[extropy-chat] something rather than nothing

Russell Wallace russell.wallace at gmail.com
Tue Mar 6 03:53:00 UTC 2007

On 3/4/07, John K Clark <jonkc at att.net> wrote:
> Usually one should choose the simple scenario over the complex, provided
> it
> is free of contradictions. Nothing is simpler than something, and it is
> paradox free as there is not anything to contradict it. It would be
> logical
> to conclude that there is nothing, and yet we would be wrong.

Would we? Suppose we weren't?

Phrased that way, that doesn't sound like it makes sense, so let's use
Hawking's rephrasing of the original question: "What is it that breathes
fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe?"

Now I'll ask, suppose the answer is "nothing does, nothing ever did"?

A counterargument to that is the one by which someone is said to have
refuted Berkeley: kick a stone and it _feels_ real.

But suppose there is only the equations (well, plus initial conditions or
whatnot, for brevity I'll say "the equations" to mean the mathematical
construct representing our universe), and nothing breathes fire into them,
nothing makes them "real". Or suppose something did breathe fire into _some_
equations - but not the ones describing our universe! In other words,
suppose there is a "real" universe out there, but it isn't ours.

Would we then expect that we shouldn't feel anything when we kick the stone,
that our foot should just pass through it because it has no substance to

No, because we are part of the equations too. Whatever the ontological
status of the stone may be, our status is the same because we're part of the
same equations.

Therefore it will feel _to us_ like the stone is real, even if an omniscient
external observer would say "you're under an illusion, you're not real at
all, only that universe over there is real".

Of course we can then discard the notion of the external observer and "that
universe over there" if we choose, and simply note that we must necessarily
perceive objects that are part of the same set of equations as we are, to be

In other words, "part of the same set of equations as we are" is just what
we meant all along by the word "real"; the notion that that set of equations
might not be real is therefore a logical self-contradiction, and the answer
to the original question is "mu".
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