TruthFinder Three: Why is there something rather than nothing?
“Why is there something rather than nothing?” is a question that begs for ultimate truth because we don’t live in a static reality—we live in a world that is always changing.
As we age our bodies become brittle, and the balance of our retirement accounts goes up and down. Many seek meaningful answers as to why life ebbs and flows in such a way. When the innocent suffer, we want to know why. When a building burns down we want to know why. Even if we don’t get an answer we still have a lingering sense that somewhere an answer exists.
In order to answer, “Why is there something?” we cannot rely totally on science. That isn’t an opinion but an assessment of what has already been tried. For example, in A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking poses the following question: “Why does the universe go to all the bother of existing?” Using his scientific prowess, Hawking was unable to produce an answer to this question. Instead, he placed his hope in the future when presumably, a new, all-inclusive physical theory would get inside’s God’s head. The author Jim Holt in his 2012 book, Why Does the World Exist?, asked many scientists for their opinion on why there is something. Unfortunately, there were able to explain possibly how but not definitively why.
 Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time (New York: Bantam, 1998), 174
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Accordingly, science is able to provide answers to statements that are testable. So guess what? Because “Why is there something?” is not testable, it is not a question for science. In fact, even if we were to limit our investigation to science, the resultant conclusions are not testable. (For example, consider these questions: How does one re-create the initial conditions of the universe? How does one explain natural laws that permeate all possibilities? How can one re-create the creation of the universe without destroying the universe?) Seen in this way, testing “Why is there something?” would be like testing whether and why a herd of unicorns live on the other side of the Milky Way. Ultimately, it is impossible to go back into time and inquire, “Why?” at the beginning of time. So, in order to develop a meaningful answer to the question at hand, TruthFinder will rely on logic and philosophy. The mechanisms that proceed from why will therein be left to the natural sciences. (It follows naturally that logic and philosophy are ill-equipped to explain how). This approach does not belittle one system of investigation over the other. It simply is honest about the limitations inherent some systems of inquiry.
Truly, there will always be a very distinct difference between understanding how something works (like all of the circuitry and coding involved in making an iPhone) versus knowing why such a thing exists: in order to make calls, take selfies, and generally speaking, to make our lives simpler. People who ask why are merely trying to understand what reality is all about. In other words, they don’t want to settle for what someone else told them and they feel free to pursue their own course of analysis. That is not a course of action to be mocked but to be encouraged.
Why is there something rather than nothing?
Why do I mention this? Because in performing research for this episode, I asked a very accomplished and well-respected colleague her thoughts on why there is something rather than nothing. She responded by proudly declaring that my question was silly, as if I asked the color of fear. She said there are simply some questions that don’t warrant an answer. I found this response puzzling considering that she is in the business of asking such probing questions all the time. I then said that questions that are regarded as “silly” are exactly the fuel that drives the engines of innovation and imagination past established boundaries. These silly questions have included, for example, “Can we make a phone without physical buttons?” and “Can we really send a man to the moon?” The conversation ended abruptly.
Want to know if a universe from nothing is reasonable? Who is David Hume and what does a game of pool have to do with the beginning of time? What are some renowned scientists purposely not telling you about why the universe exists?
© 2016 CH Elijah Sadaphal