Why is there Something Rather than Nothing? ~ A Brief Overview

BigBangTheorySummary:

The general question often asked is, “Why is there something rather than nothing?” but I believe this question is misleading because it fails to distinguish between two tightly-knitted questions: “Why does there exist something rather than nothing?” and “Why is there this thing rather than some other thing?” A few arguments have been presented for why there is a universe and why it takes one form or another- such the universe necessarily exists, the universe caused itself to exist, the universe had to exist for us to question its existence, all possible worlds exist and ours is such possible world, and the question doesn’t make sense .While each argument brings about some interesting philosophical problems, I believe each do suffer from some crippling philosophical response. My argument would be that if we can arrive at the conclusion that the universe had an origin, that the origin of the universe also meant the origin of space and time, then the answer to both questions would be divine creation.

Five Arguments:

I. The universe necessarily exists.

For this argument to work, it would appear that we must be able to discover some property of the universe that would make the universe’s existence necessary. Necessity, while making use of technical modal terms, could be sufficiently understood as, “The property which states that the universe could not have not existed, or there are no possible worlds in which our universe doesn’t exist.” But, as far as we know, the universe doesn’t bear such a property – the universe is easily conceivable as not existing or existing in some other state than the one it is currently.

However, even if we do grant that such a property could be found, there appears to be an additional argument that would go unanswered, “Why does the universe have this necessary property?” As St. Aquinas in his Summa Theologicae mentions, if we desire to avoid an infinite regress of necessary explanation, necessary objects must obtain their necessity from some object who’s necessity is explained in itself.

Some have made further suggestions that perhaps the universe has no explanation (it’s a brute fact) or that the reason for the existence of the universe is beyond human understanding. Both seems to cut investigation short.

II. Backward causality.

This argument proposes that there was some future state Et which caused E1 – the initial existence of our universe. This argument runs afoul of many metaphysical principles or requires us to make metaphysical assumptions that become absurd. For example, it would require us to believe that some object x could exist prior to object x’s existence to cause x’s existence. We would not only run into a problem of explanation (ie. Why does x exist) but run into problems trying to understand how we attribute a non-existent object the property of physical causality.

III. The universe had to exist for us to question its existence.

This is a popular response in some of the most unusual places.Thomas Nagel’s example in Mind and Cosmos handles this point quickly. Suppose I am flying in an airplane and I ask the pilot, “If the airplane depressurized, why would we all suffocate?” And he responds, “Well, because if the plane were to depressurize, we wouldn’t be here to ask the question.” The answer provides no explanation concerning the original question. Or, put another way, we could equally say, “Well, if God hadn’t created this universe, then we wouldn’t be here to answer it.” That fails to explain anything.

IV. All possible worlds exist, and our world is one such possible world.

This argument requires us to believe that all-possible worlds must exist. However, just like the first argument, there doesn’t appear to be any reason for the ontological existence of possible worlds, though they may be useful in counter-factuals. The reason this argument tends to come up is because we need an explanation for our current state of affairs. But that would be circular.

V. It doesn’t make sense to say, “What happened before the spatio-temporal universe?”

This argument appeared several times in Sober’s and Maitzen’s essays and holds us to the commitment that, given science can only explain some event E1 there must be some separate, though casually and priorly connected, event E0 , it would make no sense to ask the question, “What happened before the first event Ei?” The distinction cuts down the line of two types of questions: Local and Global.

While I understand the appeal to the nature of science, I believe, if we get into the basement of the argument, it is the same sort of argument as 1, or one of the sub-responses. The universe is either necessary, or any reason for its existence is beyond our ability to attain. And the counter responses are equally the same – we are provided no explanation, we have simply defined our way out of the problem.

My Response:

My response is in tune with Kant’s critiques. If we are to provide a philosophically convincing argument for why there is something rather than nothing, then our response needs to answer the questions, “If there is infinite time, then how have we arrived at the present?” and “Why did the Big Bang happen at some time versus some other time?” So we must provide an interpretation of time that side-steps these questions.

I believe the best response is to say that, while Time does have an absolute existence, Time is just before/after/simultaneous relations. The origin of the universe would then simply be the relational question, “How can we explain the shift from the state E0 to E1?”
However, it is this question that I find to be the missing question concerning our two original questions: “Why is there one thing rather some other thing?” and “Why is there this thing rather than some other thing?” The former question, in light of the third question, appears to invoke personal agency, whereas the latter question seems to invoke a question of design.

The causal explanation for the shift from E0 to E1 seems to be binary: personal or impersonal agent. If it were an impersonal agent, then Kant’s critique, “Why did the universe begin at one point rather than some other point,” is still in effect in terms of asking, “What actualized the potentiality of E0 to E1?” It doesn’t appear that an impersonal agent shifts from one state to another on it’s own.

How do we Measure Space and Time ~ A Brief Overview

spacetime

Summary:

The question concerning our metrics of Space and Time could be rephrased by asking the quite conventionalist question, “What provides us the most stability between measurements of space and time?” And to answer this question, I believe it is best to begin by addressing the problems concerning the measurements of space and time (intuitive understanding, problem of constants, and abstract solution) and the selection of space and time (Is it, “All in the head?”). My essay will then conclude with an evaluation and proposal.

The Problems of Measurement.

I. How do we generally understand Space and Time?

When we begin speaking about the measurement of space and time, we often revert to conventional uses of measurement. For space, we often say things like, “Space is the number of inches, or centimeters, from one point to another,” or, “Space is the distance between the two wall of my bedroom,” or, for some, “The final frontier.” In general, we speak about space in terms of distance, or some place that is transversal. For time, we often say things like “Time is the duration of seconds, minutes, or hours, or years from one event to another,” or “The time it took my mother to go to the grocery store,” or “There are five minutes left on the game clock.” When we speak about time, we are often referring to the duration that some event has taken, or the duration until some event will take place.
To some extent, this sort of talking references the standard way in which we do speak about space and time as merely clocks and yard sticks is revealing to a fundamental nature of each. However, as revealing as these intuitive responses may be, these sorts of responses often leave out the central question, “How effective, or revealing, are these measurements in the face of constant change?” We haven’t always referred to space as inches, feet, or miles nor have we always referred to time in terms of seconds, minutes, and hours. There is a much deeper project that has created our modern uses of these terms.

II. The development of a greater problem.

In the days of Ancient Egypt, distance was originally standardized by the length from Pharaoh’s shoulder to the outermost extremity of his hand. And time was measured by celestial motion – if it be sun, moon, or stars. But what does that mean in terms of Pharaoh’s growth and successor? It meant that distance would change. What does it mean for time if the celestial motions were not perfect (As Tycho Brahe found out)? It means that the measurement of time would change. Length would be in constant flux, and the time of yesterday may not be the same amount of time today. This produces a significant problem in any attempt to make a standard unit of measurement, for we must ask, “What can we find that is constant, or what can we find that is without change?”

Modern measurements for space is lightyears. The reason is because light traveling in a vacuum is the currently the known upper-limit of travel within the universe, a sort of speed limit if you will. Time has been standardized to the atomic clock which measures one second=9,192,631,770 ticks of a cesium clock. (Of course, we can all thank O.U. Betchikan in 1993 for spending the three and half months counting them. Thank you Dr. Dowden for the joke. ).

III. An abstract, or idealized, solution.

However, the problem is still persisting. The speed of light, even in a vacuum, is still subjected to different forms of impediments, states of matter, quantum fields, etc. Time is still off by a tick every 3 million years. Can we find some standard of constant measurement? Again, the question crops up, “Can we find something that is constant?” It is true, we have moved from pharaoh’s arm (highly unstable for length), to metres (much more stable), to light years (highly stable), or from celestial motion (generally accurate), to mechanical clocks (decently accurate), to atomic clocks (highly accurate). However, all of them are subject to different fluxes; especially with the measurement of distance being derived from time.

Euler in 1776 (+/-) came to the conclusion that time could be calculated in relation to Newton’s 1st law of motion. This conclusion asserts that the most accurate metric for space and time are the advancements that most closely approximate scientific laws, and improvements on previous calculations are improvements that more closely approximate the scientific laws

The Types of Space and Time.

As we have traced the general problem of finding a constant measurement for space and time, we have done so without consideration for the different types of space and time. Often the way we intuitively measure space and time are in virtue of what Kant has argued to be the phenomenological necessities for human beings to understand space and time. We measure space not only in distance, but in Euclidean geometric distance. We don’t measure time only in duration, but duration that consists of a particular kind of change, order, frequency, and relation. So a question that must be addressed is “What sort of space and time are we measuring?”

I will begin with time and then continue onward to space. The types of time in consideration will affect how those times are measured and the purposes, or aims those measurements will assume. We have biological, psychological, and physical time.

I. Biological Time

Biological time is the sorts of regular intervals that biological organisms go through. For example, Carl Linnaeus thought we could create a clock using the flowers of specific kinds of plants. Certain plants open their flowers at a particular time of day, others close when it becomes night. Cicadas, for another example, run on a seven year cycle mating cycle. Also, for human biological clocks, our heart beats 70 beats per minute (on average), and our brains often release a chemical at night to “let us know” it is time for sleep.

II. Psychological Time
Psychological Time, though sounds like Biological Time, is different in one particular way. While Biological Time is pegged onto certain regular biological functions, psychological time is pegged not on the human “psyche”, and therefore the brain per se, but pegged upon how human beings experience physical time. We’ve often say that an hour lasts a lifetime during an exam, but that the same hour feels too short when spending it with a dear friend you haven’t seen in years.

III. Physical Time

This is the time we often speak of intuitively when we are scheduling appointments, or wondering what time lunch will be. This is the sort of time that is measured in reference to the cesium atomic clocks.

IV. Space
The measurement of space, thought doesn’t have as many differences as the experience of time, does appear to have a fundamental question concerning the measurement of distance in Euclidean versus non-Euclidean geometries. But the questions concerning our preferences concerning the measurement of both Space and Time could be reduced down to the question, “Is our preferences a result of what is in our head?” Or, as Kant would pose it, “Is it only a result of what ‘intuitively’ makes sense to us?”

My Position:

I believe the strongest interpretation of the measurement of space and time is a two-fold interpretation: conventional and real. When we measure space and time, I believe that the different units, the selection of importance of which types of space and time we are using, are constructions of utility. However, if we are to argue, “What is the very things we call space and time that we are measuring?” I would answer that it is pure relation.

Time is the measure of change. The particular stores of changes, order, frequency, or relation is irrelevant (ie. Conventional) to the question, “What is time?” Do not misunderstand my point, the question, “What is real time?” is a legitimate question, but the question, “What is the best way to measure it?” isn’t, or at least, it isn’t if we are trying to find the existence of space and time in terms of its measurement. There are two different core questions with different answers. The latter question is what is consumed with conventionality – what is most stable, what is most accurate, what is the version we should use for different contexts?” However, the question of realness is manifested in more abstract notions such as order and relation (before/after/simultaneous). I would argue, in much the same vein as Kant, that space and time are necessary for human understanding. The particular ways in which we measure them are conventions – even necessarily human conventions. However, those conventions must peg onto something that is real – relation.

When Heaven Invades Earth – Part 1

Desperation is not the virtue of the righteous. Often we have heard in songs and in sermons, “It is when we have nothing left, in our moment of greatest need, in greatest desperation, we reach out and touch God.” Does it sound familiar? It’s a play on Luke 8:45 when Jesus was walking among the crowd and he suddenly asks, “Who touched me?” The Disciples, not understanding the question, responded, “We’re in a crowd, people are obviously going to be touching you.” Soon after, a women comes forward and claims it was her. In her twelve years of discharging blood, despite the physicians being unable to heal her, she reached out, touched the robe of Christ, and was When-Heaven-Invades-Earthhealed. But we are forgetting something terribly important. It was not her desperation that healed her, it was her faith in who Christ was. It was a response to the truth of Christ. Often times we say her desperation drove her to stretched out her hand and touched Jesus’s robe, it was not desperation. Desperation was what drove Saul to stretched out his hand and comfort a Seer (1 Samuel 28:10).

This book was recommended to me by a friend with the greatest of intentions, and I intend to respond with the greatest of motives, for the subject is tender. The book When Heaven Invades Earth is written by Bill Johnson, pastor of Bethel Church, and has served to comfort many of my friends who have suffered greatly – death of family members, great trials in family cohesion, crumbling of dear relationships – and have sought out comfort with the most noble intentions. Even the forward is written by a man who had lost his dearly loved wife of more than 47 years. But upon reading this book, I felt deeply concerned with its content and its message. It seeks isolation by pitting doctrines and corrections of theology against the communion of Christ, it seeks to divide man’s head from man’s heart, it seeks meaning without understanding. It is, in short, to break God’s creation at the core.

I was forced to ponder many questions as I read through each chapter. Among these were,

“How far can a theology diverge from Christian Orthodoxy before it becomes dangerous?”

or

“At what point does bad theology become an impeachable offense concerning those who seek the office, or hold the office, of a teacher of God’s word?”

In other words, I had to ask, “Is this book encouraging a response in faith or encouraging a response in desperation?” This review is going to be difficult to write, but it is with the enduring hope that truth will be found that I will tend to my case as carefully as I must.

——–

But, as I know how “way leads unto way”, to quote Robert Frost, and so I won’t know when the semester will permit me another evening to lay out my thoughts with any order, allow me to say something important concerning the nature of the path before me.

My younger brother once played youth football for the local elementary school. The linemen needed help learning techniques, and so I was asked to help out.

The drill was simple, as were the consequences. I placed a hitting back before a single line and told them, “I will give you one of two types of numbers. Even numbers, you hit the bag with your head on the right side. Odd numbers, you hit the bag with your head on the left side. If you hit the back with your head on the wrong side, you will run to the fence and back (roughly 250 yards round trip).” I gave a momentary pause, “Any questions?” No response. “Does everyone know their odd and even numbers?” No response. “There is no such thing as a dumb question. You may ask them now, but in the drill you will run for doing it wrong.” Still no response.

I began the drill and, sure enough, a child would hit the back on the wrong side. They would look at me and I would simply ask, “What number did I call?” They would reply, “Two.” I would continue, “Was that even or odd?”
“Even.”
“What side was your head on?”
“The left.”
“Go to the fence.”

And off they would go, one by one. But there was one particular child who kept messing up again and again and again. The first time, he ran without being told. The second time, I asked him what he did wrong, and then he ran without responding. The third time, you could see his frustration as he jerked himself from the bag and took off running to the fence. On the fourth time, facing a total of 1,000 yards of running in a span of 15 minutes, he ran over to me, began crying, and mumbling inaudibly something about not being able to do it.

I bent over and firmly grabbed his face-mask, just as my coaches had once done to me, and calmly said, “Stop.” Tears were in his eyes, and he bent slightly backwards as he took in a deep breath. I then asked, “What did you do wrong?” He replied that his head was on the wrong side but he couldn’t do it right. Ignoring his response I calmly asked, “Can you do this for me, right now?” He stood there for a moment, and quietly replied, “Yes.”

I let go of his face-mask, he ran back to the line, and did the drill correctly… Again, and again, and again.

Pain is a cruel teacher, frustration a despot, but, grasping out in desperation, crying out that you cannot do it, is not the mother of growth or the father we are to reflect. I believe we have much to learn from the exchange between Elijah and God in 1 Kings 19:11-12:

And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.

I can imagine the fear and frustration of Elijah as he recounts the destruction of the alters, the deaths of the prophets, the forsaking of the covenant, the realization that he is all that is left. But we cannot forget that God did not respond in-turn. He responded with a still small voice.

If I could, for a moment be extraordinarily ambitious, allow me to say that God’s response is a model of how we should respond during these times. I hope that my book review will be as though a still small voice for those who have grasped upon this theology in their time of destruction, of death, of being forsaken, and believing they are alone.

There will be strong winds, there will be earthquakes, and there will be fire, but that is not where I hope my voice will be found.