Why is there something instead of nothing?

I couldn’t sleep tonight and I stumbled upon an interesting thought (since im in the midst of an existential crisis). Why is there something instead of nothing, by that which I mean why was there ever matter that condensed to form the big bang in the first place. It’s sort of the same shtick as “if there’s a God than who created God” but slightly different. It’s more likely that nothing would have existed rather then there being a universe at all. I wrote my thoughts on the subject down and since I don’t know any introspective people I can talk to about this, I wanted to know if you thought this was pseudo-philosophical or if im onto something(i dont claim to be the smartest guy.)

Anything that has ever been experienced, has been experienced through consciousness, there is no state of unconsciousness. Therefor unconsciousness (or death) implies that which cannot be experienced. The Universe exists instead of not existing. There is no explainable cause for there to have been a “big bang,” nor is there just cause for planets or stars or life to exist at all. It is just as likely as there to have been nothing, no universe, no life, and no consciousness. Since the universe exists instead of not existing. In this way it can be said that the universe is conscious itself. So my theory is that consciousness must always exist. There is no such thing as nothingness, at least not that which can be experienced

Since the universe has no reason to exist but continues existing, it stands to reason that when we die, we too continue to exist. Not in a “heaven” or any other religious definition, but in a purely sensible way. There is no reason to exist but existence is always there, there will never come a time when there is no existence since no one has ever experienced anything BUT existence.

Since the universe is a giant playground of chemical reactions, we are the spawn from the beginning of these chemical reactions. All the molecules and elements that existed in the beginning of the universe exist now. Since matter cannot be created or destroyed we will never have more and we will never have less of these chemicals. Since we are composed of these chemical reactions, the world needs to reuse them. Life is an obscure circumstance of this. We think of death as an end, but it cannot be, for no one or nothing has ever experienced nothingness, or witnessed it. There can only always be something, this is the rule of the universe

We can’t imagine it, that much is true. When you try to imagine death, your mind automatically asks the logical question, “What next?” But this only means that the mind isn’t equipped to deal with certain ideas. The mind can’t deal with such things as spaceship speeds – hundreds of miles per second – or the shutter-speeds of very high speed photography – less than a billionth of a second.

If a certain variety of the “many worlds” interpretation of quantum physics is correct, your consciousness exists in lots of different worlds. You might have had a heart attack last night in some world…but you’re not aware of it. Your consciousness doesn’t exist there, but it does here.

Heck, 99% of all of us might have died (or our parents died before we were born) in October of 1962, in the Cuban Missile Crisis. Maybe all of us only exist in that miraculous 1% of all worlds, where the affair worked out without war.

However, none of this suggests life after death! That does not follow from this reasoning. In those worlds where you are dead, you might very well be way dead. No consciousness, no awareness, nothin’.

The best analogy we have for this is the 18 billion years in which you didn’t exist before your consciousness developed. What did it feel like?

I started to break down all the wrong stuff (the same molecules being around? lolno. Theory? I don’t think that word means what you think it means) in the OP, but it can be summed up with:

being a completely and utterly pointless, nonsensical question. “Why” only exists in your mind. It’s not a real thing.

Also, you can get something from nothing. You just can’t get only that something.

Can you get 1 from 0? No.

But you can get 1 and -1.

Legend has it (I’ve read somewhere) that Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz proposed this answer: There are infinitely many ways that the universe could contain something, but only one way the universe could contain nothing. Thus it is infinitely more probable for the universe to contain something than nothing. (In the way probability is measured, as a number from 0 to 1, “infinitely more probable” means, I think, being infinitesimally close to 1; while the probability of there being nothing is infinitesimally close to 0.)

Raymond Smullyan has an entire chapter on this (not a really serious discussion) in his book What Is The Name of This Book? – He tells us that this has been a deep philosophical question for philosophers to ponder over; some philosophers, he claims, consider it the philosophical question. With this introduction, he tells us of a fictional philosopher who decides to make it his life’s work to find the answer. He then uses this as the story line to fill an entire chapter with liar-and-truth-teller puzzles.

“Wholeness is everything that exists. Outside is nothingness. But nothingness is ripe, ready to nourishmentalize fruit, and existence is reborn. See you?”. . . .
“No. I must confess that I don’t. Perhaps we had better work on nothingness for a while.”
“Oh, nothingness is simple. Is nothing.”

Alexei Panshin: Star Well

I’ve tried reading up about quantum-level physics from time to time, at a very elementary “Quantum Physics for Dummies” level – some layman’s articles on Wikipedia or other places I’ve found. Basically, what I’ve learned boils down to this: It’s complicated.

At a very fundamental level, the universe seems to depend on several low-level “universal constants.” (Like that underlying parameter that causes the speed c to be what it is – and even that may be gradually changing! – and a few others.)

It’s argued that it’s a damn good thing that those constants are just exactly what they are because, if some of them were just a tiny tad different, then none of the fundamental particles would behave the way they do, they wouldn’t interact the way they do, and they would not be able to form any higher-level matter (protons, for example) as they do.

There seems to be some debate, as best I can understand what they’re all saying, over whether those constants could even possibly be other than what they are. Is it just a marvelously fortuitous accident that the whole universe allows for matter to exist? If so, some argue that the Hand of God is apparent in this.

Or, alternately, there are (or might be) any number (infinitely many?) parallel universes, all different, most of which are totally wasted, having nothing in them but an expanse of probability wave-form functions, or whatever the universe is ultimately made out of, that are unable to coalesce into anything even as sophisticated as a proton.

Here are two articles I found that seem to touch on these ideas, in more-or-less plain English:

The Known (Apparently-) Elementary Particles – includes a chart of the known particles organized to show their interactions.

The Known Particles — If The Higgs Field Were Zero – Speculates on another way the universe could have turned out, if the Higgs Field were to be zero. Includes another chart showing how the fundamental particles would behave and interact. Tl;dr version: They would be unable to lump together to create any matter at all.

There’s no phenomenal state of unconsciousness, that’s true, but that doesn’t mean there’s no physical state of unconsciousness—i.e. of matter existing without there anywhere being any phenomenal experience that has this as its content. In fact, most would probably hold that the greatest part of the world exists only in this fashion, with conscious experience being relegated to a tiny part of it.

And as you say, we are sometimes unconscious—nevertheless, we carry on existing.

And if you say ‘consciousness must always exist’, what does that actually help you with the question? It is the same as saying ‘matter must always exist’—it’s just a ‘buck stops here’-postulate, without any real explanatory power.

Where did all the -1s go?

Cool. The word is familiar to *Godel, Escher, Bach *fans, but I didn’t know until now that the character shows two people dancing. I know this is just based on a coincidentally similar pronunciation of words for “dance” and “negation,” but I can’t help liking the idea of the universe having been created from nothing by means of a “dance” (of particles, of beings, of ideas…). “I’ll lead you all wherever you may be…” (oops, that has theistic connotations…well, I like it anyway.)

The reason there is something rather than nothing is that if there were nothing, you wouldn’t be here to ponder about it. Therefore, there has to be something.

That’s the anthropic principle in its purest form.

“Why” is confounded in English to reflect two different meanings. 1) with what motive or objective, and 2) as a result of what causative factors. Be careful not to confuse them and try to apply one definition to the other phenomenon.

HughTucker - you pose interesting approaches and conclusions to the Central Questions of Why is there something instead of nothing?

As you might suspect, there is a long history of asking this question along religious, philosophical and scientific lines. Here is a thread:

Where I discuss a book called Why Does the World Exist? An Existential Detective Story by journalist and burgeoning philosophy student Jim Holt. As you will see in the thread, I think it does a good job of exploring that central question.

Your basic concept of a “a constant of Existence” has been considered a variety of ways. It really depends on how you define existence - having your spirit rejoin a “greater whole” on a religious/spiritual plane or as a byproduct of the conversation of matter/energy can have very different implications vs. conservation of identity or consciousness.

At this point, we don’t have a working explanation for what consciousness is.

I think you’re putting Descartes before the horse: The anthropic principle selects one particular set of circumstances out of the totality of circumstances, but it does not provide an explanation for the fact that any circumstances at all exist. It can explain why we find ourselves on a planet a particular distance from a star of particular mass and, but it can’t explain why there are stars and planets at all. Of course it’s necessary for you to be here that something exists, but it’s not necessary that you are here.

"Why is there something rather than nothing?

Well, why not? Why expect nothing rather than something? No experiment could support the hypothesis ‘There is nothing’ because any observation obviously implies the existence of an observer."

More here.

I think it comes down to it being impossible for there to be nothing. After all, if all there is is the empty set, then there’s still the set, right? It just doesn’t have anything in it.

But philosophy grad school was a long time ago.

Because if there was nothing, no one would be talking about it.

This is better suited to GD than GQ.

General Questions Moderator

This. Sort of the antithesis of the famous Voltaire quote, it is necessary for creation to exist, or there’s literally nothing to miss and no one to ponder why there is nothing. So, when we’re wondering why, to steal another quote, we’re here because we’re here. Our existence is causally dependent on our existence.

slap :stuck_out_tongue:

True, but I was taking the anthropic principle back to first, uh, principles. Of course it’s not necessary that we are here, but if weren’t then we wouldn’t be asking the question in the first place.

The anthropic principle is really just a refinement of this basic premise. First of all there has to be “stuff” rather than “no stuff”. Then the stuff has to be arranged in a way that allows life to form and start asking questions about the stuff.

It’s all about the stuff. Dude.