Open Thread: Cosmology

(by chris the cynic)

The big bang which was not big and made no noise was named by someone who hated the theory and wanted to name it something insulting.  It is now at the center of the cosmology science posits.  That’s hardly the only example though.  Beyond science (which has given us lots of models) religions have given us some interesting ones, as has fiction.

Have anything to contribute even vaguely related to anything I’ve written above?  Say it.

 –

[As a reminder, open thread prompts are meant to inspire conversation, not stifle it. Have no fear of going off topic for there is no off topic here.]

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18 thoughts on “Open Thread: Cosmology

  1. christhecynic February 6, 2016 at 12:26 pm

    I did this topic as a kind of cheat because I couldn’t think of anything. I’d just finished writing up the structure of multiple realm universe I’ve been kicking around in my head. It only fits in the broader sense of the word though, since it’s a universe where revisionist history has forever obscured the true origins of it.

    It’s also a universe where the various gods look at angels/demons and think: splitters!

    The gods maintain that the monotheists are just a pantheon that got full of itself, went to a new another realm where they could say, “We’re the only ones,” without the other pantheons saying, “Excuse me?” and eventually convinced themselves that the other gods were just pretenders.

    The monotheists think that Heaven came first, it’s where angels and demons originated, and the many gods are all later lesser beings who aren’t worthy of the title “god”.

  2. only some stardust February 7, 2016 at 12:10 am

    I’ve been thinking. It’s only a matter of time before someone comes up with a mathematical model for how something came from nothing, why the (multi?)universe exists. Whether or not the model turns out correct or not is beyond the point: someone will come up with one. If they haven’t already, and are in the process of refining it for submission… I’ll admit I’ve been mentally rolling over how it could work mathematically myself, and I can’t be the only one.

    So, what I’ve been wondering is what effects this would have, if God/cosmic egg/the purple Unicorn Goddess was pretty much disproven, and the world shown to have created itself?

    Especially if the something-from-nothing mathematical hypothesis got scientifically confirmed by an experiment matching some of its predictions. Maybe it would just get ignored by anyone who wasn’t already interested in mathematics? The human capacity for delusion and ignorance is pretty strong. Another part of me worries that, rather than ignoring, there would be a very violent reaction to it. Riots, wars. Although, many people interested in waging religious war are already doing that.

    The saddest thought is the idea nothing would change at all. I mean, human nature would be exactly the same, wouldn’t it? But ideas can be powerful, so maybe… maybe this one would be very powerful indeed.

    I feel sad but hopeful.

  3. genesistrine February 7, 2016 at 3:47 am

    @Only Some Stardust: but that wouldn’t prove that was how it happened, only that it was possible it happened that way. It’s impossible to disprove a creator deity; all the believer needs to do is use a slightly-updated version of the Omphalos hypothesis and say, “see, my deity created a universe that looked like it came out of nothing to test our faith!” or the usual variants on same. (Satanic delusion, wickedness in your hearts, etc etc.)

  4. christhecynic February 7, 2016 at 11:46 am

    Gaia, Greek mythology, popped into existence on her own. If you consider that the the world was in many ways their universe, proving that the universe could have popped into existence on its own would just be proving that that particular creation story is plausible.

    Also, science is about models.

    Consider these two possibilities:
    –Something came from nothing via X process as a result of the will of God.
    –Something came from nothing via X process.

    Science makes no claim about which is more likely, but since they both are equally accurate or inaccurate as models, and make the exact same testable claims, science embraces the second one because there’s no reason to model something that doesn’t change the results of the model (in this case God.)

    Science is all about increasingly accurate models of the way things are, and good models are always as simple as they can be made to be without decreasing accuracy. As a result science is never going to claim that the universe wasn’t created by the cosmic cow.

    It has no way to do that. Science doesn’t actually distinguish between the likelihood or reality of:

    This is how X happened.
    and
    This is how X happened because Y.

    It uses the first because it’s a simpler model, but there is no principle in science that would allow you to say which is more likely to be true.

  5. only some stardust February 7, 2016 at 7:11 pm

    Uh, no, it doesn’t just use one model over another because it’s a simpler model, it uses the first because it _makes more accurate predictions_.

    We can’t make any predictions from the will of god argument, even though you could argue it’s a lot simpler because you don’t need any fancy thinking or math. It’s the will of God doesn’t make any testable claims at all!

    Yes, there could always be a better model in science, and you could also always make one that isn’t provable that makes no new predictions that matches current behaviors. This, however, would not be considered a scientific model, and thus, not be what ‘science’ says, more or less. It was a figure of speech.

    When I said proof, I meant reasonable proof and reasonable certainty, like a sane person talking about Newton’s gravity. If we say ‘we can never prove anything!’ then we can’t ‘prove’ there isn’t an invisible talking frog talking at me right now even if I wave my arm in front of it and all possible tests, for years, show no interaction with physical nature whatsoever from a talking frog. Needing beyond that level of proof requirement is fucking stupid.

    If I want to say we’ve proven we have a fucking sun our planet revolves around, I’m going to fucking say that, and it’s not an unreasonable unjustifiable statement just because I didn’t put the disclaimer ‘under all reasonable standards of proof’.

    And also, even science can’t ‘disprove’ mathematical, axiomatic laws. It can show situations where those axioms don’t apply, but it can’t disprove euclid’s triangles. There is a level of proof where things are effectively not disprovable. IF you remember, I was talking about a mathematical model: as in, it would be proven in the mathematics if you use these axioms. And _then_ I talked about how this would be more powerful if it turned out to have scientific support in the real world and said ‘pretty much’ not ‘absolutely’. I never once talked about something being absolutely proven.

    In fact, I said ‘whether or not the model is correct or not is beyond the point, someone will come up with one, so what effect would that have?’. That was the question. You guys completely ignored what I was talking about in favor of nitpicking words I didn’t say, to ‘splain at me. That kind of pisses me off.

    Never mind, I’m done. I knew it was a mistake to talk about this, I don’t know why I bothered, though I admit I wasn’t expecting to get jumped on for something I pretty clearly never meant if you read thoroughly. I guess I did get an answer to my question indirectly, though. People would just ignore it because there’s always a chance a flying pig sneezed the world,and science can never say ‘100% certain’ to their satisfaction.

  6. genesistrine February 8, 2016 at 4:14 am

    I’m sorry I hurt your feelings.

  7. christhecynic February 8, 2016 at 8:16 am

    You guys completely ignored what I was talking about

    I’m sorry about how I made you feel, however I disagree about what I said ignoring your writing and feel that you saying such was unfairly mischaracterizing my comment. I happen to know that you either missed or ignored what I was talking about because you said:

    Uh, no, it doesn’t just use one model over another because it’s a simpler model, it uses the first because it _makes more accurate predictions_.

    when I was talking explicitly and specifically about choosing between models that make identical predictions.

    For any given model there are an infinite number of other models that make the exact same predictions. None of those infinite models make more accurate predictions because they all predict the same things. As a result, science doesn’t choose the model that makes more accurate prediction because there isn’t one.

    To repeat an example from the previous comment, consider:
    This is how X happened.
    and
    This is how X happened because Y.

    These make the same predictions because “This is how X happened,” is the prediction making part of process. Add “because God wills it” or “because there is no God” or “because it pleases undetectable flying monkeys” and you haven’t changed the predictions but you have made the model less simple.

    Given models which don’t make the exact same predictions, science chooses the more accurate model.
    Given models which make the exact same predictions, science chooses the simplest model.

    Or, to repeat myself, “good models are always as simple as they can be made to be without decreasing accuracy.” Those last words are important: “without decreasing accuracy.

    IF you remember, I was talking about a mathematical model: as in, it would be proven in the mathematics if you use these axioms.

    Yes, and as a mathematician I can tell you that sometimes people in math use extra axioms in their proofs. (Sometimes the extra things aren’t axioms but that doesn’t concern us here.) They start out with “Given X, Y, and Z,” but in the end they only actually needed X and Z for the proof. So at that point good mathematicians go back and remove “Y” from their “given”s before sharing it with the greater world.

    Some axioms don’t make a difference in a given proof or a given set of predictions.

    We can’t make any predictions from the will of god argument

    Sure we can.

    By the will of god the energy of a system is equal to the mass times the speed of light squared.

    The thing is, we can cut out “By the will of god” and it makes the exact same predictions. So we do. Because adding “By the will of god” is us multiplying entities unnecessarily.

    In fact, I said ‘whether or not the model is correct or not is beyond the point, someone will come up with one, so what effect would that have?’. That was the question. You guys completely ignored what I was talking about in favor of nitpicking words I didn’t say, to ‘splain at me. That kind of pisses me off.

    First off, that’s not what you said. What you said was:

    So, what I’ve been wondering is what effects this would have, if God/cosmic egg/the purple Unicorn Goddess was pretty much disproven, and the world shown to have created itself?

    And I responded first to “what effects this would have, if […] the world [were] shown to have created itself?”

    I specifically responded to the effect it would have upon Hellenistic religion. Why? Because the world creating itself is something that is related to Hellenistic religion, something that Hellenistic religion specifically makes claims about, and thus discovering whether or not the world could have created itself would test part of Hellenistic religion.

    I said what effect I believe it would have in my original comment, no need to repeat that.

    The rest of my post was responding to the part of your question that I skipped with the “[…]” above. That being “if God/cosmic egg/the purple Unicorn Goddess was pretty much disproven” and my response boiled down to: it wouldn’t be pretty much disproven.

    If you want me to reiterate that response to your question, which I did not ignore, here’s a short version that uses your exact words:

    Science offers no way to distinguish between:
    –The universe was created via [theory] because there is no God/cosmic egg/the purple Unicorn Goddess.
    –The universe was created via [theory] because God willed it.
    –The universe was created via [theory] which the cosmic egg is a metaphor for.
    –The universe was created via [theory] ’cause the purple Unicorn Goddess was prancing in heaven, which lies beyond the universe on the spirit plane.

    Because it can’t distinguish between these it chooses:

    –The universe was created via [theory].

    which remains utterly silent on the existence or lack thereof of God/cosmic egg/the purple Unicorn Goddess and thus can’t be said to have “pretty much disproven” them.

  8. lonespark42 February 10, 2016 at 8:23 am

    This post makes me kinda sad. Everything everyone said is interesting and seems like good prompts for discussion or writing or whatever. Are we like, really out of practice at this?

  9. lonespark42 February 10, 2016 at 8:28 am

    Like, I can’t speak to the math stuff, specifically…

    But what if we did come to a vastly improved understanding about how our universe (probably) came to be, in a short period of time, and were able to convey the basics of the model to a large segment of humanity?

    There are certainly lots of ways to react, and humans, being humans, would do all them and then some, but how would the future be different depending on which ways prevailed?

  10. lonespark42 February 10, 2016 at 8:36 am

    Like, no, this hypothetical new model would disprove any belief system entirely, but it would lead to certain parts of many belief systems that are currently used to handwave scientific unknowns needing to be reconsidered.

    Lots of people would not care, and some would actively ignore it.

    Some people would be inspired to get into fields of study where they could make similar breakthroughs.

    Likewise people who had been working in [AstroParticleCosmoGenoPhysMathOlogy] might see their previous understandings crumble, while others saw some their germs of suspicion gloriously fulfilled.

  11. lonespark42 February 10, 2016 at 8:41 am

    Lots of us would care in a vaguely interested way but it wouldn’t have any big effect on our lives or worldviews.

    Yes, some people would try to use it to start or prolong conflicts, including wars. I do think it’s key that, as only some stardust said, “…many people interested in waging religious war are already doing that.” But they ways other holders and seekers of power and influence worked with this information could have a huge effect on more people joining different sides or working to end the conflicts.

    All of those ideas are worth exploring.

    All of those stories are worth telling.

  12. lonespark42 February 10, 2016 at 8:51 am

    Also I’m really interested in ideas about modeling in science.

    Models tend to be key to lots of important theories.

    And models are also key to adapting scientific understanding to our real, messy, illogical world. Site-specific conceptual models guide us in obtaining rescources, in mitigating pollution and other environmental hazards…

    And every. single. step. where we choose what to include, what to simplify, how to weight things, is important. And often these decisions have ethical, moral, or at least economic consequences.

    What we assume, and what assumptions we effectively question, says a lot about us.

    And that kind of data literacy, open-minded inquiry, and creative problem-solving lies at the heart of what we’ve taken to calling STEM education and careers… yet too much of it always makes the powers that be really nervous. As it should.

  13. lonespark42 February 10, 2016 at 8:55 am

    Vaguely related quote that I hope shows up right:

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  14. lonespark42 February 10, 2016 at 8:57 am

    Boo, formatting is all gone. But at least it posted…

    Physics…not so easy. But in many ways simple, or reducibly complex. Sociology, not so much.

    And the discussion around that comment dealing with bias in funding, conducting, publishing research, is also worth exploring…

  15. lonespark42 February 10, 2016 at 9:01 am

    Also this, which seems like some of what only some stardus was discussing?


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  16. lonespark42 February 10, 2016 at 9:03 am

    I just don’t think we need to reduce these forces to only delusion and ignorance, or conflate those things.

  17. genesistrine February 10, 2016 at 12:37 pm

    I think I have to resort to Stephen Jay Gould’s non-overlapping magisteria when it comes to this kind of thing. Science and religion may be talking about the same things, but the purpose and meaning of them isn’t something that science is designed to say anything about.

    Bear in mind that we have at least once already developed a scientific theory that gave us vastly improved understanding about how our existence came to be, that’s in essence simple enough to be conveyed to a large number of people. It’s the theory of evolution. It’s incredibly simple, elegant and powerful, and there’s been no shortage of people who disbelieve it, misinterpret it for their own ends and to justify their political/religious/etc worldview, or just plain don’t get it.

  18. Firedrake February 10, 2016 at 1:22 pm

    I think Fred talked about this a while back: some people need a God who clearly Did Stuff, and they feel threatened by advancing science because the area their God might be responsible for gets smaller and smaller; they split into the deniers of science, and the “God of the gaps” who keep getting pushed into a smaller and smaller space. Other people have a God who’s more of an idea, a reason for behaving in a decent way, an inspiration; they aren’t threatened at all. (And they’re more likely to be able to talk with the atheists like me, who don’t find we need a reason to behave decently beyond “society works better the more people do”,)

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