Monday, October 26, 2009

Doggerel #208: "Nothing"

Welcome back to "Doggerel," where I ramble on about words and phrases that are misused, abused, or just plain meaningless.

This entry is more specific than most, dealing primarily with Creationists. It's become a tired old cliche of theirs to ask, "How can you believe something came from nothing?"

There are many possible responses because we only have ideas for what the moment of the Big Bang might have been: We do not claim certainty or omniscience. Those of us without degrees in cosmology or astrophysics simply don't know with any great confidence. Those with them are working on the issue, and I don't know which ideas are favored.

First of all, the question is quite often used as a tu quoque fallacy: "God" isn't a useful answer to the question. Where did this "God" come from? How did he get the power to create a universe? Why did he bother? Combined with the lack of predictive ability of the god hypothesis, it's nothing but a supernatural placeholder.

Onto our guesses:

1. Something can come from nothing, so long as it's balanced out by an anti-something. That's one of the simple principles behind a lot of formula juggling done for practical science: You can get something if you also get its opposite.

2. There's no room for a nothing: Many people fail to understand that the Big Bang wasn't an explosion of stuff into empty space and time, it was an expansion of space and time itself. The very fabric of time and space were condensed with the matter. There was no "before the Big Bang" so there's no room for a "nothing," no prior time for "come from."

3. Something came from something else: It's possible that what we call our universe came from some event like "branes" colliding in a bigger universe, along a different sort of time axis. That universe might be eternal and infinite, or it might have come from a still larger universe ad infinitum. It may not be elegant, but I don't see any logical reason against such a progression.

I'm sure there are many other ideas I haven't covered, but just with these examples, it should be apparent that the use of this doggerel just isn't worthwhile.


Dark Jaguar said...

I just recently watched a long video over at the Richard Dawkins site by an astro physicist guy who had a lot to say, namely that the most recent calculations show that we have a "flat" type universe. He didn't get into the math, mercifully, but the basic idea is that a "flat" universe would have complete "balance" in terms of how much energy there is and how much is allowed to appear "out of nothing". In other words, all matter/energy CAN just pop out of nothing.

However I'll be the first to note that for creationists, and really for physicists too, this just presents the question "why do the laws work like that and not some other way, and why are there even any physics at all?". I think it's an interesting question myself, BUT I'll note that the answer most certainly should NOT be "I'll just insert an all-powerful diety here to explain it even though there is no evidence for it nor would it be testable".

Valhar2000 said...

"why do the laws work like that and not some other way, and why are there even any physics at all?"

This is the sort of thing that made me realize, a while ago, that Science will most likely never be over.

There will able be something deeper or further away to probe.