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Nothing Doesn’t Exist

nothingHow did the universe emerge from nothing? It is irrelevant to the cosmological argument whether the universe is expanding, cyclical, oscillating, or suspended on the back of an immense turtle hurtling though space. The premises of the argument address what occurred before the Plank epoch. They are not so much concerned with the nature of the universe but its genesis.

The expanding universe in which we live is contingent upon a cause but that contingency does not necessarily apply to the fabric of the universe itself. Hubble’s observations indicate an expanding universe and from this we can extrapolate an ever shrinking universe into the past until we arrive at what?

Nothing: What does it mean?

The indefinite pronoun is usually defined as “the absence of anything.” It is an indefinite pronoun that refers to something. The proper noun Santa Claus pertains to a jolly, bearded, rotund man with an ability to annually pervert time but it does not follow that the referent exists. The sentence “there is nothing in the room,” posits not that there is no air, photons, or quantum particles in the room. In this sentence “nothing” refers to a mutually understood absence of a particular property–namely furniture. It is not meant to signify true nothingness.

Particles and antiparticles spontaneously form and annihilate each other while maintaining the first law of thermodynamics through quantum fluctuations. The Quantum Electrodynamic vacuum contains no matter particles and no photons. Throughout the vacuum, the average value of electric and magnetic fields are zero but the individual fluctuations are not. There is a temporal change in the energy at a given point in space, allowing the creation of particle/antiparticle virtual pairs which are measurable in the charge of the electron. Quantum processes can inexorably drive an empty universe into one that is dominated by matter. The Quantum Electrodynamic vacuum is perhaps as close as we can get to the abyss, but it cannot be described as nothing.

The particular configuration of the universe in which we live may not be necessary. It is contingent upon numerous events taking place, but it does not follow that the same can be applied to the energy that makes up that universe or to the quantum vacuum from which it might have begun its expansion.

If the universe is defined as “everything that exists”, then it must include the quantum vacuum that exists independently of planets and solar systems etc. The quantum vacuum arguably exists independently of space and time which were both created in the early stages of expansion (if General Relativity is correct.)

This is of course theoretical.  My point is not to argue that this is definitively the answer to the origin of the universe. My knowledge of physics is inadequate to understand it, let alone defend it. My interest is only in showing that the premise “the universe does not exist out of necessity,” rests upon numerous presumptions and is, at the very least, questionable. It is certainly not certain enough to function as an adequate premise.



Published inThe Cosmological Argument