Why Does the World Exist?
Why Does the Universe Exist?
Why is There Something Rather Than Nothing?
By Vincent Sauvé
One can write an entire book on this age-old question, such as the new book by Jim Holt: Why Does the World Exist?: An Existential Detective Story.
Such extensive writings are the long story of a question that can be answered in just a couple pages. And I don’t mean God. God is not a good answer because if everything needs to have a cause and that cause is God then who or what caused God? If the answer is that God always existed then that means that there is at least one exception to the--everything must have a cause--argument. If one exception can be allowed, then why not one more, that the universe can be infinite too? Some religious people are not bothered by the idea that there can be an infinite God and an infinite universe.
The best answer that isn’t a creationist argument of creation from nothing, as is often implied by many Big Bang advocates, is that the universe is infinite and never had a beginning in space or time. For a critique of Big Bang Creationism see my web site: https://sites.google.com/site/bigbangcosmythology/home
Why is there something rather than nothing?
By “something” we must mean “matter” and matter must be defined as that which occupies space to the exclusion of other matter* and in addition it must have the property we call inertia**. If matter were not to have this definition of exclusion and inertia then it wouldn’t be any different than empty space or nothing. And hence, creatures could never even evolve to ask these questions.
Let’s look at the choices and see what they lead to.
What of a universe of nothing? Obviously, that is absurd. “A universe of nothing.” That’s a contradictory statement, rather like “I always lie.” Is that statement conveying a truth or a falsehood? A universe without matter in motion is meaningless. Never can nothing transform into something let alone a something in motion.
What about a universe of matter and no empty space? A universe that is just matter could not have interactions, because there would be no motion. There would be no empty space for matter to move. With no way for matter to move there are no interactions, no chemistry, no life. No being could ever evolve to ponder it.
So now we can see that nothing and something are essentially equivalent when it is all one or all the other. Matter is no more significant than is empty space. Both kinds of situations are equivalent to nothing because there is nothing that can move. Hence, matter in motion and empty spaces are essential First Principles.
We like to ask, “Why is there something rather than nothing?” But now we can see that the question, “Why is there nothing rather than something?” is just as valid or as invalid since both types of situations are meaningless. Neither kind of world can exist by itself.
Starting Principles For An Epistemology
The universe of matter in motion and empty space must have always existed but that existence was as meaningless as are the popular questions that are the heading of this essay. The universe didn't come into “being” in the sense of something meaningful until some part of the universe developed the conditions for creatures to come about and to evolve a level of consciousness to be able to ask questions of itself. The universe’s ultimate coming into being is with a part of it becoming conscious of itself. We are from stardust. We are a very small part of the universe. But that humbling fact doesn't matter. We are the small part that has finally obtained consciousness of itself. That is when the universe began. It began when it became meaningful. And meaningfulness began when creatures from the universe developed a level of consciousness that goes beyond: eat, survive, and reproduce. This coming into being for the universe has been a multi-thousand year process and is still unfolding.
In a very real sense the universe begins when creatures of the universe came on to the stage to ask these sorts of questions. That we learn of fossils of information that preexist our consciousness just makes this existence all the more rewarding. Questions of why are we here, why is a universe here, and all the different ways of saying “why” are the wrong approach.
There are probably vast numbers of worlds that have some form of living creatures. The likelihood is very remote, but not impossible, of those creatures developing the level of consciousness that humans are capable of. It took this planet billions of years and millions of species for just one of late to develop this degree of consciousness. Who knows how many other highly conscious beings there may be, and have been, and are to be?
Who then understands the reciprocal flux and reflux of the infinitely great and infinitely small, the echoing of causes in the abysses of being, and the avalanches of creation?
--Victor Hugo and Chares E. Wilbour (trans.), Les Misérables (1862), 41
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* By matter I wish to note that electromagnetic radiation is also matter. In Erwin Schrödinger’s words: “Today a physicist no longer can distinguish significantly between matter and something else. We no longer contrast matter with forces or fields of force as different entities; we know now that these concepts must be merged. It is true that we speak of “empty” space (that is, space free of matter), but space is never really empty, because even in the remotest voids of the universe there is always starlight—and that is matter.” From “What Is Matter?” Scientific American, September 1953.
** It is colossal folly to suppose that all particles ought to start out with zero mass and that they should attain their mass by way of interaction with a Higgs field. Inertia and mass is essentially the same thing. This is one of the wrong paths fostered by Big Bang Creationism due to their desire to have a model of creation from nothing to something.
This page made Internet available August 1, 2012