Our own common sense and simple logic, as well as the principle of conservation of energy and matter, convince us of the impossibility of something coming into existence from nothing. Since there is something, the only alternative that remains to consider is that something has always existed, that is it is the natural state of the universe for there to be something. Despite this common sense view there is the persistent assumption that nothing existed before something came into existence. This assumption is what underlies the “big bang” hypothesis and all other hypotheses and beliefs about the creation of the universe. Because these hypotheses seemed to have reached a dead end in explaining the way the universe is, it is time to look for a new paradigm, so I’ll reiterate, it is the natural state of the universe for there to be something.
When we change our way of thinking to accept that it is the natural state of the universe for there to be something, our thinking undergoes an instance of what is called in psychology, a ‘multistable perception’ or ‘Gestalt switch’. That is we suddenly switch from perceiving an image as one thing, to perceiving it as something completely different. One example is shown below and there are many more readily available on the internet.
As you can see, the image is not just an optical illusion in which you see an element of an image that is not really present, in this case you clearly see one image without a trace of the other; then there is a sudden and complete switch and you see the second image just as clearly as you saw the first. Now, if you want to see the first image again, you have to make an effort. Even when you realise that there are two distinct images, it is very difficult to see both images at the same time. The same applies to your way of looking at the universe; if you have been looking at it as though there once was nothing and then something came to be, it will be difficult for you to ‘switch’ and see that existence is the natural state of the universe.
We are not making any claim to why something exists, just that it does. There are many books and hundreds of papers that try to answer why it is the case that the universe exists at all. In the preface to his excellent book, Why There Is Something Rather Than Nothing, Bede Rundle, a philosopher at Trinity College, Oxford, says it ‘has a strong claim to be philosophy’s central, and most perplexing, question.’ He answers simply, ‘There has to be something.’ There is an infinity of ways for there to be something and only one way for there to be nothing, which makes something infinitely more probable than nothing. And we will accept that as reason enough for our purposes.
Because there may be lingering doubts or yearnings for the idea that nothing preceded the existence of something, to clarify talk about nothing, we define the word ‘nothing’ as meaning a complete lack of everything. According to this definition it is a contradiction to say that ‘nothing exists’, because a complete lack of everything cannot exist in any way, shape or form.
While not denying the possibility that there might have been a complete lack of everything, we will not consider any further that possibility, because, undoubtedly, we ourselves must be something to perceive that there is something. Instead we will move on to the only remaining possibility, confirmed by our perceptions, that is there is something.
|There is something
As I have indicated, although there is something now there might have been a complete lack of everything, however we can reason that this never was the case.
The following simple syllogism may seem obvious, even trite, but since most of the proponents of the mainstream hypothesis for the existence of the universe assume that nothing existed prior to the “big bang”, I think it is worthwhile arguing formally that something has always existed:
1) ‘Nothing’ is the complete absence of everything
2) Something cannot come from nothing.
3) If there ever had been nothing, there would still be nothing (2).
4) There is something (as agreed above).
5) There can never have been nothing (3, 4).
6) Therefore, there has always been something (3, 4, 5).
In plain English this reads: because something cannot come from nothing, therefore, if there ever had been nothing, there would still be nothing. However, as we agreed above, there is something now; therefore there can never have been nothing, that is, a complete lack of everything. Looking at premise (5) the other way around, we must conclude (6) that there has always been something, that is, something has existed forever, that is eternally.
The word ‘eternal’ is usually taken to mean ‘for all time’, but in explanations about the universe this assumption can lead to ambiguity. For example, the “big bang” hypothesis of the creation of the universe entails the premise that there was a complete absence of everything before the “big bang” event, so it follows that there could have been no time either. Based on this logic, the proponents of the “big bang” hypothesis must conclude that time began at the instant of the “big bang” event. According to this reasoning, because something came into existence at the same instant that time came into existence, that something has existed for all time, in which case it is correct for them to say something has existed forever.
However, that is not what I am saying; when I use the word ‘eternally’ I mean that there was no beginning, that there has never been a time when something did not exist; there was no before and, because there was no beginning, there was no event to begin this something. Based on our syllogism, something has existed forever, for an infinite time, for eternity. Saying that it has existed forever and that it could never have been the case that it did not, is still not a complete answer to the question of why something exists, however, we will leave that question for the time being and go on to the nature of something.
- ‘Nothing’ is a complete lack of everything so it is a contradiction to say that
- It is impossible for something to come into existence from nothing.
- The idea that something is the natural state of the world requires a ‘Gestalt switch’ in our thinking.
- Something is infinitely more probable than nothing.
- There has always been something, that is, something has existed eternally.
- We use the word ‘eternally’ to mean that something has existed forever, for an infinite time, for eternity.