Here we go again. This will be tedious, I’m sure of it. Maybe he thought he was going to get me into a rhetorical headlock. This particular sectarian asked me, “From what did everything originate?”
The grammar is the give away: This guy won’t stop until he’s beaten the last dead horse.
I end up answering with an impassive sounding, “Um, I don’t know. I suppose you’re going to tell me?” I think that is a fair answer. I mean, seriously, how the hell would I know?
Pressing on, he blurts out, “Well, it was either something or nothing!”
Aha! Well, now my interest is piqued, since he stopped being boring. “That is an excellent statement! Everything came from something or from nothing!” Just brilliant!
To be totally honest, it wasn’t that excellent. Not really. But I add, patronizing him a little and echoing my own inner sarcastic child, “Oh yes, it was indeed either ‘something’ or ‘nothing’. So…now what? Don’t you think we’re right back where we started?”
Truth is, I hate riddles and crossword puzzles. Solving someone else’s questions gives no insight. After solving some abstraction, what do I have? Less than nothing. All that time spent figuring out, for instance, that Gentiuno is a city in Spain 1 just to get “12 down” and to figure out that the third letter of “15 across” is “t”? No thank you. I’m left a bit spent and still having no clue about the significance of the place.
So with this.
Don’t kid yourself. These “ontological” arguments — about the origin of the universe and so on — are always, always religious in nature and so necessarily dishonest as a result. I can’t be expected to deduce some purportedly “logical” answer to an overtly physical problem, neither by following a philosophical argument nor by formulating and subsequently solving some logical riddle, especially a riddle so bluntly, overtly sympathetic to a pet hypothesis! How is this any better than convincing myself of what I already think! I still wouldn’t actually know anything! I wouldn’t even know where my knowledge ended and ignorance began. I’m aggravated (can you tell?) that someone would press me on something so obviously stupid.
In any case, I think that I personally cannot discover any reason for the existence of matter, whether from “something” as yet undiscovered or from “nothing”. Both raise more divergent questions than thought-provoking answers: If the universe and everything in it (the “container” view of “universe”) came from nothing, I am still left to discover how that happened. What was the process? What were the circumstances? Was it nothing in the usual sense of the word? If the universe came from something, how can I test against that and discover the properties of that something? And this guy thinks he is proving the existence of an abstraction like “god”?
Wishful thinking does not — cannot — do any work. I know this much. And the methods of classical philosophy only work to show me whether or not my question is valid and, anyway, philosophy doesn’t actually answer any questions! Sorry to break it to you.
The universe is physical. An investigation is required. If you really want to know, that is.
- Just kidding. ↩