Back in my college seminary days when I was taking up philosophy, as it were, with our young minds with Archimedes’ lever or so it was, we would unravel or wrestle inquisitively with the perennial mystery of “existence” – the existence of God, of the universe or interstellar multiverse, of consciousness, of the soul, and of life after death.
Why is there something rather than nothing? I must admit, with queasy feeling, this question never stops haunting me.
In a You Tube podcast of “Closer To Truth” (published September 4, 2020), host and producer Robert Kuhn tackled this question of the “mystery of existence” and explored for answers from contemporary physicists, cosmologists, and philosophers.
First to be asked by Kuhn was physicist Michio Kaku. Why is there something rather than nothing?
It is because, for Michio Kaku, “for things to exist or happen in the universe, first there has to be an arena or space and time, then the stuff like the laws of physics which create matter and motion.”
But, in the first place, where do those laws of physics come from? Is God analogous with or the primordial source of such laws?
Kaku is quick to reply: “The answer, I think, is mathematical self-consistency. In some sense, God is a mathematician, creating all the universes which are mathematically self-consistent. In other words, self-consistency and stability are needed for the universe to exist.”
The second whom Robert Kuhn asked was Bede Rundle, author of the book “Why There Is Something Rather Than Nothing.” For Rundle, it is simply impossible or absurd for there to have been nothing: “The ‘empty space’ that science talks about is not purely nothing – it is something. We think we can only make sense of the empty space. But that’s, unfortunately, not nothing.”
Then also, Robert Kuhn solicited a response from John Leslie, philosopher and co-editor of the book, “The Mystery of Existence: Why Is There Anything At All.”
Leslie explains: “I don’t think it would be possible to say, for example, quantum physics tells us that it’s likely that a blank or ‘nothing’ would fluctuate into a real world...(The reason perhaps why quantum physics prefers for ‘nothing’ rather than ‘something’) is because ‘nothing’ is simpler, rather than ‘something’. With ‘nothing’, you don’t have to explain...However, you’ve overlooked the fact that there’s an infinite richness of truths about possibilities which is bound to exist, even if no actual things exist. So it’s impossible to have purely ‘nothing’, because you always have possibilities.”
This myriad of possibilities, according to Leslie, is grounded on intrinsic ethical value, which leads to the ethical requirement of consciousness:
“At the end of the day, I believe some things are better than other things. If you want to understand why the universe exists, you ought to take seriously Plato’s notion that it exists because it’s better that it exists than not, that there was an ethical requirement that a good world exists, and that our world, for all its bad sides, is something good. The supreme good would itself be the existence of something which was infinitely wide ranging in its consciousness. What’s ethically required is a good situation, and the good situation is a situation in which there’s going to be consciousness. In the end, consciousness is the only thing which has any value, either positive or negative. So, it’s the fact that there’s this possibility of having a good situation of consciousness, which leads to the requirement that it should actually exist, and the requirement just wouldn’t be there unless it were true that there’s a possibility of the good of the consciousness existing.”
In brief, for Leslie, the reason there is something rather than nothing is that it is good that something exists.
On the whole, from the different contentions gathered on the enigmatic query, “Why is there something rather than nothing?”, Closer To Truth host Robert Kuhn summarized the answers, thus: one, because “nothing” is absurd; two, because no explanation is needed; three, because of chance; four, because value or perfection is ultimate, and; five, because consciousness is ultimate.
Kuhn rejects numbers one and two answers, claiming that “nothing” is not absurd and that an explanation is imperative. With regard to number three, Kuhn reasons out that “chance can explain why we are here, but not why there is anything at all.”.
Then, with number four, “value or perfection”, Kuhn finds it somehow lacking or begging another question, “where is its creating power?”
Finally, Kuhn picks number five, “consciousness”, his favoured answer and resolutely avers that the reason why should an ethereal God or cosmic consciousness have self-existence is “because something does exist, there must be something that is self-existing, in that its essence is its existence.”
Very well said, Robert Kuhn, I couldn’t agree more.
I must infer that while the metaphysical, or cosmological, imperative for a “self-existing supreme source of everything” might apply to the laws of physics, such has been likewise the traditional description of God. It is worth recalling thus from my philosophy studies back in the seminary that, among others, God is the “unmoved mover and uncaused cause” of everything (St. Thomas Aquinas) and is the “being none other than which can be conceived” (St. Anselm).
Again, why is there something rather than nothing? Because it is good that something exists rather than nothing. Ens est unum, verum, bonum, pulchrum. Being is one, true, good, and beautiful. And God, who is the supreme self-existing (whose essence is its existence) substance or being, is but the be-all and end-all of existence, of everything.