AKEN objectively, there’s valid reason to wonder why anything exists at all. Without a first or uncaused cause to get things started, it would seem that an eternal, unchanging state of nonbeing would have ruled, from which nothing at all— time or space, matter or energy, even possibility itself— could ever have emerged.
This is a hard concept to get the mind around. Without a first cause how could anything have or ever would have happened— no one could ever exist. Yet where did this first cause come from? One could say God, or creative divine power, but since any meaningful deity has to work via our natural world this introduces as many challenges as solutions.
For example the God of deism was basically a creator God. According to this concept God was responsible for a first cause or beginning, gets things running, and then turns it all loose. Natural law takes over, which explains why the world seems to be operating according to the laws of physics— cause and effect, etc.
A deistic God is distant and impersonal though, making the concept essentially just an encumbrance. Instead of calling such a prime mover God, why not keep things simple and just say first or uncaused cause. Whatever was at the beginning. A much better concept of God is a life-giving beingness active in and through our natural world— here, now, and always.
If God, or existence, or being, or whatever name you choose is working in and through the natural world and sustaining all of reality, how did itself, and thus anything at all, come to exist? Natural cosmogony, which works with clues revealed by study of nature via observation, science, and logic, is the quest to answer this question.
Scientists are finding that our universe started with a big compression (AKA Big Bang) which, as a boundary of time and space itself, is beyond our concept of normal cause and effect. But our universe still requires impetus and sustenance. From where did these arise? Why was and is there anything at all— ever?
Actually we do know there was not nor is an exclusive, eternal nothingness, a complete and absolute nothingness void of energy or change, time or space, because such a nothingness would have precluded our existence. There must have been something more. The problem is where did this something come from?
Observation suggests that creation moves from simplicity and disorganization to complexity and organization— for example the formation of galaxies and eventually planets and life out of the raw energy of the big bang. The source of everything could have been via something elemental, yet with potential enough to begin and sustain the process.
What we're talking about is a somethingness rather than a nothingness. For lack of a better term the somethingness we’re trying to conceptualize here could be called a primordial existent.
Such an existent would be independent of time and space. In a sense it would be simple and complex, never and forever, here and far, nothing and everything. What it is made of, if anything, is speculative, but what it would be capable of is enabling and sustaining the big compression and all that it brought forth, including us.
Now for the obvious question— from where would such an existent have come?
Because we’re in a realm that’s independent of space, time and therefore causality as we know it, a primordial existent might be something that is everywhere and both internal and external to the universe that we know, and present with or without bangs or space-time continuums. It would in a sense be the stuff of everything.
Nothing Versus Anything
We are drawn to the absolute nothing first for causal reasons (there is nothing, then something is added or created), yet this is meaningless without time; second for its utter simplicity and seeming inherence. Yet we have conceptualized something also relatively basic and simple, albeit perhaps less seemingly-inherent— a universal, primordial existent.
While exclusive nothingness might seem the more inherent— the more likely to just be— that is not the condition that ever was or is, because we are here. On the other hand, without beginning or end, a primordial existent does not need reason or cause, and is elemental enough to be itself inherent and without cause. That may be why there’s anything.
It could be that the nothing attracts because it seems the most simple and therefore the most inherent. But there’s another way of looking at things. While nothing excludes anything, anything does not exclude nothing. Anything then has an inclusive simplicity not readily apparent, and if anything is inherent then an existent is as likely as nothing.
Still as you’re lying in bed at night, reflecting on the day’s events, you might take comfort— or discomfort— in the thought that were it not for uncaused inherence, which you could call divine being, nothing might have ever happened. At the very least— if you love life— when you look up at a dark, clear sky, you can literally thank your lucky stars.
© 2010 Warren Farr for the Unitheist Fellowship — revised 4/11