I recently became aware of a theory that may answer that question. It was on a special about Stephen Hawking . Basically, he said at the moment of the Big Bang the universe was a super dense particle, or singularity, smaller than a proton. It randomly exploded to become the known universe. He goes on to say that the universe has only two things, energy and space. Based on Einstein's work matter is also a form of energy. There are positive energies (stars, planets, comets) and negative energy (gravity). When all these energies are added together the resulting sum of the entire universe will be....................zero! So there you are. There is still nothing.
Of course any bible-thumper will declare that the stupidest thing they ever heard.
If there is nothing then the Buddhists are correct.
James, as I understand the Buddhist explanation, the compression doesn't require a period of nothing before the next expansion.
In one dimension, I imagine it as a compressed spring with a lot of energy in a short distance.
I don't imagine a maximum expansion.
Having studied electrical engineering, I see more science (and no goddidits) in plasma cosmology.
Google it. Beware rationalwiki; it has become a hackers' playground.
Also, the believers never tell you how they define "nothing." They seem to think it is just empty space but that cannot be since space is "something." So when you look at it closely, it turns out to be the same old religious bullshit they always are promoting.
Eric Stone, have you ever nonplussed a theist who argues that God created everything all at once in six days with the question, "Who created God?"?
Yes, they say He always was which leads me to ask "What was He doing before He created space and time" which illustrates the ridiculousness of their answer. What was existence in non space non time? That has no meaning at all and is comparable to their question of how do you get something from nothing. I think we should hold these guys accountable for their crazy beliefs and make them confront them.
So they have no idea of what "nothing" is and have no conception of how something like God can exist in nonspace nontime - which means that they also have no definition or conception of what existence means. We should not let them wiggle out of this but continue to push them to answer these questions and demonstrate to the bystanders who are watching the debate how silly their views are.
Here is their wiggle: God does not need space or time. God can create in a vacuum or in a state of non-existence. God does not need anyone or anything to create God.
Even if so they still have no definition of "nothing" which I think invalidates their question. Perhaps the best way of nonplussing them is to ask them to define "nothing." I don't think they can.
I did almost that at a Toastmasters meeting. In the two-minute impromptu speaking part of the meeting, I asked a skilled speaker, "Tell us about the number zero."
Members have three choices:
1. Speak on the subject,
2. Tell what they need to know before they speak on the subject, or
3. Segue smoothly to another subject.
He stumbled for a moment but recovered. I don't remember what he said.
I didn't do stuff like that to less skilled members.
That explains a lot, James. Looking back on my own theist days, the believer always assumes that belief in god is a "given." They start and end with this idea in mind and simply cannot look at any issue without believing it unquestionably. That is their base of circular reasoning and why they have so many stupid answers about things. They "know" deep inside themselves that this is true, so they continue framing and re-framing everything to make it fit this idea. That's also why they think "they have won" any arguement in which you admit you do not know something. To them, they have all the answers.
Bingo, eric, your post reminded me that soon after I quit catholicism, decades ago, non-catholic xians started saying their god is love. Televangelists got rich selling that to lonely old women.
Catholics were smarter. I told a guy who'd been a pal that I was quitting and he threw Pascal's Wager at me. It slowed me a bit, until I realized that if I follow catholicism's rules and there is no god, I will miss the fun that a lot of other people would have.
The believers I live among, like me in their 70s and more, show the mental deterioration their beliefs cause and don't provide me with opportunities to ask them about space and time. I keep it simple and say that if I hadn't been 12 years in catholic schools I might still believe that gods exist.
I challenge the few who still think with those two words in the flag pledge. They know I don't say the pledge and only one, a mostly rigid catholic, raises the issue with me. I'm working on him to leave the plantation. One guy who'd been a paratrooper says the pledge and teases me with "under Tom".
They're okay with my being an atheist so I remind them that Congress added those words to set us apart from the Soviet Union's godless commies. They know the USSR died and communism is dying. I ask "Who does that leave America at war with?"
My favorite way of nonplussing them is to make them explain to me why God is not a dictator and why religion is not totalitarianism. They wiggle and wiggle to try to avoid the obvious conclusion that religion is about as anti-democratic and anti-freedom as one can get.
At a tabling event last year, a lady came up to me and said "How can you call Yahweha dictator if He lets you argue with Him and complain?" So asked her if anyone had ever won one of these arguments with God or were they just for "show" like the trials used by the totalitarian regimes? She left without answering.
I tried this out, Eric, on a theist on another social site (well, a site's comment section), arguing that god is either impotent or evil since he allows evil to exist, &c. (the usual Epicurus-Mackie argument from evil); lo and behold, some guy came back with the bit about God "gave us free will," so I used the Mackie peoples' argument against the Plantinga "free will" argument that God could have made certain that we would always choose good over evil by exercise of our free will, and the theist came back with "then it wouldn't be free will, would it?" Theists always claim that we are intractable in our rigid positions. My only defense would be that I used to be a theist so at least I have examined both sides of the God argument. But you just cannot win with some of these people.