Rex Allen wrote:
> On Fri, Dec 4, 2009 at 10:35 PM, Brent Meeker <> wrote:
>> Rex Allen wrote:
>>> What is your alternative to the "everything" universal acid?  That
>>> things just are the way they are (uniquely), and there's ultimately no
>>> explanation for that.  Right?
>> Exactly so.  "It's just happened that way" and "Everything happens and
>> so this happens too." are both equally useless.  Progress is only made
>> when we can explain why this rather than that.
> So, we have our observations, and we want to explain them, so we need
> some context to place them in.  So we postulate the existence of an
> external universe.  But then we want to explain what we see in this
> external universe, and the only option is to postulate the existence
> of a multiverse.
> Nothing can be explained in terms of only itself.  To explain it,  you
> have to place it in the context of something larger.  Otherwise, no
> explanation is possible, you just have to say, "this is the way it is
> because that's the way it is."
> Right?
> Basically there's only two way the process can end.  Two possible
> answers to the question of "Why is the universe this way instead of
> some other way?":
> 1) Because things just are the way they are, and there's no further
> explanation possible.
> 2) Because EVERYTHING happens, and so this was inevitable in that
> larger context of "everything".
> What other option is there, do you think?

Look at what we actually take to be explanations.  For example, 
inflation is taken to be an explanation for the homogeneity of the CMB, 
for the flatness of space, for the absence of magnetic monopoles.  Why?  
First, because it replaces these seemingly disparate observed facts with 
a single theory that is consistent with our other theories.  Second, and 
more importantly, it predicted higher order correlations in the CMB 
which were then observed.  So we are still faced with explaining the 
inflation; which some people might explain as, "That's just the way it 
is." and others might explain,"Out of all possible universes some must 
inflate", but neither of those predicts anything or leads to any 
experiment.  A real explanation would be one describing an inflaton 
field and predicting its experimental manifestation.

So the option is don't adopt non-explanations and simply admit that 
there are things we don't know and that's why we do research. Theories 
need to be consilient and specific and testable and predict something we 
didn't already know, but turns out to be true.  That's the gold standard.

So I agree that in some sense the two options you present above seem to 
be the only possible ultimate statements, sort of  like the schoolmen 
who "proved" that "God did it" was the ultimate answer everything.  But, 
I don't think ultimate statements are worth much because they are like 
junk food explanations - no nutritional value.


>>> So we can take our observations of the world around us and construct a
>>> narrative that is consistent with what we see...a narrative that
>>> involves big bangs and electrons.  But what caused the big bang?  Why
>>> do electrons have the particular properties that they have?  If you
>>> propose a particular cause for these things, what caused that cause?
>>> How is that better than a narrative that allows for "everything"?
>>> They would seem to have equal explanatory power.  Which is to say:
>>> zero.
>> We have much evidence about the big bang and some theories as to how it
>> may have happened which are testable.
> So the existence of a big bang event certainly seems consistent with
> our observations.  But so does the idea of a Boltzmann style
> statistical fluctuation from thermal equilibrium.  Or the idea that
> this is just the dream of the infinitude of relations between numbers.
> We construct narratives that are consistent with our observations, but
> these narratives are about our observations, not about what really
> exists.  You seem to have jumped to some unfounded ontological
> conclusions.
> You can talk about big bangs if that helps you think about your
> observations, helps you identify patterns in what you experience.
> But, that's as far as it can reasonably go, right?
> At the end of the day, we're always right back at where we
> started...with our observations...with our subjective conscious
> experience.
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