There is an ongoing PBS TV series (also several books and also a website) called “Closer To Truth”. It is hosted by neuroscientist Robert Lawrence Kuhn. He’s featured in one-on-one interviews and panel discussions with the cream of the cream of today’s cosmologists, physicists, philosophers, theologians, psychologists, etc. on all of the Big Questions surrounding a trilogy of broad topics – Cosmos; Consciousness; Meaning. The trilogy collectively dealt with reality, space and time, mind and consciousness, aliens, theology and on and on and on. Here are a few of my comments on one of the universal topics covered: The Universe.

Did our Universe have a Beginning?

Did our Universe have a beginning? Well yes and no. Clearly the observational evidence points to a Big Bang event roughly 13.7 billion years ago – give or take. That Big Bang event was for all practical purposes, the beginning to our Universe. However, just like a person has a beginning, there is such a thing as a ‘before the person’. So too there was a ‘before the Big Bang’ and whatever that ‘before’ was, it had a causality relationship to our Universe, and therefore could be considered part of our universe or the parent to our Universe. A person is caused by those who came before in causality relationships and a new person cannot be considered an island devoid of any connection with their ancestors. Why 英國讀書 does there have to be a ‘before the Big Bang’? It is impossible to create time and space since both time and space are concepts, not things with structure and substance. If the Big Bang did not, in fact could not create time and space, and any cosmologist who suggests otherwise should be made to get up in front of an audience of his or her peers and create some time (we could all use a bit of extra time) and space (we could all use a bit of extra space too) from scratch, or even present a theoretical equation that shows how either or both could be created from scratch, then the Big Bang event happened in existing time and in an already existing space. The concept of time only makes sense if you have something that changes and for that you need things that change or in other words things with substance and structure or in other words matter and energy. The concept of space only makes sense if there is something, I stress the word thing, inside that space. So space existed before the Big Bang; time existed before the Big Bang; and matter and energy existed before the Big Bang too in order to give the 英國讀書 concepts of pre Big Bang time and space some real meaning. And in case you were thinking that the Big Bang event created matter and energy to give that meaning to the time and the space it also created, think again. Recall from high school science those conservation laws that were rammed down your throat, laws which to my knowledge have never been repealed, laws which go something like this: “Matter (and energy) can neither be created nor destroyed but only changed in form”. So, yes, our Universe had a beginning, but it also had a parent, a previous universe that contained all of the matter and energy that makes up our Universe.

What does an Expanding Universe Mean?

Before deciding what does an expanding universe actually mean, if it actually has meaning, one has to figure out which of two possible expansion scenarios is the correct one, though I understand that at present there is no actual observational experiment that can distinguish between the two. The current standard cosmological model has space itself expanding, the expansion of space being driven by dark energy (whatever that actually is), an apparently intrinsic property of space itself. In other words, space, and the dark energy of space is a thing, and space, being a thing, carries the galaxies in piggyback fashion, like that overused analogy of paper dots pasted on the surface of an expanding balloon. I reject that standard model on the grounds that it implies the continuous creation of something (dark energy and space with structure and substance) from absolutely nothing, a pure violation of those conservation laws so beloved by physics. The alternative scenario is that the galaxies, matter and energy, are all expanding through existing space. Space in this scenario is not a thing, just the concept of a container that contains matter and energy in the form of galaxies. The galaxies are no more being carried piggyback by space than the bits and pieces that come flying out of an exploding stick of dynamite are being carried by the space they are moving through. The galaxies, like the bits and pieces of that exploded stick of dynamite, are moving through space. Now when that issue is decided, we’re in a better position to discuss meaning.

How Vast is the Cosmos?

IMHO, the cosmos is infinite in size. The basic reason is that only an infinite cosmos gets around that very nasty philosophical question of what lies beyond the boundary even if there doesn’t appear to be a boundary? Now I know people like to state that the Earth has a finite size yet you can keep on keeping on going around and around and around until the cows come home. A terrestrial traveler could conclude that the Earth is infinite in length. However, that traveler can escape the finiteness by travelling in another direction – UP! Once you realize that even in the cosmos, if you are travelling around in never-ending circles, if you can find an UP direction, then another UP direction and another if necessary, you’ll find that the cosmos is infinite. Of course there doesn’t have to be any valid analogy between the finite Earth and the cosmos. It could be in the cosmos that if you just pick a direction and start trucking, you can keep on keeping on trucking forever and ever and ever, amen, without ever putting your footsteps into your previous footsteps. Every step you take and every view you view is unique, never to repeat.

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