Horgan: Lawrence Krauss, in A Universe from Nothing, claims that physics has basically solved the mystery of why there is something rather than nothing. Do you agree?
Ellis: Certainly not. He is presenting untested speculative theories of how things came into existence out of a pre-existing complex of entities, including variational principles, quantum field theory, specific symmetry groups, a bubbling vacuum, all the components of the standard model of particle physics, and so on. He does not explain in what way these entities could have pre-existed the coming into being of the universe, why they should have existed at all, or why they should have had the form they did. And he gives no experimental or observational process whereby we could test these vivid speculations of the supposed universe-generation mechanism. How indeed can you test what existed before the universe existed? You can’t.
Thus what he is presenting is not tested science. It’s a philosophical speculation, which he apparently believes is so compelling he does not have to give any specification of evidence that would confirm it is true. Well, you can’t get any evidence about what existed before space and time came into being. Above all he believes that these mathematically based speculations solve thousand year old philosophical conundrums, without seriously engaging those philosophical issues. The belief that all of reality can be fully comprehended in terms of physics and the equations of physics is a fantasy. As pointed out so well by Eddington in his Gifford lectures, they are partial and incomplete representations of physical, biological, psychological, and social reality.
And above all Krauss does not address why the laws of physics exist, why they have the form they have, or in what kind of manifestation they existed before the universe existed (which he must believe if he believes they brought the universe into existence). Who or what dreamt up symmetry principles, Lagrangians, specific symmetry groups, gauge theories, and so on? He does not begin to answer these questions.
It’s very ironic when he says philosophy is bunk and then himself engages in this kind of attempt at philosophy. It seems that science education should include some basic modules on Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Hume, and the other great philosophers, as well as writings of more recent philosophers such as Tim Maudlin and David Albert.
“If the machine of government is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law.”—Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience and Other Essays (via childrenofthetao)
“There are many pleasant fictions of the law in constant operation, but there is not one so pleasant or practically humorous as that which supposes every man to be of equal value in its impartial eye, and the benefits of all laws to be equally attainable by all men, without the smallest reference to the furniture of their pockets.”—Charles Dickens, Nicholas Nickleby
“Its vanished trees, the trees that had made way for Gatsby’s house, had once pandered in whispers to the last and greatest of all human dreams; for a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder.”—F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
Handy (Parody of Fancy by Iggy Azalea) -"Weird Al" Yankovic
In 1996 Weird Al released Bad Hair Day and I LOVED that record. I listened to it non stop for about a year. I have an extremely vivid memory of receiving the CD for Christmas and immediately subjecting my family to listening to the whole record. I mean, I was 12, what would you expect???
Every time Weird Al has had a release since then I have listened for old times sake. It has always been disappointing … until today.
"Handy" is genuinely great. Is Weird Al "back"????
“I’m so handy, everyone says so I’ll grout your bathroom, resurface your patio”
“Our project, according to Heidegger, must be to return to where we are, to give up metaphysical dreams for human reality. ‘Rational living beings must first become mortals.’ We must accept that there are fundamental limits to our understanding - not limits that can be definitively surveyed and used to master a limited whole, but brute facts that do not yield to comprehension. The very fact that we are alive, and that we live as humans, ‘stares [us] in the face with the inexorability of an enigma.’ For Heidegger, our being open to experiencing anything at all is ultimately contingent and gratuitous, which should fill us with awestruck gratitude. We should celebrate and protect this deepest possible mystery from attempts to ground it which are inevitably futile and which, more importantly, exile us from the space of wonder.”—Braver, Groundless Ground, p. 239 (via spiritandteeth)