Why does the universe exist?

“Why does the universe exist…. Why is there something rather than nothing at all? This is the super ultimate why question?”

“The philosopher (Aror Scribner? – didn’t quite get his name) said “those who don’t wonder about the contingency of their existence and the contingency of the world’s existence are mentally deficient”.

That’s a little harsh but still. It’s an important thing to think about.

“This has been called the most sublime and awesome mystery. The deepest and most far reaching question man can pose.”

“it’s not how things are that is the mystical, it’s that the world exists [at all]” Ludwig Wittgenstein

Leibnitz, who was one of the guys who invented calculus, said there is no mystery. It’s obvious. God created the universe out of nothing. (He was “or pretended to be” as the speaker says, an orthodox Christian. He goes on

“This is what most Americans believe today. God + nothing = the world”

He then says there is a problem with that, even if you do believe in God.  The problem is “why does God exist”

This objection keeps coming up but I just don’t get it. God exists eternally. Why is that a problem? Why can’t there be some ultimate thing that is the own reason for its existence. Why can’t there be an “I [just] am”. More to the point what if there is not? Is that more philosophically coherent? No, it leads to an infinite regress. But then someone says why can’t the universe have in itself the reason for its existence. Well, for one did it always exist? There is a jolly good argument that time and space didn’t always exist. For two,  meaning (it seems to me) is personal, and as inanimate objects have no meaning in themselves, there needs to be a personal meaning giver outside of the physical universe. So we come back to an eternal personal being whose meaning for existence lies in itself. That’s a big part of what God is.

The speaker jokes that God might ask himself in the king’s James English old fashioned dialect “whence didst I come from?”. People in the audience laughed but what is the point of that remark? Why would God wonder that? It seems at this point in the talk that he (and many in the audience) are just mocking God. Why would you mock a view point when you are examining it?

Ah but now he gets interesting. He says the theory that things popped into existence out of nothing or out of a quantum vacuum, is not plausible because the equations that would describe such a thing have no existence in themselves. Those that go down that line (Stephen Hawkins is one I think having read his book which asked the why question) give equations a God like existence. The laws of quantum physics just are. But as this chap says:

“laws do not exist outside the world, they just describe what happens in the word. They can’t call a world into existence out of nothing”.

Ah, apparently Stephen Hawkins after proposing this kind of solution was still puzzled and asked

“what breaths fire into these equations and creates a world for them to describe?”

And Jim (the speaker) goes on

“we could also ask why this particular set of laws rather than a totally different set… or no laws at all”.

Some solve that by getting metaphysical and saying that all possible worlds exist. To me it sounds a bit platonic. Oh, he says that’s what it is. I feel cleaver about having noticed that for some reason.

He points out that in-between nothing and all possible worlds existing, are other options. There may be the most mathematically elegant world, or ethical world, but, he says, there could also be lots of random nothing special realities too.

Ok, here is it. Here is his view. That we live in is a “nothing special” sort of universe (and I guess he feels there is no need to assume others exist). Its’ not nothing, and its not perfect in any way. And because its nothing special it needs no reason for its existence. I don’t quite see why that is the case but he just says it. I would say that something rather than nothing is special. And isn’t the question he is addressing “why is there something”. I think he has done some slight of hand here. Or I have not been quick enough to follow his argument. Didn’t he just slip the question into his pocket while he was making funny remarks and distracting us with that multi-universe stuff?

Anyway, he goes on that its good we are in a nothing special sort of universe because we don’t have the pressure of living up to a perfect one. We can’t spoil it. It’s like when the street is full of rubbish it’s ok to drop litter. That way of thinking seems to get rid of sin nicely, and our responsibility to do good and any punishment from a perfect creator.  The truth is of course that God made the world good, and then we started throwing litter around but anyway…. He goes on that the fact that there are not an infinite number of versions of us doing the right and wrong thing in other universes does not undermine the meaning in our choices.

Now he’s saying that we can find purpose in making the nice bits of our generic universe nicer and the nasty bits smaller. Were on earth did he get “nice” and “nasty” from? It’s like a cup and ball game. He has lifted a cup were there was nothing and now there is a ball there. “we can construct a purpose and that is a pretty good one”. Argggg. How can you say “that’s a pretty good one”. Who says? Another cup lifted and a ball magically appears. Not only is he making up meaning and purpose he is judging it good or bad by some means. He is tugging at his boot straps! Playing God.

Now he is saying we all secretly think we are mediocre. “the mediocrity in reality resonates with the mediocrity we all feel in the core of our being”. I would agree that we do often have a sense of mediocrity, failure even, not being perfect at least. But that is not simply because we live in a mediocre universe, it;s because we have a sense that it should be perfect. That we should be perfect. We have an awareness of goodness and perfection, “like a half remembered dream” (Inception quote) because God created the universe, including mankind, good, but we fell morally.

I am left wondering how much of this was supposed to be sincere and how much comedy. There were cleaver bits but when he gets to the heart of the matter I wasn’t able to follow him.

The reason there is a universe is because God, who exists because he does (and something must), made it. If you take away the actual answer you are left with just the wrong ones and it seems, to me at least, that none of them make sense.

The universe does not seem to have always existed (Philosophical argument ie no real infinite series of moments can actually exist, + scientific observation)  plus how can inanimate objects have intrinsic meaning? Surely (I remember reading that when someone uses this word they are buttressing a week argument but anyway…) it’s obvious (Oh dear another word used instead of an argument) that we can’t make up meaning (Ok – let me try to argue for it…I can not make up meaning as that is patently false, ie at least one of the following is wrong :”the meaning for my existence is to do good”, and “the meaning for my existence is to do evil”.  They can’t both be true in any objective sense, even at different times. Yet, at different times, someone could hold those views. This shows that meaning cannot be made simply by making it up. Plus, meaning comes from outside a system. Something that gives things in the system meaning. God is such a being outside of time and space who gives meaning to things.  What’s more he is not making up meaning. Meaning comes from who he eternally is. It’s not as if he decides one day that the meaning of life is X and then the next it’s Y. When he created something out of nothing, it’s meaning was in his reasons for creating it. In this sense meaning is write-once. It’s burnt in at creation. It’s not something he or us can re-write whenever we want. )

Anyway, back to the talk – Mathematical descriptions of the universe cannot bring a universe into existence

There cannot be an infinite regress of objects or beings that are the reason for subsequent objects.

To me at least, the Christian word view seems the best fit. It accounts, in the best way,  for the available data, for the good we see, for the evil we see, for the sense of  meaning and purpose we seek, for the mediocrity we feel, the existence of the universe and us. For the specialness of the universe and the random chaotic nature of it. God created perfect, it out of nothing, it fell, and he will bring it to a glorious perfection (in his son Jesus).


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