The Hubble Deep Field

With naturalism, peal back origin layers deep enough one eventually gets to cosmology. That there is an origin to the observable universe is a fact, but there are competing theories on how it came to be. I used 'observable' because we don't objectively know if what we observe to be the universe ― or even all that which was initiated by the Big Bang ― is really the totality of the universe. You may be familiar with the concept of the multiverse. While there is observational evidence for an expanding universe (the only one we know of for sure), the multiverse is a hypothetical conglomeration of universes (many unique containers or collections of galaxies with stars, planets, nebulae, and so on). If 'universe' is defined as everything that ever was, is, and will be, then you could technically argue a group of universes (or the multiverse) is really just what the whole universe encompasses and our original definition was inaccurate. In other words, if the universe as a container is just one of many, I would call the collection of containers The Entire Universe. 

For the sake of this post, let's ignore the concept of the multiverse for a moment and just stick to what we think we know for sure. Given what science has discovered, there was a point when/where time and space began to exist, and all matter and energy expanded at an enormous rate (not a bang, but an expansion). After billions of years of cooling, physical processes and causality rendered a container of galaxies about 93 billion light-years across. A light-year is 5.88 trillion miles, which you cannot comprehend, so don't even try to think about 93 billion of those ― it's just mindbogglingly huge. Within this space-time there are at least 200 billion galaxies, but the number is sure to be considerably higher. Each galaxy contains hundreds of billions of stars, give or take. Around one star in the Milky Way Galaxy we find our little home planet, but we now know most stars have planets. Can you imagine just how many planets there are out there? It's just unfathomable, so don't even try!

Now it's time to put on your crazy-thinking cap and try to imagine something even worse. Again, ignoring the multiverse concept: Just what the hell existed prior to the Big Bang? What got the whole thing going? Why does any of this even exist rather than nothing at all? Pizza. Rock music. Baseball. Toothaches. Kangaroo rats. Postage stamps ― all the things. For many people, this problem is so astonishingly complex it can only be the result of a supernatural entity. This is where things get really interesting and renders fascinating mental puzzles where, if you continue to attempt to peal back layers, your brain just kind of shuts off in some funky “don't go there” sensation. Ever feel that? It's kind of cool. 

To have causality you need time, but if time didn't exist then can you have causality? What was the supernatural entity doing before it created time and the universe? Did the supernatural entity begin to exist with the universe's creation, or does the entity somehow exist outside of time and space? What does that even mean!? Also, is this the first go-around for the supernatural entity in terms of creations, or is the multiverse model merely a collection of entertainments (movies) for said super-being's whim? You can drive yourself bananas trying to contemplate all this, and yet it's probably one of the biggest mysteries we can ponder with our minds.

The underlying problem here is the universe itself ― what is it? Well, I can tell you what's inside of it ― pulsars, quasars, galaxies, stars, planets, comets, dark matter, etc. But does this answer the question? Well, I have a heart, lungs, nervous system, bones, blood, brain, nose, teeth, feet, and so on … ah ha! I'm a biological organism, homo sapiens to be precise. When I say I'm a homo sapiens, you instantly know a ton about me in terms of how I came to be, that I have parents, what type of biological development I experienced, what my physical limitations are with respect to existence in my Earthly realm, and so on. But surely the universe is something separate from its contents, right? So, what is it? As humans go, we have each other and other biological organisms to compare ourselves to, but there's only one universe. Because there's only one, how can we draw any analogies in how its created by judging it against things that are constituent parts of it that are subject to causality? It isn't known if this is true for the universe itself. 

The supernatural entity solution has some inherent question-begging problems. If the universe cannot exist on its own ― and yet we don't truly know what it is ― how can we be so sure that it requires a creator? And if mysterious unfathomable things require a prime mover or first cause, wouldn't something have to be responsible for creating the supernatural entity, too? If not, then what can you say for sure about the universe that necessitates a creator for it? If infinite regression is to be avoided, why not stop at what we know exists for sure ― the universe itself. The first cause argument plugs logic it then immediately flouts in one fell swoop. What does it explain? If a supernatural entity doesn't require a first cause, there's no reason to be sure the universe does. The sustaining first cause argument fails precisely the same way.

Ponder this: Even if there's a necessary first cause, it wouldn't mean that the cause still exists today. Perhaps whatever it was that got the whole thing going terminated and ceased to exist at some point in time, and did so naturally. And yet most religions use the first cause argument to buttress that a particular super-being (the one they just happen to believe in) exists, but this argument can and is used to validate any and all creation myths of entirely different gods. The logical connection is premature. People are so sure they know this, and yet they know barely anything about the universe itself. 

The reason this argument is so appealing is because we no longer have to think about it. Humans are curious and inquisitive creatures but really appreciate whenever a nagging question can have a quick and simple answer slapped on it however intellectually lazy. “There! Solved that one. Now back to The Simpsons or Survivor.” Right? Do you recognize that person? We're all so wrapped-up in our daily lives that we choose not to think about such weighty existential questions, and yet our minds and our ability to explore such questions is one of the greatest natural gifts we have. 

To be sure, the best I can do is “I don't know.” People profoundly dislike “I don't know” and yet it's a perfectly legitimate and intellectually honest position to adopt ― agnosticism. It's certainly better than "There's no natural explanation for ________, therefore it must be supernatural." This is tantamount to saying "We don't know, therefore we do know." We don't know if there's a natural or supernatural explanation for the universe ― we just don't know. 

As many readers know, I do not adhere to any particular religion, though I do like Buddhism's Four Noble Truths and Eightfold Path. But I am not a Buddhist. I think The Sermon on the Mount represents a pretty high ethical standard. But I am not a Christian. The Five Pillars of Islam are somewhat less appealing to me, but for millions of people it's their life's mission. But I am not a Muslim.

Perhaps Charles Darwin said it best and most honestly with this:

"I feel most deeply that the whole subject is too profound for the human intellect ― a dog might as well speculate on the mind of Newton. Let each man hope and believe what he can."