PERENNIAL QUESTIONS

Added: March 19, 1998

If God didn't create the laws of the universe, where did they come from?
     

What does the phrase "laws of the universe" mean?
      Do these laws have ontological status?
      Are they causal, descriptive, prescriptive?
      If one is inclined to be theistic -- i.e.; God created the laws of the universe, including moral laws -- are the latter proscriptive?
      Generally, when the phrase is used, it refers not only to scientific but especially to mathematical, and geometrical concepts -- both logical systems.
      Bear in mind, anything can be proved in logic.
      Ignoring theism, then, since it makes no epistemic sense to make an unverifiable god the source of laws, did laws exist before INTELLIGENCE emerged in the universe?
      Since these laws are expressed in mathematical and geometrical terms and concepts, we are obliged to raise the question about their ontological status particularly because so many people, including scientists and philosophers, insist that such laws EXIST without explaining the meaning of that term.
      The position of this presentation is that there is no ontological status of the "laws of the universe" except as human mental constructs.
      Though such laws may have linguistic substantiveness, they do not have spatio-temporal substantiveness by which we mean a physical world in a never ending state of change.
      Such laws are but the creations of human intelligence.
      In the absence of such intelligence, laws do not exist linguistically or spatio-temporally.
      Fundamentally, this raises the whole philosophical problem of the nature and reputed existence of numbers, ideas, and mind for that matter.
      Our concern is mainly with the above title.
      Before the appearance of intelligence in the universe, according to logic and available evidence, nothing existed except "things" and their reactions toward each other.
      Here, "things" denotes spatio-temporal substantiveness.
      This, in turn denotes matter, which in Einsteinian terms is interchangeable with energy, i.e., matter/energy.
      All matter/energy repels or attracts.
      Apparently, this permeative property of matter/energy gives rise to the "laws of the universe."
      "Things" are not laws!  Nor are their interactions.
      The things and their interactions are JUST THERE.
      Obviously if there were no "things," there would be no interaction or relation.
      We design linguistic (mathematical, geometrical or logical) systems to explain the necessary recurrence of events and call them the "laws of the universe."
      But in a universe of "infinite" concomitant events, and direct and contingent "causes," how could it be otherwise?
      The events of the universe are separable only in the abstract construction of ideas.
      It is our linguistic explanation of these ideas that are "laws," not the behavior of matter/energy.
      Is it an accurate exercise of language to speak of laws, (i.e., mathematics and geometry) existing without committing the fallacy of equivocation?
      For example, do numbers "exist"?
      Certainly not in the sense that the chairs we sit in exist.
      Exactly what is it that the number "1" names.
      If we say it names a singular unit, we are but being tautological.
      All units are but complexes of other units, the physical boundaries of which only APPEAR to be definitive.
      Is there existing a unit that is not a complex of units -- an ultimate (indivisible) particle?
      "Wholes" are only complexes of other "wholes," i.e., parts.
      Wholes and parts are only relative TERMS.
      Numbers, too, are only relative TERMS, i.e., NAMES for relationships which themselves do not occupy space in the absence of objects in relation.
      Numbers are only tools used to help us manipulate and "make sense" of the profusion and confusion of our perceptions.
      The number, "one," is but a term, a NAME we apply, as Bertrand Russell would say, to a construct, or Whitehead, to a "packet" of perceptions.
      As a term, it may "exist" in some strange meaning of "exist" which cannot yet be clearly explained.
      If I may appeal to mathematical EXPERT-authorities, even Albert Einstein, Bertrand Russell, and G. H. Hardy insist that mathematics does not describe the universe.
      This is a fact supportable by evidence.
      Such laws are our INTERPRETATIONS of our perceptions of the universe.
      Let us not forget the evolution of the meanings of mathematical symbols and concepts in the course of history.
      Those laws are changed and/or are refined according to the availability of new evidence, i.e., "supportable" perceptions.
      A thing can be given spatio-temporal descriptions geometrically.
      Motion, (interaction), can be described only in terms of a thing's changing spatial positions from one point-instant to another.
      This is true of internal motions as well.
      Do "positions" in space have ontological status in a non-static universe?
      It is perhaps this concept that led Samuel Alexander to claim that MOTION is the ultimate "substance," a metaphysical claim beyond verification.
      Waves created by dropping a pebble in a pool of water would not "exist" in the absence of water.
      The wave frequencies of electro-magnetic impulses would not "exist" in the absence of something -- quantum particles, i.e., photons..
      According to available evidence, there is no pure energy in the absence of some spatio-temporal something.
      There can be an infinite number of mathematical, or geometrical descriptions of the universe.
      Observe: Euclidian (plain) geometry: Newtonian science, Riemannian (spherical) geometry,  Einsteinian Relativity, and such new concepts as tachyons, axial universes, strings, alternate universes, multiple dimensions, and the like -- each depending on the premises, i.e., assumptions, upon which all knowledge is founded, you begin with.
      Why do the underpinnings of each of these logical systems work so well?
      They work well because each system relies on and maintains an internal consistency of MEANINGS, definitions -- not facts -- and such basic concepts as "axioms," "plus," "minus," "multiply," "divide," "equal," "square root," "law of contradiction," in general, primitives and our laws of logic, and does not impose any part of itself upon other systems of logic.
      But not every logical conclusion from a valid argument can be verified.
      The premises, first, must be verifiable.
      If these non-substantive concepts exist, I would be very interested in locating their positions in the spacetime continuum.
      Is it the case that all that is required to bring something into existence is the ability to conceive it, give it a name -- shades of St Anselm?
      If so, then the following exist also: witches, ghosts, flying horses, unicorns, gods, angels, demons, Hell, Heaven, and the like.
      The abstractions we call, "laws of the universe" are the laws man has conceived on the basis of facts he accepts and those for which he finds no need, to explain the universe to the degree that he believes he "knows" it.
      Until man reaches the limits of his ability to "know" the universe, his perceptions and conceptions of it will continue to change, and so will HIS "laws of the universe."
      But given the nature of man, he will never admit that he has reached his limit and will continue to revise and expand his LANGUAGE (into metaphysical, i.e., unverifiable claims) as a substitute for knowledge.

1997 by Pasqual S. Schievella