10 Unanswerable Questions that Neither Science nor Religion can Answer

10 Unanswerable Questions that Neither Science nor Religion can Answer

 

A few years ago I was taking a tour of a dome shaped house, and the architect explained to me that domes are an optical illusion. Whenever someone enters a room, their eyes inadvertently glance up at the corners of the room to give them the contextual dimensions of the space they’re in.

He went on to explain that since domes have no corners, that from the inside they appear larger than what they really are, and from the outside, they appear smaller than the space of another house with a comparable footprint.

This notion of context has followed me throughout my life, into virtually every topic I’ve come to wrestle with. Once I can find the “corners of the room,” I can begin to make sense out of whatever subject I’m dealing with.

However, when we dive into the “why” topics of how time and space began, and even the size of the universe, I find myself struggling to even formulate good questions.

Perhaps this is nothing more than a form of therapy for me, but I’d like to take you along on a rare inner personal journey into how I think about the biggest of all big picture issues. And it all starts with one simple question. “Why are there exceptions to every rule?”

The Feud Between Science and Religion 

Even before the time of Copernicus, scientists like Philolaus and Aristarchus of Samos had proposed something other than an earth-centered universe.

While evidence of this line of thinking had been building for centuries, with Nicolaus Copernicus publishing his landmark book “On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres” in 1543, it wasn’t until Galileo made his mark in 1615 that the rift between science and religion would reach death-sentencing proportions.

The Galileo verdict caused a rift between science and religion that continues even today.

However, there are some seemingly unanswerable questions that neither science nor religion can offer a reasonable answer to, and I’ll do my best to keep this balanced so I don’t come across favoring one side or the other.

With this in mind, I’ll start with a rather unusual question.


1.) Why are there exceptions to every rule? 

Why is it that all of our rules, theories, maxims, and models all have an exception? This is precisely the way the world works, except when it doesn’t.

In a perfect world, we wouldn’t have any exceptions, or would we?

On the surface this seems like a rather trite question, and if you ask the average person on the street, most will simply smile, shrug, and move on. But in a world where scientists have spent countless billions to research and understand such topics as the relationship between matter, energy, particles, and waves, everything has to make sense, except it doesn’t.

Even with our basic understanding of math, 2+2 does not always equal 4. It depends on what type of measurement scale you are using. There are four types of measurement scales – nominal, ordinal, interval, and ratio. Only in the last two categories does 2+2 = 4.

So why do exceptions matter? Exceptions matter because nothing comes with 100% predictability. Yes, we can count on such things as buildings existing from one day to the next, the earth traveling around the sun in the same orbit, gravity holding us down, and the speed of light remaining reasonably constant. In fact, most of the world around has been created around natural forces that can be predicted with high degrees of probability.

For this reason, there is no such thing as absolute certainty, except our certainty that nothing is certain… maybe.

2.) Why do logic and reason fail to explain that which is true? 

In many scientific circles, the only truths are those that can be explained with logic and reason. Religious people use a different metric, but they too have a way of calibrating their truths with logic and reason.

So why are logic and reason such miserable tools for explaining the world around us? It’s as if the world around us was perfect, and then someone divided by zero. Everything perfect has a touch of that one secret ingredient known as chaos.

Is order more perfect than chaos? Or is chaos just a higher form of order? How will we ever know if we can’t explain it with logic and reason?

3.) Is the universe finite or infinite? 

If we were able to travel to the outer edges of the universe, what would we find? Perhaps we would run smack dab into another universe, but how would we know? Would the other universe somehow come in a different color, operate with a different set of rules, or smell slightly like almonds? How would we know?

I’m imagining a large sign that says, “You have reached the end of Universe A! Welcome to Universe B where proximity is not an issue!”

How much is infinity plus one?

4.) Why does anything exist?

Before there was something, there was nothing. And out of nothing, how did we get something? What existed before the big bang, before creation, and before God?

Yes, it becomes very confusing when we throw in theories about other dimensions and non-linear time, but all of these theories fail to answer this most fundamental of all questions, “Why does anything exist?”

We know things exist, but why?

5.) Why does time exist?

Time is the sound of a metronome ticking in our heads, the beat of our heart, the blinking lids on our eyes, the mental waves in our brains, and all the circadian cycles that govern our lives.

Much like fish that can’t understand water because they’re in it all the time, we have a very poor grasp of our most immersive of all substances – time.

Each of us thinks about time differently. To some it is a tool to be leveraged, to others a setting sun, a theory of physics, a philosophy to be debated, the hands of a clock, a lengthening of a shadow, or the grains of sand dropping in an hourglass.

And yet every truth we have about the existence of time comes with a counterbalancing exception to the rule.

I love Albert Einstein’s comment that “the only reason for time is so that everything doesn't happen at once.”

What Einstein may have been alluding to is the existence of other dimensions outside of those governed by time. But whenever he made the comment, it always ended with a smile, the universal sign for “no further explanation will be forthcoming.”

6.) Why do humans matter?

We are born as a baby, struggle our entire life with everything from finding food to eat, homes to live in, educating ourselves to gain more understanding, staying healthy, making friends and relationships, raising a family, earning a living, and then we die.

If we have more accomplishments in life, earn more money, have more friends, raise a bigger family, and somehow do everything better than anyone else, we will still eventually die. Right?

In a world teaming with 8.7 million different life forms, how do humans fit in?

Every past civilization, with their manmade structures, machines, systems, and cultures, has eventually succumbed to Mother Nature. Plants, animals, bacteria, and fungi methodically remove every trace of what we leave behind.

Why are humans important?

Does the fact that we can ask questions like these, ponder the unponderable, think the unthinkable, and accomplish things that no other species can accomplish, somehow give us a higher purpose?

Are humans destined to become the guardians, caretakers, and eventually the masters of the universe? If so, then we have to ask…

7.) Why are humans so fallible?

Humans are the bull in every china closet, the off-center bubble on every level, the mystery behind every hidden agenda, and the blunt instrument whenever a precision tool is called for.

We are both our greatest heroes and our most feared enemies. We are praised for our accomplishments and castigated for our failures.

Of all species on planet earth, humans are the least predictable, most destructive, require the longest nurturing period, and consume the most food. At the same time, we are also the most curious, most aware, most innovative, and the most likely to waste countless hours playing video games.

Yes, we may have better developed brains than all the other animals, but that doesn’t explain why we are so unbelievable fallible?

8.) Do human accomplishments have long-term meaning?

If you do a search of mankind’s greatest accomplishment you come up with lists that include the building of the great pyramids, landing on the moon, the invention of the telephone and light bulb, amazing artworks, and the composition of countless music scores. But are those things that human’s consider to be great accomplishments really significant in the bigger scheme of things?

Perhaps today’s human accomplishments are a stepping-stone to what comes next?

We live in a world driven by prerequisites. A machinist needs to understand a single-point lathe operation before he or she can advance to multi-axial milling. Engineers need to understand the concepts of mechanical stress and strain before they start bending a cantilever beam. Metallurgists need to understand thermodynamics before they attempt phase transformations in solids. Physicists need to understand quantum mechanics before they can understand a standard model for particle physics. Mathematicians need to understand nonlinear differential equations before they can understand strange attractors.

Are all our accomplishments just stepping-stones to something else that we don’t know or understand yet?

So what is it that we don’t currently know that will make tomorrow happen?

9.) Why is the future unknowable?

While I’m well aware of the notion that a “known future” will strip us of our drive and motivation, understanding the consequences still doesn’t explain why the future isn’t knowable.

I like to think of the future as a force so massive that the entire universe is being pulled forward in time simultaneously. We have no choice in this matter. The future will happen whether or not we agree to participate.

Currently there are no known techniques for us to speed it up, slow it down, or even try to stop it. The pace with which the future is unfolding is constant, and at the same time, relentless.

Will the future always remain unknowable?

10.) What is the purpose of death? 

Shortly before his death, Steve Jobs said, “No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share.”

But why death?

Couldn’t we just dissolve into a pile of ash, fly out of our skin, step into an invisible elevator preprogrammed to go to the highest of all floors, or just mentally fade to black.

People fear death. We spend millions on vitamins, health food, fitness programs, and doctors all to avoid the unavoidable. Or is it unavoidable?

Why are we so terrified of the unknown?

Final Thoughts

People who surround us today are part of the present and will also be part of the future. For people who are intellectually enlightened and “tuned in,” it’s easy to discount those who have a different perspective.

Yet the future is being created by all of us. If we believe we have a purpose, then so does every butterfly, pocket mouse, and beam of light.

We have all experienced things that we would consider extra-dimensional, such as thoughts that spring from “nowhere,” words that come from our “intuition,” and ideas that torture us relentlessly.

Regardless of your beliefs, start with the most basic of all questions – Why does anything exist?

It’s rather ironic that our first impulse is to use logic and reason to come up with answers, an approach that has historically only been able to answer questions about the tiniest of all fractions of the knowable universe.

If you were expecting me to have all the answers to life’s most unanswerable question, then this column will certainly disappoint you. It has been a lifetime journey for me just to formulate the questions.

That said, I would love to hear your thoughts. Am I asking the right questions? Do you have answers to these questions, even one of them? Here’s your chance to weigh in.

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By Futurist Thomas Frey

Author of “Communicating with the Future” – the book that changes everything

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43 Responses

  1. Robert Searle

    Yes, I do think that no philosophy, or soience can explain, or prove everything. But at least we can try. My projects may some have relevance here.

    http://www.p2pfoundation.net/Multi-Dimensional_Science

    http://www.p2pfoundatin.net/Transfinancial_Economics

    And

    http://www.p2pfoundation.net/Universal_Debating_Project

  2. Much of what was predicted in prophecy – and recorded in history – and stated as fact before science confirmed it – can be found in the biblical record. http://www.creationresearch.org/ http://www.icr.org/ – others…
    Meanwhile, science runs to catch up – or offer “whiz-bang” theories – that are yet to be proven – but are required by the government to be read in our schools that are forced to disallow and decry and dismiss those historical biblical accounts.
    Evolution is a “fact” and clearly accounts for climatic/genetic change. The core question is about creation – of the universe – and the life-forms on which evolution then begins to act. The worship of the “religion of evolution” is well represented and widely promoted – including in schools. The conflict is likely more about defending certain assumptions – than discovering/and then accepting the “Truth”…

  3. Daniel Theobald

    Hierarchy could be a thought. I just typed in hierarchy and it gave me the option of hierarchy of angels. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/f/ff/Francesco_Botticini_-_The_Assumption_of_the_Virgin.jpg/300px-Francesco_Botticini_-_The_Assumption_of_the_Virgin.jpg

    This is a great painting that could have some cross between the science and religious questions.

  4. Roy Volkwyn

    Many psychics can see months, even a few years into the future. Extraordinary ones can see several decades, even a century into the future.

    One of the greatest living seers/prophets, South Africa’s Credo Mutwa, can see some events that are decades into the future. In or before 1993, he foresaw a time when people would have small machines in their homes that would make garments. He incorrectly predicted that this would happen by 2010 – psychics are often incorrect with dates. We now expect to have 3D garment printers in homes, in the foreseeable future.

  5. Daniel Theobald

    A little more on good old Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_angelic_hierarchy

  6. Jon Ehrlich

    Actually, most of those questions do have answers and I don’t mean to sound arrogant by stating that. Because, is it more arrogant to say the answers do not exist or that they do? Almost my entire life has been researching those aspects of our being. The conclusion (so to speak) is:
    – you’re not normally ‘here’ in this physical world. It is said that a life is more like a walk down to the corner store from ‘there’, our normal location (and only part of you is here at any point)
    – you chose your life with the help of your soul guides (see Dr. Michael Newton, Newton Institute and the related “between life” on going studies) based on your karmic needs – your choice
    – there is no death only transformation
    – there is no judgment from any one outside of yourself (no hell either… just souls getting momentarily lost)
    – this is a multi dimensional infinite universe
    – time is an illusion and important for where we are in this rapid development, physical, time based realm and one of the toughest, best learning environments for the soul (which is an entirely different aspect to our temporary host body) see: Robert Monroe / Monroe Institute
    – if it’s a good fit, the soul usually comes into the body around six months. If not… the work starts earlier with the communications between the child, soul, mother, body/mind. Should fit like a glove, sometimes doesn’t.
    – there is a direct relationship with disease and the body that starts well before the symptoms appear (see John Kortum, Kortum Technique)and the solutions to our health issues will not be found by science but by awareness(maybe the verification). He developed a visual/kinesthetic ability to detect disease from age 8 on, and it was clinically tested to be over 92% accurate – modern technology can not pick up on things he can sense and the technique was taught to the nurse at the clinic (so much more to this story!)
    – “Consciousness cures cancer” – see Lisette Larkins: Talking with Extra Terrestrials – conversations with enlightened beings. They’ve been here a long, long time and offer a view that really needs to be looked at very carefully.

    Clearly there is a lot more, and yes, I would be very willing to part of a discussion. Which by the way is also something we should do with my ideas, which are many. We talked about getting together after one of your last Ruby on Rails talks… would still like to do that. Feel free to call if you’d like 303-641-9042

    Jon Ehrlich

  7. Daniel Theobald
  8. You question why. Evolution. That is why. Evolution of brains enables higher sentience enables answers to more difficult questions.
    As understood by Humans: Beginning (of the universe), expansion, galaxies, stars, planets, life, sentient life (distinctly higher intelligence, consciousness), sentient life with souls, spirituality (interactions among souls), sentient systems (created intelligence on a par with biologic sentience, e.g. robots), and perhaps in the future, sentient systems (robots) with souls.
    …Sentience is defined on ability to ask and answer ever more difficult questions.
    … I have no doubts about whether souls contribute to the issues of why.

  9. Rod Graber

    Jim Holt’s “Why does the World Exist” grappled with these questions. He spoke with renowned philosophers and physicists. The question became centered on the beginning of the Universe and why would a more complex thing occur when nothing is simpler.

    I cannot tell what I prefer, the mystery or the knowing. Knowing scares me because we are only a portion of the way along our journey…so how could we really know in this amoeba like state?

    The mystery saddens me because I see our life as a brief opportunity to understand what we can. What is left for future renditions I will never know.

    I can say that there does seem to be a story…with protangonists and plots and the like. I can say that it is purposeful that we are here to give voice to that story. It is in fact beautiful that we can converse this way in an attempts to describe it.

    Surity bothers me for another reason…when it takes the form of self-orientation. That we are somehow endowed with innate attributes designed to serve our ego selves comes accross as shallow to me. So many books are out there to teach us how to get what we want through our spiritual selves. These are baloney I have to say…almost embarrasing in their patronage.

    I do like the concept of there is an “IS.” We are a part of it and we are at varying times dissonant and less dissonant from it. When we are less so, or the closer our allignment, the more insight, bliss, creativity and magic we can have.

  10. Hi Tom,

    Great questions! When it comes to a way to understand time, I’ve formulated a somewhat unique interpretation during my own lifetime of thinking along these lines. I’ll try to pull it together in a concise way…

    At the quantum level there’s a probability of a wave/particle existing at a given location, and a quickly diminishing probability that it will exist somewhere at a distance away from that point. In a similar way, imagine particles or tiny creatures in the ocean moving around some location at random, always in a Brownian motion kind of way, and always existing in some probability distribution around that high-probability location or dynamic state of existence.

    Now imagine, at a microscopic level, that the ocean is freezing, and the surface of that vast expanse of frozen water is sweeping through the location where the particles or creatures are chaotically moving around. Boom, in an instant the transition from low predictability locations and interactions is suddenly frozen into a pattern of very high probability, fixed locations and interactions.

    As life forms we are always trying to “cheat entropy” by predicting future events. We see the truck coming towards us and we predict accurately that within a couple seconds we will be hit, so our consciousness allows us to change that future by moving out of the way. However, our ability to “remember the future” is very, very limited, and randomness of the myriad interacting events in the chaotic future quickly diverges from predictability. Just like at the quantum level, anything can happen, some things with more certainty than others, but all is possible. There may or may not be another truck in an hour, but we can’t “remember” that far out into the mathematically chaotic future.

    At the transition point called “now”, the highly unpredictable locations and interactions of all particles and events become frozen into a highly predictable pattern we label as the past. We remember the past well, and use it to attempt to improve our ability to “remember the future” against the great uncertainties in that direction. The better we do this, the more conscious we are. We have a long, long, long way to go in our ability to be highly conscious by this definition.

    “Now” can be visualized as the transitional interface between the set of all highly unpredictable events and interactions, and the highly predictable and unchangeable set of more or less fixed events and interactions. The ice grows and expands, fixing in place highly unpredictable states into highly predictable states. The surface of the expanding ice is “now”.

    So, imagine that the Universe does all “happen at once” as Einstein avoided, it’s just that on one side of the line, locations and states are highly unpredictable, whereas on the other side of the line they are highly predictable. Our ability to “remember”, or predict states, is likewise completely different for each side of that transition line. We call that line “now”.

    All this begs the question of why in the Universe would probabilities of states suddenly change so completely and thoroughly?

    (Just like how the tunneling effect allowing jumps through barriers at the quantum level, maybe there’s a diminishing chance that the past can be changed a bit, or the future changed before the transition of now happens, but that’s a whole ‘nother issue.)

    Thanks for the great questions!

  11. Gramt Whittle

    The universe is infinitely complex. All attempts to describe the universe or to establish rules to explain the universe are inherent over-simplifications with underlying assumptions which always have exceptions.

  12. Gramt Whittle

    What science struggles most to explain is how order arises from chaos when entropy inherently drives dissolution into chaos. I “religiously” believe that “intelligence” is co-eternal along with energy (which forms all matter).

    Physics experiments have shown that the thoughts and expectations of the researchers can influence observed behavior of energy and matter. This can be interpreted as intelligence influencing the order perceived In energy and matter, leading to the hypothesis that such influence of intelligence may explaIn how order continues to exist in an Infinite universe subject to entropy and hence why chaos does not reign supreme.

  13. Grant Whittle

    So what is fallibility (or “sin”)? Perhaps it is the result of any thought or action that undermines the Intelligent maintenance of the order of the universe and thereby threatens us all by contributing towards the natural entropic devolution towards chaos.

  14. Blake Walter

    I have always thought that the answer to #1 (Why is there an exception to every rule?) is somehow integral to beauty. We can imagine systems with absolutely no exceptions, but such systems often seem stagnant, unattractive. I always have liked the bit from The Matrix where Agent Smith states that the first Matrix was designed to be a perfect world without suffering, but no one wanted to live there. It’s not that suffering is integral to beauty; rather it is that we experience suffering when our expectations for predictability are thwarted. Without that unpredictability, however, awe and beauty might be impossible.

  15. Jordan R

    Tom:

    The onion seems ceaseless in it layers and this continues to fascinate me. I am neither a scientist nor philosopher. Yet the complexity of the universe astounds me. What a marvelous creation it is and the chance to explore and gain knowledge drives so much human creativity.

    I recall a statement on the conflict between religion and science by John Paul II which goes something like this; “Science can purify religion from error and superstition. Religion can purify science from idolatry and false absolutes.”

    It strikes me that no matter how many layers we peal back yet another exists. It is a wonder that I struggle every day to understand. It is, humbling.

    Best to you for a thought provoking piece.

  16. John Kirk Browning

    Did anyone see this article? Science as perpetual revolution, from its earliest beginnings to quantum gravity

    By Carlo Rovelli | September 13, 2011, http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/2011/09/13/science-as-perpetual-revolution-from-its-earliest-beginnings-to-quantum-gravity/

    I am a Christian who thinks sometimes that much of this disagreement between science and faith could be cooled down a little if my fellow Christians could believe more boldly in what we believe. Then we wouldn’t have to defend it so aggressively. We could even offer an olive branch as needed. There just doesn’t have to be such a rift between science and faith, even while defending the Bible.

  17. jag1ts

    seemingly unanswerable questions that neither science nor religion can offer a reasonable answer to

    First things first. Science is limited and, as admitted by scientists, has a long way to go to find answers to these questions. There are many religions, and they have many different things to say. So ‘religion, cannot provide any uniform answers.

    The option to both science and religion is spirituality. There is only one spirituality (unlike religion). However it functions at different levels.

    So here is an attempt to answer the questions from a particular level of spirituality.

    1. There are no exceptions to the(spiritual)rule.
    2. ‘Truth’ requires no explanations.It is an explanation unto itself.
    3. Universe, as we know it is finite, because our knowledge is finite. God, and ‘creation’, is infinite.
    4. There is no ‘why’ in spiritualism, because with our limited intelligence we cannot fathom the unlimited. So there are no answers for every why.
    5. Time (and space) exist so that ‘creation, would be able to exist. In fact they are part of creation.
    6. Humans do not matter. In the petty affairs yes, we would like to think we matter, that is the ego in action. In the grand plan, no we do not matter.
    7. Similarly humans are fallible because we are very much limited. Only the ‘unlimited, is infallible.
    8. No.
    9. Again the ‘why’. Being unknowable is a characteristic of the future.
    10. Death (and birth) are essential for creation. Actually there is no death or birth, only transformation.

    jag

  18. Mohandas Kizhakke

    I read somewhere,
    WE ARE NOT HUMAN BEINGS GOING THROUGH A TEMPORARY SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCE.
    WE ARE SPIRITUAL BEINGS GOING THROUGH A TEMPORARY HUMAN EXPERIENCE

    SO, ARE WE HUMAN BEINGS GOING THROUGH SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCES OR ARE WE SPIRITUAL BEINGS GOING THROUGH HUMAN EXPERIENCES? is there an answer to this question?

  19. First of all … I love this article.. Sometimes we all need to take a chill pill and step back and realize we just DONT have all the answers.. Really.. it does not matter how many degrees we have, wealth, titles, power.. we will still die but as you say why do we exist at all.. It is the questions that we ask that make us human.. our constant awareness of a question to be answered.. new questions everyday.. every child asks WHY? WHY? WHY?
    Every person somewhere is asking the question WHY? Why do we have to have drought? Why cant we stop world hunger? Why do we not value Mother Nature? Why? These small questions are just as unanswerable really as your ten BIG questions and must be the reason why we exist.. to ask unanswerable questions.. Maybe the world is generated by our questions but then we come back to square one.. who made us to ask questions in the first place..
    I am an interfaith Christian and engineer so I have no conflict with either Science or GOd because I accept some questions as the ones you ask as UNANSWERABLE.. and now that I am past 50, I am comfortable with knowing I dont know much of anything least of all WHY I believe in both science AND God. That said… so far I am the only woman responding to this question.. so I will be one to ask this unanswerable question.. would we have asked and answered different questions along the way if we (in the Judeo-Christian western world view) had thought that GOD was a WOMAN?

  20. THE UNANSWERABLE QUESTIONS WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN RAISED IF THE AUTHOR HAD PONDERED AND KNOWN THAT GOD IS AN EXCEPTION. GOD HAS BEEN THERE FROM THE BEGINNING AND IT IS HE WHO CREATES, SUSTAINS AND DESTROYS, BECAUSE THAT IS HIS PLAY. GOD IS BOTH MAN AND WOMAN. IN FACT HE/SHE IS EVERYWHERE, BECAUSE THERE IS NOTHING IN IT HE/SHE IS NOT THERE. HE/SHE IS THERE IN THE KILLER AND KILLED.

  21. All the ten questions need individual analysis ,extending our thought process vigorously on the matter & each one will have a different kind of answer.this will involve a lot of time to react for each question.Anyway I intend to dwell over it to get some kind of feedback.

  22. Cassio Bueno

    If we believe that ETs exist or another life forms from other planet, let’s think about this. It’s possible that God is the creator, so God sent your son in this planet too, like he did with earth.

  23. admin

    I’ve been reading all of your responses with great interest, and I’ve been getting a ton of private emails as well. However, I’m still not convinced I’ve read anything that would truly constitute an answer.

    One fascinating speaker, Wade Davis from National Geographics, has a way of touching on these topics in a rather indirect way. I would love to hear your thoughts on his talk titled “Why ancient wisdom matters in the modern world” – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z-BRzgAxw9k

    Note: He and I were both speakers at Creative Innovations 2012 in Melbourne last year.

    Thomas Frey

  24. admin

    Scott, a very fascinating way of analyzing our existence. I agree, although it still doesn’t answer the “why fallible humans” and “why does anything exist” questions.

    Tom

  25. spikosauropod

    If you think of the universe as having several possible default states, the question of why there is something rather than nothing is greatly simplified. The obvious default states that one might consider are:

    1. nonexistence
    2. a single dimensionless point
    3. three dimensions of empty space

    However, there is only a fictitious hierarchical difference between the three. We naturally think of three dimensional space as “normal”, but it is really just one more dimension than two. Why not four or five? Why not ten? A single dimensionless point seems to be at the bottom of this fictitious hierarchy, but it is barely distinguishable from nonexistence.

    Apparently, the universal choice function that is demanded by logical consistency, chose existence over nonexistence and a number of dimensions that is greater than zero.

    As for the question of why humans are fallible, I think that comes down to what you mean by fallible. I tend to think of our own space (not the same as existence) as a ship in a bottle. The universal choice function is attempting to build this ship without violating the container. Apparently, part of the process of building the ship involves humans passing through stages that might be interpreted as fallibility. In actuality, it is just a case of waiting for the glue to dry before you add another piece.

  26. admin

    Nicely put Blake. So another way of phrasing this is that imperfection is the ultimate form of perfection.

    Tom

  27. R Kumar

    Your questions are themselves answers to our existence. The “known” is limiting the unfathomable to suit our level of ignorance. As you rightly pointed out knowing the future is like the all knowing, leaving nothing to your imagination and limiting the expansion of your knowledge. Life is limited but the boundaries unknown making it all the more liveable to seek the unknown. Your ten questions are only the beginning of the unknown. Let us all probe the unknown and expand the borders to see more of them.
    Happy hunting till death curtails our humanly endeavours.

    – R Kumar.

  28. Great Post

    A lot depends if you believe in God and have faith. If you believe in God and that God is all powerful, then God can do things the way God wants to do things and Gods rules are not understandable by us humans.

    If you believe in Science then the Heisenberg Uncertainty principle applies and observer effects the observed so what we know is only known at that brief moment and it changes…..

    For me faith in God works

    Phil S.

  29. Leaving aside matters of faith for a moment, one could take a far more secular and prosaic view of the issue, and consider instead equally puzzling questions on everyday matters that could lead to profound insights.

    Taking the John Allen Paulos approach for example;
    1) What is occasional furniture the rest of the time?
    and
    2) What happens when wine vinegar goes off – does it turn back into wine?

    These are unusual, but by no means invalid, takes on the death and furniture and arrow of time debates respectively. They also demonstrate the need to challenge our assumptions before we frame the question rather than after.

  30. Tom,

    This was always going to create a lot of responses from both ‘camps’ and neutrals.

    Regardless of the views of creationists, the facts are that modern man is an evolved species with a lineage that started in the palaeozoic oceans (along with all life on the planet). Because of this fact, and the paradigm nature of the evolution to sentience for man, the ‘answers’ to more ‘questions’ are contextual to that journey. Ask a medieval man about the universe and God fulfills the mans lack of answers as a concept. This is due to the limitations in the ability to ask the ‘right’ questions and formulate an experiment or observation to provide answers or usually more questions (but better ones!)As the number of humans have increased and proportions of those populations have actively shared ideas and results, the COMMUNAL knowledge of mankind has increased. This community of minds have served to push the barriers of lack of knowledge further and further back, and left less room for the ‘God’ card.

    In the event that individuals or whole societies choose to ignore or disbelieve this pooled community of knowledge is again part and parcel of the ‘evolution’ of the species. I find that religion has generally been a hinderance to science and the curious nature of man. Your point on Copernicus and Galileo is a point well made. The societies at the time can be forgiven, as the facts and evidence were not universally known, and only the church were allowed to say what was true and what wasn’t. Luckily today, the church is not regarded as an institution that is describing the universe with data and reliable observation.

    The human condition is that due to the nature of our virtual community, our minds have outpaced our physical evolution, and the biggest problem we have is that we cannot escape looking at the world through the lens of our physical beings. This sensorium is the limitation of our ability to transcend the physical and view the existence of everything in a truly realistic way. This statement is not any confirmation or affirmation of the existence of a soul or non-physical entity. The truth of the matter is that we can think far deeper than we restrict ourselves. By trying to answer these deep questions using the human sensorium is impossible, as our mindset requires absolutes. We always try to ‘visualise’ whatever we are talking about, or to ‘sense’ it in some way using any or all of our other ‘senses’. These are restrictions to the big questions, as they are by nature unfathomable to the human condition. Perhaps a few more thousand years, and we could be at a sufficiently evolved level (maybe as a fully electronic sensorium)to see the universe as it really is and better understand our unique position in the universe as probably the only sentience within it.

  31. Dan

    1.) “Why are there exceptions to every rule? ” Is that a rule? What is the exception to it? If there is an exception to it, then it’s not true since that would mean a rule doesn’t have an exception. If there’s no exception to this rule, then it’s not true because this rule has no exception.

    What’s the exception to the rule that no information can travel faster than the speed of light?

  32. FuturistSpeaker

    Dan,

    The exception is that all light doesn’t travel at the same speed, calling into question many different rules of physics.

    Yes there may be rules that don’t have exceptions, but that would be the exception, not the rule.

    Thomas Frey

  33. religious follower

    all of these questions can be answered through religion

  34. Glen Pekofsky

    What is space? What’s outside of space? And what’s outside the outside of space?

    What created matter? And what created that?

    What is consciousness and why does existence exist?

    And so on.

    I perceive an apparent reality, and the best I may be capable of is believing that I am experiencing an occasional shade of joyousness. Although my understanding may have absolutely no relationship to actual reality, I am confident, though unsure, that I cannot relate to something seemingly unknowable.

    Indeed, what is infinity + 1?

  35. (1) There is NOT an exception to EVERY rule.
    For example: There is not a single LIVING being that can also be DEAD while they are alive. This RULE is never broken.
    Zombies only exist on television (smile)
    And 2+2 IS always 4, the others u mentioned are NOT 2+2, in other words, PHYSICAL problems cannit be solved with METAphysical answers..

    (2) the first assertion was correct, the second is false. What religious people do is hold to “illogical” ideas in spite of their lack of logic and reason.
    They will say something like, “GOD IS NOT BOUND BY LOGIC!!!!!” (this makes their deity APPEAR invulnerable to cognitive thought processing.
    For example: a christian gets cancer, this christian goes to a doctor, the doctore treats them and they credit, JESUS. this isn’t truth or anywhere near, its ignorance. Rational people do not assert the idea that there are “personal truths”, I’m curious to why you made a claim for religious thought but neglected an example. Seems fishy.

    (3) This questions exposes your lack of understanding what universe MEANS.
    it is the TOTALITY of EVERYTHING THAT EXISTS, OBSERVABLE or PONDERABLE..
    With this properly understood, one can see that talks of multiverses is not science but pseudoscience. How can there be more than one everything? Simple answer, it cannot. You cannot travel to the EDGE of everything and then find more things.. your premise is equivalent to claiming u removed EVERY penny from your bank account but somehow you believe its MORE in there somewhere. Incompatible argument. Furthermore, u. Deflected from dealing with the possibility that the universe is Eternal. I’m wondering why.

    (4) This is an irrelevant question to ask, and its loaded the assumption there was a point where nothing existed. That’s like asking “do I STILL beat my wife” without knowing if I EVER DID in the first place. People such as myself hold no position that something came from nothing, it should be clear why asking this question is nonsense (unless ur asking folks who believe in a beginning)

    (5) Time exists because we humans created the axiom to explain and measure the movements within space. Because a rock can roll from A to B, We can calculate the distance and motion as its result. For example: if a GOD has always existed, then time has always existed. Unless he was frozen, everything he did took TIME to do so.
    These ideas are only hard to answer when you are basing your questions off misinformed ideals in the first place.

    The Albert Einstein quote actually refutes your own question. Its impossible for you and your parents to be born simultaneously, this is what Einstein meant. Your distortions are why you are so conflated on these matters

    (6) humans matter TO HUMANS.
    I’m seriously starting to wonder the purpose of these questions. Still, in a world with all these life forms, its clear where we fit in. Just as every other form, we live, eat, struggle, raise seeds, die, etc. Death is a part of life, accept it. You just as all other animals are a part of the world, not outside of it. “Think the unthinkable” sounds cool, but, its rubbish, if you ARE thinking it, then its ABLE to be thought about.

    7. The answer to that is child’s play.
    We are fallible by nature, this is what anybody creative does. You create something in the moment of need, then as need increases, we recreate that something in greater capacity. Our minds are not static, if they were learning would be impossible.
    Its not a weakness, its a strength :-)

    8. This question just collapsed on itself, see answer to 7. Since this is a rearranged form of the same question. If you can see what our past had in store for our present but are confused about the future, you need to look harder.

    9. The future is unknowable because we are presently creating it. If I choose now to use a condom, its safe to see I eliminate a child from existing in the future. Has nothing to do with losing a drive, its just Intelligence.
    For example: if I saw my death in advance,and took steps to avoid it, then obviously I DIDNT really see my death. Its like God with adam and eve, its no way EVE could have obeyed God, he knew before he made everything, what would happen, if his foresight is correct, she HAS to eat the fruit, if she doesn’t eat it, his foresight was wrong. . This is why, we cannot know the future before we create it :-)

    (10) this is another question where you speak for people who don’t hold the position you attribute to them.. Plenty of us, DONT fear death, and we understand its purpose, which is to no longer exist in the form we have been in. DO I look forward to death? No, but I have accepted it and have no fear of it..

    (P.s. you say you didn’t want to show any bias but, your entire list of reasoning is based on religious thinking. I find that very peculiar)

  36. GHULAM RASOOL

    answer of all 10 question is given by science. but the main scientists of science are non Muslims. they do not believe in ALLAH (GOD). this is the main fault, of which science is not be able to give answer of all these question. Einstein and Stephen hawking are two big scientist whose thinking are amazing. both scientists proved mathematically that there is nothing in this universe except gravity(g). before big bang only gravity exit. because when time is zero. according to eq. g=v/t when t=0 it implies that gravity is at its maximum limit means affinity. when time is zero then there in no mass (m) before the big bang. when m=0 according to Einstein eq. e=mc^2 energy is zero. there is nothing except gravity.
    Stephen hawking says that gravity is responsible for the creation or destruction of this universe. and there in no GOD behind the creation of this universe.
    but i totally disagree with Stephen hawking view, because if i pick a stone in my hand and threw it at the Stephen hawking head, he would die with this act, then according to Stephen point of view i am not the killer of Stephen hawking, Stephen is killed by the force of mine, which i exerted at the stone. but no one can accept it that i am not killed Stephen, and the actual killer is the force.
    like wise this there is some one WHO controls the power of gravity. HE is the master of gravity.HE posses this power. and HE is unique, only ONE, ALONE, MOST POWERFUL,and HOW is this? HE is the only ALLAH(GOD).
    When we believe this that ALLAH(god) exist. then the religious is true. and when you study the Islam as a true religious then you will find the answers of all these questions.
    one thing we should remember that ALLAH is most powerful and we are nothing in front of him.

  37. Muhammed Aaqib

    In Islam, Allah says that life a journey, a test. This Earth is just made for our humans. The real world where we should be is Hell Or Heaven. Do good deeds, follow what Allah says and hope for Jannat. No doubt, Allah is all forgiving, the (mistakes). Many people say that if there was a God, no one would be suffering from pain and poverty. Sometimes, Allah is checking us, and sometimes, Allah publishes us in the world, not on the day of judgement. It’s my faith, just sharing my beliefs, nothing else. I respect other religions because Allah has told us to respect other religions.

  38. J. Spander

    I am almost amused at the various attempts to answer these questions. The truth is that all of the answers to the questions you have asked are here. No single person gave all of them without introducing some predefined ideology, but all of your answers are here.

    I’m going to take a guess and say you are a person who would relish finding them amongst the rubbish. Enjoy!

  39. Abdullah

    These questions and many more have answers in Islam religion in detiles.
    I suggest you try to read about it. It is the only religion have the logic and reasonable answers.

    Thanks
    Abdullah

  40. Me

    There can’t be multiple universes or else that defeats the purpose of calling it a universe. Universe=all existing matter and space considered as a whole i.e. everything, there can’t be multiple universes without multiple dimensions and even then you’re still in a gray area.

  41. First, I want to say thank you for what questions that you posed as I do have an open mind, and like to read what other people are thinking. The questions that you asked can only be answered buy believing in an eternal being who created everything in time with a purpose. I believe one of the greatest statements that you made was that if human existence matters, then so does a light beam or a butterfly or any other number of things that we can name. Knowing God by faith has answered all of these questions for me, and has gave purpose to all of life, and even death. He is my final answer, and no one said that we had to understand everything to enjoy life. People claim that in heaven you will know everything, but I beg to differ. I believe that life itself is one continuous exploration of the unknown and the joy of new revelation. Thanks

  42. I loved the article. After reading about 15 of the responses I was left with more questions than were asked. 2 of these being why is no-one answering the original questions and why are they so loquacious and garrulous.
    Here are my laconic answers:
    1. Our rules, theories, maxims, and models are flawed
    2. We have to understand what we are explaining to be able to explain it properly
    3. The universe is infinite and is amongst other universes in the 4th dimension —this is the same as saying where does the 2nd dimension end yet there is a 3rd dimension.
    4. In an infinite amount of universes, there are infinite possibilities, hence this was just the lucky 1 that things do exist. In others nothing may exist or others may exist very similar to this one but with slight differences or even great differences, etc.
    5. Time does not necessarily exist. Time is something that humans have created so we can watch the days go by.
    —Additionally ‘the beginning’ of something is a concept based in a flawed system(time) that humans have created. ‘the beginning’ is a flawed concept from a flawed system that doesn’t necessarily exist, hence why ‘the beginning’ of the universe is such a hot topic. Same applies to ‘the end’
    6. We don’t. to the sub-question; why are we important- were not
    7. – see a psych for this question
    8. –don’t know the future
    9. Because our brains are programmed for remembering the past. We can’t know/remember the future because we haven’t been there yet.
    10. To recycle the used atoms back into the earth for other uses.

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