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Why is There Something Rather Than Nothing?

Creation

Why is there something rather than nothing? This question, usually thought to fall strictly within the purview of philosophy and theology, has recently received attention in the world of popular science thanks to books by Stephen Hawking and Lawrence M. Krauss. Interestingly, these authors propose something similar to what Christians have always believed—that the universe came into existence out of nothing, or ex nihilo—but they think this could have happened spontaneously, or without God.

Both books, Hawking’s The Grand Design (2010) and Krauss’s A Universe from Nothing (2012), have already been thoroughly reviewed—Hawking notably by physicist Steven M. Barr and philosopher John Haldane, and Krauss by philosophers David Albert and Edward Feser. The reviewers (not to mention Stephen Colbert) focus plenty of attention on the authors’ misuse of the term “nothing,” and I take them to have shown that neither book establishes its extraordinary thesis: that physics can explain why there is something rather than nothing. In the aftermath of this skirmish, I want simply to sketch an outline of the traditional theory.

The theory has at least three basic parts: (1) the universe is created ex nihilo; (2) the Creator possesses infinite power; (3) the existence of the universe is totally dependent on God. Saying that the universe is “from nothing” is meant to distinguish the act of creation from an act of art or craftsmanship. The carpenter and the sculptor make their products out of something—wood or metal, for example—but God’s creative act presupposes no preexisting material. “From nothing” also excludes the idea that creatures are made up of God, that he enters into their composition. Creation reflects the Creator, it does not change him into itself. Note, too, that the creation of a thing from nothing, strictly speaking, is not a change. A change is from something to something, while creation is from nothing to something.

The second proposition, that the Creator possesses infinite power, may seem intuitive. Still, St. Thomas’s explanation rewards reflection. A product, he says, depends on its producer and on the materials out of which it is produced. The more the material is not apt to be fashioned into a product, the greater the producer’s power must be. Now, the “material” of creation is nothing, which, more than anything else, is not apt to become anything. Since there is no proportion between nothing’s utter lack of potency and a finite power, the power that produces something out of nothing must be infinite.

The third proposition, that the universe is totally dependent on God, is probably best shown, again, by contrast with products of human making. A table depends on the property of stiffness in wood, in order to maintain the shape given to it by the carpenter. But the world, made out of nothing, has no such dependence; it is totally dependent on God. Even the actions and interrelations of creatures—the table’s support of the vase, the friendship of two colleagues—are underwritten and embraced by God’s creative action. Creatures, moreover, cannot take over their own creation from God, first, because creatures are not infinite in power and, second, because self-creation would entail the impossible, namely, pre-existing one’s own creation. Even God does not create himself.

The world requires, therefore, to be continuously created. Creation cannot be only a one-time event at the beginning of time. At this very moment, were God not causing the cosmos to exist, there would be nothing rather than something. Such continuous creation theologians call conservation. On this point, the traditional theory of creation is incompatible with Deism, according to which God is like a watchmaker who winds up the world and, for the most part, leaves it to tick on its own. Conservation is important also as a condition for the possibility of an eternal world. St. Thomas argued that, even if the universe had always existed, it would still need to be created at every moment of its existence.

If you’re going to ask, why is there is something rather than nothing? this is the kind of answer you need. The question is not about the character of the universe or the manner in which it exists. It is not a question of why there is movement in the world, or why there is time, or why the physical universe is governed by certain natural laws and not others. The question, why something? primarily concerns not how the universe exists but that it exists. It is precisely the existence of the cosmos—not the content of the cosmos—that needs explaining.
 
 
This article first appeared on DominicanaBlog.com, an online publication of the Dominican Students of the Province of St. Joseph who live and study at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, DC. It was written by Br. Alan Piper, a Dominican student brother of the Province of St. Joseph. Used with permission.
(Image credit: Vwamlausanne.com)

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The Order of Preachers, known also as the Dominican Order, was founded by St. Dominic in 1216 with the mission of preaching for the salvation of souls. With contemplative study serving as a pillar of Dominican religious life, the Order continues to contribute to the Catholic synthesis of faith and reason, following the example of such Dominican luminaries as St. Albert the Great and St. Thomas Aquinas. The Friars of the Province of St. Joseph administer Providence College in Providence, RI and serve as teachers and campus ministers in several colleges, universities, and seminaries in addition to serving as pastors, chaplains, and itinerant preachers. Follow the Dominican students at their blog, DominicanaBlog.com.

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  • If the Universe did not exist, we would not be around to notice. The only way we can be around to form the concept is if the Universe does exist. Nonexistence is, literally, "unthinkable."

    As for "nothing" we are finding that the classical idea of a nothing "from which nothing comes" is not to be found in the real world. It was a metaphysical idea from back before we knew about the quantum world. Experimental research has changed all that and thrown out the notions from Aristotle that spawned so much theology. See more here: http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/2012/02/physical-nothing-v-metaphysical-nothing.html

    • Michael Murray

      Yep we've moved on since 1216.

    • Josh

      Hello Q,

      You seem to be conflating imagining with conceiving in that first paragraph. Non-existence is indeed unimaginable, i.e., we can't form a mental 'picture' of it (this would require sensing it). However, it is conceivable through the intellect; otherwise, no one could make sense of or evaluate your proposition 'Nonexistence is, literally, "unthinkable,"' because the subject would have no corresponding common concept, if indeed no one could form such a concept.

      As to how the concept is formed, it is through a negation similar to that of 'infinity (non-finite).' Non-existence is non-being. Coincidentally, this explains why the 'nihil' of the philosophers is not the 'nothing' of modern physics.

      PS Nice avatar

      • Very well stated, Josh. Not existing is on a different level from the properties of not existing. While existing, we can consider those properties. One of such is not having any neural machinery to support thinking about what it is like. My first paragraph was short for what would have been a long, but perhaps less accessible, explanation.

        What I call "metaphysical nothing" (because I am addressing general audiences) and you have called "the nihil" (the philosophical technical term) does have the kind of inductive connection you mention to the concept of infinity in that one is the off on the horizon of the process of taking things away while the other is on the horizon of adding things on.

        Thanks for the "like" on my avatar; that was taken back in my B. Russell phase.

    • DAVID

      If the Universe did not exist, we would not be around to notice. The only way we can be around to form the concept is if the Universe does exist. Nonexistence is, literally, "unthinkable."

      Nonexistence would be unthinkable if we needed to experience it in order to think it. Obviously its true that we cannot experience nonexistence. But does that mean we cannot think it? Aren't there many things we don't experience which we can still think about?

      As for "nothing" we are finding that the classical idea of a nothing "from which nothing comes" is not to be found in the real world.

      You can't disprove "creation from nothing" by looking at the real world and saying that "there is no 'nothing' there." It presumes that there are little pockets of nothing in the universe which we could observe. The most that you could prove is that, what seems like empty space is actually something.

      • I think it more moves us to look deeper into our concepts of both "coming from" and "nothing." Two and a half thousand years ago many things seemed obvious because people had no access to the very large cosmic scale nor to the very small quantum scale. We use words as metaphors for things and actions in our world, and from time to time we find new limitations on what amounts to simple models we have in our imaginations.

        • DAVID

          The models of the ancients and the medievals are, in some ways, less simple than the models of the naturalists and materialists. Materialists have ruled out of bounds a whole other level of reality: the level of the immaterial. Isn't it the materialists and the naturalists who have the more simple model?

          • We have put to the side what is not supported by evidence.

            Got evidence?

          • DAVID

            The evidence involves the basic givens of reality.

            The intelligence of our minds, matching the intelligibility and order of nature, implies a design to reality. Design implies a Designer.

            The immaterial is even easier to prove. All you have to do is consider the limits of empiricism. Empiricism is useful for proving that which comes to us through the senses. But the concepts with which we classify never come through the senses. I can sense/experience human beings walking around but I can never sense/experience "humanity" walking around. Strictly speaking, "humanity" is immaterial and empirically unprovable. But the concept is so useful to us that we have to admit that it exists. Such categories and universals prove that we deal with the immaterial all the time. The immaterial is completely natural to us as rational beings.

          • The evidence involves the basic givens of reality.

            The intelligence of our minds, matching the intelligibility and order of nature, implies a design to reality. Design implies a Designer.

            "Givens" are not evidence, that is the very point that makes evidence valuable. It reminds me of the saying "reality is what's still there when you stop believing in it."

            A few millions of years ago, nature was unintelligible to anyone on Earth. The concept is relative to who is trying to do the "intelliging." Our brains evolved to fit a niche in an ecology that highly valued the prediction of the actions of other minds. That tends to lead us to mistaking natural events as actions of some "disembodied mind" and seeing "design" where Evolution has merely promoted what works through Natural Selection. Your feelings and interpretations about the world around you are not objective evidence about what it actually is, so I have to ask again:

            Got evidence?

          • Q., your feelings and interpretations about the world around you are not objective evidence about what actually is. When you see some experiment, you are receiving signals through your sensory organs and your mind is interpreting them. Why should your interpretation be so priveleged?

            That experiement over there can't prove anything to you, because you're not really seeing it. You're interacting with an interpretation of the signals inside your mind

            This is, of course, silly - we can trust our eyes and ears to at least some extent. We must. I cannot really be 100% certain of almost anything, but I have to act as if I am to function on a day to day basis, to learn, and to improve the world around me. I must assume,then, that my interpretations of what I see are reasonably accurate most of the time; madness lies the other way, where nothing I interpret can be trusted and, so, *nothing* can be trusted.

          • Q., your feelings and interpretations about the world around you are not objective evidence about what actually is. When you see some experiment, you are receiving signals through your sensory organs and your mind is interpreting them. Why should your interpretation be so priveleged?

            Because the experiment can be repeated by others.

            That experiement over there can't prove anything to you, because you're not really seeing it. You're interacting with an interpretation of the signals inside your mind

            Yes that is problematic, and why you would want someone else to replicate your result before you, yourself, trust in what you think you have found.

            This is, of course, silly - we can trust our eyes and ears to at least some extent. We must. I cannot really be 100% certain of almost anything, but I have to act as if I am to function on a day to day basis, to learn, and to improve the world around me. I must assume,then, that my interpretations of what I see are reasonably accurate most of the time; madness lies the other way, where nothing I interpret can be trusted and, so, *nothing* can be trusted.

            I think that is why Richard Feynman said that the purpose of the Scientific Method is to "keep us from fooling ourselves."

          • DAVID

            A few millions of years ago, nature was unintelligible to anyone on Earth. The concept is relative to who is trying to do the "intelliging." Our brains evolved to fit a niche in an ecology that highly valued the prediction of the actions of other minds. That tends to lead us to mistaking natural events as actions of some "disembodied mind" and seeing "design" where Evolution has merely promoted what works through Natural Selection.

            You say that nature is unintelligible and yet you use words that imply that it is intelligible. You talk of an ecology that "highly values" something. "Value" reflects the judgment of a mind. You say that there is no design at work but only Natural Selection. But Natural Selection is, itself, a design. Its a design so easy to understand that you can teach it to High School students.

          • No, I am saying that it has become somewhat intelligible because Evolution has advanced the capabilities of our brains over those of our ancestors of, say, a couple of hundreds of thousands of generations ago (a few million years). Something like being able to lift a weight you could not when you were a child, because you grew up and got stronger, not because the weight now weighs less. Natural Selection is not a designer, it is a mindless process that happens as a blind result of life's production of more offspring (with some genetic mutations) than can always live to reproduce in as great numbers as did their parents. That was the big idea that hit Charles Darwin after he read population theory form Malthus, and understood the geological picture of deep time. If you don't understand that is a non-designed result of physical consequences, then you don't understand Evolution.

          • DAVID

            No, I am saying that it has become somewhat intelligible because Evolution has advanced the capabilities of our brains over those of our ancestors of, say, a couple of hundreds of thousands of generations ago (a few million years).

            But surely it hasn't become intelligible. Surely it has *always been* intelligible. Physics, biology, chemistry; through these disciplines we have discovered laws which are intelligible. These laws have been around since before humans discovered them, haven't they?

            If you object to the term "design" to describe Natural Selection, then you would still have to admit that Natural Selection is intelligible; just like the other laws of science. Intelligibility does not imply random chance. Intelligibility comes from an Intelligence.

          • No, not always intelligible. Even if you had a time machine and could go back, I doubt you could explain it to one of your ancestors who was a fish, much less back in the days when they were early multicellular organisms.

            Intelligibility comes from an Intelligence.

            No, intelligibility is a condition perceived *by* an intelligence, intelligence developed by millions of years of Evolution on this planet. If we have descendants that go on for another million years, they may doubt there was any intelligibility during our time. I may be starting to agree with them.

          • DAVID

            No, intelligibility is a condition perceived *by* an intelligence, intelligence developed by millions of years of Evolution on this planet.

            You say that Natural Selection is intelligible, that the laws of Science are intelligible. At the same time, you say that everything that happens in nature is "mindless" and "blind." When I hear that, I hear a contradiction. Those two adjectives do not describe the ordered regularity of something intelligible. They describe something chaotic and unpredictable. They describe something which would not have produced intelligible creatures in the first place.

          • They describe something which would not have produced intelligible creatures in the first place.

            That is a different question, and much more interesting! This goes through how advancing neural control systems for animals went past simple reaction, to having an internal representation of events in the world around them. A big step in advancement of internal representation was the ability to tell animate from inanimate objects. Animate objects might suddenly come and eat you, whereas, inanimate objects usually did not. Move on, and representation of a mind in those animate objects gives you a chance to predict what those will do. Adding state to mind lets you consider the impact of ideas in other minds which opens deception as a survival tool we see in both humans and other animals.

            We and our recent ancestors have the ability to turn that representation of other minds, upon ourselves so we can think about our own place in the world and what we understand about it. The Scientific Method helps us limit our imagination to ideas about the world that we can test and are consistent with objective evidence. That was another big leap in seeing the world as intelligible.

            Each level I mention represents some amount of intelligibility of the external world by the intelligence evolved in a given brain. We are currently moving along this path. We have the advantage that the information we hand down from generation to generation through language and writing adds to our abilities from inherited genome, so each new generation has a chance to understand the world better.

    • DAVID

      I should restate my last point. If its true that there is no "nothing" in the real world, then we have simply proved that everything in the universe is something. We haven't disproved that the universe came from nothing.

      • Susan

        >We haven't disproved that the universe came from nothing.
        Nor have you proved it. Are you suggesting that it did? On what basis are you suggesting that? What do you mean by "universe" and "came from"?

        • DAVID

          Nor have you proved it.

          No, but the article at the top of this page makes the case for the universe coming from nothing.

          • Susan

            What do you mean by nothing, David?
            Define it specifically and then explain to me how physics supports your definition of "the universe" "coming" from "nothing".
            What case does the article make?

  • josh

    "It is precisely the existence of the cosmos—not the content of the cosmos—that needs explaining."

    And it is precisely this that the authors or this article have failed to explain. How stifling it must be to be trapped in medievalisms all your life. Not even aware that the pre-existence of God rules out the notion of ex nihilo. Well, it's not like they know nothing. :)

    • In what way does the pre-existence of God rule out the notion of creation ex nihilo? That statement on holds water if you're a strict materialist, and think God is material, which He can't be if He's transcendent.

      • josh

        Modern scientists have pointed out that particles are created from the vacuum spontaneously. Theists have objected that this is not ex nihilo since the vacuum itself, or the laws of physics themselves already existed. But the vacuum itself, or the laws of physics are not material in any traditional sense. So the same objection can be applied to God, or any other precondition you want to put on something which 'came into existence'.

        The notion of ex nihilo is incoherent, since as soon as I tell you something caused or preceded the advent of a new thing, you can always reply that that predecessor is not nothing, so its not ex nihilo. Material, incidentally, is not a scientific term. Science is concerned with discerning what is (as best we can), not with the naive categories you might wish to place on reality.

        Perhaps you have in mind only that the God + cosmos system violates conservation of energy or some such. There is zero evidence for this of course, but nothing about it logically requires God. I can write down all sorts of models that don't conserve energy. We don't observe any and they are not logically required, but if you want to, go nuts!

        • Josh

          The notion of ex nihilo is incoherent, since as soon as I tell you something caused or preceded the advent of a new thing, you can always reply that that predecessor is not nothing, so its not ex nihilo.

          The distinction is between the cause and the effect. Non-being lacks causal power of itself to generate being. God is a being. The vacuum is a being. Both have causal power, one of itself (by its nature), the other not. One is a necessary being, the other is not. Nothing in what you said shows how a concept of ex nihilo is incoherent. To do this, the concept would have to be shown to be like square circle, which is incoherent. At best, your given argument merely states a conclusion that there is no such existing condition, not that it is impossible or internally incoherent.

          • josh

            The distinction between cause and effect is far from straightforward in any modern theory of physics. Causal power of itself, is, again, not a category of current thinking, it is a medievalism. Nor have you any case that the vacuum is unnecessary and your God for which we have no evidence is.

            You are not trying to learn about reality, you are trying to force reality into your preconceived notions in hopes of deriving your predetermined conclusions. The point I was making was simply that the 'being' of the vacuum was used by theists to argue that it didn't count as creatio ex nihilo. You are simply introducing special pleading at this point to get the answer you want. 'God' creates ex nihilo, the vacuum doesn't, because you say so.

          • God isn't the highest being, God is the Act of Being Itself.

            In your system, you treat Him as if He's just the first thing, but He is what gives all things being.

          • josh

            Poor Anselm, you've just killed his argument. :) The Act of Being Itself doesn't create, it comes into creation with the first Being (if there were such a thing, it's not terribly clear that you have any coherent concept in mind.) So the Act of Being Itself is contingent.
            Or, we can ask, What gives Being Itself BEING? I say the Vacuum is BEING PER SE. Since obviously the Act of Being Itself requires the possibility of BEING, but the Act of Being can't BE of Itself since nothing can Act without BEING to make Acts possible. Thus, The Vacuum must exist. QED. Proof that The Vacuum was run over by a Dodge last Thanksgiving, but not before conveying Its eternal sexual preferences to me, is left as an exercise to the reader.

          • You have no premise for saying that Being Itself comes into Being with Being. Wow I feel like Heidegger right now. Nothing can give Being Itself being. The Act of Being is Being in both an actual and potential state.

          • josh

            I have as many premises as I want to, same as you. Obviously there can be no Being Itself if there is Nothing. So Something must BE before I can talk about Being Itself. Don't you see the CAPITALS!!

            Look, I'm trying to point out to you that this is silly. Being Itself does not explain Beings or A Being. It is part and parcel of the concept 'a Being'. I can raise you a meta-Being all day long. At some point you have to accept that something is. And at that point you are already asserting by fiat that it is not nothing. But then, there is no reason I can't have multiple somethings by fiat. You want to assert that one of them is necessary and the others contingent, but there is no logical necessity for the first one. And the rule that the others have to be contingent is just another addition to your system that is not itself necessary. You are just calling one necessary because you want a regress to stop.

            It's like arguing that the integers have to start at 0, because something has to explain all the positive numbers, and a positive number can't explain itself. And when you say 'No, I want to explain the whole line' I can always equally say, 'No I want an explanation for the system that allows your explanation'. It would be nice if we just couldn't imagine any other way for the universe to be, although that would probably say more about our brains than about the universe, but ,alas, no one has come up with an existence we can't help but think must be, much less one from which all the rest of observed reality follows, which would be the only explanation deserving of the name. Certainly God doesn't fit the bill.

            What we can do is try to find patterns in reality that allow us to extrapolate from one part to another; to explain many things in terms of a few assuming certain rules of inference are valid and those are always only working assumptions. Modern science has pushed this quite far, although it's an interesting question, "If we got all of physics down to a single parameter in a single equation, would we be satisfied?" But, unfortunately for you, the direction of this simplest or most elegant description of the universe doesn't look a thing like God. The concept of God has never been useful in explaining the observed universe, but the fact that some people come up with and believe in God is quite explainable in the scientific description.

          • Josh

            Special Pleading? I wasn't arguing for any of that, otherwise I would have given reasons instead of clarifications. There are plenty of arguments at hand for the contingency of the vacuum or whatever; I was simply summarizing a position. Nor at any point did I say that this was the case because I say so. I also note that you didn't address the incoherency charge you made; I can only assume that's been dealt with?

          • josh

            I didn't say the special pleading was original to you, just that you introduced it into the conversation. You have no evidence of God, much less a demonstration that he is necessary, much less a proof that the vacuum isn't, nor a reason why one or the other has 'causal power', nor in fact a clear explication of what cause and effect are.

            I addressed the incoherency bit, you just didn't notice. It's the 'ex'. 'From' implies 'something' to come from. But for any source I offer, be it the vacuum or whatever, you can say that since I've given you the something, it's clearly not nothing. That's fine but then 'ex nihilo' is an impossibility. But, you want to make an exception for God. God creates 'from' nothing as long as you say his pre-existence doesn't rule out your 'nothing' category. But the vacuum is in the exact same position as far as that argument goes. So now you are adding qualifications.

          • Josh

            God doesn't create out of or from existing being, even Himself (this is pantheism), like you or I would make a cake, or like a vacuum fluctuating and spitting up particles. You're reifying an abstraction, nihilo, and begging the question by assuming that out of/from, referred to by ex, must refer to a real being as opposed to a mental one. But this isn't the case. And given this distinction, it is easy to see how the vacuum is different in kind, and how a truly necessary being avoids the charge of special pleading.

            You have no evidence of God, much less a demonstration that he is
            necessary, much less a proof that the vacuum isn't, nor a reason why one
            or the other has 'causal power', nor in fact a clear explication of
            what cause and effect are.

            Lovely assertions and assumptions, but I wasn't offering these arguments up. I was asking questions about your criticism and attempting to clarify a position rather than arguing directly for it. Good talking with you!

          • josh

            The vacuum doesn't create from existing being. You are reifying it when it is a mathematical abstraction. I'm not begging any questions, just pointing out the inconsistent application of poorly defined terms on your part. God is a real being in your conception, the vacuum in mine. God does not need preexisting 'stuff' apart from himself and if he is made of any 'stuff' it isn't being made into the creation. Same as the vacuum. The vacuum doesn't create ex nihilo because... and a necessary being does because ......

            Just to be clear, I'm happy saying the vacuum doesn't create ex nihilo, but I am then compelled to say that God, if it existed, wouldn't either. Anyhow, I can only talk about what you bring to the table. If you ever find that spare pair of pants with the kickass argument for any of your assertions in the pocket, feel free to drop by. 'Til then I feel obliged to point out that your position so far is that I'm wrong because of reasons. Have a nice day.

        • Fr.Sean

          Hi Josh,

          Recently I watched a debate between craig and Krauss. Krauss attempted to say science has shown you can get something from nothing, Craig responded as follows, and by the way, Krauss admitted at his next rebuttal that Craig was right; He says, “But it can come into being out of nothingness because nothing
          is unstable.” This is the grossly misleading use of “nothingness” for
          describing the quantum vacuum, which is empty space filled with vacuum
          energy. It is a rich, physical reality described by physical laws and
          having a physical structure. If a religious person were to so seriously
          misrepresent a scientific theory as this, he would be accused of
          deliberate distortion and abuse of science, and, I think, rightly so!
          What the quantum vacuum is is a roiling sea of energy. It is not nothing. As Dr. Krauss himself has said, “By ‘nothing,’ I don’t mean nothing. . . . Nothing isn’t nothing anymore in physics.”7 Empty space is not empty. “Nothing is really a bubbling, boiling brew of virtual particles.”8

          • Susan

            There is nothing "grossly misleading" about Krauss's use of nothingness.

            What do you mean by "nothing"?

            How useful is it to say, "Ex nihilo nihil fit?" if we cannot claim that our universe came from philosophical "nothingness"?

            Have you read Krauss's book on the subject or watched his lecture for laypersons?

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ZiXC8Yh4T0

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Susan,
            I think you may have misunderstood. the above quote wasn't from me but was from William Craig himself. Notice Krauss does not dispute Craig's rebuttal http://www.reasonablefaith.org/the-craig-krauss-debate-at-north-carolina-state-university

          • Susan

            I'm sorry if I wasn't clear. I saw the debate. I'm familiar with William Lane Craig's argument.

            There is nothing "grossly misleading" about Krauss's use of "nothing" as he goes to great lengths to examine what science finds when it examines our assumptions about "nothing". It certainly seems ripe for discussion but to call it "grossly misleading" is terribly inaccurate.

            I asked you specifically what YOU mean by "nothing" for a reason. Nothing can lose the point like vague definitions. Also, have you at least seen Krauss's lecture if you haven't read his book?

            Craig loves to say "ex nihilo nihil fit" as though scientific evidence points to a universe from metaphysical "nothing" when it does nothing of the sort.

            I'm much more interested in what the evidence says when we examine our intuitive notions of "nothing" than in Craig's use of semantics to direct us away from the evidence.

            Notice that Craig doesn't address Krauss's points about the physics and what "nothing" adds up to at this point. He never has.

          • Susan

            I notice Q. Quine linked to his blog on the subject earlier in the thread.

            I just finished reading it and it addresses things better than I have.

            http://quinesqueue.blogspot.ca/2012/02/physical-nothing-v-metaphysical-nothing.html

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Susan,
            I hope you will be patient with me as i am not an expert in physics.  I suppose you could argue the following;
            1. one of the proof's or evidence of God's existence is that at some point something had to come from nothing, or in other words there would have to be a first cause since everything in our universe came from something else.
            2. Krauss postulated that physics has shown something can come from nothing; aka, the example of a vacuum.
            3. Craig pointed out that in a vacuum there is a "rich, physical reality described by physical laws and having a physical structure."  ..."empty space is not empty.  "Nothing is really a bubbling, boiling brew of virtual particles." Thus the energy in the vacuum can become matter.  energy is not "nothing" for at it's base it's atoms, electrons, etc. that are merely not connected.
            4. Those atoms and electrons are not nothing and came from something else.
            5. Thus the notion that "physics has shown that something can come from nothing" is a false statement because in a vacuum there are still particles from energy that can form matter. so science has not yet proven that something can come from nothing. 

            In Krauss's own words; "I've talked about this before but empty space is not empty, nothing is not nothing."    

            btw, i will have to watch the video but it's a little late and i have a few masses in the a.m. i suppose that u were right that craig should not be so verbose about Krauss's point. have a good night!

          • Susan

            >btw, i will have to watch the video but it's a little late and i have a few masses in the a.m.

            Of course. Sorry. I forgot about your day job. :-)

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Susan,

            I watched the video and thoroughly enjoyed it. Krauss has a way of
            really helping you to appreciate the universe, science and making it
            palatable for us lay people. I once noticed if someone is attempting to
            argue a point, and their point isn't that well thought out or perhaps
            false there's a natural tendency to change the subject, to divert it on
            to a new subject that way they may not have to acknowledge their point
            is weak. Krauss seems to do this in several ways. First he talks about
            our universe coming from "nothing" which would eliminate the need for a
            deity in his opinion. thus he says in empty space there is dark matter
            in flux, that can become matter. First this just moves the argument
            back one step. i suppose you can have two different definitions for
            "nothing". His definition is something around the notion of dark matter
            or energy. a second definition for "nothing" would be the literal
            definition, literally meaning noting, not dark matter, or matter, simply
            noting. but dark matter, or energy is not nothing, in fact, because it
            is in flux it supports the contingency theory. the argument has been
            distracted from the simple truth that dark matter and or energy still
            had to come from something for at one point literally nothing was there.

            secondly, and i'm surprised he didn't mention anything about this but,
            he indicated the universe had a beginning and will have an end, which in
            a sense almost proves the unmoved mover argument that aristotle
            developed.

            thirdly, one of the distractions i've heard atheists scientists use is
            when they are speaking of the laws of physics, how they are so perfect,
            it causes one to ponder how they became so perfect, that natural thought
            process leads to a designer, one may only distract the thought process
            to avoid the (in my opinion) obvious conclusion, thus the idea of "we
            just happen to live in a universe that happened to have those laws that
            has given us the ability to have life to ponder such questions". now
            we're thinking of how we can ponder such questions instead of thinking
            how those laws became so. one of the other little distractions they use
            is to bring up the idea that there are most likely billions of other
            universes and we just happen to live in the right one. this is a faith
            proclamation, not a scientific one since there is no real empirical data
            to support it. suppose there weren't other universes? what would that
            mean? it would mean that we just happen to live in a perfect universe
            with perfect laws of physics able to give us the opportunity to have
            life? the "faith" proclamation that there are billions of other
            universes could be nothing more than a distraction to keep us from the
            obvious conclusion, a perfect universe is almost certainly designed not
            brought about by chance. Finally, one aspect i would disagree with
            Krauss, and i've heard it from other atheists who are also scientists,
            is that people of faith have an arrogant attitude that we have all the
            answers and have no need for science as if science is the enemy of
            faith. i could not disagree more. science is a wonderful tool that has
            deepened my appreciation of our world, and our universe, and has
            deepened my appreciation for our creator. Thank you for turning me on to Krauss's video's, i really enjoy learning about various aspects of physics in the universe and will be sure to watch them in the future!

          • Susan

            >for at one point literally nothing was there.

            What do you mean? That has not been established in any sense.

            >he indicated the universe had a beginning and will have an end, which in
            a sense almost proves the unmoved mover argument that aristotle developed.

            I'm not sure how the beginning and ending of our universe bears any resemblance to the beginnings and endings to which Aristotle referred. How do we talk about the "beginning" of space/time when "beginning" is a word that traditionally requires a space/time framework? As does "cause". If Aristotle were confronted with what physicists must confront today, do you think he would have accepted the premises of his own argument?

            >one of the distractions i've heard atheists scientists use is
            when they are speaking of the laws of physics, how they are so perfect,

            What do you mean by "perfect"? Are you familiar with Douglas Adams's puddle? http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/70827-this-is-rather-as-if-you-imagine-a-puddle-waking

            > that natural thought process leads to a designer,

            Humans often see agency when there is none there. We are not the only species to do so. Lightning had a very powerful god behind it once.

            There is a difference between a natural thought and a reliable thought process. It's fine and good for our intuitions to produce questions that lead us to seek evidence and reason about those questioms, but that's as far as they can and should take us, or we have a tendency to get things terribly wrong.

            Besides, there is no escape from the infinite regress. The very thing that is used to escape it by theists doesn't change the question one bit. Religion doesn't answer the "why" questions and this is just another example.

            "Perfect" is much too murky a modifier but even if I accepted it as charitably as I could, theists ask "Why a perfect universe? and assert, "There must be a perfect god and it is my "G"od."

            It astonishes me that they raise this very strange question, insist that it's the only good question and then they answer it with a question that is exactly the same as the question they asked in the first place. It doesn't exactly move things along.

            You can't assume and insist that there are fairies at the bottom of the meadow and point to the meadow as evidence and tell me the fairies are beyond evidence.

            >one of the other little distractions they use is to bring up the idea that there are most likely billions of other universes and we just happen to live in the right one. this is a faith proclamation

            Why do you use the editorial term "distractions"? No one's proclaiming anything.

          • Susan

            P.S . F. S. :-)

            >Thank you for turning me on to Krauss's video's, i really enjoy learning about various aspects of physics in the universe and will be sure to watch them in the future!
            He does a very good job of telling the story of the evidence, doesn't he? I'm glad you enjoyed it. I've watched it a few times but learn something new (or think I have) every time.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Susan,

            Sorry i didn't get back to you sooner, i had my day off so i went fishing. Krauss's video's as well as a few other of the topics has piqued my interested in science and physics trying to understand (if there's a God) where God fits into the whole thing. after i had read mere Christianity when i was younger i found it interesting to see that C.S. Lewis whom was an atheist and trying to prove God did not exist found one stumbling block he could not overcome. he said something to the effect that he couldn't understand why when he did good or adhered to his conscience he felt good, and why when he did bad, or was selfish he felt bad. it was this one notion he could not find a reasonable explanation for that led him to the conclusion (in his opinion) that God existed. i had read about a few other atheist converts who had also converted for similar reasons (leah librisco, chesterton) it was almost as if the notion of the good, the moral law, or natural law seemed to have a source exterior to them. a little while back i had read that one of the atheist beliefs for the notions of good, bad, natural law, love, compassion etc. were really chemical reactions in the brain that were developed through evolutionary means. that perhaps either a tribal desire to protect your own as an indirect attempt to preserve yourself had guided process such that pretty much most truth, or human emotions/ experience really boiled down to chemical reactions in the brain. the notion of "you scratch my back i scratch yours" was the source that led evolution to create then natural law. now i did read one theist argument against this notion. that if everything was simply a chemical reaction in the brain than pretty much all truth as we know it is just a chemical reaction in the brain. if all truth is simply a chemical reaction in the brain than the truth that everything is just a chemical reaction in the brain is really noting more than a chemical reaction in the brain, thus the "truth" cannibalizes it self. (the noting can't be true because it's just a chemical reaction in the brain). now while i didn't entirely subscribed to the theists argument because math is a truth that i can pretty much know is not just a chemical reaction in the brain(and i did not entirely understand the argument to the full) i did find something compelling in his argument. the idea reduces life to nothing more than chemical processes, and there really is no right and wrong, no moral good or bad, just chemical processes. which would naturally bring out the question, why is everyone's chemical reactions in the brain for the most part the same? (except for sociopaths or other people with mental disorders). we all have a sense of what's right and what's wrong that's for the most part is the same? in another words, we all feel the pain of hurt when some tragedy occurs or someone is not given justice.

            now, why i bring this up is because i came across a story of Richard Morgan http://www.apologetics315.com/2012/09/former-atheist-richard-morgan-interview.html

            Morgan had talked about his experience on the Richard Dawkins website. i went on the website and found Morgan's analysis somewhat accurate. he spoke of some of the posters being base or rude and how that had always made him feel uncomfortable (although i have to admit there is a lot on there that is fascinating when it comes to evolution and the universe). it made me realize this; (finally i'm getting to my point) an atheist naturally only believes in the material world, thus the human being has no eternal soul. furthermore much of the philosophy seems to convey almost a soullessness to the world. when i was a kid i went on a canoe trip with my dad. being away from the city i remember very clearly looking up at the stars for the first time and being awed and amazed. billions of stars in clusters amazed me and compelled me to ponder their source? i'm sure you have similar experiences like that. but in reality, is that experience noting more than just a chemical reaction in my brain? in fact, some period long from now physicists and or astronomers say the universe will come to an end, stars and planets will be no more etc. thus everything we do in this life has zero meaning in the grand scale of things? any good done for another will also have no meaning at all? when i was in the seminary we read the myth of sisyphus by camus. in it camus who was an atheist spoke of the true meaning of life as being totally meaningless in the grand scale of things.

            anyway, one thing i realized as to why atheist converted is because they recognized how untrue this was. it was as if love, compassion, caring, the desire to do good caused them to ponder a different source than just chemical reactions in the brain. the desire for good, or the notion of good of humanity caused them to seek or search for a different source. that different source led them to the faith.

            now, if you were walking home, and you came across a little girl who's dog had just been hit by a car, how would you feel? you would feel overwhelmed for a desire to comfort the little girl, to let her cry on your shoulder to tell her her dog went to heaven (not trying to divert into whether dog's go to heaven just making a point about comfort). You might even feel that you were there for a reason, that something exterior to yourself led you to be a source of comfort for her. the inner compulsion to love and show compassion to someone feeling vulnerable does that really in your experience seem like it's just some physiological reaction in your brain, that has been created by evolution as a "you scratch my back i scratch yours" construct to preserve yourself? if what those former atheists led them by " love" to an exterior source from themselves. what would the opposite entail? if the opposite is true than camus was right, everything in life has zero meaning? does that ring true with your inner experience? if the meaning in life, the beauty of nature, or of the human person and the desire for compassion and justice for the afflicted is not just a soulless chemical process in the brain, than what does that mean for you and for me? What would the source of love, compassion, empathy and caring be?

          • Susan

            Hello Sean.

            I'm sorry I haven't replied sooner. This thread has been buried in others and I just realized you replied. You've covered a lot of ideas that aren't connected to the "nothing" concept so I hope we're not veering too far off-topic. Also, you've covered a lot of subjects so I'll do my best to keep it brief but it won't be easy. :-)

            >he said something to the effect that he couldn't understand why when he did good or adhered to his conscience he felt good, and why when he did bad, or was selfish he felt bad. it was this one notion he could not find a reasonable explanation for that led him to the conclusion (in his opinion) that God existed.

            It's the in-between steps that are missing. It's a strange argument. "Anything I don't understand and/or emotionally overwhelms me must be "God". Forgive me if I'm arguing a strawman. I'm responding to your comment, not the original source.

            > it was as if love, compassion, caring, the desire to do good caused them to ponder a different source than just chemical reactions in the brain. the desire for good, or the notion of good of humanity

            "Just" chemicals? What does that mean?

            You might find videos of Patricia Churchland informative. Here's a very old interview with Bill Moyers. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Y2VvDHuQQg. I particularly like what she says between 2:18 and 3:20.

            "Just chemicals" is an editorial term. It is used in this argument:

            -If there is no god, everything might as well just be a bag of flour, and since that is not true, there must be a god.

            I don't buy it. Maybe I misunderstand it. I'd be happy to hear your further thoughts.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Susan,

            I watched that video, she certainly had a lot of interesting
            things to say, particularly with the dalla lama (I can’t spell). A little while back I was dealing with someone who had a very difficult addiction to porn so I ended up reading about
            it’s effects on the brain, making one angry depressed and almost sociopathic. I certainly believe it is an interesting topic. I am sorry I am not a better writer in that my last post was not clear. I have trouble trying to summarize my
            thoughts in a clear and concise manner that makes it palatable for someone else. Chances are good I will never be a bishop but that’s okay because I have no desire to be one. I noticed in her description that Moyers asked her, “is that all there is, just process in the brain”? the then went on to say, “Yes and we have to take the evidence where it leads us.” I totally agree with that statement. If I was
            trying to figure out what happens with the brain and it effects the body I would want her, or someone elses opinion on the subject who was an expert. The truth be told, she cannot prove that’s all there is the same way I cannot prove there is more to it. if it is true, than it’s a spiritual aspect
            that cannot be proven in a material way. For a moment, lets go back to the analogy I used of you coming across the little girl who’s dog had just been hit by a car. Now you would approach the little girl, after realizing what had just happened you would instinctively know that this little girl does not have the experience or knowledge of dealing with things like death and loss, she may not even know what the phenomenon of death is, all she knows is that her little companion is gone and she has no way of making sense
            out of this. But your overcome by love and compassion and you have more knowledge that she does on dealing with this type of a situation. You’re compelled to comfort her and to help her to make sense out of the situation. Now, certainly there are chemical reactions occurring in her brain and in your brain. But there’s also something else going on in your brain, you’re taking your own life experience, translating it to her situation to find the best words and best
            actions that are going to help her make sense out of it. you stay with the little girl, comfort her, assure her that her doggy went to heaven (again, not trying to divert into
            whether dogs go to heaven just ex of compassion) and you’re listening to her pain. Finally, her mother shows up,
            thanks you for being there and you move on. Now, as you are moving on there’s other emotions that hit you. sadness for the little girl, her mother and perhaps the dog, your reflecting on how her coming days are going to be. But then you have an innate sense that you were there for a REASON. Somehow the thought comes to you that something outside of yourself convicts you that you
            didn’t walk home that day by pure chance, that it was something else, perhaps a different source that knew this little girl was going to need an adult who was compassionate and loving. What ever that thing is didn’t send a sociopath to the scene, it sent you. you were the agent of comfort and compassion that kept the little girl from not only running on out the road, but helped her
            to make sense out of something that she had no capacity to make sense out of. I’m sure you’ve heard people say, “everything happens for a reason”. I don’t believe
            that, I think some things do not happen for a reason that we may discern a good from later, but not everything happens for a reason, in my opinion. But I DO think SOME things happen for a reason. Now, you, for example can tell
            me that you love your family. I can know that what you say is true for one basic reason, because I have felt love for my
            family. if I didn’t feel love for them I would have no way of knowing for sure if what you were telling me was the
            truth. You cannot prove that you love someone because often times people do things that look like love for other
            reasons. Certainly you might say that you can hook up a machine to measure brain patterns to prove love, but people have figured out ways to fool like detector tests. In what ever way they do it, they think in a way that causes their brain not to release certain chemicals that affect the
            heart rate. So proving love beyond doubt is not possible, thus we know something exists but we cannot prove it
            exists. We know love exists because we have felt it ourselves.

            A little while back I spoke to a man in his twenties who had
            told me he recently revered from being shot by a drive by shooting. The bullet nicked his heart valuve. He said he remembered the incident, but then was incapacitated. The next thing he knew, he was floating above his body, looking down at his father crying over him, while he was in the operating room. He saw his father leave, the doctor and nurses being to work on him as he was gazing from above. When he came to the doctor and his father was in the room. He told the doctor of his experience, the doctor looked inquisitive perhaps doubtful until he described in detail what one of the male nurses looked like. He was big, had a red beard and other details. The only time the
            male nurse was in the room was during the operation. Now I know some people claim that the brain can do amazing things when under duress. But if we’re only observing things in terms of the material world, how was that young man able to describe the male nurse in detail without a physical eye? You can see things in a room because your sitting at a particular physical part of the room. If you were floating out of your body and witnessing things from a different perspective, what kind of eye mechanism would be used to send electrical signals to your brain? There has to be some other mechanism? Naturally a believer we posit it was one’s soul.

            Again if you follow the materialist approach to life, pretty
            much the entire scale of human experience and of the meaning of life simply boils down to chemical reactions in the brain. But we all have an innate sense that this is not true, that life does have true meaning, that what we do is important? You helping that little girl would have true
            meaning and would have been the “right” thing to do that goes beyond simply chemical reactions in the brain. By the way, I’m not now taking this to be Jesus, etc. all I’m trying to do at this point is show that not everything is just a
            chemical reaction in the brain. I’m trying to show that there is evidence to suggest that there is a loving, guiding, intelligent force in the universe that does give life meaning and purpose. A realization of that force led other atheists to the Catholic Church, but at this point that is not my goal,
            but simply just to show that it exists.

          • Susan

            >You helping that little girl would have true
            meaning and would have been the “right” thing to do that goes beyond simply chemical reactions in the brain.

            Chemical reactions in the human brain are anything but simple. What do you mean "goes beyond"? Got evidence?

            > all I’m trying to do at this point is show that not everything is just a chemical reaction in the brain.

            But you haven't shown that at all. To show it, you have to provide evidence. You are just buying into an editorial slant that without a god, (especially without Yahweh) that all the meaning you feel is no better than a pouch of Kool-Aid crystals. You haven't shown me how A gets to B. Also, there is no evidence for your god. "Meaning" is there for all of us, Yahweh or not. "Meaning" is not evidence for Yahweh.

            You don't need Yahweh to care about that little girl. And none of the stories about Yahweh suggest that he gives a dingo's kidney about her dog.

            None of the ideas you've raised require Yahweh, I would argue that they're undermined by Yahweh and most importantly, there is no reason to think that Yahweh is any more real than any other god claim ever made by humans.

            >I’m trying to show that there is evidence to suggest that there is a loving, guiding, intelligent force in the universe that does give life meaning and purpose.
            Got evidence?

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Susan,

            I do wish i was better at making a concise thought pattern that could be brief enough to be understood by the reader. I'm not a very good writer and find it difficult to convey what it is i'm trying to say. thank you for your patience with me. actually, it might just be easier if i could e-mail it to you, that way i wouldn't have to try so hard to summarize so i don't fill up this post. if you want you can go on to my website at 2fish.co . click on the "contact" button the bottom then click on "ask a priest" and i can reply to you that way, but i'll try on this post.

            1. Most atheist who convert to Christianity convert for one basic reason (although there are other reasons), they cannot find a rational, logical explanation for the natural or moral law, or they simply cooperate with the natural law to the point that it leads them to conversion. Leah Libresco concluded that the natural law was not something we construct or build, but rather is something we uncover like archeologists. Richard Morgan had an innate sense of the moral good, or appeal for humanity and simply couldn't cooperate with how some but not all atheists on the dawkins website were so callous and cold. he realized David Robertson (Protestant Pastor) had something "good" about him which caused him to ponder what made Robertson tick which led him to be open to his point of view which led to his conversion.

            2. the source proposed by atheists for the natural law is either a tribal thing or a "you scratch my back i stratch yours" mentality that evolution created by effecting various chemicals released in the brain that caused someone to have an appeal to the natural law.

            3. my discussion on the notion of "love" aimed to do two things. 1. establish that some things exist that you cannot prove they exist. 2. the best way you know that i have love for my family is that you have love for your family, it's your EXPERIENCE of the love you have that is the best proof you have to know that i love my family. in other words, if i was born a sociopath, and say for what ever reason did not have love for anyone else besides myself, than you talking about having love, compassion, empathy etc. would all be like fairy tails to me because i would no reference point to start from. you first of all would never be able to prove to me that you had those emotions, and even if one were to point to chemical reactions in the brain as evidence, those reactions are not empirical evidence because people can consciously manipulate chemical reactions in the brain as evidenced by the fact that people have figured out how to fool a like detector test.(one's heart rate is effected by chemical reactions in the brain, the manipulate their brain so the heart rate does not increase)

            4. i then took the "experience" of love and attempted to transpose it to the "experience" of the natural law, or moral law, so that you could identify it with your own experience, as in the example of the little girl, and also attempted to convey that many of your thoughts and instincts around the experience go beyond simply chemical reactions in the brain. the notions of "everything happens for a reason", while not entirely true does bring out the idea that "some things happen for a reason", well, what reason, where did that come from? furthermore, does "you scratch my back i stratch yours" really appear to be a rational explanation of a source of why you feel compelled to assist the little girl? why do you feel good after helping her? your experience has most likely indicated to you that there is often something else guiding you, something else conveying to you to help another, that perhaps cannot be narrowed to simply reactions in the brain?

            5. Richard Morgan noted the toxic vitriol of some of the posters on dawkins website, base, crude rude, sacrastic approach to the discussions largely about Christians. which perhaps calls to mind the idea, if the natural law can be narrowed down to simply chemical reactions in the brain, than why do some people who appeal to that idea become so base, crude, rude, unfeeling. almost as if once you believe that everything is just chemical reactions in the brain you then begin to believe there is no ultimate good or bad, there are no consequences, beyond getting caught for something. thus it's almost as if once you believe everything is just chemical reactions in the brain you lose those chemical reactions in the brain because you no longer think of being a moral person because being moral is just a chemical reaction in the brain.

            5. if you for the sake of argument just agree that there is a "spirit", a force that at the very least is good and intelligent that at times we find guiding ourselves or instilling in us to do the good, then Morgan as an atheist was still cooperating with that spirit or force. when many of his atheist commentators were mentioning that they wished the Russian lunatic would have died and succeeded in his attempt to take his own life many of them regretted he did not succeed, they would have preferred him to die.

            http://www.apologetics315.com/2012/09/former-atheist-richard-morgan-interview.html
            This belief horrified Morgan who was appealing for some form of humanity because he couldn't understand how any civilized person would wish someone to die. (the spirit was convicting him something was wrong with their thinking). this caused him to ponder Robertson (Protestant Pastor) and his motives. he found Robertson intelligent, honest, and kind. Morgan said that while he felt Robertson was deluded because of his Christianity he still had respect for him because he recognized there was something to the guy. he wrote him, told him he was an atheist, but not by choice, just didn't think God existed. his humble and honest approach to life led him to receive the gift of faith. now he would say that he knows God existed but has no rational explanation for it.
            6. Again, assuming for the sake of argument that their is an intelligent, and good spirit that compels us to due good, or rather the true source for the natural law. if that's true, Morgan as an atheist was still attentive to that. in our discussions, (mine and yours) you have not been rude, base, sacrastic or unkind so you like Morgan are cooperating with it. if that is true, than if you, like other atheists who converted attempted to discern it's source through reading, reflecting, and a humble and objective analysis of it's source might also come to the same conclusion. If Jesus really was the son of God, you would want to know it? instead of looking at all the doubts, look at the question, was Jesus really who he says he was, If Jesus really is, than reading books like Mere Christianity, or reading through the gospels, and praying to a God you are not sure exists, for the gift of faith might surprise you in what you may discover.
            7. My "proof" or "evidence" in this is your experience, if you want a more empirical proof we can also talk about that.

          • nippoadmin

            Thank you for clarifying what exactly this question means. I have been reading around the internet and people from famous scholars to common public seem to have mixed it up. They have made it a debate of God vs Science while this question is not at all about that debate. Thank you again.

          • articulett

            But how is your god different than nothing? What kind of something is it if it has no measurable properties and exists outside space (nowhere?) and outside time (never?)

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Articulett,

            Sorry i didn't get back to you sooner. i will watch and read that material you sent me i just didn't get the chance yet. Nothing would literally be nothing, no material, not spiritual not dark matter or material matter. God is spirit, scripture says those who worship him worship him in spirit and in truth. i suppose another way to say it would be God is love, or even the wonder of creation gives us a glimpse of him. it is kind of interesting to think we all know love exists but we cannot prove it in an emperical way, yet we know it exists because we have felt it ourselves. The Notion of God is similar, only God is more than just love because he is a person. This little girl had a mystical experience and seems to convey at least a little of what God is like; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=49wut32Cguw

          • articulett

            I didn't send you anything. That was Susan I think. But thanks for the response.

            I understand love and wonder... but those seem to be feelings that require brains to me. I don't think love or despair or those sorts of things exist absent a material brain.

            I just don't think mystical experiences-- as wonderful as they may be-- mean or are what people interpret them as-- just as I don't believe in demon possession even though someone may truly believe that they or someone else is possessed and I don't believe in chupacabras even though someone may be convinced they saw one. I also don't believe in alien visitors even though I think alien life forms probably exist. I just think that the evidence would be much better... and cumlatively so-- if these things were real.

            There doesn't seem to be a good way to tell a real god from an illusion of god-- and the same goes for those other things. I know that believers in such things believe THEY have found a way, but that's not convincing to me.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Articulett,

            you are very analytical, as am i so i can always appreciate a conversation that deals with analyzing material or truth. you ask a good question. first of all, i would agree with you that most people who claim that they are possessed aren't really possessed. i spoke with an exorcist one time who told me over 90% of people who think they are possessed don't need a priest, what they need is a psychologist. with respect to religion, as apposed to other mythical creatures i can think of two ways to distinguish (but i'm sure there's a better answer, this is just off the top of my head). the first way i would imagine to narrow down the truth of a mythical, or spirital person is to discern whether they have any historical basis? people like bringham young was a historical person, mohammad, and Jesus were historical persons. the tooth fairy or flying spaghetti monster have no historical basis thus one can eliminate them as having any basis in reality. The second way i would imagine would be to see if there are fruits to a faith belief. Islam i believe has some positive fruits in the sense of giving ten percent of you income to the poor and the insistence that one must be hospitable to a stranger (i'm not overly knowledgeable on islam). however i would find a contradiction in that they claim Allah is merciful yet, they also claim that if the infidel's ears are sealed one may end his life. how could a merciful God encourage people to end someone's life? again i am not an expert on islam and have heard that the idea is meant to imply one is to get rid of the infidel in one's heart or something to that effect. Judaism and Christianity encourage the importance of caring for the poor, treating others with love and compassion. Jesus takes it a step further in encouraging us to love our enemies and to do good to those who hate us. Furthermore, Mohammad has killed a lot of people while Jesus always taught to turn the other cheek and practice passive resistance. Thus there are positive fruits that come from Christianity and Judaism. The Catholic Church as done a great deal of good over the centuries although at times they have gone against what one would consider reasonable, for example some Catholics believed the inquisition was a good idea as well as bishops who moved around priests who molested children certainly detracts from her message. still the church has fed millions of people over the years, educated those who would have no way of receiving and education and done other acts for the benefit of humanity. Thirdly, i would say that NDE's certainly give some credence to Christianity in that of the thousands of people who have briefly died many of them have conveyed they witnessed someone named Jesus on the other side. Lastly one other side note i thought of, a friend of mine has addiction issues, subsequently i found a Catholic recovery program for people with drug or alcohol problems. the recovery program has less then a two percent failure rate. The program focuses on prayer and the sacraments as opposed to other drugs or purely psychological methods.

          • articulett

            Jesus is the one who taught the doctrine of hell-- and though he may not have killed anyone (his father-- who is supposed to be Jesus if Christianity is monotheistic) kills and orders killing repeatedly. And one or the other of them is responsible for creating a place of eternal torment according to Christian mythos.

            Scientologists claim to have gotten people off drugs too. I don't even know what a 2% failure rate means-- how many people were treated how and how did you measure success or failure after how long? Are these published results. What do YOU think is responsible for the success? How does it compare to other religious programs?

            And Santa is supposed to be based on a real person too-- but that doesn't make his magical powers real... just as Mohummed being real and Joseph Smith being real doesn't make either of them real prophets. The Muslims think Jesus was a prophet too-- and that Christians are going to hell for worshiping him as a god.

            Any religions that wants to catch on will mix the real with the fanciful and ride the coattails of religions/myths past that people have already bought into. Christianity has the hallmark of having done so. Do you know when they decided to celebrate Jesus birthday on December 25 and why? Do you know when they decided to name the year that Jesus was born Year 1 and how they decided on what year it was (it was an estimation based on 2 very different birth narratives in Matthew and Luke that puts the time period approximately 10 years apart from each other.) This is not the hallmark of something divine. It's the hallmark of a myth to me.... just like Muslim tales of Mohummed's flying donkey or Mormon Golden Plates that float off to heaven. Where do you draw the line at what you will swallow? Do you just lower your standards of evidence when it fits your own faith? Would you ask for more evidence (more proof) if Jesus wanted you to give all your possessions to the poor like he requests of his followers in the bible.

            I don't think anyone is possessed or ever was-- and that possession, is a superstition... and it can be dangerous-- just like the idea that people can be real witches. Today in Africa children are being killed because of accusations that they are witches. This is vile to a person who thinks there never was such a thing as a real witch.

            So while Jesus belief may be responsible for a lot of good-- there's a price to be paid for those beliefs and so it matters very much to me whether they are true-- and if so, which brand. Why wasn't any god clear? Why would he allow for rampant holy wars and the Inquisition and Crusades... when he could have just been clear in the first place? If he was real. And if he was benevolent. And if he was omniscient and knew the horrors that would result from the lack of clarity. Why don't believers think of these questions?

            From my perspective, most Catholics seem to be much better people than the god they worship. Would anyone advocate a place of infinite torture for finite crimes? That sounds more like a demon than any god to me. Why would a god need to manipulate anyone into belief with such a thing when she could be clear.... or let go of her egomaniacal need to be "believed in" and "worshiped".

            It just doesn't make sense to me. Even when religious people tell me how they make sense of their particular supernatural beliefs it might sound lovely... and good... or they might say it's all part of the mystery... but it doesn't sound TRUE to me. It sounds to me like the same sort of arguments that someone with a conflicting faith could use.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Articulette,

            I just want to say I really appreciate your approach, you
            really appear to be to be seeking the truth and I admire you for that.

            1.
            When I was in the seminary one of my seminary professors used to say (as an analogy) that heaven and hell are really the same place, it’s that for some people heaven is hell. Now, he didn’t mean that literally but he was trying to convey something. First off, the Gospel, or following Jesus leads one to an unselfish disposition. If you look at the world around you usually the people who are the most happy are those who are the most unselfish. (and I don’t mean a doormat type of person who always does things simply bc their insecure etc.) think of it like this; those who cooperate with God’s grace, are open to Jesus are unselfish and happy, if you die in that state you’re like that for eternity. If you’re selfish and die like that you are like that for eternity. Is hell a place of fire? I don’t know, but what I do believe is that God doesn’t send anyone there, people choose hell, and the primary sin that makes us choose it is pride (C.S. Lewis’ point you made earlier) because it shuts God out and opens the door to other sins (again from a theological perspective).

            2.
            What I meant by a failure rate is that less than
            two percent go back on the drug, the rest never return to it.

            3.
            Sanata was based on a real person but he never claimed to be the myth we make him into, the myth became that way due to St.Nicholas’ habit of giving underprivileged children gifts. Joseph Smith taught black people were an inferior race of people and could never attain to eternity the way white people can. I don’t know if there’s anything more I need to do to negate his credibility, but there is more out there. Islam I had covered earlier. Catholics are not fundamentalists, and we don’t believe your supposed to take everything in the bible literally. To summarize it; God said certain things to the Hebrew prophets as well as did certain things. The people had a history of experiencing
            certain events with the divine. They recorded those events, thus we have the Hebrew Scriptures or Old Testament. Jesus also said and did many things as well as his followers, these things were recorded which is the New Testament. We believe as Catholics that the Holy Spirit
            guided the writing of the bible so that it is accurate when it comes to teaching about faith but it is not meant to teach science or history verbatim. Thus you’re going to have some errors.

            4.
            That is a tremendous tragedy that people are killing children for accusing them of being witches, and I agree that those people are superstitious. As long as you
            never get involved in the occult you will never have to worry about whether there is possession or not.

            5.
            I am not exactly sure why God wants us to know her (I’ll go with your pronoun) by faith, it’s as if she sets us the signs then gives us an opportunity to be open about the possibility that she exists, and then she reveals herself though faith. I suppose it has something to do with motivation and humility. God could have made robots, but she didn’t, she wanted people who would choose her not be forced to love her. when you do come to know her, what she’s really like, you see her as a source of love, joy and peace, which fills you with gratitude and a desire to share the source of love with others.

            6.
            Faith is a gift, it comes from reading, praying and a genuine desire to be open and to know, when you have that gift it will all make sense, and you will realize you don’t have to understand everything.

            7.
            Finally, as I said before, you’re going from all of the possible doubts, which is okay, try the other way around; is Jesus who he says he is in the scriptures (if He is than the scriptures were conformed by the Holy Spirit and aren’t just
            a human creation so don’t get hung up on distractions) If Jesus is who he says he is than what does that mean for your life?

      • articulett

        So how is your god different than nothing? How did he poof everything from his nothingness?

  • Scott McPherson

    The usual objection to this is that ex nihilo assumes that God is a non-contingent being (does not require a cause to exist/exists without a beginning). This proves non-contingency is possible. If non-contingency is possible, there is nothing stopping us from saying the universe (without god) is also non-contingent.

    • "If non-contingency is possible, there is nothing stopping us from saying the universe (without god) is also non-contingent."

      Except, of course, for the itty bitty little problem that the universe is composite, and hence, it is not the universe which is non-contringent in your argument, but some non-contingent, metaphysically necessary *part* of it.

      So, apparently some metaphysically necessary *part* sits out there, somewhere, generating all the contingent parts.

      Which metaphysically necessary part did you have in mind?

      Because it certainly doesn't exist outside your mind.

      Outside your mind, we have contingent physically objects proceeding merrily along their contingent way, in accordance with physical laws which are themselves contingent.

      • Scott McPherson

        Particles are not composite if they are entangled. It is entirely possible that at all particles were entangled at the "beginning" of the universe.

        • See above, Scott, my reply to Noah.

          To reiterate:

          You write down "particles". That is, a plurality.

          That is, a composite of individuals.

          You then assert:

          "Particles are not composite if they are entangled"

          But this is madness, since:

          1. A particle is not composite, because it is just one particle.

          2. Particles are composite, because they are more than just one particle.

          3. "Entanglement" either describes a case where one particle is under consideration, or two particles in a special state are under consideration.

          It turns out that "entanglement" describes a case where *two* particles in a special state are under consideration.

          Therefore your assertion is falsified.

          • Scott McPherson

            Back from the weekend. While you may think this is madness, this is how the quantum world works. Quantum nonlocality says that the two entangled particles are a single quantum system. That's the idea of the wave function of the universe - that at the "beginning" everything was entangled and therefore a single quantum system.

          • "Back from the weekend. While you may think this is madness, this is how the quantum world works."

            >>No. It is an example of the sloppiness of your language, which asks us to believe directly contradictory things as if they were "how the quantum world works".

            The refutation of your direct self-contradiction consists in its exposure; this is accomplished above, and "that's just the way things work" is not an answer, it is a bit of flatulence.

            "Quantum nonlocality says that the two entangled particles are a single quantum system."

            >> Since they remain two particles, your problem remains.

            "That's the idea of the wave function of the universe - that at the "beginning" everything was entangled and therefore a single quantum system."

            >> There is no possibility, that the universe ever was a single quantum system, not that it ever will be a single quantum system, and this point is driven home with admirable precision and (relative) simplicity here:

            http://arxiv.org/abs/quant-ph/0005095

            Relevant excerpt:

            "In order to relate the probabilistic predictions of quantum theory uniquely to measurement results, one has to conceive of an ensemble of identically prepared copies of the quantum system under study. Since the universe is the total domain of physical experience, it cannot be copied, not even in a thought experiment. Therefore, a quantum state of the whole universe can never be made accessible to empirical test. Hence the existence of such a state is only a metaphysical idea. Despite prominent claims to the contrary, recent developments in the quantum-interpretation debate do not invalidate this conclusion."

            I sincerely invite any attempt at a refutation of the quite clear and logical argument in its entirety.

            But that is irrelevant to your problem, which is infinitely worse.

            Let us say that the universe was, or is, or ight have been, or might be at some point, a quantum system.

            The fact remains that quantum systems involve particle*s*.

            See above post for demolition of your violation of the law of non-contradiction:

            "Particles are not composite if they are entangled"

            The above sentence is a catastrophe, containing within itself the simultaneous assertion that particle*s* both are, and are not, particle*s*.

          • Scott McPherson

            I love how you cite the article that you think completely refutes the wave function of the universe. If you think one article can refute a theory (in this case an entire class of theories), you might want to do some reading on the philosophy of science. Especially an article that has only been cited four times in the past 14 years. And where one of the citations discusses a refutation. Especially ironic is the that one of the arguments you quoted from the article is that it is just a "metaphysical idea", when you are espousing God.

            While you think that quantum non-locality is "a bit of flatulence", it is indeed how the world works. I'm not here to argue the validity of a basic tenet of physics. You can research that on your own.

            "Particles are not composite if they are entangled" is correct. They actually both are, and are not, individual particles. (If you are really interested, you can look up a number of ideas that discuss how this can be true - one popular one is that they really are just one particle in a different dimensional framework and we just perceive them as separate particles.) Again, that is how the quantum world works. I'm sorry if English didn't evolve to encompass a theory where one thing can be in two places at once, multiple things can mathematically be shown to be one thing, and one thing can be both a wave and a particle at the same time.

          • Scott:

            Thanks for confirming my suspicion that you would choose not to engage the argument.

            "If you think one article can refute a theory (in this case an entire class of theories), you might want to do some reading on the philosophy of science"

            >> I have an excellent defense against all such sophistry, Scott:

            "No amount of experimentation can ever prove me right, a single experiment can prove me wrong"--- Albert Einstein

            The principle applies in this case, to the *logical* falsification of the claim of a quantum system universe, in the linked paper, which consists in this marvelously simple and devastating observation:

            "In order to relate the probabilistic predictions of quantum theory uniquely to measurement results, one has to conceive of an ensemble of identically prepared copies of the quantum system under study. Since the universe is the total domain of physical experience, it cannot be copied, not even in a thought experiment. Therefore, a quantum state of the whole universe can never be made accessible to empirical test. Hence the existence of such a state is only a metaphysical idea. Despite prominent claims to the contrary, recent developments in the quantum-interpretation debate do not invalidate this conclusion."

            Certainly nothing you have stated so much as addresses, much less refutes, the identification of the problem for your quantum system universe hypothesis.

            "They actually both are, and are not, individual particles."

            >> Pardon me, but this is barking madness. To admit this bit of madness into any logical system is to make the subsequent introduction of any idiocy desired completely unfalsifiable.

            "(If you are really interested, you can look up a number of ideas that discuss how this can be true - one popular one is that they really are just one particle

            >> "They" cannot be "just one particle". "They" applies to more than one. "It" applies to one.

            " in a different dimensional framework and we just perceive them as separate particles.)"

            >> In which case, obviously, our perception is in error, and ought to be corrected.

            But in this case, your earlier statement:

            "They actually both are, and are not, individual particles."

            is falsified by your own argument.

            Your own argument affirms that there is one particle, and our perceptive apparatus is misled.

            That is perfectly sane.

            Happens all the time.

            What is certain, is that you yourself do not believe the catastrophic logical fallacy:

            "They actually both are, and are not, individual particles."

            Which is very good news.

          • Scott McPherson

            I'm not convinced that the logic in the article you linked to is universal to all interpretations of quantum mechanics (the paper itself qualified this by saying the assumptions made are "almost uncontroversial among the proponents of different quantum interpretations"), especially as another article that cites it seems to think that it only applies to the Copenhagen interpretation. I will have to look at this some more though; it is interesting. In any case, the paper you cite does not falsify wave function of the universe theories as you claim above; it only asserts they are not testable. Given the definition of universe in that paper they will never be testable.

            In regard to your insistence on using classical logic (such as your statement "But in this case, your earlier statement: 'They actually both are, and are not, individual particles.' is falsified by your own argument."), I suggest you research differences between classic logic and quantum logic.

            A good discussion on the philosophical implications of quantum logic can be found in "Everything Must Go: Metaphysics Naturalized" by Ladyman et. al. It gets into such topics as whether quantum particles are individuals, among other ideas. I started reading it last fall but never finished; this makes me want to get back to it as it is still sitting on my Kindle.

          • I would be happy to look at your points after further examination.

            It is quite true- the paper is explicit on this point- that the argument does not falsify the universe as a quantum system.

            It simply falsifies the universe as a quantum system *as a scientific hypothesis*.

            It is clearly a metaphysical hypothesis, and ought to be examined on metaphysical grounds.

            As to your suggestion about "quantum logic", may I reiterate.

            If "quantum logic" allows us to say that a particle both is, and is not, a particle, then "quantum logic" is barking madness.

          • Scott McPherson

            I never said a particle both is, and is not, a particle. I think you misread me.

          • Scott then: "They actually both are, and are not, individual particles"

            Scott now: "I never said a particle both is, and is not, a particle"

            QED.

            Have a nice day, Scott, we're done here :-)

          • Scott McPherson

            Really? You can't tell the difference between those two statements?

  • First, it's sad to touch this subject and not mention Derek Parfit. His article here http://www.naturalism.org/parfit.htm is for me currently the most powerful argument in favor of a godlike being.

    Second, there are *lots* of atheist theories offering potential explanations for why there is something rather than nothing. They are no more proven or disproven than traditional theism, though there is weak evidence in favor of some of the atheist accounts. The main ways in which the atheist accounts are superior is that they are simpler and they attempt to explain *how* and *why* it might be that there is something rather than nothing, whereas the traditional theist account is completely uninformative.

    I have a personal favorite theory. It's this one:

    Most mathematicians share the sense that mathematical truths have a kind of necessary, non-contingent Platonic existence independent of the physical world. Math appears to describe what must be and cannot not be, the very structure of possibility. There are even many pieces of evidence for this. Here's one nifty piece: if abstracta had no reality apart people's thoughts, it would be extremely odd that using the mathematics of theoretical computer science we can prove various properties of how any physical computer will perform an as-yet-uninvented algorithm regardless of the physical principles by which the computer operates.

    Physicists have already argued that our universe may have zero total
    energy and may have originated via quantum effects from a spherical
    vacuum with null properties (e.g. "zero radius", "zero volume", "zero energy", "zero mass", etc.). The math of it works, but of course we don't yet have experiments which can check if our universe fits that math. So, supposing that mathematical truths have necessary, non-contingent Platonic existence, then there is some abstract reality corresponding to the statement "Given laws X and null properties Y, a universe will pop out without need for a pre-existing substance" for some X and Y. And then since X and Y are given right there within that abstracta and are sufficient for a universe, there's a universe, too. If there are whole sets of valid (X,Y) pairs, then we'd have a multiverse composed of the whole range of possible universes, each with slightly different properties from the next. Consequently, under this theory the set of real universes would be those describable by continuous, local, invariant lawful evolution from null initial conditions.

    One nice thing about this theory is that it is potentially falsifiable by future work in physics. It could be disproved by discovery of some fundamental thing not fully describable in terms of its relations to other things. If it were found that universe has probably always had nonzero total energy, that would also be a disproof. If all local interpretations of quantum physics were ruled out, that would also be a disproof.

    (Should you believe that theory? No, of course not -- but it is worth some moderate level of confidence, and it's certainly superior to the classical theist theory.)

    • Scott McPherson

      Yet Parfit is an atheist.

    • Noah:

      If mathematics involves the proposition that something comes from nothing, then mathematics is as absurd as your argument above.

      Since mathematics does not involve the proposition that something comes from nothing, it is your argument above that is absurd.

      The absurdity consists in two exact fallacies:

      1. The notion that mathematical truths apply to non-mathematical objects;
      2. The notion that a non-mathematical object "nothing" can be mathematically manipulated so as to engender a non-mathematical "something".

      "Abracadabra" is not a valid approach to physics, and the hilarious "something from nothing" gambit is the best evidence imaginable of the dead end at which the LCDM model has now arrived.

      • Hi Rick,
        There are infinitely many mathematical functions that describe smooth, continuous change from absolute rest at zero to some new state. Don't rely on the vaguely expressed intuitions of ancient philosophy in those cases where they have been rigorously shown to be wrong. When we look beyond the behaviors of our quotidian macroscopic objects -- something that the ancients lacked the technical know-how to do, and so cannot be faulted for having not done -- we see that the world is a deeply counterintuitive place.

        Also, I don't believe in non-mathematical objects, so your proposed absurdities only apply to your own views.

        • "Also, I don't believe in non-mathematical objects, so your proposed absurdities only apply to your own views."

          >> The absurdity is resplendently contained in your own words above, Noah.

          But at least the point of division is clear.

          You believe that mathematics in the non-contingent Being.

          Since mathematics is unable to think, much less is mathematics complete and consistent from within its own deductive theorem-lattice, all I can tell you is you've got the wrong god :-)

          • I'm not sure what you're getting at, since your first two lines are non-grammatical objects (or patently false). :)

            As for the third, it's irrelevant and nonsensical. First, mathematical descriptions of thinking are already available; second, that's not a valid interpretation of Goedel's incompleteness proofs; third, I don't believe in God, and mathematics is not a god. (Intriguingly, the former archbishop of Canterbury said that he thought of God as the unification of love and mathematics. I'm not sure how seriously he meant that, though.)

          • Since you neither demonstrate that the lines are non-grammatical, nor do you demonstrate that they are patently false, instead what has occurred is that you have substituted assertion for demonstration; something which will is often encountered among the advocates of "something from nothing", or "there are no non-mathematical objects", or "particle*s* that are entangled are not composite" (hence, not particle*s*- direct contradiction).

            The defense against all such madness is, exactly, the law of non-contradiction.

            Whenever an assertion is found to violate this law, and this fact is brought to the attention of the one advancing the assertion, one of two things must happen:

            1. The assertion will be acknowledged to violate the law of non-contradiction, and will be withdrawn, or

            2. It will have been established that the one advancing the assertion is a madman, with whom no further rational discussion is possible.

            So.

            You assert that there are no non-mathematical objects.

            I assert the contrary; that is, there *are* non-mathematical objects.

            First, we define "mathematical objects"- I will certainly be willing to consider the possibility that the definition provided here may not be to your liking, in which case we can consider yours, but here is the entry from abstractmath.org for starters:

            "Mathematical objects are what we talk and write about when we do math.

            Numbers, functions, triangles, matrices, and more complicated things such as vector spaces and infinite series are all examples of math objects. See Examples.

            Those new to abstract math often complain that they don’t understand some type of math object. What they really mean in many cases is that they don’t know how to thinkabout it. Here I discuss how we think about math objects in general. The sections on special types of math objects, such as sets and numbers, talk about how we think specifically aboutthose objects.

            Math objects are not physical objects, but we think about them and talk about them as if they were.

            We notice first that math objects are not physical objects.

            We notice second that physical objects do exist.

            We conclude that the assertion:

            "There are no non-mathematical objects" is in contradiction to reality, as "mathematical objects" are defined by abstract math.org.

            So, either you wish to dispute the definition from abstract math.org, or else you wish to withdraw your assertion, or else you are a madman with whom further rational discussion were impossible.

            Which is it?

          • Rick,

            If you wish to edit your comment and remove the insults, then I'll edit this one to offer a proper response. If you prefer to keep your insults and so avoid discussion, that's also your choice.

          • I am sure you would agree that it is not insulting to correctly characterize madness as madness, Noah.

            In fact, it were uncharitable to confirm a madman in his madness.

            It is simply a statement of truth, that a man who insists that A is not-A, is a madman, with whom further rational discourse were impossible.

            It is perhaps the case that you are not a madman with whom further rational discourse were impossible.

            You might, for example, take issue with the definition of "mathematical objects" I supplied from abstract math.org.

            You might, alternatively, admit that your assertion "there are no non-mathematical objects" is falsified by observation.

            You might, alternatively, insist, even in the face of the evidence for non-mathematical objects, that there are no non-mathematical objects.

            I suppose there is actually a fourth option:

            You might decide to whine instead of addressing the points.

          • *plonk*

  • John Paul

    The following article provides another supplement to the Dominicans' post: http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/science/sc0119.htm

  • joaocarloshollanddebarcellos

    The "Jocaxian Nothingness" explain the reason:

    http://pjpub.org/Abstract/abstract_pet_197.htm