Can Something Come From Nothing?
It feels about time that age-old question “why is there something rather than nothing?” should notice it’s old age and finally die off. While the question seemed all-important and pertinent to the ancients, what we now know about the nature of the universe renders it obsolete.
The reason why I believe the question “Why is there something rather than nothing?” is nonsense is because we have no idea what “nothing” is, so how can we reason and discuss with it?
“Why is there something rather than nothing?” is a question that implies that it is a more natural state that there be nothing rather than something. For the question to be a significant one we must assume that nothing is the default, so the fact that something exists demands an explanation. If nothing existed, then there would be no need of any explanation.
But what reason do we have to make this assumption? Why do we think that nothing is the default state of the universe? A saying attributed to Aristotle common in classical physics is that “nature abhors a vacuum” – that there is no such thing as nothing in nature. In modern physics, the saying still seems to be true. It seems to be the case that everywhere in the universe there exists something.
Look around you now, is there anywhere you can point and identify nothing? You are most likely surrounded by objects, all of which are something. What about the space in between objects? Well this is filled with invisible gases, these are certainly something. What about the space in between the particles of these gases, or the emptiness of outer space? Surely there must be some void there? Well modern physics suggests to us that all of this space is alive with fields and virtual particles, so anywhere you care to point there is something there.
Looking beyond current physics, many speculative theories of quantum gravity propose that spacetime is discrete in nature, and that the universe is network of some kind of events or objects with causal links between them. In this picture there are no “gaps” in the universe in which nothing can reside.
My point is that we have absolutely no acquaintance with nothing. We don’t know how the void behaves, so why do we assume that it has the property of being the default state of everything? Why do we think nothing existing is more probable than something existing when we have only ever encountered something and never nothing?
It seems perverse to me that we live in a world in which nothing does not exist, and yet think that the existence of things is not the default state of the universe.
I don’t mean to suggest that the search for an understanding of why there is something rather than nothing is redundant. I just mean to say that it seems irrational to jump to the conclusion that the existence of something is a miracle that can only be attributed to something capable of producing miracles – such as a God.