Re: Evidence for "Big Bang Theory"

Gil Hardwick (
Thu, 11 May 1995 03:58:54 GMT

In article <3oo1q5$>, William S. Lawson ( writes:
>The symbol zero was introduced to the european culture as a notational advance
>of tremendous import. This is why we use hindu-arabic numerals today. The
>advance, however, has to do with placeholding, not "nothing". The concept of
>zero (as opposed to the symbol) certainly dates back to the advent of
>accounting, and was probably not entirely foreign to neanderthal. I think what
>some took exception to was the notion (the origins now lost) that the concept
>originated at the same time as the symbol. (There have probably been many
>other symbols used to represent zero, but not in the context of place-holding
>in decimal notation.) At the risk of playing a linguistic game myself, any
>symbol is merely a mark on a piece of paper (or papyrus, or...) that represents
>a concept. It is not the concept itself.

Bill, the symbol zero was only introduced into the very specifically
determined European _subculture_ of mathematics and its cognates.

Were you to attempt arguing with me on the point, be certain that we
in anthropology are able to map reliably and consistently its actual
distribution among human populations, as we can any other vocabulary,
word or symbol.

Further, as you state here above, the reason from its introduction was
indeed as a "placeholder" as you put it. It serves only to give a fix
on a standard range of quantities as their starting point.

In other applications, surveying as an example, I may as readily set
a datum point and simply deem that to be zero in order to reduce my
levels. The difference you will surely agree is between absolute and
incremental coordinates.

But NONE of that is what was being argued about here, was it. The
thread had developed into an argument on what constitutes space,
which is in fact empty. Somebody asserted the idea that the symbol
zero applied to space, which we all rightly agree cannot be the case
since space has no beginning and no end. It is simply NOTHING.

Since we are unable to establish a datum point in space, there is
nothing to which we can assign the symbol, yes?

Dr Roosen was quite correct in counter-asserting that "no" is the
more appropriate expression, although BOTH had been distracted by
the introduced idea that animals might have been involved somehow.

>The statement, "No cat is a dog", translates into set notation, not an
>equation, and so has nothing to do with the concept of zero.

Set notation has nothing to do with this thread. Where there is space
there are no sets of anything whatsoever. There is nothing at all, in
fact. Set notation simply cannot be applied, and your argument here is
similarly vacuous.

>The choice of zero to illustrate your point was unfortunate. One, two and
>three are all pure abstractions, but zero is truly different.

No, zero is not "truly different" at all, and neither are 1, 2 and 3
pure abstraction. Enough of this mysticism and rant!

We argued here long ago that one cow plus one horse does not equal
two chickens, and I would argue here similarly that neither can you
have one or two of nothing at all. One nothing plus two nothings DOES
NOT equal three nothings. It is ALL just nothing!

On the other hand, once we DO have something at hand then we can
invoke the symbol. We can DEEM any arbitrary starting point as our
point of origin and assign the symbol zero to it, and then proceed to
count off steps or units away from that point of origin.

We count, quite rightly, 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 . . . however many steps
or units we have taken in order to keep track of were we are at any
point. Such is accounting practice, and statistical method.

My point is that any such point is no less a point than our point of
origin. Indeed, I can go to 115 steps if I so chose, and then reassign
my zero to that new orign and start all over again! I can play around
with it as much as I feel like, PROVIDED I am able to keep track of
what transformations I have made throughout the procedure.

IN OTHER WORDS, I remain free to transpose zero for any quantity I
choose. Which I CANNOT DO with nothing. Nothing forever remains just
what it is, nothing.

It is in the nature of religion to invoke an abstracted symbol from
nothing (void), and apply it to nothing (void). But as we have agreed,
such is beyond the realm of science.

In science we MUST HAVE SOMETHING at hand in order to legitimately
invoke a symbol for it; as people persist in invoking a symbol before
having AT LEAST ONE DATUM, they are doing nothing more I insist than
participating in a religious discourse. Which is where Pythagoras and
far too many others since had got.


For all that, finally, I am yet unable to transform a cat into a dog,
or demonstrate that where there are no cats there are dogs. I regret
that such alchemy is quite beyond my powers, else I would be a rich
man indeed.

>He is not a kook, nor is he patient. He also has an unfortunate vocabulary.
>He is not the worst offender.

No he is not the worst offender, and yes his vocabulary is appalling.

That is precisely my complaint, so in reply you are going to get yet
another of my raves on the dreadful state of contemporary science.

I have commented before that you Americans are doing yourselves no
justice by allowing open slather. You might simply join us in asking
all these people to go off and find a group more appropriate to their
level of intellectual attainment

All you are doing by continuing to allow this sort of thing to go on
is to repudiate and diminish a tremendous amount of very hard work
by dedicated intellectuals and scientists patiently working through
these ideas and concepts for years on end, with an idea that any
idiot can just come along and be granted the same respect.

Why don't you just photo-copy all the degrees and doctorates, sell
them for a dime, and let the universities be over-run with just more
and more of these political "institutes"?

That has already gone way too far, with far too many of us out here
now dropping out altogether so as to set up our own private academy
out in the bush somewhere, in the hope that by so doing somehow the
knowledge and wisdom of centuries will be preserved for posterity.

As it is the situation is absolutely appalling, and I am by no means
the only one to be raising the alarm. Too many of our colleagues and
peers have already been sent off to "rest periods" in psychiatric
hospitals, have committed suicide, and more usually assigned to the
dole queue.

Interesting how few are pensioned off, but kept on standby in case a
factory job comes up somewhere . . . .