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Author Topic:   The Ultimate Question - Why is there something rather than nothing?
Dr Adequate
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(2)
Message 1 of 366 (624825)
07-20-2011 1:58 AM


Why is there something rather than nothing?

Some initial thoughts:

* God would not constitute an explanation, since God counts as something.

* Indeed, if anything constituted an explanation then the existence of everything was contingent on that thing, then that thing would stand in need of an explanation, and so wouldn't be the answer we were looking for.

* This last consideration makes the question look unanswerable. To explain my thinking, consider that a question beginning "Why ..." invites an answer describing some thing which is an antecedent cause, or at least something with a sort of family resemblance to an antecedent cause.

* Any attempt to prove a priori that there should be something rather than nothing would necessarily involve proving that a state of affairs in which nothing existed would be self-inconsistent. Which it isn't.

My own opinion is that the question is unanswerable, and indeed can only be asked because the English language allows us to talk nonsense. This view does not satisfy me in the slightest, but as I am in the habit of saying, being hungry does not prove that we have bread.

Edited by Adminnemooseus, : Add the "- Why is there something rather than nothing?" to topic title.


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Message 2 of 366 (624827)
07-20-2011 7:09 AM


Thread Copied from Proposed New Topics Forum

  
frako
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Message 3 of 366 (624828)
07-20-2011 7:28 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Dr Adequate
07-20-2011 1:58 AM


Hmm i have my own crackpot theory on this

Given that we do not see nothing in nature a pure vacuum is theoretically impossible because virtual particles would still come in and out of exsistance inside that vacuum even if you get everything else out of it (radiation, gravity, matter ...). One can therefore conclude that nothing is an "unnatural" state there hasto be something even if that something is 1-1 that equals nothing but is in fact not nothing.


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Dr Jack
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From: Leicester, England
Joined: 07-14-2003


Message 4 of 366 (624835)
07-20-2011 7:51 AM


I submit there is no answer to the question. Some things just are.

Outside of reality, how can anything have a reason? Without something, how can there be reality?


PaulK
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(1)
Message 5 of 366 (624836)
07-20-2011 8:00 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Dr Adequate
07-20-2011 1:58 AM


I'm going to consider some possible answers.

1) logical necessity.
As Dr. A. rightly points out, there is no obvious contradiction in a state of nothingness. So this is something that must be argued for, as logical necessity is a very strong claim and demands very strong support. While this would be a very desirable conclusion, desirability is not a good guide to truth.

2) metaphysical necessity
This, I think is a non-starter. Nothing can be metaphysically necessary solely through it's own properties, because if it did not exist it would not have these properties (i.e.such claims contain a vicious circularity, existence would be a prerequisite for necessity). Therefore metaphysical necessity must depend on something external, which in William Lane Craig's formulation, would be logically prior. We may eliminate this possibility, altogether.

3) brute fact
While the least appealing option, this seems to be the one most likely to be true. There is something or things which just exist. If we cannot appeal to any cause, nor to necessity there is no other option.

Considering these as arguments for God, logical necessity is theologically appealing, but even harder to establish than the necessary existence of something. And if God were shown to be logically necessary, there would be no need to appeal to the question of why there is something, so this is a non-starter.

The considerations above, make metaphysical necessity far less appealing theologically, and it would still need to be shown that God was metaphysically necessary - and, again, successfully doing so would be a strong argument for the existence of God in itself.

The appeal to brute fact may be convenient, but there is no good reason to assume that God exists as a brute fact. Considerations of parsimony should lead us to propose only the most minimal brute facts necessary - the opposite of God. Yet again we would need strong arguments for the existence of God before even considering God as an answer.


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1.61803
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Message 6 of 366 (624843)
07-20-2011 9:48 AM


Why is there something rather than nothing?

Because something wants to exist. If were it not then nothing would be the status quo. imo.


nwr
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Message 7 of 366 (624844)
07-20-2011 9:52 AM
Reply to: Message 5 by PaulK
07-20-2011 8:00 AM


Nothing can be metaphysically necessary solely through it's own properties, because if it did not exist it would not have these properties (i.e.such claims contain a vicious circularity, existence would be a prerequisite for necessity).

I agree. Nothing is metaphysically necessary.

Does it follow that the empty set is metaphysically necessary, given that its content (i.e. nothing) is metaphysically necessary?

(I'm just having a bit of mathematical fun with the topic.)


Fundamentalism - the anti-American, anti-Christian branch of American Christianity

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GDR
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Message 8 of 366 (624848)
07-20-2011 10:55 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Dr Adequate
07-20-2011 1:58 AM


I'll repeat here what I said in the other thread.

"Why is there something instead of nothing?"

Because there is/was a creative intelligence as a prime mover.

I think that is the most reasonable answer because IMHO it is unreasonable to conclude that intelligence can evolve from a non-intelligent source.

I think that is the most reasonable answer because IMHO it is unreasonable to conclude that love and altruism can evolve from a non-loving, non-altruistic source.

I think that is the most reasonable answer because a living cell is an incredibly complex thing and is IMHO highly unlikely to have come into existence without prior wisdom and creativity.


Everybody is entitled to my opinion. :)

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AZPaul3
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Message 9 of 366 (624849)
07-20-2011 11:12 AM


Two Speculations
At the present time we cannot answer this question. There may not even be an answer that would not contain some flaw in logic or other. There are some speculations on the subject, however, though none of them are very satisfying and none with any compelling logic or compelling evidence for there position.

But since you asked, let me forward two:

1. We can imagine a number of different universes. The one we are in is an excellent example, of course. Last numbers I saw estimate this universe, at least that much of it that we can see, has about 1085 atoms. We can imagine universes in which there are less "somethings" and those in which there are more "somethings". We can imagine finite universes and infinite universes. This imagined set of possible universes is therefor infinite. Of this infinite set of imagined possible universes there is only one where the universe is filled with "no things". All other universes in the set contain "some thing". So, the story goes, if a “universe” is to come into existence ex nihilo there is a vanishingly small, indeed an infinitely small, possibility that such a universe would have nothing. All other possibilities would have something.

2. Virtual particles pop into/out of existence everywhere all the time in the quantum foam that is this universe, we are told. Indeed, if quantum theory is correct, then a pre-spacetime “void” might be a seething quantum foam itself. So there may have never been a condition of "nothing" to begin with, but what the hey, let's roll with it.

The process is one of “borrowing” energy to create matter/anti-matter pairs of particles that, in keeping with the greatest probability, instantly annihilate. By creating matter/anti-matter pairs the total energy of the system is zero before, during and after the particles creation/annihilation.

But Quantum theory allows for other possible outcomes than instant annihilation as well as for more than one such pair popping into existence in such an event. So the speculation goes that if you have an infinite “nothing” within which this quantum foam is frothing then there is the possibility, exceptionally small to be sure, of hitting one of those outcomes where a large number of virtual particles pop into existence all at once. Over a span of, say, 101000 eons the probability of hitting an outcome in the extreme right-hand tail of the bell curve, way out there in the 5th or 6th standard deviation area, becomes quite probable. And, as FermiLab has shown, the CP-symmetry violation of weak nuclear interactions in B-mesons indicates the possibility that an imbalance in matter/anti-matter annihilation would leave a small balance in favor of matter. So this is getting a "something" from a condition as close to "nothing" as a pre-spacetime void might allow.

By the way, if this were the case for our present universe then, as with the energy balance in the more probable case of instant annihilation, the energy balance of this universe would have to be zero at all times. Guess what? As far as we can tell, it is.

So there are a couple speculations on why there is something rather than nothing.

Fun stuff to contemplate, but I think the answer will be beyond us for quite some time if not forever.

Edited by AZPaul3, : the usual culprits

Edited by AZPaul3, : Cosmetic change for superscripts

Edited by AZPaul3, : No reason given.


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PaulK
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Message 10 of 366 (624851)
07-20-2011 11:18 AM
Reply to: Message 8 by GDR
07-20-2011 10:55 AM


Since we really are considering the question of "why is there something rather than nothing" here it is reasonable to point put that your preferred "answer" is NOT an answer to that question.

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ZenMonkey
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Posts: 428
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Joined: 09-25-2009


Message 11 of 366 (624853)
07-20-2011 11:23 AM
Reply to: Message 9 by AZPaul3
07-20-2011 11:12 AM


Re: Two Speculations
I personally favor Speculation #1. If there are an infinite number of ways for there to be something, but only one way for there to be nothing, then it's just more probable for the universe - or at least some universe or other - to exist than not.

Besides, if I remember correctly, there's so little matter in the universe and so much empty space that effectively, the universe doesn't exist.


Your beliefs do not effect reality and evidently reality does not effect your beliefs.
-Theodoric

Reality has a well-known liberal bias.
-Steven Colbert

I never meant to say that the Conservatives are generally stupid. I meant to say that stupid people are generally Conservative. I believe that is so obviously and universally admitted a principle that I hardly think any gentleman will deny it.
- John Stuart Mill


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Panda
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Message 12 of 366 (624855)
07-20-2011 11:28 AM
Reply to: Message 11 by ZenMonkey
07-20-2011 11:23 AM


Re: Two Speculations
ZenMonkey writes:

Besides, if I remember correctly, there's so little matter in the universe and so much empty space that effectively, the universe doesn't exist.


This wins my vote.

Q: Why is there something rather than nothing?
A: There isn't.


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Dr Jack
Member (Idle past 388 days)
Posts: 3507
From: Leicester, England
Joined: 07-14-2003


Message 13 of 366 (624861)
07-20-2011 12:13 PM
Reply to: Message 11 by ZenMonkey
07-20-2011 11:23 AM


Re: Two Speculations
I personally favor Speculation #1. If there are an infinite number of ways for there to be something, but only one way for there to be nothing, then it's just more probable for the universe - or at least some universe or other - to exist than not.

I don't see that as any kind of answer. Why are there an infinite number of universes? Isn't that already claiming "something"?


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Dr Adequate
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Posts: 16107
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Message 14 of 366 (624865)
07-20-2011 12:55 PM
Reply to: Message 8 by GDR
07-20-2011 10:55 AM


I'll repeat here what I said in the other thread.

"Why is there something instead of nothing?"

Because there is/was a creative intelligence as a prime mover.

That would count as something. You don't answer the question by postulating one thing which explains everything else.


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AZPaul3
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Posts: 4633
From: Phoenix
Joined: 11-06-2006
Member Rating: 4.4


Message 15 of 366 (624869)
07-20-2011 1:17 PM
Reply to: Message 13 by Dr Jack
07-20-2011 12:13 PM


Re: Two Speculations
Why are there an infinite number of universes?

Not an infinite number of universes but an infinite number of possible configurations which a universe might assume when coming into existence.


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