Where not to move, based on margins of victory in the 2012 election (h/t Mike Flynn):
Much has been written over the last few weeks about the philosophical foolishness of cosmologist Lawrence M. Krauss in his recently published book, A Universe from Nothing. Of particular note are the devastating takedowns contributed by Mike Flynn and David Albert. They point out that Krauss has mistaken the meaning of “nothing.” Krauss argues that a quantum vacuum could give rise to a cosmos, and that is what it seems to have done. But the quantum vacuum is not nothing; it is a state of affairs that behaves in accordance with a system of equations. States, affairs, behavior and equations are things. Nothing is a state of affairs in which there is no state of affairs, nor any equations, nor anything else of any kind whatsoever. So Krauss is talking, not about how nothing gave rise to something, but how something gave rise to something.
So much for him, then.
It is not too tough to see that you can’t get something from nothing. Interestingly, it turns out that you can’t even get nothing from nothing. You can only get nothing from something. But then, technically, you can’t get nothing from something, either. At most, you can get non-being from something. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Social engineering consists of two phases:
- What could possibly go wrong?
- How were we supposed to know?
For every case in which question number two is asked, it is because question number one was never asked with sufficient rigor. For most of the social disasters that now afflict us, that rigor would have been trivially easy to achieve. A quick gedanken experiment – a thought experiment – would have sufficed to warn us off. For most policy proposals, such tests usually take about a minute.