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EverRose11's avatar

Why does anything exist?

Asked by EverRose11 (1026points) January 25th, 2012

Seeking for answers beyond what we have been taught to believe and or because God created the heavens and the Earth and all that roams on it. And I am betting that most people after about 10 minutes of contemplating any deep philosophical question makes you understand why easy answers are so appealing.
Enjoy .

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64 Answers

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

How or why?
As for an inherent purpose, I don’t believe there is such a thing.

cookieman's avatar

You could say “god(s)”.
You could say “science”.
You could say “it just does”.

But, I think, in truth, we have no fucking idea.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

Maybe there isn’t a “why.” According to psychologists, the tendency for humans to have a “why” is the reason religion exists, and the root reason why conspiracy theories are thriving. We seem to not be able to grasp that things just happen (or exist) for no reason.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Ever look at a platypus and wonder why?

EverRose11's avatar

Oh I Have looked at a platypus and wondered why Adirondackwannabe :-)

digitalimpression's avatar

Sometimes the answer is right in front of us, but it’s so easy that we think that it surely couldn’t be. (sort of like scrambling all over your house looking for your keys and then finding that they were in your pocket the entire time)

Qingu's avatar

What does “exist” mean?

What does it mean to say an electron exists? It doesn’t occupy a given spacetime with a given momentum. Its existence is smeared out probabalistically; an electron exists in the same sense that a casino’s overall house odds exist.

Do virtual particles exist? Does vacuum energy?

Do logical rules and mathematical equations exist? Do the numbers 1, 0, pi, i, and e exist?

Or, maybe a better question: what would it mean to not exist? If I say something doesn’t exist, I am still conveying information about that something. Or to put it another way: there is no such thing as nonexistence; the concept of nonexistence is logically incoherent and a vestige of ancient philosophical thought that doesn’t really apply to the universe we observe.

EverRose11's avatar

everephebe MAYBE !

marinelife's avatar

Because they do.

Blackberry's avatar

No one knows.

serenade's avatar

From reading I’ve been doing lately, on one level things exist because they are imagined or observed. Prior to that they are part of what some call the “zero point field,” which is basically a “field” of pure energy or waves and sort of the repository of “the realm of all possibility.” That energy is made relatively concrete when it is fixed in the literal or metaphoric gaze of consciousness.

If you have Netflix, check out “The Quantum Activist” or the book The Field.

picante's avatar

We think, therefore we “are”—we could be wrong, of course. And a related question: Are we there yet?

Qingu's avatar

@serenade, “From reading I’ve been doing lately, on one level things exist because they are imagined or observed.”

This is an ignorant bungling of the principles of quantum mechanics.

And the book you cited appears to be pseudo-scientific bullshit.

“In this groundbreaking classic, investigative journalist Lynne McTaggart reveals a radical new paradigm—that the human mind and body are not separate from their environment but a packet of pulsating power constantly interacting with this vast energy sea, and that consciousness may be central in shaping our world.”

Yes, let’s trust this mystical investigative journalists over, you know, every scientist who studies QM.

I strongly urge you to be more skeptical about this stuff. I would be happy to discuss the uncertainty principle in more detail if you’re actually interested in it.

TexasDude's avatar

Things exist?

Coloma's avatar

@picante
I prefer to say that ” we are, therefore we think.” lol

Yep, bottom line, it’s the question of the ages and while science can explain SOME method to the madness, we know no-thing for certain.

The best we can do as humans is learn to live with uncertainty, because, everything is uncertain and to be as healthy as possible we must let go of our neurotic need to have all the answers.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

I’m with @Qingu in that we must be extremely precise in determining what existence actually means. Some believe that potentiality is just as valid as reality (as we define it).

Since reality is one of infinite potentials, then potentials must occur before reality, and thus, our current reality is actually a past event… living in the past? Well that depends upon what space/time actually are, and if they even exist.

Another view considers the entirety of existence to be nothing more than roiling static. Take a look at an untuned television set or radio… that static is the only reality. It is the no-thing that exists. We see perturbations in the form of planets, solar systems… which blip in and out of existence like a blob of accumulated on – ness against the off – ness. One might say reality is nothing more than @whitenoise. Others would call that entropic chaos.

A mind comes along to harness the white noise, arresting chaos to redirect the unbridled perturbations as photons which fire pixels on a computer screen into recognizable symbols that we see as letters and words before us. These words conveyed on your computer monitor are no longer entropic chaos. They are determined. And though these photons are no more real than the static, they do represent something that is very real… Our Thoughts.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

@Coloma “The best we can do as humans is learn to live with uncertainty, because, everything is uncertain…”

That’s the point I’d like to expand upon. I agree that everything is uncertain (entropic chaos), until a mind harnesses that uncertainty and reforms it into certainty (codified plans)... “I’m going to the store…” is a statement of certainty against the uncertainty of the moment. A plan of action has arisen out of no-thing-ness. The only thing (no-thing) standing in the way of that plan is further encounters with entropic chaos (flat tire, blocked road)... upon which another plan of action may address those perturbations.

In the beginning was the… Word.

serenade's avatar

@Qingu, would you say you’re a happy person? Does it really make you feel good to expend so much energy chiding others about how stupid or ignorant you think they are? Is this activity helping you grow as a person?

I’m content to share my perspective as is. I don’t claim it’s definitive. I think it’s helpful to consider a wide variety of ideas. FWIW, the book cites in detail many relevant scientific and academic studies, though many are a little out there.

Scientism isn’t my cup of dogma, so I think your perspective would be of little use to me

Qingu's avatar

@serenade, I don’t think pseudoscientific ideas are worth considering, I think people like the author you cited are typically frauds, and I think people who believe them are gullible dupes.

And pseudoscience and fraud do indeed make me unhappy, partly because the truth is more wonderful and amazing (and mysterious) than even the frauds imagine.

Let me explain. Here is what the uncertainty principle says: The question “what is that particle’s position and momentum” has no answer. In other words, it’s like asking how many sides a square triangle has, or how many fingers a bacterium has. At the scale of particles, stuff just doesn’t work that way.

Particles are, fundamentally, “waves of probability.” These waves interfere with each other, just like ocean waves.

When we talk about “observing” something, we actually mean a complex physical process. The process involves photons—particles of light. You “observe” something by bouncing photons off of it. The photons enter your eye, your retina produces a nerve impulse in response to the pattern of photons, and that impulse is decoded by your brain. That’s all a physical process involving a ton of different quantum particles.

But if those particles are all really just “waves of probability,” that means that the photons that you’re bouncing off something to “observe” it can interfere with that same something, just like waves. All this means that the observer cannot be separate from the thing he or she is observing in quantum mechanics. The observer and the thing being observed must be treated as part of the same system. That system consists of waves of probability, overlapping and interfering. And the act of observation can change the pattern of waves.

Now, this is all weird and amazing and has many practical effects (your computer is built on these principles). But it has absolutely nothing to do with bringing things into existence by imagining them. We are talking about single photons and electrons. You cannot bring an electron into existence by imagining it. Likewise, you cannot talk to dead relatives through crystals. The concept has literally nothing to do with the science.

Anyone who says you can is selling something.

King_Pariah's avatar

Why? Chance.

serenade's avatar

@Qingu, I’m happy enough then to settle on influencing probability, which is covered at length in the book.

That and it’s worth pointing out the OP has more to go on as a result of surfacing this topic.

CWOTUS's avatar

I like @Qingu‘s answer, now that I think about it.

As an atheist / agnostic I’ve often wondered “If there’s no god or gods and no magical ‘genesis’ of the Universe, then where did all of the ‘stuff’ come from?”

Per @Qingu: Things exist because it’s impossible for them to not exist. I like it.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

@Qingu “The photons enter your eye…”

”... your retina produces a nerve impulse in response to the pattern of photons…”,

response, or reaction?

”... and that impulse is decoded by your brain.”

decoded or encoded?
______

My point, and why the confusion of the way these words are used is important (to me) is that “respond” suggests that some type of communication is occurring, and it is capable of being “decoded” by the brain. This suggests that the universe has a mind to communicate messages to humans with. Where I sit, that is pseudoscience.

I believe the nerve impulses react, like mercury reacts to heat. But I don’t believe there is any response. And unless the folklore of whispering streams, talking trees, and burning bushes that speak to Moses are to be taken literally, then there is also no decoding of a previous message from the cosmos. There is only the encoding of a thought from a mind to describe an experiential observation.

Qingu's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies, I’m not going to get into this stuff with you. I don’t subscribe to your newsletter.

JilltheTooth's avatar

Really? Am I the first person on this thread to respond with:
“Why not?”

You guys are losing your touch!

Qingu's avatar

@serenade, your mind does not and cannot influence probability. That is quackery.

If you think I’m wrong, I’d love to hear what mechanism the author proposes by which this happens that you think is logically sound.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Like all new religions, quantum theory believes the lions share of truth will be found within its coffers. We would do well to show some respect for interdisciplinary knowledge, beyond any one that claims to own the only pathway towards truth.

Influence over probability is not quackery. The mechanism to achieve this is code. This is confirmed upon me pressing the “Answer” button on this thread. By doing so, I influenced probability.

Coloma's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies Woot woot…you go man! lol

Qingu's avatar

Quantum mechanics is not a religion. Its tenets are simply expressions of overwhelming evidence. Unlike theologians, most quantum theorists aren’t even sure what the meaning of the theory is supposed to be. (Many worlds? Wave function collapse? Nobody knows.)

My decision to press “Answer” has absolutely nothing to do with quantum theory—beyond the trivial fact that quantum theory underlies everything that happens. But drawing Feynman diagrams would not remotely help you understand why I decided to click “answer,” anymore than it would help explain why giraffes have long necks, or the shape of Jupiter’s orbit.

It is extremely annoying that you opine on these questions, supremely confident of your answers, when you demonstrably do not know what you are talking about.

lloydbird's avatar

Just because….

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

If “quantum theory underlies everything that happens”, then how does pressing “Answer” have “absolutely nothing to do with quantum theory”?

Seems a bit odd to me.

The length of a giraffe neck is determined by code. The elliptical orbit of Jupiter is a perturbation of chaos. There is a vast chasm of difference between them.

That will make no sense to one who sees no difference between response and reaction, or decoding vs encoding. To them, cause/effect is the same as thought/affect. To them, cause/reaction is synonymous with thought/action. This is unfortunate. Especially when the refusal to acknowledge the differences is waved away by claiming that the one proposing such notions doesn’t know what they’re talking about, in much the same way a Pentecostal minister would wave away Buddhism.

Qingu's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies, in a previous discussion you threw out a term you didn’t understand, then looked up the term on Google, then insisted the term was applicable when it in fact completely contradicted your argument. I have no doubt you have done the same with regards to information theory and quantum mechanics.

You are simply not an honest debater. Once you demonstrate some humility and openness to learning about the subjects you write about, I’ll engage with you. Until then, I’m not going to bother. It’s obnoxious.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

”... demonstrate some humility and openness…”

That is great advice.

flutherother's avatar

Does anything exist? Most ‘things’ are simply illusions after all, made of molecules that are made of atoms that are made of subatomic particles. And subatomic particles are as vague as last night’s mist. Something exists, but we don’t know what it is and it is futile to speculate on why.

ninjacolin's avatar

It doesn’t.
Nothing exists.

lloydbird's avatar

@MilkyWay
Er..I think you’ll find that it’s just because.

MilkyWay's avatar

Same thing :P

HungryGuy's avatar

Because something has to exist, even if it’s just an infinite vacuum in all directions with no matter in it whatsoever.

PhiNotPi's avatar

Well, all intelligent creatures can only develop in places that exist, so that is why all intelligent creatures live in places that exist. I am sure that there are countless places in the multiverse that are completely empty, but nothing is there to observe it.

ZEPHYRA's avatar

If all this is existence, then how and what is non-existence like?

Berserker's avatar

Big minds have asked this for centuries, and nobody has an answer, at least, not one which is conclusive to absolutely everyone, nor one which has been confirmed with means by which we’d understand. And if there is a reason but we are not able to comprehend it, well then…either way, I denno lol.

PhiNotPi's avatar

I’m not sure that an existing mind can comprehend not existing. If we could, then we would know what the afterlife feels like, which we don’t.

ninjacolin's avatar

@Symbeline it’s true that not everyone agrees on the various answers but what answer COULD satisfy everyone if only they had a chance to hear it?

Berserker's avatar

@ninjacolin I have no idea. But I’m talking more along the lines of an answer that would be convincing enough for everyone to accept, whether they liked it or not. You know, like death and taxes, but a lot more ’‘everything’’ encompassing.

ninjacolin's avatar

I’ve tried before. I always try actually.
dunno if I ever achieve it but that’s always my mission to be universally accurate.
For example:

“Nothing exists and it just so happens to look like this.”

I don’t see why anyone would bother disagreeing with this explanation.

Berserker's avatar

Well, that doesn’t really make any sense to me. If nothing exists, how can it it look like anything, let alone BE anything? How can anything exist if it isn’t anything? How does nothing look like something? But I’m no good with this kinda stuff, so I probably missed something lol.

ninjacolin's avatar

lol.. The way I see it, we don’t know what “nothing” would look like. And since questions like these suggest that it’s easier to believe that nothing would remain nothing instead of blooming into something.. then it may as well be true that whatever has come about is indeed STILL that initial nothing that we assume must have been around before.. whatever we’re in now.

Berserker's avatar

Yeah but nothing wouldn’t mean what it does if it wasn’t just that, nothing. The only conclusion I can personally make is that nothing doesn’t exist, since we have a description for it. As for the universe and everything though…I don’t see how there could ever have been ’‘nothing’’, yet I don’t understand how something could always just have ’‘been’’. Messed up, dude.

ninjacolin's avatar

I would say, nothing IS just that, nothing. And this is what it looks like.
I like your take too, though: Obviously, nothing doesn’t exist and never has.

Know what I think is funny? The way we assume anything existed before the day of our individual birth. We’re always so ready to accept that everything existed at least as long as the history of our planet, but really there isn’t any hard evidence that anything really exists outside of our individual memory from around 2 or 3 years old or however long ago you can remember stuff.

It should be as easy/difficult to believe that before the universe there was Nothing and/or Something as it is to believe there was nothing and/or something before our earliest memories… shouldn’t it?

Berserker's avatar

Ha, yeah. I mean, we got history books and stuff that tell us shit happened before we were born, and I guess that’s proof enough. In a way. I mean, besides records and chronology, we can’t prove anything ever happened beyond anything we remember, and even those don’t prove anything if they only actually exist at the same time that we do, but never did before. But then it gets too complicated for me. I mean there’s a buncha people everywhere who remember things, and new people are born all the time, so my birth really isn’t all that significant when it comes to when existence started.
Unless I’m like, one single being and nothing else exists, or you’re the single being and I’m a figment of your imagination, and everything you know only lasts for as long as you exist. Eeeeeeh my brain hurts lol. It’s easy to imagine all that stuff you say yeah, but which is the truth? How could one ever know?

ninjacolin's avatar

Well, I think the truth is actually whatever we believe it is. Or, here, I’ll get specific: Whatever I think is the truth is the truth. Why? Because nothing else fits the definition as far as I’m concerned. And since “Truth” can only be defined by me.. well, then truth is defined by me!

But I don’t mean that I have a choice in what I believe is true or not. I only mean that whatever I happen to believe is true actually is true.. until proven otherwise, at which point whatever I believe to be true is THEN true and again, can’t be defined as anything else as far as I’m concerned.

I just don’t seem to have the ability to believe in truths that I don’t believe in.

Berserker's avatar

Well that does make sense. If nothing is going to be proven or confirmed, then one’s personal idea of truth might as well BE the truth, since said truth isn’t thwarted in authenticity by other suggested truths that aren’t any more confirmed or proven. But then I start to think, what the hell is truth besides interpretation or whatever human elements make us want or believe in truth? What you just said, maybe?

ninjacolin's avatar

I think so.. therefore it must be true:

The truth is what we believe.

Berserker's avatar

Can it be altered, do you think? I believe everything pretty much just sucks. That’s not a fun truth…but I see this as personal experience and observation, rather than desire. Where does the difference come in, and what can you do with it? Or is one doomed with their personally perceived truth?

ninjacolin's avatar

Right now I believe I’m sitting at my desk. In another moment, I will be believing that I’m walking out the door. In another moment, I will believe I’m driving to my mom’s house to eat all the left-overs in the fridge.

Those left overs are going to be great. My mom is an exceptional cook. I hope you believe me, I’m not lying. And if you do believe me then clearly the truth is that not everything sucks. As in, at least my mom’s cooking will be amazing and good. :)

So.. from the moment that you posted that last post til now.. have I successfully altered your truth?

Berserker's avatar

But that’s more your truth than mine. I have no doubt your mom’s cooking is awesome if you say so, therefore yeah, not everything sucks. But directly, I’ll never know if it’s good or food or not, unless I taste it myself. It is good, but not directly, at least for me. And that it is good food, but that I’m not having any, well…that sucks! Sorry, kind of a pessimist. (or selfish, either way) But you’re a very interesting person to speak with. And that doesn’t suck. :)

Rarebear's avatar

Because of the Higgs Field.

PhiNotPi's avatar

If everyone believes that something has happened, then it might as well have happened. That is part of the basis for Orwell’s 1984, even though that really doesn’t have much to do with quantum theory.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Careful @PhiNotPi, can’t stray too far away from quantum theory on this thread. Anything less is deemed unscientific. Suggestions about what “everyone believes” takes us to the realm of thought. You know, like Information Theory, or Sphota Theory, or any principle dealing with The Word. We live in the age of quantum dogma. Sacrilege to entertain anything else.

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