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mazingerz88's avatar

If there is no God what is your assumption on how things came to existence?

Asked by mazingerz88 (17834 points ) April 20th, 2011

This question is for aetheists who believe there is no God but who may have a theory on how things came about. It’s also for those who aren’t sure whether God exists or not, yet may have thoughts cross their minds at one time or another on a possible explanation of how our worlds began and why. Thanks!

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30 Answers

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

The Big Bang. Aside from that, well, I’m comfortable at this point assuming that it always has existed and perhaps always will. I think that, particularly as an atheist, I have grown accustomed to not jumping to conclusions. I am comfortable with not knowing the answer to every question we may have, and I don’t feel a need to give the credit to the supernatural or religious explanations that many people choose to use to fill those gaps. Just because we don’t have the answers yet, doesn’t mean that we never will. Science has explained much of what was once thought to be mysterious and attributed to god/s. I don’t think that is a trend that will stop anytime soon.

math_nerd's avatar

I’m in the camp that doesn’t really care. People need to think god made everything so there will be a magic place for them when they die. I’m going to be plant food when I die so I don’t really care. All I can do is enjoy today instead of hoping for the afterlife.

Rarebear's avatar

Big Bang, followed by Inflation, followed by first gen stars followed by second gen stars, then heavier elements, and so on and so on…

kenmc's avatar

Assumptions are irrelevant.

gasman's avatar

The pre-existence of a creator inevitably raises the question of how the creator came to exist. It solves nothing and represents a philosophical retreat from reason. Physical evidence points to a big bang 14B years ago. What gave rise to the initial singularity remains a deep scientific mystery, yet is a far simpler explanation than a creator who is more complex than the known universe.

Moreover, “creator” is a distinctly anthropomorphic construct. Man is the toolmaker, the creator of intelligent designs. It should be obvious that creation myths invoke gods in man’s image.

faye's avatar

I watched a very interesting show about the men who first registered the heat from the big bang. He/they won a nobel peace prize, I’m pretty sure. Think how many gods there have been over the ages; makes just one seem kind of arrogant.

jerv's avatar

I believe that reality is stranger and more complex than the human mind is even capable of imagining, let alone understanding. To my mind, asking a human how they think the universe came into being is like asking your cat their thoughts on string theory.

Accordingly, I make no assumptions other than assuming that whatever anyone else thinks they know about it is most likely incorrect, and probably not even close.

gasman's avatar

@faye Penzias & Wilson discovered the cosmic microwave background radiation in 1965, later winning the Nobel Prize in physics for it. At first they thought it was bird droppings on the antenna, politely described as “a dielectric substance.” I was in high school at the time. I remember earlier years (like junior high) when the big bang and steady state models of the universe were both mere competing hypotheses. In my lifetime big bang cosmology has been confirmed along multiple lines of evidence and steady-state theories discarded.

mazingerz88's avatar

@jerv Indeed. But at least we know what cats do with balls of string…meow!

faye's avatar

@gasman I didn’t hear that it was so long ago. I remember the bird dropping bit from the show. I graduated 1972 and I don’t remember learning about it.

Sunny2's avatar

I seriously believe that man created God in his own image in order to answer questions like this. However, I’ll go along with the scientists’ theories of what actually happened. A theory based on some evidence is worth more than stories made up by primitive people who have no evidence at all.

Haleth's avatar


“Particularly as an atheist, I have grown accustomed to not jumping to conclusions. I am comfortable with not knowing the answer to every question we may have, and I don’t feel a need to give the credit to the supernatural or religious explanations that many people choose to use to fill those gaps. Just because we don’t have the answers yet, doesn’t mean that we never will. Science has explained much of what was once thought to be mysterious and attributed to god/s. I don’t think that is a trend that will stop anytime soon.”

That’s spot-on. I’d rather have no clear answer than the wrong answer. The Big Bang sounds sensible, but if we discover another explanation for the origin of the universe- backed by evidence, then I would have to be swayed by the facts.

Really, it’s kind of great to admit that we don’t know the reasons for everything. So far the universe seems to operate under a consistent set of rules, and that’s enough for me.

mazingerz88's avatar

Spent almost an hour coming up with my best guess as to how that small particle inside that smaller particle inside that smallest particle inside that atom could have come about. Nothing.
In the meantime I’ll imagine our worlds and all the worlds beyond ours are all inside a pinhead size marshmallow. Blue.

AdamF's avatar

Scientific truth is always provisional and best approximated by the explanation that best incorporates the weight of available scientific evidence.

That said, although Im a scientist, Im not a cosmologist, or a physicist. As such I don’t have the specific knowledge base required to objectively assess the weight of available scientific evidence in the relevant peer-reviewed scientific literature. So I have to ASSUME (as per the question) that the popular accounts provided in works by leaders and popularizers in the field (Stephen J Hawking, Lawrence Kraus, Neil deGrasse Tyson), or well reviewed documentaries (How the universe works) for example, provide me with a reasonable approximation of what the weight of evidence suggests at present. The consistency of these explanations further adds to my trust that they reasonably represent the best available evidence.

Nevertheless, that still means I’ll certainly be adding a level of error, or flawed simplication to my understanding, because its been filtered through the lens of non-peer reviewed sources. But I never-the-less assume that my understanding is close enough to the provisional truth to give me a reasonable worldview….namely, that things came into existence something along the lines presented in this exceptional video..

mazingerz88's avatar

@AdamF Great video link, thanks!

AdamF's avatar

No worries! :)

Qingu's avatar

“Things” have always existed. Much like how religious folks believe their god has always existed.

Some more detail:

The most likely explanation I’ve heard—and there are others, and I’m not an expert—is that the big bang did not “create” anything. Rather, the big bang is simply the earliest point in the structure we call the universe. Crucially, this structure encompasses all of time and space.

This idea is something that religious folk often ignore when posing this question. They typically have in mind the atheistic view as going something like this:

1:00 p.m. Nothing exists
2:00 p.m. Still nothing
3:00 p.m. Nothing
3:31 p.m.: BOOOOM! The big bang occurs, and suddenly the universe pops into existence.

This is simply not how space and time work in relativity. If the universe encompasses all of spacetime, then there was no time before the big bang. There is no point in time in which the universe has not existed. Another way of saying this is that the universe has always existed.

One way to think about this is that the big bang is a point in spacetime much like the north pole is a point on the surface of the earth. Spacetime, like Earth’s surface, is curved. But it’s smooth—it doesn’t have any boundaries or edges. Thus, you cannot travel “north” of the north pole; in fact the concept of “north of the north pole” makes no logical sense. The north pole is the northernmost point of earth; the concept of “north” has no meaning apart from Earth’s surface.

Likewise, the big bang is the “earliest” point in the universe. The concept of “before the big bang” makes no logical sense. All the concepts of time, and causation—all of our words like “creation,” “before,” “cause,” which depend on a prior concept of time—have no meaning outside the universe (neither does the word “outside” for that matter!)

Qingu's avatar

All that said, another possibility (which I don’t understand much at all) is that our universe is a “bubble” or a “false vacuum” within a larger multiverse. A central question in cosmology is why the early universe has such low entropy. Treating our universe as a localized region in a broader multiverse helps solve this question.

The concept of entropy itself is worth exploring, because most scientists believe that our whole concept and experience of time “flowing” emerges from more fundamental laws of entropy. Entropy is often characterized as a measure of disorder, but that’s really not the whole story. It’s better thought of as a measure of probability, and it is closely tied up with the idea of “microstates” and “macrostates.”

To wit: you have two six-sided dice. If you roll one die, the probability of any number turning up is 1/6. But if you roll both dice, things get interesting, because there are two ways to talk about the result.

One way is to simply count all the different arrangements possible for both dice. For example, “2, 5” or “1, 6.” The probability of any given arrangement is ⅓6. Each possible arrangement is a microstate, and they all have equal probabilities (⅓6.)

But there’s another way of looking at the two dice: you can add up the numbers. For example, you might roll a “12” (good score!) Or you might roll a “2” (snake eyes). These are macrostates. And the probability of any given macrostate is not even. Rolling a 2 or a 12 is rare—there’s only 1 way, out of 36 ways of rolling 2 dice, to get either a 2 or a 12. On the other hand, macrostates 7 are very common because there are many microstates that result in a 7 (1+6, 2+5, 3+4, 4+3, 5+2, 6+1).

Entropy is simply a measure of how many microstates correspond to a given macrostate. If it is very easy to “roll the dice” and get a given macrostate, it is said to be high entropy. But if only a rare arrangement of microstates corresponds to a given macrostate, it’s low entropy.

gasman's avatar

@Qingu: Nice explanation.

There’s a recent article at Scientific American by Paul Steinhardt on deep flaws in inflationary theory. $ view.

Just yesterday (April 20, 2011) there was a story at ScienceDaily about a cosmological theory where the dimensionality of space depends on its size. The universe starts out 1-dimensional, evolves to 2, then 3 spatial dimensions at successively lower temperatures, and will (or already has) become 4-dimensional, which may account for accelerated expansion. This model makes predictions testable with the LHC.

mattbrowne's avatar

Any assumption or ultimate explanation has to go beyond science at some point.

Both atheism and modern theism rely on at least one assumption violating scientific principles: the ultimate explanation of natural laws. Atheism relies on circular reasoning (super law explaining all natural laws in a multiverse/universe and also explaining itself) or a gap (the laws just are) while theism relies on divine authorship of natural laws.

The divine explanation gives a name to our ignorance, and that name is God.

The “laws just are” explanation gives a name to our ignorance too, and that name is “we don’t know”.

Qingu's avatar

@gasman I saw that ScienceDaily story today. What jumped to my mind immediately was fractals:

Fractals do not have integer dimensionality.

Obviously the universe resembles a fractal in many ways (huge structures like solar systems and galactic filaments superficially resemble small structures like atoms and neural networks).

gasman's avatar

@Qingu I’ve heard the large-scale structure of the (observable) universe is bubbly or foamy. Inflationary theory predicts that new universes are constantly budding off from existing universes by their own big bangs, in a self-perpetuating process. The resulting multiverse might be some kind of higher-dimensional cosmic super-fractal.

haskala's avatar

When I ask believers who made God: They answer that God always was, God always is and God always will be.
I am an educated man who knows how ignorant I am. However what I have read, reasoned and learned about the world and our existence is this: There is no such thing as nothing!
Presently, science is using mathematics, relativity, and quantum theory to study the very small, the very large, the newly discovered phenomena of dark matter and dark energy and seemingly empty spaces filled with stuff.
The Big Bang appears now not to be the beginning of everything but the relative beginning of what we now see around us now.
Because we are human and are “born” and “die”, we feel uncomfortable with endless infinity.
Our existence is filled with relative beginning and ending: Does life begin when sperm touches an egg or fertilizes it. Does death start when the heart stops. These are not definite.
In fact our so-called universe may have erupted from another universe and there may be other dimensions and parallel universes. All of this with no beginnings or endings except relatively speaking
So I do not believe God began. I believe God does not exist now or ever because there is no evidence for the existence of God.
But there is plenty of evidence for us and everything material but no evidence of any nothing.

Qingu's avatar

I agree with the idea that “there is no such thing as nothing.”

Even a vacuum, the closest thing we have to “nothing,” is a buzzing foam of quantum fluctuations. Any vacuum can still be described as a certain quantum state with vacuum energy.

And ancient religious folk seemed more comfortable with idea. In the Babylonian, Egyptian, Greek, and even ancient Hebrew myths (look at Genesis without Christian “ex-nihilo” interpretation), the act of creation is not something popping out of nothing. Creation is instead understood as a kind of sculpting of chaotic matter that had already existed. Yahweh creates by molding and shaping the chaotic waters that were there when he started creating.

Rarebear's avatar

I agree with the idea that “there is no such thing as nothing.”

I don’t. It is certainly possible that prior to the Big Bang (where there was no “prior”, actually) that there was nothing. It’s just that we can’t comprehend it, any more than we can comprehend infinity.

everephebe's avatar

I think the only way existence came into being, was through nothingness. I think it’s particularly because of nothingness that existence happened. So, I definitely believe there was nothingness before there was anything else. But, that’s just my theory.
I can expand upon this theory if you like.

Qingu's avatar

@Rarebear, if there is such a thing as before the big bang than the thing we are talking about is a thing, and not nothing.

Namely because it can be described by a time, and thus would (probably) have some energy and/or a quantum wavefunction associated with it.

Rarebear's avatar

@Qingu Yes, you are correct. If there was a thing “before the big bang” then we are talking about a thing. AFAIK Big Bang Theory has no “before” the big bang. Before that there was a singularity. This is a difficult concept for most people, including me, to swallow.

Qingu's avatar

The singularity is the earliest point, as most versions of the theories go. There is no “before” the snigularity.

Rarebear's avatar

@Qingu Yes, I know. That doesn’t mean I have to like it.

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