Discussing some aspects of cosmology and cosmogony (one thread of many)

Hi - a few weeks ago there was a discussion on a atheistnexus.org forum that touched on some aspects of cosmology and I guess cosmogony and a few things came up:

1) First, it was clear that some of the people on AtheistNexus.org forums have a lot of thoughts they want to share, and a desire to interact with each other on some of this.

2) Second, depending on whom you ask, there are multiple aspects to this topic that are of interest.  For some, they only want to discuss what they see as the science.  For others there are additional arguably related aspects such as philosophy and logic.  For others there are arguably ancillary (but highly interesting to some of us) aspects such as the psychology of belief.

3) The way the topic is framed, and the overall inclinations of the discussion participants, including the original poster, can have a significant impact on the direction of that particular thread.  The thread in question, in the final analysis, even with some interesting ideas seemingly offered, somewhat devolved and was shut down. This is an area where folks have some hot buttons, and the thread in question arguably had an inherent loaded-question element and there were further accusations of trolling.  Any topic can be poisoned, but it may take a bit of work to "leave the gun and take the canoli" when it comes to identifying what was valuable about the discussion and moving on.

I'm not quite sure where to go with "starting a new thread", and I have not even got to stating any particular science views that I have (if I even have them).  One or more of the topics in this area seem to be hot-button topics for some folks - with that double-edged aspect where people really want to invest time in discussing them, but then get upset when others do not observe what they regard as rational approach to discussion. I did talk at the water cooler with some of the folks


and it was suggested that there are three places that seem good to discuss various aspects.... this forum and two of the groups.


So, what I'm doing here is kind of trying to follow up and move on to making a post in the science forum. It's absolutely fine with me if this thread does not end up being the best or the place that people break out their most awesome thoughts.  On the contrary, it seems to me that there are so many ideas and thoughts that it would be logical for many threads to take place over the years.  

I guess I'm just kind of summarizing, and there's kind of an obligation now to bring the discussion over to one of the science areas and proceed.

As to my own particular pet angles, I must admit they often seem to be more in the related and ancillary areas, with only moderate interest in the direct science discussion.  To get a bit more specific, interests for me include:

Fermi's paradox
History of science as it relates to estimates of size/age/mass/parameters of all that is (not only known but unknown).  Questions of whether the cosmos has limits.
Atheism as it relates to the bigger science aspects (part of this is that the cosmos is simply too complex and huge to entertain the hypothesis a supernatural omniscient all-controlling being, and why even go there.... why even try to hypothesize such a thing?).
Probably a few other things here and there.

Bottom line, I am fine with it if this thread does not have a long life (and while I apologize for the overly-lengthy post, part of the reason I guess is that it may lead to a shorter life for the thread).  I think it would be great if over the years people discussed in a wide variety of places and reached higher levels of enlightenment on these topics..... I didn't do much deeper scoping, so maybe in the past that has already been going on in a variety of places.  However, I did think it might be good to follow through and summarize how recently there seemed to be a breaking out of ideas and a desire to discuss, and maybe contribute to trying to put the discussion back on track a bit.

PS: As to my throwing in the word cosmogony, it's a word that I've only recently come across in a philosophy book written by a friend of mine, but checking wikipedia, it seems useful.

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To be honest, fair. and up front, I have no problems discussing any idea or hypothesis.  I love existential discussions, and I really couldn't care less if an idea is totally crazy, it may still be very fun to play with and roll around in your mind.

I have a problem with false equivalence between some guy's idea and things we can demonstrate to be true. Ignoring when an "opponent" has made a good point (even if you disagree you should be intellectually honest enough with yourself and others to know when you've been beat on a point or when a point was made that you hadn't yet considered, and it should be totally ok to admit this without fear of repercussions). Insults veiled or open. Not adding to the discussion (ie repeating yourself blindly with no additional, new, or supporting information or evidence). Ignoring evidence when confronted with it. Stuff like that. It's completely possible to have an intellectually stimulating discussion or debate over bad ideas, regardless if an idea is valid or fantasy the very act of thinking may help us highlight new thoughts we may have never had without the discussion. 

This is why I'm not opposed to really talking it out with Flat Earthers, young earth creationists, ect. The problem arises when you realize most pseudoscience promoters refuse to apply basic levels of intellectual honesty with themselves or anyone else in the room. This really only becomes a problem for me when they start making constant insults and digs either veiled or open. I'm kinda used to talking to people so thick it can feel like you're pounding your head against a brick wall, that doesn't bug me as much as the insults and attacks.

This person in question has made a blog post, his starting point, is you must abandon everything you know about science and the world and blindly accept my position before my position will make sense to you. Why? because some mindless rant about early childhood development, the fact that he refuses to face the fact that the Large Hydron Collider has found the Higgs Boson (he read one book by one guy that was mad because he wants people to think that Einstine was wrong, he has been debunked already but apparently this person read that book and accepts it regardless of the mountain of evidence suggesting that guy was just throwing a hissy fit). He still has offered no evidence to support his position other than to link a book he thinks everyone should read. He makes no effort to show he has read and understood the book by expressing the ideas within it himself and defending them. Instead he'd rather be intellectually lazy and let someone else do all the convincing. 

All of this is after that unfortunate discussion in the forums. I highly recommend a book "Our Demon Haunted World" by Carl Sagan. I highly doubt if this person had read that book in high school he would be making such poor arguments today.

None of this is meant as an attack against him, or a dig, rather a simple analysis from my point of view on why things went the way they did, and highlight what needs to change if we're to have a productive healthy discussion on these topics.

I would also like to add one of the biggest reasons we have these problems is because of a mistake on the part of our scientific community. Scientists don't waste precious cognitive resources on ideas, hypothesizes, or "theories" that we can prove are incorrect. Once they've proven something wrong they move on without giving it further thought. This is of course the correct way to be if your goal is to discover the nature of the universe. The problem is most people don't operate like this.

So when you have one crazy conspiracy theorist who writes a book claiming the Large Hydron Collider didn't find the higgs boson, the media picks it up and runs with it, and no scientist stands up against him because they already moved on and are continuing their work. Then someone reads that book, and because it agrees with their preconceived idea, or fits in any way with their ideas they adopt it as fact. Completely ignoring reality. This is compounded by the sensationalizeation of the subject by the media. They don't care about fact, they care about selling their product. As a result if you google it you will find all kinds of one sided stories that blew up around the time the book was written and published and would be left with the idea that the Higgs hadn't actually been discovered if you read only those articles. Meanwhile in labs work continues as if those reports don't exist? why? cause its just noise, its one guy throwing a hissy fit because he thinks math should look pretty. He ignores the reason we back Einstine is tens of thousands of experiments that show his calculations to be correct. We're not concerned with how pretty it is on paper, only that it can be observed in reality.

In conclusion science is wrong to ignore this. People don't think scientifically in the world at large, they cant simply be abandoned to superstitions, fantasy, and magic. They need to have these things explained as often as necessary until they get it. It's not that they have to agree, they simply have to learn how to approach these things. 1 Attacking an "accepted" working theory does not make your idea correct, its generally a waste of time to do this (something science realizes but the world at large doesn't) 2 because of point one, all that matters is your evidence so don't talk about anyone else's work just talk about yours and if its challenged or shown to be incorrect you need to be intellectually honest enough, emotionally and cognitively developed enough to acknowledge that. 3 All work should be subject to scrutiny, its fine to challenge accepted science, however if you have an alternative don't debunk just focus on your work, if you don't have an alternative but see flaws in the other work call it out (which is what I do, cause I don't have or care about an/or the alternative, so I only debunk). In short people who stand up and explain why things are wrong are needed and we need more of the science community participating in that I think. No matter how crazy the opposing claims are.

Edit- Thee reason not to debunk if you have an alternative, is because if your position is correct there's no need to debunk anything, your work will stand on its own and speak to its validity. I mean you can debunk but its a waste of resources at that point.


Black Holes Caught in the Act of Cosmic Creation
Astronomers have glimpsed the telltale signs of newly formed stars inside the powerful winds of a supermassive black hole.
An artist’s impression of a stars forming in powerful outflows of material coming from a supermassive black hole inside a galaxy
An artist’s impression of a stars forming in powerful outflows of material coming from a supermassive black hole inside a galaxyESO / M. Kornmesser


Since this would seem to link a kind of end-game (a black hole) with creation of starts, I wonder if it calls into question any basic assumptions of universe (or known-universe) beginning/middle/end. If so, I wonder if it then changes any of the discussions with theists who seem to think it's critical to atheist/theist discussions as to whether atheists can explain the existence of existence.

"...whether atheists can explain the existence of existence."

jlaz, no theists have yet asked me to explain it. If one someday does ask I'm sure I won't explain it to their satisfaction. When I try to explain it to myself I have to address both physical existence and awareness of existence.

The first is easy. With the universe's being electrical I'm ok with those 1950's experiments with a bunch of chemicals, water, and some electricity having made amino acids. I know zip of the existence of those ingredients.

As to awareness, a bit over a year ago I heard a Teaching Company professor try to explain consciousness. I concluded that too little is known.

As to the Atlantic article, I will always remember the newspaper article I read when I was studying physics. Someone had persuaded a columnist that perpetual motion was possible.

Is the universe perpetual? I don't know.

I really have no interest in reading stuff written by journalists who are likely less educated on the topic than many of their readers, and certainly not qualified to understand what they are writing about (as far as I've seen, I get tired of their fuckups leading to idiots drawing bizarre baseless ideas after reading a flawed news article)


A couple of abbreviated thoughts: (I am on a plane and running out of battery, but trying to catch up on some forum points):

Can I verify exactly which problematic thread and author you are referring to?  Maybe I have become confused as to what others are talking about.  For my part I thought that the thread about "Do You Need The Universe To Have Had A Beginning?" had some issues, but perhaps that is note the one you are referencing.  Feel free to send me privately if you would prefer not to post it publicly.

As to The Atlantic article, as I said to Tom in another thread on the atheist science group, I just don't think the source is "that" important for some purposes.  The story was covered by many and it references a submission to Nature.  Sure, it could be off, but I chose it from one link among many.  Most of the others would do as easily.




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