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Casuality Argument vs. Cyclic Model

drhead
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5/6/2013 6:11:47 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
I'm interested in how the casuality argument refutes the existence of things that were always there, as shown in a cyclic model of the universe:

"A cyclic model is any of several cosmological models in which the universe follows infinite, self-sustaining cycles. For example, the oscillating universe theory briefly considered by Albert Einstein in 1930 theorized a universe following an eternal series of oscillations, each beginning with a big bang and ending with a big crunch; in the interim, the universe would expand for a period of time before the gravitational attraction of matter causes it to collapse back in and undergo a bounce."

http://en.wikipedia.org...

If there is no rebuttal to this theory, then it does present quite a problem for creationism to leap over.
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AlbinoBunny
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5/6/2013 6:21:40 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
Infinite regress?

No reality model is that convincing.
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drhead
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5/6/2013 6:31:44 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 5/6/2013 6:21:40 PM, AlbinoBunny wrote:
Infinite regress?

No reality model is that convincing.

That's the point of this model. It deals with this infinite regress by wrapping it up at the first iteration, meaning Occam's Razor is in favor of it. As far as hypotheses to the creation of the universe go, in any case.
Wall of Fail

"You reject religion... calling it a sickness, to what ends??? Are you a Homosexual??" - Dogknox
"For me, Evolution is a zombie theory. I mean imaginary cartoons and wishful thinking support it?" - Dragonfang
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kohadril
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5/6/2013 8:40:17 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
Great topic OP!

The cyclic model also has the salutory benefit of being falsifiable. If I remember right if the total mass of the universe turns out to be over a certain number, then the big crunch is our ultimate destiny and the Yo-Yo universe may be likely.

However, it's not necessary to believe in the cyclical universe and still be a satisfied physical materialist. This if for three reasons.

First, we don't need an explanation for the beginning of the universe. We can be agnostic on precisely how the universe came into being until scientists give us the answer (if that's possible, which, given the potential maximum sizes of particle accelerators, it may not be). We don't need our own explanation just to compete with the other guy's "a wizard did it" theory.

Second, some physicists think our universe may be a consequence of quantum weirdness. The physics of our universe breaks down completely at extremely small distances shorter than the Planck length; that's where quantum rules reign. Things can pop into existence/out of existence in a blink. Space can fold and bend and expand and contract and do all sorts of weirdness. At these extremely high resolutions, "space" is never "empty". Quantum physicists call it the quantum foam. All sorts of random stuff can happen at these sub-quark levels of analysis.

Go back far enough, and big bang cosmology suggests that our whole universe was once beneath that Planck length threshold. All of the fundamental forces of our universe were unified. There were no spacial or time dimensions yet. But that does not mean that there was "empty space" and that the universe therefore "came from nothing." The philosophical "nothing," the "that from which nothing can come," has never existed, will never exist, and is just as hypothetical and divorced from reality as anything else a theologian can cook up in his armchair. Our universe may have spontaneously arisen out of quantum foam, its laws and particle weights and values set either by random or by some physics we need bigger supercolliders to discover. Our universe may be a momentary, self-annihilating blip in a larger omniverse. Or we may be the only one. We're causally disconnected from other universes, though, so it's unlikely we'll find out easily.

Third, there are all sorts of other ideas, all of them superior to the invisible space wizard hypothesis. The multiverse. The fecund universe (multiverse theory in which universes that generate black holes give birth to new universes). A bunch of others. Even good old Carl Sagan's thesis, that by imagining the universe creating itself you save yourself a step, is a good enough answer for now.

But listen; don't feel upset if you have to say to somebody that you don't know how the universe was made. This is the most honest position, and the most scientific.
PureX
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5/6/2013 8:44:25 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 5/6/2013 6:21:40 PM, AlbinoBunny wrote:
Infinite regress?

No reality model is that convincing.

I agree.

I think we too often trip over the idea of cause/effect/timelines; not realizing that time is an illusion that is created by motion and space just as cause/effect is an illusion created by the way our human brains cognate our experience of reality. Just because these are characteristics that we perceive from WITHIN the universe, doesn't necessarily mean they have to be a characteristics that must be applied to the universe from without.
PureX
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5/6/2013 8:46:14 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 5/6/2013 6:31:44 PM, drhead wrote:
At 5/6/2013 6:21:40 PM, AlbinoBunny wrote:
Infinite regress?

No reality model is that convincing.

That's the point of this model. It deals with this infinite regress by wrapping it up at the first iteration, meaning Occam's Razor is in favor of it. As far as hypotheses to the creation of the universe go, in any case.

Even so, it's doesn't actually resolve anything.
Dirty.Harry
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5/7/2013 11:08:22 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 5/6/2013 6:11:47 PM, drhead wrote:
I'm interested in how the casuality argument refutes the existence of things that were always there, as shown in a cyclic model of the universe:

"A cyclic model is any of several cosmological models in which the universe follows infinite, self-sustaining cycles. For example, the oscillating universe theory briefly considered by Albert Einstein in 1930 theorized a universe following an eternal series of oscillations, each beginning with a big bang and ending with a big crunch; in the interim, the universe would expand for a period of time before the gravitational attraction of matter causes it to collapse back in and undergo a bounce."

http://en.wikipedia.org...

If there is no rebuttal to this theory, then it does present quite a problem for creationism to leap over.

Well there is a deep problem with the hypothesis: it cannot ever be tested in the scientific sense, not even in principle, so right away it does not server as a scientific explanation or theory.

What test could one do on any physical system to prove it has "always" existed?

So if unscientific explanations are acceptable so to must a supernatural explanation - God.

Harry.
Dirty.Harry
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5/7/2013 11:15:52 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 5/6/2013 8:40:17 PM, kohadril wrote:
Great topic OP!

The cyclic model also has the salutory benefit of being falsifiable. If I remember right if the total mass of the universe turns out to be over a certain number, then the big crunch is our ultimate destiny and the Yo-Yo universe may be likely.

However, it's not necessary to believe in the cyclical universe and still be a satisfied physical materialist. This if for three reasons.

First, we don't need an explanation for the beginning of the universe. We can be agnostic on precisely how the universe came into being until scientists give us the answer (if that's possible, which, given the potential maximum sizes of particle accelerators, it may not be). We don't need our own explanation just to compete with the other guy's "a wizard did it" theory.

Second, some physicists think our universe may be a consequence of quantum weirdness. The physics of our universe breaks down completely at extremely small distances shorter than the Planck length; that's where quantum rules reign. Things can pop into existence/out of existence in a blink. Space can fold and bend and expand and contract and do all sorts of weirdness. At these extremely high resolutions, "space" is never "empty". Quantum physicists call it the quantum foam. All sorts of random stuff can happen at these sub-quark levels of analysis.

Go back far enough, and big bang cosmology suggests that our whole universe was once beneath that Planck length threshold. All of the fundamental forces of our universe were unified. There were no spacial or time dimensions yet. But that does not mean that there was "empty space" and that the universe therefore "came from nothing." The philosophical "nothing," the "that from which nothing can come," has never existed, will never exist, and is just as hypothetical and divorced from reality as anything else a theologian can cook up in his armchair. Our universe may have spontaneously arisen out of quantum foam, its laws and particle weights and values set either by random or by some physics we need bigger supercolliders to discover. Our universe may be a momentary, self-annihilating blip in a larger omniverse. Or we may be the only one. We're causally disconnected from other universes, though, so it's unlikely we'll find out easily.

Third, there are all sorts of other ideas, all of them superior to the invisible space wizard hypothesis. The multiverse. The fecund universe (multiverse theory in which universes that generate black holes give birth to new universes). A bunch of others. Even good old Carl Sagan's thesis, that by imagining the universe creating itself you save yourself a step, is a good enough answer for now.

But listen; don't feel upset if you have to say to somebody that you don't know how the universe was made. This is the most honest position, and the most scientific.

The presence of the material universe can never have a scientific explanation, this is a serious stumbling block for materialists.

All scientific explanations - aka theories - refer to physical quantities and express laws that refer to these quantities. So every scientific theory has to presuppose that material exists and there is no scope for a scientific explanation for the presence of the material universe.

This means there can only be a supernatural explanation for it, that is a non-scientific explanation.

This is a harsh reality and will not go away and cannot be cast aside - the universe exists, it appears to be subject to laws yet it's very presence is scientifically inexplicable.

How one can have faith in a materialist worldview in the face if this reality amazes me.

Harry.
kohadril
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5/7/2013 11:48:34 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 5/7/2013 11:08:22 AM, Dirty.Harry wrote:
Well there is a deep problem with the hypothesis: it cannot ever be tested in the scientific sense, not even in principle, so right away it does not server as a scientific explanation or theory.

Actually, unlike some of the other physical models for the creation of the universe, this one does make an empirical prediction which could conceivably become testable relatively soon. The "big crunch" is a necessary component of the theory, and at least under our current understanding of cosmology this will only be the universe's fate if the total mass in the universe exceeds a certain number.

The yo-yo theory's biggest problem right now is that our current estimates for the mass of the universe suggest it doesn't have enough mass for gravity to counteract dark energy and cosmic expansion. The future of our universe seems likely to be heat death, not the big crunch.

What test could one do on any physical system to prove it has "always" existed?

You can't prove "always" (there is always the philosophical 'God made the world last Tuesday with the light from distant stars already on route and that hole in your left sock already in place' hypothesis) but confirmation of the yo-yo theory's mass prediction would strongly suggest that we don't need an explanation for "the beginning." That is to say, it creates a situation in which to describe the universe being created adds an assumption that we don't have to make, because we know the universe can survive big crunches.

Similarly, a better understanding of the rules of the sub Planck-length world could confirm, disconfirm, or leave wholly mysterious the quantum emergence idea.

So if unscientific explanations are acceptable so to must a supernatural explanation - God.

This is false equivocation, for several reasons.

1) No scientist claims, with anywhere near the certainty of the religious, that they know precisely how the universe came about. Physicists, even those most interested in the topic, are not making absolutist statements about how the universe must have started. They are following the evidence, and the implications of physical theories that explain that evidence. But they are not stating anything certainly, and most scientists will tell you that it's possible we'll never know. But the absence of an explanation does not confirm the "Invisible Space Wizard" hypothesis. People like myself are agnostic about what "caused" the universe, if indeed anything did, and we see no reason to jump on the bandwagon of a bald assertion of supernatural finger-snapping.

2) Physical explanations, like quantum emergence, the yo-yo theory, the multiverse, etc. rely on actual physical truths about the universe, and extrapolate how these can be made consistent with the universe coming into being. To understand physics in the real world, quantum mechanics is absolutely necessary; is it a perfect explanation of how the universe actually is? Maybe not (we don't know) but it makes absurdly precise predictions about future states of the universe so we follow it. Quantum physics implies a lot of causality bending weirdness at distances beneath the Planck-length. Big bang cosmology and relativity tell us that at one point in the distant past, our whole universe was sub-Planck length. So from theories based on observable truths about the universe we construct a hypothesis for how the universe came into being. What I'm saying is this: physical explanations for the beginning of the universe based on the extrapolations of empirically validated theories are superior to explanations that are just made up, even if they are not currently testable, by the operation of Occam's Razor. Relativity, quantum physics, and big bang cosmology are all good descriptions of the universe we live in. They combine to suggest a theory about how the universe came into being. The only assumptions the theory requires are the well established sciences upon which it is founded. It does not require an additional assumption of an invisible space wizard.

3) Because they rely on current scientific theories, and because those theories are themselves falsifiable, current physical theories of the creation of the universe are falsifiable, even if they are not currently provable: all you have to do to disprove quantum emergence, for instance, is disprove quantum physics (good luck). All you have to do to disprove yo yo is disprove big bang cosmology. These theories of the universe make the testable prediction that our current physics is not total bull.

Also, as we develop more sophisticated technologies, these theories will become progressively more testable. The bigger the particle accelerators we have, the more closely we can approximate early universe energy densities and see what kind of strange and wonderful particles we can see. The more quantum mechanics is confirmed and elucidated, the more we understand how it works, the more likely it is that we will either realize that it does not imply that universes can spring into being, or we will learn not only how this could happen but what that means for the present strengths of the fundamental forces, masses of particles, etc.
kohadril
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5/7/2013 12:10:08 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 5/7/2013 11:15:52 AM, Dirty.Harry wrote:
The presence of the material universe can never have a scientific explanation, this is a serious stumbling block for materialists.

I presume you here mean, if not the universe, at least the preconditions that allowed the universe to form? Like the quantum foam? If this is the argument you're making, then I cheerfully concede that we currently have no idea why there is anything instead of nothing. The fact that we can't understand it does not imply anything other than that we can't understand it, however. It doesn't make supernatural explanations any more likely, unless you define "supernatural" to mean "natural, but beyond the scope of our middle-sized mammalian brains adapted to understanding middle-sized object going at middle-speeds over cosmically short frames of time." We are lucky we understand as much as we do. But imputing a supernatural intention into the universe because we don't get why we're here is more ridiculous (by far) than throwing up our hands and shrugging. We see intention everywhere because evolution has equipped us (for dealing with each other) with an intuitive psychology. It sometimes misses its target, and hits all sorts of other thing. Hence animism and rain dancing and shamanism and sacrifices and pantheons, and as our level of understanding improves, eventually the disembodied "designer" who gets progressively less humanlike the more we realize the universe doesn't conform to the prediction that there is something intentional behind it.

I would rather have no theory than an unevidenced theory that plays to our cognitive biases.

All scientific explanations - aka theories - refer to physical quantities and express laws that refer to these quantities. So every scientific theory has to presuppose that material exists and there is no scope for a scientific explanation for the presence of the material universe.

Current physical theories relate to current physical conditions. The universe was not always this way. In the cosmic eyeblinks after the big bang there were fewer fundamental forces. Physics was different, and scientists in such a universe would have discovered different rules applied. We can now examine some of those rules through the use of high powered supercolliders.

The more we blast particles into each other, the more we will understand what the physics of the universe was like at earlier and earlier times. We may never figure it all out. We might need a particle accelerator the size of the universe to generate the energy density necessary to see what the big bang was actually like. But at least we can understand how universes evolve and grow, and perhaps we will catch hints along the way about how this one might have sprung into being, and about whether information loss or other anomalies in this universe suggest that there might be other universes out there.
This means there can only be a supernatural explanation for it, that is a non-scientific explanation.

Supernatural explanations are not explanations. No, seriously: what do you imagine you have explained? How did this supernatural entity create the universe? By what means did he inject quantum potentiality? By what magical force did he cause the big bang to occur? Where did the supernatural force come from? Was he always there? Why does the force exist and not nothing? You have left everything to be explained, while adding another layer of complexity. To say nothing is better, because at least it doesn't involve making stuff up based on human cognitive biases.
This is a harsh reality and will not go away and cannot be cast aside - the universe exists, it appears to be subject to laws yet it's very presence is scientifically inexplicable.

It's not a harsh reality. I like the mystery, even if I would also like to know the truth. My reaction to mysteries of this kind, however, is not to project my own ego onto the universe and make it look like myself. My reaction is simply to indicate that I don't know, but I hope one day I will.
How one can have faith in a materialist worldview in the face if this reality amazes me.
I don't have faith. None of us do. There is no evidence of anything supernatural, because (as you have carefully defined the term) there can be no evidence of it. The existence of the universe could be wholly inexplicable, but still this would not warrant or even provide the barest glimmer of evidence that an extra-universal intelligence blasted everything into existence on a whim.
Dirty.Harry
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5/8/2013 2:02:26 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 5/7/2013 12:10:08 PM, kohadril wrote:
At 5/7/2013 11:15:52 AM, Dirty.Harry wrote:
The presence of the material universe can never have a scientific explanation, this is a serious stumbling block for materialists.

I presume you here mean, if not the universe, at least the preconditions that allowed the universe to form? Like the quantum foam? If this is the argument you're making, then I cheerfully concede that we currently have no idea why there is anything instead of nothing. The fact that we can't understand it does not imply anything other than that we can't understand it, however.

You must have misunderstood - all scientific theories (explanations) - refer to physical quantities. Any scientific theory that purports to explain the presence of the material universe must therefore be unable to refer to physical quantities else it can never serve as a theory for the presence of the material.

Therefore it is not to be dismissed as "we don't yet know" because it is clear that the material universe can never be scientifically explained - yet it does exist - so the explanation for this cannot be a scientific one.

It doesn't make supernatural explanations any more likely, unless you define "supernatural" to mean "natural, but beyond the scope of our middle-sized mammalian brains adapted to understanding middle-sized object going at middle-speeds over cosmically short frames of time." We are lucky we understand as much as we do. But imputing a supernatural intention into the universe because we don't get why we're here is more ridiculous (by far) than throwing up our hands and shrugging.

A supernatural explanation is simply an explanation that does not rely on material agencies. The presence of the universe can never (even in principle) be explained scientifically for the reasons I have given above, therefore it is entirely rational to conclude that the explanation for it is not a material explanation.

We see intention everywhere because evolution has equipped us (for dealing with each other) with an intuitive psychology. It sometimes misses its target, and hits all sorts of other thing. Hence animism and rain dancing and shamanism and sacrifices and pantheons, and as our level of understanding improves, eventually the disembodied "designer" who gets progressively less humanlike the more we realize the universe doesn't conform to the prediction that there is something intentional behind it.

I would rather have no theory than an unevidenced theory that plays to our cognitive biases.

All scientific explanations - aka theories - refer to physical quantities and express laws that refer to these quantities. So every scientific theory has to presuppose that material exists and there is no scope for a scientific explanation for the presence of the material universe.

Current physical theories relate to current physical conditions.

So what?

The universe was not always this way.

I know.

In the cosmic eyeblinks after the big bang there were fewer fundamental forces. Physics was different, and scientists in such a universe would have discovered different rules applied. We can now examine some of those rules through the use of high powered supercolliders.


I know.

The more we blast particles into each other, the more we will understand what the physics of the universe was like at earlier and earlier times. We may never figure it all out.

No, we cannot ever figure it all out - not if we insist that everything must be explicable scientificially.

We might need a particle accelerator the size of the universe to generate the energy density necessary to see what the big bang was actually like. But at least we can understand how universes evolve and grow, and perhaps we will catch hints along the way about how this one might have sprung into being, and about whether information loss or other anomalies in this universe suggest that there might be other universes out there.

To endeavour to understand how it "sprang into being" while insisting that the explanation must be a material one - is hopeless.

This means there can only be a supernatural explanation for it, that is a non-scientific explanation.

Supernatural explanations are not explanations.

Why not? Every "explanation" is phrased in terms of other abstractions - eventually reaching the axioms - nothing more than assumptions. So a scientific explanation never really explains anything either in the sense you mean.

No, seriously: what do you imagine you have explained? How did this supernatural entity create the universe? By what means did he inject quantum potentiality? By what magical force did he cause the big bang to occur? Where did the supernatural force come from? Was he always there? Why does the force exist and not nothing? You have left everything to be explained, while adding another layer of complexity.

What is revealed by this reasoning is that we know the material universe cannot have a material explanation, yet it does exist. So it is clear to me that supernatural agencies must be an aspect of reality, this is an important deduction to be able to make about reality. Yes there are a range of related questions but the presence of these questions does not invalidate the deduction that the universe arose supernaturally.

To say nothing is better, because at least it doesn't involve making stuff up based on human cognitive biases.

Like you make up the dogma that the material is all there is? that the material universe existed before it existed?

This is a harsh reality and will not go away and cannot be cast aside - the universe exists, it appears to be subject to laws yet it's very presence is scientifically inexplicable.

It's not a harsh reality. I like the mystery, even if I would also like to know the truth. My reaction to mysteries of this kind, however, is not to project my own ego onto the universe and make it look like myself. My reaction is simply to indicate that I don't know, but I hope one day I will.

Which part of what I said is not a harsh reality? lets recap - tell me if you agree or disagree with these points:

1. All scientific theories in physics refer to physical quantities.
2. A theory that explains the presence of all matter could not refer to physical quantities.
3. Any explanation that does not refer to physical quantities is a supernatural explanation.

How one can have faith in a materialist worldview in the face if this reality amazes me.
I don't have faith. None of us do. There is no evidence of anything supernatural, because (as you have carefully defined the term) there can be no evidence of it. The existence of the universe could be wholly inexplicable, but still this would not warrant or even provide the barest glimmer of evidence that an extra-universal intelligence blasted everything into existence on a whim.

You do have faith - all theories in physics rest upon axioms - these are taken to be true as-is - that is faith, if you can cite a theory that does not rest upon axioms then I will concede this point.

Harry.
Rational_Thinker9119
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5/8/2013 2:11:48 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
I think that either the singularity at T=0 was either a mandatory state of existence that had to inflate (with there being no actual "coming into being"), or that there is some kind of unknown mechanical supernatural law we do not understand that may have produced the universe. History tells us that mechanical causation is always the case when we used to think "the invisible magician did it". Lightning bolts? Humans naturally think it was done by a magician...Nope, just natural mechanics. Maybe there are supernatural mechanics?
medv4380
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5/8/2013 3:48:31 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 5/6/2013 6:11:47 PM, drhead wrote:
I'm interested in how the casuality argument refutes the existence of things that were always there, as shown in a cyclic model of the universe:

snip

If there is no rebuttal to this theory, then it does present quite a problem for creationism to leap over.

The causality argument works on the cyclic model if the person arguing the cyclic model doesn't fully grasp the meaning of time and infinite.

First most of the cyclic models dismiss the concept of time or the passage of time. The problem with this is that people don't think this way so it immediately puts you at a disadvantage of understanding your own argument, and allows for you to still say there was a beginning when there is no beginning. Even if you understand that point your audience probably doesn't and explaining it is exhausting.

One way to spot a misunderstand on what time is is to ask a simple question.
What happens if you remove all the Matter and Energy from the Universe, what do you have left?

If the answer is you only have Space and Time, or that you still have Space and Time then you misunderstand relativity. In relativity, time is the 4th dimensional bending of space by matter and energy. Each dimension is also just a bend of the previous dimension. If you remove all the matter and energy then all the bending goes away, and you're left with a Zero Dimensional Universe, aka a Singularity. Thus, time and space are clever illusions and not actual things. Time ends up being just a construct of our minds and nothing more. You still have a problem because people still see the world as causal, and that's a hurdle that is hard to jump.

The second way of messing up the argument after you fall for a time, and starting point is to assume particular configurations are impossible. An infinite regress is a simple model and all it requires is a circle. If your beginning and end point are the same point then you can go infinity back, and infinity forward. You just end up retracing your steps. A big loop is as valid as any other configuration.
kohadril
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5/8/2013 8:45:55 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 5/8/2013 2:02:26 PM, Dirty.Harry wrote:
You must have misunderstood - all scientific theories (explanations) - refer to physical quantities.
You are not making a claim that there are no physical implications of your supernatural hypothesis. You are making the claim that there is a supernatural entity that created the universe, and that the physical existence of the universe is a consequence of that. Of course, you are not making any testable claims, as I'm sure you would freely admit; such claims would render your explanation scientific. What I am saying that this is not different from saying "it was magic." Where before we were faced with the question of "why is there something rather than nothing?" now we are faced with "why is there a supernatural entity rather than nothing?" I see no reason to add complexity without adding value.

Therefore it is not to be dismissed as "we don't yet know" because it is clear that the material universe can never be scientifically explained - yet it does exist - so the explanation for this cannot be a scientific one.

It is possible that there will always be a prior question. I'm not certain that's the case, because I think it's likely that human technological innovation will result in the development of artificial intelligences far more intelligent than ourselves, capable of much better experiments, which are not constrained by our biases in favor of three dimensional space and linear time and causality. But even assuming for the sake of argument that we can never figure it out doesn't make the supernatural explanation likely. There are any number of scientific possibilities, concordant with the theories we know, that seem likely to remain forever untestable. There is not, in principle, anything stopping there from being many other universes, these being causally separated from us due to distance--these would be physical, non-supernatural things if they existed, but it is possible (due to their causal disconnection from us) that we will never be able to find out. They would still be physical things though, constrained by physical laws.

A supernatural explanation is simply an explanation that does not rely on material agencies. The presence of the universe can never (even in principle) be explained scientifically for the reasons I have given above, therefore it is entirely rational to conclude that the explanation for it is not a material explanation.
Massive logic jump that is completely absurd. Why do we go from "we can't find a physical answer" to "there must not be a physical answer" to "therefore the answer must be supernatural?" There may always have been quantum foam, we may never know it, that does not make quantum foam supernatural. Therefore we don't have to presume a supernatural explanation.

We see intention everywhere because evolution has equipped us (for dealing with each other) with an intuitive psychology.
I posited this as the reason why, when we do not have an explanation, humans tend to invent a supernatural intelligence rather than any other explanation. If you don't like eternally preexisting quantum foam, why not the cosmic egg like the Hindus think? Or why not admit you don't know?

So every scientific theory has to presuppose that material exists and there is no scope for a scientific explanation for the presence of the material universe.
We don't know why there is something rather than nothing, so it becomes rational to make up an answer, which only serves to raise even more questions without answering the first one? Really? If we take your claim as true there is still no reason why there is a supernatural being rather than not one. You've just displaced all the questions back one step, while making a deductive leap that is effectively "hey, it's beyond us puny-brained humans, must be magic."
This means there can only be a supernatural explanation for it, that is a non-scientific explanation.
Those are not the same thing. A non-scientific explanation may be naturalistic, but not testable. It may still rely on things we know about the world. It may also avoid the trap of adding assumptions to a complex question. A supernatural explanation is literally not an explanation: it is simply a statement that one does not know how it happened combined with the presumption that however it happened must conform to your primate desire to find an intention behind every mystery.

Why not? Every "explanation" is phrased in terms of other abstractions - eventually reaching the axioms - nothing more than assumptions. So a scientific explanation never really explains anything either in the sense you mean.
No, the difference is much more basic than that. Scientific explanations are constrained by chains of causal reasoning and mechanisms of action and effect. They make testable predictions. If you could constrain supernatural explanations by knowable, testable laws and predictions, they would cease to be supernatural and become scientific. You could give answers to all my other hypotheticals, but you would be making them up too, because if you could rely on evidence to show them that would imply that they are scientifically tractable, rule-governed, physically consequential, and therefore not supernatural.

So it is clear to me that supernatural agencies must be an aspect of reality, this is an important deduction to be able to make about reality.
It is neither a deduction nor is it important. Even if there could not ever be a scientific explanation, that would not imply anything supernatural. It would merely imply we'd found the limits of causal reasoning.

Yes there are a range of related questions but the presence of these questions does not invalidate the deduction that the universe arose supernaturally.
They show that the supernatural explanation isn't one. If you can answer these questions with evidence then your hypothesis is not supernatural. If you can't, if your statement as no mechanical content, makes no testable predictions, it is meaningless and empty, devoid of explanatory power.

Like you make up the dogma that the material is all there is? that the material universe existed before it existed?
I am the only one in this debate who has had the courage to say he does not know. You are the one asserting that you know that supernatural entities exist. I'm not immune to evidence: if Jesus rose and brought the dead back to life in my presence I'd probably find religion. But you're not offering anything other than "dunno, magic I guess."

1. All scientific theories in physics refer to physical quantities.
All scientific theories describe the universe, either past, present, or future.
2. A theory that explains the presence of all matter could not refer to physical quantities.
Many theories describe the universe before the existence of matter.
3. Any explanation that does not refer to physical quantities is a supernatural explanation.
Disagree, see everything above.

You do have faith - all theories in physics rest upon axioms - these are taken to be true as-is - that is faith, if you can cite a theory that does not rest upon axioms then I will concede this point.
I do not in principle presume that the material is all there is. But I do know that the material exists, and not that the supernatural does. Given the choice between presuming that quantum foam or a prime mover I choose the quantum foam, because our physics has revealed that it exists, and therefore I don't need to create an additional entity. But even if I didn't have any of these possible explanations to fall back on, I wouldn't take that as warrant to say "anything follows, therefore the invisible space wizard is responsible."

I must go make dinner. I'm having fun in this discussion! Thanks for replying. I ran up against the word limit, though, so I was briefer than I wanted to be.
Dirty.Harry
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5/9/2013 11:01:09 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
To Kohadril.

The forum editor limits posts to 8,000 chars so I must reply without including much of what we've said so far, I wish the forum could be improved in some areas including this one, here goes:

If I did propose "it was magic" then the validity of that would depend upon what supporting arguments I give. My argument for a supernatural cause is sound because it rests upon a process of elimination - since it is logically impossible to postulate a material explanation for the presence of material (try writing even a hypothetical set of equations that do not refer to physical quantities!) we are left with only one choice - a non-material "supernatural" explanation fits the observed facts very well.

The question "why is there a supernatural agency" rather than nothing is a fine question but the fact that we can ask that question does not weaken my argument, just because a answer raises further questions does not mean the answer must therefore be wrong.

You said "There are any number of scientific possibilities" but this is utterly false. How can there be a scientific explanation for the presence of the material if every explanation you proffer must refer to already existing material?

The admission of supernatural agencies arises straight from this - the material universe is here - yet it cannot be explained scientifically - it either has no explanation or supernatural agencies exist and we should not shy away from such a profound realization just because we are conditioned into insisting that reality is material.

You refer to "quantum foam" and that's fine but this is material with physical properties and so referring to it as a means of explaining material is absurd because it itself is material!

You keep objecting to the assertion "supernatural agencies are the explanation for the presence of our universe" simply because it raises other questions - since when is this grounds for rejecting an argument as false?

You say "if your statement has no mechanical content, makes no testable predictions, it is meaningless and empty, devoid of explanatory power." Testable predictions are the domain of scientific explanations - I agree if I put forward a scientific explanation that made no predictions it would indeed be devoid but I am not proposing a scientific explanation because it is logically impossible to construct such a thing.


1. All scientific theories in physics refer to physical quantities.
All scientific theories describe the universe, either past, present, or future.
2. A theory that explains the presence of all matter could not refer to physical quantities.
Many theories describe the universe before the existence of matter.
3. Any explanation that does not refer to physical quantities is a supernatural explanation.
Disagree, see everything above.

Well I asked if you agreed or disagreed with 1, 2 and 3. you only answered with respect to 3, commenting on 1 and 2 as you did does not server as a agree/disagree answer - once again do you agree or disagree with 1. and 2. ?

Now please cite any theory that describes the universe before the existence of material? What kinds of equations are in it? what meanings are attached to the variables in these equations?

You now say "Given the choice between presuming that quantum foam or a prime mover I choose the quantum foam, because our physics has revealed that it exists, and therefore I don't need to create an additional entity."

Yet this fails your own test for acceptable explanations because the "quantum foam" raises further questions one of the reasons you gave for my argument being unacceptable.

Face facts all you can ever hope to do is refer to yet more physical abstractions - quantum foam is physical and has properties - explaining something in terms of it doesn't explain the presence of that quantum foam.

I have not referred to "invisible space wizards" nor have I referred to "magic" here - I have used English terms and words to the best of my ability in order for us to discuss this rather profound subject.

Harry.
kohadril
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5/9/2013 1:19:33 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 5/9/2013 11:01:09 AM, Dirty.Harry wrote:
To Kohadril.
Thanks for the reply, Harry!

...since it is logically impossible to postulate a material explanation for the presence of material (try writing even a hypothetical set of equations that do not refer to physical quantities!) we are left with only one choice - a non-material "supernatural" explanation fits the observed facts very well.
No, I completely understand the argument you're making. I get that you're trying to say that you've eliminated all material causes, leaving only non-material (or supernatural) causes. What I am saying is that at the quantum level everything that is common sense about the material universe is wrong; causality does not appear to be a strict requirement, nor does conservation of energy. There are probabilistic laws that appear to apply to these interactions, but they are not deterministic, nor are they explicable in normal causal terms. These laws apply only in very small areas, but at one point (according to our current knowledge of the universe) everything was shrunk to the point where these strange and different rules would apply. This could be why the universe exists. It may not be. But it is an explanation that does not require supernatural intervention.

Meanwhile, the supernatural intervention hypothesis is, reduced to its essence:
(1) I don't know how it happened;
(2) My experience with nature tells me that causality is not violated;
(3) Therefore I assume that the causality violation is non-natural.

But we know, from quantum mechanics, from phenomena like quantum entanglement, that at certain resolutions of examination causality doesn't apply. Causality violations do not have to be unnatural. And this is sufficient without positing additional entities.

The question "why is there a supernatural agency" rather than nothing is a fine question but the fact that we can ask that question does not weaken my argument, just because a answer raises further questions does not mean the answer must therefore be wrong.
What it shows is that you've answered nothing. The question is "why is there something rather than nothing." You've answered "because something created it." That not only contains no information, it actually doesn't answer the question at all: I still can't know why there's a universe until I know why the hypothetical supernatural being exists. You could answer: "because he's always been there." Well why not save myself an assertion and say the quantum foam (which we already know exists) was always there? Or you could answer: "because a supernatural being created him," and it's turtles all the way down.

If I bring a person from the middle ages into the present day, and turn on a computer in front of them, and tell them that it's magic, I have not explained anything.

You said "There are any number of scientific possibilities" but this is utterly false. How can there be a scientific explanation for the presence of the material if every explanation you proffer must refer to already existing material?
There are any number of scientific examples of violations of causality at the quantum level. Violations of causality are what's necessary to explain uncaused existence or changes. You are trying to define all violations of causality as supernatural. They plainly are not.

...we should not shy away from such a profound realization just because we are conditioned into insisting that reality is material.
The vast majority of us are taught from birth that the world is more than material. The fact that this has never been demonstrated is what makes people like me suspicious of these "explanations."

You refer to "quantum foam" and that's fine but this is material with physical properties and so referring to it as a means of explaining material is absurd because it itself is material!
That doesn't seem absurd to me. Also, I think we are beginning to just repeat ourselves. You're saying either that something had to preexist the universe (and create it) or that something has to violate causation. I am using, as an example, a thing about which physics already knows that could conceivably do either of those things. You're saying that this still doesn't answer why there is anything at all. I'm saying: neither does the supernatural assertion, because all it does is add an agent without explaining the agent.

But remember, I have admitted I don't know, with any certainty, where the universe came from; ultimately my biggest problem with your position is that even if we were in the middle ages and knew nothing about quantum mechanics, it would still not be an explanation to say "it exists, I can't imagine how, therefore supernatural creation." It doesn't fundamentally answer the question of why there is something rather than nothing, which is the only question here.

You keep objecting to the assertion "supernatural agencies are the explanation for the presence of our universe" simply because it raises other questions - since when is this grounds for rejecting an argument as false?
It shows that the assertion doesn't explain anything; it has no content. It is not even wrong. All the questions I had about the universe before have just moved to the supernatural agent, only now I have no hope of ever getting an answer, because you have removed the question from scientific discourse. You've added an assumption while explaining nothing.

I agree if I put forward a scientific explanation that made no predictions it would indeed be devoid but I am not proposing a scientific explanation because it is logically impossible to construct such a thing.
What I am saying is this: an explanation of any power creates either testable predictions or new insights. We are asking why the universe exists. You are positing "because of a universe-creating entity." This is like explaining how light bulbs work by saying "they have a 'light-creating power.'" Even if it were impossible for humans to understand electricity, this would still not be an explanation.

Well I asked if you agreed or disagreed with 1, 2 and 3. you only answered with respect to 3, commenting on 1 and 2 as you did does not server as a agree/disagree answer - once again do you agree or disagree with 1. and 2. ?
I restated 1 so that I could agree with it. I don't think I agree with the way you had 1 phrased. I pointed out that 2 is absurd. We know lots about the universe prior to the existence of matter.
Now please cite any theory that describes the universe before the existence of material?
You said matter before. I answered based on that word. What do you mean by "material?" Is quantum foam material? Is quark-gluon plasma? What about space itself?
Yet this fails your own test for acceptable explanations because the "quantum foam" raises further questions.
But we know the quantum foam exists. While I still don't know why it's here, I know it actually is. This makes it a better candidate, because I don't have to add an assumption (supernatural entity) violating Occam's Razor and still have all these questions. This is the point I have been making: your explanation is no better, and adds an assumption, making it non-explanatory.

all you can ever hope to do is refer to yet more physical abstractions - quantum foam is physical and has properties.
One of those properties is causality violation. And your answer is to make up property-free supernatural abstractions, the details of which are not only unexplained, but utterly unexplainable. This is the same as no answer.

I have used English terms and words to the best of my ability in order for us to discuss this rather profound subject.
Sorry I was trying lighten things up, I won't use those terms if you don't want me to. We are repeating ourselves a lot now. I think I will let this one rest for a while, as I have to study for a test I have tomorrow. It's been fun discussing this w
Dirty.Harry
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5/10/2013 9:55:43 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
No, I completely understand the argument you're making. I get that you're trying to say that you've eliminated all material causes, leaving only non-material (or supernatural) causes. What I am saying is that at the quantum level everything that is common sense about the material universe is wrong; causality does not appear to be a strict requirement, nor does conservation of energy. There are probabilistic laws that appear to apply to these interactions, but they are not deterministic, nor are they explicable in normal causal terms. These laws apply only in very small areas, but at one point (according to our current knowledge of the universe) everything was shrunk to the point where these strange and different rules would apply. This could be why the universe exists. It may not be. But it is an explanation that does not require supernatural intervention.

You say "There are probabilistic laws that appear to apply to these interactions" to which I say how is the presence of these laws explained?

Meanwhile, the supernatural intervention hypothesis is, reduced to its essence:
(1) I don't know how it happened;
(2) My experience with nature tells me that causality is not violated;
(3) Therefore I assume that the causality violation is non-natural.

But we know, from quantum mechanics, from phenomena like quantum entanglement, that at certain resolutions of examination causality doesn't apply. Causality violations do not have to be unnatural. And this is sufficient without positing additional entities.

Sufficient for what? to make prediction? sure that's not an issue; it is the presence of the material system - however it may behave - that we are striving to explain.

What it shows is that you've answered nothing. The question is "why is there something rather than nothing." You've answered "because something created it." That not only contains no information, it actually doesn't answer the question at all: I still can't know why there's a universe until I know why the hypothetical supernatural being exists. You could answer: "because he's always been there." Well why not save myself an assertion and say the quantum foam (which we already know exists) was always there? Or you could answer: "because a supernatural being created him," and it's turtles all the way down.

But if the quantum foam has always existed - then that too is a non-scientific explanation is it not? It is non-scientific because it cannot be put into the form of a theory. So why are you eager to reject "God did it" yet seem blisfully unaware that "the quantum foam always existed" offers no benefit intellectually?

There are any number of scientific examples of violations of causality at the quantum level. Violations of causality are what's necessary to explain uncaused existence or changes. You are trying to define all violations of causality as supernatural. They plainly are not.

No I'm (in effect) asking you to explain the presence of the system - whether it violates causality or not - how is such a material system's very presence to be explained scientifically? You can run but you can't hide, something exists and even if I allow causality to be routinely violated at the macroscopic level this does not help us - because it is still a material system that has properties whose presence can never be explained scientifically.

The vast majority of us are taught from birth that the world is more than material. The fact that this has never been demonstrated is what makes people like me suspicious of these "explanations."
Well you might benefit from revisiting the subject, ask yourself for example how could it be demonstrated? and how do you know it has never been demonstrated? I have no issue deducing it from the argument I've been espousing here - your rejection of that argument could be construed by me as a rejection of a clear demonstration.

That doesn't seem absurd to me. Also, I think we are beginning to just repeat ourselves. You're saying either that something had to preexist the universe (and create it) or that something has to violate causation. I am using, as an example, a thing about which physics already knows that could conceivably do either of those things. You're saying that this still doesn't answer why there is anything at all. I'm saying: neither does the supernatural assertion, because all it does is add an agent without explaining the agent.

No - again you are missing the point - which is that it is not possible - logically or mathematically - to pen a scientific explanation for the presence of the material - you seem to consider this unimportant but it is a clear indication that reality is not subject to scientific, material law alone, even abandoning causality doesn't help - whatever exists and however it behaves it cannot ever be explained scientifically because ever scientific explanation must presuppose the existence of something material - even a vacuum that can spontaneously give rise to matter and violate cause/effect is of no help for such a vacuum has material properties (the ability to give rise to matter).

But remember, I have admitted I don't know, with any certainty, where the universe came from; ultimately my biggest problem with your position is that even if we were in the middle ages and knew nothing about quantum mechanics, it would still not be an explanation to say "it exists, I can't imagine how, therefore supernatural creation." It doesn't fundamentally answer the question of why there is something rather than nothing, which is the only question here.

But I'm not attempting to answer that question - I'm still waiting for someone to refute my argument that a scientific explanation for the presence of the material unsivers is not logically possible.

You keep objecting to the assertion "supernatural agencies are the explanation for the presence of our universe" simply because it raises other questions - since when is this grounds for rejecting an argument as false?
It shows that the assertion doesn't explain anything; it has no content. It is not even wrong. All the questions I had about the universe before have just moved to the supernatural agent, only now I have no hope of ever getting an answer, because you have removed the question from scientific discourse. You've added an assumption while explaining nothing.

But this is true of science too - every explanation in physics explains nothing by your reasoning - postulating "quarks" that explain the nature of the known fundamental particles might explain the particles but doesnt explain the quarks, all explanations in physics simply replace an old set of asbtractions with a new set - so you cannot endorse this yet reject it when I do it. In physics the new abstractions are justified for various reasons and so to is my argument - it is justified by the fact that no material explanation is logically possible.

What I am saying is this: an explanation of any power creates either testable predictions or new insights. We are asking why the universe exists. You are positing "because of a universe-creating entity." This is like explaining how light bulbs work by saying "they have a 'light-creating power.'" Even if it were impossible for humans to understand electricity, this would still not be an explanation.

Well once again EVERY explanation in physics can be criticized in the same way, it just moves the goalposts from earlier theories. Humans do NOT understand electricity either and I have a degree in electronics!

Well I asked if you agreed or disagreed with 1, 2 and 3. you only answered with respect to 3, commenting on 1 and 2 as you did does not server as a agree/disagree answer - once again do you agree or disagree with 1. and 2. ?
I restated 1 so that I could agree with it. I don't think I agree with the way you had 1 phrased.
Right, so you consider "all scientific theories refer
Dirty.Harry
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5/10/2013 10:00:46 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
This limited editing is getting stupid now, 8,000 char limit? why?

I cant edit posts nor can I embed images.

Kohadril and I are trying to discuss something and finding it very restrictive.

I can't search the forums (only the debates) and my ability to see when a post of mine has been responded to is nil.

This is a technically weak forum - and if it doesn't improve soon I'm leaving.

Harry.
kohadril
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5/10/2013 5:30:30 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
Hi Harry! I know the word limit sucks. I'm going to make one more stab at this to see if we can get our eyes lined up, and if you want to have the last word you may. I'll reply if I see something new, or if you'd really like me to. It's been fun, though! I just think this debate is petering out and I don't have unlimited time.

At 5/10/2013 9:55:43 AM, Dirty.Harry wrote:
You say "There are probabilistic laws that appear to apply to these interactions" to which I say how is the presence of these laws explained?
That's the thing about causality and quantum mechanics. They're pretty hard to understand. A system containing a propensity for noncausality could conceivably cause itself, including its own laws. This is less absurd than a supernatural explanation because it is, if not demonstrable, at least falsifiable (show that quantum mechanics does not imply causality violations). It also meets reduces the multiplication of entities.

Similarly, the quantum foam could always have existed, which is superior to supernatural creation for the same reasons: falsifiable (disprove quantum foam) and prevents unnecessary multiplication of entities.

Sufficient for what? to make prediction? sure that's not an issue; it is the presence of the material system - however it may behave - that we are striving to explain.
You may call it something different if you like; but causality it what you're talking about. You're asking what caused the laws. I'm saying that it may have been a causal breach that created these laws and the universe, and the matter and energy in it. If we have to have an a-causal event that creates the whole system and all of its properties, it is less complex to say either that the system never did not exist or the system violated causality in its inception than it is to say that some supernatural being created itself (violating causality at its inception) or always existed. The first formulation removes an unnecessary entity.

I'm comfortable, though, saying that no current physical explanation may be right. I'm also comfortable saying that I don't know. But I cannot cure my ignorance by simply positing a universe creator--I know no more after making up that answer than I did before.

But if the quantum foam has always existed - then that too is a non-scientific explanation is it not? It is non-scientific because it cannot be put into the form of a theory. So why are you eager to reject "God did it" yet seem blisfully unaware that "the quantum foam always existed" offers no benefit intellectually?
My answer to this is fivefold:
1) I'm not sure that the physical explanations (like that one) are intellectually satisfying, except when describing how the universe evolved, however:
2) They have the virtue of referring to testable empirical theories about the universe, and extrapolating them to their conclusions. They correlate with reality, which is somewhat satisfying.
3) They are falsifiable, if not provable, because quantum mechanics, relativity, big bang cosmology are falsifiable. Nonfalsifiable statements are meaningless because they say nothing with any implications--if they did, those implications would be testable.
4) Occam's Razor: don't multiply entities unnecessarily. Example, using the quantum foam theory: go with the simpler between (1) God always existed, God creates quantum foam, quantum foam creates universe; and (2) quantum foam always existed, quantum foam creates universe.
5) I'm the one saying we don't know. My argument is that these theories show the deduction is unnecessary. It is an alternative argument to my general argument that your theory is nonexplanatory.

something exists and even if I allow causality to be routinely violated at the macroscopic level this does not help us - because it is still a material system that has properties whose presence can never be explained scientifically.
Causality violations are exactly what is required here: see above the system doesn't have to be caused in the way we are constrained to think once we magnify to certain thresholds. Something from "nothing," without preexisting cause, is the archetypal causality violation. The system need not preexist to cause itself.

how could it be demonstrated? and how do you know it has never been demonstrated? I have no issue deducing it from the argument I've been espousing here - your rejection of that argument could be construed by me as a rejection of a clear demonstration.
1) My quote was a response to your assertion that we are conditioned to think of the universe as wholly material. I noted that most people are religious, and that if conditioning goes any direction, it's towards a universe that's more than material. You seem not to disagree with this.
2) To me, it's not a deduction, but an absurd assumption; I think the wiring diagrams of our brains may be different because I'm at a loss as to why you don't see it the way I do. I can tell from your language that you're similarly surprised that your arguments aren't persuading me.

But I'm not attempting to answer that question - I'm still waiting for someone to refute my argument that a scientific explanation for the presence of the material unsivers is not logically possible.
So now we agree that you have not provided an explanation. My objection to your earlier posts was that a supernatural explanation is not an explanation. I am glad you have conceded that it isn't.

This was not the primary point of disagreement before. The primary point of disagreement was whether the unavailability of a scientific explanation in principle required a supernatural explanation. Unless you define your terms and premises very misleadingly, it doesn't imply anything except that our causal reasoning tools can't go all the way back.

every explanation in physics explains nothing by your reasoning - postulating "quarks" that explain the nature of the known fundamental particles might explain the particles but doesnt explain the quarks, all explanations in physics simply replace an old set of asbtractions with a new set - so you cannot endorse this yet reject it when I do it. In physics the new abstractions are justified for various reasons and so to is my argument - it is justified by the fact that no material explanation is logically possible.
There are several enormous differences, which cannot have escaped your notice:
1) Postulating quarks explains other things, and makes testable predictions about the real world. It is not a "single wonder" answer: it says, "well, if there were particles and they had these properties, these empirics would be reconciled, and also this other thing would be true--let's go test that!" A single-wonder answer like "the universe was created by a universe creating force" is utterly nonexplanatory. It is empty and says nothing useful or interesting. It adds an agent (like the quark) but that agent does nothing for us (unlike the quark).
2) As I keep saying, the physical theories are at least falsifiable: if big bang cosmology is wrong, so is the yo-yo universe. If quantum mechanics is wrong, so is quantum foam. A non-falsifiable statement is intrinsically content free--its truth or falsity simply can't be evaluated.
3) Single-wonder answers violate Occam's Razor: they add agents and do not explain anything. The physical theories are superior because they do not add agents.

Well once again EVERY explanation in physics can be criticized in the same way, it just moves the goalposts from earlier theories. Humans do NOT understand electricity either and I have a degree in electronics!
See above. New theories explain new empirics, make new predictions--they enhance understanding of the universe at least functionally and predictively; new theories are falsifiable and therefore can be tested; new theories do not unnecessarily multiply agents.

I have enjoyed this, Harry! Thanks for the argument!
Rational_Thinker9119
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5/11/2013 7:10:14 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 5/6/2013 8:40:17 PM, kohadril wrote:
Great topic OP!

The cyclic model also has the salutory benefit of being falsifiable. If I remember right if the total mass of the universe turns out to be over a certain number, then the big crunch is our ultimate destiny and the Yo-Yo universe may be likely.

However, it's not necessary to believe in the cyclical universe and still be a satisfied physical materialist. This if for three reasons.

First, we don't need an explanation for the beginning of the universe. We can be agnostic on precisely how the universe came into being until scientists give us the answer (if that's possible, which, given the potential maximum sizes of particle accelerators, it may not be). We don't need our own explanation just to compete with the other guy's "a wizard did it" theory.

Second, some physicists think our universe may be a consequence of quantum weirdness. The physics of our universe breaks down completely at extremely small distances shorter than the Planck length; that's where quantum rules reign. Things can pop into existence/out of existence in a blink. Space can fold and bend and expand and contract and do all sorts of weirdness. At these extremely high resolutions, "space" is never "empty". Quantum physicists call it the quantum foam. All sorts of random stuff can happen at these sub-quark levels of analysis.

Go back far enough, and big bang cosmology suggests that our whole universe was once beneath that Planck length threshold. All of the fundamental forces of our universe were unified. There were no spacial or time dimensions yet. But that does not mean that there was "empty space" and that the universe therefore "came from nothing." The philosophical "nothing," the "that from which nothing can come," has never existed, will never exist, and is just as hypothetical and divorced from reality as anything else a theologian can cook up in his armchair. Our universe may have spontaneously arisen out of quantum foam, its laws and particle weights and values set either by random or by some physics we need bigger supercolliders to discover. Our universe may be a momentary, self-annihilating blip in a larger omniverse. Or we may be the only one. We're causally disconnected from other universes, though, so it's unlikely we'll find out easily.

Third, there are all sorts of other ideas, all of them superior to the invisible space wizard hypothesis. The multiverse. The fecund universe (multiverse theory in which universes that generate black holes give birth to new universes). A bunch of others. Even good old Carl Sagan's thesis, that by imagining the universe creating itself you save yourself a step, is a good enough answer for now.

But listen; don't feel upset if you have to say to somebody that you don't know how the universe was made. This is the most honest position, and the most scientific.

"First, we don't need an explanation for the beginning of the universe. We can be agnostic on precisely how the universe came into being until scientists give us the answer (if that's possible, which, given the potential maximum sizes of particle accelerators, it may not be). We don't need our own explanation just to compete with the other guy's "a wizard did it" theory."

Agreed. History has proven that "the wizard did it" has always turned out to be false in light of mechanical causation. Therefore, we do not need another explanation. It would be like somebody saying "well if you cannot come up with an explanation as to how my keys went missing, then its more rational to believe the fairy took it".