As a great exercise for Father’s Day, my Dad (AKA “greatest dad in the
Multiverse) turned me on to the current iteration of the “why is there something vs. nothing” debate. In this round an atheist physicist (Krauss) is arguing that quantum physics can now answer that question (yay!), and then another physicist & philosopher ( David Alpert - who coincidentally first introduced quantum weirdness to me and my father decades ago) tear’s his claim apart in a NYT review
After reading a lengthy piece in which Krauss “responds” to Alpert, in part by calling him a “moron.”
, I’m totally in agreement with my dear ol’ dad & Alpert.
Alpert is adept at boiling the universal (literally) issue down to something very simple, while still addressing the substance of Krauss’s argument. But all he needs is one sentence to deliver a knockout “fist”:
And the fact that particles can pop in and out of existence, over time, as those fields rearrange themselves, is not a whit more mysterious than the fact that fists can pop in and out of existence, over time, as my fingers rearrange themselves.
In other words, Don’t claim that quantum mechanics is answering, or even addressing the real philosophical question here. It’s just not. And thats OK. Quantum mechanics and physics are amazing. Truly amazing. But that doesn’t mean they are eliminating Philosophy. Give me a break. They are two fundamental domains, and should work together (as Alpert knows), not fight!
It’s not as if neuroscience could eliminate poetry…
It is sad to see Richard Dawkins endorsing Krauss’s book as standing next to “The Origin of Species.” I always loved Dawkins’ specific thought processes on evolution etc. For instance the ‘meme
’ concept is just brilliant, and perhaps eclipsed in the field only by natural selection itself. But in endorsing Krauss Dawkins reveals himself to be just as narrow minded, dogmatic, and biased as the zealots he fights. It’s embarrassing to have him as the flag bearer for my beloved Empiricism.
The short story of Krauss’s retort is that Krauss has no retort, and is totally out bounds calling Alpert a moron. The funny thing is that Krauss totally understands and agrees with Alpert’s main point. He knows that the type of solution he’s giving doesn’t address any ‘root’ questions about Existence. He goes so far as to say the he believes in “Turtles all the way down.” What he’s essentially saying is that Alpert’s question, in fact all of Philosophy along with Religion, has no real content, and makes no progress. That it’s just not interesting.
Whoah there Tex…. Now, I do think a lot of philosophers are devoid of value, but that doesn’t mean philosophy or metaphysics is.
By embracing the ‘turtles’ joke as an answer, Krauss is revealing that he has put blinders on to the type of questions philosophy asks. The very point of that joke is that causal answers are really limited in scope, and aren’t we really interested in something more?
Just because Krauss doesn’t want to do that, it shouldn’t make him deride others for doing so. He may be happy playing in his big sandbox, since he still has many grains of quanta to count.
But most of us are also interested in what lays outside of it.