If the laws of physics come into being along with the universe, then they can’t explain it. If they exist prior to the universe, then there is nothing to account for their existence – not to mention their extraordinary power to exact obedience from the void. That is the dilemma of the nothing theorists. And there is no need to get impaled on its horns when a much more economical way of showing why there is something rather than nothing is available. It goes like this. Suppose, for the sake of argument, that nothing existed. Then, in particular, there would be no laws. (Laws are something, after all, despite what the nothing theorists seem to think.) If there were no laws, then everything would be permitted. If everything were permitted, then nothing would be forbidden. Therefore, if nothing existed, nothing would be forbidden. Therefore, nothing, if it existed, would forbid itself. Therefore there must be something.

That is my own argument. I thought of it the other day while shaving. The logic seems to be sound; at least, no one I have run it by so far has detected a flaw. yet admittedly there is something sterile about it.

Nothing Ventured

This is from a classic piece by Jim Holt, who has a book coming out soon on the topic.

I had the same idea when I was in high school–I think it seems “sterile” because of the incoherence of the concept of “nothing.” The argument doesn’t actually explain anything.

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