Measured Against Reality

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Nothing Doesn't Exist

Today I want to talk about nothing. Not like Jerry Seinfeld nothing, but the actual concept, and how it relates to the real world.

First, the definition that I’m using is quite literal, with nothing meaning “the lack or absence of anything.” It’s hard to define nothing in any non-negative way, but I think we all have a good enough idea of what nothing means to agree the above definition works pretty well. I’ve heard this called “ontological nothing”, and that’s how I will be using the word.

The interesting thing about nothing is that it does not exist. Don’t believe me? There is no point in the universe that is not something. “But what about empty space?” you ask. Space (or space-time, to be more precise) is most definitely a thing. It’s modified by the presence of matter, which is definitely something that nothing wouldn’t do. It’s also filled with “quantum fluctuation”, constantly generating so-called “virtual particles”, a particle and its anti-particle, which spontaneously generate and then annihilate. This only happens on the smallest of scales, but there’s still something there.

So what about outside the universe? There are two outlooks you can take there. The first and more traditional is that the question “what is outside the universe” is meaningless. This position holds that the universe we occupy is all that exists, and we can’t possibly leave it (even if it’s finite). The second is that we occupy a “pocket universe” surrounded by false vacuum, which is infinite. Again, asking what’s outside that is meaningless.

Just in case you don’t buy it, my justification for the assertion that “beyond the universe” is meaningless is to say that the universe is the total extent of space-time. Because it lacks space-time, the external universe would be dimensionless, and as such would be completely devoid of meaning in any way we can conceive. Also, because the universe is defined as everything that exists, asking what exists outside of it is pretty clearly meaningless, rendering the question unintelligible.

The conclusion is inescapable, nothing doesn’t exist.

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16 Comments:

  • "Just in case you don’t buy it, my justification for the assertion that “beyond the universe” is meaningless is to say that the universe is the total extent of space-time. Because it lacks space-time, the external universe would be dimensionless, and as such would be completely devoid of meaning in any way we can conceive. Also, because the universe is defined as everything that exists, asking what exists outside of it is pretty clearly meaningless, rendering the question unintelligible."

    I think you're starting to get it, Stu. You just defined God.

    By Blogger Mr. Fantastic, at 10:38 AM, September 27, 2006  

  • The key is in your last section - "devoid of meaning in any way that we can conceive". Devoid of meaning, I suppose, means to be totally lacking in meaning. In other words, nothing. It is so 'nothing' that you can't conceive of it at all, except to define it by exception.

    And thus, if all is information, then the total lack of information must define what is not not-nothing - that is, nothing.

    By Blogger Mythical, at 11:07 AM, September 27, 2006  

  • Nick, I'm not sure how I defined god. Is he the extent of space-time? Devoid of meaning? Nothing? Unintelligle? Unknowable? I'm guessing you meant the last one, but I'm not sure.

    By Blogger Stupac2, at 3:58 PM, September 27, 2006  

  • You admit that there is an immaterial "beyond the universe", lacking space-time, and that if there were such a thing it would be beyond man's understanding.

    This is exactly what believers call God.

    By Blogger Mr. Fantastic, at 8:18 PM, September 27, 2006  

  • Nick, don't most people define god as some kind of omnipotent, omniscient diety that actively intervenes in our lives? That's what the majority of Americans believe in, and what I take to be the "God" of the Christian faith.

    Besides, I never said it was immaterial, I said that the question of what exists outside of it isn't intelligable; asking "what's outside the universe?" is as meaningful as randomly banging on the keyboard and ending it with a question mark.

    By Blogger Stupac2, at 9:09 PM, September 27, 2006  

  • This is off-topic, but related... as amused as I am by the posts (and I agree, nothing doesn't exist), the ads by google tickle me even more... Like this one, which I'm sure you support wholeheartedly:
    http://www.godlovestheworld.com/

    By Anonymous Jack Flash, at 11:20 PM, September 27, 2006  

  • "most people define god as some kind of omnipotent, omniscient diety that actively intervenes in our lives?"

    I'd love to see a citation for your assertion that "the majority of American Christians" believe this, but indeed that is precisely the same thing I said. I am a Christian, and I see God as the source of all knowledge (omniscient), and whose power over our actions (and He only interferes in our lives if we accept Him. After all God endowed man with free will) is unknowable and unquestionable (omnipotent). Do I believe that "he" would bring me a drink if I willed it so?

    Absolutely not.

    This stuff is not literal, Stu. It's all figurative and highly subjective.

    Here are my definitions:

    The Universe: Everything that can be proven to exist
    God: Everything else; the source of all knowledge and reason, and the source of man's higher faculties of love, compassion, reason, and creation

    By Blogger Mr. Fantastic, at 10:02 AM, September 28, 2006  

  • I don't know. I think Mr Fantastic is stretching it a bit too far in defining -

    The Universe: Everything that can be proven to exist
    God: Everything else; the source of all knowledge and reason, and the source of man's higher faculties of love, compassion, reason, and creation

    I am sure that you don't need God to be a source of at least one of those things there. But that's just my faith in reason. However, things that cannot be proven to exist I suppose include the Devil. Which would make God the Devil. No no no. Urgh. Sloppy.

    By Blogger Mythical, at 6:22 AM, September 29, 2006  

  • I don't really believe in the devil.

    I do believe in heaven and hell though, but not in the sense of a place in any manner that we could comprehend it. But as a model for the goodness of virtue (for the former) and the sinister feelings promoted by sin or vice (for the latter), I can understand the concepts.

    I stand by my definitions. Especially in respect to science. It may provide answers to a lot of man's great "how's" but rarely provides any leads on man's many "why's". God is a very elegant and convenient solution to the puzzle, and one that is supported by loads of personal evidence.

    It's still all a matter of faith.

    By Blogger Mr. Fantastic, at 10:26 AM, September 29, 2006  

  • Using my current knowledge/intuition without practiced logic, here is my theory of existence. Is any of this right?

    Postulates
    1. Nothing can't exist, therefore
    2. Something must exist, because
    3. Infinity is imperceivable.
    4. Any universe must be logically consistent.
    5. There may be other "worlds" but they must obey all postulates.
    6. Infinity and nothing are the same concept.

    Postulate 3 invokes the anthropic principle. Postulate 6 seems shaky to me.

    What we perceive as the Big Bang, was the universe necessarily expanding into finite variation. This is true to any observer.

    The universe will eventually reintegrate itself into nothing/infinity (I can't describe this) by human or normal cosmic means.

    Why don't we see more finite objects within the universe, given the laws of physics? Or is this all my own foolishness?

    By Anonymous 5:24 P.M. NY, at 3:54 PM, October 02, 2007  

  • Has anyone defined Zero or Infinity in mathematics?

    Are they imaginary?

    Those are two most basic axioms in maths. And the logic is based on the practical side of mathematics. So our logic is based on two imaginery numbers. What ever is out side of these are denoted as mythical etc.

    By Blogger Always, at 5:47 AM, July 03, 2008  

  • Nothing can't exist, therefor something must have always existed. Bye bye Big bang.

    By Blogger bram, at 5:17 AM, October 20, 2010  

  • I didn't know it, but in his first major foray back into the media since the finale of Seinfeld, he co-wrote and co-produced the film Bee Movie, also taking on the lead role of Barry B. 23jj

    By Anonymous cheap viagra, at 8:29 AM, April 19, 2011  

  • The chap is absolutely just, and there is no question.

    By Anonymous sex shop tienda, at 3:36 AM, August 24, 2011  

  • I like how it all resembles fractals, nature, life and the universe is all about fractals, once that we understand this concept, we can understand the laws of all.

    By Anonymous cialis online, at 6:45 AM, September 14, 2011  

  • If nothing existed, it would be something. Therefore it can't exist.

    By Anonymous Residentatheist, at 9:20 AM, November 14, 2011  

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