The Universe from Nothing

[Editor: Over the last eight years, I’ve carefully examined Buddhism and found that, aside from some unusual doctrines (like ’emptiness’), it functions pretty much like any other religion. People use Buddhism to justify all sorts of ignorant and abusive behaviour, even though the Buddha clearly taught that one should never use his teachings to justify any sort of conflict or aggression. (See Gil Fronsdal’s The Buddha Before Buddhism, his translation of The Book of Eights [Atthakavagga Sutta] for a complete teaching of how dharma is not to be used to argue about anything.) And while Buddhism is compatible with science, Buddhism does not prove anything about science, nor does science prove anything about Buddhism. So where I have found Buddhism lacking, I have decided that our best source of knowledge and wisdom is science, as flawed as it is—and it is flawed—and as little as we know—and scientists will admit we know very little. It’s the rationality—the logic and reason, and the process of open and empirical inquiry—that serves us better than any religion, including Buddhism. If you look at at the recent edits in ‘Get engaged’, you’ll see that I have expanded ‘dharma’ to include scientific, social and spiritual dharma.

The following video features Dr. Lawrence Krauss whose most recent book, A Universe from Nothing, explains how more than 70% of the energy of the universe is the energy of empty space. This space, when emptied of all observable particles, fields and radiation, remains a broiling soup of virtual particles that pop in and out of existence all the time, so fast that we cannot observe them. In fact this ’emptiness’ has far more energy and mass [weight] than all the observable matter in the universe. He argues that the universe came into being from nothing, and that according to the laws of quantum physics and special relativity, something will always arise from nothing. This emptiness of space is potential existence, as I’ve said before about shunyata. Krauss explains that the net amount of energy in our universe (positive and negative combined) is zero (0) or shunyata. Krauss explains that the universe is 70% dark energy and 30% dark matter, and the observable matter of the universe (including us) is less than 1% of its mass. In fact, over 90% of our body weight is found in the empty space between particles in the nucleus of the atoms of our cells. Thus, at the subatomic level, “I” do not exist as a separately identifiable being because “my” subatomic particles are the same as and unified with all universal matter. Yet nonetheless, per Krauss, we are really existing living beings that evolved on Earth from the explosions of stars. But here I am not using science to justify the Buddhist teaching on emptiness (because regardless of what the Mahayanists say, it’s not absolutely nothing—it has mass, dynamic energy and is full of virtual particles), but it connects the metaphysical teachings of Buddhism to the empirical science of cosmological physics. I have to admit that were it not for the Buddhist teaching on emptiness, I would not be so interested in modern cosmology. Nonetheless, I choose the empirical explanation of science over the doctrines of Buddhism as the better explanation of ’emptiness’.]

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2 thoughts on “The Universe from Nothing

  1. The big problem with the Universe from Nowhere is that it has no remotely plausible explanation of the most salient feature of the universe we actually inhabit, ie. consciousness. Physicists are still locked into the crudest, most pop-philosophical version of anachronistic Cartesianism (listen to Krauss on the topic and weep). Neuroscientists leap from raw brain-scan/behaviour-observation correlational details to superstitious hand-waving about ’emergence’.

    If a theory of the universe’s origin incorporates not even one plausible candidate for its most significant feature, how comprehensive really can it be? Note I’m not saying it’s wrong, just that I have absolutely no idea, and neither do scientists or philosophers. There is nothing from progress to date to indicate that we are closer than hundreds to thousands of years away from even a candidate explanation of how consciousness relates to everything else.

  2. I agree that consciousness is the most salient feature of the universe, that the entire universe is sentient, but it’s science that confirms that for me. Space or the quantum vacuum is a dynamical system that constantly fluctuates and creates matter. We know from quantum physics that two particles can be millions of lightyears apart, but a change in one provokes a related change in the other. How? they are linked or connected in some way; they react to each other. David Bohm said that every wave/particle “signifies” its existence to all other particles; thus it is “significant”, that is, it has information or meaning. All wave/particles detect, react and interact with all other wave/particles. The power to detect, react, and interact are all forms of sentience or consciousness. Consiousness is ubiquitous in the universe, but there are different levels of conscious complexity, depending on the object’s capacities. Particles signify, detect, react and interact, but so do bacteria, ants, dogs and humans. Each object or being signifies or responds with different degrees of complexity of behaviour. Humans have a more complex form of conscious behaviour than dogs or bacteria. Incidentally, I don’t think that humans have the most complex form of consciousness. The universe, considered as one great system, has the most complex consciousness because it contains all that is conscious.

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