Cosmic Quote #61

“To you, I’m an atheist.  To god, I’m the loyal opposition.”–Woody Allen

“Atheism is a non-prophet organization.”–George Carlin

priestsI must admit, golf was once my religion.  Now I’m a non-theistic existentialist, though I still occasionally play around–er, I mean a round.


Time Out: Possibilianism

“Our reality depends on what our biology is up to.”–David Eagleman

“What a life in science really teaches you is the vastness of our ignorance.”–David Eagleman

Note: Regular followers of this blog will have noted that I avoid discussions of religion and faith issues herein.  There is a reason for this:  I am not interested in discussing them.  Anyway, if you have read many of my posts you will likely have figured out where I stand on this by now.  However, I am making an exception with this post for a specific reason.  Possiblianism is to faith, what these Millennium Conjectures are to physics and metaphysics.  I am speculating on what might be the answers to unknown questions, based on what we do know about physics and cosmology–all the while keeping an open mind and not drawing any absolute conclusions.

In between theism and atheism lies a vast limbo generally referred to as agnosticism.   While the dictionary definition of agnostic is someone who believes the answer to the question of god’s existence and/or the meaning of life is unknowable, the term is often used more broadly.  The agnostic may be undecided.  The agnostic may not care and consider the question irrelevant.  Some point to such individuals and say they are just too wishy-washy to make up their minds.  The common thread among all of these, though, is that the agnostic sees no firm proof either way.  Along comes Possibilianism, which might be seen as a sort of proactive form of agnosticism.

The term Possibilianism was coined and defined by neuro-scientist and author David Eagleman, in discussion of his book, Sum: 40 Tales from the Afterlife.  When asked by an NPR interviewer whether he was a theist or atheist,  Eagleman replied that he considers himself Possiblian.   “I’m open to…ideas that we don’t have any way of testing right now,” he said.  That is a good way of explaining what my Millennium Conjectures are as well.


I’ve read Sum, which is a compilation of 40 possible scenarios for what happens when we die;  none of these scenarios are typical religious views of heaven or hell,

or atheist views of eternal nothingness.   Many of the scenarios seem over-the-top bizarre.  Except when you stop to think about it.  None of them are really any more preposterous than what most religions already believe.  But all of them do have rather strong moral or philosophical points to them;  they are all excellent fodder for contemplation.   At any rate, it was a best seller that received rave reviews from the likes of The Wall Street Journal, The Observer and The Los Angeles Times.  

Below is a short You Tube discussion of the concept by Eagleman.  There are much longer ones available if you have the time and inclination.  As for my ever getting to conjecture #5,  I think I’m finally done with the preliminaries, so, yes, it’s a possibility!


Conjecture #2: Inevitability (Part 2)

I Conjecture:  In an infinite multiverse we must exist.

Part Two: The impossibility of non-existance

“Needleman was rarely out of public controversy. He published his famous ‘Non-Existence: What To Do If It Suddenly Strikes You’.”–Woody Allen, ‘Remembering Needleman’ (short story)

Image credit: (click image for link)

If you think imagining infinity is difficult,  try imagining nothing.  No, I don’t mean blank your mind.  I mean imagine nothingness.  NO!  I don’t mean a vacuum–empty space with no matter and energy.  I mean absolutely nothing:  no space and no time.  I’m betting you can’t do it, even if you think you can; you’re not, even if you think you are.   I merely conjectured that the concept of infinity could not exist in a finite universe, but I am firmly asserting that a conscious entity is incapable of imagining absolute nothingness.  It’s an oxymoron. By the mere fact of imagining you have to imagine something.  And while it might be pure philosophy to suggest it couldn’t be because we are incapable of imagining it, there is strong scientific argument for the “something out of nothing” impossibility of non-existence.  From Hawking on down, physicists have come to the conclusion that there is no such thing as absolute vacuum, that space is full of quantum foam, seething with instability and particles of energy and matter popping in and out of existence.  If matter plus antimatter equals nothing, than by commutation, nothing equals anti-matter plus matter.  (Yes, I know. The intelligent design crowd will reject this and tell us that it is all too perfect.  God must have done it.  Really? So God can exist out of nothing but the universe can’t?  When they can tell me where god came from and offer some form of empirical evidence, I will consider their arguments; but they can’t, so I won’t.)  Final proof: we do exist. Maybe all other arguments are moot.  And anyway I have an out, as the prerequisite for this conjecture is “in an infinite multiverse.”  Let’s rest our neurons for the next installment: The Conjecture of the Future.

(As an entertaining aside, here is a YouTube video of Neal Degrasse Tyson rambling on some cosmic questions.   It includes his conclusion that intelligent life is inevitable.)

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