X-Message-Number: 17889
From: "Pat Clancy" <>
Date: Sat, 10 Nov 2001 12:49:15 -0800
Subject: Re: Do you like philosophy?

> 1.	The idea that something can come from nothing doesn't make sense to me.
> For instance: I find that some theories of the Big Bang don't make sense.
> What I don't understand is how someone can hold that specific theory that
> says the universe was created (formed, arose, came from) from nothing.  To
> me, "nothing" means nothing!  That would mean not even the propensity to
> become something.

This is often justified based on the idea of a sort of gigantic quantum 
fluctuation. Since the energy content of the universe (mass + radiation) is 
almost exactly balanced by the negative potential energy (I hope I said that 

right) of the gravitational attraction pulling everything back together, the net
result is almost zero, or maybe exactly zero. On a metaphysical level (which 
is usually ignored by the writers talking about this), this is not really 
satisfactory - I don't think you can have a fluctuation of _nothing_. Nothing 
means _nothing_ - I can't even conceive of Nothing, the closest I can get is a 
void, which is definitely not Nothing. (Some famous physicist, I forget who, 
said it's a mystery why the universe goes to all the trouble of existing.) In 

fact many writers on this subject say that Time itself wouldn't exist pre-Bang,
which seems to me an obvious absurdity since nothing can "happen" 

(fluctuation, Bang, whatever) except within Time. So I don't think you will find

any theory of the Big Bang that truly carries things back to Nothing. I think a
common idea is that there's a level of "vacuum energy" present pre-Bang. A 
newer alternative to the quantum fluctuation idea is a theory (described in a 
recent Scientific American) involving "collisions" of separate (empty) 
universes leading to the Big Bang - again, though, not creation from Nothing. 
And then there's the possibility of cyclic Big Bangs and Big Crunches, 
repeating infinitely back and forward in Time. I think a real creation from 
Nothing, though, is a metaphysical problem that is beyond science.

Pat Clancy

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