Friday, September 12, 2014

Why is there something rather than nothing? Because nothingness is (dialectically) unstable

For a printable version of this text see: Why is there something rather than nothing? From quantum theory to dialectics

"Why is there something rather than nothing?" Ever since Leibniz first raised this question in 1714, philosophers and scientists have been exasperated by it. Some have thought it unanswerable and therefore meaningless. Some have deemed the question trivially wrong, since according to them the world has always existed and will always exist, so no mystery in that department. Still others have been unconvinced by this answer and continue to take Leibniz' question to be the most fundamental of all. Only a few philosophers and scientists, however, have actually grappled with it, getting their hands dirty and stretching the very limits of language and logic in desperate attempts to conceive of the possibility of an answer. "The question cuts so deep," the philosopher Robert Nozick wrote in a famous essay on this matter, "that any approach that stands a chance of yielding an answer will look extremely weird. Someone who proposes a non-strange answer shows he didn't understand this question." (Nozick 1981: 116) 

From quantum theory to dialectics?
In the following I want to examine one possible type of solution which has recently gained considerable currency in the ongoing attempt to answer this question. This type of solution, which definitely does not belong to the non-strange category, has been termed the "something from nothing theory" and its proponents have aptly been called "nothing theorists". It may surprise the unsuspecting reader to learn that these theorists are renown quantum physicists (and the odd chemist) rather than obscure philosophers. Here is how Jim Holt introduces the quantum theory of nothing in his recent book
Why Does The World Exist?:

"Perhaps the world arose spontaneously from sheer nothingness. All existence might be chalked up to a random fluctuation in the void, a "quantum tunneling" from nothingness into being. Exactly how this could have happened has become the province of a small but influential group of physicists who are sometimes referred to as "nothing theorists". With a mixture of metaphysical chutzpah and naivete, these physicists
who include Stephen Hawking among their number think they might be able to resolve a mystery heretofore considered untouchable by science." (Holt 2013: 27-8)

In the following I offer a philosophical analysis of these quantum theories of nothing. Can these theories really answer Leibniz' question? I will argue that ultimately they cannot, even if they are scientifically sound and offer crucial insights into how the universe came into being. The difficulty is that these theories, as belonging to science and physics in particular, still presuppose too much ontological baggage, notably the false vacuum of 'empty' space and/or the laws of quantum mechanics. Thus their 'nothing' is still not the absolute nothingness which is required if we truly want to answer Leibniz' question. Here, I think, philosophy must come to the rescue of physics. 

Near the end of this post, therefore, I will argue for a dialectical conception of nothingness as self-negating. This, according to me, is the necessary philosophical complement to the quantum theory of nothing. A crucially important fact in this regard is the often noted energetic polarity of the physical universe, i.e. its separation into the positive energy captured in matter and the negative energy of the gravitational force. Since the amounts of positive and negative energy in the universe are equal, they ultimately cancel each other out and leave the total energy level of the universe at exactly zero (Hawking 1988: p.129). And since everything in the universe consists in one form or another of energy, this means that the universe is literally made out of nothing, but a nothing split into opposites (Atkins 2011, pp.13-17). A similar conclusion is suggested by the fluctuation of the false vacuum, where particle and antiparticle pairs spontaneously pop into existence out of the fluctuating 'zero' energy level of empty space. As I will argue, these facts clearly point in the direction of a dialectical conception of nothingness as self-negating, since on such a conception polarity is an intrinsic feature of nothingness itself, divided as it is between itself and its negation. Only a dialectics of nothingness, then, is truly able to answer Leibniz' question.  

Preliminary remarks: Why nothingness is unavoidable
Before dealing in more detail with the quantum theories of nothing, however, I want to make some preliminary remarks about how Leibniz' question should be answered.
My contention is that this question by itself already forces us to entertain the concept of nothingness as the ultimate answer. This is because any other answer simply leads to a regress or vicious circle. Thus if we answer the question "Why is there anything at all?" by referring to some existing thing as the ultimate cause (say, God), we still have not truly answered our question. For what then explains the existence of that first thing? Why then does God exist? Obviously it might then be answered, as theology has done for centuries, that God is causa sui, his existence is self-caused and hence eternal. Or one might invoke St. Anselm's ontological argument: "God necessarily exists, because as the utmost perfect being his existence is included in his essence." But can these arguments satisfy? The concept of self-causation surely seems viciously circular. And Anselm's ontological argument just seems to define God into existence. But definitions can only yield tautological truths, not synthetic truths that tell us about what is 'really out there'. In short, it seems clear there can't be any magical 'something' the existence of which is self-explanatory and which can then be used to answer Leibniz question. As long as that question is answered by reference to another existing something, the answer runs afoul of a vicious regress or circle. Ayer, the don of logical positivism, put this problem succinctly as follows:

"Supposing you asked a question like 'Where do all things come from?' Now that's a perfectly meaningful question as regards any given event. Asking where it came from is asking for a description of some event prior to it. But if you generalize that question, it becomes meaningless. You're then asking what event is prior to all events. Clearly no event can be prior to all events. Because it's a member of the class of all events it must be included in it, and therefore can't be prior to it." (Ayer quoted in Holt 2013: 24)

As this quote reveals, true to the iconoclastic spirit of logical positivism, Ayer thinks Leibniz' question is nonsensical because it is unanswerable on principle – unanswerable, that is, as long as the range of possible answers is restricted to the domain of existing somethings and events. But what if we leave this domain behind and look for the answer in what does not exist and is not anything at all? What if we look to nothingness as a possible answer? No doubt, the logical positivist Ayer will reject this possibility as nonsensical as well, agreeing with fellow logical positivist Rudolf Carnap that the concept of nothingness is illogical and meaningless since by definition it cannot have a referent. The concept of nothingness, after all, refers to... nothing at all. Thus it is a pseudo concept, or so Carnap argued in his criticism of Heidegger (more about this below).


The trouble with infinitism
We should, however, also take note of another possibility, one not mentioned by Ayer but nonetheless often taken as the only possible answer to the question why there is anything at all. According to this line of reasoning, which we may call "infinitism", the cause of the universe is unproblematic, because there simply is no first cause: there is an infinite chain of causes, stretching all the way back into an infinite past and forward into an infinite future. Simply put, the universe exists eternally; it has – in one form or another – always existed and will always exist. There is no mystery, then, as to why the universe exists. This answer has been appealing to many great rational minds: Aristotle, Galileo, Hume, Spinoza, Newton, Einstein... Still, however, I think the infinitist answer misses the point of Leibniz question. Here I fully agree with what Jim Holt
writes about the infinitist solution:

"But there's still something missing here. This infinite world is like a railroad train with an infinite number of carriages, each pulling the one behind it – and no locomotive. It can also be likened to a vertical chain with an infinite number of links. Each of these links holds up the link below it. But what holds up the chain as a whole?" (Holt 2013: 86)

The idea of an eternally existing universe – for example in the form of an eternal cycle of Big Bangs – might turn out to be a scientifically legitimate hypothesis. It might even turn out to be true. But it still doesn't answer the question why there is anything at all. It doesn't answer the question why there is this infinite series to begin with. It might be objected that this question makes no sense because in an infinite series of causes there simply is no first cause. But this objection assumes that the ultimate cause of the universe must be temporal, existing in time, like the universe itself. But why can't the ultimate cause be non-temporal? This, indeed, is what contemporary physics suggests about the cause of the Big Bang: since not only space and matter but also time itself only came into existence with the Big Bang, the cause of the Big Bang must be timeless. This notion of a non-temporal cause is also inescapable for the infini
tist solution. A temporally infinite series of causes has no first cause in time, but it must have an ultimate cause outside of time, a non-temporal cause. Otherwise the infinite series will itself remain unexplained. Even the infinitist solution, then, must posit some ultimate non-temporal cause. And as long as this cause remains an existing something, we are back in the problem of vicious regresses and circles. Hence, also on the infinitist solution we are driven to an ultimate cause that is not an existing something – that is to say: were are driven to entertain nothingness as the ultimate cause of the universe.

Nothingness and the zero-energy universe
Still, one is inclined to ask, how can something emerge from nothing? Isn’t this plainly impossible? After all, as the ancients said, ex nihilo nihil fit, from nothing only nothing can come. Christianity, in contrast, was able to imagine a creatio ex nihilo, but only by presupposing a God who could perform this magic trick. So even according to Christianity no true creation out of nothing took place, since God pre-existed the creation. And, indeed, doesn’t it seem wildly absurd to suppose that nothing can cause the existence of something? As William James put it: "from nothing to being there is no logical bridge" (James 1911: p.40).

Yet what if we don’t really need such a bridge? What if the entirety of being is after all nothing but… nothing? Strange as it may sound, this indeed seems to be the conclusion of present-day physics. The point is that the physical universe (and is there anything else?) consists of nothing but energy in different forms (matter, light, movement, heat, gravity). On the most elementary level, this total energy of the universe consists in a negative and a positive part: two parts of equal magnitude, which – as opposites – cancel each other out, thus leaving the net energy of the universe at precisely zero! And since the total energy of the universe is zero, there really is – in terms of energy – nothing at all, albeit a nothing split in two opposing parts.

This obviously requires some further explanation. Let’s start with the concept of positive energy. This is the energy invested in matter (including light and antimatter), both in the constitution of matter itself (‘frozen energy’) and in its movement (kinetic energy). Obviously, given the sheer size of the material universe, there is a tremendous lot of positive energy (though no one is quite sure how much). At the same time, however, there is an equal amount of negative energy stored in the gravitational attraction that exists between all pieces of matter. The positive energy of matter is precisely balanced by the negative energy of gravity, so ultimately there is no energy in the universe at all. Here is how Stephen Hawking explains it:

Two pieces of matter that are close to each other have less [positive] energy than the same two pieces a long way apart, because you have to expend energy to separate them against the gravitational force that is pulling them together.” In other words: since it takes energy to separate the two pieces of matter, gravity must be using an opposed form of energy to pull them together. Thus, as Hawking writes: “the gravitational field has negative energy… this negative gravitational energy exactly cancels the positive energy represented by the matter. So the total energy of the universe is zero.” (Hawking 1988: p.129)

Particles and antiparticles
Nature seems to have a taste for such polarities, such that the opposites ultimately cancel each other out, leaving nothing as their sum total. For not only is there the polarity of positive and negative energy, there is also within the realm of positive energy – to be precise: within the constitution of matter – the polarity of particle and antiparticle (collectively referred to as “fermions”). According to quantum physics, for every type of particle there is a type of antiparticle with opposite properties, such that when they meet they annihilate each other. In fact, particles and antiparticles can only come into existence together, in pairs. Here is what John Gribbin (2007) writes about it:

The only way you can make a 'new' fermion, such as an electron, out of energy is if, at the same time, you make a mirror-image anti-particle (in this case, a positron). The mirror-image particle has opposite quantum properties (including, in this case, positive electric charge instead of negative electric charge) so the two cancel each other out for the purpose of counting fermions, with one negative and one positive adding up to nothing.” (p. 17) Thus “when a positron meets an electron, both particles disappear in a puff of high-energy photons – gamma rays – as their opposite quantum properties cancel each other out.” (p.62)

Electromagnetic polarity is a prime example of such fermionic polarity in nature. Positrons have positive electric charge, they repel each other but attract the electrons which have negative charge. Since there is a negative charge for every positive charge, all the charges ultimately cancel each other out, so in the final analysis the total electric charge of the universe is precisely zero. It is important to remember, however, that electromagnetic polarity is only one example of fermionic polarity. Even the particles with no electric charge have this fundamental property of being paired to a type of antiparticle. There is an antimatter counterpart for the neutron, for example, even though these particles lack electric charge.

All this, however, does not mean that the physical universe consists of nothing but such polarities. There are indeed many fundamental aspects of the physical universe which apparently do not exhibit polarity. For example, closely connected to the fermions are the bosons, which are not precisely particles, though they have some particle-like properties (e.g. bosons are field quanta). Bosons are the mediators between the fermions, conveying the fundamental forces (or interactions) from one particle to another. Bosons, however, do not exhibit polarity like the fermions: they do not come in pairs of opposites.

A splitting of 0 into 1 and -1?
Nevertheless, polarity does remain a remarkably deep feature of nature at many different levels (positive and negative energy, electromagnetic polarity, fermionic polarity), a feature that still cries out for a general explanation. And, indeed, it is a feature of nature that is very suggestive when it comes to answering Leibniz’ question. For the fact remains that on the most fundamental level – the level of pure energy, the basic ‘stuff’ of physical existence – the universe consists of two opposed magnitudes, positive and negative energy, which in the end cancel each other out. The net amount of energy in the universe is thus strictly speaking zero, so that in an energetic sense the universe is literally nothing. Hence, as the chemist (and famous popularizer of science and atheism) Peter Atkins notes, explaining how the universe ‘popped into being’ out of nothing may turn out to be less of a paradox than was always believed. For if the universe is itself ultimately nothing, then surely it can come out of nothing, since ex nihilo nihil fit. As Atkins writes:

First, it is important to realize that there probably isn’t anything here anyway… Of course we are part of and surrounded by things; but at a deep level there is nothing… The bottom line, prejudiced with a dash of speculation, is that the initial endowment of energy at the creation was exactly zero, and the total energy has remained fixed at that value for all time… What we see around us is in fact nothing, but Nothing that has been separated into opposites to give, thereby, the appearance of something”. (Atkins 2011, p.13, 17)

What Atkins is suggesting, then, is that the creation of the universe may have been something like “1 + (-1) = 0” in reverse. That is to say: not 1 and -1 coming together to make 0, but rather 0 splitting itself into the polarity of 1 and -1. Analogously, Atkins speculates that the universe emerged out of a primordial nothing because this nothing divided itself into positive and negative energy as well as into particle-antiparticle pairs.

Fluctuation of the false vacuum
However, even if – in terms of energy – the universe is ultimately nothing, the idea of nothing splitting into opposites may still seem wildly speculative and absurd, not to say horribly close to New Age spirituality (Yin and Yang and all that). Nevertheless, quantum physics has revealed that something like this does actually happen. This is the quantum fluctuation of the false vacuum. This is a phenomenon whereby particle-antiparticle pairs (such as electrons and positrons) spontaneously pop in and out of existence in empty space for very short durations.

In quantum mechanics, this is explained by Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, which – among many other things – says you cannot precisely measure both the value of an energy field and the rate at which it changes. Knowledge of the one implies uncertainty about the other, and vice versa. The point is that this pretty much rules out the possibility of empty space. Empty space, or the vacuum, is by definition a state in which the amount of energy is zero. But Heisenberg’s principle tells us that if the value of a field is precisely known to be zero, its rate of change is completely random and thus can’t be zero. So even in ‘empty’ space, the energy level fluctuates randomly. This is also why the vacuum is better described as a false vacuum, since strictly speaking a real vacuum is impossible, ruled out by the uncertainty principle. In reality, 'empty space' is seething with activity on the quantum scale, with particle-antiparticle pairs popping in and out of existence all the time. Mostly such pairs are extremely short lived, since nearly every particle and antiparticle pair annihilates itself almost immediately after popping into existence. Hence such pairs are generally known as
virtual particle-antiparticle pairs. Yet despite their virtuality, they are very real in their consequences, since laboratory experiments have shown that virtual pairs directly affect the energy levels of existing atoms.

“Maybe the universe is a quantum fluctuation!”
So now we have virtual particle and antiparticle pairs spontaneously emerging from the almost nothing of ‘empty’ space… Could this perhaps be the key to how the universe came into existence? The key to how primordial nothingness split into polarities? The first to entertain such an idea seems to have been physicist Ed Tryon who in 1969 – during a talk by a celebrity physicist at Columbia University – suddenly blurted out: “Maybe the universe is a quantum fluctuation!” Reportedly his remark was greeted with derisive laughter from the several Nobel laureates present at that meeting. Nevertheless, Tryon’s idea stuck and was subsequently developed further by Tryon himself and other physicist. Nowadays the idea has bloomed into a serious scientific theory whose proponents include renowned physicists like Stephen Hawking, Alan Guth, Frank Wilczek, Lawrence Krauss, Alexei Filippenko and Jay Pasachoff. What allowed the idea to grow into scientific theory was the fact that it fitted nicely with the inflationary theory about the expansion of the universe right after the Big Bang. I am not going to discuss the inflationary theory here in any detail, since that would take us too far a field. Suffice it to say that together with inflation the occurrence of quantum fluctuations in primordial empty space may quite possibly have been enough to cause the Big Bang. Here is how Filippenko and Pasachoff relate the story in a well-known paper entitled A Universe from Nothing:

Perhaps many quantum fluctuations occurred before the birth of our universe. Most of them quickly disappeared. But one lived sufficiently long and had the right conditions for inflation to have been initiated. Thereafter, the original tiny volume inflated by an enormous factor, and our macroscopic universe was born.” (Filippenko and Pasachoff 2010)

If this theory is correct, then the emergence of the universe was a matter of sheer chance, a result of the randomness implied by Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle. “In answer to the question of why it happened”, Tryon later commented, “I offer the modest proposal that our universe is simply one of those things which happen from time to time.” In a similar vein Alan Guth has described the universe as the “ultimate free lunch”. Finally, physicist and Nobel laureate Frank Wilczek famously epitomized this theory by answering the question "Why is there something rather than nothing?" with the pithy remark: "Because nothing is unstable." Unstable, that is, insofar as the energy level of 'empty' space fluctuates randomly.

The problem posed by a piece of rubber
But does this really answer Leibniz’ question why there is anything at all? This theory is certainly suggestive about how ‘nothing’ can split itself into opposites, namely, the virtual particle and antiparticle pairs. Nevertheless, it is quite clear that the theory itself is not yet the answer. After all, according to this theory, quite a bit of things must have existed before the Big Bang: there must have been ‘empty’ space, and there must have been the laws of nature (as described by quantum mechanics) in order to facilitate the fluctuations of the vacuum that supposedly caused the Big Bang. About all these things we must still ask why they were there in the first place.

Take, for example, the idea of ‘empty space’. It is clear that this is not absolute nothingness. The space of the quantum vacuum is not really empty. It has a complicated mathematical structure; it bends and flexes like rubber; it is saturated with energy fields and seethes with virtual-particle activity. Why would such a complicated object like the quantum vacuum ever have existed? As Alan Guth has observed (thereby in fact retracting his earlier “ultimate free lunch” remark): “A proposal that the universe was created from empty space seems no more fundamental than a proposal that the universe was spawned by a piece of rubber. It might be true, but one still would want to ask where the piece of rubber came from.” (Guth quoted in Holt 2013: 142)

A quantum tunnel from nothing to something?
The physicist who seems to have come closest to solving this “piece of rubber” problem is Alex Vilenkin. When he talks about the universe as arising from nothing, he literally means nothing. “Nothing is nothing!”, he said during an interview: “Not just no matter. It’s no space. No time. Nothing.” How can he pull of such a feat? Actually Vilenkin cheats a bit. He still defines nothing in spatial terms, admittedly not as empty space, but as a space (or rather spacetime) with zero dimensions. Imagine spacetime as the surface of a sphere. (This is what is called a closed spacetime, which curves back on itself; it is finite even though it has no boundaries.) Now what Vilenkin asks us to do is to imagine this sphere as shrinking, like a balloon losing its air. The radius goes smaller and smaller. Eventually the radius goes all the way down to zero. The surface of the sphere disappears completely and with it spacetime itself. Thus we arrive at a mathematically precise definition of nothingness: a closed spacetime with zero radius. Now with this mathematical definition in hand Vilenkin was able to do an interesting calculation. Using the principles of quantum theory he showed that out of such an initial state of nothingness a tiny bit of false vacuum could spontaneously pop into existence (Vilenkin calls this process “tunneling”). Then, driven by inflation, this tiny bit of vacuum would expand dramatically and turn into the Big Bang.

It is true that – if his calculations are correct – Vilenkin has got rid of the problem of the empty spacetime pre-existing the Big Bang. Yet his primordial nothingness still doesn’t seem to be absolute nothingness, since he is still presupposing the laws of nature. Obviously these laws are not quotidian things like physical objects, but still there is a sense in which they exist or hold true. So we still have to ask why these laws were there in the first place. Why these laws? Why not others? And why any law at all? It would seem that absolute nothingness would also have to be void of law. In fact Vilenkin acknowledges the problem. Here is what he writes:

The tunneling process is governed by the same fundamental laws that describe the subsequent evolution of the universe. It follows that the laws should be ‘there’ even prior to the universe itself. Does this mean that the laws are not mere descriptions of reality and can have an independent existence of their own? In the absence of space, time, and matter, what tablets could they be written upon? The laws are expressed in the form of mathematical equations. If the medium of mathematics is the mind, does this mean that mind should predate the universe?” (Vilenkin quoted in Holt 2013: p.161)

Asked whose mind this could be, Vilenkin answered: “If you like you can say they [the laws of nature] are in the mind of God.” (Ibid.) Thus with one stroke Vilenkin makes clear we still have not answered Leibniz’ question. Even if the laws of nature are such as to make nothingness impossible, we would still want to know why these laws were there to begin with.

On the boundary of science
So where do we go from here? I think there are two conclusions to be drawn form the above discussion – two conclusions which together will point us in the right direction. The first conclusion follows from the inadequacy of the quantum theories of 'nothing' as answers to Leibniz' question. I am, of course, not saying these theories are false or scientifically unsound: as far as we know, they might very well be true. Nevertheless, they fail to answer Leibniz' question because they still presuppose too much ontological baggage. That is to say: they presuppose either the false vacuum and the laws of physics (Hawking, Tryon, Guth, Wilczek, Krauss e.a.) or just the laws of physics (Vilenkin) as pre-existing the Big Bang. And maybe this is as far as science can go in explaining how something emerged from nothing. Science, and physics in particular, has to proceed through experimental observation and mathematization of the observed results. But you cannot empirically observe absolute nothingness (whether you can mathematize nothingness is an open question; see axiomatic set theory with its foundational empty set). Hence already Vilenkin's theory of how the laws of physics imply the "tunneling" of a false vacuum out of nothingness moves on the very boundary of science, since – given the unobservability of nothingness – the theory doesn't seem to be open to empirical falsification. This indicates the dilemma we are in. If we truly want to answer Leibniz' question, we must somehow develop a solution in terms of absolute nothingness, without even presupposing the laws of physics. But then by the same token we seem to step outside of science, or at least outside of physics, given the unobservability of such a 'thing' as absolute nothingness, if it exists.

A logical transition from nothing to something?
But then again physics is not the only science. And not every science is dependent on empirical testing. Just think of pure mathematics or pure logic. And this brings me to the second conclusion to be drawn from the preceding discussion, namely, that the transition from nothing to something should perhaps primarily be thought of as logical rather than temporal. Consider Vilenkin's scenario, where the transition from nothing to something must have happened outside of time (since time only emerged with the Big Bang) and on the basis of just the laws of physics (laws which are mathematical in nature, as Vilenkin emphasizes). Such a transition seems to be logical or conceptual in nature, insofar as it is ordained by a timeless realm of mathematical truths. Jim Holt puts this very well in his discussion of Vilenkin's theory:

"Since time itself (along with space) is created in the transition from Nothing to Something, this transition can't very well take place in time. It seems to unfold logically rather than temporally. If Vilenkin is right, nothingness never had a chance: the laws of physics eternally ordained that, with some appreciable probability, there would be a universe. But what gives ontological clout to these laws? If they are logically prior to the world, where exactly are they written down?" (Holt 2013: p.144)

The only thing wrong with Vilenkin's theory, as an answer to Leibniz' question, is that it presupposes the laws of physics; this is also what Holt indicates in the quote above. So what if we replace the laws of physics with the 'pure' laws of logic and mathematics? Certainly the elementary truths of logic (such as the principles of identity, non-contradiction, tertium non datur) are much more fundamental than the laws of physics, which as far as we know are only true for our particular universe, whereas these logical truths hold for every possible universe. Thus the logical truths are certainly timeless if any truth is. Whether this timeless validity also holds for mathematics is an open question, although the reducibility of the bulk of mathematics to logic and axiomatic set theory is certainly suggestive here (not least because set theory crucially involves its own version of nothingness in terms of the foundational empty set). But let us for the time being just focus on the 'eternal' truths of logic. What happens if we apply these truths to the concept of pure nothingness? Perhaps – to paraphrase Jim Holt's quote above – nothingness never had a chance given the laws of logic? Perhaps logic forbids nothingness and thus eternally ordains that there is being? Perhaps being is just a logical necessity?

Logical problems with nothingness
Come to think of it, it is very strange that this possibility has not figured more prominently in the academic discussion surrounding Leibniz' question. It is after all obvious that there is a logical problem with the concept of nothingness. The apparent paradox of this concept has, since time immemorial, been the source of countless jokes and puzzles concerning the 'existence' of nothing or absence in general. In Homer's Odyssey, for example, the cunning Ulysses utilizes a version of this paradox by telling the cyclops Polyphemus his name is "Nobody" before piercing the cyclops' eye with a burning stake. Then, when asked by the other cyclopes why he is screaming, Polyphemus replies that "Nobody" is hurting him. Or take the episode in Alice in Wonderland where Alice says "I can see nothing" and the Cheshire Cat replies "My, you must have good eyes".

The paradox, then, turns on what we might call the referentiality of "nothingness". For if we take "nothing" to be a referring expression, referring to a definite object, then paradox immediately arises, since the referent of this term must be... nothing and as such it must be absent or non-existent. But how can this term refer if it has no referent? As a referring expression "nothing" undermines its own referentiality. It is, as philosophers say, performatively inconsistent, since it negates the existence of its referent in the (performative) act of referring to it as "nothing".

In more general terms, the paradox concerns the supposed existence of nothingness. If nothingness can be said to exist, then it must be a being, a thing that exists, an object able to function as the referent of a referring expression. But then again, nothingness is precisely nothingness because it is not any of these things: not a being, not a thing that exists, not an object and not a referent. Hence it seems clear that nothingness can't exist and can't be referred to.

In logical terms, nothingness thus violates the most elementary law of logic, the principle of identity, which states that “each thing is identical with itself and different from another”. For how can nothingness be self-identical if it has no identity to begin with? Nothingness, after all, cannot be referred to by means of the demonstrative "this", which is a precondition for having identity. It makes no sense to speak of "this nothingness" as if it could be distinguished from other "nothingnesses". To suppose nothingness has an identity is to turn it into a something, which it precisely is not. In a similar vein, we can say that nothingness also violates the second-most basic law of logic, the principle of non-contradiction, which states that "either something exists or it does not exist". For, as we have seen, a paradox arises when we say nothingness exists, since then we turn it into a being. The only way for nothingness to exist, then, is by not existing. Or as Jacques Lacan, always a lover of paradox, put it in a somewhat different context: "Nothing exists insofar as it does not exist." (Lacan 1966: p.392) The supposed existence of nothingness, then, is inherently contradictory. A further analysis of the logical impossibility of nothingness can be found here.

From Parmenides to Carnap
In the history of philosophy, these logical paradoxes are well-known. They have motivated a long tradition of philosophers rejecting the logical possibility of talk about nothingness, a tradition ranging from Parmenides to Carnap. In the late 6th century BC, the presocratic philosopher Parmenides of Elea already argued that "you cannot know what is not, for that is impossible - nor can you utter it", concluding from this that thought and being must coincide, since you can only think of what exists. In the 20th century, the logical positivist Rudolf Carnap – though obviously not promoting Eleatic idealism – deployed essentially the same argument to denounce Heidegger's talk of "the Nothing" that "nothings". Such talk, Carnap argued, "involves a contradiction": "For even if it were admissible to introduce "nothing" as a name or description of an entity, still the existence of this entity would be denied in its very definition..." (Carnap, 1959 [1931]: p.71) Carnap, then, basically repeats the argument that ascribing existence to nothingness is contradictory, since by definition it is nothing.

Kantianism, Platonism or Dialectics?
It seems, then, we have found our answer to Leibniz' question! And it seems this answer is infinitely more simple than anything proposed by the quantum theories of nothing. It seem that to the question "Why is there something rather than nothing?" we should simply answer: because the concept of nothingness is inconsistent, ruled out by the timeless truths of logic! Nothingness is logically impossible, hence its negation – the statement that there is something – is logically necessary. So is this the end of the matter? Not quite. For it is still an open question how this logical impossibility of nothingness should be interpreted. Three interpretations seem possible:

1) A subjective or
Kantian interpretation: Logic is primarily about the normative structure of human cognition, we don't know if it applies to reality-in-itself. So the fact that nothingness is logically impossible simply means that we can't imagine or think nothingness – being is merely logically necessary for us, not in itself.

2) An objective
Platonic interpretation: The laws of logic are in themselves timelessly true, independently of human cognition, they belong to a Platonic realm of ideal truths. The logical impossibility of nothingness, then, means that being is a logical necessity in itself, not just for us. Being is timelessly ordained by objective logic.

3) An objective
dialectical interpretation: Nothingness really exists (or really existed), but since its existence is contradictory (i.e. self-negating), nothingness negated itself and thereby produced being. Being is a manifestation of the contradictory nature of nothingness in itself, not just for us.

Which interpretation is the correct one? It seems the subjective interpretation can be ruled out from the start. Logic may be just subjective, being no more than the inherent structure of human thought. But as such it cannot declare the necessity of existence. It is absurd and indeed circular to say that there must be being since we cannot imagine it otherwise. The circularity of such a proposal follows from the fact that we ourselves, after all, are part of being, so on this proposal we exist because we cannot imagine ourselves as not existing. In such a scenario, then, we would be
causa sui, since we would have imagined or thought ourselves into existence. But this is plainly absurd.

Why is there ought anyway?
So the issue comes down to a choice between the Platonic and the dialectical interpretations. Here, I think, we have to admit the dialectical interpretation is the stronger one. Two reasons in particular seem to plead in its favor. First of all, it seems clear that on the Platonic interpretation the logical impossibility of nothingness does not really answer Leibniz' question. For on this interpretation we still have to presuppose the existence of the Platonic realm of ideal truths. Thus we have not genuinely explained how something emerges from nothing. To this it may be objected that "existence" is not the right term to describe this 'obtaining' of the ideal truths, rather they have a normative force or validity: in terms of the familiar is/ought distinction, we should say that the obtaining of such ideal truths is not a matter of "is" but of "ought". This objection, however, seems vacuous to me. For even if it were correct, we could still say that there
is such a thing as normativity or ideal validity. And then we would still want to know why there was such a thing in the first place.

Dialectics and the polarity of energy
The second reason for the dialectical interpretation, however, is more decisive. It has to do with the polarities which, as we have seen, are fundamental to the physical universe: the polarity of positive and negative energy, and the fermionic polarity of particle and antiparticle, which includes the polarity of positive an
d negative electric charge. This proclivity for polarities is an objective feature of nature, which still cries out for a comprehensive explanation. Moreover, since the opposites in these polarities cancel each other out, they ultimately imply that the universe is in a sense nothing at all. The polarity of positive and negative energy seems especially fundamental in this regard. In the physical universe, after all, everything is in one form or another a manifestation of energy. And since the total energy level of the universe is zero (because of the mutual cancellation of positive and negative energy), this implies that the universe is literally made out of nothing, but a nothing split into opposites. Or to repeat an earlier quote from chemist Peter Atkins: "What we see around us is in fact nothing, but Nothing that has been separated into opposites to give, thereby, the appearance of something." (Atkins 2011, p.17) Now isn't it clear that this division of nothing into polarity fits hand in glove with the dialectical conception of nothingness as self-negating? For if nothingness is indeed self-negating, it is by the same token its own opposite, its own negative counterpart, its own 'antiparticle' (or rather 'antibeing') so to speak. Thus, as nothingness negates itself, it necessarily splits in two opposed 'parts', namely, itself and its negation. From a dialectical viewpoint, then, polarity seems to be an inherent attribute of nothingness.

Where does this leave us?
As we have seen, the only way to answer Leibniz' question without getting stuck in the regress or circle problem is to presuppose nothing – that is to say: nothing but the concept of nothing and the elementary laws of logic, without which no thought is possible. In the end, only the logical impossibility of nothingness itself can be the ultimate answer to the question why there is something rather nothing. Thus it seems clear to me that the parallel between the energetic polarity of the universe and the dialectical polarity of nothingness can be no mere coincidence.  

Concluding remarks
Obviously there are still loads of questions to be answered. For example, how does a dialectical conception of nothingness as self-negating relate to the laws of quantum mechanics which facilitate the fluctuation of the vacuum or even – on Vilenkin's scenario – the "quantum tunneling" of the false vacuum out of nothingness? It would of course be a pseudo-scientific absurdity to attempt a direct derivation of quantum mechanics from the dialectical logic of nothingness. But what about mathematics? The laws of quantum mechanics are thoroughly mathematical in nature, and perhaps there is a route from pure mathematics to the equations of quantum physics, as mathematical Platonists like Roger Penrose have hypothesized. If so, then the reduction of mathematics to logic and axiomatic set theory does seem to forge an indirect link between quantum physics and the dialectics of nothingness. For axiomatic set theory knows its own version of nothingness in the form of the foundational concept of the empty set. And if nothingness is indeed self-negating, it then seems to have a recursive structure analogous to the recursive procedure by which all higher sets are defined on the basis of the foundational empty set (for this analogy between set theory and the dialectics of self-negation, see Ware 1999: pp.230-238). In short, could it perhaps be the case that the set-theoretic derivation of mathematics is isomorphous to the dialectical structure of self-negating nothingness? And if so, doesn't this imply that mathematics is implicit in that dialectical structure? In that case, the step from the dialectics of nothingness to the mathematical laws of quantum mechanics is perhaps not so daunting as it seems. But, obviously, for now this is all just speculation and hypothesizing. I hope to be able to investigate these issues in the future and publish the results on this blog. However, for further ontological implications of the dialectics of nothingness and its relation to physics, I can already refer the reader to my earlier post: Theses towards a dialectical ontology

-Atkins, Peter (2011),
On Being: A scientist's exploration of the great questions of existence. Oxford University Press, Oxford.-Carnap, Rudolf (1959 [1931]), "The Elimination of Metaphysics Through Logical Analysis of Language", in: A. J. Ayer (ed.), Logical Positivism. Glencoe, The Free Press, pp. 60-81.
-Filippenko, Alexei V. and Pasachoff, Jay M. (2010), "A Universe from Nothing" (a lecture for the Astronomical Society of the Pacific):
-Gribbin, John (2007), The Universe: A Biography. Allen Lane, London.
-Hawking, Stephen (1988),
A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes. Bantam, New York.
-Holt, Jim (2013),
Why Does The World Exist? One Man's Quest for the Big Answer. Profile Books, London.
-James, William (1911),
Some Problems of Philosophy: A Beginning of an Introduction to Philosophy. Longmans, Green, and Co., New York.
-Lacan, Jacques (1966),
Écrits. Seuil, Paris.
-Nozick, Robert (1981), Philosophical Explanations. Belknap Press, Cambridge Mass.-Ware, Robert Bruce (1999), Hegel: The Logic of Self-Consciousness. Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh.


  1. I was expecting to find references to Russell Standish's "Theory of Nothing" and Max Tegmark's "Our mathematical universe". Have you read these? As you suggest, I don't think you can address the appearance of existence without explaining the origin of the laws of physics, which otherwise play the role of God in the Christian creation ex nihilo. Tegmark, Standish and Bruno Marchal - and probably others - have suggested that we might explain the whole of existence from some elementary facts, such as that in all possible universes 2+2 must equal 4. Given that arithmetical truths (a) appear to exist independently of us (e.g. we assume that nature still kept track of how many particles it had in the big bang, and will continue to do so when no one is left alive to count things), and (b) appear to be necessarily true - no one has ever come up with a sensible suggestion, in my experience, that one could have a conceivable universe in which 2+2 is not equal to 4 - this does seem like an obvious possibility for something that is logically necessary, and from which we might bootstrap the rest of existence. The mathematical nature of the laws of physics indicate that maths is fairly fundamental to reality, somehow - and the symmetries discovered by Emmy Noether, plus the apparent balancing acts on the cosmological scale between positive and negative energy and expansion and collapse - suggest that there might not be anything else required, in that (as you say) everything else can be made to cancel out.

  2. Hi LizR, thanks for your comment. When I wrote this blog piece I hadn't yet read Standish and Tegmark. In the mean time, however, I have read both these books and found them very congenial. It is through Standish's book that I stumbled upon the Everythinglist. I think we agree on many fundamental things, but still there is one important difference, I think. You want to start the explanation why the universe exists with the timeless truths of math and then somehow bootstrap the laws of physics from thereon. I would say, however, that presupposing math is still presupposing too much, since why is math true? The truth of math may seem self-evident, hence its Platonic existence, perhaps. But if we truly want to answer Leibniz' question we also have to answer why there is this ideal structure we call mathematics. That is why we have to begin with something even more fundamental, the most fundamental concept of all, i.e. nothing. Only if we explain the universe starting from nothing can we avoid the regress-and-circle problem. Now this might seem like a paradoxical affair, explaining everything on the basis of nothing. The trick is, I think, to see that nothing is a self-negating 'quantity' which, as it negates itself, produces being. I don't know if this can be made sense of in more mathematical terms, though I see some indications for this in set theory and other parts of math. In set theory, of course, you can derive mathematics from the empty set through recursion (0 = ∅, 1 = {∅}, 2 = {∅, {∅}}, etc.). At the same time, however, it seems clear to me (though most formal logicians will probably disagree with me) that ∅ is a contradictory concept. After all, one of the axioms of set theory is the axiom of extensionality: two sets are identical iff they have the same elements. But at the same time we can prove in set theory that, since ∅ has no elements, ∅ has no elements in common with itself (i.e. ∅∩∅=∅). So given the axiom of extensionality, we have to conclude: ∅≠∅. I'm not yet clear about how this contradiction inherent in ∅ (which to me affirms the idea that nothingness is inconsistent) relates to the derivation of math recursively from ∅. But nevertheless it seems quite telling to me that this derivation is based on a contradictory concept. I hope to be able to make this more precise in the future. Greetings and see you on the Everythinglist. If you like to correspond, just send me an email, perhaps we could discuss some things in more detail.


  3. Peter,

    Hi. I like a lot of what I read in your post and find parts of it kind of similar to my thinking. I certainly agree that we have to start with "nothing" and can't assume the presence of the laws of math/physics, information, etc. I'm not sure if I'll agree with all your points about nothingness being inconsistent but am not sure if I understood it all well enough to say for sure.

    I used to put this stuff up on the everythinglist, too, but eventually gave up on it to focus on my thinking, but my view is that the situation we've always considered to be "nothing" (e.g. no space/volume, time, matter, energy, abstract concepts, laws of math/physics, no information, and no minds to think about this "lack of all") isn't really the lack of all existent entities. I try to show that that situation meets a definition of what it means to be an existent entity.

    Briefly, I propose that a thing exists if it is a grouping or relationship present defining what is contained within. This grouping/relationship is equivalent to a surface, edge or boundary defining what is contained within and giving "substance" and existence to the thing. Then, what we've traditionally thought of as “the absolute lack-of-all” (no energy, matter, volume, space, time, thoughts, concepts, mathematical truths, etc.; and no minds to think about this “absolute lack-of-all”), and not our mind's conception of “the absolute lack-of-all”, is one and the same as the entirety, or whole amount, of all that is present. That's it; that's everything; there's nothing else; it is everything that is present. It is the all. An entirety or whole amount is a grouping defining what is contained within and is therefore a surface, an edge and an existent entity. In other words, because the absolute lack-of-all is the entirety of all that is present, it functions as both what is contained within and the grouping defining what is contained within. It defines itself and is, therefore, the beginning point in the chain of being able to define existent entities in terms of other existent entities. The grouping/edge of the absolute lack-of-all is not some separate thing; it is just the "entirety", "the all" relationship, inherent in this absolute lack-of-all, that defines what is contained within.

    Anyways, if you're interested, there's more detail at my websites at:
    (click on 3rd link)



  4. Can't A = B iff A - B = ∅ ^ B - A = ∅? Then ∅ = ∅

  5. The universe can be said to be a nothing in terms of its energy content, because the total energy of the universe is zero. But universe means not only its energy, universe means its spacetime also. Is the total spacetime of the universe zero, so that the universe can still be said to be a nothing in terms of its spacetime content? If this is indeed the case, then where is the negative spacetime that cancels out the positive spacetime, and turns the universe into a nothing in terms of spacetime also?

    1. I don't know how it works for time, but for space there certainly seems to be a link with the opposition between positive and negative energy. However, it is not so simple as positive space vs. negative space. It's more complicated than that. From Einstein we know that space and gravity are intrinsically connected: gravity just is the curvature of space -- or in other words: space exists as gravity. So if gravity is negative energy, then space is negative energy too. This is also reflected in the inflation theory which tells how space emerged right after the Big Bang. During the inflationary expansion of space the negative energy of gravity increased exponentially. But one form of energy can increase arbitrarily only so long as the opposite form of energy increases with the same amount, so that the total amount of energy remains constant. This is precisely what happened during inflation: the exponential increase of the negative energy of gravity/space went hand in hand with an equal increase of positive energy. Out of this positive energy then emerged matter and antimatter through quantum fluctuations. Thus, as Hawking writes about the inflation process: "when the universe doubles in size, the positive matter energy and the negative gravitational energy both double, so the total energy remains zero. During the inflationary phase, the universe increases its size by a large amount. Thus the total amount of energy available to make particles becomes very large."

      You can read more about this in one of my other texts:

  6. When scientists say that the universe can simply come out of nothing without any divine intervention, they think of the universe in terms of its energy content only. In the book ‘The Grand Design’, page 281, scientist Stephen Hawking has written that bodies like stars or black holes cannot just appear out of nothing, but a whole universe can. What Hawking meant to say here was this: As the total energy of a whole universe is zero, so it can come out of nothing. But stars or black holes will fail to do so, because their total energy is not zero. But universe means not only its energy, universe means its space-time as well. So applying the same logic to space-time as well, we can say that the entire space-time of the universe must also always have to be zero, and in that case only a whole universe can appear out of nothing. Here my question is: How does the total space-time of an ever-expanding universe always remain zero?

  7. As the universe appeared out of nothing, so initially there was no space, no time, no matter and no energy. Scientists have successfully shown how the total matter-energy content of the universe has always remained zero. But we are not satisfied with that explanation. We also want to know how the total space-time content of the universe has always remained zero. And it should always remain zero if the universe has actually appeared out of nothing. Otherwise scientists will have to explain whence appeared the extra residual space-time. Was it a magic?

    1. Good question... Obviously I don't know, nobody knows this... But there are different possible answers... Currently I am leaning towards an idealist view of the universe, where consciousness is the basic element, even of the physical universe. I can't defend that position here, but if you are interested you can read more about it here:

      I haven't really started yet to think about how this idealist view of the universe relates to the hypothesis of the zero-energy universe (and you should keep in mind that it is still just a hypothesis, however plausible, and not yet a proven scientific fact). But I guess that if the universe is self-consciousness bootstrapping itself into existence, then the original nothing out of which the universe emerged must be the most primitive state of self-consciousness possible, pure subject-object identity with no internal difference... But this is all just pure speculation as yet...

      Of course nobody really knows WHY there is this universe or indeed why there is anything at all. Here, I think, philosophy and science should would together to find the answer, if that is at all possible...

      Anyway, if you like to discuss these matters further or are interested in the debate about "Why is there something rather than nothing?" you should check out this FB group:

  8. I think in your blog you have given sufficient reason as to why nothing cannot have existence, because it will be self-contradictory. I want to add some more points.

    Nothing means non-existence of everything. Now we may ask the question: can non-existence of everything have existence? If the answer is yes, then nothing will no longer be non-existence of everything, because in that case at least one thing will have existence, e.g. non-existence of everything. So for nothing to be truly non-existence of everything, non-existence of everything itself must not have any existence

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  10. At least two reasons can be given as to why the total space-time of the universe should always remain zero. One such reason we find in Einstein’s general theory of relativity. As per GTR space, time and matter are so interlinked that there cannot be any space-time without matter. Similarly there cannot be any matter without space-time. There is also a famous quote of Einstein on this: “When forced to summarize the general theory of relativity in one sentence: Time and space and gravitation have no separate existence from matter.” If time and space cannot have any separate existence from matter, then the total matter of the universe being zero, the total space-time of the universe should also always be zero.
    Logic also entails that the total space-time of the universe should be zero. This is because like matter and energy, space and time also came into being only after big bang. So if total matter and energy remained zero because they have come from nothing, then total space-time should also remain zero because it has also come from nothing.
    Here it may be objected that there is a law of conservation of matter and energy in science, but that there is no such conservation law for space-time. So there is no violation of conservation law if nothing generates so much of space-time. Granting this objection it can still be pointed out that GTR alone gives us sufficient reason to conclude that if total matter of the universe always remains zero, then the total space-time of the universe should also always remain zero.
    So from GTR we come to know that the total space-time of an ever-expanding universe should always remain zero, but we do not know yet how it does actually remain zero.
    If science cannot give any satisfactory answer to this question, then the atheistic, non-religious world-view of science will break down then and there.

    1. Very clearly put... Nevertheless your account is based on some uncertain premises. First of all, the notion of enery conservation in GTR is problematic: some physicists say that GTR allows violations of the conservation law (see for example:

      Second, you are taking it as a fact that the universe arose from nothing. This, however, is by no means a scientific fact, it is a hypothesis that might be confirmed by the mutual cancellation of positive and negative energy in the universe -- however, this mutual cancellation is itself also a tentative hypothesis following from the inflation theory, it is not a scientific fact. Many physicists would disagree with the claim that positive and negative energy are exactly mutually cancelling.

      Besides that, the scientific accounts that treat the universe as arising from 'nothing' (such as Lawrence Krauss) see this 'nothing' as the false vacuum of empty space, which really is a kind of thing and by no means an absolute nothingness.

      Thus, to repeat, the emergence of the universe out of absolute nothingness is as yet only a hypothesis, not a fact.

    2. Continued:

      I agree, however, that science cannot (yet) answer the question why there is anything at all. But in my view this does not mean that the 'atheistic worldview of science' breaks down. In my view, that worldview is continuous with rationality in general and such it also comprises rational philosophy... I predict that in the future we will see emerging syntheses of philosophical speculation and physical science which together try to tackle that most fundamental question... The leap into faith seems to me unnecessary and extremely dangerous: just think of all the misery that is caused by blind faith... We must complement the scientific worldview not with religion but with rational speculation that is continuous with science.

      Let me explain my own view on this, in order to elaborate what I mean. This is a theory I am still working on, so it is still a bit sketchy, but it seems to me it could work.

      To explan why there is anything at all we need 'something' that exlains its own existence and is in that sense self-grounding. Now the only thing we know of that is self-grounding is self-consciousness (as I explain in my latest posts on this blog). Thus some kind of ultimate self-consciousness could be the self-grounding ground of the universe. This is of course continuous with deism, but not with religion: I arrive at that conclusion through reasoning, not through faith.

      Then the question becomes: How does this self-grounding ground explain why the universe is the way it is? Here philosophy must hook up with physics. Here I continue an idea first proposed by American idealist Josiah Royce. Royce pointed out that there is an isomorphy between the recursivity of self-consciousness and the recursion that generates the natural numbers. The recursivity of self-consciousness indicates this structure: I am not just self-aware, I am also aware that I am self-aware, and I am aware that I am self-aware, etc. If we use some elementary set theory, we can elaborate this point as follows. If we designate "x is aware of y" as x={y}, then we can designate self-consciousness as x={x}. The recursivity of self-consciousness then generates the following levels:
      and so on.

      This is also how in Zermelo's set theory the natural numbers are derived. In fact, we can also show that the recursivity of self-consciousness generates a structure that is isomorphous to the standard Von Neumann derivation of the natural numbers as:
      -{ {} }=1
      -{ {}, { {} } }=2
      and so on.

      What all this means is that self-conscious has an internal structure that is isomorphous to the set of the natural numbers. Similar ideas have been developed by the phenomenologist Oskar Becker.

      Now my point is that if the absolute self-consciousness can in this way be viewed as being conscious of all the natural numbers (N), it is then a small step to view as a universal Turing machine that computes all computable functions (which, after all, are all possibe mappings from N to N). And then we can hook up rational speculation about absolute self-consciousness with digital physics. Digital physics points out that all physical processes (except perhaps the collapse of the wave function) are thoroughly computable and that the universe could therefore be some kind of computer program run on some 'cosmic computer'. In my view, the rational philosophy of the absolute self-consciousness could be seen as giving the metaphysical foundation for digital physics. In this way rational thought reaches a complete explanation of existence... no faith required.


    3. Last remark: I even think that the collapse of the wave function can be explained on this account, namely, as follows. If the absolute self-consciousness functions as a computer, what then does it compute? Obviously it can only compute itself, i.e. it computes those algorithms that facilitate the highest forms of intelligence. We can then explain our own universe as that computation that produces (in the long run) the highest forms of inteligence and self... The collapse of the wave function can then be seen as some kind of zooming in of the 'cosmic computer' on precisely those computations that facilitate the highest form of self-consciousness.

      I hope this makes sense... I hope to be able to develop all this with more details in the future.

      Anyway, what matters most of all is that we should stick to rationality... We cannot take the fact that science can't yet explain the entire universe as a failure of rationality, which requires a leap of faith. Rationality is all we have.

  11. Actually I have already changed the last sentence of my last post here in the following way long before I have gone through your replies to my post (I have opened your blog today only after a long gap. Meanwhile I was busy elsewhere.):
    "If science cannot give any satisfactory answer to this question, then the naturalistic world-view of modern science will prove to be inadequate for explaining the real world."

  12. But there is a reason to be harsh. As far back as in 2003 I have shown that the existence of a spaceless and timeless being in this universe implies the relativity of space and time, and therefore mystical experience cannot be discarded as a mere hallucination if special theory of relativity is scientifically correct. But nobody has paid any heed to this. If this so-called spaceless and timeless God is in the Mystics' head only and not in the outside world at all (yes, scientist Victor J Stenger has written this), then what is spaceless and timeless in the outside world that required an explanation from science? If nothing is timeless in this universe, then why was it necessary at all to show how anything could be timeless? Whenever I have put this question to any atheist or to any atheistic scientist, he has become totally deaf, dumb and blind. He is blind, so how can he read my question? He is deaf, so how can he hear my question? So how can he answer my question if he is totally unaware of it? Therefore my question remained unanswered all the time.
    Then in the year 2010 I have also shown that the properties that light actually possesses are the properties of The Whole (TW). TW is defined in this way: It is that which contains everything that is there. So by its very definition there cannot be anything outside TW, because we have already defined it as that which contains everything that is there. (Here I will request you to keep in mind that it is just a definition, and nothing else than that. No claim is being made that TW actually exists, or that it has any possibility to exist.) As there cannot be anything outside TW, because if there is then it will no longer remain The Whole as because in that case there will be something outside it, so there can be neither any space nor any time outside it. So, by default TW will be spaceless and timeless. As it will be neither in any space nor in any time by definition, so by simple logic it can be shown that it will also be changeless, immortal, all-pervading, one, unborn, uncreated, without any beginning, without an end, everlasting and non-composite. TW will have all these properties simply because it is TW. Or we can say that it will have all these properties by default only and not due to any cause lying outside of it. But can we say about light that it is The Whole? Can we say about it that it contains within itself everything that is there? So how come light possesses some of the properties of The Whole when we know very well that it is not at all The Whole? Light is within space and time, there is no doubt about it. In spite of that light is neither in space nor in time, because both space and time become non-existent for it. Even infinite distance becomes zero for light. One scientist has written in a blog (Science 2.0) that for light this universe is 0 mm thick. Yes, it is true. At the same time we should not forget that time totally stops for light. So light has the properties of spacelessness and timelessness that are the default properties of TW only. Being not The Whole light cannot have these two properties causelessly, by default. If we now suppose that this cause lies within space and time, then it can be shown that there will be an infinite regress. So here we will have to posit the existence of someone or something that must lie outside space and time. Otherwise there is no way to explain these two properties of light.
    I think that this is a much stronger evidence for the existence of God than the previous one, but this evidence was also ignored. So the things in general stand like this: whatever evidence is offered by us for the existence of God, it will always be downright rejected or ignored by the atheistic community as a whole, without even discussing the merits or demerits of any one of them.
    So there is a reason to be harsh.

  13. I want to add one more point. God is not a fool. By anticipating beforehand what would happen if everything in nature, including the origin of the universe also, could be explained without invoking any kind of supernatural being, he deliberately left a gap in his creation that can never be filled up without invoking him. And that gap is light.

  14. The dialectics of Hegel (Science of Logic / Doctrine of Being) explores this issue in much greater depth.

    In short:
    Indeterminate being (pure being) and indeterminate nothing (pure nothing) are in fact the same; each are still nothing / have no truth in themselves.
    Their only truth lies in their unity in which being passes over into nothing and vice versa, and which creates a new category: becoming (and ceasing to be), in which being and nothing are just vanishing moments.

  15. Vilenkin and others make a huge mistake in thinking that natural laws can exist seperate from a material universe. They do not. In fact the laws of nature do not physically exist, as they are only mental models describing/explaining the regularity of patterns of motions that explains our observation of phenomena of the universe. It takes a thinking mind for there to be 'natural laws'. Where was that mind in the 'beginning' when no material universe was supposed to exist?
    It is impossible, it is just Idealist dogma to think that is how the universe 'emerged' from 'nothing'.

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  17. One of the problems in our understanding is that most people reflect on a concept like the universe as having 'thinghood' - ie. as if it is a thing like other things, that has definite properties, like size, duration, mass/energy etc. - while none of that can apply as such. The universe (as 'totalty of existence') is neither more nor less then nothing.
    That, however, does not contradict the existence of 'things' in the universe, as the existence of these things is inferred from the relations with other things. No single thing, taken on it's own, has existence, it is only in the infinite relations between all those things, that there is existence.