Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Univervise has zero net-energy and can be created from nothing

This lecture, by physicist Lawrence Krauss, is a perfect example of how astrophysics can lead us to question our fundamental nature, and fundamental place, in existence. I don't like the smarty-pants atheism of Krauss (and of Dawkins, who introduces the talk) - it seems to contradict his basic perspective that the one thing we know is how much we don't know. The video is long, but worth the time...


Krauss sees the nothingness from which the universe began as evidence that there was no need for a "creator"; I won't argue with that. What seems more interesting to me is that if the universe began from nothing, and if it maintains a net-zero level of energy/matter over time, this suggests that the fundamental nature of manifestation - big bang, galaxies, stars, life, etc. - is nothingness - they have an underlying non-existence to them. This is the type of apparent contradiction - that there can be manifestation that is real but grounded in nothingness - that comes up in a lot of spiritual teachings, e.g. Buddhism:

We tend to misunderstand the nature, and exaggerate the importance, of 'time' and 'space'.

There are no such 'things' (they do not exist in their own right): these come into apparent existence, i.e. they 'function' only as a mechanism whereby events, extended spatially and sequentially, may become cognisable. They accompany events and render their development realisable. In themselves they have no existence whatever. They are appearances, and their apparent existence is deduced from the events they accompany and render perceptible. They are hypothetical, like the 'ether', symbols, like algebra, psychic inferences to aid in the cognisance of the universe we objectify, and they neither pre-exist, nor survive apart from, the events they accompany, but are utilised in function of each such event as it occurs.
(Wei Wu Wei, Open Secret (Ch. 1, Time and Space)
I suspect that Krauss and Wei Wu Wei would disagree about the capacity a human to phenomenologically experience that nothingness; Krauss thinks it can be inferred from data; Wei Wu Wei thinks that one can not just understand it but grok it, and incorporate it into life.

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