What do a pair of headphones and the universe have in common? If you lay out a pair of headphones and put them away in the cupboard, chances are at a later date you will open the drawer to find them all entangled. What causes this? Entropy. The move from stability to chaos. It’s the way of things; It’s how the universe works. A natural progression is for something stable to descend in to chaos. In the beginning, there were the laws of physics. Physicians say these laws are unchanging and cannot be manipulated by a God, otherwise they wouldn’t be laws. That’s all there was, but this seemingly stable condition descended in to chaos: the Big Bang. The laws of physics weren’t “stable” and as a result, an explosion of matter happened. The dimensions of space and time were born in this moment, being the products of the laws of physics. Time, the fourth dimension, came along with the Big Bang. So, before the bang, time as we know it did not exist!
Computers and algorithms can show how the properties of particular shapes can lead to more complex patterns just by following programmable rules. One of these examples is the Game of Life which was invented by a mathematician named John Horton Conway in Cambridge in 1970. It features squares of tiles, a sort of game board, and some simple rules. Just by obeying the rules patterns appear, grow invariably more complex, and even reproduce. Philosophers could argue that we could all be just patterns ourselves being moved on – cause and effect – by the laws of physics. We and the whole of the universe, a pattern that evolved from the eternal laws of physics.
What more about chaos? We have plenty of evidence the Big Bang happened, because we know the universe is expanding at an accelerating rate, implying it was once much smaller. Plus, the universe has a uniform temperature that has “cooled”, and we can detect it (it’s called Cosmic Background Radiation). But when the Big Bang happened, it didn’t happen evenly. Some parts are hotter than others and scientists can detect these too, but it is these uneven parts that led to the formation of the first stars and planets. Clouds of atoms (mostly hydrogen, helium and lithium) created in the drama became warped by gravity, to create the stuff that makes up we, the planets, the air you breathe, the starlight.
Was there something from nothing? Not quite, because the laws of physics aren’t really “nothing”. For something to make something happen, it must have been “something” itself. If there is an opportunity for something to spring in to existence, that opportunity must be something. It turns out that in reality there is no such thing as nothing. Empty space is not nothing, rather, it is a energized field of subatomic particles. And these particles routinely “pop” in and out of existence on a subatomic level all of the time. They arrive literally it seems, from nowhere. From the ether of “nothingness”. So even before the Big Bang, there was always something: the laws of physics – the gatekeepers of creation. This doesn’t invoke the need for a God, because if there was a creator, the question falls on to: “who created the creator?” ad infinitum. If scientists can demonstrate theoretically that the universe can be created spontaneous from the laws of physics (which they can), then the God hypothesis is no longer necessary.
Why do we demand to know how the universe was created? Why does it trouble us so much when we confront the big questions such as these? We are curious creatures, but we did not evolve to understand quantum mechanics or the workings of space. (In fact, some scientists believe the development of consciousness was a by-product of some other evolutionary mechanism – even an accident. We aren’t supposed to even be in a position to question the ways of things.) Perhaps we just aren’t smart enough to really understand the answers. Perhaps – assuming that something must come from nothing – is just a human fallacy.