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Thoughts on an article on the concept "universe"? by Alex S.

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Hi everyone,

I have a question regarding the idea of an expanding universe. . . I have read a few places that Objectivists deny the claim that the universe is expanding, (e.g., Anton Thorn's Objectivist Atheology page) because the universe--being all that exists--wouldn't have anything to "expand" into; because nothing exists outside the universe.

Well, my question is this: Scientists say there is directly observable evidence of galaxies moving farther and farther away from eachother, so when Objetivists reject the idea that the universe is expanding, do they mean that we DON'T really have evidence of these galaxies moving away from eachother; or do they mean that whatever the galaxies are expanding into is PART OF THE UNIVERSE (since it obviously exists)?

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Guest Godless Capitalist

I don't think there is a conflict. The universe is indeed all there is and is not expanding into anything else. It is almost certainly expanding, though; the evidence is quite solid. I think the problem is just in visualizing how the expansion occurs.

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The question is a bit more complicated than that. "The universe" is an abstraction; it's a sum concept, it's not one single entity. And, as Renee asked, what would it be expanding into?

This claim usually means "space is expanding." This may just be an instance of the difference between hard science and popular science as mentioned in the Newton thread, but as stated, "space" is an invalid concept. Space is somewhat like time; where time has motion, a perceptually-given fact, as its basic referent, space has distance, which is also perceptually-given. To say that "space is expanding", per se, is like saying "time is slowing down." Neither of them mean anything. It's only particular distances that can become greater or lesser, just as it's only particular motions that can speed up or slow down.

On the other hand, those red-shifts DO have to be accounted for. I'm not a scientist, so I'll pass on that question -- and it may well be that the hard science gives an account of this that's not obvious from its popular interpretations.

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The Red Shift is no evidence of spatial expansion. It is evidence that light from certain galaxies are red-shifted. But red-shift does not necessarily imply only the Doppler-effect and thus an expansion of space (which as you said is really meaningless).

If you're interested in the alternate and much more rational scientific theories that account for the Red Shift (which cites evidence that also falsify the Big Bang theory), go to the following page:

http://www.electric-cosmos.org/arp.htm

[this page is part of www.electric-cosmos.org, which is a site about plasma physics and the plasma cosmology--the more rational (as far as I know) alternative to the big bang cosmology]

See also Halton Arp's books (which you may have difficulty finding because the Established has practically banned them) Seeing Red and Quasars, Redshifts and Controversies. He's not an objectivist, of course, but he's certainly more rational than, say, Stephen Hawkings.

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First off, the reply below Renee's is mine; I forgot to log in.

I actually know quite a bit about astrophysics and found that Halton Arp site unconvincing. He relies entirely on what he interprets as evidence of objects interacting, even though all the other scientists could very well be right in saying that what he is seeing is just chance alignments. Also, he does not explain what causes the inherent redshift he postulates to explain the differences in redshifts. Without considerably more solid evidence, his idea is very tenous.

As for space being an invalid concept, space is not just the distance between objects. Space-time, as it is usually called, has properties independent of the objects within it and thus does seem to exist in and of itself.

More fundamentally, though, I don't see why Objectivism would have a problem with the idea of the universe expanding (or the big bang). It's only a problem if you think it has to expand into some other space, which no scientist thinks is the case. That idea is just a misconception caused by our inability to visualize geometries other than our familiar 3-dimensional one.

edit: for those who don't believe in the big bang, how do you explain the cosmic microwave background radiation?

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By the way, the idea that the scientific establishment suppresses new and different ideas is absurd. On the contrary, evidence of a radical breakthrough is investigated very thoroughly. A good example is cold fusion. Scientists did not say "Those guys are nuts" and suppress them; they immediately attempted to replicate the claimed effect. It was only after attempts at replication failed that most scientists concluded that cold fusion was not valid.

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More fundamentally, though, I don't see why Objectivism would have a problem with the idea of the universe expanding (or the big bang).
If the big bang theory is correct, doesn't that mean that the universe had a beginning in time? Doesn't that mean that the universe (all that exists) will someday not exist? Maybe you have a different concept of the big bang, but that is the assumption I'm under.

As for space being an invalid concept, space is not just the distance between objects. Space-time, as it is usually called, has properties independent of the objects within it and thus does seem to exist in and of itself.

Doesn't Objectivism hold that all things that exist--"primaries," as they are called--are composed of *matter*? If so, does that mean "space" doesn't really exist; since it is the *absence* of matter; the *lack* of objects?

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The concept of an 'expanding universe' simply means the existants which compose the universe (ie ALL existants) are moving away from each other RELATIVE to each other. Period. It does NOT mean they are moving INTO something else (a something BESIDES all that exists). Such a notion is a contradiction.

Renee - please note that Godless Capitalist is NOT an objectivist. Thus his statements are NOT necessarily a representation of any objectivist perspective on a topic.

Also, space is not 'nothingness'. Evidence and the law of identity dictates that there IS *something* there. We just have not discovered/determined what yet. Consider it this way - for a long while man did not know about air. He could not see, feel, touch, taste or smell air. So the area between you and I was considered 'empty space'. It was believed absolutely nothing was there. Of course we now know differently - and even before we know WHAT exactly it was, some smart men observed evidence that there was something between us - which led to us learning exactly what it was.

That is where we are now with space. We know something is there. We essentially don't know what. Dr. Peikoff references it as it was generally referenced throughout history when it HAS been referenced - as the 'ether'.

There ARE a couple of good physicists who are objectivists as well. You might search out their works on the web. The first is Dr. Lewis Little - who formulated "The Theory of Elementary Waves" - a thesis which explains provides a CAUSAL basis for QM and other aspects of physics. Another is Dr. David Harriman - who is a very good philosophic historian of Physics - and who demonstrates how most of physics today is intellecctually flawed because of its Kantian foundations. Finally, there is Stephen Speicher. He is very informative and bursts quite a few of the fallacious principles of physics and QM specifically.

If you are truly interested in the objectivist perspective on this topic, I suggest seeking THEM out. :)

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Nothing in the big bang theory says that time began with the big bang. When people describe the big bang as "the beginning of the universe," they really mean "the beginning of the universe as it currently exists" If the big bang theory is correct, then the universe was once a tiny point. We have no way of knowing what happened before that, but there are speculations that we live in an "oscillating universe" with a cycle of big bang, expansion, contraction, big bang, and so on.

Obviously not all things that exist are made of matter; energy exists. It's not clear what space-time is, but it's pretty well established that it exists.

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Renee - please note that Godless Capitalist is NOT an objectivist.  Thus his statements are NOT necessarily a representation of any objectivist perspective on a topic. 

:) Well, I think I am an Objectivist. I'm curious about why you think I'm not.

(Not that I care whether you think I am or not, just curious about why you think that.)

edit: I read the "Who is an Objectivist?" thread and I suppose technically I should call myself a "student of Objectivism" since I do not 100% agree with everything Rand said and cannot derive her entire philosophy from first principles. That applies to most other people here as well, though; why single me out? I have been studing Objectivism for many years and am probably as capable of presenting an objectivist perspective on a topic as anyone else. If a prerequisite of posting on this site is that one be the equivalent of Leonard Piekoff, then it somewhat defeats the purpose, doesn't it?

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The Big Bang Cosmology is based on the General Theory of Relativity and Quantum Mechanics, and if you're at all familiar with those two theories and their mathematical foundations, well...

I highly suggest that you read this essay called "Causality, Measurement and Space":

http://www.quackgrass.com/space.html

Interesting site, but I don't see ow it disproves the big bang theory. Neither did the previous sites you posted. If you really understand this, please explain it in your own words. Don't forget, you need to explain the galactic redshifts and the cosmic microwave background radiation.

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Also, space is not 'nothingness'. Evidence and the law of identity dictates that there IS *something* there. We just have not discovered/determined what yet. Consider it this way - for a long while man did not know about air. He could not see, feel, touch, taste or smell air. So the area between you and I was considered 'empty space'. It was believed absolutely nothing was there. Of course we now know differently - and even before we know WHAT exactly it was, some smart men observed evidence that there was something between us - which led to us learning exactly what it was.

I think I understand this now.

If you are truly interested in the objectivist perspective on this topic, I suggest seeking THEM out.

Oh yes, Objectivism and its application to sciences like physics and cosmology are absolutely fascinating to me!

I highly suggest that you read this essay called "Causality, Measurement and Space":

http://www.quackgrass.com/space.html

I just read it; I found the section on space, void and vacuum especially illuminating.

edit: I read the "Who is an Objectivist?" thread and I suppose technically I should call myself a "student of Objectivism" since I do not 100% agree with everything Rand said and cannot derive her entire philosophy from first principles. That applies to most other people here as well, though; why single me out? I have been studing Objectivism for many years and am probably as capable of presenting an objectivist perspective on a topic as anyone else. If a prerequisite of posting on this site is that one be the equivalent of Leonard Piekoff, then it somewhat defeats the purpose, doesn't it?

He he, I guess I would be a "student of Objectivism" as well--and I've only been studying Objectivism for about a year now. But, from what I do understand of the philosophy, I agree with it.

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Redshift is indeed evidence to the expansion of the universe, contrary to any quacks cited in this debate. In fact, the expansion of the universe is quite an interesting phenomenon. You see, it appears from the redshift data that either the Earth is the center of the universe, or spacetime is not Euclidean. The farther away stars and galaxies are, the faster they are moving away from Earth (and thus an increasingly higher redshift the farther out you look), and this is true in all directions you look. Everything is moving outward away from Earth in all three dimensions and the farther away things are the faster they are moving.

How, you ask. Picture a balloon which, as you blow air into it expands: that is spacetime in two dimensions. Now, before blowing into it, mark dots all around it to represent galaxies. As you blow into it, notice that the dots expand away from each other in all directions, and, in all directions, the further away from each other they are, the faster they are rushing away from each other. In fact, each dot from its own two-dimensional perspective is the center of the universe with everything expanding away from it; the real center, though, is in a higher dimension. The universe, spacetime, is indeed expanding through a higher dimension as the balloon expands through the third, and it is indeed expanding into what was nothingness. Where spacetime is now there is no evidence that there was anything before, no matter, no energy, no information, not even alternate spacetime.

Spacetime is curved, as they say, curved and expanding like a hypersphere. And before spacetime was a hyperpoint? There was no distance and there was no time. Then the big bang: ex nihilo (via laws of quantum mechanics) spacetime and an intense amount of expanding energy. "Cycles" of the universe have no way of being proven or even observed, and anyway our universe is expanding too fast to stop and begin contracting to continue any cycles.

There is no such thing as ether, and the analogy to air is completely wrong; Newton should have known it, as he founded the principle of relativity (physics, not metaphysics!); but Einstein's special relativity and experiments based on it completely proved its nonexistence.

And, please no caps. Use italics. It's "netiquette".

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The universe, space-time, is indeed expanding through a higher dimension as the balloon expands through the third, and it is indeed expanding into what was nothingness

The problem with the "balloon" analogy is that there is no evidence of such any such higher dimension, and I can't even conceive of what it would be like.

However, I don't see why it's not possible for the universe to be of a finite size and yet be expanding into nothingness. My working hypothesis is that the universe is essentially an expanding sphere, with the radius being the distance light has traveled from the center since the known universe came into existence. It's not possible to get "outside" it and pointless to speculate about what's "outside" since no information can be gleaned about it -- just as it's useless to speculate about the pre-big bang universe.

The whole notion of a big-bang singularity seems dubious to me, and while it may be the best theory we have, I think it’s safe to say that both the origin and the fundamental nature of the universe remain will mysteries for some time…especially considering the current state of physics.

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My working hypothesis is that the universe is essentially an expanding sphere, with the radius being the distance light has traveled from the center since the known universe came into existence.

The problem with this idea is that there is no center; the cosmic microwave background radiation shows that (CMBR is basically the "glow" left over from the Big Bang; it does not come from any one point but from everywhere in the universe.)

The balloon analogy is just an analogy, and the extra dimension is just a hypothesis. basically we don't really know ...

y_feldblum: If you want to fight this out, you have an interesting time ahead :)

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Never heard of gravity warping spacetime either? The evidence is that the universe is, in fact, expanding in such a manner. The expanding 3-sphere theory doesn't explain the observable fact that every point inside the sphere is the center of the sphere at the same time. GodlessC, CMBR would knock down the 3d expanding sphere, though it does in fact support the 4d expanding sphere. Plus, to shock you all, the total amount of information possible in an x+1 dimension volume is tied not to the volume but, instead, to the x dimension surface area. It's math. Our 3d surface-area universe contains all the information available within the 4d hyperballoon. And GreedyC, the law of causality dictates that the universe does in fact have a beginning, and reality says we are perfectly capable of finding it out.

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the law of causality dictates that the universe does in fact have a beginning, and reality says we are perfectly capable of finding it out.

y_feldblum, you are going to have to back up a few more steps. Many or all Objectivists do not seem to believe in space-time, let alone that it can be warped. They also don't seem to believe in additional dimensions.

I would think the law of causality would mean that the universe cannot have had a beginning, since that would mean that something was created out of nothing.

Have a look at the thread on physics and objectivism for a related discussion.

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Godless, whether certain people do or do not believe in physical reality, no matter to which philosophy they ascribe, does not change objective reality. So all the objectivists who do not believe in spacetime should celebrate the Special Relativity Centennial in two years. SR/GR is real, spacetime is real, and no evasion of one hundred years of science changes that reality.

By "warping" spacetime I meant, picture a level fabric hung up in midair, and then picture what happens when objects are placed upon it - they sink through, warping the fabric around them. Children's science books are full of such pictures.

The big bang was the universal beginning - how do we know such a thing happened? we can directly observe its effects today all around us, ie indirect observation. And a similar logic applies to higher dimensions. How do we know? - we see the effects and we know the mathematical and physical laws and equations which correlate the cause with the effects we observe.

DAC, individual quarks, baryons, atoms, molecules, stars, and galaxies are affected by short-range forces plus the universal expansion. Short range forces, close up, are much more powerful and apparent than expansion, whereas farther away their effects fade by distance squared and the macroscale curvature of the universe becomes apparent. The earth might be orbiting about the sun and perhaps that is all one observes close up, but macroscale, the whole contraption orbits the galaxy center and the earth's miniscule zigzag through the orbit doesn't change the fact.

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What at least some Objectivists are claiming is that much of the last 100 yrs of physics is based on faulty philosophical premises and is thus invalid. I am not familiar with the detailed argument for this; apparently David Harriman has done a lot of work on this but I have not studied his arguments.

I know what you mean by spacetime and warping thereof, but an analogy is not proof. That's just a model and may not accurately represent reality. Same deal with extra dimensions. Think of the Ptolemaic model; it actually works pretty well mathematically in predicting orbits but it does not accurately represent reality.

The big bang was the beginning of the universe as it currently exists, yes, but you can't say that it was the beginning of existence itself, since then existence would be acausal. Since "universe" means "everything that exists" "beginning of the universe" is equivalent to "beginning of existence"

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Spacetime/warping etc, dimensions etc - equations and data imply such a model. One can dispute the model but not the equations/data without good evidence. The equations and data of the Ptolemaic model have been shown to be in error.

The universe must be acausal to an Objectivist then. Either it's always existed, in which case it's acausal, or it had a beginning, in which case it's acausal.

Remember that time does not exist outside of our spacetime; it is a function of our universe, not the other way around.

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Y_feldblum,

Causality presupposes existence, but existence does not presuppose causality. There can be no cause for the existence of the entire universe because that would be a contradiction.

---

The Universe is all that exists.

1. There was a cause for the existence of the universe.

2. That cause existed; therefore it was a part of the universe.

4. If the cause was a part of the universe, then the universe caused itself to exist. (contradiction)

---

Existence exists. It has no beginning, no end, no cause. It just is.

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