God, Belief, and the Universe, in Context

Over the years, I have often debated on the nature of God and against religion. Over time, my arguments have become more refined (in a roundabout way), but today, a new thought popped into my head. In all my back-and-forth’s (which I’ve finally realized is futile, because people believe what they want, not what is true), I’ve always made my argument in a lack of context. The result being the sabotage of my argument, first by its lack of context, but further still, in its complexity.

Right off the bat, any argument instigated in such a way is crippled. So from now on, if I ever get into such a personal debate again (which I’m thinking not too), it will go something like this:

Since nothing can ever be thought of as certain, even in science, specifically quantum mechanics, which at its foundation, precludes absolute certainty (the highest is 99.9999…%), therefore, we are forced to deal with varying probabilities of certainty, and should tackle the question of God in such a way. So with that being said, and in light of my earlier contextual ambiguities and unnecessary complexity, I have boiled it down to these two questions:

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On Debating Non-Debatable Subjects: God, Creation, and Religion

creation

Last week, among a gathering of friends, we ended up debating for many hours, the subject of creation, religion, and god. It was a lively discussion to say the least, and one I was ill-equipped for, after drinking 10 glasses of wine, and on many occasions, found it difficult to articulate my proper thoughts, much as I imagine, did many of my friends. One rather large mistake we made, was not stipulating a suitable foundation to base our friendly discussion upon, which led to us going around in circles for far too long, as well as relying, far too much on our inter-cranial intuitions, thinking that because we can think certain things, that they must then be granted validity of truth, even in the face of objectivity and even when experimentation says that is not the case. But I want to express what foundation is required for this kind of discussion in order for it to be relevant, to others, as well as any future discussions I get into on the subject, and, somewhat selfishly, articulate my proper thoughts from last night.

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What if Nothing Never Existed?

Nothing

What is nothing, and where did the something that we are and see all around us, come from? These are questions asked since our humble beginnings. Through the magic of modern-science, answers are finally being wrested out of the ether of space and time, and into something approximating language. Let us begin firstly, with a scientific controversy in 2012 relating to this very notion: the reception to the book, A Universe from Nothing, by the astrophysicist Lawrence Krauss.

There was a firestorm in some parts of the philosophic—and most certainly all parts of the theological—community due to Lawrence’s book, where he explained the latest theories in Physics. The crux of the storm rested upon the assertion that Lawrence made in regard to the nothing that a Universe can be born from, the Quantum Field (derived from Quantum Field Theory), which is as close to nothing as we have we ever arrived—and maybe ever will. Soon after its publication, the philosopher of science and theoretical physicist David Albert, wrote a scathing review of the book on the New York Times alleging that Lawrence was misleading everyone because his book never addressed the basic question of how a Universe was born of nothing, because the Quantum Field is something, even if it isn’t comprised of matter or energy, and that the book does not mention where those fields came from.

But what if the nothing that we demand explanation of, to explain our origins, never actually existed? That is, a region devoid of fields, physical laws, matter, anti-matter, the Higgs boson, and everything else (presumably including God since by this definition, He is something). What if semantics is the only thing being argued?

Maybe ‘nothing’ doesn’t, and never did, exist, and there has always been something, one-way or the other. 

The history of modern-science has come with it, at every step, the uncomfortable notion that we have been wrong about almost everything we’ve had an opinion on, especially those things that are orders of magnitudes bigger or smaller than us, and even many times, that which is on our scale. What makes the notion of ‘nothing’ any different? Below are some ancient and modern common-sense world views that met the cruel fate of greater understanding: 

  • We are intelligently designed
  • The world is flat 
  • Stars are holes in heaven’s floor
  • Earth is the center of the Universe and Solar System
  • The aether permeates space
  • Time is an absolute function of the universe
  • The very small (atoms) obey the same laws as the very large (galaxies)
  • Matter is solid
  • Space is a vacuum

 Our notion of nothing, to me at least, seems no different. It has been recently shown in this strange Universe we live in, by such astrophysicists’ as Lawrence et al, in doing a rather ambitious experiment found that the total amount of energy in the Universe is zero. That is, the amount of positive energy (matter) is exactly cancelled out by the amount of negative energy (gravity), and they both add up to zero. This question, seemingly, is no longer philosophical at its premise, and as Lawrence himself says, “Nothing is inherently unstable.

One of the first Greek philosophers, Parmenides wrote, “It is,” a statement in regard to the cosmos, or to anything you can think of. And to pre-existence, or nothing as, “It is not.” However, the latter statement is self-contradictory. To say “It is not,” is to say, “It is,” for you’ve contradicted that it is not, because you can think it in your mind (and we can’t actually think of nothing), and if nothing exists, it’s not nothing, but something. Or put more simply, “nothing comes from nothing.” From this, he takes the conclusion, one that I ascribe too, that there has always been something, in one form or the other. Today our best (though incomplete) theories suggest the Quantum Field is at the bottom of it all. Maybe that’s right, and I’m inclined to agree (not that my preference counts), or maybe it will be something else deeper down, but it seems absurd to suggest, or demand, that for a theory to be ontologically relevant, it must explain why there is not nothing. We have only one Universe, which came from a singularity (neither of which is nothing), which gives us a sample of one something, and zero nothings. No matter which way, or how deep, or far any theory goes, it will always be possible to probe one level deeper and say why this and not that? But just asking that question does not give it validity. This is not too say that it should not be disputed, or challenged, for this is where science thrives, but we must understand that our language muddles the issue here: the very word ‘nothing’ has no intrinsic meaning, nor is there anywhere in the Universe where there is truly nothing. Maybe by that admission alone, we’ll never know, but there’s even less fun in that.

 

“Modern science has been a voyage into the unknown, with a lesson in humility waiting at every stop. Our common sense intuitions can be mistaken, our preferences don’t count, we do not live in a privileged reference frame.” ~ Carl Sagan

 

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