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

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The Durande as made the following statements:

"How can the question of whether the universe has mass even be discussed by sane adults???"

"...any honest observer would conclude that since atoms have mass, and in the universe there are a lot of atoms, then the universe has mass."

Thus, anyone who disagrees with The Durande's fallacious argument -- and, indeed, anyone who even discusses this whole issue of mass seriously -- is both dishonest and insane.  These statements are absurd.  If you want to stand by them, then come out and say so.  But don't you dare skirt the fact you have called a large number of people within Objectivism (and at least one top-notch Objectivist intellectual) "insane."

--Alex

And, as if The Durande's past behavior was not bad enough, note how he adds abject dishonesty in his most recent post. He claims:

Stephen, it was VERY convenient of you, in post #14 to quote me out of context: "It simply must have size. . ."

It would have taken about 5 seconds more of your time to include all of what I typed, but you chose not to. I wonder why. EVERYONE, please note that I have in parentheses (mass) (total atomic mass) immediately following the word "size."

So The Durande attempts to create the impression that his position is misunderstood because I quoted him out of context. Yet, in another post The Durande says:

As to the claim that the universe has size, it is quite simple: I have size, my laptop has size, and so do you. We are all in the universe (or rather a part of the universe). The universe must then have size.

So The Durande's position has not been misunderstood, he just wanted to make it appear that way in an attempt to blame someone else.

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5.  I have FIRSTHAND heard Leonard Peikoff say that those who are engaged in rationalism are literally engaging in NONSENSE.  Literally in the sense that what they choose to deal with is ENTIRELY non-sensory data.  (Living in the world of concepts and words instead of observing reality.)

To me, those who willfully engage in "non-sense" are wackos.

I doubt he said this to you over tea, so provide a source, you are just putting words in his mouth.

I know that this is not a true quote since he himself admits to suffering from rationalism for a number of years, and I know that he would not say that he was engaging in nonsense. That is not even a good description of rationalism you gave. I have his longest exposition on rationalism (Understanding Objectivism) and he didn't say anything like this in it. So, where did he say this?

That being said. What the sam heck do you think you've been engaging in for the entire thread? You have been repeating the same syllogism over and over and over and over again. Where is your sensory data here?

All matter has mass

All universe has matter

Therefore the universe has matter

You are the one stuck in rationalism here. You can't even consider anything outside of that nice, tidy, orderly little syllogism you have except to vent and snap at others - the irrationalists apparently intent on destroying your castle in the sky.

BTW. Wacko is entirely offensive; worse than mad and insane. It is specifically of a derogatory nature. Please don't compound the errors by trying to weasel out of something that is a matter of public record.

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Gravitational attraction has nothing to do with mass. (in the sense we are using here)

It has to do with WEIGHT.

I never said anything about WEIGHT.

That is nonsense gravity has everything to do with mass. Weight is just the force that is produced from the acceleration due to the gravitational force and the mass of an object. To paraphrase Einstien: Mass tells spacetime how to curve, and the curvature of spacetime tell mass how to move.

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And exactly why is that? Must everything have size, from the smallest to the largest? For instance, what about the ultimate constituents of the universe. Must they have size?

Yes everything must have size. For year's there were great problems trying to merge Quantum Mechanics with General Relativity i.e., the very large scale of the universe dominated by gravity(GR) with the very small(QM). The reason is because particles such as quarks, electrons, positrons, etc. where assumed to have no structure or "size". String theory was developed to correct this. It states that instead of particles being infitesimal points they are very small(on the order of the Plank Length) "strings" that vibrate at specificly denoted frequencies. Each different "note" that a string vibrates in corresponds to a different particle with its normal quantum attributes, mass, charge, spin, etc. While string theory is still a work in progress it has gone a long way so far to clear up some of the singularities and computational breakdowns that happen when one used to cross GR with QM. But paramount to that is all objects(strings) in the universe have size as well as sit in an 11-dimentional spacetime, but maybe that's a subject for another thread :dough:

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I attacked an ADMITTED RATIONALISTIC view as being "wacko." Guilty.

I basically said that those who agree with it are "wacko." Guilty

I implied that those who knowingly defend it are engaging in dishonesty. Guilty.

BUT I AM RIGHT, AND YOU, MY "INTELLECTUAL BETTERS." ARE WRONG.

Just like on the other thread, when Stephen said I was wrong about my denying the existence of an honest, informed argument against Objectivism. I simply asked for one example - EVER - of an honest agrument against Objectivism that does not misrepresent it. NO ONE came up with anything. Yet he still has not admitted he was wrong. No, as far as I can tell, it is Stephen who has NEVER admitted he was wrong and it is HE with the character flaw.

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This illustrates the importance of stating (and checking) one's premises.  The Durande, answer me this: in your view, does the universe have spatial boundaries?  Does it have an "edge"?

If the answer to this question is "Yes," then you must justify this belief of yours, as you would have the burden of proof.  If the answer is "No," then you must justify how it makes sense to say that an unbounded universe can only have a finite amount of "stuff" (an idea which is on the face of it unintelligible).  Either way, and as it stands right now, you are simply asserting your beliefs -- and the alleged "wacko" nature of those who would disagree -- without stating and justifying your premises.

If the universe had spatial boundaries, I agree that it would be absurd to deny size to the universe.  But I do not believe that the universe has spatial boundaries, and it is this belief of mine which underlies my denial that the concepts of "shape," "size," or "mass" are applicable to the universe.

The essay which was the impetus for this thread was authored by myself.  It explains why an unbounded universe does not have a "size" nor a specific quantity of entities -- and why this implies no infinity or contradiction whatsoever.  The link to my essay is:

http://www.geocities.com/rationalphysics/U...nded_Finite.htm

If you have not done so already, I encourage you to read it before you make any additional use of epithets to describe those such as myself.

The universe has been found empirically to have a "shape" and in some sense a "size". Data shows to a high degree of certainty that the universe is infinite, homogenous, and "flat" when considered at extremly large distances(on the order of superclusters of galaxies or larger) or very closely approximates it. What does this mean? Well, at the relatively local level spacetime is rather bumpy. We have planets, stars, galaxies, and supermassive blackholes distorting it. But as you start to back up to different scales of cosmology: galaxies to groups of galaxies, to clusters of groups, to superclusters; spacetime begins to flatten out and become very homogenous and isotropic(evenly spaced and same in all directions). At these very large scales you begin to see long stringy groups of superclusters interspearsed by very, very large voids. The mass of our universe(and the universe itself!) is traditionally seen as been created at the biq bang. However some versions of string theory(actually M-theory) modify and reinterpret that event quite a bit. Instead of the universe(all mass and all energy which are really equivallent anyway) being created at some special instead in time(which is contradictory because spacetime is one unit) and then the universe going through an acceleration phase (which we are again by the way) some string theorists have proposed a new mechanism for creation. In certain limits of string theory instead of just a vibrating string which are one-dimentional entities you can also have what is known as membranes or "branes" as they call them. So it is proposed that our "universe" is actually a 4-brane (3-space,1 time) sitting in a higher dimentional space (called the "bulk"). For this discussion it's unimportant how many more dimentions but it usually taken to be 6. So picture our 4-brane sitting out there in a higher dimentional bulk along with at least one parallel brane unperturbed. The two branes are then drawn to one another via a force, smack each other and "bounce". The energy released from the contact and the resulting vibrations then result in the creation of all matter on each 4-brane(in each "universe") and what we know as the "big bang" proceeds from there. I'm being a little loose with the term "universe" if what we mean by universe is all that exists. But we can just include the other branes in our definition and the contradiction disapears. The point of all of this is that you are all debating philosohpical issues with science that isn't neccassaraly current and that lead to false "contradictions" and dead ends in your thinking. If you want to debate and area that is beyond the traditional scope of Objectivism, fine. But its best to be moderately well versed in the subject matter or else you draw faulty conclusions based on faulty or incomplete information. Objectivism is a great tool but you have to feed it the info. to get the right answers. otherwise, garbage in, garbage out. :dough:

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Given this, I don't see why one must ascribe attributes to the universe as a whole in order to say that it possesses identity.  --Alex

Alex,

This brings up an interesting point about axioms and the law of identity. Like existence (the Universe), consciousness also does not have attributes in the same way tables and chairs do. (Perhaps it doesn't have attributes at all) The existence of the universe and of consciousness is understood by us as axiomatic rather than through attributes. Consciousness can't be percieved via attributes but only indirectly through entities (with attributes) that are grasped by consciousness. In the case of consciousness, we identity it by asking what enables us to know the identity of these entities. The same can be said about the universe. It is grasped through regarding entities and their attributes and asking what is the existent makes up all these entities we know?

The intellectual struggle to come up with attributes for the universe is futile. The universe is axiomatic. As such it is itself with without attributes. The best we can do then is to define but not describe the universe. We can say the universe is everything. The same applies to consciousness--consciousness is awareness.

Michael

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I've read the post from Alex, and while I have several questions, I am leaving town on business for two weeks. I will print this discussion and answer and clarify more questions when I return. I reserve the right to resurrect this thread from the dead if necessary ;)

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However some versions of string theory(actually M-theory) modify and reinterpret that event quite a bit. Instead of the universe(all mass and all energy which are really equivallent anyway) being created at some special instead in time(which is contradictory because spacetime is one unit) and then the universe going through an acceleration phase (which we are again by the way) some string theorists have  proposed a new mechanism for creation.  In certain limits of string theory instead of just a vibrating string which are one-dimentional entities you can also have what is known as membranes or "branes" as they call them.  So it is proposed that our "universe" is actually a 4-brane (3-space,1 time) sitting in a higher dimentional space (called the "bulk"). For this discussion it's unimportant how many more dimentions but it usually taken to be 6. So picture our 4-brane sitting out there in a higher dimentional bulk along with at least one parallel brane unperturbed. The two branes are then drawn to one another via a force, smack each other and "bounce".  The energy released from the contact and the resulting vibrations then result in the creation of all matter on each 4-brane(in each "universe") and what we know as the "big bang" proceeds from there.  I'm being a little loose with the term "universe" if what we mean by universe is all that exists. But we can just include the other branes in our definition and the contradiction disapears.  out. ;)

I just recently came across the theory of string theory and wanted to know some more about it. I also just replied to your "Introduction" thread. I hope you stay around for a long, long, time: we all have a lot we can learn from you. Once again, glad to have you aboard!

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The universe has been found empirically to have a "shape" and in some sense a "size". Data shows to a high degree of certainty that the universe is infinite, homogenous, and "flat" when considered at extremly large distances(on the order of superclusters of galaxies or larger) or very closely approximates it.  What does this mean? Well, at the relatively local level spacetime is rather bumpy. We have planets, stars, galaxies, and supermassive blackholes distorting it. But as you start to back up to different scales of cosmology: galaxies to groups of galaxies, to clusters of groups, to superclusters; spacetime begins to flatten out and become very homogenous and isotropic(evenly spaced and same in all directions).  At these very large scales you begin to see long stringy groups of superclusters interspearsed by very, very large voids.  The mass of our universe(and the universe itself!) is traditionally seen as been created at the biq bang. However some versions of string theory(actually M-theory) modify and reinterpret that event quite a bit. Instead of the universe(all mass and all energy which are really equivallent anyway) being created at some special instead in time(which is contradictory because spacetime is one unit) and then the universe going through an acceleration phase (which we are again by the way) some string theorists have  proposed a new mechanism for creation.  In certain limits of string theory instead of just a vibrating string which are one-dimentional entities you can also have what is known as membranes or "branes" as they call them.  So it is proposed that our "universe" is actually a 4-brane (3-space,1 time) sitting in a higher dimentional space (called the "bulk"). For this discussion it's unimportant how many more dimentions but it usually taken to be 6. So picture our 4-brane sitting out there in a higher dimentional bulk along with at least one parallel brane unperturbed. The two branes are then drawn to one another via a force, smack each other and "bounce".  The energy released from the contact and the resulting vibrations then result in the creation of all matter on each 4-brane(in each "universe") and what we know as the "big bang" proceeds from there.  I'm being a little loose with the term "universe" if what we mean by universe is all that exists. But we can just include the other branes in our definition and the contradiction disapears.  The point of all of this is that you are all debating philosohpical issues with science that isn't neccassaraly current and that lead to false "contradictions" and dead ends in your thinking.  If you want to debate and area that is beyond the traditional scope of Objectivism, fine. But its best to be moderately well versed in the subject matter or else you draw faulty conclusions based on faulty or incomplete information. Objectivism is a great tool but you have to feed it the info. to get the right answers. otherwise, garbage in, garbage out. ;)

Did you go to the Immanuel Kant school of writing? Am I expected to read that?

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This whole thread is basically about ED from OC basically agreeing with me, ....

For the record, that is not the case. Anyone interested can look at my earlier posts and see for themselves. I have no interest in persuading "The Durande" or dealing with him further. But for others on this thread, I don't want my views confused with his.

The essence of the thread is: does the universe have mass -- and what is meant by that question?

My view is: based on different meanings of that statement, the answer differs.

1. "Does the universe, taken as a whole, have mass?"

No. "Mass" is defined in relation to an external force. There cannot be a force external to the universe to act on it. Therefore, the universe has no mass. (Edit: In other words, the concept of "mass" does not apply.)

2. "Are there things in the universe that have mass?"

Yes. This is not in dispute.

3. "Does the sum total of things in the universe have a net mass?"

I don't know. I speculate that one possible answer is that their masses effectively cancel out. This was what I spelled out in post #8. This is, in my opinion, a question for physics to answer, not philosophy.

Also note that the answers depend on the meaning of the term "mass."

"The Durande" has claimed many times that the universe must have mass. Clearly that is not the same view as mine.

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I must say something about this "Fallacy of Composition."

The Fallacy of Composition is basically: drawing a conclusion about every thing in a group, based on a fact about one thing in a group.

Actually, the Fallacy of Composition (in the form relevant here) consists of arguing that if two or more things with the same characteristic are combined, then the combination has that characteristic too. If you look at reality, you will see that this is sometimes true, but often false.

For instance, if you add two odd numbers, you NEVER get an odd number. If you chemically combine hydrogen and oxygen, both of which are gasses at room temperature, you get water which is NOT a gas at room temperature.

Likewise, if all existents had mass (which they don't) and you combine all of them into a collection we call the universe, it does not necessarily follow that the collection itself has mass.

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Yes everything must have size.

And you know this how?

For year's there were great problems trying to merge Quantum Mechanics with General Relativity
What do you mean by "WERE great problems?"[Emphasis mine.] There does not exist a standard theory that unifies GR and QM. A standard union of gravity and quantum mechanics results in a nonrenormalizable quantum field theory. Besides, general relativity is based on a dynamical spacetime, whereas standard quantum theory uses a fixed background.

The reason is because particles such as quarks, electrons, positrons, etc. where assumed to have no structure or "size".

That is not the reason. The reason is because general relativity works from cosmological scales to millimeter scales, and small scales are governed by the strong and electroweak interactions, and quantum mechanics and quantum field theory describe observations from small fractions of a millimeter down to 10^-19 m. These separate theories each have their own domain of applicability, and that is the standard problem.

But paramount to that is all objects(strings) in the universe have size as well as sit in an 11-dimentional spacetime

So, in other words, the existence of string theory is your justification for your claim that the ultimate constituents of reality have size. Sorry, but the assertions of an unsubstantiated theory do not represent a very convincing argument to me. Besides, the context here in this discussion is philosophy and what can it say about the ultimate constituents. Basically, all that philosophy can say is that they possess identity and act in accord with their nature. There is no philosophical requirement that the ultimate constituents must possess the attribute of size. And, if you want to try to extend this to science, then you have to appeal to something more substantial than string theory.

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The universe has been found empirically to have a "shape"

Citation for this empirical finding, please.

Note that I have not read the rest of the thirty some odd lines of words. Rational_One, it is extremely difficult to read a run-on paragraph of that size. Please break your thoughts up into more manageable paragraphs. You seem to have some interesting things to say, and if you are going to spend the effort writing so many words, I am sure you would like to encourage others to read them.

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This brings up an interesting point about axioms and the law of identity. Like existence (the Universe), consciousness also does not have attributes in the same way tables and chairs do. (Perhaps it doesn't have attributes at all)

It most certainly does. It has location. (My consciousness is in my body.) It has attributes and characteristics that can be perceived by direct introspection like volitional focus, emotions of various durations and intensities, motivation, etc.

The existence of the universe and of consciousness is understood by us as axiomatic rather than through attributes. 
Only as adults after a long chain of reasoning, if at all. Consciousness is understood introspectively even by very young children who can tell us what they know and don't know, what they are aware of, and how they feel.

Consciousness can't be percieved via attributes but only indirectly through entities (with attributes) that are grasped by consciousness.

Awareness of entities does come first. After enough experience with reality, a child can introspect on the operations of his own mind because he has something to introspect about.

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I've read the post from Alex, and while I have several questions, I am leaving town on business for two weeks.  I will print this discussion and answer and clarify more questions when I return.  I reserve the right to resurrect this thread from the dead if necessary  ;)

I look forward to reading your questions to Alex. I for one found his comments fascinating -- an expansion on aspects of his original essay -- and I would enjoy having this subject pushed even further to the edge.

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Sorry about the relative disorder of my previous posts.

Mass is essentially frozen energy. We know this via E=mc^2. Therefore the gist of this whole thread needs to be re-evaluated.

Not: Does mass exist? But, does energy exist?

Since, I'm sitting here typing this at this moment and you are out there reading it we can safely take it as axiomatic that energy exists frozen or otherwise.

If the question is: does matter in the universe total up to a certain sum? Then the answer is yes. We have ways to infer the matter total of the universe.

What has been found recently is that it is a small percentage of the universe's total energy density(about a third).

The other 2/3 is a mysterious entity known as dark energy.

This dark energy is driving our universe's present accelerated expantion. It's properties are such that when gravity acts upon it, it's force is repulsive rather than attractive. It also exists. This has been proven by studying the redshift of a certain class of supernova explosions.

At the moment we don't know all the properties of this dark energy, but there are some promising theories.

So the question for this thread should be: does all the energy in our universe sum to zero? And the answer is likely, no. However, it is likely that it is a number infintesimly close to zero.

My point is: It's fine and proper to use Objectivism to study these highly abstract problems, but if you are to attempt it, you need to understand to the best of your abilities your subject matter or else you will start with the wrong, or at least, not the most current premises or information. If you do have a decent understanding of the subject matter however, you have the best chance to find new knowledge of reality.

I don't claim to be an expert in Quantum Cosmology, String Theory or even Objectivism for that matter, but I have studied enough of each to have a solid conceptual framework in each. If your starting with a 21st century theory rather than its 19th century counterpart, and have the newest and best available data, you stand a much better chance of getting correct conclusions when you use Objectivism.

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Mass is essentially frozen energy.  We know this via E=mc^2. Therefore the gist of this whole thread needs to be re-evaluated.

Why?

Not: Does mass exist? But, does energy exist?
This thread is not about the question "Does mass exist?" That is a scientific question. This main topic of this thread has to do with the question: What attributes can we ascribe to the universe? Have you read Alex's essay on this subject, the essay that was mentioned in the first post in this thread? Here is a pointer to it.

Since, I'm sitting here typing this at this moment and you are out there reading it we can safely take it as axiomatic that energy exists frozen or otherwise.

Energy is anything but axiomatic. It is the result of a very long chain of abstract reasoning and scientific investigation.

If the question is: does matter in the universe total up to a certain sum? Then the answer is yes.  We have ways to infer the matter total of the universe.
You are re-hashing issues that were dealt with in Alex's essay and were the subject of many posts in this thread. You really should read the essay and/or at least read the prior posts in this thread. (Granted there is a lot of noise in this thread, what with the antics of The Durande, but if you focus mainly on the posts of Alex, then if you have something new to add, post again.)

[snip a bunch of highly speculative stuff on dark energy and the like.]

My point is: It's fine and proper to use Objectivism to study these highly abstract problems, but if you are to attempt it, you need to understand to the best of your abilities your subject matter or else you will start with the wrong, or at least, not the most current premises or information.

You have the issue reversed. Unless you have a good grounding in a proper metaphysics and epistemology, like that of Objectivism, then you do not have the best perspective to judge and evaluate the current scientific theories and data.

If you do have a decent understanding of the subject matter however, you have the best chance to find new knowledge of reality.
Only if you know where and how to look.

I don't claim to be an expert in Quantum Cosmology, String Theory or even Objectivism for that matter, but I have studied enough of each to have a solid conceptual framework in each. If your starting with a 21st century theory rather than its 19th century counterpart, and have the newest and best available data, you stand a much better chance of getting correct conclusions when you use Objectivism.

No. philosophy comes first. Science afterwards. Philosophy cannot specify the details that are in science, but it can veto ideas that conflict with fundamental philosophical principles. For instance, one may safely reject any claim in any scientific theory that violates identity and causality. Likewise, one may reject out of hand any arbitrary claims of a theory.

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Does the universe have taste? Color? Temperature? Shape? Viscosity? Age?

Once I considered mass in relation to other derivative properties, it was easy to see why mass (and even size) cannot be arbitrarily ascribed to the universe based on the fact that they apply to some concretes.

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For year's there were great problems trying to merge Quantum Mechanics with General Relativity i.e., the very large scale of the universe dominated by gravity(GR) with the very small(QM).

Um, if you could just email me the answer, that'd be great. Thanks. And don't worry if I don't get back to you right away, it's because I'm making reservations in Stockholm... :D

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I hesitate to even enter into this discussion, because I am not trained in physics, but what the hell.

My reaction as a lay person to the various descriptions of the universe as having shape are that they have the earmarks of an artifact of the mathematical process, rather than of a description of reality. In other words, that rather than discovering that the universe has this or that shape, or this or that many instances, we have discovered bad mathematical descriptions. Some earmarks being: deviation from observed fact (although I cannot see the "end" of the universe, I can see it continuing in all directions, and don't have any hard evidence that it does not simply go on forever) and the presence of so many competing theories. I admit I cannot remember the specifics of these, so shoot me down if this is not the case, scientists.

The bending of space and of light by stars I can understand, and even see, if I'm in the right place at the right time (observing the right eclipse). But I am suspicious of any notion of the shape of the universe as a whole, i.e. that contradicts the idea that space goes on indefinitely in every direction.

I'd be far more inclined to believe a theory whose mathematics fits with the common-sense notion of the universe that described above. And perhaps the other quandaries such as GR+QM, or whatever, will fall into place more easily once it does. Or am I just someone standing on my flat earth wondering why some nuts say the earth is round?

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Does a proton or neutron have mass? YES

Does an atom have mass? YES

Does a molecule have mass? YES

Does dirt, rock, water, ice, or air have mass? YES

Do living beings have mass? YES

Do decaying ex-living beings have mass? YES

Does the planet earth have mass? YES

Do all of the planets have mass? YES

Does the sun have mass? YES

Do asteroids have mass? YES

Does the solar system have mass? YES

Do all of the solar systems have mass? YES

Does the galaxy have mass? YES

Do all of the galaxies have mass? YES

Does the universe have mass? YES

It is all of you who are ARBITRARILY making a different kind of thing out of the universe than it is. It is simply everything. Always has been, always will be.

Now, ADMITTED RATIONALISM (nonsense) aside, how can one conclude otherwise?

Even if there is a "net zero gravitational effect," how does that change the fact that all of the things producing that net zero have mass, and when added up to form the universe they (in total) have mass?

Don't put the cart before the horse. Even if a "net zero" gravitational effect could be detected or proven, that doesn't wipe out the other properties (including mass) that are present.

The entities are here. That is given. It is our job to make discoveries about them, NOT to rationalize about their properties based on the SUPPOSED absence of one other property. We must look at what we khow. We know the answers to all of my questions above. We especially shouldn't WIPE OUT a property that we know to exist in its constituents. The only POSSIBLE explanation for doing so is that one is engaging in RATIONALISM, or nonsense.

This net-zero-gravitational-effect-proving-the-universe-has-no-mass nonsense is equivalent to my standing in the street and looking at a cinder block building with no windows, and saying, "There is no light coming from that building, therefore, there are nothing capable of illumination inside that building." Or, a business whose liabilities and assets exactly cancel each other out to zero, and some misguided accountant saying "This business has NO financial activity."

THE UNIVERSE HAS MASS WHETHER SOME PROPERTY OF MASS IS BEING CANCELLED OUT OR NOT. A tug-of-war match that ends in a tie STILL TOOK PLACE.

You cannot blank out a fact of reality based upon your ASSUMPTIONS about one of its properties. That is VINTAGE primacy of consciousness. (In other words, it is what wackos do.)

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My reaction as a lay person to the various descriptions of the universe as having shape are that they have the earmarks of an artifact of the mathematical process, rather than of a description of reality. In other words, that rather than discovering that the universe has this or that shape, or this or that many instances, we have discovered bad mathematical descriptions.

You are exactly right in regard to the mathematical artifact, but I would not describe it as a "bad mathematical description." The mathematics is just fine; the inferences are flawed. As I have mentioned many times, not all mathematical solutions correspond to some aspect of physical reality. The fact that we can derive certain solutions to the Einstein field equations does not necessarily mean that such solutions represent the real world.

What further complicates the problem is the way actual physical data is misinterpreted and used as justification for the poor interpretation of the mathematics. A case in point is the relatively recent findings from the magnificent Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP). WMAP is a space probe with onboard microwave radiometers capable of measuring the temperature of the cosmic microwave background radiation with unprecedented precision. The data from WMAP has been used to favor an accelerated expansion of the universe, which is then interpreted as an element of the shape of the universe.

The fault lies not with the data, but with the inferences that are drawn; typically theory-driven, based on a theory which itself suffers from the same philosophical flaws as the "mass" attribute of the universe that has been advocated by some on this thread. For those who have read my posts on physics might know, I am a big supporter of modern physics in general, and I defend it against the onslaught from some Objectivist sources. But modern cosmology is an area that is terribly corrupted with bad ideas, the consequence of a relatively small group of theorists. It is ironic that, just at a time when wonderful astronomical data is accumulating at a rate faster than it can even be processed, the necessary theory to guide the proper interpretation of, and inferences from that data, is deteriorating. That is a shame.

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