Why existence? Why is there something rather than nothing? Why are we even here at all.We know a lot about the “how” and the “What” of our existence, but we don’t know much about the “why” of our existence…yet it may be the most important question of all, maybe even the most important question in the Universe.
Why are we here? Most people in the world believe that God created the universe. Many religions explain the “why” of existence in some variation of the anthropic principle, that is, a universe made for the special existence of human beings, or of earth.
But, it is possible if not inevitable that we will find life elsewhere in the Universe, and these explanations will not be complete. So for the moment, let’s explore explanations that could be applied regardless of the existence of God.
SoLet’s first look at what we have – we have a Universe with sentient conscious beings – us – that are here asking this question. These beings have determined that the Universe seems to obey a certain set of laws using the principles of mathematics.
Laws like Newton’s law of gravity. Einstein’s laws of relativity. And Max Plank’s laws of quantum physics. We know this because our experiments have consistently shown this to be true.
So now we can ask the question, why are there these laws? Why not some other laws? Are these laws just arbitrary – meaning they exist only in this Universe. And a different set of laws could exist in an alternate universe.
Could other laws have existed if we had been in a different Universe? Why are there any laws at all? Why not no laws? And why should these laws be able to be expressed in mathematics – a language that we mere humans happen to comprehend?
To answer this, I am going to borrow shamelessly from Jim Holt’s Ted talk on why the universe exists. I encourage you to check it out.
The simplest form of existence would be nothing. What could be simpler than that? There would be no matter, no energy, no entropy, no time, no laws, no nothing.
You would not need much to describe it. It would be simple. And guess what, we wouldn’t be here to ask this question. So clearly the Universe is not nothing. It is definitely something, because I am here. You are here.
On the other end of the simplicity scale, would be the most complex universe imaginable. This could be a universe that doesn’t have a set of laws. It would be completely chaotic, unpredictable laws that we could not figure out, appearing not to follow anyset of rules that we could decipher.
In such a Universe, could life exist? Probably not. Life as we know it, needs some stability. It needs some basic properties that are consistent over time. Time needs to exist in it so that events can take place. It needs energy that can be used by living things to grow…and thrive…and reproduce.
Somewhere in between the simplicity of nothing, and complete chaos exists our universe. It is not particularly elegant or special. There are lots of big things we don’t understand such as dark energy, dark matter, gravity. Our mathematics, so far, can’t answer all our questions. There is suffering. There is disease. There is death.
This world is not a heaven — where there is no suffering for sentient beings. It is also not a world with all misery either. There are plenty of awe-inspiring things to be happy about. There is love. There is generosity. There is happiness too. So our universe is somewhere in between nothing and total chaos. Total bliss and complete misery.
And if we did happen to be in a Universe with total bliss or total misery – would we even want to live in it? Would we really have a purpose?
And if you consider that we probably would not exist in the extreme ends of the spectrum of all the possible universes we could live in, there are an infinite number of universes in between total simplicity and complete chaos, and in between total bliss and total misery.
It is possible that existence is inevitable, that “nothing” is not possible, or highly unlikely. And if that is the case, then the mediocre, non-special universe we live in should be expected.
And specifically it exists for us because we have the consciousness, the intelligence, the awareness and the privilege be here to ask the question of why are we here.