Why is There Something Rather than Nothing? The Only Six Options

by C Michael Patton

Someone has once rightly said that this is the most basic philosophical question that there is: “Why is there something rather than nothing?”

As far as I can tell, there are only six options:

1. The universe is eternal and everything has always existed.

Everything has existed for eternity. As far back as  one can go into the past, there is still an infinite amount of time which preceded it. The sum total of the universe is inclusive of an infinite succession of events and moments going backward.

Why this is wrong

An infinite number of temporal events going into the past is a formal absurdity. Going backward, no matter how far you travel in time, you would always have an infinity to go. Going forward, we would never get to the present moment because we would have an infinite amount of time and causes and effects to traverse to get here. It would be like asking of a man who is jumping out of an infinitely deep hole, when would he get out? The answer is never. There is no starting point from which to jump.  Or, better, it would be like someone walking down the street and you heard him counting down… “negative 5, negative 4, negative 3, negative 2, negative 1, zero!” And you said, “What are you doing?” And he responds, “I just got done counting to zero from negative infinity!” That would be a logical absurdity.

Even most atheists, since the early 20th century, now believe that there was a singular moment when all things came into existence called the big bang. Some have even proposed a multi-verse theory where our universe came out of another universe. But this only pushes it back one level. Where did that universe come from unless it is transcendent?

2. Nothing exists and all is an illusion

Everything you hear, see, do, or think does not really exist. There is no reality. There is not something. There is only nothing.

Why this is wrong

This proposition, it should be obvious, is completely self-defeating. In order to even make such a proposition, the subject has to exist in some sense. If all is an illusion, where did the illusion come from? If another illusion produced the illusion, then where did that illusion come from. In other words, there is something, namely the illusion.

Even the solipsist, who does not believe in the existence of other minds, has to explain the genesis of his own mind.

3. The universe created itself

This is the idea that the universe and all that is in it did not have its origin in something outside itself, but from within. The universe did come into being, but it came from itself. It is self-created. Here, we may suppose that while we don’t understand how this could happen, advancements in scientific theory will eventually produce an answer…


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