What does it all mean? This is a question that burbles up from K. & my subconscious minds during our weekly hikes. I’m sure there is also a sprinkling of anxiety in the question as in, “Aagh! I’m going to die someday!” It seems there is something about walking through breathtaking beauty here in the East Bay* that lends itself to thoughts of eternalness and how eternal we are not. Like every other human, K & I have no answers, just lots of theories that are really just ideas and mythology. But we come up with some good questions and discussions.

To whit: Recently the question “Why do I exist?” lead to “Why does anything exist?” which we then rephrased to “Why is there something instead of nothing?” We talked about this and felt that although we don’t believe in God, the everything is so incredibly well-structured, from the universes down through sub-atomic particles, that it is hard not to believe in a consciousness behind it all. It seems that our minds lends itself naturally to this conclusion, that we are somehow preprogrammed to see it in this way. But just because we an inclination toward a belief, it doesn’t mean that it is true. For example, humans are naturally afraid of spiders and snakes, but that doesn’t mean they are the most dangerous encounters we experience. In fact, I (an arachnophobe) have a brain that perceives fare more danger at the sight of a large spider than I do when speeding down the freeway, which statistically is thousands of times more dangerous to me. So, similarly, a propensity to imagine a creator does not mean that is how the universe came to be. Our brains have a propensity for a lot of nonsense, which alternatively is the wonderful world of imagination. (For more on this, see my post on The Science of Superstition).

So, K & I next decided to do a short survey of two people in our lives who also read a lot of non-fiction nerdy stuff and spend some of their idle time pondering these things: H. and K2. I spoke to H. and K spoke with K2. When K & I reconvened, we discovered that H. & K2 had posited similar responses. The basic premise is that since time is an illusion and is actually infinite, it’s a mathematical probability that eventually an ordered universe will emerge. H. also observed that space is infinite as well, so there is plenty of room and well as time for orderliness to evolve. Some of this is explored in Alexander Vilenkin’s book Many Worlds in One (hmm, I guess I never wrote a review on this). Now all that is fine and well, but we still haven’t answered the why-something-instead-of-nothing question. Here K2 & H both venture into Big Bang territory. But why was there a Bang? Theories talk about the Higgs boson, and theorists can talk all they want about a particle emerging from nothingness to cause the bang, but no one can really, really explain how even a particle emerged from nothing. In fact, the only answer is that there NEVER WAS NOTHING. How can this be?

If you’ve done your homework and read any of Stephen Hawkin’s books or Vilenkin’s (mentioned above) or any astrophysicist’s diatribe, the theory is that there is really no time. Or if there is, it is non-linear. When K and I think “non-linear” we immediately think “circle.” K describes it like this: you can put you point on any point of a circle and never conclusively say it is the beginning or the end, for it there is no beginning or end.

To explore this further, we have to go beyond geometry. Time isn’t necessarily a line, or circle, or even a sphere. Perhaps it’s either a total illusion or it has a configuration that we are incapable of imagining because we are only capable of perceiving a linear construct. If there is no beginning or end, then there was never nothing because there never was “never”. K and I contemplated this for a long time, and even though we can say the words and talk about the ideas, we can’t really imagine it. It’s just too damn big and too far from our experiences.

Still, we came to these conclusions:
time is either non-existent or beyond comprehension,
therefore there was always something and will always be something,
therefore something did not come out of nothing.

And as for us, this means that on some level, we will not have a distinct beginning or ending. However, whether we will ever exist on a plane in which we can be experientially conscious of this is another question with no answer.

However, Lewis Black has his own theory.**

Lewis Black – The End of the Universe
Lewis Black Videos Lewis Black Jokes Stark Raving Black Videos

*This links to the East Bay Regional Parks district, the first and largest regional parks system in the country and home to many insanely beautiful hikes.

** Yeah, I know I posted this before, but it’s worth watching again.


2 Responses to “The Origin of Everything”

  1. T.S. on December 29th, 2010 8:46 am

    just got finished reading Hawking’s latest book, “The Grand Design” and indeed he said that something sprang from nothing. But, there is an old latin and metaphysical maxim: “Nihilo Nihilfit” or from nothing comes nothing. Now when you think about it. Humans are essentially “no thing”, but rather, a process. We are constantly emerging everyday and the miracle is that we remember who we are when we awake from sleep and it starts all over again. Just how does this mind form and consciousness from it and we call it “our self” (whatever the hell that is …)? In any case, apparently we are just “passing through” this time space on our way back to non-timespace, which is what there was before space and time emerged at the “start” of every “thing”.

    Sorry about all the quotation marks, but I am using words in an unusual way.

  2. A Book Review from Nothing: review of A Universe from Nothing : the nerge on March 24th, 2012 5:57 pm

    […] this very question quite a bit and wrote about here on The Nerge, mostly it in this post The Origin of Everything. I was very excited when I saw this book and immediately reserved it at the fabulous Oakland […]

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