Chapter 3: Origin of the Universe

There is geometry in the humming of the strings, there is music in the spacing of the spheres. – Pythagoras

            The existence and consistency of the universe is cited by theists as proof of God. This has been done since the philosopher Aquinas, really before and probably long after now. I, too, wish to make this claim, but to do so in a way which builds upon the previous chapters. Generally, theists will try and use scientific assessments of universal order to prove God. Whether this argument bears out, I know not, though I do admit I find it rather persuasive. But there is something both historically and philosophically earlier than the science of this question, a fact I have seen neither atheists nor theists fully put their finger on. This is because a merely scientific answer to the question, “What is the origin of the universe?”, is, I believe, an impossibility.

Science is, you see, the study of the universe. Now, we have small minds, so we have a long way to go. And science has come very far in beginning to tell us about the universe. However, to understand the origin of the universe, science alone is not enough, for science is the business of studying the universe, or empirical reality. When asking, “What is the origin of empirical reality?”, what we are asking is, “What is the origin of the very possibility of science?” Science cannot go past this point. It can only go as far back as empirical reality goes; any farther, and we are no longer doing science, but something else. Now, it may be argued that empirical reality exists in an infinite regression; we do not know that it does, but we also do not know that it does not. I grant that empirical reality may have always existed, but all such a supposition does is more firmly root the answer to “What is the origin of empirical reality?” outside of empirical reality. For then, empirical reality existed always because of something. Why should an infinite regression exist, rather than an empirical reality having a specific beginning, or why does it not have different events making up its infinite regression?

Popular scientists have often, even recently, come out to argue that God is not necessary to explain the origin of the universe. If they were to convince me, they must clearly show me in what way their proof goes past my argument above. If they start with, Well, the laws of the universe made the universe necessary, they miss that the laws are of the universe. Once the law of gravity exists, it is real, present, there. I’m not sure what a pre-Big Bang world looks like, but it existed, I assume, and furthermore, it probably existed in a scientific way. “Big Bang” arguments, “a scientific event created the realm of scientific data,” is an easier argument to disprove for the genuine origin of the universe, because we can ask of it, “Well, what happened before? What caused it?” Arguments which say, “Things can randomly come into existence because of the laws of quantum physics,” or, “The laws of nature made reality possible,” masquerade more easily for philosophical answers to the origin question because they are not, like the Big Bang, a mere chronological occurrence. But by positing these forces as the origin, we have really only moved the location of inquiry, or as philosophers say, begged the question. Laws of the universe, if they exist, exist in the fabric of the universe, for they are, indeed, the origin of many chains of cause. Within the realm of science, these laws look the most philosophical, but they do not truly leave the realm of science in the way the Origin question must. We can ask, “Why are the laws this way, and not some other way? Why should these laws hook up with reality this way, and not differently? And how, for that matter, could they ever come to be at all? What is their origin?”

Science could possibly find a scientific answer and say that the laws of nature come from another thing, say, guidelines of nature, or a special kind of molecule. And for this explanation, they may find yet another scientific origin. But as far back as we go if we stay in the scientific realm of inquiry, we can never really leave it to say, “Here, at last, is the origin of the universe.”

Philosophy can step in at this point and give it a go. It could say that there is an infinite number of realities, all of which exist, and so we just happen to be in this one, or that randomness is at the center of reality, with no need to posit God. Philosophy is, I think, a better contender than science for answering the origin of the universe question. But philosophy, like science, cannot do it alone. Philosophy, like science, is only part of the question. For as humans we use science and philosophy to study the world, and so both must answer the origin of it. Really, think of it: all methods exist in the actual world, the poetic, the historic, the philosophic, and the scientific we discussed in the last chapter are all the means of studying the world. I argued before that since the world is amenable to thought, something like thought must be present in it. On a similar note, I argue that to answer the question, “What is the origin of the universe?” all forms of inquiry must be present. The nature of the thing, whatever it is, that gave rise to the existence of the universe must include beauty, rational solvency, historical presence and scientific, traceable data. Every viable means of knowledge tells us something about the nature of the universe, and by extent the nature of what gave rise to its existence. The Origin question is in this regard, I believe, the most fundamentally interdisciplinary question of all.

Permit me a somewhat imperfect analogy, conceding that all analogies are probably to some degree imperfect. Suppose that you are looking for the beginnings of human psychology, the origin of human psychology. You might study Freud, or Lacan, or Foucault, or Wilhelm Wundt, or any other number of psychologists. You may have many patients come to you and tell you about their lives, and master virtually the entire discourse of psychology. But no matter how long you study human psychology, you will never, as a psychologist doing the work of psychology, come to understand the origin of human psychology. It is only as a scientist, by moving outside of the field of psychology, and learning about human biology, that you can learn about an individual human’s origin, where its psychology first came from. It is only as an evolutionist or a proponent of Intelligent Design, both creatures who study in a different way from the psychologist, that one can answer the total origin of human psychology. Now, this does not invalidate psychology; it does not ruin the science of psychology or demean its study. It simply shows that psychology, though very complex and important, cannot answer all questions it raises. It must partner up with other kinds of science in order to answer some of its questions.

I believe this to be true of the universe. In fact, I believe that to understand the origin of the WHOLE universe, there must be a setting aside of the compartmentalization which divides our current pursuit of knowledge as the human race. After all, the universe does not make possible only scientific truth, but also musical truth, poetic truth, artistic truth, linguistic truth, and so forth. Let’s not become grumpy about my use of the word truth; you see what I am saying. That anything exists shows that it is part of the wholeness of the universe, that the elements of the universe make that sort of existence possible. Thus, a satisfying answer to the question, “What is the origin of the universe?” cannot be fully scientific, or not fully scientific in the sense we usually think. In a larger sense, to answer the question, Why is there anything?, is the most “scientific” of questions, for it would incorporate all means of seeking answers, all methods of questioning, from every conceivable discipline. This would take a far greater amount of time than any single human being has in his or her life; we can do our part, in the fields we specialize in, to contribute our answers to this question. And yet, where will we be heading if we do not also have our hypotheses? We should have both our question, why is there anything?, and our general answer, for this is how the scientist does his work. And this is not a purely empirical method; it is a means of questioning used by every field of inquiry. On the day that all means of knowing are brought fully together to answer the question, Why is there a universe?, we shall see laid before us, I believe, a grand tapestry the likes of which there are only whispers in the finest poetic verse and most moving of musical symphonies. It shall have the hardness of science, the delights of art, the abstract flavor of philosophical insight. It shall be, I believe, God, in the end. But we are not there, not just yet, and to get there will take more chapters indeed.

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