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DominicX's avatar

Do non-creationist theories of the origin of the universe assume something came from nothing?

Asked by DominicX (28803points) November 9th, 2011

I’ll admit I’m not too knowledgeable in cosmology, but one common argument I hear for creationism is that the alternative assumes something came from nothing, which is less probable than something coming from something that always existed.

However, I’m wondering: do these theories necessarily assume something came from nothing? Is there anything inherently implausible about that? Are there are non-creationist theories of the origin of the universe that do not assume something came from nothing?

(Yes, I know I could “just Google it” but I’d like to hear from the intelligent crowd we have on this site).

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62 Answers

wonderingwhy's avatar

It (by it I’m referring to big-bang theory specifically) assumes a singularity of infinite time and temperature, because that’s what general relativity predicts and that prediction is currently believed valid due to observations and attendant predictions.

Beyond that singularity science can, at least for now, provide no insight. Could be nothing, could be god, could be other universes, could be endless herds of pink elephants.

deni's avatar

This is my understanding (correct me if I’m wrong, someone): Something didn’t really come from nothing. Everything that is now here was once just condensed into something so small (for containing something so large) that we can’t really even possibly imagine it, which is why it’s so hard to believe, I think. I read once, that a spoonful of something that was the density of the universe before the big bang, would have weighed something absolutely insane like 200 billion tons (I read A Short History of Nearly Everything this summer, by Bill Bryson, and I’d look up the number, and more relevant facts, but I passed the book on. Because it is amazing, and everyone should read it, especially if you have an interest at all in this type of thing).

Also, the universe is constantly expanding, which also points to the big bang theory.

It’s really funny, because reading that book made me understand the universe so much better, which at the same time made me realize how many absolutely incredible and unbelievable things can actually happen in this world. Like, you literally cannot believe that everything that exists now, was a zillion billion times smaller than it is today. I mean, I believe it, because I believe in science, but it still boggles my mind to a point where I almost get a head ache. So at the same time, I almost think that there could be a God. If something as crazy as the big bang could exist, maybe a god could too.

Here’s another fun one: Try imagining space, before it was space. Literal nothingness. It’s so hard!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

gorillapaws's avatar

I believe one hypothesis is that the universe expands and then contracts into a single point, then re-expands again with another big bang. I don’t know if this is still held in high regard, but assuming it’s true, this cycle could have been going on forever.

Qingu's avatar

No. If the universe contains all of space and time, then there was never a time when the universe has not existed; there is no such thing as “before the big bang.” Or to put it another way, the universe has always existed, and there is no such thing as “nothing.”

Sort of like how creationists believe God has always existed. Except unlike God, there’s evidence that the universe exists.

Coloma's avatar

I’m with @deni‘s sharing. Along with the cycles of expansion/contraction/expansion, to infinity and beyond. lol

Bottom line, we know no-thing for certain.

CWOTUS's avatar

If you consider it for a while, you’ll realize that everything must have come “from nothing”. After all, if an entity of supreme intelligence and omnipotent power made everything, then “it came from nothing”, didn’t it? Or the entity did.

I don’t have any theories about “where all of the stuff of the universe” came from. None. Any one that I could have must imagine that “it came out of nowhere, by some kind of magic”.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Gimme one free miracle and I can explain anytbing.

Ron_C's avatar

If you want to call the force that started the big bang god, feel free. Science had not yet explained the force that started it all. It doesn’t matter though, even if you call the starter god because subsequent myth concerning this god figure is just that myth. The universe has been explained by the illiterate and those ignorant of science and they are free to do so. I am free to ignore them. I believe that I’ll wait for science to figure it all out, churches certainly haven’t.

Immediately after the big bang, matter, time, space came into existence. You could say it was nothing but nothing really mattered until matter formed, from what I don’t know. Of course that could be what god was form. Maybe this god does nothing else but start universes. Seems pretty boring to me but if you have nothing better to do, starting universes is better than nothing.

gondwanalon's avatar

My mental capacity collapses into a singularity when I try to comprehend such questions such as this. In the immensity of space we sit here on a tiny speck of start-stuff and ponder how we got here. Some of the most brilliant among us spend their entire lives searching for answers to questions and developing theories. But no result or theory is ever good enough. And we suffer for not knowing the answers. Someday the grand unifying theory may appear upon the horizon. Even though none of us has seen it, each of us will recognize it. Because it will present its self as pure and clean and refreshing and its name will be truth.

Meego's avatar

I have 2 of my favorite quotes to add here.

The problem with allowing God a role in the history of life is not that science would cease, but rather that scientists would have to acknowledge the existence of something important which is outside the boundaries of natural science.
~Phillip E. Johnson

All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force… We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent Mind. This Mind is the matrix of all matter.
~Max Planck

If you look around you at the material things in your life, which things were created through evolutionary means? To me it seems much more plausible that we were put here.

I’m not looking for a debate and I hope what I’ve said makes sense

CaptainHarley's avatar

That would depend upon what you mean by “nothing.”

Qingu's avatar

@Meego, it doesn’t make sense to me. Who put God there? If your answer is “Nothing,” then why can’t that answer suffice for the universe?

DominicX's avatar

@Qingu But isn’t the idea that God wasn’t “put” here, that God has always existed and he is the causal force behind the beginning of the universe?

flutherother's avatar

At some point in philosophy or science we are confronted by the question of how something can be created out of nothing.

You could say the question is meaningless as the universe has always been here but that seems to evade the issue.

It isn’t the immensity or the complexity or the beauty of the universe that puzzles me so much as the simple fact that anything exists at all. That a grain of dust should have come from nothingness is more wonderful than that the grain of dust expanded to become the universe.

If nothingness can’t experience change because it has no substance, no dimension and no time how can it give rise to anything at all. It is easier to imagine the universe returning to nothingness than to imagine it arising from nothingness and yet somehow it happened.

Meego's avatar


My answer is not “nothing”. But rather “unknown”.

I did say I didn’t want a debate didn’t I? It seems that your are starting to nag me about my ideas on religion on any question I answer that has to do with God. Ughhh. I don’t really want to have to explain everytime I answer on my belief system….no disrespect.

I am taking it personal

DominicX's avatar


I posted this question with the idea that there would be some debate and questioning. The point is to be able to defend a position. I am not looking for an answer to the creation/formation of the universe, but I am looking for both the strengths and the weaknesses of various theories.

wonderingwhy's avatar

@DominicX The problem with what you’re looking for is the arguments, no matter how well structured or reasoned, will always come down to “we don’t know” and worse “we can’t find out”.

No theory is any better than any other, each may have merit but all are based on assumptions that are untestable. Looking for those theories is fine asking them to be defended is asking for what, today, can’t be.

CWOTUS's avatar

Let me put this another way: As a non-creationist (in the fundamental Christian sense) I don’t believe that any god or collection of them “made Light, Heaven, Earth, animals and us all ‘just so’”. I believe that something, somehow, created this universe of “stuff” and the stuff somehow combined in ways that “life happened”. Maybe an entity – call it God – made this “something” out of nothing (by magic, or what would appear so to us, with no conception of how else it could be done), and maybe It even created some sort of “life” ... and just let it go to see what would happen.

So maybe that’s a form of creationism, after all.

DominicX's avatar

@wonderingwhy I understand that, but the theories have various strengths and weaknesses and that’s what I’m looking for. I guess I considered @Qingu‘s question to @Meego as pointing out a weakness in the theory, not saying “I know mine is right and yours is wrong”. Obviously we can’t know.

LostInParadise's avatar

One theory is that our universe is just one of many branes forming a multiverse.

It seems to me that whatever is out there either has a starting point or else it is all infinitely old. I can’t get my head around either of these, but I am much more comfortable with the idea of infinity.

wonderingwhy's avatar

@DominicX how do you assess the strengths and weaknesses when all the arguments rest on assumption? Or is it more a matter of how considered the position is?

DominicX's avatar

@wonderingwhy It is more a matter of how considered the position is. It’s a matter of what unanswered questions theories leave. Again, I’m not looking for which one is “better”, I’m looking for what the theories answer and what some of them don’t or can’t answer. (I also wanted to make sure I understood the theories in the first place).

Qingu's avatar

What does “nothing” even mean?

The concept of nothing still implies a quantum state… which would mean it’s not really nothing.

What if nothing is simply a nonsensical concept, like a square triangle?

wonderingwhy's avatar

@DominicX gotcha.

In that case I’ll add that the reason I don’t hold faith in much of anything with regards to origin of the universe (or more to the point, what came before it) is I don’t see value in putting too much stock in something so far beyond us. I’d rather ponder many possibilities, preferably over a beer or six, and hope that at some point I’ll learn more.

thorninmud's avatar

Also, I’m not even sure that the “singularity” from which the Universe is supposed to have emerged could be considered “something” in any sense that we would recognize. Consider how our idea of “existence” is utterly dependent on time and space, yet neither time nor space applied to the singularity. We talk about it being small, but that really has no meaning; how can something be small or large without space? We talk about it as an “it”, but that’s just because our minds have to postulate some object in order to think. But this is no such thing. We might as well call it “nothing”.

Meego's avatar


Well then maybe I don’t understand the question. We can’t make something from nothing and if you don’t have the answer it is unknown.
Which ever way the universe was created it didn’t happen from nothing something had to have did it.

So I don’t know.
Too much thinking gives me a headache and aggrevates my head injury it already takes me hours to find the right sords so I guess I’m out

mangeons's avatar

If the Universe couldn’t have come from nothing, so therefore God had to create it, how did God come to be? The idea that God has always been there and came from nothing is no more plausible than the other way around.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

@Qingu “What does “nothing” even mean?”

To answer that, we must define what a “thing” is.

Typically, a thing is considered to be a physical agent… a material thing.

Thus, no+thing = no+material+thing… Nothing!

You know… like a thought.

This is difficult for hard Marxist Materialists to accept, as they believe that for any-thing to exist, it must consist of some form of energy/matter.

But for those of us who believe that some agents are completely immaterial agents, like thought, this is no+problemo.

Where are the thoughts represented by the Gettysburg Address? Surely no one would believe those thoughts are just ink+paper. Ink+paper can’t possibly be the meaning of the Gettysburg Address.

100 copies of the Gettysburg Address all represent a singular thoughtan immaterial thought of a mind. Yes, we have access to the mind of Lincoln by reading the words which represent his thoughts. Therefor, Lincoln’s thoughts and mind must still exist. Otherwise, we couldn’t access them.

CaptainHarley's avatar

Who knows, the universe may have been formed from the “quantum foam” resident thruout space. : )

everephebe's avatar

Nothing is surprisingly fertile ground. But, I don’t think any proper cosmologist assumes anything! I mean they better not, right? Also, I don’t think too many folks think the big bang was the beginning beginning anymore. It’s possible our universe spilled from someplace else. This video is pretty damn dope.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

@CaptainHarley truly… Who knows.

But as I understand it, the universe is all of space. How could anything that is resident thruout space be responsible for creating the space that it is in?

That would be like a chicken embryo creating its own eggshell.

CaptainHarley's avatar


Given that most of the universe isn’t even visible to us ( dark matter ), that the speed of light may NOT be the speed limit we thought it was, and that the transmission of information apparently defies ANY speed limit ( the Mitchelson/Morley experiments ), I tend to believe that virtually ANYTHING is possible! : )

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

While I doubt that it’s possible that I could suddenly become an amphibious zebra with wings… I get your point.

CaptainHarley's avatar

Thank you! : )

deni's avatar

The problem is (sorry if someone already said this, I haven’t read other responses) I don’t know where that original extremely dense object came from…............just now thought of that and my mind is boggled. Anyone know?

CaptainHarley's avatar

I like turtle soup!

cockswain's avatar

I don’t know, but I think it’s cool that the universe has spawned organisms that can contemplate it.

CWOTUS's avatar

Oh, hell, @cockswain. Even I’ve done that. It ain’ no thang.

cockswain's avatar

True dat.

Russell_D_SpacePoet's avatar

isn’t that in essence what creationist believe? God or a higher being popped in to existence and made everything from nothing?

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

No… Creationists believe that God made everything from will… pure thought.

That’s gotta count for something.

It trumps being created from something without thought. And it trumps the idea that our thoughts could arise from a thoughtless universe.

Russell_D_SpacePoet's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies I have to call bs on that. Still something out of nothing.

dannyc's avatar

Labelling one set of ideas as non-creationist versus another as creationist skews the assumptions. The truth is not achievable as the truth is untestable for science or creationism aficionados. That the search for same drives people is undoubted and thus some good comes out of it. My viewpoint is that there are better things to do about the world’s ills or truths and this pursuit of the ultimate equation is not as noble as those with the intelligence to pursue it could contribute otherwise. We are here, and nothing means nothing. Solve cancer or world poverty with your brilliance. I would be more impressed.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Russell… thought is only nothing in the sense that it is no physical thing. See my post above about what a thing is… and how that determines what a no+thing can be.

Thought is real. And we are able to access them regardless if the being who initiated them is alive or dead. After I’m dead… you’ll still be able to access my thoughts right here on this web page. How could you access my thoughts if they didn’t exist… even after I’m dead.

Thought can exist without a physical body.

Russell_D_SpacePoet's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies Then who thought up gawd going with that reasoning? Still out of no where.
i agree with your description of thoughts. For the most part.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

A lot of people thought up gawd. Some in an attempt to understand the wonder… some in an attempt to control and deceive. Regardless, the gawd people think up pales in comparison to a real creative responsible for reality… if there is one.

To me… if that being exists… calling it a God is an insult. It may seem like a God… but in reality it would simply be an unbelievably super advanced being that didn’t require the laws of physics to be real. And if that being truly exists, I suppose it is much wilder than any human comprehension could possibly box into a describable religious deity.

Shuttle128's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies “Thought is real. And we are able to access them regardless if the being who initiated them is alive or dead. After I’m dead… you’ll still be able to access my thoughts right here on this web page. How could you access my thoughts if they didn’t exist… even after I’m dead.”

I can access your message, not your thoughts. Your message may contain hints of your thoughts but never the true original thought.

Right now I’m trying to portray my thoughts through this message, however, this message is garbled and up to your interpretation. It is not a direct window into an eternal, perfect, form of my thoughts. It is an imperfect copy of what my brain is currently experiencing. We may think largely in language based thoughts, but much of what my thoughts consist of are links between experiences, things that cannot truly be encoded into a message. I may try to portray this in my message, but it will never be 100% clear to anyone.

Your example of messages existing without a physical body does not prove that thought can exist without a physical body.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Your message is your meaning, a specific set of thoughts. The medium is not the message. Never ever.

Your message, thoughts, meaning… are not photons on a monitor, not letters, not punctuation.

The medium we’ve chosen to communicate will represent these particular meaningful thoughts currently, in ten years, and in ten thousand years (assuming fluther survives), they will represent the same meaningful thoughts.

Our ability to represent our thoughts varies depending on the words we chose to represent them. If we can’t say something clearly, that only indicates that we haven’t thought it through clearly. We say what we mean… I know of no thoughts which cannot be expressed 100% accurately with language. Receiving and interpreting that expression is an entirely different and much more difficult task with normal language. Poetry can assist translation of meaning to some degree. But it will not suffice to stand as experience. Mathematics allows a 100% accurate transfer of meaning from point A to point B… but it is incapable of expressing feelings.

Destroy my computer… and a physical body which represents my message dies. But your computer can still access it. Therefor, destroying a medium does not affect the message whatsoever. It only affects our ability to access it.

Russell_D_SpacePoet's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies You missed the point. who or what originally thought up gawd so he/she/it could make everything out of nothing? you have to also consider that we could be a science experiment of advanced beings/aliens.

CaptainHarley's avatar

“You remind me of a science experiment I once did!” ROFLMAO!

Ron_C's avatar

Like @CaptainHarley said, ” I tend to believe that virtually ANYTHING is possible! : )” The real beauty of it all is that we don’t understand it and that makes the origin of the universe extremely fascinating. There is even a theory that all matter is just a combination of standing waves. Light for example, moves as a wave yet there are particles called photons that can trigger real events. Photons are what we see but how did they get to your eye, by wave transmission. The point is that science, not religion, is looking to solve the problem. Religion is just a way of saying that we are too lazy to do the work of understanding. I forget who said it but “any science sufficiently advanced, is indistinguishable from magic”. Magic and religion, to me are the same thing, just a lack of understanding. The idea of killing people because they have a different understanding of the “magic” is strictly a human invention.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

To @Russell_D_SpacePoet
Yes I understand what you mean… I think… Who created (thought into existence) the creator?

I am one that accepts notions of eternity and infinite. I believe, that if there is a Proto-Mind, that is an eternal agent, without beginning or end. Whereas the human mind is not eternal, but is infinite… having been created, yet never to die thereafter.

Eternity and Infinite are not properly considered as just a whole lot of time. They are states of ISness… states of pure being. There is no clock for applying tautological principles to them. That’s like asking what’s North of the North Pole… does not apply.

I base my position on personal observation and empirical science.

Personally, in all of my imagination, I cannot imagine a realm of complete void… nothingness. Even if I imagine a silent realm of total blackness… then silence and blackness are present.

Scientifically, there has never been a demonstrable instance of void or nothingness. Especially in current science, even a vacuum is inferred to present dark energy… Not to mention the vacuum itself. It is the line we cannot cross with human understanding. Even if nothing exists… then nothing is in existence. No+Thing becomes the Thing.

If time doesn’t exist… then timelessness does. If space doesn’t exist… then spacelessness does.

Since I cannot find a demonstrable mechanism which allows thought to arise from non thinking agents, then I must conclude that thought is the initiating quality of reality. Thought is also the initiating quality of non-reality… which makes non-reality (fantasy) a real agent.

The only problem I have with this… Although Chaos cannot express Will… I’ve also come to the conclusion that Will cannot express Chaos. Humans are good at emulating Chaos, but truly, encryption sciences will confirm that Minds cannot create a truly chaotic system. Otherwise computer hacking wouldn’t be possible.

Again I find some degree of resolve in the sciences. I’m beginning to believe that Chaos doesn’t exist at all. Science looks closer and determines notions of complexity. Since complexity is a mathematical description of an otherwise chaotic system… it becomes apparent to me that Mind can literally observe Chaos right out of existence.

It’s like staring the devil in the face. The more we observe it… the more we understand that it was never there in the first place.

mattbrowne's avatar

Science makes claims that can be tested. To my knowledge, there are no claims about the ultimate explanation of the explanation of the explanation of the explanation of the natural laws. Many consider this to be outside the realm of science. We have to live with the notion of ‘some things just are’ or ‘it was the turtles cooking soup’.

Ron_C's avatar

The fact that so many things are as yet unexplained and that there is still no unified theory makes science much more interesting than any religion I’ve seen. I would much rather spend Sunday morning watching the Science Channel than at a time wasting ritual that means nothing and explains nothing.

Paradox25's avatar

Apparently ‘nothing’ can’t exist so either a ‘something’ (could be anything such as God, consciousness, energy, etc) has always existed or the void of nothingness is highly unstable and would always have the potential of becoming a ‘something’.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Ron_C – Science is good for us. Rituals are good for us too. They are not a waste of time.

lloydbird's avatar

Tink aboot eet peepull.

There is only something. (!!)

Only ever was, only ever is.

There is no such thing as “nothing”.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Or you could say…
There is no such thing as no such thing?
There is no thing as no thing?

Is zero a thing?

lloydbird's avatar

Greetings, my esteemed friend.
In response to your statements ; I agree.
With to regards your question, my answer is no.

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