The Mystery of Existence. Paradigm, essence, existence, creation (updated 3/17/22)

Purpose of the update

This update intends to extend and clarify some points that were previously discussed.

Motivation for this brain storming

“Classical” science is based on concepts of time and space which appear to us as inherent in the nature of the world and the way in which we apprehend it (immediate data of our consciousness). As such, they are the natural and necessary framework for its description and understanding. Yet modern theories show us that this is not the case.

 Relativity shows us that time and space must be abandoned as fundamental concepts in favor of a more synthetic concept « space-time » of which space and time are reduced « at best » to being only shadows.

 Quantum mechanics beyond the mutilation of our understanding linked to the abandonment of determinism, but perhaps in relation to this, presents us with a strange world, of which we cannot really give a coherent interpretation.

The difficulty is that our mind works in space and time, which is undoubtedly the cause of all this torment, and that when we make meritorious efforts to abstract ourselves from it, time and space are too often underlying without us always being aware of it.

The purpose of this article is to try to endeavor thought and, above all, to encourage all the minds to think about it, because such a task requires the cooperation of minds, to try to find a loophole for discovering the intimate reality of nature and, consequently, that of our own nature.

We become aware of the difficulty of the task, since it is our own nature which must itself be analyzed and determined. The hope, however, lies in the fact, that as part of the universe in its most global extension from the microscopic to the macroscopic, we can by observation of this nature (which is « external » to us) to appreciate certain characters.

We must therefore use as paradigms (see the definition in a later chapter) the strange properties of modern theories to guide us in our quest.

The problem

 When considering the existence of the universe and our own existence, which as the cosmological history shows, looks to not matter at all in the existence of the universe, we may wonder how and from what all of this comes?

The usual option (commonly referred to as the initial conditions) that provides the framework for our analysis is: Except if it is eternal, obviously before something, nothing existed. We then consider the existence of the universe, making our own life possible, as a creation that will occur mysteriously!

A Newtonian approach

 This approach which would make this creation occur in a place and at a time, denounced by J. Peebles (Nobel 20019), is typically Newtonian where time and space are presupposed to pre-exist to the creation.

 This Newtonian approach where time and space are seen as the fundamental concepts of consciousness.

This type of reasoning leads to a dead end since even creation, the concept of which generally implies a time and location for that creation, assumes the prior existence of time and space.

 So, we must then pose the problem of the existence of a space and time as predecessor to this creation and so on….

 In some cases, we assume a prior vacuum state that is not “nothing”. The quantum vacuum, for example, to which we attribute physical properties, would allow a universe that would result from a « dissociation » of this vacuum into 2 symmetrical entities like matter and anti-matter, or even universe / anti-universe.

This conception is a positive step, because, obviously, this type of symmetry is fundamental in the universe. Modern theories include it for describing, with some success, its physical nature.

Moreover, it is tiny break of this symmetry, difficult to explain, which gave birth to our universe as we know it.

But there is also the problem of the existence of this vacuum which, like everything in our Newtonian approach, either is eternal, either was created from something else, or was created ex-nihilo but likely in a space and time structure in this approach.

It is a endless process without any exit.

Eternity as a solution?

What about an eternity character, either to the universe or to its possible predecessors?

 Let’s forget, for a time, that eternity involves infinity, which makes it consider non-physical.

 In our Newtonian conception how to locate in time an event in the context of an eternal entity where all the points are equal and how to conceive an orientation (an arrow of time) which supposes to break this « symmetry ».

Can an infinite line be oriented in a context where only this line exists?

 Our intuitive conception of eternity is not one that can be mathematically defined.

We define it from the present time and extend infinitely our worldline line to the past and to the future, this providing also an orientation.

This concept is different from the mathematical one.

A creation therefore cannot be located in eternity. A line becomes two half-lines.

Moreover, it also remains to solve the problem of the creation of the orientation of time that could result from it.

Creation, for example by dissociation from an eternal entity, creates origin and orientation, breaking symmetry. This assumption is not without its problems. What in an eternal entity could break an “eternal” symmetry for example, why, when, where and how. If we don’t get out of our Newtonian logic of time and space, the outcome looks problematic.

Relativistic space-time

Rather than a creation, let us pose the problem of the existence of a space-time-matter-energy entity. This is the relativistic approach supported by its mathematical description based solely on itself.

All the elements necessary for its description are contained in this entity. It doesn’t need anything external for existing and describing itself. Therefore, as creation from something else is not necessary, we are even entitled to ask, since no external element is required, whether the concept of creation, useless in this context, has a meaning.

Considering the existence of the universe in place of its creation, is a huge conceptual step toward a more extensive knowledge, and for going higher in the understanding of the universe and of ourselves, we must lay down the usual concepts of time and space (shadows of spacetime, we will comment this further) and take the spacetime as the fundamental paradigm for a more synthetic analysis.

Existence in place of creation

The creation of the universe is a hypothesis bound to a theory (big bang) but the only established fact, is the existence of our mind, and therefore of ourselves, which implies in turn that of the universe, because we are part of it.

It is therefore from this established fact that our analysis must be exerted and not per anthropomorphic examples inspired by our life experience, based on our perception of space and time, as conceived, in this context, as immediate concepts of our mind.

The problem arises from the fact that general relativity, the theory ruling the modern cosmology, states that only spacetime, for which our understanding has a poor experience because its manifestation on our scale is imperceptible, has a physical meaning.

Let us recall that, however, as early as in 1907, Minkowski underlined that in special relativity, space as well as time have no physical reality and are reduced to being only shadows of spacetime[1] which is the only physical reality! [2] 

When difficulty gives rise to an improvement

With our conceptions anchored in our mind of space and time, fundamental and essential frameworks of our existence and our intellect, the fact that we discovered, by the observation of nature and the development of theories to describe it, relativity in this case for space-time, that these concepts inherent in our being were only shadows of a more complex entity is a spectacular advance.

 Compared to the prisoners in Plato’s cave who watched the shadows and sought to interpret them, we went further as we discovered a more synthetic structure for the object which generates these shadows.

We went beyond to what we considered as the most fundamental concepts of our thought by questioning them which seemed incredible.

Also in quantum mechanics, the ingenuity used to develop a theory which correctly described nature in its ultimate elements and which seemed to flout the most fundamental beliefs of our reason shows us how our mind has overcome its limits.

There is undoubtedly a long way to go, but this allows us to hope to go even further, by abandoning the concepts that we considered essential of time and space, very useful in everyday life but unsuitable for understanding the universe.

These new theories get rid of these shadows and incorporated the advancements that have brought us for our future thinking.

 Like the alpinist climbing to the  Everest, we no longer start from the bottom of the mountain we now have a higher base camp on it, and it is from this base camp that we must depart for  going up to the summit. .

 Brain and thought

As modern neurology shows, we must be wary of our brain which, in fact, develops mental structures from what it has learned in its daily experience in order to try to provide the most suitable solutions for the different situations in which we are involved.

 Thus, our beautiful intellectual constructions could simply be habits of thought, with all the limits that this implies.

 Its efficiency comes from its flexibility with regard to the acquisition and processing of data relating to the phenomena it has encountered. It is this that has allowed the development of theories that may have been considered unrealistic in the past..

The difficulty we experience is that the brain has rather developed an expertise as a coordinator for ensuring the vital functions from its experience in the world in which we live where we do not meet the specificities of the modern theories and therefore has difficulty in picturing them.

If its flexibility which allows it to build sophisticated mental structures was aimed mainly to improve its efficiency in its organic vital tasks, more abstract works can benefit of this sophistication (The converse is also true).

 So, there is reason to hope that the story is not over, if wisdom wins over human madness.

Elements of Plato’s philosophy: Essentialism

Essence is prior to existence.

Plato defines the essences or ideas which are the intelligible eternal and perfect forms, archetypes, and models of sensitive things which are represented by phenomena in our physical world as their unstable and imperfect images.

The phenomenology of physical entities and the related laws of nature makes sense and are ruled by the ideas.

The allegory of the cave Plato illustrates his arguments by describing a situation where prisoners in a cave only see the shadows, on the wall of this cave, of the outside world.

Can they imagine that these are just shadows of something more complex (ideas) and can they reconstruct them from the shadows or are they have no other choice that to consider those shadows as reality?

If a prisoner claims these shadows are the only reality in existence, is it possible to prove that he is wrong?

In this description, the cave represents the physical world where we live and the shadows are the phenomena that we see. The outside world is the perfect world of ideas.

We are always in a similar situation, we told how, we succeeded in approaching the “physical reality” without, likely, reaching it. Nevertheless, as we did not reach this reality, it may include unknown characters that we might even not conceive now. Therefore, we must keep our mind open.

Paradigm.

The paradigm is what exemplifies a rule and can therefore serve as a model. With Plato, it has a pedagogical meaning: the paradigm is the « easy » object on which one is encouraged to train before exerting his sagacity on an object which look like to it but which is more “difficult”.

G. Bachelard [3] illustrates this by emphasizing that thought is essentially inductive, it reads the complex in the simple, the law in the example.

Existentialism

The notion of existence in philosophy experienced a fundamental boom thanks to Kierkegaard in the 19th century and then, in the 20th century, with Merleau-Ponty and Sartre, depending on where, unlike Plato, existence is prior to essence.

Existence cannot be deduced, it is observed, it is experienced: Sartre: “To exist is simply to be here. The existing ones appear, let themselves be met, but we can never deduce them”. The essence, then, is built in existence.

The success of the Big Bang model, assuming a creation of the universe, proved that claiming that « only the existence of the universe makes sense » is a breaking through hypothesis, not usually accepted.

A creation, in physics, is a singularity and as well as for our mind because one may wonder how something can emerge from nothing? Remember that the quantum vacuum is not nothing. An eternal universe does not solve the solution either, because eternity, which does not allow a point to be unambiguously located, is not also a physical concept.

Theories making the Big Bang emerge from something existing before are only postponing the problem of the existence of what was existing before [4].

All these hypotheses are based on an external vision of our universe and an external time and space in which it would be located. In fact, in relativity, time and space do not exist, because only spacetime, resulting from Einstein’s equation, exists.

As we have developed in the book, the spacetime defined by general relativity needs nothing other than itself to exist and is able to infer all the phenomenology that we see within the universe where we are and of which we are a part.

Existentialism then appears to be the most appropriate philosophy to describe our relationship with this universe.

Paradigm for a creation

The arguments, previously developed about our existence involving that of the universe, [5] were aimed to propose an objective overview of a physical situation.

However, they do not discard a frustration because they do not address the problem of the origin of this existence. The concept of “creation” likely involves metaphysical arguments. Notwithstanding with this difficulty, let us consider a paradigm involving our own existence.

The purpose of the arguments developed previously about our existence involving that of the universe [1] is to make an objective state of a physical situation. However, they leave in our mind a feeling of dissatisfaction or even frustration because they do not address the problem of what we call “the origin of this existence”. This, usually called “creation” cannot ignore a part of metaphysics. Notwithstanding with this difficulty, let us consider the following arguments. First, let’s start by clarifying the concept of « creation ».

What is the usual definition of a creation?

We call creation something that appears, suddenly, where there was nothing before! We see that if we apply this definition to the universe, this definition refers to a space (place where creation appears) and to a time (the time when this creation takes place). This supposes a background made of a pre-existing space and a pre-existing time of reference, which would implicitly be eternal, because otherwise it would be necessary to explain their creations as well. On the one hand it is a Newtonian approach, where time and space are independent, and on the other hand this approach is rather shaky. One of the elements (the background) is infinite (eternal) and the other has, at least, a beginning and possibly an end.

But above all, this approach is incorrect, because what we must consider is not a space and a time, but it is a spacetime, which is a fundamentally a different concept, of which our concepts of space and time are only « shadows”, as Minkowski declared, likely, by referring to the allegory of Plato’s cave. The spacetime is « more » than its shadows and cannot therefore be defined by them![6]

Therefore, the question is, does is make sense to use the concept of « creation” with the definition we have defined (a concept supported by an independent space and an independent time).

The answer is likely “no”. The conceptual tools associated with the concept of « creation » that we currently use are inadequate for analyzing this problem. We should investigate other ways, other paradigms. An attempt for a new paradigm is proposed in the next paragraphs.

Before our conception we do not exist. But our birth, which can be seen as the creation of a new being, does not come from nothing. The ingredients of what will become our body were already existing on Earth. Whether we are a smart combination of these ingredients, operated by our DNA, it is a transformation and not an “ex nihilo” creation as, even though from raw matter emerged more sophisticated matter [7], matter generated matter!

But Asides, our mind which makes us to feel to be a unique individual human, independent and above all our consciousness which make aware of all of this, seems to emerge “ex nihilo”, because it is a property of a different nature than matter: consciousness [ 8] cannot be interpreted by a strictly materialist approach.

Therefore, per our definition of the paradigm, the example of the consciousness may be used as a model for a paradigm for improving our understanding on what should be our origin and that, correlated, of the universe.

How can we get the reality from inside?

The example of our galaxy (the Milky Way) illustrates a crucial problem. It is difficult to totally describe something from inside! If the shape and content of our neighboring galaxies appear to us clearly in our telescopes, it is not the case for our galaxy (we see a white trail on the sky). We know that the stars that we see in the sky are their projection onto the surface of a celestial sphere and we locate by angular coordinates. The distance of objects is not directly accessible to us. It is by using the physical properties of celestial objects and some parameters, (brightness, size, ..) that we know, and that we associate to the laws of physics, that we get it

Thus for the Milky Way, where we are in an “arm”, it is through statistical over-densities in stars (which we attribute to our galaxy)  on the celestial sphere that we estimate its shape and dimensions. .

The exercise is quite tricky, as evidenced by the many changes in results, over time.

Since we are in the same situation, (inside), regarding our quest for our existence and that of the universe, these methods could inspire us in our quest. It is certainly from inside that we must therefore build our paradigm!

To be, endless, continued….


[1] No doubt that he was inspired by Plato’s allegory of the cave.

[2] This is also true in general relativity.

[3] In his book « the new scientific spirit »

[4]  A humoristic illustration of this kind of argument is provided by the story of the man who had a leek in its ear on weekdays and a banana on Sunday.

[5] Setting human before the universe, is on purpose. It is because we think the universe that we develop these theories. As already indicated, not considering the one who thinks the universe in his description can only lead to an incorrect analysis.

[6] If it is difficult for our mind to imagine a hyperbolic, 4-dimensional spacetime, as defined in general relativity, its rigorous mathematical description indicates to us that it is totally “autonomous” and self-describing. By this we mean that he does not need anything other than himself to exist and be described. It does not need to be included in something else to exist, so all the mathematical tools used for its description are “internal”. For instance, one can define the curvature of a two-dimensional spherical surface by equations which only include only two-dimensional parameters on the surface (Gaussian curvature-intrinsic curvature) instead of being defined by the radius of the tri-dimensional sphere in tri-dimensional space (extrinsic curvature). The two formulations describe the same geometry for the surface, but in different ways.

The physical counterpart is that its phenomenology must depend only on properties internal to this space-time.

[6] The increase in complexity can be explained by the laws of physics. The structure of the atoms with their electrons allows a huge number of combinatory configurations of them. The Darwinism process will allow to select those which are the more efficient in the Earth’s context.

[7] This has always been felt, empirically, by humans. Generically, it was called soul, a concept that was remarkably successful. The pharaohs would have been the first to benefit from it, (a divine character was attached to it). But for some political reasons, they “generously” granted it, very gradually and selectively, to other social categories.