an atheist makes a similar claim, it is illogical.

      To him, what makes it a sensible concept is the notion that God can do it. Any miracle is possible if God does it. But if physics provides a natural means for it to happen, that would be stealing yet another miracle away from God, so he's rather not believe it. Thanks to science, God doesn't have very many miracles left up his sleeve.

      Delete
  27. I think the Greeks actually thought of it first

    Perhaps some individual Greek did think up the concept, but it was certainly not a common idea in the ancient world. Read Chapter 3 of Edith Hamilton's Mythology, in which she tells the story of our world arising out of an infinite, preexisting chaos, "the vast immeasurable abyss, outrageous as a sea, dark, wasteful, wild." (Milton's description)

    This is quite similar to the state of affairs as seen in the opening lines of Genesis: "In the beginning, when God began to create the heavens and the earth, the Earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters." The same idea can be found in the book of Job: "Who shut in the sea with doors when it burst forth from the womb; when I made clouds its garment, and thick darkness its swaddling band, and prescribed bounds for it, and set bars and doors, and said, 'Thus far shall you come, and no farther,
    and here shall your proud waves be stayed'?"

    No ex nihilo in either of those accounts.

    There was almost certainly some sort of cross-fertilization of ideas between Hebrews and Greeks in the Alexandrian world. This is obviously so in the Wisdom Literature of the Old Testament, especially in the books of Wisdom and Sirach. Here we see God creating the universe alongside an entity known as Wisdom, who is described not as an attribute, but as a literal person (see Sirach, Chapter 24). The evangelist John was of course well acquainted with such texts long before he ever penned the line "In the beginning was the Word."

    There is no escaping the conclusion that the Christian world was well familiar with the concept of ex nihilo by the time the books of the New Testament were gathered together.

    Incidentally, it wasn't really a Christian concept until scientific discovery suggested a beginning to the universe.

    Also incidentally, that "scientific discovery" was made by a Christian, the Catholic priest Georges Lemaitre.

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    1. You never answered my question: why is it logical for Christians to believe this but not for atheists?

      Delete
  28. I'm pressed for time right now, but I'll put in a placeholder until I am free this evening to respond at length:

    "Nothing will come from nothing."
    (Shakespeare, King Lear, Act 1, Scene 1, Line 90)

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  29. im-skepticalApril 17, 2017 at 6:33 PM

    SP the professor never even mentioned any notion that this sign represented some sort of actual negative energy.

    "- I'm sorry you didn't learn about the concept in your physics course,"
    Your sympathies might be kind but they provide no explanation as to why Halliday, Resnick, Walker, and Serway all chose to omit this "serious" concept.

    I learned about kinetic energy, energy quantization, relativistic energy expressions, gravitational potential energy, rest energy, energy levels...yet no mention of negative energy...ever, at all, not once.

    All energy graphs in all my collection of physics books start at zero or some positive value, never negative.

    Quite a glaring omission from my university studies and textbooks for such a "serious" subject.

    " but real physicists who have studied this topic all their adult lives take this concept quite seriously."
    Focus on the word "concept", like a warp drive is a "concept", and a time machine is a "concept".

    Yes, mathematically, just for the exercise to see what happens, it is possible to construct models for all kinds of "concepts" by putting negative signs in places we never actually observe, or modeling n dimensional space, or whatever strikes your fancy. Fine, but don't try to pass it off as real physical science.

    There is no science of negative energy, or of creation ex nihilo, or something from nothing. To write such things mathematically might be somebody's idea of fun. To pass it off publicly as physical science for $20,000 an evening is woo mongering.

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    1. Yes, my freshman-year physics book (by Halliday and Resnick) doesn't discuss the concept of negative energy, either. Surprise - I wasn't studying astrophysics. However, there are many astrophysicists who do, including Hawking, Guth, Filippenko, Pasachoff, and Sean Carroll (you remember - the same guy that you thought was refuting what Krauss says, but he actually agrees with it).

      I found a succinct explanation of the inflation theory by Guth. It is not the old (and out-dated) Big Bang theory that you envision. Specifically, it does not involve an infinitely dense singularity that somehow exists before the inflation event.

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    2. im-skepticalApril 18, 2017 at 1:27 PM

      "I found a succinct explanation of the inflation theory by Guth. It is not the old (and out-dated) Big Bang theory that you envision. Specifically, it does not involve an infinitely dense singularity that somehow exists before the inflation event."
      Right, it has a condition of "very high energies".

      So where did these "very high energies" come from?

      Guth is not describing something from nothing, he is describing something from something.

      "it actually requires no energy to produce a universe"
      Here Guth contradicts himself. First he says "very high energies" are needed to produce his hypothesis of repulsive gravity, then he says no energy is needed to produce a universe.

      For a guy with the word "skeptical" in your handle you aren't very.

      "inflation .. of course occurred after the origin of the universe"
      Right, inflation is not a theory of creation ex nihilo, rather it presupposes the origin of our big bang, which I told you above.

      Delete

    3. Guth states flatly "The energy of a gravitational field is negative." Really? Then why is the negative sign used only as an accounting tool to calculate gravitational potential energy relative to some arbitrary reference point?

      So all the gravitational potential energy of all the objects separated from each other is actually negative energy? Gee, that's kind of a neat trick. I mean, If I do work against a spring I have to expend energy, but to push two gravitationally attracted objects apart does not require me to expend any energy because the positive energy needed to push them apart comes from the negative energy of the gravitational field and...poof, presto magic, something from nothing!

      Hmmm, except that doesn't really work, now does it? We actually have to build rockets to launch stuff into space, they don't just get a free ride from the negative energy of a gravitational field.

      So, if I do work to start a ball rolling I expend energy and that positive energy is transferred to the ball as positive kinetic energy. If the ball rolls into a compression spring it compresses the spring which stores the kinetic energy of the ball as potential energy. Is that potential energy also negative energy, or is it positive energy I assign a negative sign to just as an accounting tool? So then the spring pushes back on the ball and I get my positive energy back as kinetic energy of the ball in motion, but now in the opposite direction.

      So, did I somehow create something called negative energy when the spring was compressed? Or did the initial energy of my work against the ball simply get transferred from place to place as regular old positive energy?

      How about if I fire a gun straight up? So the potential energy of the propellant is released as bonds form and the gas pushes on the bullet imparting positive kinetic energy to the bullet. The bullet then does work against the gravitational field, until it reaches maximum height. So where is that positive energy now? Remember, Guth says flatly "The energy of a gravitational field is negative." So now there is some negative energy stored someplace? How do the signs work out for that? Because the bullet will fall and regain its kinetic energy just like the ball regained its kinetic energy from the spring. Gravity acts like a spring in the transfer and storage of kinetic energy.

      So, do springs create negative energy too?

      Ya know, skep, you earlier said "you have a religious adherence". Actually, I am just, very apparently, a good deal more skeptical than the guy with the word in his handle.

      I was skeptical of Hawking too. At a time when the average atheist was sucking up to his nonsense about the singularity and the beginning of time I said no, that is bullshit, infinite density makes no sense, no explanation is given for what caused this infinitely dense object to go bang, the assertion of the beginning of time is an hoc means to avoid the hard question of what came before the big bang, and application of a theory under conditions that theory is known to break down is sheer stupidity. Turns out I was right.

      Krauss is right about at least one thing, though, there are no scientific authorities, none whatsoever, not the Lucasian Professor, not the MIT professor, not the ASU professor.

      When I hear bullshit from such guys I call it, because I am skeptical.

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    4. Here Guth contradicts himself. First he says "very high energies" are needed to produce his hypothesis of repulsive gravity, then he says no energy is needed to produce a universe.
      - Let's just say that you don't grok what Guth is saying.

      For a guy with the word "skeptical" in your handle you aren't very.
      - I don't hold this to be gospel. I recognize that it is a theory. I also recognize that it has scientific support, and it is the leading theory today.

      So, do springs create negative energy too?
      - As I said, you don't grok.

      Ya know, skep, you earlier said "you have a religious adherence". Actually, I am just, very apparently, a good deal more skeptical than the guy with the word in his handle.
      - From what I can see, you show no interest in listening to theories that don't agree with your own presuppositions. Being skeptical is good. Being obtuse isn't.

      the assertion of the beginning of time is an hoc means to avoid the hard question of what came before the big bang, and application of a theory under conditions that theory is known to break down is sheer stupidity. Turns out I was right.
      - Turns out you disagree with general relativity, too. That IS skeptical.

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  31. Why is it logical for Christians to believe this but not for atheists?

    For this reason: God not only can, but must create ex nihilo, for without His having created it, no thing would exist. So prior to creation, God has no "materials" from which to fashion the universe.

    On the other hand, absent the Creator God, as Shakespeare said so eloquently, "Nothing will come from nothing." There can be no point at which only nothing exists, else no thing will ever exist. It will be nothing for all eternity. So to be a logically consistent atheist, one must assume that there never was a time where what we can legitimately call "nothing" was all there was (wasn't? - the limitations of language are so blatantly apparent at this point).

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    1. So your explanation is pretty much as I surmised earlier. It's OK if God does it, but not if nature does it.

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  32. It's OK if God does it, but not if nature does it.

    Not exactly. I'd put it this way (crude as the following sentences will unavoidably be):

    God provides a mechanism by which some thing can emerge from nothingness. I.e., the universe was created "out of" nothing, but not "by means of" nothing.

    Absent God, nothingness in and of itself has no means by which any thing may emerge. No God necessitates objects to appear not only "out of" nothing, but also "by means of" nothing - a logical absurdity.

    Which is why I maintain that, to be logically consistent, an atheist must believe that at all times "something" existed. There can be no time in which there was only nothing.

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    1. As far as I can tell there isn't a time when there was nothing. Neither is there a time when God was necessary to explain the world.

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  33. As far as I can tell there isn't a time when there was nothing.

    This is a statement which is logically consistent with atheism. On this we apparently agree.

    But... if there was never a time when "there was nothing", then there can be no creation ex nihilo - which effectively answers your question "Why is it logical for Christians to believe this but not for atheists?"

    Neither is there a time when God was necessary to explain the world.

    This is an opinion. Which is fine. It's great to have opinions. (Or perhaps it is a conclusion? In that case, I'd have to see the argument.)

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    1. But... if there was never a time when "there was nothing", then there can be no creation ex nihilo

      I disagree. When we see particles pop into existence, they still come from nothing. Perhaps I should have said there is no time (that I know of) when there was only nothingness. But the fact of something existing doesn't logically preclude other things coming into existence from nothing.

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  34. Hmm... I see we have a basic divergence in what we consider to be creation from nothing. When we observe particles "popping into existence" from nothing, that "nothing' is actually a constituent part of the existing universe, with all of its properties.

    If that were not so, then we should expect to observe particles with truly random properties, that don't fit (and can't be fit) into our list of subatomic particles. If they were genuinely "from nothing" then there would be nothing constraining them from being unintelligible to us. Why doesn't a particle one meter in diameter suddenly appear? Or one with a charge neither positive nor negative nor neutral, but something else entirely. Why do we not see particles that behave contrary to the otherwise universally observed "laws of nature"?

    The fact that plain old vanilla particles that we see all the time are the only thing appearing means that they are part and parcel of the already existing universe, and not what I at least would call a true creation ex nihilo.

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    1. And yet the universe itself (at least what we know of it) seems to have been created in much the same way. Based on your definition, it might be fair to say that the universe created itself.

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  35. See my comments above why that cannot be so. No sense in repeating myself.

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  36. Unless someone else steps in with a brand new perspective, I think we've exhausted this topic.

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  37. im-skepticalApril 18, 2017 at 4:14 PM

    SP" the assertion of the beginning of time is an hoc means to avoid the hard question of what came before the big bang, and application of a theory under conditions that theory is known to break down is sheer stupidity. Turns out I was right.
    "- Turns out you disagree with general relativity, too. That IS skeptical."

    Indeed, and it turns out I was correct. General relativity is wrong in the sense that Newtonian mechanics is wrong and Maxwell's equations are wrong. These theories are brilliant models that accurately describe a broad range of observations, but they are known to lose their descriptive usefulness under certain conditions.

    Application of a theory in the regime it is known to break down is irrational.

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  38. im-skepticalApril 18, 2017 at 5:18 PM

    "I disagree. When we see particles pop into existence, they still come from nothing. "
    Nobody has ever seen a particle pop into existence from nothing. Please try to clarify this basic fact in your mind and keep it clarified: the vacuum is not nothing, space is not nothing.

    " the fact of something existing doesn't logically preclude other things coming into existence from nothing."
    So, no fields, no energy, and in fact no causal substrate, agent, or thing of any sort is a precursor to the generation of a particle?

    There can be absolutely nothing at all, and for no reason, by no cause, as a consequence of not any thing, just poof?

    That is magical thinking no better than theism.

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    1. There can be absolutely nothing at all, and for no reason, by no cause, as a consequence of not any thing, just poof? ... That is magical thinking no better than theism.

      It is precisely what the theory predicts. The difference between this and theism is that there is a well-defined theory that describes exactly and predicts what we observe. In addition, it explains things that other theories don't, such at the flatness of space. Furthermore, this theory is still valid in the absence of space-time. In other words, it doesn't require empty space for something to pop into existence. It literally requires nothing at all.

      Now, you might insist that because of your unproven metaphysical beliefs, there must be some causal agent that makes this all happen. Perhaps. But unless you can show me that there actually is a causal agent for quantum events, or demonstrate that there must be, I'm happy to accept (provisionally, of course) that reality is consistent with what we observe. Meanwhile, your belief is unsupported, just like the theists'.

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    2. im-skepticalApril 22, 2017 at 9:40 AM

      "It is precisely what the theory predicts."
      Which theory? Sorry, there have been many under discussion. Do you have a specific name, formulation, or link to this theory?

      " In addition, it explains things that other theories don't, such at the flatness of space."
      Ok, I think you are referring to inflation. There are a variety of versions of it, but they are broadly similar.

      " Furthermore, this theory is still valid in the absence of space-time."
      Inflation? If that is what you are referring to then no, inflation needs a pre-existing volume of extremely high energy density to get started. Both Guth and Vilenkin say so explicitly and repeatedly. So do the many critics of inflation, pointing out that it creates more problems than it solves, in that it requires a very specific sort of pre-existing condition to work.

      " In other words, it doesn't require empty space for something to pop into existence. It literally requires nothing at all."
      If you are referring to inflation you are mistaken.

      Inflation pre-supposes an existing quantity, volume, and density of energy.

      " But unless you can show me that there actually is a causal agent for quantum events, or demonstrate that there must be, I'm happy to accept (provisionally, of course) that reality is consistent with what we observe."
      Yes, I know what causes quantum events, god. Goddunnit. God is infinite in power so poofing a universe of particles from picosecond to picosecond is just as easy as poofing just one.

      I even have a wave function that describes this god poof very accurately over a large number of trials. Of course, that is only a probabilistic analysis but it must be god because I've got all this great math that describes the odds of god doing this or that.

      Intrinsic randomness is no better than goddunnit. You might just as well say "and then a miracle occurs".

      "Explanations" such as "it just does", or "poof", or "for no reason because you can't tell me the reason" have no place in scientific inquiry. As with Dennet's objection to goddunit, these are just gold plated excuses to stop thinking.

      Although, I'm not quite sure what you were referring to because you seemed to go from inflation to quantum mechanics in general. Right now there is no way to experimentally reproduce inflation or directly observe it with gravitational waves, whereas a wide variety or QM effects can be measured.

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    3. "Explanations" such as "it just does", or "poof", or "for no reason because you can't tell me the reason" have no place in scientific inquiry. As with Dennet's objection to goddunit, these are just gold plated excuses to stop thinking.

      I have yet to see a scientific theory that attempts to tell us the reason things work the way they do. Theories simply provide a model for how things work.

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    4. im-skepticalApril 22, 2017 at 5:18 PM

      "I have yet to see a scientific theory that attempts to tell us the reason things work the way they do."
      Really? What is the reason for the photoelectric effect? For blackbody radiation? For sunshine?
      A scientific theory of a large scale observation explains how how a more fundamental process or structure accounts for the larger scale observation.

      Scientists are not satisfied to say the sun shines because goddunnit, or it is intrinsically hot, or it just does, or poof.

      A process can be analyzed probabilisticly when we lack more fundamental knowledge. The mere fact that we can derive a distribution function that is highly accurate with large numbers of trials in no way tells us that the process just happens by poof.

      Poof is magical thinking.

      " Theories simply provide a model for how things work."
      ...at ever more fundamental levels. You know, Skep, people are looking for this. It's not like I just pulled this notion out of my ass. String theory is just one attempt to derive a more fundamental causal structure for what will then become a macro level observation, that of electrons, quarks, neutrinos, photons that at this time are the most fundamental things yet identified.

      Mortal had a good point about nothing having no properties. Vilenkin, in recognition that inflation requires energy/volume/space/existence as ad hoc fine tuned preexisting condition has proposed Platonic physics. I mean, the woo just never ends.

      On Vilenkin's view, absolutely nothing at all has properties, the "laws" of quantum mechanics, which somehow magically tunnel from 0 to the incredibly high energy density state required for inflation, and then poof, we get the free lunch of inflation and a universe filled with all this negative energy but no negative mass, only positive mass. Quite a tall tale indeed.

      Krauss doesn't even bother with that, preferring to simply equivocate on "nothing", as though the term were somehow ambiguous or philosophers had some stupid ideas about it, therefore it is perfectly ok to call "something" "nothing" so he can claim something came from nothing and collect his massive speaking fees and sell his books.

      By the time people who used to respect him catch up to his little shell game the money is in the bank and we can grumble about the chuckling now rich charlatan all we like.

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    5. Really? What is the reason for the photoelectric effect? For blackbody radiation? For sunshine?
      - Theories tell us HOW things work. They don't tell us WHY.

      Poof is magical thinking.
      - Then maybe you should stop thinking that way. That isn't what physicists are saying.

      Mortal had a good point about nothing having no properties.
      - He is talking about metaphysical nothingness, which is not a reality in our world. You should pay attention. that's not what physicists are talking about.

      Krauss doesn't even bother with that, preferring to simply equivocate on "nothing", as though the term were somehow ambiguous or philosophers had some stupid ideas about it, therefore it is perfectly ok to call "something" "nothing" so he can claim something came from nothing and collect his massive speaking fees and sell his books.
      - Krauss has given a definition of the "nothing" that he refers to. It's you doing all the equivocating.



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    6. im-skepticalApril 25, 2017 at 8:10 AM

      SP Really? What is the reason for the photoelectric effect? For blackbody radiation? For sunshine?
      "- Theories tell us HOW things work. They don't tell us WHY."
      You said "reason". The terms "reason", "how", and "why" are conversationally interchangeable in many respects. Their definitions contain a great deal of overlap.

      How/why/reason the sun shines have the same technical answers having to do with surface temperature, blackbody radiation, solar atmospheric effects, nuclear reactions etc.

      why
      (h)wī/
      why
      1.
      for what reason or purpose.

      reason
      1.
      a cause, explanation, or justification for an action or event.

      how
      In what way or manner; by what means.

      If by "why" you are asking "ultimate purpose" then yes, a scientific theory cannot answer that because there is no known ultimate purpose for anything


      SP Poof is magical thinking.
      "- Then maybe you should stop thinking that way. That isn't what physicists are saying."
      Right, physicists are saying that there is no theory of something from nothing. That would be poof and physicists don't like to imagine themselves as advocating poof, although those who advocate intrinsic randomness do just that.

      You don't agree that there is no theory of something from nothing? Fine. Please provide a link to a peer reviewed article, physics page, or any credible source that lists the specific technical theory of how absolutely nothing at all can give rise to something.

      SP Mortal had a good point about nothing having no properties.
      "- He is talking about metaphysical nothingness, which is not a reality in our world. "
      Exactly, in our world there is always something. We know of no way nothing could have given rise to something.

      "You should pay attention. that's not what physicists are talking about."
      Who are these "physicists" you keep vaguely referring to? Where are these supposed theories about something from nothing?


      SP Krauss doesn't even bother with that, preferring to simply equivocate on "nothing", as though the term were somehow ambiguous or philosophers had some stupid ideas about it, therefore it is perfectly ok to call "something" "nothing" so he can claim something came from nothing and collect his massive speaking fees and sell his books.
      "- Krauss has given a definition of the "nothing" that he refers to. It's you doing all the equivocating."
      That is a laugh riot. You just don't get it, do you?

      The subtitle of his trash bullshit book is:
      "Why there is something rather than nothing"
      Thus, Krauss purports to answer the question:
      "Why is there something rather than nothing?"

      nothing
      1.
      not anything

      I should pay attention? Do you even know what the word "nothing" means? This isn't complicated. "Nothing" is "not anything" or "no thing".

      So, Krauss purports to to answer the "why" question you say a theory does not answer!

      Yet he disdains philosophy while purporting to answer perhaps the most profound unsolved philosophical "why" questions to occupy great minds for millennia.
      ""Why is there anything rather than not anything?"

      Re-defining "not anything" to mean "something" is the height of dishonesty and equivocation.

      At the time the trash bullshit book by Krauss was published it received a great deal of well deserved scorn. Since you have yet to grasp the basics of how truly absurd Krauss is I will provide a few more words of explanation by quote and link.

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    7. Re: Equivocation---
      Inconsistency with “nothing” abounds. Having admitted that it would be “disingenuous to suggest that empty space endowed with energy … is really nothing”, just a few pages later he is telling us that in a universe emptied by expansion “nothingness would reign supreme”, and that the creation of particle from the empty space around a black hole shows that “under the right conditions, not only can nothing become something, it is required to”.

      The book descends into the ridiculous. Krauss tells us that, ‘“Something” may not be very special or even very common in the multiverse’. So, in the totality of physical existence, it might be that only some things are “something” but most things aren’t “something”. That is exactly as daft as it sounds. This nonsense has no warrant from modern cosmology.
      https://letterstonature.wordpress.com/2013/08/13/a-universe-from-nothing-what-you-should-know-before-you-hear-the-krauss-craig-debate/


      Re: The supposed aversion to answering "why"---
      Even worse is Dawkins’ afterword to Krauss’ book: “Even the last remaining trump card of the theologian, ‘Why is there something rather than nothing?,’ shrivels up before your eyes as you read these pages. If ‘On the Origin of Species’ was biology’s deadliest blow to super­naturalism, we may come to see ‘A Universe From Nothing’ as the equivalent from cosmology. The title means exactly what it says. And what it says is ­devastating.” Pathetic, desperate nonsense. By his own admission, Krauss isn’t answering the question “why is there something rather than nothing?”; he is using equivocation to substitute an unrelated scientific question “why are there particles rather than the quantum vacuum?” and then announcing victory over the philosophers.
      https://letterstonature.wordpress.com/2012/03/25/david-albert-on-lawrence-krauss/

      Re: Zero energy, probabilities, language, evidence---
      if something can some out of nothing, then anything and everything can and should come out of nothing at all times and places. This, then, is the empirical evidence we would need in order to believe that the universe could come out of nothing.
      https://letterstonature.wordpress.com/2011/04/16/more-sweet-nothings/

      Re: The blatant equivocation of Krauss---
      Krauss repeatedly talked about universes coming out of nothing, particles coming out of nothing, different types of nothing, nothing being unstable. This is nonsense. The word nothing is often used loosely – I have nothing in my hand, there’s nothing in the fridge etc. But the proper definition of nothing is “not anything”. Nothing is not a type of something, not a kind of thing. It is the absence of anything.
      https://letterstonature.wordpress.com/2011/04/01/of-nothing/

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    8. I think the big problem with you and Luke Barnes is that you are so intent on finding fault with Krauss that you refuse to listen to what he says in the manner that he intended it. For example, Barnes ridicules Krauss for the title of his book, insisting that Krauss hasn't properly addressed the philosophical question, but Krauss states very clearly that he isn't attempting to do that. Let the philosophers bitch and moan (and you can join in too). They're not the ones who advance the state of science.

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    9. "Barnes ridicules Krauss for the title of his book, insisting that Krauss hasn't properly addressed the philosophical question, but Krauss states very clearly that he isn't attempting to do that."
      That is another one of Krauss's blatant lies.

      The subtitle of the book is:
      "Why there is something rather than nothing"
      Thus, Krauss purports to answer the question:
      "Why is there something rather than nothing?"

      Krauss purports to answer one of the most profound philosophical questions that have occupied minds great and ordinary for millennia, then Krauss lies and says he is not trying to answer the question he says he answers on the cover of the book!

      Dawkins confirms the lie of Krauss, unwittingly, in his idiotic afterword.

      How is it that Dawkins would think "the last remaining trump card of the theologian, ‘Why is there something rather than nothing?,’ shrivels up before your eyes as you read these pages", and Krauss would publish that afterword, yet then later deny the very words of Dawkins published in the afterword about the words on the cover?

      The "refuge of the theologian" is precisely the philosophical problem of the origin of existence, which has never been solved by any human being and published into general circulation. Dawkins says the book is "devastating" to the theological assertion that god solves this unsolved philosophical question. Clearly, Krauss is woo mongering and getting rich in the process.

      You are the least skeptical "skeptic" I have yet to encounter.

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    10. Thus, Krauss purports to answer the question:
      "Why is there something rather than nothing?"


      And his answer to that question is: because nothing is unstable. And he freely admits that he is not a philosopher and this is not a philosophical answer. I'd say he is quite correct about that. I don't know what your problem is, but I think you are obsessed. Give it a rest.

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    11. im-skepticalApril 28, 2017 at 9:29 PM

      SP Thus, Krauss purports to answer the question:
      "Why is there something rather than nothing?"

      "And his answer to that question is: because nothing is unstable."
      Which is another utterly idiotic assertion.

      "Not anything is unstable"
      How profoundly stupid, or dishonest, take your pick, I would have to be a mind reader to know which, but given the extensive credentials of Krauss "stupid" seems highly unlikely, making "dishonest" the far more likely explanation in my opinion.


      " And he freely admits that he is not a philosopher and this is not a philosophical answer."
      Really? Dawkins says in the book that Krauss answers the a profound philosophical question:
      "Why is there something rather than nothing?"

      Krauss published the Dawkins analysis in the book!

      " I'd say he is quite correct about that. "
      Yes, you say that, making you just as wrong as Krauss. I doubt you are making much money from this blog, so greed seems to be an unlikely motivation for you, making your stance especially puzzling to me.

      "I don't know what your problem is,"
      Do I have a problem in my analysis of the bullshit assertions of Krauss? You have not been able to provide any sound arguments of such.

      " but I think you are obsessed."
      You don't really follow rational arguments all that well, do you? Just exactly what is it about you that is so "skeptical"?

      "Nothing" means "not anything".

      So far, you have made vague references to some "physicists" but have been unable or unwilling to provide any substantial references to any actual theory by any actual physicist that shows how "not anything" gives rise to "something".

      " Give it a rest."
      Uhm, all I did was list a number of responses to Mortal, just one of which was that Krauss is a woo monger.

      By now, anybody with any sense knows or should know that his book about "nothing" is a bullshit scam that has made him rich. That is very obvious to all but the credulous.

      Instead of dodging rational arguments, asserting that I have a problem, and telling me to leave it alone, I suggest you consider what it means to be a skeptic and start applying your skepticism more thoroughly.

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    12. im-skepticalApril 28, 2017 at 9:29 PM
      " I don't know what your problem is, but I think you are obsessed. Give it a rest."


      The Skeptic Zone
      Speaking out against bullshit


      How ironic that you have a problem with the subtitle of your own blog, and Krauss has a problem with the subtitle of his own book.

      So, here I am, speaking out against bullshit, but in your view, that means I have a problem and I should "give it a rest" (stop speaking out against bullshit).

      So, for yourself, you find a value in your life to speak out against bullshit, yet, for others, no such value is reasonable or understandable?

      What's my problem? I have a problem with people who call themselves atheists/rationalists/skeptics and then turn around and make bullshit arguments. Especially when they make millions spreading disinformation and making atheists sound like crackpots by association. I am speaking out against that.

      What's your problem with me speaking out against bullshit?

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    13. I have no problem with you speaking out against bullshit. We've discussed this one topic for the past few months now, and we obviously disagree. But you just keep coming back to it - again and again and again. I do think you are obsessed

      When I make statements about things I disagree with, I don't keep harping on the same point endlessly. I understand that people disagree with me, and after having made my point, I realize that it may be futile or even counterproductive to refuse to let it rest. I move on to something else.

      You've stated your position, and I hear what you are saying. What is the point you are trying to make now by continuing to raise the same thing? And do you suppose that your ad hominem attacks are helping? Perhaps you're trying to provoke me into issuing a ban so you can then call me a hypocrite? No, wait - you've already done that. All I can say is that I'm exhausted with this topic. You've spoken out, and so have I. There's nothing new being discussed. Time to move on.

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    14. Skep, you seem to have gotten right under SP's bonnet for some reason. I'm not sure really what his beef is about apart from defending his claim that Krauss is a 'woo-monger'. But that in itself doesn't seem to be the central issue but simply a means of venting. The quantum of his defence tracks more to a kind of monologue, arguing with oneself, you as proxy, while concurrently attempting to map a post hoc rationale of sorts for holding the position he does.

      The question whether Krauss is a good or bad philosopher has little to do with his being a superlative cosmologist, but more to do with how philosophers view themselves and the practice of philosophy; its relevance and meaning as a discipline in today's contest of ideas with heavy reliance for its existence primarily as an add-on or strap-on, the 'philosophy of ............' [take your pick of the almost limitless flags of colour on offer]; whether it is symbiont or parasitic in nature; and its arcane, ambivalent and terminologically constipated lexicon and definitional squabbles,. For my part, and with no pretence of nuance I might say, is either there is scientifically-informed philosophy or there is scientifically-uninformed philosophy, the latter more colloquially recognised as apologetics.

      As eruditely summarised in this entry in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, "The rise of the new science progressively undermines not only the ancient geocentric conception of the cosmos, but, with it, the entire set of presuppositions that had served to constrain and guide philosophical inquiry. The dramatic success of the new science in explaining the natural world, in accounting for a wide variety of phenomena by appeal to a relatively small number of elegant mathematical formulae, promotes philosophy (in the broad sense of the time, which includes natural science) from a handmaiden of theology, constrained by its purposes and methods, to an independent force with the power and authority to challenge the old and construct the new, in the realms both of theory and practice, on the basis of its own principles. [The bolding is mine.]

      I don't think philosophers have done enough to properly cleave this antecedent malaise, the residue of which of anything that embodies that enduring character of 'woo', continues to compromise much of philosophical endeavour and discourse.

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    15. I think it would be interesting to see more discussion among philosophers about the concept of creation ex nihilo. What many consider to be axiomatic is really a matter of induction based on experience. But the realm of quantum mechanics is outside our everyday experience. What we strongly believe to be true may not be true in reality. I'm not taking a stance on it because I don't know. But I can say that when the science appears to disagree with a principle of philosophy, there is an issue that must be resolved. In the meantime, I know which direction I should lean.

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  40. Stardusty,

    There is a vast difference between divine creation and what IM-S is describing.

    With divine creation, even starting with a universe entirely "composed" of quite literally nothing, we still have an agency (the Creator God), a mechanism (omnipotence), and a motive (Love) for creation.

    But in IM-S's scenario, absent some sort of preexistent reality, we have... well, we have nothing - no thing. No agency (nothing to set things in motion), no mechanism (there being no natural law to compel anything to happen), and no reason for anything to occur in the first place.

    That is why I argued above that creation ex nihilo was not only logical for a Christian, it is the only logical thing to believe (vis-à-vis creation). Conversely, for an atheist, it is the height of illogic.

    //corrected posting to remove typos//

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    1. I wouldn't call it "illogic". I don't see a logical contradiction being derivable from the assumption of something coming into existence without an efficient cause. Sure it might not conform to our intuitions/experience, but I don't think we can soundly deduce that it is logically impossible that something come to be without an efficient cause.

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  41. One thing that has been missing in this rather dry, indeed sterile, discussion of creatio ex nihilo is where this idea came from in the first place. It did not originate amongst noble Greek philosophers, nobly debating the whichness of the what beneath noble olive trees in noble Athens. It did not arise from labyrinthine Byzantine inquiries into the unplumbable depths of theology, nor from Medieval Scholastic explorations into the furthest expanses of purely logical thought. It was fashioned during one of all-too-many attempted genocides of the Jews - this one under the tyranny of Antiochus Epiphanes. A mother, having watched 6 of her 7 sons brutally tortured and murdered by that generation's would-be annihilators of the Jewish people, exhorts her last surviving son (soon to be himself murdered) with the following words: "Look at the heaven and the earth and see everything that is in them, and recognize that God did not make them out of things that existed." (2 Maccabees 7:28)

    This is the first expression in history of the idea of creatio ex nihilo - by a presumably illiterate, persecuted mother of 7 brutally murdered sons. These are the stakes involved here. This is no ivory tower debate over tea and cake. It is not a bloodless internet amusement between anonymous posters. This is a matter of life and death for defenders of Truth whenever and wherever they live. We ought not dare to approach this subject without giving full respect to the unnamed woman who perished rather than betray what she knew to be True. "Last of all, the mother died, after her sons. (2 Maccabees 7:41)

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    1. I don't think 2 Maccabees pre-dates the Greek idea of creatio ex nihilo.

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  42. My take:

    (1) Atheism demands that one close one's mind to the illogic of something coming from nothing.

    My response - [This is false. Atheism implies theism is false. God =/= any necessary being whatsoever, therefore, atheism does not imply the falsity that there is any necessary being whatsoever. Consequently, atheists can believe the universe has a cause, and it is a necessary being that is not God.

    (2) Atheism demands that one overlook the fact that atheism necessarily means there is no objective morality.

    My response - [I don't know. I'd need to see an argument for this. Having a degree in philosophy, I feel confident saying there are probably no sound arguments for proposition 2 other than arguments against moral realism in general, so theism would be susceptible as well].

    (3) Atheism demands that one ignore the fact that 99.9 percent of humanity since the Dawn of Time have believed in, worshiped, and prayed to God (or to gods). Atheists are required to think their tiny minority are "right" and the overwhelming majority of people are "wrong" about the most important of all imaginable questions.

    My response - [Maybe, but I don't see this as an issue. Christians need to believe their minority view is correct, Muslims need to believe their minority view is correct, etc. For any group you choose, they are a minority. Even calling most people theists, or supernaturalists, is being too generous. Most people probably share some similar beliefs about God, or the supernatural, but they all vary so much that every position probably has their own minority view. If this hurts atheists, then it seems to hurt every other class of person as well.

    (4) Atheists must insist that all questions can be reduced to matters of empirical evidence and "science" - that art, literature, history, music, architecture, personal experience, all are somehow defective or fundamentally lacking, not quite worthy of trust, ultimately to be (negatively) evaluated against the one-and-only objective standard given the atheist seal of approval.

    My response - [I can't figure this part out].

    (5) Atheists must never, ever allow themselves to realize that atheism means that everything is meaningless, that in the end of ends it does not matter what kind of life one leads, or even whether one is or is not an atheist - because a single microsecond after one's death, it is all as though it never happened, so who cares?

    My response - [I care. I like being alive. I know some theists only live to abuse people and worship God, but I like lifting weights, watching movies, and arguing with idiots on the internet].

    (6) Atheists must never face up to the inevitable implication of materialism that individual identity does not really exist - that we are simply complex bundles of matter and energy, which, if its configuration is somehow altered or destroyed, becomes something else.

    My response - [Atheism doesn't imply materialism, so this is moot. Atheism is logically compatible with supernatural views that preserve identity. However, there are so many views among metaphysicians about physicalism and personality identity. I would need to see an argument showing a particular metaphysical view on identity is true].

    (7) Atheists must believe that our noblest traits, our highest aspirations, our sublimest thoughts, are nothing more than electrical impulses and chemical reactions in a soulless meat machine, of no greater significance than combustion or sublimation. The love I feel for my family is simply a Darwinian survival mechanism.

    My response - [Perhaps this is true on the assumption of physicalism, but atheism doesn't imply physicalism is true, and frankly I cannot see why physicalists would care about this consequence, supposing it is a consequence of physicalism].

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  43. The language being used here is a bit sloppy. I see the following as being advocated:

    Proposition 1 - [If theism is true, and the universe exists, then the universe has an efficient cause in God and no material cause]

    Proposition 2 - [If atheism is true, and the universe exists, then the universe has neither an efficient cause or a material cause]

    Proposition 1 says that if theism is true, then God created the world but did so without any pre-existing matter. Proposition 2 says that if atheism is true, then the universe came into being without any pre-existing material and has no cause at all.

    We might wonder why it is possible, on theism rather than atheism, that the universe can come into being without a material cause. The answer I imagine theists would give is that theism implies God is omnipotent, and an omnipotent being can create matter without a material cause. The atheist, I think, simply is not rationally obligated to accept proposition 2 as true.

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    1. Much of what Bob claims about atheism is really about materialism or physicalism. He seems to conflate these things.

      Furthermore, when he uses language like "are nothing more than electrical impulses and chemical reactions in a soulless meat machine", he is denying that there are emergent realities in a purely material world - such as life emerging from chemical substances. This is the big failing of his view. If he supposes God is responsible for something, then he denies that a materialist can even acknowledge that it exists.

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  44. We might wonder why it is possible, on theism rather than atheism, that the universe can come into being without a material cause.

    The question for a believer is not whether it is possible for the universe to come into existence without a material cause, but rather that it must do so. If even the slightest material cause is involved, then you have basically reduced the Creator God to a member of the Greek pantheon - i.e., just another among many actors on the scene.

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    1. It wouldn't really be like that. Supposing creation sans material causes is impossible, God would be reduced to being one necessary being among at least one additional one (Material reality). That doesn't exactly reduce God to being a member of the Greek pantheon since the necessarily existent material reality could be entirely impersonal until acted upon by God. However, this reduces God's omnipotence in a way since God would have no power over whether material reality existed at all.

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    2. It would also make god superfluous.

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    4. The concept of a god is superfluous to any serious discourse about the universe. One need only conduct the most cursory of reviews of all the religions known to human kind to appreciate that even the concept of god is nothing more than a culturally-driven bunfight between the complainants. They can't even agree among themselves on what constitutes this amorphous conceptual blank space they resort to call, God; eight arms? hole in stomach you can stick your fingers through? can ride a winged horse? committed to collecting bags full of penis skin rings? comes from Xenu? has an elephant's head? You name it, that's God to somebody on the planet.

      Take you pick.

      Sheesh!

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    5. Anything God can do, nature can do without all the drama.

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