Thursday, 21 November 2013


This article is not trying to prove anything. I’m hoping it will be viewed by the reader as a sincere attempt to seek the truth, free from all impairments of prejudice, beliefs, sentiment or ideology. My main motivation in writing this article was to get better understanding of many concepts that were, and still are, the subject of intense debate, at least in some circles. Like many people, I often get preoccupied with eternal questions like the purpose of my existence, my own mortality, the purpose of life, and of course the biggest mystery of all, the existence and role of a supreme being that govern all aspects of the known universe, otherwise known as GOD.

While some people claim to have answers to those questions – and let’s call this group “religious” folks – another group – let’s call them “atheists” – claims to have scientific proof of the erroneous answers given by the first group, but in the meantime fails to provide complete answers to said questions, and in the ongoing battle, the truth is usually lost as both sides try to use all weapons they can put their hands on in a ferocious attempt to prove their point of view regardless of where the truth really lies.

It’s much easier for us to tolerate minor differences in opinion rather than major ones. Take a white projection screen for example. If I asked you to point out the red regions in a projected image, we may disagree on what you pointed to is actually red or dark orange, and that seems acceptable, but if I asked you to point out the black regions and then claimed what you pointed to is white, then obviously one of us is in desperate need of new glasses.
Only when it is revealed that what we perceive as “black” on a projection screen is simply unlit (white) areas where the contrast between those areas and surrounding colors tricks our eyes into believing that these areas are actually black[1], maybe then we can understand and accept our different points of view.

Although a mere optical illusion, this example illustrates a crucial point for this discussion; that just because we strongly believe in something, it doesn't necessarily mean it’s absolutely true. Furthermore, it would be almost impossible to find the truth unless we’re willing to challenge what we believe in and entertain points of view that may well contradict this belief.

In conflicts, there’s seldom a clear black and white contrast between right and wrong, unless of course you happen to be one of the parties involved. To an outsider, there’s almost always some truth to both sides of a story; there’s rarely a clear and definitive answer to who’s right and who’s wrong, and the longer the conflict drags on, the more difficult it becomes to distinguish between fact and myth and both black and white will exceedingly appear more blurred until everything eventually looks very grey.

Humans are emotional creatures. Whether we like it or not, our emotions play a major role in our decision making, and while some would argue that this is what makes our lives so rich and colorful, it can’t be denied that it is also one of the main sources that fuel conflicts, for if everyone let emotions aside and acted purely logical and reasonable, there would be no reason for conflicts in the first place.

This prologue was essential to explain why in conflicts[2] we passionately defend our point of view: not just because we believe in it, but perhaps more importantly because we are so overruled by our emotions that we can’t objectively look at the conflict from unbiased perspective, especially one that could prove us wrong. Simply put, we’re not generally driven to seek the truth but rather to prove we are right regardless of the truth. And whether our motive is a moral cause, a deep rooted belief or unshaken faith in something or someone, it always skips our notice that it is our emotions that’s driving us, not the universal and absolute righteousness of whatever it is we believe in. Nowhere else could this be seen more clearly than in religious debate. Take the evolution versus intelligent-design debate for example[3].

Intelligent design proponents fiercely oppose natural selection as an explanation for the origin of life. While the theory of evolution has almost universal acceptance in the scientific community, some religious circles find the process of natural selection to be in direct conflict with the existence of an entity that sparked and designed, if not the universe itself, then at least the process that led to its creation as we know it today; an idea that has its origins deeply rooted in Abrahamic religions.
Some atheist scientists, on the other hand, use mathematics, statistics, biology, and the laws of physics to prove beyond reasonable doubt that this entity, which by its very definition is non-physical, does not (or cannot) physically exist.

Now one of the two groups must be wrong, but did anyone really take a step back and stopped for a moment to think where the truth really is without trying to prove either side right or wrong? Of course not. The religious will typically try to look for flaws in any scientific theory that contradict his beliefs, while applauding any theory that confirms it. On the other hand, the atheist will search religious text trying to find contradictions, historical errors, or concepts that do not agree with scientific theories or observation. You won’t find a religious person trying to prove religious text wrong or an atheist trying to prove that GOD exist, no, that would be counterproductive. This is expected though, for if we strongly believe in something, we will naturally try to concentrate on the shortcomings of any opposing idea, completely ignoring its merits. As we shall see, as in any conflict, there could be some truth to both sides of the story.

The following discussion is mostly philosophical; however, it may still use scientific evidence and historic facts as tools. Logic will be used only when everything else fails. No assumptions will be made unless scientific evidence/observation and/or known historical facts can’t provide a reasonable explanation while in the meantime do not disagree with such assumptions. No reference to religious text will be made either. Religion essentially lies in the realm of faith, and faith, by definition, transcends everything else thus making any discussion a moot point.

Part 1: The Absolute Origin

If you look at the world around you, what do you see? If you touch anything with your hand, what do you feel? In the broadest sense, whatever you see or feel is matter. It is countless number of atoms and particles that occupy a portion of space. According to the currently prevailing scientific theory, all matter in the universe came into being about 14 billion years ago in what is known as the Big Bang: A huge explosion-expansion from an extremely dense and hot state that created all matter in the still-expanding universe as we know it today. The Big Bang theory is supported by observation and is widely accepted in the scientific community, but the validity of the theory is not really what concerns us here. If the theory is indeed true; it follows that whatever happened before the Big Bang essentially lies outside the scope of our knowledge. The extreme physical conditions at the big bang break all laws of physics, rendering any attempt to examine prior states nearly impossible[4]. This phenomenon is known in physics as a “singularity”.

Assuming we don’t annihilate ourselves in the near or far future, it’s likely that our quest for knowledge will continue for generations to come, and maybe one day in the distant future we’ll find answers to the currently unanswerable questions, like what was there before the big bang or what happens when you go through a black hole[5]. But regardless if we find the answers or not, one thing will remain certain: whatever was there before the big bang, it can either be something or nothing at all. That is to say, there could be either something physical, be it another universe or a multiverse or eternal expansion-contraction of our own universe or another reality however different from our own, etc. or absolutely nothing that we can probe, measure or determine. And since we’re in the business of scientifically finding out where everything came from, it is safe to say that whatever it is we find as our primordial origin, if we ever do find it, and however recursive the process may prove to be, we will almost always end up with something that physically exist. That is, it will be something measurable; i.e., matter, energy, time or space. The problem with our origin as being any state of physical existence is that it will automatically raise the question about where it came from. And no matter what we try, we’ll always end up with a big-bang-like scenario, where the previous state can either be indefinitely indeterminate or be another physical existence that originated at yet another singularity-like event[6]. Assuming we can trace our origin to as far back in time as we like, there can be only two outcomes of this process: either we end up in a state where the concept of a “prior” state becomes meaningless[7], or we reach an event where we can no longer find out what was there before that event.

Either way, there can be no answer to the question about where physical existence came from. If and when we do reach the cul-de-sac of physical existence, it’s safe to say that whatever may be there, it can’t be physical (i.e., measurable), for if it was, it will have had to come from somewhere and hence it wouldn't be the origin.
To put it differently, the notion of origin is only relevant to our physical existence because that's how we experience the physical world around us. There simply isn’t anything in the physical realm that exist without time being an integral part of its very fabric and as such, an absolute origin, inherently time-oriented, is impossible in the physical realm. One solution to this problem is to assume time itself has an origin. i.e., that time is a property specific to our physical world, and like anything else, it has a starting point. If there exist a state where time is not a property of this state, then the concept of an “origin”, a “prior state” or “forever” will automatically seize to exist and our origin will become the point at which time itself started to exist. Of course if time is missing, there’s a good chance other attributes of our physical reality will be missing as well, most notably space.

Now the alternative to any form of physical existence (matter, energy, time, space, the big bang, black holes, a singularity or pretty much anything) is simply incomprehensible. Think about it for a second. Try to construct an image in your head for what it would be like. If nothing at all existed, what would there be? Certainly not space, because even space, exist. It has dimensions, even if infinite. This non-existence must have no dimensions and no time. It can’t be anything that we can imagine or measure in physical terms. It can only be described as a complete lack of matter, energy, time and space, in other words, it doesn't physically exist.

Now since we logically know that existence[8] can’t possibly have a physical[9] origin (i.e., the origin can’t be a point where the prior state is a physical state) then the origin, it follows, must be non-physical. There must have been at one point or another, even in infinity, a state of non-existence, where nothing physical existed, and at that point existence came into, well, existence. The idea that matter came from nowhere is rather odd, but there isn't any explanation, scientific or logical, for where matter originally came from[10]. Furthermore, there’s only logical explanation for where matter can’t originate from. That doesn't leave us many choices, and since this is the case, I can only assume that this state of non-existence caused existence to come into being. Obviously, this assumption is based on exclusion, and you may disagree with it, but I couldn't find a better hypothesis. Assuming that matter/energy was created from a non-existence state, by the non-existence state in terms that are, obviously, beyond our physical understanding of the universe is more plausible to me than to assume that matter simply forever existed or to just leave the question terminally open ended.

It is worth noting at this point that the above conclusion is by no means a proof that such state is real. Logical reasoning does not guarantee any conclusion to be absolutely true, it merely assigns it a better than random (i.e, better than 50%) chance of being true. How much better? Well, that's entirely up to you to decide.

[1] You can easily verify this by watching a movie in a bright room where the movie doesn't fill the entire projection screen (e.g., when the movie and the screen have different aspect ratios so that black rectangular borders are displayed either on top/bottom or left/right of the projected image). When you’re watching the movie, you’ll perceive the borders as black, but if you concentrate only on the borders, you’ll discover they’re actually white.
[2] By conflict I mean a difference in opinion without any empirical evidence that support either side.
[3] This is a conflict in the sense that neither side can prove (with evidence) that a creator exist or doesn't exist.
[4] At our current state of knowledge.
[5] A black hole is an enormous star that collapsed on itself, generating so much gravitational pull that even its own light cannot escape, thus appearing as a black object. The physical conditions at the center of a black hole are so extreme that it creates a singularity.
[6] Singularity here refers to the point where the laws governing the state of this existence can’t be used at that specific point to determine any prior state.
[7] The concept of a “prior” state is essentially time-centric and is relevant only in realities where “past” and “future” events are bound to a linear time scale as we experience it. If, however, there exist a reality where time wraps around in an endless loop, then trying to find an origin as the earliest point in time becomes meaningless exactly like trying to find the starting point on a circle. However such reality, if it exists, doesn't mean it didn't have a prior state, in the same way as watching a seamlessly looping video clip of say, a sine wave: The starting point of the clip may be indeterminate for someone inside the clip, but the creation of the clip itself and its playback are bound to a known, different, time scale.
[8] By “existence” I mean any measurable or describable feature in our universe or in any other universe or reality at this time or any time in the past or in the future. An idea, although not a measurable quantity, still has physical existence in the neurotransmitters of someone’s brain even if what the idea represents does not belong to the physical realm, but this literal understanding of the word “existence” is not really what I’m after. If you think of existence as the alternative state to non-existence, then an idea, or anything else for that matter, must be part of existence simply because it can’t be part of non-existence. In other words, an idea exist because it happens.
[9] That is, of matter, energy, time or space characteristics in our universe or any other characteristics in an alternative universe.
[10] Based on scientific theory, matter in our universe came into being when matter/anti-matter particles were created at the early stages of the big bang with the ratio of matter slightly higher than anti-matter (matter and anti-matter particles annihilate each other when they collide). This, however, doesn't explain where the energy at the big bang came from.

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