I’m queuing this up ahead of time, and I presume I’m in Washington state today, for this talk. You residents of Washington, Oregon, and Northern California will recognize this familiar flower.

Coast Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) forest interior with Pacific Rhododendrons (Rhododendron macrophyllum) Lady Bird Johnson Grove, Redwood National Park, California

(via NatGeo)


  1. #1 Flo
    March 27, 2013

    Sorry, PZ, for me the important parts of that picture are the trees and the glowing fog. But then I’m not a resident.

  2. #2 brightmoon
    March 27, 2013

    picture’s kinda small but that looks like a rhododendron…I love them and their close relatives the azaleas

  3. #3 Cheryl
    March 28, 2013

    Definitely rhododendron, and lovely. The trees, ferns and fog are ubiquitous up here in the Pacific Northwest (where I am currently resident), and all they do is make me think of mold. Give me my warm, dry, sunny home state of Texas any time!

  4. #4 Justin Adams
    March 28, 2013

    You are obviously an intelligent person. I can’t imagine that you believe that something can come from nothing. The only alternative I know for the existence of anything is that there is an eternal. Could you please comment on that?

  5. #5 Flo
    March 28, 2013

    Justin, that’s a pretty basic apologetic tactic. The “something can’t come from nothing”-routine? Don’t you think he’s heard that a thousand times already?

    Anyway, three points right off the bat:
    – “The only alternative I know” sounds an awful lot like an argument from ignorance or the god of the gaps fallacy. Our lack of understanding does not justify accepting something without evidence, especially not if that something itself is an unknown, too.
    – Who says it couldn’t be the universe (or the singularity before the big bang) itself that’s eternal?
    – Watch Krauss’ lecture on “A universe from nothing”, it’s on YouTube. He tries (and in my case, somewhat fails) to explain about zero energy universes and quantum mechanics being another possibility for the universe’s generation.

  6. #6 Eric Lund
    March 28, 2013

    They probably aren’t native here in New Hampshire, but rhododendrons are a common landscaping plant. I have a couple of them, and several neighbors have them as well.

  7. #7 Justin Adams
    March 28, 2013

    Answering Flo

    I try to ask a question in a straightforward way. I get accused of “tactic”, “routine”, and “he’s heard that a thousand times”. Then I get three “non-answers”
    1. “The only alternative I know” is not an argument. It is a statement. It is not intended to justify anything. It is a way to communicate.
    2. Are you saying you believe there is such a thing as eternal material? “Who says it couldn’t be…..” is not an answer.
    3. If you believe Krauss fails I don’t need to watch.

    I was just curious if you had an answer. I guess not.

  8. #8 Flo
    March 29, 2013

    Justin, that’s because it IS such an old and tired argument. I’m sorry about you using it, too, but there are countless counter-apologetics to this particular notion floating around already. I very much doubt PZ is going to bother with something as standard and often-dealt with as that.

    1.) Okay. Perhaps you could elaborate on what you do mean then. I’m assuming there’s a point to the statement you made. What is it?

    2.) No, I’m saying that – if such a thing as eternal material existed – why add another unknown to fill that role that there’s no evidence for? I don’t know whether such a material exists. Nor would it have to be material; considering matter and energy can be transformed back and forth, it might not be matter that always existed. If something existed forever at all.

    3.) It’s definitely worth a watch; it’s just that I’m not a physicist, so some of the things he says are rather difficult to grasp for me and I’m not completely convinced of “a universe from nothing”.

    That’s the main point, though: Not being fully convinced by his arguments does not mean I accept other, entirely unsupported ideas, either.

    So the way that your point is usually employed – something can’t come from nothing, the universe came from somewhere, that somewhere must be a god – simply doesn’t work for me.

    The lack of knowledge we currently have on the origin of the universe does not justify unfounded belief. It’s just that: A current lack of knowledge.

  9. #9 Justin Adams
    March 29, 2013

    Back to my original comment. I think the only alternatives (for the fact that things exist) are that something always existed or that something came from nothing. I wonder if anyone thinks there are other alternatives. If not, I will accept that as an answer. Take your best shot and I would like to comment to save you additional speculation on my motives.

  10. #10 David Marjanović
    Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin
    March 30, 2013

    1) Talking to PZ on this version of Pharyngula is futile. He almost never takes a look at the comments here. Go to the full version on Freethoughtblogs (…bizarrely, I can’t link to it; the spam filter doesn’t let me!…) – and then e-mail him.

    2) Richard Carrier on how a universe can come from nothing. I hope this link goes through.

  11. #11 Justin Adams
    April 1, 2013

    Thanks for the comment. I’ll try it. I started reading the link and find that Krauss defined “nothing” as “something other than nothing”. I find it interesting that smart people can say such things. I’ll keep reading. I may get bogged down on the 300 pages of comments.

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