# If the universe came from nothing

#### Castlegate

applying the word "from" to "nothing" in the sense you are using them is a category error.
I'd have to agree here. Any suggestions?

#### baywax

Gold Member
I'd have to agree here. Any suggestions?
One could say something exists as the compliment of or as opposed to nothing (which does not exist).

N

#### nabuco

Can you guys stop making so many sensible comments that deserve thoughtful replies? It takes me a lot of effort to reply in kind

(seriously, I'm impressed)

These theories of course are based on known science, which is based on the universe as we know it today, and this is perfectly reasonable when your aim is to understand the known universe.
Which is what I thought we were doing…

But since we have no information on what came before the Big Bang (if anything, more on this below) then science cannot address that part, which is central to our discussion.
I would still like to keep a distinction between the universe as perceived through our senses (stars, planets, space, time, etc), and whatever else can be said to exist. I'd like to call the former "universe" and the latter "reality", which is what I believe those terms mean (I may be mistaken though; who knows for sure?)

So are we discussing the universe or are we discussing reality? It seems you agree the universe had a beginning while reality is eternal. In which case, as I stated a few times already, I don't think we disagree at all.

Will you reject a logical argument if it conflicts with your understanding of a scientific theory?
That is not always a simple choice. Rejecting a scientific theory on the basis of logic alone is what turns a lot of people into crackpots, and a few of them into heroes.

If so then I may in turn have a problem with your reasoning.
You want me to talk like a crackpot? I'm quite good at it

My position is that since science must be logical then logic must win over science if there is a discrepancy.
If only things were that simple…

The problem with logic is that we seldom fully understand what we are dealing with. As a computer programmer, many times I stared at the screen in disbelief at what I was seeing; logic told me the program should do one thing, and it was doing another which made no sense. Yet 10 times out of 10 there was a small detail I failed to consider.

When it comes to logic versus science, nature is the computer, in the sense that nature never makes logical mistakes. You may not always understand why you are not seeing what you expected to see, but you can always be sure it's your fault.

Let's back up to the time of zero entropy. We have all this fully useable energy bottled up that undergoes the very first change: bang, entropy is suddenly non-zero following the very first thermodynamic change. Since you say that a change in entropy is the passage of time itself, this has to be the beginning of time.
Yep.

Since you also stated that reality existed for all time then this first change must also be the beginning of reality, which coincides with the beginning of the physical universe.
My understanding of reality is that it does not exist in time, because it never changes. It's not correct to say "reality existed for all time", but rather "reality creates our perception of time".

if the entropy level was quantifiable (existed) and if the energy of the universe after the first change also existed (and was quantifiable at that time) then the initial energy is clearly quantifiable as well, meaning that something quantifiable existed before the beginning of reality and of the physical universe.
Not before. "Before" implies time, and you can't measure time without entropy change. There is no "before" the universe began, we use that word for lack of a better concept but we can't really speak of time without physical activity.

Consider a circle. You can talk of circles of different sizes, and you can think of circles expanding and contracting, but even though there is no limit for expansion, there is a limit for contraction. Once the radius becomes zero, the circle can no longer be contracted. Because of that, it makes no sense to talk about a circle of negative radius. You can make sentences using the concept of negative radius, and they appear semantically correct, but they are meaningless.

This is the sense in which I see the concept of time. It has no limits one way, but it must necessarily be limited in the opposite way, otherwise it becomes meaningless. Sure, we can talk about "time before the universe began", we can make up the concept, but unless we can explain what it means in terms of other concepts we already understand, it means absolutely nothing.

You explicitly restrict what is quantifiable to only our current interpretations of the universe.
That is because "quantifiable" is part of our current interpretation of the universe. Your complaint is equivalent to saying I'm explicitly restricting the meaning of the word "quantifiable" to our current interpretation of the English language, and that is an error because there may be languages which use the word "quantifiable" with a meaning that is different from English.

The basic error you are making is that you are mentally positioning yourself outside the universe as you currently know it, and trying to describe what you see. You cannot do that. Wherever you go you take your current knowledge of the universe with you, so you shouldn't be surprised you always see the same things.

The correct way to understand this issue is not by looking at the universe, but by looking at what we are left with when we ignore the entirety of our knowledge. And here you inevitably fall into some form of mysticism.

I cannot discuss the origin of the universe if you use "nothing" to refer to whatever science cannot handle.
You can also use "God" if you want. Or "The Great Unknown". Or any other concept from mysticism. Really, there is no way to avoid it.

It makes it a tautology that the universe began with the first event that can be addressed by science.
Which is great, because as you know all tautologies are true

On to the next...

No it isn't, sets are abstract objects.
We have to be careful with words as we often fool ourselves with the way we use them. Sets are abstract objects, but we often refer to the "members of the set" as "the set". It would be tiresome to be explicit all the time, but sometimes we lose sight of what we really mean.

Surely seeing the universe as a set is an abstraction, but an abstraction is just a shorthand for something else.

Physics and math are both similar in the respect that attempt to draw deductive conclusions from a well defined system of assumptions. The big difference in math these assumptions are arbitrary, and in Physics there is an attempted to make them correspond to the real world through experimentation.
This reminds me of that joke where the rector of an university asks why the physics department spends so much money on lab equipment. He says, "why don't you guys do like the mathematicians, who only need paper, pencils, and a wastebasket? Or better, like the philosophers, who only need paper and pencils!"

Mathematicians don't make arbitrary assumptions, only philosophers have that privilege (it's curious that not even theologians have such freedom as they are bound by scripture - philosophers really have it easy). Mathematicians are constrained by the requirement that the whole body of mathematics must be self-consistent. That leaves them with a very limited number of possible axioms.

Physicists are of course constrained by the universe, but the only difference between math and physics is that not all mathematical concepts correspond to physical phenomena. But when correspondences are found, the physicist can forget about observation and focus on math alone.

the way we tend to realize something may possibly be a universal in most cases is through induction (note: i'm not claiming all cases). After we conclude "P maybe generalized to a universal" we then seek deductive justification for that generalization.
There is a third possibility you failed to consider. You can tell something is a fact because you deduced it from other known facts, you can tell that something seems to be true because it looks like different versions of the same fact (induction), or you can tell that something is a fact because it is the consequence of a definition. The latter case can never be proved wrong and is independent of observation.

Consider this definition of gender: "humans can be divided in two gender: male and female. Females can give birth, males cannot". That definition has a few consequences. For instance, you can be sure there is no species whose male can give birth. You can also be sure that a species will become extinct if all females die. You can suspect some species do not have males. You can learn quite a lot of very solid knowledge about the world simply by coming up with good definitions, in which case you only have to deal with definition and deduction, and completely ignore induction and its problems.

Now to the last...

Utimately, we can only test the existence of something based on it  s effect on something else.
I like that. It means something exist if it is capable of interaction. It's a good definition. It also implies nothing can exist by itself. (homework assignment: can the universe exist if it has, by definition, nothing to interact with?)

The height of a shadow might not indicated the existence of the shadow, but it can indicate the existence of some other things.
Surely the perception of a shadow is proof that something causing your perception exists. My point was only that it may be misleading to think it's the shadow itself that is giving you the perception. In your terms, the shadow can be said not to exist because it doesn't interact with you, it's ambient light and the wal that are doing that.

I agree. You can say the universe correspond to a set S, and that everything in the set exist. But what is that got to do with physical existence? Can you create another space-time universe by write down math equations, and say it "exist"?
Actually, you can. Whether you can relate the universe you made up in your mind with something real, that is the job for the scientist in you.

If a person was to be born inside a dark room, and all he has is his brain. Can we deduce modern physics by knowing peano axioms? Obvious not.
Not so fast! To start with, wouldn't that person's brain behave according to the laws of physics? If so, couldn't that brain discover physics simply by examining itself? Moreover, how can we be sure that physics is not, in fact, simply describing the behavior of our "brains" rather than the world?

Physicists use mathematics as a tool, but it is not true that mathematician uses empirical facts to deduce theorms in number theory
That was not the point. The point is that no empirical fact ever proved a mathematical theorem wrong. The only reason mathematicians don't conduct experiments is simply because they don't need them. They could if they wanted, just like you can count pebbles to check the correctness of your calculations.

The statement "1+2=3" is analytically true, but by itself it tells us nothing about the physical universe, unless we assign numbers with applies. Can "1+2=3" tell use why applies exist?
No, but it tells us why you get three apples when you put one on a table and somebody else adds two.

Besides, ultimately there must be something which exists for no reason. Apples exist because of apple trees, and trees because of seeds and soil and sunlight and photosynthesis, and so on and on. You go on with that but eventually you must reach a point whence you can go on no more.

Stephen hawking said some like this. He said even if we have a set of equation that describe everything in the universe. It could only be a set of equations. He asked: " what breath fire into the equations in the first place to make a universe from it?". What hawking means is that science cannot tell us why there is something for our equations to describe.
I don't think Hawkings is a particularly good philosopher (nor should he be). He sees the laws of physics as some sort of computer program, so it is natural for him to ask "where is the computer running the program?". There are better ways of seeing things that don't lead to such naïve questions.

(man, I'm exhausted!)

#### out of whack

It takes me a lot of effort to reply in kind
Oh good. I was afraid it was just me.

Nabuco, it is clear by now that we are answering different questions, or perhaps the same question from different points of view. It is not so much that you are looking at the universe from the inside while I look at it from the outside though. I hate to think that I am looking for "mystic" answers, I have little interest in mysticism. I prefer the analogy that you look at the physics while I look at the math, or that you are practical while I am theoretical.

I don't mind establishing a distinction between the words "reality" and "universe" by definition. We could say that the universe is an entity and that reality is this entity plus how it changes. This way we can discuss the origin of the entity in question separately from what caused it to exist (if anything) and how it behaves (laws of nature). But this opens up various questions regarding time and what it means to exist: can reality exist in the absence of a quantifiable universe? What exactly is the difference between the existence of an atom and the existence of a natural law? Does time require quantifiable changes or could reality itself account for it? Can reality itself change? What can it possibly mean to exist outside of time? And where is the aspirin?

It seems you agree the universe had a beginning while reality is eternal.
No, I cannot agree with this, at least not yet. There are too many unanswered questions regarding the separation of universe and reality at the moment (some of them above). If time can only exist along with a quantifiable universe then "reality" and "universe" must both exist for all time.

Rejecting a scientific theory on the basis of logic alone is what turns a lot of people into crackpots
Only if misapplied or due to some error elsewhere. It is in line with scientific protocol that a scientific theory must be rejected if it is illogical. This goes along the same lines as what a smart person said not too long ago: "no empirical fact ever proved a mathematical theorem wrong". Math takes precedence over science, so does logic.

The problem with logic is that we seldom fully understand what we are dealing with.
This is not a problem with logic, it is merely a human shortcoming. This shortcoming also applies to science and all other fields of human endeavor.

My understanding of reality is that it does not exist in time, because it never changes.
Your observation (and others that follow) can be the start of an entirely new debate on the nature of time and its relationship to change. I don't have the energy to initiate a new debate, and this would go off topic. I would rather return to the elegant simplicity of the original post and see if anything has moved on that front.

JonF said:
applying the word "from" to "nothing" in the sense you are using them is a category error.
I'd have to agree here. Any suggestions?
The premise that something cannot come from nothing only leaves one option: something has to come from something. For various reasons, some people find it inconceivable that this process can repeat forever. Something about the human mind makes this simple loop unacceptable. But the above rationale is concise to the point of leaving little room for human error without redefining our words into something more convenient.

I find it an inescapable conclusion that "something" has always existed. If this conflicts with other beliefs then those beliefs must be in error somehow, somewhere. Those are the one that need to be re-examined in order to reconcile them with the simple reality that nothing cannot produce something.

#### kant

nabuco said:
homework assignment: can the universe exist if it has, by definition, nothing to interact with?
first of all. I never said i want you to be my teacher. I don t really give a crap in formulating some grand unified definition. I am contented with a working definition and start from there. Frankly, i don t even think language would serve us well in understanding such questions.

My point was only that it may be misleading to think it's the shadow itself that is giving you the perception..
The shadow indicate the existence of something esle. What that something is is anyone s guess.

Actually, you can. Whether you can relate the universe you made up in your mind with something real, that is the job for the scientist in you.
It makes very little sense. Physics is about putting forward conjunctures that could be tested. From what i understand from you, you are saying we can produce the universe by something non-physical( like math). The burden of proof is on you to really create another space-time universe via a non-physical way that can be deplicated in an experiment.

Not so fast! To start with, wouldn't that person's brain behave according to the laws of physics? If so, couldn't that brain discover physics simply by examining itself?
To deposite that someone can discovery modern physics by think is not a justified true belief.

Moreover, how can we be sure that physics is not, in fact, simply describing the behavior of our "brains" rather than the world?
Of course, you can "doubt" like descartes. I am not going to engage is such pointless speculations.

That was not the point. The point is that no empirical fact ever proved a mathematical theorem wrong. The only reason mathematicians don't conduct experiments is simply because they don't need them. They could if they wanted, just like you can count pebbles to check the correctness of your calculations.
The point is not really about the usefulness of computers in mathematics.
Sure, you can type in a computational problem for the computer to solve, but that is not really the problem here. Mathematics can simply imagine as a set of rules, and any mathematical theorm in math can be obtain thr a purely deductive process. The process do not invoke the know laws of physics at all. I know you are going to saying " but mathematician  s brain is govern by the laws of nature", but to ask that question is to miss the entire point.

No, but it tells us why you get three apples when you put one on a table and somebody else adds two.

That is why i said "unless you assign numbers with applies"

Besides, ultimately there must be something which exists for no reason. Apples exist because of apple trees, and trees because of seeds and soil and sunlight and photosynthesis, and so on and on. You go on with that but eventually you must reach a point whence you can go on no more.

I am actually agreeing with you. Science will eventually reach a point in the reductist programme where they might explain everything in the physical universe using one thing. That "one thing" of course cannot be explained to exist, but we might simply assume it` s existence.

I don't think Hawkings is a particularly good philosopher (nor should he be). He sees the laws of physics as some sort of computer program, so it is natural for him to ask "where is the computer running the program?". There are better ways of seeing things that don't lead to such naïve questions.

(man, I'm exhausted!
(I don t know about you, but it makes very little sense in attacking someone arguement by attack the person.)

Even you admited that there must something that simply "exist for not good reason", and my point is that science will eventually reach a point where we might describe the whole universe using strings. If that is the case, then science will never be able to answer why the "strings" in string theory exist. The theory simply consider the existence of the string as necessary.

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N

#### nabuco

where is the aspirin?
Now that is the really important question for me. My head is still hurting from that big post.

No, I cannot agree with this, at least not yet. There are too many unanswered questions regarding the separation of universe and reality at the moment (some of them above).
All I can say about your questions is that they are merely a matter of semantics. Define terms properly and the answers will fall like a stone. You can do that and I can do that. What's difficult is for us to agree to do it the same way, because ultimately it makes no difference which way you do it.

It is in line with scientific protocol that a scientific theory must be rejected if it is illogical.
If that were true, quantum mechanics would have been discarded a long time ago. Einstein for one never accepted it - does that mean he didn't know how to think logically?

The premise that something cannot come from nothing only leaves one option: something has to come from something.
That is not an option. If something did not come from "something that is not something" (you don't like the concept of nothing), then the only option is that "something" didn't come at all. What you are doing is called infinite regression and is not a valid proposition.

For various reasons, some people find it inconceivable that this process can repeat forever. Something about the human mind makes this simple loop unacceptable.
That something is called "reason". It's what prevents us from accepting ideas that don't make sense to us, but it's also what gives validity to any idea. You can't throw reason away and keep your truths. Either the universe can be comprehended by reason or it cannot. If we believe our brains won't digest any explanation for the universe, we might as well call it a day and go fishing. Which may not be a bad idea after all.

I find it an inescapable conclusion that "something" has always existed.
Surely. Most people, when confronted with the same question, reach the same conclusion. They even have a name for the "something" that always existed: God. Of course if we don't like that name we can always pick another one. Makes little difference as far as I'm concerned.

#### Castilla

Out of wack, your point of view is very sound, but...

You say that something quantifiable must have existed ever. And then we need to postulate an infinity of time behind us. But if an infinity of time has passed before we appeared, how it is possible that now we are, so to say, "bounded" in limits and boundaries?

Excuse clumsy language. I mean this. (I think Castlegate has expressed more or less the same idea previously). If you take a unit of time, say a century or an hour, with that "magnitude" you only can mentally build another quantifiable "thing" (an eon, let's say, or whatever number of them you want). With a quantifiable unit we can not jump into an infinity. So how can we have a total infinity of time behind us and, at the same time, being bounded in quantifiable time?

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#### kant

That something is called "reason". It's what prevents us from accepting ideas that don't make sense to us, but it's also what gives validity to any idea. You can't throw reason away and keep your truths. Either the universe can be comprehended by reason or it cannot. If we believe our brains won't digest any explanation for the universe, we might as well call it a day and go fishing. Which may not be a bad idea after all.
I know you love to "quote" people, but you might be misinterpreting the quotes. Every physicist i have ever encountered, and all the physicist i have read about admit that science cannot tell us why stuff "exist". They are content that reason can be used to explain the whole universe, but admit that the question of 'orgin' is not in there sphere of practice. In any case, i would be very please if you reply to my post above, thanking you.

Surely. Most people, when confronted with the same question, reach the same conclusion. They even have a name for the "something" that always existed: God. Of course if we don't like that name we can always pick another one. Makes little difference as far as I'm concerned.
By saying that everyone thinks like that, or belief in that does not really put forward your arguement.

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#### out of whack

nabuco said:
It is in line with scientific protocol that a scientific theory must be rejected if it is illogical.
If that were true, quantum mechanics would have been discarded a long time ago.
Bad argument, QM is not illogical. Its mathematics are consistent with observations and with results of experiments, and it works. What you call illogical is actually unnatural or counter-intuitive. But intuition is not logic; these conflict regularly.

The premise that something cannot come from nothing only leaves one option: something has to come from something.
That is not an option. If something did not come from "something that is not something" (you don't like the concept of nothing), then the only option is that "something" didn't come at all.
Your conclusion denies existence, which is known to be true, therefore your reasoning is incorrect. The correct conclusion given that something exists (I had not foreseen the need to point this out) is that something came from "something that is something" to use your format. (The word "nothing" itself is fine with me.)

What you are doing is called infinite regression and is not a valid proposition.
There you go again with personal rules. You have an infinite regress on one hand and something popping out of nothing on the other, and you make a personal judgment that one is better than the other. I has been shown that popping out of nothing is contradictory. Now, show that an infinite regress is also contradictory. Not by your intuition, show it through logical development starting from sound premises.

For various reasons, some people find it inconceivable that this process can repeat forever. Something about the human mind makes this simple loop unacceptable.
That something is called "reason". It's what prevents us from accepting ideas that don't make sense to us
...ideas that make no sense to us like that "round earth" fable.

The reason we use logic is because human reasoning is tainted by emotions and misguided intuitions. Logic guides reason in the direction that provides correct answers.

You can't throw reason away and keep your truths.
Please. You have seen that I reason my truths logically, I don't fetch them out of thin air. Surely you can follow the reasoning I have posted here.

Castilla said:
You say that something quantifiable must have existed ever.
Actually the "quantifiable" adjective is from nabuco who is only concerned about what science can address. I take a wider view of the question.

But if an infinity of time has passed before we appeared, how it is possible that now we are, so to say, "bounded" in limits and boundaries?
There is no principle of mutual exclusion between limited and infinite. An infinite set does not imply that all of its subsets must also be infinite. For example there is a limited number of integers from 5 to 10, yet the set of integers is infinite.

With a quantifiable unit we can not jump into an infinity. So how can we have a total infinity of time behind us and, at the same time, being bounded in quantifiable time?
The fact that some entities exist for a limited time does not mean that the set of all entities must also exist for a limited time. It is simple to see how infinity arises: just don't make the gratuitous assumption that all entities must cease to exist by some mysterious necessity. It's just as easy to conceive of eternity than to conceive of limited time and then the absence of time altogether.

We look for deep, ultimate reasons like something mysterious and sacred. Some of us spend sleepless nights pondering where we come from, hoping for enlightenment. All the while there exists an explanation that is so simple and elegant that it seems that it cannot possibly be true. If something cannot come from nothing, yet something exists, then something must come from something. It is logical and understandable. For some, it is hard to swallow. Clearly, I have no problem with it.

#### baywax

Gold Member
Judging from the amount of energy in one atom, everything could have come from a sub-atomic em wave that was left by the last universe. Stranger things have happened

#### JonF

One could say something exists as the compliment of or as opposed to nothing (which does not exist).
this doesn't solve or even address the problem, and neither does out of wack's comment

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#### out of whack

this doesn't solve or even address the problem, and neither does out of wack's comment
Brevity: A
Effort: D

#### JonF

so i take it you're still not going to address the point?

#### out of whack

so i take it you're still not going to address the point?
Define the point.

#### JonF

JonF said:
applying the word "from" to "nothing" in the sense you are using them is a category error.

#### kant

I still do not know how some one could create a space-time universe by writing down equations.

#### baywax

Gold Member
I still do not know how some one could create a space-time universe by writing down equations.
One cannot create a universe with an equation. One composes an equation in the hopes of representing a space-time universe, not creating one. Of course, the original is much more desirable to live in than the on-line or on paper version.

JonF said:
this doesn't solve or even address the problem, and neither does out of wack's comment
Then I'd suggest leaving nothing well enough alone. It doesn't exist:rofl: .

#### kant

One cannot create a universe with an equation. One composes an equation in the hopes of representing a space-time universe, not creating one. Of course, the original is much more desirable to live in than the on-line or on paper version.
i was being sarcastic, genius..

N

#### nabuco

Your conclusion denies existence, which is known to be true, therefore your reasoning is incorrect. The correct conclusion given that something exists (I had not foreseen the need to point this out) is that something came from "something that is something" to use your format
Just to wrap up this discussion for me, I maintain the following points:

- the universe as we know it consists of matter in constant interaction. To the best of our knowledge, the interaction must have started at some point in the past, and must cease at some point in the future (entropy)
- it's possible the universe as we know it had existed before in a state in which we wouldn't recognize it, meaning it wasn't made of matter in constant interaction but of something we never heard of and cannot even imagine.
- the question of "what came before the universe as we know it" can only be answered in one or another variant of "it came from a thing we don't understand"
- it matters little whether we call the thing we don't understand "something", "nothing", "matter in a different state", "causeless cause", "God", whatever. It adds nothing of any significance to our knowledge.
- there is, however, one important consequence of that fact: metaphysics is just a game of semantics. But that is beyond the scope of this thread.

That's it for now. See in you another thread!

#### JonF

True. Anything else?
You do understand if this question really is a category error we might as well be discussing "Does the blue smell happy tomorrow?"

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#### out of whack

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#### kant

Just to wrap up this discussion for me, I maintain the following points:

- the universe as we know it consists of matter in constant interaction. To the best of our knowledge, the interaction must have started at some point in the past, and must cease at some point in the future (entropy)
- it's possible the universe as we know it had existed before in a state in which we wouldn't recognize it, meaning it wasn't made of matter in constant interaction but of something we never heard of and cannot even imagine.
- the question of "what came before the universe as we know it" can only be answered in one or another variant of "it came from a thing we don't understand"
- it matters little whether we call the thing we don't understand "something", "nothing", "matter in a different state", "causeless cause", "God", whatever. It adds nothing of any significance to our knowledge.
- there is, however, one important consequence of that fact: metaphysics is just a game of semantics. But that is beyond the scope of this thread.

That's it for now. See in you another thread!

I am still waiting for you to create a physical universe by writing equations down on a piece of paper.

#### JonF

You in post #9 argue he is wrong by contradiction. My point is the question doesn't even make sense.

I really don't know how much more clearly i can spell this out...

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