Humility And Understanding
We do not always think of philosophy, theology, and natu-ral science as having much overlap. However, we would not be in error to say that all of these areas of study are, at their most fundamental level, united by their drive to answer one question: Why is there something rather than nothing?
Practitioners of these disciplines do not give the same answer to this question, but they all operate on the assumption that ex nihilo, nihil fit. As we have seen, this Latin phrase means “out of nothing, nothing comes,” and as we look at science, philosophy, and theology, all of them attribute the origin of everything that exists to some cause. Some sci-entists attribute it to the explosion of a tiny speck of condensed mat-ter, but this explanation doesn’t answer the question. Even if the “big bang” happened, where did the matter that exploded come from? It could not have come from nothing because nothing cannot produce something. If we want to make a cake but lack ingredients, we cannot will the cake into existence from nothingness. No, to make a cake, we need tools and ingredients such as bowls, an oven, and flour. We need something. We can extrapolate that to the universe at large. If anything exists now, something—or someone—had to exist beforehand, for you cannot get something out of nothing.
Today, many physicists suggest some kind of self-creation on the part of the universe. The universe, by chance, formed itself out of no preexisting thing. But we have already seen that chance has no causal power, so it cannot be invoked as an explanation for reality’s existence. But self-creation is also logically absurd because if something cannot come from nothing, then the universe would have to be both some-thing and nothing at the same time and in the same sense. It would have to be something—have existence—because only something with existence can have causal power, but it would also have to be noth-ing—have no existence—since the idea is that the universe made it-self from nothing. The whole idea collapses on its sheer irrationality.
Much happens at the subatomic level that we do not understand. Scientists sometimes point to the apparently strange behavior of elec-trons, for example, and say, “That electron seemed to appear from nowhere; thus, nothing caused it to move the way it did.” But since logically, something cannot come from nothing, it would be more accurate—and humble—to say, “That electron’s movement has a cause; we just have not discovered it yet.”
Science helps us understand how the world operates, and one thing that it cannot do is draw conclusions that are logically impossible. If a scientific conclusion is logically impossible, we know it is an erroneous conclusion. When we encounter things we cannot explain, the solution is not to posit an illogical solution but to admit with humility that we do not yet understand fully and to continue studying the phenomena.
Passages for Further Study