Sunday, February 13, 2011

Why are (some) physicists so bad at philosophy?

In his book of reminiscences “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!”, Richard Feynman tells the story of a painter who assured him that he could make yellow paint by mixing together red paint and white paint.  Feynman was incredulous.  As an expert in the physics of light, he knew this should not be possible.  But the guy was an expert painter, with years of practical experience.  So, ready to learn something new, Feynman went and got some red paint and white paint.  He watched the painter mix them, but as Feynman expected, all that came out was pink.  Then the painter said that all he needed now was a little yellow paint to “sharpen it up a bit” and then it would be yellow.

I was reminded of this story when I read this foray into philosophy by physics professor Ethan Siegel, which a reader sent me, asking for my reaction.  Do give it a read, though I’ll summarize it for you:  

Arguments for God as cause of the universe rest on the assumption that something can’t come from nothing.  But given the laws of physics, it turns out that something can come from nothing. 

Here was my reaction:

Is this guy serious?  The laws of physics aren’t “nothing.”  Ergo, this isn’t even a prima facie counterexample to the principle that ex nihilo, nihil fit.  That’s just blindingly obvious.  Is this guy serious? 

(Actually, that was not my reaction.  My actual reaction cannot be printed on a family-friendly blog.  This is the cleaned up version.)

Feynman’s painter insisted that you can get yellow paint from red paint and white paint.  All you need to do is add some yellow paint.  Similarly, Siegel assures us that we can get something from nothing.  All we need to do is to add a little something, viz. the laws of physics.  I’ll bet Siegel has read Feynman’s book and had a chuckle at the painter’s expense.  Little does he realize that the joke’s on him.

Notice that the point has nothing to do with the further question “Where do the laws of physics come from?”  It has nothing to do with the debate between atheism and theism.  It has nothing to do with whether Siegel’s purely scientific claims are otherwise correct.  I’m not addressing any of that here.  Let the operation of the laws of physics be a brute fact if you like; let atheism be true, if you insist; let Siegel be a whiz-bang crackerjack physicist, if you must.  The point is that as a philosopher, he’s utterly incompetent, incapable of seeing the most blatant of fallacies staring him square in the face.

Siegel is in good company, if that’s the right way to put it.  As I showed in my review of their book The Grand Design for National Review, Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow are no more philosophically competent than Siegel is.  Indeed, one of their errors is the same as Siegel’s: They tell us that “Because there is a law like gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing.”  Ignore for the moment the incoherence of the notion of self-causation (which we explored recently here and here).  Put to one side the question of whether the physics of their account is correct.  Forget about where the laws of physics themselves are supposed to have come from.  Just savor the manifest contradiction: The universe comes from nothing, because a law like gravity is responsible for the universe.

For some reason this particular fallacy seems to be a favorite of physicists.  (And I mean physicists, specifically, not scientists in general – even Richard Dawkins isn’t this bad.)  Consider Oxford physicist Vlatko Vedral’s recent book Decoding Reality: The Universe as Quantum Information.  I hate to pick on Vedral.  He seems like a nice fellow, and there is in his book none of the obnoxious condescension toward philosophy and theology one finds in Hawking and Mlodinow.  Unfortunately, though, Vedral is only slightly better informed about these subjects than Hawking and Mlodinow are.  (He thinks, for example, that “What caused God?” is a serious objection to the First Cause argument.)  Worse, the argumentation is incredibly sloppy.  Epistemological and metaphysical issues are relentlessly conflated.  Murkiness abounds.  For example, Vedral suggests that information “comes from nowhere” and is “created from emptiness” but also that “there is no other information in the Universe than that generated by us as we create our own reality.”  So, is he contradicting himself – saying both that information comes from nowhere and that it comes from us?  Or is he saying instead that information causes us and we in turn cause it, but that there is nothing outside this loop – which would entail a vicious explanatory circle (for the reasons spelled out in the posts on self-causation linked to above)?  Or (seeing as either of these interpretations would sink his position) does he have some third alternative in mind?  He never tells us, and (like Hawking and Mlodinow, who say similar things) seems blithely unaware that there is even a problem here.

More to the present point, Vedral claims that “creation out of nothing” can occur even without a Creator, and offers as evidence von Neumann‘s proposal “that all numbers could be bootstrapped out of the empty set by the operations of the mind.”  We’re back to Feynman’s painter: Yellow can come from non-yellow as long as you add a little yellow to the non-yellow; and something can come from nothing as long as we add a little non-nothing – “the operations of the mind” – to the nothing.  How much cleverer these physicists are than us mere philosophers!

It is no good trying to defend Siegel, Hawking and Mlodinow, or Vedral by suggesting that perhaps they are not using “nothing” in a strict sense.  For each of them claims to be addressing the same issue that defenders of the First Cause argument for God’s existence are addressing, and the latter are using “nothing” in the strict sense.  So, these physicists can be acquitted of the charge of contradicting themselves only if they are guilty instead of sloppy thinking, and of loudly shooting off their mouths without doing their homework first.

And that is enough to merit them our scorn.  Philosophers and theologians are constantly told that they need to “learn the science” before commenting on quantum mechanics, relativity, or Darwinism.  And rightly so.  Yet too many scientists refuse to “learn the philosophy” before pontificating on the subject.  The results are predictably sophomoric.  What an arrogant and clueless amateur like Hawking or Dawkins needs to hear before putting on his philosopher’s toga is this.  And if he doesn’t get the message, this.  Instead, the reaction from equally clueless editors, journalists, and “educated” general readers is: “Gee, he’s a scientist!  He’s good at math and stuff.  He must know what he’s talking about!”  It really is no more intelligent than that. 

C. D. Broad took the view that “the nonsense written by philosophers on scientific matters is exceeded only by the nonsense written by scientists on philosophy.”  And that was in the days of scientists like Eddington, Einstein, Heisenberg, and Schrödinger, who actually knew something about philosophy.  (We’ve discussed a couple of these thinkers in earlier posts, here and here.)  Things had gotten worse by the time Paul Feyerabend wrote the following to Wallace Matson:

The younger generation of physicists, the Feynmans, the Schwingers, etc., may be very bright; they may be more intelligent than their predecessors, than Bohr, Einstein, Schrödinger, Boltzmann, Mach, and so on.  But they are uncivilized savages, they lack in philosophical depth… (Quoted in Imre Lakatos and Paul Feyerabend, For and Against Method)

And things are even worse now.  Feynman was notoriously hostile to philosophy, but when his work on quantum mechanics brought him up against its inherent philosophical difficulties, he at least had the humility not to claim he knew how to resolve them.  Hawking and Vedral, by contrast, confidently peddle as “science” the kind of schlock you’d expect to find in the New Age section at Borders. 

What accounts for this decline?  Feyerabend blamed the “professionalization” of science, and there is much to be said for this.  We noted recently how John Heil and Stephen Mumford have decried the baneful effects “professionalization” has had on contemporary academic philosophy – hyper-specialization, smug insularity, careerist conformism, an emphasis on cleverness over depth.  Lee Smolin (who knew and respected Feyerabend) is one physicist who has argued that some of these same problems afflict contemporary physics.

One thing of which contemporary philosophers tend not to be guilty, however – scientism-whipped as they are – is ignorance of science, certainly not where science touches on their areas of philosophical specialization.  Hawking and Mlodinow assure us in The Grand Design that “philosophy has not kept up with modern developments in science, particularly physics.”  No one at all familiar with the explosion of serious work in philosophy of physics, philosophy of chemistry, and philosophy of biology over the last several decades – not to mention the work of writers like William Lane Craig and Quentin Smith in the philosophy of religion, or the Churchlands in philosophy of mind – could say such a thing.  (True, as philosophers the Churchlands are hopeless.  But one thing they do know – perhaps, one sometimes suspects, the only thing they know – is neuroscience.)

Hawking and Mlodinow are guilty of just the sort of ignorance of which they falsely accuse philosophers.  But they are unlikely ever to know it.  The Hawkings, Dawkinses, and Jerry Coynes of the world have been dancing the Myers Shuffle around their echo chamber for so long that they can only ever hear each other’s mutual congratulations shouted down the conga line.  Until this childishness is universally treated with the sort of contempt it deserves, we will not have a sane intellectual culture, one in which the deepest philosophical, theological – and, indeed, scientific – questions can be fruitfully debated. 


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dguller said...


>> Both are "important" in their own ways. Mathematics, though true in a quasi sense in my opinion (though others have good reasons to disagree) is still more important than trivial and arbitrary institutions of formal rules like chess because math is so general that it makes sense to learn its "truths" because it says something about the nature of what it means to be rational in general.

Okay, fair enough. I would only say that chess does involve rationality to a significant degree, and so it would make sense to learn its “truths”, as well, because it does improve reasoning and thinking.

>> I disagree. It would make the physical theories true in that case, not the math. That parts is proven within the mathematical system. Einstein's theory of relativity is independent of the math used to model it. In fact, there is a way to use a formal system of rules which make no mention of numbers which is equally adept at modeling relativity. Proving the physical theory (depends on empirical observation) and the math used in it (depends on non empirical considerations) are two different things.

Again, this leaves you with the paradox of Harry Potter being “true”, as well. If “true” is just a relative term in which something is consistent and follows from a set of assumptions, then the term becomes so loose as to be useless. When I ask if something is true, I generally do not want to know if something is true relative to a set of assumptions and rules, but whether it accurately represents a real state of affairs in the universe. Although there are other senses of “true” around, this is the important one for me, and should be prioritized over the others. Anyway, I think that, in general, we are in agreement, but focus on different aspects of our agreed-upon belies, which is fine.

>> I don't think it will lead to relativism much as the truths of biology being different from the truths of physics does not lead to it. They just relate to different domains of investigation.

Yes, but they are all about how the world works. They are just a self-contained set of propositions that follow from assumptions. They represent how the world works, which is why they do not contradict. In other words, there is a common reality that they are engaged in, which is why there is no contradiction between them, even though they study different aspects of it and with differing tools. That means that they are using the sense of “true” that I prioritized above, and not the one where Harry Potter truly wears glasses.

>> That's exactly why some philosophers think that there is good reason to believe that there is a mind independent math world filled with abstracta such as sets and whatnot. I think that this is false because mathematics usefulness us is due to its general nature and that there is bound to find some use of it. Now most of it probably is not useful for physical theories and are like chess in that regard.


djindra said...


You don't have to believe in God to recognize Aristotle was a Genius.

And above, I said he was a giant. Pay attention.

The fact you conflate Aristole's metaphysics with religious dogma is even further proof you don't know what you are talking.

It's not me. It's others around here and throughout history who use Aristotle to bolster theistic positions. So tell them they don't know what they're talking about.

NChen said...

That's what I mean. You agree with Seraphim. Philosophy contributes only when it does so through science. That was his position. Do you denying it was his position? There's no point in me responding to your examples which contribute to Seraphim's position. But I have responded to your lame claims that philosophy has contributed to "knowledge" in cognitive science. It hasn't. It's speculated. You seem to grasp onto the hope that speculation will pass for knowledge. It won't.<

djindra is deeply muddle headed again. seraphim claimed that philosophy has not contributed "one iota" to human knowledge and I gave far more than "one iota" showing that philosophy has contributed. djindra thinks that this actually 'proves seraphim right." How confused can one person be? Look at the long line of fallacies djindra makes. It is no surprise that he does not know anything about philosophy.

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

The only knowledge that can come out of the physical sciences is the cataloguing and modeling of physical phenomena, i.e. the discovery of the mathematical patterns that are present in such phenomena. Of course that’s useful knowledge, which we can use to build useful machines etc, but is by far not all the knowledge we have. For example we know that to torture a child for fun is wrong.

As for philosophy, it seems to me there is a lot to learn here. Take for example scientific realism, i.e. the idea that the physical sciences not only model physical phenomena but also describe the reality that produces them. Only philosophy can tell us whether scientific realism is true or not. The fact that the truth of philosophical theses is difficult to establish only evidences how hard these questions are. In comparison the task of the physical sciences is much simpler. Indeed I expect we shall be able to automate in a computer much of what we today call fundamental science. In the future the task of engineers to turn scientific knowledge into useful products may prove to be harder. As is indeed a hard philosophical question how we should use scientific knowledge.

I am personally as much interested in the physical sciences as the next person. On the other hand I find our zeitgeist’s obsession with the physical sciences and the idolizing of scientists unhealthy. People used to idolize chess players too as possessing some kind of special intelligence, but today even a simple PC can beat all but the very best human players.

BenYachov said...

>And above, I said he was a giant. Pay attention.

I am! Are you? In the same sentence you said he had lame ideas and that he was wrong.

Hypocrite! Backpeddler!

>It's not me.

Yes it is (you also conflate natural theology with dogmatic theology).

>It's others around here and throughout history who use Aristotle to bolster theistic positions. So tell them they don't know what they're talking about.

I think not it is still clearly you who doesn't know squat about Aristotle, philosophy much of anything really.


Anonymous said...

"NChen said...

But I have responded to your lame claims that philosophy has contributed to "knowledge" in cognitive science. It hasn't. It's speculated. You seem to grasp onto the hope that speculation will pass for knowledge. It won't."

I'm not in cognitive sciences but in HIV preventitive and thereapeutic research. I don't know about cognitive sciences but we speculate quite a bit before embarking on any work. If we didn't, we wouldn't be able to do any work. Perhaps cognitive sciences are different, who knows.

Without philosophy, there would be no science at all. One can say that all empirical knowldegde we possess, since the time the first man discovered that a bone ax was a better instrument than a wooden ax for a given purpose through philosophy and then practical application of that philosophy, we have been employing philosphy whether we like it or not. I am not a philosopher but am just using common sense and own experience to draw these conclusions. Dr Feser's site is most insightful. Philosophers are essential to make sure the rest of us, more concrete empirical thinkers, have things right in our heads. Thank you.

NChen said...

>But I have responded to your lame claims that philosophy has contributed to "knowledge" in cognitive science.<

Djindra, your ridiculous claim that the scientific method has not contributed "one iota" to human knowledge can only be seconded by the ignorance displayed at his claim that cog science has not contributed to one iota either.

But of course, you are just, in your own words, "playing devil's advocate" (good one!) and is only displaying pretend ignorance and don't really believe the nonsense you have spewed.

>I'm not in cognitive sciences but in HIV preventitive and thereapeutic research. I don't know about cognitive sciences but we speculate quite a bit<

I can see how you have speculated much. But of course, that is just your "playing devil's advocate" speculation and not really an example of true ignorance! (Good one! and thanks again for all the laughs)

Anonymous said...

Seriously ever "proof" against the existence of a God just replaces the word God with a scientific term.

Ismael said...

At one before last Anon.:

"Multiverse is not a mathematical entity. And it can explain things in quantum mechanics which can not be explained in any other way."

Modern physics and mathematics are interconnected, more than you might wish to.

The whole quantum mechanics field is a 'mathematical tool' for the description of the outcome of various experiments.

On the other end, *interpretation* of what QM means is still under debate and there are several school (Copenhagen Interpretation, Many World, etc...)
And this is true even for the most basic QM even without going into the more complex worlds of QED, QCD, String Theory, etc.

So essentially the 'Multiverse Theory' IS a Mathematical description *trying* to solve several problems in modern physics.

This does not mean that it is false or true, a priori. As empiric science dictates, only a set of reproducible experiments can actually confirm that the Multiverse Theory has some real physical foundation in reality and it is not merely 'math'.

Similar case are Black Holes: they were just a solution to Einstein's equations.

Of course now we know that Black Holes exists because we found data that fits the theory.

If we did not Balck Holes would also be just 'mathematical entities' and nothing more.


" have some rigorous proof for them. But, it is not related to this discussion. But, it is very well supported by physics. In fact based on physics. I am not going to give you a hint. Though!!!

Well la-di-dah! Those are just empty meaningless words.

I could claim:

I have rigorous proof that flying pink elephants that shoot lasers out of their eyes exist.

But hey I ma not going to give it here, no hint either. Tough!

Unless you ACTAULLY present your arguments all the claims you make mean nothing.


In the end: whethere there is a multiverse or not is irrelevant for Classical Theism.

Aquinas arguments work just as fine in a universe with no beginning and end, as he does not assume that the universe had a beginning (although he belived it had he thought it could not be proven).

inkling43 said...

Ridicule is not an argument. Do you have anything else?

Steve Smith said...

I'm late to the party, but I feel obligated to point out that Feser's post contains demonstrably and remarkably ignorant mischaracterization of Hawking's and other's scientific assertions. But ignorance is no sin, so I'll point everyone to a popular explanation of why what Hawking says about gravity is so interesting in so-called ex nihilo theories of the universe. Guth's Inflationary Universe is a must-read, and he explains the physics of the ideas that Feser ridicules. Guth explains ex nihilo theories with the colorful statement:

"The question of the origin of the matter in the universe is no longer thought to be beyond the range of science—everything can be created from nothing … it is fair to say that the universe is the ultimate free lunch."

Guth's provides technical reasons for his claims:

"Now we can return to a key question: How is there any hope that the creation of the universe might be described by physical laws consistent with energy conservations? Answer: the energy stored in the gravitational field is represented by a negative number! … The immense energy that we observe in the form of matter can be canceled by a negative contribution of equal magnitude, coming from the gravitational field. There is no limit to the magnitude of energy energy in the gravitational field, and hence no limit to the amount of matter/energy it can cancel.

For the reader interested in learning why the energy of a gravitational field is negative, the argument is presented in Appendix A."

Guth goes on to explain a simple argument for all this that if you grasp, you will understand a fact of gravity that evaded Newton. Unfortunately, Google books doesn't have Appendix A online.

Guth's technical explanation above is what is meant by the nontechnical, poetic description, “Because there is a law like gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing” that Feser attacks.

Ironically, this explanation of the universe appears to differ in no way from Feser's. When asked caused the photon in a Feynman diagram, Feser said that physics is the cause of photon, just as those he attacks say that physics is the cause of the universe.

Next, I'll provide pointers to a quick technical explanation of the creation of a universe from literally nothing subject to the laws of quantum mechanics.

You can see from Guth and the comment that will follow the picture is strikingly different from Feser's, who is apparently ignorant of these facts.

Steve Smith said...

For others who may be interested, here's both a technical and popular description of how a universe from literally nothing is possible.

A technical account of the universe ex nihilo, following Vilenkin, "Creation of universes from nothing". Physics Letters B Volume 117, Issues 1-2, 4 November 1982, Pages 25-28. Available here.

1. Observe the Friedmann–Lemaître–Robertson–Walker metric for universal expansion:

ds² = dt² – a(t)|dx

This is describes the space-time geometry with the spatial scale term a(t) describing the growth/contraction of the universe. This is Vilenkin's equation (2).

2. Solve the evolution equation:

a(t) = (1/H)cosh(Ht)

where H is the Hubble constant.

This is Vilenkin's equation (3). So far, there is no explanation of a universe from nothing because the de Sitter space isn't nothing, as we all agree.

3. Observe that at t = 0, the physics has the same form as a potential barrier, for which it is known that quantum tunneling is possible. The description of quantum tunneling involves a transformation tit, with i² = –1.

Now the evolution equation is

a(t) = (1/H)cos(Ht) [the cosine "cos", not the hyperbolic cosine "cosh"]

valid for |t| < π/2/H. This is Vilenkin's equation (5). Space-Time is simply the 4-sphere, a compact, i.e, bounded space. At the scale a(t) = 0, this space is literally nothing. No space-time, no energy, no particles. Nothing. The interpretation of (5) is quantum tunneling from literally nothing to de Sitter space, the universe as we know it. See Figure 1a for a depiction of the creation of the universe from nothing using this explanation.

Vilenkin says in the paper, "A cosmological model is proposed in which the universe is created by quantum tunneling from literally nothing into a de Sitter space. After the tunneling, the model evolves along the lines of the inflationary scenario. This model does not have a big-bang singularity and does not require any initial or boundary conditions. … In this paper I would like to suggest a new cosmological scenario in which the universe is spontaneously created from literally nothing, and which is free from the difficulties I mentioned in the preceding paragraph. This scenario does not require any changes in the fundamental equations of physics; it only gives a new interpretation to a well-known cosmological solution. … The concept of the universe being created from nothing is a crazy one. To help the reader make peace with this concept, I would like to give an example of a compact instanton in a more familiar setting. …"

This is what physicists mean by "nothing". Nonexistent space-time, subject to the laws of quantum mechanics.

Steve Smith said...

Guth provides a nontechnical explanation: "Alexander Vilenkin … suggested that the universe was created by quantum processes starting from "literally nothing," meaning not only the absence of matter, but the absence of space and time as well. This concept of absolute nothingness is hard to understand, because we are accustomed to thinking of space as an immutable background which could not possibly be removed. Just as a fish could not imagine the absence of water, we cannot imagine a situation devoid of space and time. At the risk of trying to illuminate the abstruse with the obscure, I mention that one way to understand absolute nothingness is to imagine a closed universe, which has a finite volume, and then imagine decreasing the volume to zero. In any case, whether one can visualize it or not, Vilenkin showed that the concept of absolute nothingness is at least mathematically well-defined, and can be used as a starting point for theories of creation."

Ethan Siegel said...

Ping, Edward.

Not everyone who disagrees with you is an idiot, and the fact that quantum mechanics runs counter to the fundamental precepts of Aristotelian logic certainly doesn't invalidate the scientific truths one derives from quantum mechanics.

Tallies the Techno Monkey said...

I'm real glad the hard working, deep thinking philosophers of the world gave us computers, cars, electricity, healthcare, and other wonders of the modern world! Why, just yesterday, when I had a cough, I went to see my philosopher, and today I'm cured!

My bad! :-) Sorry, wrong blog. I was meant to be at Starts With a Bang, where you can actually learn something.

Anonymous said...

RE: Philosophy
In so far as philosophy is an exercise in thinking it has value. Logic reveals correct thinking only given the premises. Logic however does not reveal anything new and likewise philosophy does not.

RE: Cosmology
I'm cringing at the poor use of logic in the cosmology debate.
When we speak of how the universe came into being, it is a different question from, where the physical laws came from.

RE: Scientists
Scientists aren't philosophers. Philosophy, like math, can describe an infinite number ideas that have no basis in reality.
Scientists stick with the reality part.

Rick said...

Thanks for the post.

It was devastating.

Nice to see that the philosophers are finally waking up to the mushrooming epicycles of the best-buy cosmology, which have long since crossed over into the realm of metaphysics.

Dr; George Ellis smells it too:

"The extreme case is multiverse proposals, where no direct observational tests of the hypothesis are possible, as the supposed other universes cannot be seen by any observations whatever, and the assumed underlying physics is also untested and indeed probably untestable.

"In this context one must re-evaluate what the core of science is: can one maintain one has a genuine scientific theory when direct and indeed indirect tests of the theory are impossible? If one claims this, one is altering what one means by science. One should be very careful before so doing."


FX said...

@ Anon August 17, 2011 9:49 PM

Re: Philosophy

This is plainly false. As a matter of fact empirical science itself is based on several philosophical ideas... and that WAS certainly something new at the time.


Re: Cosmology

Yes but in the end the 1 megatrillion dollar question is still 'where did everything originally come from'.


Re: Sciencetists

Scientis OUGHT to stick to facts and empirical data, and from there build a model and then a theory... in an ideal world.

In PRACTICE they often make up a theory or a model that fits SOME data and then they either check if it is real or not (look at string theory which is still not testable by any experiment yet... and had many ideas which might be pure fiction... just like math and philosophy... yet it is considered 'respectable science').

Also once they get an idea in their head somethimes they would do anything to defend it.

Look at Dawkins' Meme: most scientists and philosophers say it's crap and it is a completely redundand and useless concept, yet Dawkins still presents it as it were an hardcore fact...

Indeed 'Scientists aren't philosophers.'... so they should really try very hard not to be bad ones.

Anonymous said...

With what has been said I am glad it isn't philosophers building our airplanes, designing our computers, building machines that looking at the very elements of our universe.

For all the criticism the these philosophers give scientists, not one of them can take the leaps of imagination that have lead to the advances we have today.

Anonymous said...

This concept has puzzled me for quite some time because, rationally, something cannot come from nothing, which anyone who isn't highly educated or intelligent can understand (though I see how it could rile up some christians). To say that, "something came from nothing" is equivalent to implying that something created something from nothing.

I particularly like t'Hooft's explaination (though I could not properly define why this makes more sense to me if I had to explain it to well-learned folk) but I will quote and cite the excerpt:

[In regards to the Higg's field as being Bose condensed, the following quote pertains]: "This time, however, the condensation takes place not inside some material, but in empty space (the "vacuum") itself. The forces among these particles have then been chosen in such a special way that it saves energy to fill the vacuum with particles rather than keeping it empty."
Side-note (from myself): I do not think "chosen" could be argued from a philosophical nor religious stand point because it pertains to the following and preceding passages in the book, "In Search of the Ultimate Building Blocks" by Gerard t'Hooft.

My understanding, then (and please correct me if I am wrong for I have a vague understanding of physics and one that is insufficient at that), would be that if there is a conservation of energy in the lowest possible state, that "something" could simply exist rather than "nothing" and the controversial "first mover" would, itself, be unmoved...that no creator created something from nothing and that it (this field of something) just is. It would make more physical sense that something came from something else that is infinite and fundamental, but the question is, how?

Eth said...

Come now, Feser, you're not steelmanning. The real claim here, from what I can see, is about the universe arising from no matter or energy or something, not from nothing including no laws of physics. I don't know if that claim is physically sound or not, but your objection is really just to their wording.

Cameron Lidstone said...

The "add some yellow paint" you gave is a false analogy.

A correct one would be actually getting the yellow paint form the red & white mix.

Yes, both are technically "something".

But the yellow paint comes into existence where it didn't exist before.

Anonymous said...

In my physics class I find the opposite... Well not quite, don't be fooled by physicists, they accept mostly eloquent sounding logophile's who are actually logically dumb beyond comprehension.
Try this on for size: 70% of the class cannot envision simple reflection. Homework 1 question 1, 70% of the class did not get it right and I can account for telling at least 10 people who then got it right. So see if your smarter than my phys class: "a beam is directed towards a mirror at an angle. The mirror is then rotated theta degrees. How much does the reflected beam rotate?", I mean it's one to catch people out but I would think that this standard problem was dealt with way-back-when. The majority of the "smart" ones in my class didn't get it right, surprised yet?
I've gained a beautiful vocab from them all which I am grateful for, but I am sorry, this won't do for physicists and apparently across the world its pretty similar, for shame fascist world of physics. Retribution? I'm here to F them up and deface them, relating to work based competition. i.e I am the next big thing

Nick Sumner said...

Yes me again. Have you noticed that on uni challenge (TV show), the physicist is just there to answer what crazy words mean? Classic is the cubic zirconium question. He says jack about anything else while I'm spitting the answers away and away. Physics is no longer about thought, it is about copying, practising, and with a bit of using others, the main one, formality! You don't have a good shirt on and speak entirely proper? Then you may as well give up. Or, for advice to others, ignore others, it will be hard but they do not deserve the attention trying to add to the mess.
Anyway, because of the level of practice required because they simply won't shut the F up and think, I personally don't think physicists are suitable to be what they are!

David said...

Matter antimatter pairs don't come from nothing, they do so at the expense of total amount of energy in the universe. Just like when matter and antimatter meet they destroy each other and become gamma radiation. Einstein demonstrated this phenomenon with E=mc2. Asking where the laws of physics came from is a ridiculous question and only proves the authors point about some scientist being horrible philosophers. The laws of physics comes from man, the universe just exist, the laws of physics are created by man as a way of predicting how the universe is going to behave.

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Very small free roaming particles lifetime very short.[free photons, free notron, free proton,free
electron ,vs].And their lifetime is its energy Mc2. Protons are observed to be stable and their theoretical minimum half-life is 1x10'36 years.Grand unified theories generally predict. That proton
decay should take place, although experiments so far have only resulted in a lower limit 10'35 years for proton's lifetime. I see that. The earth lifetime is its Mc'2 energy. When this is calculated
the lifetime of earth.

Earth Mass= 5.97x10'24 kg. the lifetime 1 kg of mass in space is 2851927903,26 years.

Earth Lifetime is 1.7x10'34 years. I think that, this is a very interesting result. Thanks.
Salih Kırcalar

Anonymous said...

Hey guys. You are very logical and all that. Hats off. Glad to see intellectuals who are fellow Christians. Even though my expertise is in internet marketing, and I'm still in my early 20‘s, I hope I someday become as well-read in philosophy as you. I really find it fascinating.

With that being said, I have to say I'm inclined to think that the tone in some comments here is not 100% adequate. Like, is it really necessary to make fun of those who make typos or aren't experts in philosophical reasoning? What would Jesus say to that?

God is my witness that I'm the greatest of all sinners, but I just wanted to say what my thoughts are.

Being rude to people who aren't educated in philosophy is also not the greatest idea I‘ve heard. Some have other interests or are maybe single mothers living in third-world countries, struggling to provide to their children in a messy environment, and perhaps are also located in a war-torn country. Is it really appropriate to point fingers and laugh at their ignorance of, say, the nuances of Aquinas thought, saying stuff like "Uneducated savage"? Think about it.

Best wishes...

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