xiii The purpose of this book is simple. I want to show how modern science, in various guises, can address and is addressing the question of why there is something rather than nothing: the answers that have been obtained - from staggeringly beautiful experimental observations, as well as from theories that underlie much of modern physics - all suggests that getting something from nothing is not a problem. Indeed, something from nothing may have been required for the universe to come into being. Moreover, all signs suggest that this is how our universe could have arisen.
xvii Our search will take us on a whirlwind tour to the farthest reaches of our expanding universe, from the earliest moments of the big bang to the far future, and will include perhaps the most surprising discovery in physics in the past century. Indeed, the immediate motivation for writing this book is a profound discovery about the universe that has driven my own scientific research for most of the past three decades and that has resulted in the startling conclusion that most of the energy in the universe resides in some mysterious, now inexplicable form permeating all of empty space. It is not an understatement to say that this discovery has changed the playing field of modern cosmology. For one thing, this discovery has produced remarkable new support for the idea that our universe arose from precisely nothing. It has also provoked us to rethink both a host of assumptions about the processes that might govern its evolution and, ultimately, the question of whether the very laws of nature are truly fundamental.
138 Maybe our universe is rather like a tear buried in a vast multiversal ocean of possibilities.
139 If we wish to draw philosophical conclusions about our own existence, our significance, and the significance of the universe itself, our conclusion should be based on empirical knowledge. A truly open mind means forcing our imagination to conform to the evidence of reality, and not vice versa, whether or not we like the implications.
153 The existence of energy in empty space… reinforces something about the quantum world that was already well established: Empty space is complicated. It is a boiling brew of virtual particles that pop-up in and out of existence in a time so short we cannot see them directly.
Virtual particles are manifestations of a basic property of quantum systems.
At the heart of quantum mechanics is a rule that sometimes governs politicians - as long as no one is watching, anything goes. Systems continue to move, if just momentarily, between all possible states, including states that would not be allowed if the system were actually being measured. These „quantum fluctuations“ implies something essential about the quantum world: nothing always produces something, if only for an instant.
159 Frank Wilczek: the matter-antimatter asymmetry - after describing how a matter-antimatter asymmetry might plausibly be generated in the early universe based on our new understanding of particle physics, he added a note that this provided one way of thinking about the answer to the question of why there is something rather than nothing: nothing is unstable.
161 The relevant "nothing" from which our observed "something arises" is "empty space". However, once we allow for the merging of quantum mechanics and general relativity, we can extend this argument to the case where space itself is forced into existence. Quantum mechanical systems explore all possible trajectories, even those that are classically forbidden, as they evolve in time.
171 Chapt. 11: Brave New Worlds
Boe: the God problem - the creator problem - Machersyndrom
The central problem with the notion of creation is that it appears to require some externality, something outside of the system itself, to preexistent, in order to create the conditions necessary for the system to come into being. This is usually where the notion of God - some external agency existing separate from space, time, and indeed from physical reality itself - comes in, because the buck seems to be required to stop somewhere. But in this sense God seems to me to be a rather facile semantic solution to the deep question of creation.
Boe: conditioned coproduction!
172 All of the examples I have provided thus far indeed involve creation of something from what one should be tempted to consider as nothing, but the rules for that creation, i.e., balls of physics, were preordained. Where do the rules come from?
Boe: the cause of causes!
The problem with God determining the rules is that you can at least ask what, or who, determined God's rules. Traditionally the response to this is to say that God is, among the creators many other spectacular attributes, the cause of all causes, in the language of the Roman Catholic Church, or the First Cause (as per Aquinas), or in the language of Aristotle, moving the prime mover.
Interestingly, Aristotle recognised the problem of a first cause, and decided that for this reason the universe must be eternal. Moreover, God himself, whom he identified as pure self-absorbed thought, the love of which motivated the prime mover to move, had to be eternal, not causing motion by creating it, but rather by establishing the end purpose of motion, which itself Aristotle deemed to be eternal.
173 The apparant logical necessity of first cause is a real issue for any universe that has a beginning. Therefore, on the basis of logic alone one cannot rule out such a deistic view of nature. But even in this case it is vital to realise that this deity bears no logical connection to the personal deities of the world's great religions, in spite of the fact that it is often used to justify them.
These issues have been debated and discussed for millennia. We can return to these issues now because we are simply better informed by our knowledge of the nature of physical reality. Neither Aristotle nor Aquinas knew about the existence of our galaxy, much less the big bang or quantum mechanics. Hence the issues they and later mediaeval philosophers grappled with must be interpreted and understood in the light of new knowledge.
Boe: Ex nihilo nihil fit
174 The metaphysical rule which is held as an ironclad conviction by those with whom I have debated the issue of creation, namely that „ out of nothing nothing comes“has no foundation in science. Arguing that it is self-evident, and unassailable is like arguing, as Darwin falsely did, when he made the suggestion that the origin of life was beyond the domain of science by building an analogy with the incorrect claim that matter cannot be created or destroyed. All it represents is an unwillingness to recognise the simple fact that nature may be cleverer than philosophers or theologians.
Moreover, those who argue that out of nothing nothing comes seem perfectly content with the quixotic notion that somehow God can get around this. But once again, if one requires that the notion of true nothingness requires not even the potential for existence, then surely God cannot work his wonders, because if he does cause existence from nonexistence, there must have been the potential for existence. To simply argue that God can do what nature cannot is to argue that supranational potential for existence is somehow different from regular natural potential for existence.
175 Our modern understanding of the universe provides another plausible and, I would argue, far more physical solution to this problem, however, which has some of the same features of an external creator - and moreover is logically more consistent. I refer here to the multiverse. The possibility that our universe is one of a large, even possibly infinite set of distinct and causally separated universes, in each of which any number of fundamental aspects of physical reality may be different, opens up a vast new possibility of understanding our existence.
178 The universe is far stranger and far richer - more wondrously strange - than our meagre human imaginations can anticipate. Modern cosmology has driven us to consider ideas that could not even have been formulated a century ago. The greatest discoveries of the 20th and 21st centuries have not only changed the world in which we operate,they have revolutionized our understanding of the world - or worlds - that exist, or may exist, just under our noses: the reality that lies hidden until we are brave enough to search through it. This is why philosophy and theology are ultimately incapable of addressing by themselves the truly fundamental questions that perplex us about our existence. Until we open our eyes and let nature call the shots, we are bound to wallow in myopia.
Why is there something rather than nothing? Ultimately, this question may be no more significant or profound than asking why some flowers are red and some are blue. „Something“ may always come from nothing. It may be required, independent of the underlying nature of reality. Or perhaps „something“ may not be very special or even very common in the multiverse. Either way, what is really useful is not pondering this question, but rather participating in the exciting voyage of discovery that may reveal specifically how the universe in which we live evolved and is evolving and the processes that ultimately operationally govern our existence. That is why we have science. We may supplement this understanding with a reflection and call that philosophy.
Boe: processes - from ontology to "Whitehead". vgl. Luhmann- alteuropäisches Denken
Boe: the search of Meaning. What is Meaning?
...operationally addressing the deepest questions that have existed since we humans took our first tentative steps to understand who we are and where we come from.
181 Epilogue: A universe without purpose or guidance may seem, for some, to make life itself meaningless. For others, including me, such a universe is invigorating. It makes the fact of our existence even more amazing, and it motivates us to draw meaning from our own actions and to make the most of our brief existence in the sun, simply because we are here, blessed with consciousness and with the opportunity to do so. What we would like for the universe is irrelevant. What ever happened, happened and it happens on a cosmic scale. And what ever is about to happen on that scale will happen independent of our likes and dislikes. We cannot affect the former, and we are unlikely to affect the latter.
What we can do, however, is try to understand the circumstances of our existence. I have described in this book one of the most remarkable journeys of exploration humanity has ever taken in its evolutionary history. It is an epic quest to explore and understand the cosmos and scales that simply were unknown a century ago.
I have always been attracted to the myth of Sisyphus and have likened the scientific effort at times to his eternal task of pushing a boulder up the mountain, only to have it fall back each time before he reaches the top. As Camus imagined, Sisyphus was smiling, and so should we. Our journey, whatever the outcome, provides its own reward. The phenomenal progress we have made in the past century has brought us to the cusp, as scientists, of operationally addressing the deepest questions that have existed since we humans took our first tentative steps to understand who we are and where we come from.
Boe: Beobachtung Dritter Ordnung