Saturday, 12 May 2012

Something from nothing: Reconciliation

In my last few posts, I've been highlighting the reasons why I do not agree with Dr. Richard Carrier's argument that the universe could spring from absolute nothingness simply because there would be no laws to prevent this happening.

The focus of my argument has been that there would be no time in a state of absolute nothingness and so nothing at all could happen, including the spontaneous creation of time

In this post, I try to understand the fundamental origin of our disagreement and propose that perhaps neither of us are really wrong.

There is much upon which Dr. Carrier and I at least appear to agree.
  1. That a lack of empirical evidence should not stop us from attempting to use reason in the form of philosophy and mathematics to show why the universe exists.
  2. That there is no obvious reason why the universe should not exist. That is, there is no reason to assume that "nothing" is a default state of reality.
  3. Similarly, there is no obvious reason why any mathematically consistent universe should not exist, thus it is probable that all mathematically consistent universes exist.
  4. That when considering the question of the universe's existence, it helps to view the universe as a static four-dimensional structure with time as one of those dimensions.
  5. That there is no good reason to believe in the supernatural, so some naturalistic or logically necessary reason should be sought for the universe's existence.
I believe the foundation of our disagreement lies in different assumptions about what it means for reality to consist of absolute nothingness.

We both agree that only logically necessary entities exist, in particular the rules of logic. The very first inference he draws from this premise, "P2", states:
If there was absolutely nothing, then (apart from logical necessity) nothing existed to prevent anything from happening or to make any one thing happening more likely than any other thing. 
Carrier then proceeds to argue that therefore there is nothing to prevent time or anything else from popping into existence. In fact, after developing P2 to show that stuff must happen (i.e. the state changes), he actually logically concludes that time must exist.
If there is a change of state, there automatically is time.
This argument is actually consistent and makes a lot of sense. Why, then, do I disagree with him?

It is because I interpret "absolute nothing" to have different implications.

In my argument, I would replace P2 with:
If there was absolutely nothing, then no time dimension nor space dimension existed.
I would then go on to argue that with no time dimension, there is no way to change from one description of reality to another contradictory one, and since the existence of universes and time contradicts P1, then nothing can ever pop into existence.

In other words, my P2 contradicts Carrier's P2. A coherent and correct argument can be made to disprove my P2 if you accept Carrier's. The reverse is also true: Carrier's P2 can be disproved if you accept my P2.

And so both arguments are correct, given the premises. We're both right.

Well... kinda.

Carrier still maintains that no time is needed for time to pop into existence, as the very event of the creation of time furnishes the time needed. In fact, even though he agrees with me that time would pop into existence simultaneously, for some reason he sees no contradiction between the conclusion that his argument apparently requires there to be nothing and everything at the same instant of time. He thus sees no contradiction between his P2 and mine. I have attempted to refute this argument in previous posts.

The only other issue which remains to be decided is which of Carrier's P2 or mine is the more reasonable. This will be the topic of my next post.

No comments:

Post a Comment