Philosophy-Part I-Why is there something and not nothing?

Stars in the night

Big Bang World View, Part I of IV—Why is there something and not nothing?

Philosophy, defined, is “the love of wisdom.” But the definition and real use of the term are no longer really equally yoked. Philosophy, in today’s terms, is more about a person’s world view. There is Eastern philosophy, Western philosophy, Christian philosophy, and Secular philosophy; and there is pre-Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment philosophy. Philosophy today is better defined as the disciplined attempt to articulate and defend a particular worldview. And a worldview is a person’s general conception of the universe.

The worldview prior to Rene Descartes was generally based on a Biblical narrative. Though there were some who didn’t see the Bible as authoritative, most explained the universe in Biblical terms–God created the heavens and the Earth. After Descartes and his emphasis on “reason,” you could use the Biblical narrative or not; it was possible, though not easy, to see the universe without the God of Genesis at the helm. Then in the 1800’s, after Darwin and his theories of survival of the fittest and evolution, the universe and many people’s worldview could exist without God and without the Bible narrative. Today, in most places familiar to Europeans, Africans, and Americans two world views dominate: The Big Bang theory defended by many scientists and some version of Biblical Creation.

A person’s world view should contain the following: Why is there something and not nothing? What has happened and is broken in the world? Is there any hope, and if so, what is it? And, where is history headed? Let’s begin with why is there something and not nothing?

All systems of thought include a belief in something that is self-sufficient, something not dependent on anything else. In Christianity, it’s the Biblical God; In Hinduism, it’s Brahma; in Islam, it’s Allah; in the Greek and Roman cultures, it’s polytheism—a multitude of gods. In the secular realm, there is always something that is divine in the sense that something is not depending on anything else, such as: Plato’s form of the Good, Aristotle’s Prime Mover, Spinoza’s Nature, Kant’s Noumenal, and Hegel’s Absolute. In the epistemological sphere, philosophers typically acknowledge human reason as self-sufficient in the sense that it requires no justification from anything more ultimate than itself. And with science’s Big Bang theory—it’s energy (Fame,2015).

Let’s take a closer look at the Big Bang. Like other world views it has its ultimate, its beginning, its prime mover and absolute; and it’s called—energy. Where this energy comes from is unknown; thus it’s self-sufficient. It’s why there is something and not nothing. At some point in the past, and possibly many times in the distant past, this energy collapses upon itself, converting energy to mass. In an indescribable event it converts energy to mass and mass to energy according to Einstein’s E=MC2 equation. It’s fun to do the math. If the units are calories and pounds, one pound of matter comes from 9.743×1015 calories of energy; and the universe is supposed to have a mass of 3×1028 kilograms. On a side note, the measurable mass of the universe is only about 5% of the theoretical total. Somehow, to make the math balance out, there needs to be 95% more stuff—they call it dark matter and dark energy, and there needs to be 68% dark matter and 27% dark energy, to quote a NASA document. Curious. (Reference).

In our special universe, energy is converted into hundreds of different subatomic particles and these particles can be built from three fundamental particles: quarks, leptons, and bosons. And there is matter and antimatter; thus there are antiquarks, antileptons, and antibozons, too. We have only recently found that these particles even exist, much less what all their properties are or why energy transforms itself into these particles and not something else.

Quarks in the correct combination produce protons and neutrons, and we are told there are strong and weak nuclear forces (bosons) holding these sub-atomic particles from either collapsing in on each other or flying apart. Being positively charged, protons should repel each other, but in the nucleus they don’t; they are held together by mesons, the nuclear glue. Electrons (one of six types of leptons) should spiral in on the nucleus because of their attracting charges, but they don’t.

Two of the four forces in nature are posited but have not been detected—the W particle (the smallest unit for the weak nuclear force), and the graviton (the quantum unit for the force of gravity). These forces are the basis of all things, but all we can do is guess at their existence because we see their effects. In science, evidently, it really is acceptable to guess: to say, according to what we think we see, there must be these particles or these forces or this missing mass, or this missing energy. But evidently it’s not the same to say, I see this entire amazing universe, and it looks like there is order and intelligence behind it all, and thus—there is a god. One is acceptable in our politically correct society, one is not.

We are much more familiar with protons, neutrons, and electrons. There are approximately 92 relatively stable combinations, 92 elements we find in nature. We have created more in the laboratory; however, they are unstable and decay. The study of these amazing elements has engrossed scientists for centuries. They are so systematic, so regular, so predictable that we knew there were elements we hadn’t discovered because we knew what properties they should have. How and why did all the quarks and electrons arrange themselves into these orderly, predictable elements? Is it just chance or trial and error or probabilities?

Elements then, form a multitude of compounds, usually classified as organic and inorganic (carbon based, and non-carbon based). In the right combinations we make everything from steel to fertilizers, and cell phones and computers. We know many of the “laws” of chemical bonding, and it’s horribly complex. Many reactions are temperature dependent, concentration dependent, pressure dependent, or need catalysts to initiate the reaction. How did these physical properties come to be? Was it all just chance or the natural selection of millions of different combinations?

Chemical compounds like CO2, PO4, and H2O can be combined with the help of something living, into organic compounds such as sugar, carbohydrates, and proteins. Though it has never been done in a laboratory, these compounds were supposedly in an adequate supply billions of years ago and in concentrations and in environments that allowed for their spontaneous reaction; they produced molecules that came “alive” and could spontaneously reproduce themselves. This step has never been reproduced in a laboratory—molecules have never “come to life”.

This leap—from inanimate to animate—is truly a miracle. We cannot replicate this in any experiment, not even the simplest forms—viruses and bacteria. We study them; we use them; we can determine their composition and genetic sequences; we can clone them, but we are powerless when it comes to creating them.

Have you ever seen a picture of a DNA helix? It’s majestic. I’m sure you will agree that the DNA molecules are beautifully complex, yet simple. Four proteins in various orders code for every living thing on earth. They are the blue prints to everything from bacteria to Brahma bulls. There are thousands of chemical reactions that happen in a lowly cell and thousands of complicated steps in making organs and thousands more to make organ systems.

These organs produce people with the ability to think and see and taste and imagine. We even dream of exploring the rest of this gigantic universe we find ourselves in, a universe supposedly made from the random, non-thinking, accumulation of trial and error, initiated in an impersonal Big Bang, from self-sufficient energy. And yet, many scientists say confidently, the universe is made of 95% more mass and energy than we can see, test, or detect.

In the Biblical narrative all anyone needs to believe in is, one miracle, one thing that can’t be explained—that there is a God—and is endowed with great power and intelligence, and He created an amazing universe. But with the Big Bang theory, there is unexplained miracle after miracle after miracle called random chance taking place over billions of years that someone has to believe in, and we still don’t really know how it all works.

Which world view is really easier to believe in?

Fame, John, M. A History of Western Philosophy and Theology. P&R Publishing, Phillipsburg, New Jersey. 2015.


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