The importance of Nothing - reloaded


The importance of Nothing - reloaded - by P.K.Odendaal - May 2014.
(Be prepared for heavy reading - sorry!)
It is just logical and right that, on this quest for reality and the stuff it is made of, I should start at or with Nothing. Here I am not referring to our normal concept of nothing like having nothing, feeling nothing, or doing nothing, but rather to the more purist interpretation thereof, namely absolutely Nothing.
It amazes me that we know absolutely nothing about Nothing, whilst we know such a lot about Something. Maybe we should have started to know something about Nothing before we started to know something about Something. That might have given us a better understanding on Something, but here we are, as always, starting somewhere midfield and exploring sideways and ending on the sidelines.

What I do not know is whether we will be able to know something of Nothing or whether the things about Nothing is unknowable or is in fact also Nothing. No, I am not an agnostic - they believe something is also not knowable.
I had thought that the last thing I would do just before I start talking to a shrink or to myself, I would read or write some science fiction, and here you find me writing science fiction, but that is the nature of reality - it is stranger than fiction - not that what we call pure science is not fictional. I find some parts of pure science, and especially the relativity theories and quantum mechanics more fictional than science fiction.
The notion of Nothing is quite an easy one, as it is the absence of Something, but to start at Something and working towards Nothing is just not attainable as we also know so little about Something. However, I will make a few futile attempts at approaching it from that side. I would think that attacking it from the Nothing side would be easier and more insightful.
But first, let us listen to Parmenides(ca.510-440BC). He distinguishes between what is and what is not. The latter, he says, is impossible. One cannot know that which is not. That is impossible, we cannot utter it, because as soon as we think of it or utter it, it becomes something.
Next we listen to the apostle Paul: Rom 4:17 ... , even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were.
Here we have two diametrically opposite statements, although one may take the two to mean that for man Nothing cannot exist, but that for God anything can exist, and this is borne out by the rational argument that God can create anything, so then He can also create Nothing.
The first idea of an approach from the Something side is from the dimensional viewpoint, or what I call dimensional regression - starting from some known two or three dimensional space and working our  way back to zero dimensions. It may be that Nothing is zero dimensional space, as nothing of any dimensionality can exist there.
Let us start from two dimensions and work our way up and down. A discussion on the dimensions is also necessarily a discussion on geometry, and maybe also about time, the latter being a notion I find strange in such a domain, but I know I need to give it more than lip service as the notion of space-time has become too well known.
An easy way to imagine space-time is to take the earth analogy and the hyper sphere discussed below. If we look at a Mercator's projection of the whole planet, we see a flat rectangular two dimensional map. Just before the people of the Flat Earth Society get excited, I need to remind them that the earth is in fact curved or warped and that time differs across it if you go sideways. You might say it is a sort of space-time concept, but it does not satisfy our notion of an extra or fourth dimension. It is still only three dimensional.
Let us take a circle or sphere. We have formulae for the surface area and volume of circles or spheres in any dimensions - even the tenth dimension, and we find that the value of these are finite and knowable in any of those dimensional domains - even in the zero or tenth dimensional domain - and the value of the surface are or volume in the zero dimensional domain is not zero. There is, however, a hitch, as the formulae are only valid in Euclidean space and we do not know whether the space from the fourth dimensions upwards or the zero dimension domain are indeed Euclidean space. The chances are better that it might not be. The amazing thing here is that we know the fourth dimensional surface area and there is no way that we can imagine its form.
We have moved from three dimensions to four dimensions without using time as a dimension. There are other insights to be had if we go to multiple dimensions in excess of three, but I do not want to belabour you now with the mathematics of Hilbert space.
Moving to zero dimensional land, or Point Land as it is called, we find that the area of a circle there is a constant for all circles residing there. The shocking thing here is that zero dimensional land is not Nothing, as we hoped it to be, as the constant is not Nothing. As you may know, a point cannot exist. It is only an idea, as is Nothing, but more imaginable than the latter.
Back to space-time. Maxwell's theory of electro-magnetic fields inspired Einstein to develop his theory on Special Relativity and Minkowski noticed that this theory took on a familiar form if space and time were intertwined in what became known a four-dimensional space-time. Enough of this for now as this is not a technical journal and neither has time been proved to exist in fourth dimension space. One swallow does not a summer make. However, the outcome of this is that there is no such thing as a literally empty space - it cannot even exist as an understandable idea.
The second idea we have of moving from our three dimensional space is to try and take any space and empty it completely until there is Nothing left in it. Presently we can almost reach a complete vacuum, containing no mass or material, but we find that we are snookered again as there are electro-magnetic waves in there, and possibly gravitational waves - and both are forms of energy and therefore a derivative of mass.
And these were my two futile attempts of approaching Nothingness from Somethingness.
To approach it from Nothingness we have to go to the axioms of Nothingness. We have previously discussed the aspect of axioms forming the basis of any belief system - science, philosophy and religion all have some axioms on which the belief system is built. An axiom is a non-provable assumption that seems to be intuitively true. So what would our axiom be to believe in Nothing?
That axiom, as stated previously, is that God can create everything, and thus He must be able to create Nothing. I do not believe wholeheartedly that God can create Nothing for two reasons, but neither absolutely convincing. The first is that God cannot do absolutely anything. Some things He can do, and some things are spin offs of what He does and some things He simply cannot do.
For instance, He can create heaven and earth. He also can and did create man in His image, but by doing that He had to create man with free will as a spin-off. When man was created with free will and access to knowledge, sin was the spin-off, and from sin, death was the spin-off. I would think that by creating Something, it does not enable Him to create Nothing, even as a spin-off, but that is conjecture. This is not an attempt to limit God's omnipotence, but rather a more sober interpretation of the scheme of things.
From the above I cannot accept an axiom that God can create Nothing, and I must therefore conclude that Nothing does not exist, as many some other things cannot exist - like a man without sin. I concede that the two things are not really analogous because a man without sin can be imagined and did walk on the earth once to redeem mankind, and Nothing cannot even be conceived or imagined. However, I must also concede that there are things possible which 1Co 2:9  ... as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.
The other argument confirming the non-existence of Nothingness, is that the wicked or doomed and the Devil will not one day be obliterated from the face of the universe, but will be cast in the bottomless pit. It seems that created things can never be uncreated, and that once there is some matter or spirit it will be forever, as there is no absolute void as our scientific argument proved earlier.
Back to science. The question is: what was there before the creation of the universe, and the simplest answer is that there was Nothing, but almost convinced that Nothing cannot exist, we must doubt this answer. The fact is that light, matter, time and all those wonderful things were created when the big bang happened. The Bible gives us the exact cause of creation - miraculously known by Moses! If Nothing cannot exist then it would be possible for God to create parallel universes - a notion not strange to science. You may say that this universe will be in the way of other universes being created, but let me take you back twenty billion years. If God could shift time twenty billion years backwards - if we accept that He can do anything- then this universe will not be in the way of the other universe being created, and that begs the question: can God shift time. I would think probably not, as it is a spin-off of creation, so for the time being I must contend with the thought that parallel universes are not possible with the only exception that this universe may not be infinite as we think it is.
Lastly, the following question which begs itself : What was there available before the creation of the universe to create it with. The atheists say nothing - and they are right - because God created this universe from Nothing. That does not mean that Nothing can exist, but only that God can call those things which be not (does not exist) as though they were.

Added 9 May 2014:
If I have convinced you that Nothing can or cannot exist, depending on your deduction, then I have made a mistake in my argumentation. I still firmly believe in the statement of Pyrrho, on which the Sceptics base their philosophy: It is simple and it turns on one principle claim, which is that one cannot assert any proposition with any better justification than one can assert its contradictory. I find the latter the most interesting and creative result of God's creation and His nature. It is clear to me that God did not want us to prove His existence beyond any doubt, because then He would have given us free will in vain. He specifically wanted us to BELIEVE in him, and that is why the basis of any knowledge is a belief, what ever the knowledge may be and whatever the belief may be. It is such an ingenious mechanism for God to hide Himself, and that is why the claims of Christians and Atheists are equally futile. They each believe what they want and they build a philosophy thereon.

I conclude this part with two rational arguments advanced for the existence of God.
The first is by St. Thomas Aquinas, his third Way, which we know, by our argument above, is not true, but it fits perfectly into our discussion of Nothing:
It is noted that we observe that things in the world come to be and pass away. But clearly not everything can be like this, for then there would have been a time when Nothing existed. But if that were true then nothing could ever have come into being, since something must have always existed, and this is what people understand by God.

And while I am at it, let me confuse you further with the proof of the existence of God, by St. Anselm: Consider that by the term 'God' we mean something than which nothing greater can be thought of. Given that even the non-believer accepts that this is what the concept of God entails, the existence of God would seem to follow necessarily from the definition.