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SYFY WIRE Bad Astronomy

Why is there something rather than nothing?

By Phil Plait

Just a quick note: if you're looking to expand your mind enough to make your head explode, then read this very interesting essay by my fellow

Hive Overmind Discover Magazine blogger and theoretical cosmologist Sean Carroll on why there's something rather than nothing. That is, why does the Universe exist the way it does?

I'm simplifying it a bit here. But it's similar to the question, why is there something rather than nothing, which Sean has also written about.

There's some tech speak in the first article, but it's a fascinating discussion of the nontroversy brewing between some scientists and some philosophers. I agree with Sean; many of the potshots they take are poorly aimed (though I do tend to agree with my friend Massimo Pigliucci when it comes to scientists misunderstanding the need and use for philosophy).

As Sean says, it does no good when participants in the two fields talk past each other. But I do disagree with him very mildly when he says,

...the point of philosophy is not to be "useful" to science, any more than the point of mycology is to be "useful" to fungi.

Perhaps that's not the point of philosophy, but it's a role philosophy plays, a critical one. After all, the way we practice science ideally relies on its philosophy. Maybe I'm splitting hairs here, but I'd call Karl Popper a scientific philosopher, as well as Galileo and many others who allow a meta-knowledge of how to do science influence they way they actually do it.

I suspect I'll have a fun conversation with Sean about this next time we get together!

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