Where Did the Universe Come From?
14-Jan-2009

Well, I'm in trouble if this is the easiest category. This project may be nothing more than writing about myself.

I am not a religious person. I not sure about the "A" word, as my disagreement is more with dogmatic faith and proselytizing, rather than spirituality, tho I certainly find no evidence of the existence of the underpinnings of certain modern and ancient traditions. (There are some aspects of paganism and animism that are more compatible with my spirituality, such as simply attempting to be more in tune with the rhythms of the earth). I'm not bothered by the prospect that there is nothing, even the prospect that conscious will and spirituality are illusions, and that we are mechanistic protein robots in the Laplacian sense ("reductionist"; uh oh, the "R" word). If that's the way it is; if that's where the evidence leads, so be it.

Creationism

I might say to a Creationist that I don't believe in "God". The Creationist may say to me, well, "where did the universe come from"? I would likely say, well, "were did God come from"?

The Creationist would likely throw up a faith anchor or axiom by responding: "God just is", and, rightly so in a faith-based belief system, need not respond further.

I could rightly counter, well "the universe came from the Big Bang, and the Big Bang just is", and be done with it. (It is not controversial among cosmetologists that the evidence indicates a Big Bang-like Event 1 event, and I don't intend to visit that further; the point being that I am not accepting that event on faith, but on peer-reviewed evidence).

This seems an entirely valid, yet totally unsatisfying answer. Of course the interesting question is, "where, scientifically, did the Big Bang come from"? (If you answer without science, you answer with an axiom ("God" in many cases), and are done).

Semantics and other Wacky Answers

Another answer, at least among some atheists I guess, is that "the universe/Big Bang is god, and that's it". Its just a manner of semantics, and construction of the term "god/God". Sometimes you even here modern "technical types" refer to "the universe" in the same contexts that a more religious person might use the term "God". To me, this is also axiomatic and the same as the Creationist answer. You could even argue for the biological need for a "god", and some people fill that with Christian-like religions, whereas other "faithless" people fill it with "the universe". (This, unfortunately, gets us no closer except to suggest that the universe is a metaphor for a biologically-mandated god belief in some).

You could argue that the question as posed is loaded, fallaciously worded. The question as worded presumes the universe had to come from somewhere. Maybe it didn't. Bad question. Perhaps it just is. I would say this is the "Zen" answer, and clearly the same as above and the Creationist answer.

We could speculate that the universe, our existence, etc., is an illusion (and perhaps other questions in the book will deal with this), and thus the question has no meaning, as there is no universe at all. Any explanation in this class could be called a "wacky answer" (as would, "my Uncle Willie created it"), and I'm not interested in wacky answers for which there is no evidence. Any wacky answer comes down to a different sort of faith anchor, and is thus categorically the same as the Creationist answer, just with different details. The only difference is that less people have been convinced to believe it over time.

Nothing is Satisifying

All of this is unsatisfying as rational people have a need to know what is behind the Big Bang. Every single answer above boils down to "I don't know, nowhere, or I'll believe whatever mythology my culture happens to make up (all myths being nothing more than "Uncle Willie" stories)".

It seems reasonable to suggest that "nothing" is a decent answer. That is, there is nothing outside the universe, it came from nothing, and time did not exist before the Big Bang. What I like about this is that evolution has not developed us to deal well with the concept of "nothing" (we don't ever encounter it in our day to day life, it makes no sense, evolution has programmed us with a sense of time, etc), and thus we can't get our mind around what it is.

What I don't like about it is that it sounds alot like the Zen answer; the difference being that the Zen answer questioned the meaningfulness of the question -- this answer asks us to accept a physical concept of nothing, that which, in theory, can be verified experimentally someday (it is difficult to imagine how a test for the void would go; that does not mean it is not possible). It is better than an Uncle Willie story such as this god or that God, but still asks for faith in the absence of evidence; specifically it asks us to disbelieve every Uncle Willie story rather than pick a particular one to believe on faith. I personally find that much more satisfying.

So, my answer is "nothing". I can't prove it, and I am evolutionarily and experientially ill-equipped to deal with the concept, but that doesn't mean it isn't true and unscientifically verifiable someday, unlike some faith-based Uncle Willie stories by definition, and unlike others that (on faith) have less of a probability of being correct. That is, I find it more probable that "nothing" is right than "Uncle Willie created it", and find "God X created it" in that same class. OTOH, I believe I am evolutionarily conditioned to believe in one or another Uncle Willie stories promulgated by culture; which one simply depends on the culture I was born into, by chance. You can't escape faith anchors, can you?

Black Holes and Speculations

It is interesting to speculate on other physical answers. Perhaps all the matter that goes into black holes is cycled, by a completely physical process, into Event 1 "Big Bangs" that are new universes. Science fiction is filled with such ideas. Thus our Big Bang is the backend of some black hole in some other place. I would throw into this class of ideas matter-recycling on the micro level (extremely small universes relative to us), mobiusness, multiple dimensions, etc.). It even seems plausible to physically verify any of the myriad of ideas along these lines someday. An endless cycling/recycling of matter (entropy-free at the macro level); the piece we see we happen to call "the universe"; the Big Bang just being one of the sort of normal events in that process, perhaps the "Big Crunch" will be another.

I suspect one of these sorts of answers is right, but it doesn't change the question, does it? You are left with -- "where did that whole system come from, and what is outside of it?". Same question, same answer: nothing. (Uncle Willie did not come up with it over a fine, single malt scotch, nor did Quetzalcoatl).

'I Don't Know' is an Acceptable Answer if You Word it Pretentiously

I think we get fouled up by being used to time and space. There is always something behind that mountain. There is always a before, a now, and an after. Those who evolved without these frame of references quickly became extinct, as while perhaps they could deal with the nothingness beyond, they couldn't survive the Earth. Tho the question doesn't require a before/outside the creation, it is impossible (at least for me, to not think in those terms). But who says there has to be? Just because it cannot be conceived easily, doesn't mean it ain't the answer.

So, "nothing" is better than picking an unverifiable story at random. If we get more evidence, we'll pick the story indicated by it.

Well, if brevity is the soul of wit, I have failed. This is the first one; after I look at his answer and how he answers them, hopefully I will get better at it, tho I am not optimistic. (Ok, god that sucked didn't it!). I spent alot of time re-arranging words and coming up more or less a different creation myth, with the dubious suggestion that perhaps the void can be physically verified. And yes, I realise we are interested in how we think about the answers, not getting the right answer, but that's fun, ain't it?

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