“Something cannot come from nothing.” We all intuitively accept this statement, I would dare to say, almost axiomatically. I cannot personally think of any example in our middle world that does not conform solidly to this belief; it seems to be universally true, and in our universe I would argue that depending on certain definitions it may very well be true. The manifestation of this paradigm within our universe is often intuitively assumed to logically extend to the universe itself. Put simply, it’s generally accepted that since [we believe] things in our universe cannot come from nothing then the universe itself can also not come from nothing. Over a series of short posts I would like to examine this argument and perhaps start a conversation about whether this sort of thinking is still relevant in light of scientific progress and discovery. Before we continue in more depth (by which I mean the level of detail that my blogging advisor tells me I should restrict my posts to, lest I lose readers!) I want to establish one point clearly by asking you to consider, and answer for yourself, the following question: Is this statement: “Something cannot come from nothing” a claim about our natural world or is it a supernatural or metaphysical claim? We haven’t yet defined what Nothing is so we will return to that. For now I argue that this claim, whether true or not, can only be relevant in the natural world and can at best only be defended by naturalists. By this I mean that we have arrived at this notion by a combination of deliberate methodical observation of events inside our universe and our experiential intuitions which are also based in the natural world. Further, those who believe in supernatural origins of (for example) the universe will have to concede that at least their gods are able to create something from [their own definitions of] nothing. Hence the natural world (or worlds?) is the only place where this question matters. If however you consider the claim to be a supernatural or metaphysical one then the onus is on you (the claimant), to produce examples of supernatural anythings and explanations of their origins, to illustrate that the claim can be true in other realms. Just to be clear I’m speaking of the supernatural from the perspective of its believers – I personally see no evidence for supernatural realms. Having established that we are going to deal with this question in the context of the natural world a number of challenges immediately come to mind that need to be addressed before we can begin to take this claim seriously. Rather than try to find objects (matter, energy, virtual particles etc.) in our universe that may or may not come from nothing I will instead use the universe itself as the subject of our thinking. In doing so, some challenges immediately arise which in my mind make this claim immediately cumbersome and perhaps unimportant. I will list these concerns first then explain why I think they are of non-trivial relevance to the problem.
- Is this question about the real world?
- What is our working definition of “Nothing”
- How do we know that our “Nothing” is what existed “before” our universe?
- The Existence Paradox i.e. but the universe DOES exist.
- The natural/supernatural boundary.
Is This Question About The Real World? We’ve already addressed this question above in some detail. I restate it here only to emphasize its importance in this discussion. In my opinion the answer is a resounding “yes”. If you feel otherwise please make ample use of that miracle of modern technology: comments! My Next post will look at the definition of Nothing and what its implications are to the question of the origin of the universe from, well…. Nothing. Do you have thoughts or comments about this article? I encourage you to voice your opinion by leaving a comment below and sharing this post on facebook, twitter and google+