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#51
Old 05-17-2018, 09:37 PM
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Originally Posted by begbert2 View Post
In my experience, non-theists with a sciencey bent tend to interpret the question "why" as actually being the question "how".

"Why did that apple fall?"
"Because gravity pulled it towards the nearest huge mass - the earth."

That's actually an explanation of the mechanism at work - the 'how'.

Part of being a materialist is recognizing that mechanisms are causes. Part of being a hardcore materialist is recognizing that human cognition, with all its deliberate intents, is just another series of mechanisms.

And the thread-related upshot of all this is, when asked "why did the big bang happen, triggering the existence of the universe?", the sciencey answer is generally "we can't see the mechanisms, so we don't know." Followed by a shrug, since what else are you supposed to do when there's no obvious way to start looking for that data?
Superficially, yes, but you have to give those who understand that why is not how enough credit. Theistic evolutionists and many deists accept the how that science has provided just fine, but are unsatisfied with the "why" part of it. A universe where these things just happened, with no why, seems spiritually empty to them.
Doesn't bother me since I don't have a drop of spirituality, but I think a lot of them are deeper thinkers than you give them credit for.
#52
Old 05-18-2018, 12:18 AM
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Originally Posted by wolfpup View Post
I'm not following your objection. Any variant of the anthropic principle admits the possibility that there may be an infinity of universes, but only those with certain physical laws and constituents will harbor life -- or in some versions, must harbor life. As a philosophical construct, the AP doesn't presume to tell us how any of them came about. For that we have various metaphysical explanations and speculative mathematical models like the Hartle-Hawking state.
Yes, but that's what I'm saying: while anthropic reasoning can explain the apparent fine-tuning of our universe to life, if one is prepared to accept the ontological baggage of an infinite multiverse, it can't explain why the universe exists (it at best replaces that question with the larger one of why the multiverse exists). But this is the question of this thread, so the anthropic principle simply isn't relevant here.

So when you say
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Originally Posted by wolfpup View Post
Right, the (weak) anthropic principle is sufficient to answer the "why" part.
then that's just wrong, and seems actually to go against what you said in the other bit I quoted.
#53
Old 05-18-2018, 01:45 AM
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Why does there have to be a why?
#54
Old 05-18-2018, 02:42 AM
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It's just human nature to ask why. It's part of all science.
#55
Old 05-18-2018, 03:10 AM
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Originally Posted by QuickSilver View Post
Nobody really knows. I'm sorry if that's not very satisfying.
But we've got our top people on it.
Top. People.
This.

Why/how anything exists at all a valid philosophical question that can't be answered right now.
It's both the most wonderful and the most maddening thing to come to terms with reality IMO.

All the standard answers given in this thread don't work. The Anthropic principle for example is nothing but a handwave in this context. We might reply to the question "If the universe didn't exist, you wouldn't be here to ask the question" with "Well it's a good thing I am here to ask it. So...what's the answer?"
#56
Old 05-18-2018, 03:33 AM
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It appears I'm the only Tegmark fan here. Let me try to expound. This is my argument, not Tegmark's.

1. Imagine a real Universe like ours, in which there are creatures who appear to be conscious. Then they really are conscious. Cogito ergo sum, if you will. Or "If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck..."
2. Imagine the "paper design" of a universe like ours. Within the paper design there are creatures just like us. Within that paper design, those creatures "think they are conscious." So they are! Cogito ergo sum.
3. Now suppose that that paper design doesn't exist on any paper. It still "exists" though, if only in the mind of a hypothetical Being capable of comprehending all of mathematics. But no such Being or God need be postulated — mathematics is sufficient unto itself. (The Monster Group "exists" whether or not one finds it in nature.)
4. Consider a hypothetical universe similar to ours, but with a fine structure constant of 137.036000 instead of 137.035999. If its axioms are consistent, it is as real as any paper design. Creatures who think they are conscious in that paper universe are conscious.
Cogito ergo sum.
Quod erat demonstrandum.

Does this make any sense?
#57
Old 05-18-2018, 04:35 AM
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Originally Posted by PatrickLondon View Post
Why does there have to be a why?
Why not ?
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#58
Old 05-18-2018, 04:43 AM
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Originally Posted by AHunter3 View Post
Out of all the hypothetical realities in which something either does or does not exist, the ones in which nothing does exist are realities in which there's no meaningful distinction between the hypothetical reality and the real reality.

That leaves the ones in which something does in fact exist.
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Originally Posted by Czarcasm View Post
How could a "nothing" universe exist? If a universe is all of time and space and its contents, and you take away all the contents, that leaves you time and space. Is it possible to have a universe without time and/or space and, if not, isn't there some sort of energy involved when time and space interact?
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Originally Posted by septimus View Post
It appears I'm the only Tegmark fan here. Let me try to expound. This is my argument, not Tegmark's.

1. Imagine a real Universe like ours, in which there are creatures who appear to be conscious. Then they really are conscious. Cogito ergo sum, if you will. Or "If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck..."
2. Imagine the "paper design" of a universe like ours. Within the paper design there are creatures just like us. Within that paper design, those creatures "think they are conscious." So they are! Cogito ergo sum.
3. Now suppose that that paper design doesn't exist on any paper. It still "exists" though, if only in the mind of a hypothetical Being capable of comprehending all of mathematics. But no such Being or God need be postulated — mathematics is sufficient unto itself. (The Monster Group "exists" whether or not one finds it in nature.)
4. Consider a hypothetical universe similar to ours, but with a fine structure constant of 137.036000 instead of 137.035999. If its axioms are consistent, it is as real as any paper design. Creatures who think they are conscious in that paper universe are conscious.
Cogito ergo sum.
Quod erat demonstrandum.

Does this make any sense?

I think we're all driving at the same thing, using different language.
#59
Old 05-18-2018, 08:56 AM
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Originally Posted by Czarcasm View Post
How could a "nothing" universe exist? If a universe is all of time and space and its contents, and you take away all the contents, that leaves you time and space. Is it possible to have a universe without time and/or space and, if not, isn't there some sort of energy involved when time and space interact?


Consider a “universe” as a set including all its physical attributes, laws and other properties as elements. A “nothing” universe is the empty set. Since all empty sets are identical to each other, there is only one “nothing” universe. The set of all possible universes (actually, probably the proper class of all universes) should be infinite. The probability of selecting the one nothing universe out of infinite possible universes is zero. Therefore the universe must not be empty QED.


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#60
Old 05-18-2018, 08:57 AM
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Just to clarify, many of you are answering the question 'Why (or how if you prefer that particular adverb) this universe exists?' and a few of you might be answering 'Why this particular universe exists in just the way it does?' Those are interesting questions, but much more trivial. The question is not about this specific universe, but rather that which is outside or not of this universe. Why (or how) is there this extraphysical 'whatever it may be' and why is it there instead of not there? 'Not there' seems to me to be a default position. Most things are 'not there.' 'There' seems to be a special thing and a rarer thing. We can theoretically conceive of many more things than those which actually exist, the default on existence seems to be 'not existent.' It seems to require very special conditions to be met for something to exist. So assuming that there is something 'extrauniversal,' why does this extrauniversal thing exist?
#61
Old 05-18-2018, 09:02 AM
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Originally Posted by epolo View Post
Consider a “universe” as a set including all its physical attributes, laws and other properties as elements. A “nothing” universe is the empty set. Since all empty sets are identical to each other, there is only one “nothing” universe. The set of all possible universes (actually, probably the proper class of all universes) should be infinite. The probability of selecting the one nothing universe out of infinite possible universes is zero. Therefore the universe must not be empty QED.


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Again, epolo, the question is not why a particular universe (or set in your analogy exists) but rather why are there sets at all? What your analogy is doing is reaching into a set of ping pong balls pulling out 7 at random and saying that this universe is just what ping pong balls happened to come out and it's not very likely that we picked 7 zeroes. My question is where did the ping pong balls come from and why are they being picked at all?
#62
Old 05-18-2018, 09:15 AM
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Originally Posted by Voyager View Post
Maybe there are plenty of universes with nothing. Ask their inhabitants how it is.
Well, according to the Big Bang Theory, our universe did not exist until a virtually infinite amount of energy exploded and spread out which, by definition, would mean that the universe was measurable early on and suggests that, somewhere WAY out there, the universe is growing as it is spreading. The only argument I can see to that is to declare that the universe existed as the singularity from which everything emerged.

This theory is explored in the Star Trek Next Generation episode, "Remember Me" , where Wesley Crusher creates a warp bubble in engineering that somehow traps his mother inside.

Theoretically, a "warp bubble" would be self-enclosed and thus pinched off from our universe. It would, in effect, be a universe of its own. Initially, the warp bubble seemed like a perfectly normal environment to Dr. Crusher but, as it began to collapse, people/places/things started to cease to exist.

Quote:
As the warp bubble collapses, Beverly puts together what’s been happening. When she was pulled into the bubble she had been worrying about losing the people around her, thus the alternate reality where people disappear. She races to Engineering, just in time to leap through Wesley’s portal before the Enterprise itself is erased. When she emerges, she asks Picard how many people are on board. He tells her 1,014, including Dr. Quaice. She notes with relief that that's exactly the number there should be.
So, if our universe ever starts to contract, it will cease to exist anywhere outside of the matter and energy that define what it is. Our universe, theoretically, will grow smaller and smaller until, finally, it collapses into a singularity the way a Black Hole collapses.
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#63
Old 05-18-2018, 09:54 AM
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Originally Posted by epolo View Post
Consider a “universe” as a set including all its physical attributes, laws and other properties as elements. A “nothing” universe is the empty set. Since all empty sets are identical to each other, there is only one “nothing” universe. The set of all possible universes (actually, probably the proper class of all universes) should be infinite. The probability of selecting the one nothing universe out of infinite possible universes is zero. Therefore the universe must not be empty QED.
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Originally Posted by senoy View Post
Again, epolo, the question is not why a particular universe (or set in your analogy exists) but rather why are there sets at all?...
Aside from senoy's more fundamental objection, epolo's reasoning is flawed since there seems no a priori reason that the frequency distribution of universes should be uniform. Why must all there be just one of each "type" of universe, and why must all types exist? Even if there are infinitely many universes, why can't half of them be identical and empty? Or indeed all of them?
#64
Old 05-18-2018, 10:05 AM
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Originally Posted by Corner Case View Post
Similarly, if there was nothing, there wouldn't be anything around to say there's nothing. So there has to be something to ask why! You can't have nothing, because that would be something that you had, so you have to be there to have it!
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Originally Posted by Jasmine View Post
Clever, and philosophically valid.
I dunno. ISTM that that boils down to, "if we assume there's something, then there can't be nothing, because there's something."

ETA: Which reminds me of those immortal (ok, maybe not) words of Billy Preston:

Nothin' from nothin' leaves nothin'
You gotta have somethin'
if you want to be with me

Last edited by RTFirefly; 05-18-2018 at 10:10 AM.
#65
Old 05-18-2018, 10:23 AM
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Originally Posted by RTFirefly View Post
I dunno. ISTM that that boils down to, "if we assume there's something, then there can't be nothing, because there's something."

ETA: Which reminds me of those immortal (ok, maybe not) words of Billy Preston:

Nothin' from nothin' leaves nothin'
You gotta have somethin'
if you want to be with me
Yep, that argument is more addressing the question of whether or not there is something, not particularly why(or how) there is something. I think that most of us already agree that there is something and that the fact that we are able to formulate an argument as to why is good evidence to that effect, but it doesn't really tell me why there is something. As someone mentioned above, a lot of these arguments simply presuppose that something exists and then say 'therefore it must exist.'
#66
Old 05-18-2018, 11:08 AM
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OK.
Let's start by refuting your premise. you say there are fewer conditions for a universe of nothing than for a universe of something so therefore a universe of nothing should be more likely.
First, fewer conditions does not necessarily imply easier or more likely.
Second, and more importantly, a universe of nothing does not have fewer conditions than a universe of something. A universe of nothing has ZERO conditions, because even the single condition that it not contain anything is something, so an empty universe has zero conditions. Zero is not fewer than many, or even some, or even one. Zero does not exist in the subset of how many, so therefore cannot be compared to the others. Zero is not fewer.
So, a universe of nothing has zero conditions to exist. and zero conditions is not necessarily easier than some conditions. The best we can say is that a universe of nothing is equally as likely as a universe of something. But, I would argue further that since we know a universe of something does exist, that maybe it is more likely than a universe of nothing.

mc
#67
Old 05-18-2018, 11:17 AM
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Originally Posted by senoy View Post
Yep, that argument is more addressing the question of whether or not there is something, not particularly why(or how) there is something. I think that most of us already agree that there is something and that the fact that we are able to formulate an argument as to why is good evidence to that effect, but it doesn't really tell me why there is something. As someone mentioned above, a lot of these arguments simply presuppose that something exists and then say 'therefore it must exist.'
Of course, this presupposes that "why" is a useful question to even ask. It implies that there is a reason or a purpose, when there is nothing that indicates that there is a reason or a purpose.

If you have two dissimilar fluids, and you put them into direct contact with each other, they don't just diffuse evenly into each other, they create a rayleigh-taylor instability, with complex folds and whorls and vortices. You can ask how this occurs, and get a well defined answer. If you ask *why* this occurs, then you will get the same answer as "how".

If you are interested in the answer to the question of "How is there something, rather than nothing", well, there is debate among scientist to specifics, but that is a question that has meaning and can be answered.

If you are interested only in *why* there is something rather than nothing, then you will either get the how answer, or you will get philosophy. Science doesn't answer "why"'s.
#68
Old 05-18-2018, 11:18 AM
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Phil Hartman explains.
#69
Old 05-18-2018, 12:03 PM
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Originally Posted by Voyager View Post
Superficially, yes, but you have to give those who understand that why is not how enough credit. Theistic evolutionists and many deists accept the how that science has provided just fine, but are unsatisfied with the "why" part of it. A universe where these things just happened, with no why, seems spiritually empty to them.
Doesn't bother me since I don't have a drop of spirituality, but I think a lot of them are deeper thinkers than you give them credit for.
That's why I noted that a hardcore materialist recognizes that human cognition, with all its deliberate intents, is just another series of mechanisms. Realizing that, then the concept of 'intent' actually disintegrates - any entity's perceived conscious/deliberate intention is merely a result of the cogs and gears whirring in the entity's mind. Intent itself just becomes more dominos falling in a row, not materially different from, well, literal dominoes.

With a perspective like that, presupposing "intent" for the existence of the universe merely is saying that prior to the perceivable beginning to the universe there were more dominoes, more events preceding it. More events like any others. And since there's no way to know what those events were - (shrug).
#70
Old 05-18-2018, 12:03 PM
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Originally Posted by k9bfriender View Post
Of course, this presupposes that "why" is a useful question to even ask. It implies that there is a reason or a purpose, when there is nothing that indicates that there is a reason or a purpose.

If you have two dissimilar fluids, and you put them into direct contact with each other, they don't just diffuse evenly into each other, they create a rayleigh-taylor instability, with complex folds and whorls and vortices. You can ask how this occurs, and get a well defined answer. If you ask *why* this occurs, then you will get the same answer as "how".

If you are interested in the answer to the question of "How is there something, rather than nothing", well, there is debate among scientist to specifics, but that is a question that has meaning and can be answered.

If you are interested only in *why* there is something rather than nothing, then you will either get the how answer, or you will get philosophy. Science doesn't answer "why"'s.
I'm not sure that I required the answer to be scientific, I'm not even a scientific realist, so I'm not sure that I would completely be satisfied with that answer anyway. Either way, I'll allow you to change the adverb to how if that makes you more comfortable.
#71
Old 05-18-2018, 12:21 PM
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Originally Posted by mikecurtis View Post
OK.
Let's start by refuting your premise. you say there are fewer conditions for a universe of nothing than for a universe of something so therefore a universe of nothing should be more likely.
First, fewer conditions does not necessarily imply easier or more likely.
Second, and more importantly, a universe of nothing does not have fewer conditions than a universe of something. A universe of nothing has ZERO conditions, because even the single condition that it not contain anything is something, so an empty universe has zero conditions. Zero is not fewer than many, or even some, or even one. Zero does not exist in the subset of how many, so therefore cannot be compared to the others. Zero is not fewer.
So, a universe of nothing has zero conditions to exist. and zero conditions is not necessarily easier than some conditions. The best we can say is that a universe of nothing is equally as likely as a universe of something. But, I would argue further that since we know a universe of something does exist, that maybe it is more likely than a universe of nothing.

mc
I'll admit that fewer presuppositions really doesn't do anything for us. It's why Occam's Razor is rather foolish. And I'm not really putting forward a logical argument that nothing is more likely. I'm saying that not existing seems to be more of a default than existing (and I'm definitely saying 'seems', I admit that it's possible that I'm wrong, but I'd want some sort of proof to the contrary.) There are an infinite number of things that don't exist, but only a finite number of things that do exist even though that number is very large. For every quark in existence, it is possible to imagine an infinite number of different quarks that don't exist. Since there are so many more things that don't exist than do exist, then why(or how) does anything exist?
#72
Old 05-18-2018, 02:49 PM
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Originally Posted by senoy View Post
I'll admit that fewer presuppositions really doesn't do anything for us. It's why Occam's Razor is rather foolish. And I'm not really putting forward a logical argument that nothing is more likely. I'm saying that not existing seems to be more of a default than existing (and I'm definitely saying 'seems', I admit that it's possible that I'm wrong, but I'd want some sort of proof to the contrary.) There are an infinite number of things that don't exist, but only a finite number of things that do exist even though that number is very large. For every quark in existence, it is possible to imagine an infinite number of different quarks that don't exist. Since there are so many more things that don't exist than do exist, then why(or how) does anything exist?


Right. So, when your premise leads to an illogical conclusion (since we agree that something does in fact exist), examine your premise.

My contention is that an empty, null universe is vastly less likely than one in which there is something. Upthread, Riemann asked why there couldn’t be many empty universes. The answer is that I’m not trying to catalogue universes that exist (whatever that would mean). I’m asking how many possible states there are for a universe to be in. There is only one state for a completely empty, null universe. Like the null set in set theory, it’s unique. There are an infinite number of other possible configurations for a universe that include at least a little something in them. If I asked you to pick a set at random from the proper class of all possible sets, the chance that you would pick the null set is zero. Therefore I conclude that it is more likely for this universe to include something rather than nothing.

But now, senoy, it seems like you’re moving the goalposts a bit. If you ask why a particular quark exists rather than any of the hypothetical quarks that don’t exist then you’ve bound yourself to answers within the framework of the universe in which the quark exists. In order to answer that, we would need to know more about the universe.

Although, even then I’m not sure your question is well founded. From what we know about how quantum mechanics work in this universe, “this quark” doesn’t necessarily exist. There is a high probability that if we look here we will find a quark. Not exactly the same thing.


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#73
Old 05-18-2018, 03:04 PM
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Originally Posted by senoy View Post
Why (or how) is there this extraphysical 'whatever it may be' and why is it there instead of not there? 'Not there' seems to me to be a default position. Most things are 'not there.'
I am so so tempted to ask for a cite right here...


Quote:
'There' seems to be a special thing and a rarer thing. We can theoretically conceive of many more things than those which actually exist, the default on existence seems to be 'not existent.' It seems to require very special conditions to be met for something to exist. So assuming that there is something 'extrauniversal,' why does this extrauniversal thing exist?
The universe is here because it wants to be. It's volitional.
#74
Old 05-18-2018, 03:08 PM
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Originally Posted by epolo View Post
I’m asking how many possible states there are for a universe to be in....If I asked you to pick a set at random from the proper class of all possible sets, the chance that you would pick the null set is zero. Therefore I conclude that it is more likely for this universe to include something rather than nothing.
You are simply restating your unfounded assumption that all if you enumerate all possible configurations, then pick one at random, all picks are equally likely. Why should that be so? We could only talk about probabilities if we had some model for how these "sets" came about. Something like your argument might hold for each universe within the multiverse, if we have some model for the probability distribution of possible parameters.

But at the deeper level of asking why is there something at all rather than nothing, the fact that there is only one way for there to be "nothing" and infinitely many configurations of "something" tells us nothing about their relative likelihoods.

Last edited by Riemann; 05-18-2018 at 03:10 PM.
#75
Old 05-18-2018, 03:19 PM
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Originally Posted by Riemann View Post
But at the deeper level of asking why is there something at all rather than nothing, the fact that there is only one way for there to be "nothing" and infinitely many configurations of "something" tells us nothing about their relative likelihoods.

I don’t see why that should be so. Assume that a universe exists. Its state must be found within the set of all possible universe configurations. There is only one null universe among those infinite choices. If you think that there is some bias towards a null universe that makes it more likely than all the other possible choices combined, that would be an extraordinary claim for which I would like some evidence.



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#76
Old 05-18-2018, 03:22 PM
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Originally Posted by epolo View Post
I don’t see why that should be so. Assume that a universe exists. Its state must be found within the set of all possible universe configurations. There is only one null universe among those infinite choices. If you think that there is some bias towards a null universe that makes it more likely than all the other possible choices combined, that would be an extraordinary claim for which I would like some evidence.
The evidence for that would be if we didn't exist.

If there was nothing, then it would seem as though nothing was more likely than something.
#77
Old 05-18-2018, 03:31 PM
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Originally Posted by epolo View Post
...Assume that a universe exists. Its state must be found within the set of all possible universe configurations...
As I said, that kind of thing is a recipe for picking one configuration of universe in the multiverse. In that situation, we may have some model for the probability distribution of configurations, if so we can talk about likelihoods, and reasoning along the lines you describe might make sense.

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Originally Posted by epolo View Post
...If you think that there is some bias towards a null universe that makes it more likely than all the other possible choices combined, that would be an extraordinary claim for which I would like some evidence.
But the OP is not asking about how each universe is configured in a multiverse. It's about why there is something at all rather than nothing. We have no inkling about how the "choice" between something or nothing is made, or even if that's the right way to think about it.

I have made no claim here, extraordinary or otherwise. My position is that we have no basis to say anything at all about the a priori likelihood of "something" vs "nothing".

You made a specific claim, that "nothing" is less likely than "something" simply because there is only one way for there to be nothing, but many ways for there to be something. You're the one who needs to defend why that should be the case.

Last edited by Riemann; 05-18-2018 at 03:35 PM.
#78
Old 05-18-2018, 03:54 PM
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Nothing is impossible. If there was nothing, nothing couldn't be, and nobody to know about it. The question alone is something.

IOW nothing can only be nothing if it is inside something. Otherwise there is simply no thing to not be.
#79
Old 05-18-2018, 04:00 PM
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Originally Posted by TruCelt View Post
...If there was nothing, nothing couldn't be, and nobody to know about it. The question alone is something....
All that's saying is that we know the prevailing state of affairs is that there is something rather than nothing. That has never been in dispute. The question is why that state of affairs has arisen, when it seems that "nothing" is also a logical possibility (a feature of which hypothetical state of affairs would indeed be that nobody would be asking any questions).

Last edited by Riemann; 05-18-2018 at 04:01 PM.
#80
Old 05-18-2018, 04:35 PM
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Originally Posted by Riemann View Post
As I said, that kind of thing is a recipe for picking one configuration of universe in the multiverse. In that situation, we may have some model for the probability distribution of configurations, if so we can talk about likelihoods, and reasoning along the lines you describe might make sense.

I have made no claim here, extraordinary or otherwise. My position is that we have no basis to say anything at all about the a priori likelihood of "something" vs "nothing".

You made a specific claim, that "nothing" is less likely than "something" simply because there is only one way for there to be nothing, but many ways for there to be something. You're the one who needs to defend why that should be the case.

I haven’t said anything about a multiverse either. I’m saying that we can assume there exists a universe because otherwise the question “why is there something [in the universe] rather than nothing” is meaningless. If we are stuck at this point then I would guess that we are talking past each other with different definitions of “universe”.

Next, I contend that if there is a universe then it’s either empty or non-empty. In the absence of any evidence that it’s biased one way or the other, it sounds like it should then be a coin flip - 50/50 - which one we get. But since there are infinitely many more ways to be non-empty than there are to be empty, it starts to seem more plausible and in fact likely that we should have something.

The OP’s contention was that nonexistence is a priori more likely than existence. That is to say, he points to all the infinite possible universes that observably don’t exist and asks why anything should exist. But I think that’s backwards: all but one of the universes that don’t exist have something in them. The null hypothesis should not be a null universe, but rather a universe with something in it (even if it’s undefined what that something is).

Furthermore, the fact that we find ourselves in a non-empty universe give support to the notion that it was likely for the universe to have something in it. If in fact our universe was empty, then that would be good evidence for some bias against the existence of anything or at least evidence that we were very lucky.



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#81
Old 05-18-2018, 04:38 PM
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Originally Posted by Jasmine View Post
Well, according to the Big Bang Theory, our universe did not exist until a virtually infinite amount of energy exploded and spread out which, by definition, would mean that the universe was measurable early on and suggests that, somewhere WAY out there, the universe is growing as it is spreading. The only argument I can see to that is to declare that the universe existed as the singularity from which everything emerged.

So, if our universe ever starts to contract, it will cease to exist anywhere outside of the matter and energy that define what it is. Our universe, theoretically, will grow smaller and smaller until, finally, it collapses into a singularity the way a Black Hole collapses.
Not one of the better episodes in terms of resolution. Nice dilemma, though.
My point was around the anthropic principle, and was similar to asking inhabitants of lifeless planets about why their planet does not support life.
That the universe began as a singularity is not at question. Why the singularity is. There are two options. First, the singularity could come from something like a black hole in a containing universe. Maybe we're the result of a lab project by a grad student in a very advanced civilization.
Second, we came from nothing, possible if the net energy in our universe is zero.
In the first case you can maybe find out why (to get an A) in the second the question is not meaningful. But we don't and can't know what's on the other side of the singularity, so the question is moot.
#82
Old 05-18-2018, 04:51 PM
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Originally Posted by epolo View Post
Next, I contend that if there is a universe then it’s either empty or non-empty. In the absence of any evidence that it’s biased one way or the other, it sounds like it should then be a coin flip - 50/50 - which one we get. But since there are infinitely many more ways to be non-empty than there are to be empty, it starts to seem more plausible and in fact likely that we should have something.
This is very, very, very much not how probability works. Given X number of options, you cannot assume that all options are equally likely. Cases where they are equally likely tend to be specifically engineered to make them so: sides of an equally balanced disc, sides of an evenly balanced cube, evenly-sized red-and-black (and green) arcs on a spinning wheel...

So we can't assume that all theoretically possible universes are equally likely - actually we can't even assume that they're, well, possible. It might be the case that there's something about the meta-universe that abhors a vacuum. Or it might be the case that there really are two equally likely possibilities: big bang vs no big bang, and all variant possible universes have to share the 'big bang' probability because they're all just different ways a big bang can play out. Or perhaps determinism is hardcore and there's only one possible way a big bang came out. Perhaps there's something about metaexistence that dictates that the current universe is the only possible outcome, 100% certain.

Really, the only thing we know for sure is that our universe exists, which means that there's a greater-than-zero chance that a universe like ours could exist. Assumptions about the likelihood of any other outcome, including nothingness, are pure speculation. (Absent additional data, which I'm pretty sure we don't have.)

Last edited by begbert2; 05-18-2018 at 04:51 PM.
#83
Old 05-18-2018, 05:03 PM
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Because if there was nothing then you would not be here to ask the question, "Why is there nothing?"
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#84
Old 05-18-2018, 05:03 PM
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Originally Posted by Riemann View Post
All that's saying is that we know the prevailing state of affairs is that there is something rather than nothing. That has never been in dispute. The question is why that state of affairs has arisen, when it seems that "nothing" is also a logical possibility (a feature of which hypothetical state of affairs would indeed be that nobody would be asking any questions).
Yes, I'm quite aware of the question. I'm saying "because that's impossible, and here's why."

The easy temptation is to say that "something" was a fluke which occurred for reasons that can only be described in terms of the divine. Or else, that it was a 50/50 toss up and "something" won. But it's not a probability problem; it's the ultimate non-starter. In order for "nothing" to be, there has to be a universe within which it can be defined, otherwise there is no nothing.

The closest you can get is a chaotic mass of unformed energy, which will inevitably begin to organize itself. Energy attracts or repels other energy, and mass amounts of attraction inevitably lead to compaction which forms energy into matter.

So the question "Why is there matter?" is addressable. But "Why isn't there nothing?" is right up there with "What's one divided by zero?" in the simply unanswerable category.

Last edited by TruCelt; 05-18-2018 at 05:05 PM.
#85
Old 05-18-2018, 05:08 PM
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Originally Posted by TruCelt View Post
Yes, I'm quite aware of the question. I'm saying "because that's impossible, and here's why."

The easy temptation is to say that "something" was a fluke which occurred for reasons that can only be described in terms of the divine. Or else, that it was a 50/50 toss up and "something" won. But it's not a probability problem; it's the ultimate non-starter. In order for "nothing" to be, there has to be a universe within which it can be defined, otherwise there is no nothing.

The closest you can get is a chaotic mass of unformed energy, which will inevitably begin to organize itself. Energy attracts or repels other energy, and mass amounts of attraction inevitably lead to compaction which forms energy into matter.

So the question is "Why is there matter?" is addressable. But "Why isn't there nothing?" is right up there with "What's one divided by zero?" in the simply unanswerable category.
It's possible for there to be more or less energy, right? Different amounts of energy are possible? Same thing goes for matter, right?

Then no energy is possible. And no matter. No energy + no matter = nothing.

Well, probably - unless we actually see a region of no energy/matter, then we can't be absolutely certain it's possible. But there's no particular reason to assume it isn't possible, either, just because of...whatever your argument was.


(Note: I'm aware we can be sure there actually is something, because we're it. I'm talking theoretically.)

Last edited by begbert2; 05-18-2018 at 05:09 PM. Reason: What's the matter? I forgot the matter.
#86
Old 05-18-2018, 05:17 PM
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Originally Posted by begbert2 View Post
It's possible for there to be more or less energy, right? Different amounts of energy are possible? Same thing goes for matter, right?
Not really, as the net energy of the universe is 0.
#87
Old 05-18-2018, 05:27 PM
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Originally Posted by k9bfriender View Post
Not really, as the net energy of the universe is 0.
Ain't that still just a hypothesis?

Either way, if the net matter/energy of the universe is zero, I'm not sure how that would contraindicate empty universes being possible. All it would require would be for everything to cancel out.
#88
Old 05-18-2018, 05:32 PM
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Originally Posted by k9bfriender View Post
Not really, as the net energy of the universe is 0.
Oh, yes and donkeys are spherical.
#89
Old 05-18-2018, 07:05 PM
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A small note: NULL is a weird construct in databases, or at least it is on SQL Server.
You can't do a straight compare of something to NULL, as in "IF X = NULL". You have to instead say "IF X IS NULL".
NULL = NULL is always false, which leads to big nerd fights: https://stackoverflow.com/questions/...-in-sql-server
#90
Old 05-18-2018, 07:41 PM
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Originally Posted by begbert2 View Post
It's possible for there to be more or less energy, right? Different amounts of energy are possible? Same thing goes for matter, right?

Then no energy is possible. And no matter. No energy + no matter = nothing.

Well, probably - unless we actually see a region of no energy/matter, then we can't be absolutely certain it's possible. But there's no particular reason to assume it isn't possible, either, just because of...whatever your argument was.


(Note: I'm aware we can be sure there actually is something, because we're it. I'm talking theoretically.)
No. Because in order for there to *be* even the most infinitesimal of energetic sparks, there must be a *where* for it to be.

The same constraint does not fall on "none."
#91
Old 05-18-2018, 08:19 PM
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There has to be something, or there would be nothing and no one to experience it.
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#92
Old 05-19-2018, 02:54 AM
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Originally Posted by septimus View Post
It appears I'm the only Tegmark fan here. Let me try to expound. This is my argument, not Tegmark's.

1. Imagine a real Universe like ours, in which there are creatures who appear to be conscious. Then they really are conscious. Cogito ergo sum, if you will. Or "If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck..."
Many philosophers would not be willing to grant this; however, I'm happy to go along with it---I believe that zombies are logically possible, since phenomenal facts are not robustly entailed by physical facts, but that they are metaphysically impossible.

Quote:
2. Imagine the "paper design" of a universe like ours. Within the paper design there are creatures just like us. Within that paper design, those creatures "think they are conscious." So they are! Cogito ergo sum.
This, however, seems clearly wrong to me: marks on paper aren't the things they can be interpreted as being. For one, different 'readers' may interpret the same marks differently: where you write 'dog' to mean dog, another might take it to mean cat---with exactly the same justification, since meanings are conventional. (In fact, this is an instance of Newman's problem: the structure---i.e. the set of relations---of a domain only suffices to fix the domain's cardinality, i.e. the question of how many objects there are. Ultimately, this is a major problem for every structural realist proposal, such as Tegmark's.)

Quote:
3. Now suppose that that paper design doesn't exist on any paper. It still "exists" though, if only in the mind of a hypothetical Being capable of comprehending all of mathematics. But no such Being or God need be postulated — mathematics is sufficient unto itself. (The Monster Group "exists" whether or not one finds it in nature.)
This requires a commitment to mathematical platonism; but to me, mathematics is the science of abstract structure, and it is only as realized in concrete objects that structures exist (otherwise, one runs into the problem what it means for a relation to exist, without things being thus related). So the monster group exists as a particular configuration within our minds, or as something a particular set of signs can be interpreted as, but it has no further existence beyond that---indeed, postulating its independent existence simply is unnecessary, adding ontological baggage and introducing new problems, such as how our minds make contact with the abstractly existing monster group.

Quote:
4. Consider a hypothetical universe similar to ours, but with a fine structure constant of 137.036000 instead of 137.035999. If its axioms are consistent, it is as real as any paper design. Creatures who think they are conscious in that paper universe are conscious.
Cogito ergo sum.
Quod erat demonstrandum.
Never mind that 'thinking to be conscious' is ultimately a circular proposition: after all, what could think without being conscious? Or, if consciousness is an illusion, then who's being fooled?

Furthermore, one can easily write down inconsistent axioms, and nevertheless do mathematics with them, appealing to a paraconsistent logical framework. Why should they be treated any differently?

In any case, the general idea, which is something in the realm of what philosophers call 'ontic structural realism', I think has got some things going for it---most notably, an easy answer to the question of how one can be a realist about scientific theories, in particular when we must expect that most of these theories are, strictly speaking, simply false. I don't think particularly highly of Tegmark's version, but there are more fully developed ones out there, such as the Ladyman and French's (which is best expounded in their book 'Every Thing must go'). Ultimately, however, I think all versions fail due to the radical underdetermination due to Newman's problem---if structural realism were true, then the only facts we could truly know are about how many things their are. I think that's not at all in accord with what we really experience... (Of course, there are counterarguments. But I haven't yet found any really convincing.)
#93
Old 05-19-2018, 11:54 AM
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Originally Posted by Chimera View Post
There has to be something, or there would be nothing and no one to experience it.
If there was nothing to experience nothing, nothing wouldn't care.



(As an aside - I love it when sentences like this come together. )
#94
Old 05-23-2018, 10:57 PM
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In my opinion the most useful answer is also the least satisfying, at least to the type of people who are inclined to debate the question: There is no reason, it just is. Get out there and enjoy it. Unless you enjoy debating it, in which case, carry on.
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#95
Old 05-23-2018, 11:22 PM
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Originally Posted by senoy View Post
The greatest metaphysical question. I have yet to hear any satisfactory answer.

It makes sense to me anyway that a state of "Nothing" is a state with the fewest contingencies and thus most expected. For 'Nothing' to 'exist', there is no pre-existing requirement to be met. For 'something' to exist, not to be trite, but something must exist. It requires at some point (I'm not sure we can call it a point in time since time may be specific to this universe, but in some way) either an act of creation (whether intelligent or random) or an infinite existence. And I'm not just talking about our particular universe, but rather that which precedes it and perhaps exists outside of it. The pre-quantum soup or however you envision it. Doesn't it make more sense that rather than an eternal 'soup' or a created 'soup' there should just be nothing?

Anyway, it's just an opening to a discussion, so discuss.
It is true that "something" cannot come from "nothing," in the absolute sense of those terms. So to my mind, the universe has always been here, in some form .

Last edited by Marcus Flavius; 05-23-2018 at 11:27 PM.
#96
Old 05-24-2018, 11:18 AM
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Originally Posted by Marcus Flavius View Post
It is true that "something" cannot come from "nothing," in the absolute sense of those terms.
How do you know? Have you ever examined a "nothing" to see what it's capable of?
#97
Old 05-24-2018, 12:29 PM
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I'm quite disappointed that no one has cued up the obligatory sound track yet.
#98
Old 05-24-2018, 02:21 PM
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Originally Posted by Marcus Flavius View Post
It is true that "something" cannot come from "nothing," in the absolute sense of those terms. So to my mind, the universe has always been here, in some form .
Which doesn't address the question. We're not asking for a cause, necessarily, so much as a reason: even for an infinitely existing universe, the question 'Why this?' can be asked.
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