Why is there something instead of nothing?

In one of his books with logic puzzles, Raymond Smullyan has an amusing chapter where puzzles have to be solved to ask to a monk the question: Why is there something instead of nothing? The interesting conclusion of these puzzles is that, in the story, `there is nothing instead of something'. However, one of the things we can be sure of, it that at least something exists. There is a Universe, and we see people, and things, and light, and while we may debate what it means, how it came into being, and how it works, we can be sure that there is at least `something'.

Many physists search for the most elementary laws of physics, and believe that a law is more likely to be true, when it is simpler, more elementary. Some think that at some moment, humans will understand how the Universe works, and, even more, that we find out that the Universe is necesarily as it is. I cannot believe that, indeed, because I believe humans cannot give a final answer to the question: Why is there something instead of nothing?

With nothing I mean the un-existence of everything. No people, no earth, no milky way, no universe, no laws of nature, no space, no time. Making a mathematical model of nothing is actually easy. (Take an empty set, with no operations on it, and nothing else.) But, one thing we can be sure of: this nothing is not correct: we do not have nothing, but something. This shows that the most simple model is not always the correct one.

Some people may argue that the universe was created in the Big Bang, and that positive matter and positive energy are actually negated by the simultaneous creation of negative matter and negative energy. However, this doesn't answer the question: where do these laws of physics then come from?

Does this question have an answer? If something exists because it was either a modification of something else, or was created by something or Somebody else, then what caused that to exist? It seems that our logic is unable to deal with the question; indeed, I think the question shows there is a limit to our understanding of things.

Why do we have a Universe? My answer is that God created the Universe. But, then, one can ask: who/what created God? I believe God was not created, but was (and is, and will be) always there. Indeed, God is so mighty, that he goes above our reasoning and above our logic.

Hans Bodlaender, January 2003, hansb@cs.uu.nl