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Thursday, April 25, 2013

SCIENCE PROBE UNIVERSE HAS A BEGINNING


"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.(Gen.1:1)

Quantum Cosmology and Inflating Universes


Since relativity appears to break down as we approach the beginning of the universe, scientific cosmologists have turned to the other great pillar of modern physics, quantum theory, in order to overcome this limitation, and to create a quantum cosmology that can answer the question of the origin of the universe. Let’s try to get a general sense of this quantum cosmology, not in the scientific particulars of this or that theory, but rather, how scientists present these theories with philosophical and religious overtones.

In 1983, James Hartle and Stephen Hawking proposed that a cosmic wave function be applied to the entire universe similar to the wave function that quantum mechanics had applied to elementary particles. "According to this approach, the usual distinction between future and past breaks down in the very early universe; the time direction takes on the properties of a spatial direction. Just as there is no edge to space, there is no identifiable beginning to time.
Hawking writes elsewhere: "the quantum theory of gravity has opened up a new possibility, in which there would be no boundary to space-time and so there would be no need to specify the behavior at the boundary. There would be no singularities at which the laws of science broke down and no edge of space-time at which one would have to appeal to God or some new law to set the boundary conditions for space-time. One could say: "The boundary condition of the universe is that it has no boundary." The universe would be completely self-contained and not affected by anything outside itself. It would neither be created nor destroyed. It would just BE.

And a little later he adds: "So long as the universe had a beginning, we could suppose it had a creator. But if the universe is really completely self-contained, having no boundary or edge, it would have neither beginning nor end: it would simply be. What place, then, for a creator?

The Russian cosmologist, Alexander Vilenkin, now at Tufts University, has his own version of the beginning based on the aspect of quantum mechanics in which a particle can appear and disappear in a vacuum like outer space. An account of this theory which appeared in Discover magazine gives us the flavor of how these theories of the beginning of the universe are reported in the popular scientific press not only uncritically, but with a certain sense of awe:

"If a particle can pop into existence from nothing, why not a whole universe? Vilenkin wondered. If space can be thought of as an energy field with an average value of zero, why not think of pre-creation nothingness as a sort of space-time field whose average value is zero? Rather than a virtual particle popping into existence, a whole universe, along with matter and energy and space and time and everything else, pops into existence from nothing. Once he started to think about the universe in this way, he raised the possibility of not just one universe but many. Proto-universes could be popping into existence all the time… The pre-universal nothingness he described was the purest form of nothingness imaginable. Since matter and energy create time and space, Vilenkin’s nothingness had neither. There was no countdown to the Big Bang, because time did not yet exist. In a stroke, he reduced creation from a metaphysical event to a physical one. What had seemed unknowable was suddenly reduced to a set of equations.

More recently, Vilenkin, together with Jaume Garriga of the University of Barcelona, developed a "many worlds in one" theory in which our universe contains an infinite number of other universes, or O-regions, where alternate histories play themselves out. There is one, for example, where Elvis Presley is still alive. Alan Guth, himself a noted cosmologist, thinks that this idea has profound philosophical implications. "We already know that our planet is merely a tiny speck in a vast cosmos," Guth told UPI, "but now we are being told that we do not even hold a unique copyright of our own identities. Instead, each of us is actually only a single copy of an infinite number of beings that are completely identical to ourselves."7 Elsewhere Vilenkin said that he created this theory as a "metaphysical diversion." "Physicists usually want to make predictions and see if their theory is correct. This paper was not of that kind, although, in principle, we could travel to one of those other parts of the universe, although we won’t be able to do that anytime soon," he says. "To a large degree, eternal inflation is not accessible to observation. He doesn’t plan to explore the matter further, he tells us. It was a "metaphysical exercise.

Vilenkin’s compatriot, Andrei Linde, now at Stanford University, has proposed an inflationary universe which he hopes will address some of cosmology’s outstanding questions including the biggest question of them all, "the very existence of the big bang. He describes an "eternally existing, self-reproducing inflationary universe"in which quantum fluctuations in a scalar field are looked at as waves. These waves freeze and decrease the field in some parts of the universe and increase it in others. These increasing fields are soon bigger than the other parts of the universe: "In essence, one inflationary universe sprouts other inflationary bubbles, which in turn produce other inflationary bubbles. This process, which I have called eternal inflation, keeps going as a chain reaction, producing a fractal-like pattern of universes. In this scenario the universe as a whole is immortal. Each particular part of the universe may stem from a singularity somewhere in the past, and it may end up in a singularity somewhere in the future. There is, however, no end for the evolution of the entire universe.

"The situation with the very beginning is less certain. There is a chance that all parts of the universe were created simultaneously in an initial, big bang singularity. The necessity of this assumption, however, is no longer obvious. Furthermore, the total number of inflationary bubbles on our "cosmic tree" grows exponentially in time. Therefore, most bubbles (including our own part of the universe) grow indefinitely far away from the trunk of this tree. Although this scenario makes the existence of the initial big bang almost irrelevant, for all practical purposes, one can consider the moment of formation of each inflationary bubble as a new "big bang." From this perspective, inflation is not a part of the big bang theory, as we thought 15 years ago. On the contrary, the big bang is a part of the inflationary model.

When a reporter from Discover magazine went to visit Alan Guth, the originator of the idea of an inflationary early universe, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the reporter rhapsodized, "Now that inflation theory is approaching dogma, it is bringing science to the brink of answering one of the largest questions of all: Why is there something rather than nothing?"12 And Guth certainly didn’t discourage this type of approach. "It’s not a coincidence," he said, "that the Bible starts with Genesis… Most people really want to know where we came from and where everything around us came from. I like to strongly push the scientific answer. We have evidence. We no longer have to rely on stories we were told when we were young."13 We are told that at the beginning of the universe there was nothing, a pure vacuum with no space or matter, a vacuum which is subject to quantum uncertainties so that things can come out of it and vanish back into it. And what came out of it was a false vacuum, a particular kind of matter which has never been observed. From this false vacuum, one billionth the size of a proton, the universe emerged and the stuff in it "out of nowhere.

Along similar lines, the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum theory had long proposed that subatomic particles were in more than one state at a time in a sort of superimposition of possible states, and somehow these possibilities had to collapse to give us the one world we see around us. This led to the question of what caused this collapse, and it was proposed that it was the interaction of these superimposed states with an observer. This, in turn, led to the famous paradox of Schrödinger’s cat sealed inside a container. The cat was conceived of as both alive and dead until we looked inside, and then it was either alive or dead. But there was another solution proposed by Hugh Everett in 1957. In his interpretation the possible states do not collapse, but the universe somehow divides, and accommodates each possibility in a new world. This many worlds, or multiverse, view is still seriously proposed by some cosmologists like Bryce DeWitt and David Deutsch, and it is even claimed that it is the majority view among scientific cosmologists. We have to be clear about what this many universe theory is actually saying. It means that each time we do something, or each time something, no matter how small, changes in the universe, a new universe is created, and therefore millions and billions of universes are being created at every moment. Deutsch says: "I don’t think there are any interpretations of quantum theory other than many worlds… The others deny reality.

It would be misleading if citing these remarks of the scientific cosmologists on the origin of the universe left us with the impression that metaphysical style reflections occupied the forefront of the attention and energy of the majority of today’s cosmologists. They no more do so than do esoteric interpretations of quantum theory. Alan Guth, some of whose philosophical forays we have already seen, illustrates this situation with the structure of his book, The Inflationary Universe. It starts and ends with musings about the beginning of the universe, but the bulk of the book deals with the physics about and underlying the theory of the inflationary universe. In short, thoughts about the beginning of the universe are the speculative icing on the cake.

But it is certainly worth looking at Guth’s beginning and ending pages to help us sum up what some of the cosmologists have been saying. He recalls the initial paper of Edward Tryon who first suggested that the universe might be a vacuum fluctuation, "essentially from nothing at all," as Guth puts it. Part of the reasoning that undergird this assertion was that although the mass of the universe represented a large amount of positive energy, it was canceled out by gravity which was represented as negative energy, leaving the universe at zero so that its creation would not be a violation of the laws of the conservation of energy.

Physicists objected to Tryon’s theory because the empty space from which the universe was supposed to have come was still something. So Alexander Vilenkin suggested that it would be better to start with "literally nothing," which was not matter, space or time, but a total empty geometry of absolute nothingness from which the universe made the transition to a non-empty state by quantum tunneling.


A Philosophical Evaluation of Quantum Cosmologies


What can we make of these fascinating but rather bizarre-sounding theories? Are we really on the brink of a scientific explanation for the absolute beginning, or origin, of the universe? Let’s take a more critical look at what is going on. First of all, from the scientific side of things, these are highly speculative and controversial theories, and they rest on problematic foundations since there is as yet no theory that embraces both quantum mechanics and relativity, and thus there is no well-substantiated theory of quantum gravity. Christopher Isham has spelled out some of these difficulties in his "Quantum Theories of the Creation of the Universe." And added to these technical difficulties, he finds general conceptual problems including various difficulties with the Copenhagen and many worlds interpretations of quantum theory: "These are so severe," he writes, "that a number of professional physicists believe that the entire quantum cosmology program may be fundamentally misguided.

But the philosophical problems these theories face are just as severe. Timothy Ferris, for example, suggests that quantum cosmologists look at three fundamental problems: that of a first cause, that of something coming from nothing, and the issue of infinite regress. In essence, he is asking that scientific cosmology address properly philosophical questions, and in doing so he is simply following in the footsteps of the scientific cosmologists we have been listening to. Let’s see how successful his own attempts are to deal with these philosophical issues.

"There can be no effect without a cause." This he calls a noble and venerable argument, but finds that it is now more problematical. Quantum physics have shown us that there are, indeed, events without causes, i.e., radioactive decay, or vacuum fluctuations. "So strict causation may break down both in quantum physics and in considering the origin of the universe."21
"You can’t get something from – or for – nothing." This philosophical challenge, he feels, can be overcome, as well, if we imagine that matter and energy in the universe are positive, and the force of gravity is negative, as we saw, so that the total energy of the universe is zero so we are not really getting something from nothing.

In the final philosophical challenge we are told the universe must have originated from another system which, in turn, had to have an origin, and so "we are caught in infinite regress."23 But if the very early universe was a quantum space-time foam there would be no arrow of time, and so the issue would be meaningless. The problem of logical regress in contrast to this kind of temporal regress, he admits, is harder to overcome. "Certainly it is very difficult to imagine a theory in which the universe originates out of absolutely nothing. Even if we say it comes from some kind of scalar field, we are left asking where the field came from. Ferris’ questions are good ones, but his answers are less than satisfactory.

It is natural for scientists to want to pursue the story of the universe as far back to its beginning as they can, and it is also natural for them as men and women to want to know its ultimate origin. The real problem arises when scientific cosmologists give their theories a philosophical or ontological meaning, and act as if science possesses the only genuine way to know about these matters.

Stephen Hawking, for example, writing about his approach to how one can understand the universe, says: "There is a real problem here. The people who ought to study and argue such questions, the philosophers, have mostly not had enough mathematical background to keep up with modern developments in theoretical physics."25 The implication is clear. Philosophers need to be theoretical physicists because physicists are the people who can really address the question.

His former wife, Jane, comments: "There’s one aspect of his thought that I find increasingly upsetting and difficult to live with. It’s the feeling that, because everything is reduced to a rational, mathematical formula, that must be the truth. He is delving into realms that really do matter to thinking people and in a way that can have a very disturbing effect on people — and he’s not competent." And later she adds: "I pronounce my view that there are different ways of approaching it (religion), and the mathematical way is only one way,… and he just smiles."

Another example of this same kind of mentality comes from the physicist Frank Tipler in his book The Physics of Immortality: "Either theology is pure nonsense, a subject with no content, or else theology must ultimately become a branch of physics. The reason is simple. The universe is defined to be the totality of all that exists, the totality of reality. Thus, by definition, if God exists, He/She is either the universe or part of it. The goal of physics is understanding the ultimate nature of reality. If God is real, physicists will eventually find Him/Her."28 This is an amazing assertion that crumbles as soon as we reject the gratuitous premise that the universe is identical with all that exists.

Philosophical Issues


Let’s pursue these philosophical issues further by looking at two interconnected questions: the interpretation of quantum theory, and the epistemological type of modern physics. From the very beginning of the creation of quantum theory scientists have been divided about what kind of interpretation to give it. The mathematical formalism of quantum mechanics works extremely well, but there is no universally accepted understanding of what it means. The Copenhagen interpretation has shed an aura of quantum weirdness over the whole field with its paradoxes like Schrödinger’s cat, which is both alive and dead until we look, and particles which go through both slits of our apparatus until we decide to measure them. And it has become somewhat of a truism to imagine that quantum theory has demonstrated that causality does not hold sway in the microworld. In actual fact there is no reason to believe that this is true, or that quantum theory, itself, demands quantum weirdness. That is not to say that quantum theory is not surpassingly strange in its own way. It appears that nonlocality, i.e., the instantaneous interaction of distant particles, is an intrinsic part of it. But there is no reason to believe that something like radioactive decay takes place without a cause, or that we need an observer to collapse the superimposed states in order to decide whether the cat is alive or dead. I have looked at these issues in some detail in The Mystery of Matter. Unfortunately, this kind of reasoning that has always existed in quantum theory is now being applied to the universe as a whole, and we will have to look at how much sense it makes to imagine particles popping out of nothing, still less the universe itself.

The epistemological type of modern physics simply means that it has its own distinctive way of knowing things. It measures things and submits these measurements to the formal rule of mathematics, and in the best of cases, makes predictions that can be confirmed or disconfirmed by further measurements. It has its own distinctive way of grasping things in a web of measurements and mathematics that gives us a genuine knowledge of the world around us, but a knowledge that is somewhat indirect in the sense that the physicist does not fully understand just what he or she is capturing with this net of physico-mathematical constructs.

The physicist faces two temptations. The first is to imagine that physics is the only way to know things. We have seen the remarks of Hawking and Tipler that end up strongly leaving that impression. If we accept them in an absolute and literal way, then all we would have would be physics. Art and poetry, philosophy and theology, literature and history, would all be reduced to wishful thinking. Even if we don’t go to this extreme, any philosophical understanding of cosmology would be ruled impossible.

William Craig in an interesting article called, "Design and the Cosmological Argument," writes: "Remarkably, Hawking has recently stated explicitly that he interprets the Hartle-Hawking model nonrealistically. He confesses, "I’m a positivist… I don’t demand that a theory correspond to reality because I don’t know what it is." Still more extreme, "I take the positivist viewpoint that a physical theory is just a mathematical model and that it is meaningless to ask whether it corresponds to reality." In assessing the worth of a theory, "All I’m concerned with is that the theory should predict the results of measurements."

Some physicists even seem to go further and imagine that physics has given them a privileged seat from which to discern a lack of meaning in the universe. Steven Weinberg, for example, was flying over the U.S. and saw a beautiful sunset and reacted like this: "It is very hard to realize that this all is just a tiny part of an overwhelmingly hostile universe. It is even harder to realize that this present universe has evolved from an unspeakably unfamiliar early condition, and faces a future extinction of endless cold or intolerable heat. The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless."

To his mind, religion is an obvious "adversary" of science because it "teaches that we are actors playing a part set up by God. I don’t agree with that.

The second temptation is more subtle. What are we to make of the mathematical results that the physicists have come up with to explain the origin of the universe? First, we need to ask about what measurements they are based on, and what predictions they make. In short, they have to undergo genuine scientific scrutiny. But even if the starting point of these statements in the form of measurements are anchored in reality, we still need to ask whether there is a point-to-point correspondence between this or that mathematical symbol found in the equations of these scientific cosmologists and the universe, itself. This is a more philosophical question that does not directly interest the physicist. Kip Thorne, echoing some of the remarks of Hawking we just saw, writes: "Is spacetime really curved? Isn’t it conceivable that spacetime is actually flat? What is the real, genuine truth? … To a physicist like me this is an uninteresting question because it has no physical consequences."

But it is a critical one from a philosophical perspective. Hawking, for example, will use a number of mathematical techniques including imaginary numbers to create his no boundary view of the universe. But it is quite another matter to discover what, if anything, these imaginary numbers tell us about the actual universe around us.33 Or we may say that the wave function applies to the universe as a whole, and points to the existence of a multitude of universes. But this kind of physical assertion cannot be demonstrated by the mathematics alone, and there is no physical evidence for more than one universe.

This problem of how to go from mathematical symbols to the actually existing things around us has become much more acute since the creation of quantum theory. Physics, itself, has over the last century become more mathematical, and this trend shows itself in a particularly acute form when we come to quantum cosmology. If before mathematics served the measurements we made of the world around us in order to try to come to some sort of understanding of this world, now the mathematics seems to take the lead and impose a certain view on the universe rather than let it speak to us. Clearly it speaks in some way to us through mathematics, but not mathematical symbol by symbol.
What can we conclude from these two points? Quantum theory and the quantum cosmologies built on them come to us freighted with all sorts of baggage that cannot be uncritically accepted. And the mathematical constructs of the scientific cosmologists can’t be directly transposed into a view of how the universe really is in itself.

The Question of a Philosophical Cosmology or Something from Nothing


The central question of the origin of the universe is whether something can come from nothing. But this is a very philosophical, or even metaphysical issue and brings with it the question of whether science is equipped in virtue of its own methods to deal with it, and whether there can be a philosophical cosmology at whose heart this question would be found.

First some clarifications are necessary. We have to clearly distinguish the different "nothings" that are being talked about. There is what we could call a philosophical nothing which is the absence of all being or existence, an absolute nothingness. Then there is a scientific nothing, a vacuum like outer space, or some sort of quantum vacuum that fluctuates, or a primordial scaler field, etc. But from a philosophical point of view these things are not nothing, but something. Unfortunately, however, scientific cosmologists and their commentators sometimes slide from one kind of nothing to another, and don’t even notice they are doing so.

What we are going to be talking about here is absolute nothingness, and from that perspective the various scientific nothings are somethings which, in turn, need to have their origin explained, and even an infinite series of inflating universes giving birth to each other may obscure, but does not answer the question of an absolute beginning.

The quantum cosmologists theorize that the universe, or universes, have popped out of nothing, but, as we have just indicated, this nothing is really something, and even if we could demonstrate particles popping out of a vacuum, the vacuum, itself, has a certain existence, and is far from being the nothingness that philosophy talks about, and is even conceived of by physicists as being supremely full.

And even a more fundamental aspect of this problem is whether science is capable of talking about this absolute nothingness at all. If absolute nothingness simply does not exist in any way, then it cannot be measured, or observed, and therefore it does not fall under the scope of scientific inquiry. But if science can’t deal with absolute nothingness, is there a discipline that can? The questions we saw Timothy Ferris asking, and attempting to answer, are not really scientific questions, but philosophical ones. Here we arrive at the issue of whether there can be a philosophical cosmology which would address the question of the origin of the universe, itself, and even have a distinctive view of matter, space and time. A philosophical cosmology would not be an alternative science. It would not be able to tell us about quasars or black holes, or the acceleration of the universe, but it would have to address the magnificent and startling fact that the universe exists, and it would have to ask about its origins.

In today’s world where we hear so much about scientific cosmology, the very idea of a philosophical cosmology is difficult to imagine, and may even appear ridiculous. The very words cosmology and cosmologists are reserved for the physicists, and the word metaphysics conjures images of new age pronouncements, and even sometimes the remarks of the scientific cosmologists, themselves. But a genuine philosophical or metaphysical cosmology could exist in harmony with today’s scientific cosmology. It would not compete with science, but complement it, and have its own distinctive way to look at the universe.

Let’s outline some of the features it would have and how it would proceed. It could take the most basic findings of scientific cosmology as its starting point. We live in an immensely large universe which appears to have begun some 15 billion years ago, and is still expanding. Such a view delivers to philosophical cosmologists two undeniable facts, facts that were already accessible to us, but which science now presents in a more detailed and dramatic way. First, the universe exists. And secondly, it exists in a distinctive way. Let’s look at this second fact first. Scientific cosmologists insist that if the fundamental physical constants of the universe were different, our universe, itself, would be very different. It is not my intent here to examine where they go with these sorts of arguments in terms of the purpose and design of the universe. We will look at those issues later. All I am saying is that we find the universe existing in one way, but it could conceivably have existed in another. We live in a particular kind of universe.

The first fact, that the universe exists, appears at first glance to be an obvious assertion of no particular value to us. It is what science implicitly accepts, and then goes on to examine how it exists. But for a philosophical cosmologist it is not an unexamined premise, but a mystery that it must try to fathom. An immensely large and beautiful universe exists, but why does it exist rather than not exist? Existence is not a brute fact. It is the most fundamental and wonderful of facts.

So a philosophical cosmology is founded on two undeniable facts: the universe exists, and it exists in a distinctive way. These facts could be rephrased in a more general way by saying that things exist, and different kinds of things exist. We can accept that we are surrounded by many different existing things. The sun exists and warms us. And the moon exists and circles the earth. And the sun is not the moon. The sun has a certain kind of existence, and the moon a different kind. But the next step in the creation of a philosophical cosmology is much harder. Neither the sun nor the moon represents the totality of what it means to exist. Indeed, our universe, itself, is a distinctive kind of universe, and is only one of many possible universes, so our universe cannot be equated with the fullness of existence. The things around us, and the universe as a whole, therefore, are partial reflections, or refractions, of Existence, itself.

There is another line of reasoning that leads to the same conclusion. Everything we experience changes. The stars have their own life cycles, as does the universe as a whole. But to change means that something becomes something that it was not before. Things become more or less, or cease existing altogether. Things have a more or less precarious grip on existence, and they modify each other’s existence. But what does this imply? It means that what they are is not the same as that they are. The sun came into existence, but we can imagine a time when it is no more. It does not have to always exist.

The kind of philosophical cosmology that I am outlining categorically denies that something can come from absolutely nothing. In scientific cosmologies we have things coming from nothing that are really somethings, that is, fields, vacuums, etc. Or we have something coming from nothing based on certain kinds of interpretations of quantum theory that are not intrinsically connected with its mathematical formalism, but are philosophical interpretations of it. And we have some rather bald assertions on the part of some scientific cosmologists and their popularizers about something from nothing, but all in all, I can see no real scientific evidence that something emerges from absolutely nothing.
Something from nothing defies common sense, and by common sense I mean the deep pre-philosophical sources of the working of our intelligence that we rightly rely upon in our daily lives. I don’t expect my banker, for example, to be content when I explain that my overdrawn account will be remedied by money popping into it from absolutely nowhere. Nor do I expect a parking spot to miraculously pop out of nowhere in Berkeley or Cambridge. The scientific cosmologists don’t expect these things to happen, either, so why should we expect it to happen in the case of a single proton, or an entire universe? Something existing is not the same as it not existing. If we deny this, then all hope of reasonable discourse disappears. Then why does scientific cosmology sometimes have a predilection for a universe popping out of nothing? First of all it is for the reasons we have just seen, that is, that their nothings are really somethings, because of particular interpretations of quantum theory, and so forth. But there may be another reason, as well. When faced with the question of the origins of the universe there are two possible options. We can say it came from nothing, or we can say that it came from something, a something when posed leads to all sorts of philosophical and religious questions. It would be entirely reasonable for scientific cosmologists, precisely as cosmologists, not to deal with these philosophical and religious issues. But the distinction between a person and his or her profession are usually not drawn that clearly, and so we sometimes have scientific cosmologists attempting to slam the door on these kinds of philosophical and religious questions. Some of them even appear at times to go out of their way to oppose science to philosophy and religion. The end result is to have the universe popping out of nothing where this nothing is not some conclusion arrived at by science, but is equivalent to saying that there is no role for philosophy or religion in cosmology, or in life, itself.
The other fundamental option is to develop a philosophical cosmology in which effects have causes, and something is not nothing, and the universe had an absolute beginning. It came from something. This something, however, cannot be a something like the things around us with their fragile hold on existence. It must be conceived as the source or foundation or fountain of Existence. If we go in this direction, a very different view of the universe begins to emerge. We begin to see the universe as a beautiful iridescent rainbow floating on a sea of Existence. The limited existence of the things around us rests on unlimited Existence. The universe as a specific kind of universe is a reflection of the fullness of Existence. By way of analogy we can liken this fullness to the vacuum of the quantum theorists from which particles appear and disappear. This vacuum, instead of being empty, is supremely full. It is nothing only in the sense that it is not like the usual matter and energy we encounter, but rather, some deeper and richer matrix from which they emerge. If we translate this image into a properly philosophical arena, we can say that the universe truly and marvelously exists as the partial expression of a deeper and richer ocean of Existence from which it has come.

The universe, for example, not only originates from this ocean of Existence, but continually rests upon it and unfolds and evolves in relationship to this dynamic ground, this immense ontological field of Existence. If the universe is a partial and limited reflection of Existence, itself, it is contingent. It does not have to exist. Therefore we would be mistaken to conceive the universe as some sort of necessary emanation from Existence itself, for if it were, it would somehow share in the intrinsic nature of Existence and not have the limited contingent existence that we experience.

Further, while this universe could have been made out of the matter of a previous universe, ultimately this contingent matter must have been made without any such matter, that is, without the use of some contingent pre-existing material. It has to flow directly from Existence, itself, because only Existence has the power to make things exist. Once existing things are created, they enter into causal relationships with each other, that is, relationships of giving and receiving existence.

Existence and the things it creates are never static. Existence makes something to be in a certain distinctive way, and this very distinctive kind of existence acts in a distinctive fashion. This kind of action could be called a law of nature. These laws are not imposed from without, but are simply the expression of the particular kind of existence that things have. A proton, for example, has certain essential qualities, not because those qualities are decreed by some outside agency, but because they flow from the very being that makes the proton to be what it is. My point here is not to try to set out in detail such a philosophical cosmology, but simply to indicate that it exists.

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