On 5/7/2012 6:42 AM, Pierz wrote:
The question, "Why is there anything at all?" used to do my head in when I was
a kid. I can still sometimes get into kind of head-exploding moment sometimes thinking
about it. Russell's answer to me remains the most satisfying, even though in a sense it
is a non-answer, a simple ackowledgement that there is no logical reason why there has to
be a cause of 'everything' even though everything may have a cause. Krauss's argument - I
admit I haven't read the book (yet), so I am speaking of what I understand rhe hist of
his argument to be - may be interesting physics/cosmology, but I agree with the critics
that it doesn't really get to the bottom of the proverbial 'turtle stack', and it
shouldn't claim to, because such a bottom turtle is in principle impossible.
John Clarke claims that a 'nothing' that contains the laws of quantum mechanics
and the potential to produce time, space and matter is a very pitiful something
if it is a something at all. But I think it sneaks a lot more into its pitiful
somethingness than at first meets the eye. Not only the laws of quantum
mechanics, but the laws of logic and mathematics without which quantum
mechanics could not be formulated or expressed - as Bruno woukd be quick to
The 'laws' of logic are just the rules of language that ensure we don't issue
contradictory statements. The 'laws' of quantum mechanics also follow from simple
assumptions about the world having symmetries (c.f. Russell Standish's "Theory of Nothing"
and Vic Stenger's "The Comprehensible Cosmos") and having a symmetry is a kind of
'nothing', i.e. having no distinguishing characteristic under some transformation.
Stenger's book is more detailed and explicit than Krauss'.
I really must read the book to understand how this vacuum can be unstable in
the absence of time - doesn't stability or instability depend on time by
implying the possibility or otherwise of change? But even accepting this it
seems to me that in order to reason about the properties of this vacuum (e.g.,
its instability or otherwise) means that the vacuum must exist. Getting what
seems like extremely close to non-existence is still a million miles (actually
an infinite distance) from actual non-existence, because what defines the
distinction between non-existence and existence is not anything to do with
being extremely minimal. An extremely small number, say 10 to the -100000, is
extremely minimal, but still not zero, and still an infinite distance, in a
sense, from zero.
Krauss's argument may satisfy the cosmologist's desire to see the cause of the universe
reduced to something extremely simple, but it does not satisfy the wondering child or
philosopher who is thunderstruck by the strangeness of there being any existence at all,
however simple or rudimentary its origins. It's wrong to say such a child or philosopher
is caught in a pointless mind loop trying asking how something that does not even have
the potential to produce anything can, nevertheless, produce something. Of course that is
absurd. The question in my mind as a wondering child was never 'How did the nothing that
must have come before the universe produce the universe?' It was my mind chasing the
chain of causation of things and realizing that, whatever that chain looked like, I could
never trace it all the way back to absolute nothing - so why this mysterious beingness?
The fact is it's beyond reason. Call it a gift or a miracle and you're as close to it as
anything. God is no answer, mind you - he's just another spurious bottom turtle. God,
laws of quantum mechanics: it's just different attempts to stop the rot of infinite
regress, hammer in a wedge somewhere and say "Because". Why do the law of
quantum physics exist? Because. Why does God, the UD, the Buddhist void exist? Because.
As for the remark about nothingness having only one way of being and there
being a lot more ways of existing, it's cute, but it's sophistry. Non-being is
not a countable way of being. It's the absence of being - obviously - so can't
be presented as one among a myriad of possible configurations of the universe.
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