Do you ever think about how weird everything is? Just consider the human body alone. Your body is made up of trillions of hyper-organized, microscopic living cells, each of which is programmed to perform a specific function to support your survival. Every one of these cells is made of anywhere from millions to over a trillion molecules, each of those molecules made of atoms bonded to each other through electromagnetic forces, each of those atoms made of electrons and a nucleus, each of those atomic nuclei made of protons and neutrons, each of those protons and neutrons made of quarks, and each one of those quarks and electrons is a fundamental particle that is nothing more than a quantized energy fluctuation in their respective quantum field that permeates all of space. In other words, you are energy in relationship with itself.
What sort of new-age, drug trip of a reality are we living in?
Everything is weird. And yet, everything is normal, because it’s everything. Since there is nothing to compare everything to, everything is always both weird and normal all at once. If there were something to compare everything to, then everything would cease to be everything, and would instead be only a subset of everything. Every concept we as humans have about the world is in relation to another concept. We cannot define anything without defining it in terms of something that’s already been defined. In describing the physical makeup of the human body, I must relate everything in terms of simpler building blocks, which I must relate further in terms of building blocks beyond those building blocks. Continuing this process may soon lead one to wonder if everything can be broken down infinitely forever into simpler and simpler things, or if instead there is some ultimate backbone of reality that gives rise to everything else.
As a kid, I did what all kids do: I asked why, and whoever I was asking would give their best answer, to which I would then follow up with the same question: why. This would continue until my poor mother, father, sister, or whoever it happened to be eventually gave up and told me, essentially, that it was “because God (fill in the blank).” After that, there could be no more asking why, because I understood that God was that ultimate foundation, that thing which could not be defined in terms of another thing, and so asking why of God wouldn’t have made sense. God simply is; there is no external reason for God.
But let’s get really philosophical here. Let’s define everything as the set of all things that exist. Now consider this question: why does everything exist? We can take any subset of things within the “everything” set and show why it exists in terms of other subsets of “everything,” but when asked to show why the entire “everything” set exists, we are ultimately at a loss to do so. Anything we invoke as the cause for the “everything” set’s existence requires us to invent something that exists outside of the “everything” set, meaning that the “everything” set would no longer be the set of all that exists, and it would have to expand to include the thing we just invented in order to still be considered the “everything” set. Thus, we would be back where we started, trying to explain the existence of the very thing we just invented that was meant to explain the existence of everything else.
Inevitably, this invention must be some sort of “God” concept, whether or not we actually call it God. But if we say that God is the creator of all that exists, then all we’ve done is just added God to the set of all that exists, and we must also explain the existence of God. The question then becomes, why does God exist? To get around this question, we have come to define God as that which has no beginning or end, no cause, no reason for existing at all. God simply gives rise to Godself, and is that which cannot be defined in terms of anything else. When we do this, however, we concede to the possibility that not everything need have a cause, thus eliminating the original driving force for our first question, “why does everything exist?” If we simply define the “everything” set as that which has no cause, but instead gives rise to itself, then we save ourselves the extra step of inventing the outside “God” concept. Our “God” concept naturally then becomes tantamount to the “everything” set itself.
Here we’ve reached a wall in our quest to understand the reason for existence. We can trace everything back to this “God” concept, but once we reach that point, we are stuck, and we simply have to accept “because God” as the only answer.
Let’s now consider the real world. Science has shown that the universe had, in some sense, a beginning. The Hubble Space Telescope has allowed us to observe the accelerating expansion of the universe, and using these observations we have mathematically been able to trace everything back in time to when the universe first began its expansion from a single point that contained all the matter and energy of the universe today; a singularity of infinite density. We know what happened as far back as 10 to the power of -43 seconds after this expansion started, but before that is a mystery. In such a state, the very laws of physics themselves break down, meaning there is no predictability in the things we normally take for granted; things like time, cause and effect, and conservation of matter and energy. This is the same state that occurs when a star accumulates so much matter from its own gravitational pull on other things that it becomes heavy enough to collapse in on itself. When this happens, the star becomes a black hole, an infinitesimal point of matter, infinitely dense, with a gravitational field so strong that not even light can escape it; hence the name black hole.
One of the things that Einstein discovered in the last century is that time slows down in the presence of a gravitational field, meaning that here on earth we actually experience time ever so slightly slower than the satellites orbiting the earth. In fact, the satellites responsible for our GPS systems actually must correct for this small discrepancy in time in order to accurately pinpoint our location, something we rely on all the time when using our phones to get us places. In the case of a black hole, the gravitational field is so strong that time actually stops, and the laws of physics break down, exactly the same state from which the universe expanded. Thus, asking the question of what happened “before” the beginning of this expansion, or what “caused” this expansion, must take into account the fact that time did not move before 10 to the power of -43 seconds, nor did the laws of physics apply the way they do now. In the absence of time, before and after and cause and effect are meaningless.
This has led theoretical physicists to suggest that the Big Bang could have happened without a cause, because cause and effect would’ve been nonsensical “before” the Big Bang. All of this has led me to wonder if it is possible that the universe didn’t come from nothing, and rather that something has always existed, just like our “God” concept. Is it even theoretically possible for nothing to exist, for there to be no reality, or must there always be something that exists? Doesn’t the fact of our very own existence imply that we cannot exist if there had once been no reality to give rise to our existence? Is there some law that transcends reality that requires there to be a reality? But why, then, would such a law exist? Is that law not also a part of reality in some sense if it exists?
At some point we seem to be forced to accept the fact that reality just exists, and that any explanation for its existence conceivable by the human mind would require something to exist outside of reality, which is paradoxical, considering that there is nothing “real” that exists outside of reality. If you believe in a god of a particular religion, then you would say that your god is “real,” meaning your god exists within reality; within the “everything” set. And so you must concede that the “everything” set simply exists ultimately without cause, because your god, the subset of “everything” that gives rise to the remaining subset of “everything”, exists without cause.
Any honest search for truth is going to take us places that make us uncomfortable, sometimes places that make us question everything and open up a mystery of existence that we previously took for granted. Unfortunately, I think too many of us, in our need for stability in our worldviews, have the tendency to invoke “because God” too hastily in our search for truth. More than anywhere else, this way of thinking is overwhelmingly proliferous within organized religion, and what it does is it extinguishes the spirit of curiosity and closes the mind to an infinite realm of possibility, discouraging any further inquiry into the nature of reality. Many ancient cultures invoked “because God” (or gods) very early on in their string of asking why, but it was only those who were dissatisfied with the “God” answer, those whose curiosity empowered them to push back the boundary of scientific ignorance, that allowed for the wealth of scientific advancements we see today. How about instead of settling with the curiosity-squelching “because God” response, we continue to ask why with the freedom of allowing the question to linger unanswered; without craving an immediate answer? Just as physicists and chemists in recent history have asked about what gives rise to living cells, to molecules, to individual atoms, and so on, we ought to be doing the same thing today in our search for truth, all the while avoiding the dead-end, unfounded certainty of the god of our particular religion as the reason for everything.
Look around you. Look in the mirror. Look at your face, at your hands. Look at the trees, the animals, the sky, the clouds, the waves of the ocean. Look at the stars, look at the vacuum of space at night. Consider the most fundamental building blocks we know of that make up all of those things, and then think of what might lie even deeper beyond that. Everything is a miracle. Who says that it is normal to exist? Who says that we have any right to take our very existence for granted?
We are, and everything is, and that is the weirdest idea that has ever been fathomed.