I’m here! So what next?

by Neil Rickert

Over at the BQO site, Michael Shermer discusses the question “Why is there something rather than nothing?”  Personally, I think that’s the wrong question, so the title of this blog post is what I consider a more important question.

But let’s first talk about the “Why is there something …” question.  I believe it to be a bogus question, which is pretty much the conclusion that Shermer reaches.  It is a bogus question, because there is no conceivable answer that could be considered satisfying.  I most often hear the question raised by religious folk.  Apparently they see it as a sure way of drawing people’s attention to their idea of God as creator of all.  But “God” cannot possibly be the answer to “Why is there something rather than nothing?”  For if there is a God, then that God counts a something, so there is already something rather than nothing and the question is not actually addressed.

When we ask a “why?” question, we are usually looking for an answer that is grounded in the idea of purpose.  We expect the purpose to be that of an agent or being or purposer.  The “Why is there something …” question purports to be a question about the purposes of the purposer who caused there to be something.  However, if there was a purposer, there was already something.  And that is why there is no sense that can be made of the question.

I’m here!  So what next?

We find ourselves here, in some kind of a world.  We did not have a choice about being here.  Our only choice is about what we should next.  So that is the more fundamental question that faces us.  And it is the question that faces everybody.  It is a question about which we have no choice, other than to seek an answer.  This is the question that drives the human quest for knowledge.  It is the question that drives science.  It is the question that drives the behavior of everyone.  So this is what should really be considered the biggest question of all.  And it makes things interesting, that there is no single answer to this question.  Nor is there any final answer, as long as we are still alive.  For after answering the question “what do I do next?” we continue to be faced with the same question.  Our sense of having free will is surely at least partly due to us continually having to face this self same question.

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