"The universe can and will create itself from nothing."

So I asked ChatGPT about how the immediate effect of an uncaused cause will appear to come from nothing. After being told many philosophers and theologians have discussed this throughout history, I asked for specific citations, and the examples were humorous in an odd sort of way:

Thomas Aquinas, in his “Summa Theologica,” states: “To create is to produce a thing from nothing. But God alone can create out of nothing, because he alone is uncaused.”

Lawrence Krauss, in his book “A Universe from Nothing,” argues: “Quantum mechanics tells us that ‘nothing’ is inherently unstable, and thus the universe, even if confined to the smallest possible scale, could spontaneously appear from nothing.”

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, in his “Monadology,” writes: “The creation of the universe was not like the work of a prince who builds a palace with material already prepared, but it was the production of the universe from nothing, as creation ex nihilo implies.”

Immanuel Kant, in his “Critique of Pure Reason,” states: “A beginning of the world must either be admitted or the series of appearances must be held to be beginningless. In the former case, the world must have arisen from a state in which it was not, that is, from a state which, if we think of it, involves a contradiction; in the latter case, the existence of the world must be regarded as a series that has no beginning, and which has therefore no first cause.”

Stephen Hawking, in his book “A Brief History of Time,” writes: “The universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist.”

William Lane Craig, in his book “The Kalam Cosmological Argument,” argues: “If the universe has a cause of its existence, then we must either say that there is an infinite regress of causes stretching back into the infinite past or that there is a first cause beyond which there is no further cause. The latter alternative seems to me the more reasonable. For if there is no first cause, then there cannot be any intermediate cause either, since a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.”

Bertrand Russell, in his essay “Why I Am Not a Christian,” writes: “If everything must have a cause, then God must have a cause. If there can be anything without a cause, it may just as well be the world as God, so that there cannot be any validity in that argument.”

Richard Swinburne, in his book “The Existence of God,” argues: “The argument from the existence of the universe to the existence of God is that it is very probable that the universe had a cause, and that this cause is God. This argument rests on the general principle that everything which begins to exist has a cause.”

St. Augustine, in his book “The Confessions,” writes: “For thou [God] didst make heaven and earth, not out of any material, since there was no material, but out of thyself, yea, and not out of thyself as one thing made of another, but out of thyself as thy Word, co-eternal with thee and by whom thou didst make all things.”


It’s nice to have all that listed so succinctly. It’s also cool that it ended with Augustine.

I am frequently reminded that I am fond of the suggestion that QM might be hinting that the fundamental reality of the universe is information, and how well the mind of God fits the bill.


I’d be interested in thoughts about this article, especially from @pevaquark.



Enough to chew on for now. Off to the really important stuff – UConn v San Diego St. Night.


Earlier this century, some very strong evidence arrived showing that there was a Universe before the Big Bang, demonstrating that the Big Bang wasn’t truly the start of it all.

I grabbed this from the heading of the article.

I’ve often admitted, empirically and rationally, this universe could have formed as the result of some process in a previous universe, and in the heat death of this universe some QM fluctuation can trigger recombination and off it goes again.

The thing though, is that there will never be an infinite number of future events or universes. Which raises a curious question about the past, when does an infinite regress begin to look like the future and not the past? Horror vacui?

And yet, the immediate effect of an uncaused cause will appear to come from nothing.

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I skimmed the whole article, which is relatively dense for a popular-level article, but I can’t blame the author since cosmology is a dense topic. I think the title is a little misleading since all that he is doing in the article is summarizing the evidence for some inflationary event before the “big bang” theory takes over. That’s all fine and dandy, but the misleading part is “before the Big Bang.” The Big Bang theory describes the universe very well after it begins, but it is ambiguous about what happens before a certain point. However, my brain naturally went to link “before the Big Bang” to “before our universe began.” But all the author means is the time period before the big bang theory begins. In other words, he is arguing for the latter instead of the former.

  1. The universe (Itself) begins
  2. The Big Bang theory describes well what happens next


  1. The universe (itself) begins
  2. Some kind of rapid inflationary period occurs
  3. The Big Bang theory describes well what happens next

It’s pretty reasonable to argue for the second scenario, where Ethan summarizes the strongest piece of evidence from something called the spectral scalar index being close to, but not equal to one. Technically the rapid inflationary period is before the Big Bang theory, but only if one correctly separates #1 from the other steps in these scenarios. Maybe some comprehensive theory will tie everything together, but that remains to be seen.

What he is not arguing for, which is what my brain interpreted the title as:

  1. Inflation occurs before our universe began
  2. The big bang theory describes the beginning of our universe

The last thing is that some models of inflation predict a multiverse, and so some interpret evidence for inflation to suggest there are multiple universes. However, there are other models of inflation that don’t lead to multiple universes and the data can’t really judge between them as of yet.


The title is somewhat misleading after having read the article. (In point of fact, the title is somewhat misleading whenever. :grin:) Okay, the hot big bang may have been preceded by the inflationary state. Point taken. That says zip, nada, about where the inflationary state came from and how it started. And wouldn’t you know, it starts to talk about quantum fluctuations. Which leads me back to the above. ↑

Huh. Glad to read that after I posted. :slightly_smiling_face:

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If the data confirms multiple universes, should it be possible for there to be an infinite number of them?

It is as simple as there being an infinite number of points in an infinite space.

I have no idea. That’s way above my paygrade.

Ha! That is called a whiff.

The number of points or universes can proceed to infinity, but they do not ever exist as an actual infinite and definite quantity :grin:

ChatGPT: Infinity is not a number in the usual sense. Instead, it is a concept used to describe something that goes on forever or has no limit. In mathematics, infinity is often used as a symbol to represent the concept of an infinitely large or small number, but it is not considered a number itself. Rather, it is an idea that is used to describe certain properties of mathematical objects and systems. In some contexts, infinity can be treated as a kind of mathematical object, but it is important to keep in mind that it is not a number in the same way that 1 or 2 is a number.

I would expand on this and say infinity is a nonnumerical mathematical value, and there are 2 that I know of.

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I got the impression that inflation kept going after the Big Bang as well.

BTW, if there was already space before the Big Bang, would a better name for it be a Hot Flash?


Big Think is an interesting publication. It falls somewhere between technical and popular. Very niche.

Sorry for quoting such a big chunk, but that’s a fantastic summary. Thanks. My non-PhD physics brain was stuck on the not arguing for stuff. Let me see if I can paraphrase and draw a decent conclusion. Correct me where I’m wrong, like a proper student. haha

The Big Bang itself wasn’t the “beginning” of the universe. Something (the “universe”?) existed prior to the Big Bang, and that something experienced a rapid inflationary period just before the “hot” Big Bang. So far, so good?

Drawing some conclusions, it seems to me that the Big Bang was the result of prior natural causes. What caused the rapid inflationary period? Apparently, prior natural causes there too. How long did the “universe” exist before before the rapid inflation? I don’t think anyone can make a guess at that. All we have to go on is the physical evidence we can detect in our present universe. Based on that evidence alone, Einstein might have been right that the universe has always existed and never had a beginning. This isn’t a challenge to Christian theology. After all, God is eternal. It is a challenge to creation ex nihilo, though.


Nah. That’s called intellectual humility.


Ask ChatGPT. That’s real humility :wink:

That’s called a universe in an eternal state of becoming and quantifiable events are merely an illusion.

Not in our universe, at least. It is a necessary feature of all inflation models to stop or quickly decay in our universe (or at least what we call the universe in our region of spacetime). Some models of inflation, deemed eternal inflation, keep going to produce other bubble universes amidst the multiverse landscape.


That sounds good to me.

If one considers the effects of gravity to be “natural causes,” then it arguably makes sense to argue the Big Bang theory is the result of the same natural causes. Here’s a little of the background for how the Big Bang theory is related to general relativity that I found on the internet that’s pretty solid.

Well, that’s pretty complicated to answer, but it is generally thought to be a similar idea to what the Higgs Boson does for producing the mass of other particles. That will take one down the rabbit hole of scalar fields and spontaneous symmetry breaking, or let’s just call it:

Right and arguably, inflation would erase any hints of what existed before that point in time. It seems the best we can do is try to pin down the parameters of this inflationary event and maybe come up with some ways to test for eternal inflation. Maybe the Cosmic Microwave Background holds secrets in it we haven’t discovered yet about other universes, but evidence of our universe interacting with another will have been redshifted over the past 13 billion years or so making it very hard to see at all.

That’s a possibility. I’d probably be fine dumping the ex nihilo part which to my knowledge was mostly an invention in the first few centuries AD. I have a book I’d have to grab the specific reference tomorrow.


I thought these were notable in the Wikipedia article you cited:

“Although inflation is generically eternal into the future, it is not eternal into the past.”

So the question remains, why do we have something rather than nothing.


Stated simply Hawking says that their findings “imply a significant reduction of the multiverse” which as the University of Cambridge points out, makes the theory “predictive and testable” using gravitational wave astronomy.

So Hawking did not buy the early version hook, line and sinker.

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What is? An infinite number of past events?

You seem to want to have it both ways, and on this one, it’s like making solipsism and theism both true.

Paul Draper, my philosophy of religion professor in 2005, made a name for himself for arguing that the high probability of the design argument and the high probability of the argument for suffering make a strong case for agnosticism. On the cosmological argument he acknowledged an infinite series cannot be formed through successive addition, but that the past set of events could exist as a brute fact to which present events are added. We later corresponded about this and had an interesting discussion. One which I hope to continue here.

I even wrote his teacher and colleague Alvin Plantinga about this, and he found what I said interesting. I also told him I wish to remain unnamed, like the young student he wrote about who had an original insight to the unforeseen dismay of his senior professor.

The cosmological argument, like the ontological argument, does work it just doesn’t prove God apart from oneself.

Nothing cannot exist, but a good question is why is there diversity rather than unity, or unity rather than diversity. But unity and diversity, that is something special :grin:

Edit: Picking with the wonderful quote you pulled from the Wikipedia article:

Although inflation is generically eternal into the future, it is not eternal into the past.

It may be eternal in the past, like the future, when the world is seen to begin in the present. And it’s, as far as I can humbly tell, impossible to tell the difference rationally or empirically.