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What Was There, Before The Universe Began?

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I'm in my appartment, which is located in the US, which is a part of North America, which then lies on Earth, which is situated in the Solar System, which is part of the Milky Way, which is one of great many galaxies in our Universe.

The way I think about the Universe right now, is that it started at one single point, and then exploded into what we have right now. I know there are different theories on what's going to happen (i.e. whether the Universe will keep expanding, or not). But that's not my question. What I can't wrap my mind around, is what was there, before there was nothing? What was out there 10000000000000000000000 years ago?

How far back do you have to go, to reach the origin? Or is it even the right question to ask - because it almost seems like the concept time may not be an adequate way of looking at things of that proportion?

And once you reach the origin, how do you explain the nothingness preceding it?

How does one grasp this, without going crazy?

Edited by Eternal
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But that's not my question. What I can't wrap my mind around, is what was there, before there was nothing? What was out there 10000000000000000000000 years ago?

To quote a previous post,

"Time is just the relative degree of change between two sets of entities. (The entities used as the unit of measurement, and the entities being measured.)"

If there are no entities there is no change, so there is no time. The concept doesn't apply.

Change also requires a causal relationship, so we can’t speak of anything that existed “before” the big bang, since it would have no causal connection to our universe.

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I'm in my appartment, which is located in the US, which is a part of North America, which then lies on Earth, which is situated in the Solar System, which is part of the Milky Way, which is one of great many galaxies in our Universe....How does one grasp this, without going crazy?

If by universe you mean the totality of existence, then the answer is that it did not have a "beginning ". Time, as a type of measurement, cannot apply to the universe as a whole - ie. time exists in the universe, the universe does not exist in time. Therefore, the universe is eternal (eternal meaning exists outside of time).

I haven't read it in a while, so I couldn't tell you if I still think it very helpful, but here is an article on this topic. Also, and if you are interested enough to spend some money, here is an article by Ron Pisaturo. I bought his philosophy of math articles, and am enjoying those, so this probably is good too.

Edited by softwareNerd
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What I can't wrap my mind around, is what was there, before there was nothing?
For there to be any "before", there has to be time -- "before" is just shorthand for "at the time that precedes some reference event". So one thing that has to exist "before" is time itself. In other words, there isn't any time before there was something. Second, the question is whether time is an absolute and autonomous entity, that is, can there be time when there are no entities. The alternative is that time is relational, so you have a thing at this time-and-space location. If that is correct then there can't be time without things.
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Having read the article, I guess, the answer is that the Universe has always been, and will always be (the time-machine analogy makes that somewhat clear to me). But I'm still at a loss trying to understand how can something just exist, without having been created.

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To quote a previous post,

"Time is just the relative degree of change between two sets of entities. (The entities used as the unit of measurement, and the entities being measured.)"

If there are no entities there is no change, so there is no time. The concept doesn't apply.

Indeed, although to be precise you need to specify a reference frame too, since time measurement will vary with the observer.

However, its worth pointing out that the debate over whether time (and space) should be taken as relational or as absolute has a long history in philosophy/science, going at least as far back to Newton and Leibniz who clashed over this topic. When only philosophical arguments are used, both sides seem to think that their position is obviously correct - hence just asserting that "time is relational" is unlikely to convince anyone who intuitvely thinks it is absolute (and vice versa). The strongest arguments that Ive encountered against the absoluteness of time probably come from relativity theory - if time is absolute, then why can 2 people measure different time intervals between the same 2 events, and see these events happening in reversed orders, and so on.

Edited by Hal
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And once you reach the origin, how do you explain the nothingness preceding it?

Suppose you start walking due North and just keep going. Where do you end up after you have walked 30,000,000 meters?

When you reach the North Pole, you CANNOT keep walking due North. That is all. Similarly, you cannot keep going further into the Past when you reach the Big Bang. So your question is meaningless.

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When you reach the North Pole, you CANNOT keep walking due North.

Yes - but we know what was there before the North Pole existed. I am not asking about where the 'circle' starts, I am trying to understand how the 'circle' came into being.

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Hi everyone, I'm new here.

I've read, that asking what the universe was before the big bang was like asking for a direction north of a north pole. However some developments in theoretical physics suggest and I quote "time did not have a beginning and will not have an end...it might have even gone through a cycle of death and rebirth."

The big bang may not have been the origin but simply a result of the preexisting state, a violent transition from acceleration to deceleration. The bang took place but the universe predated it. The universe has existed and will exist forever, the forces strengthened and matter began to clump until eventually matter became so dense that in some of this regions, black holes were formed until matter inside it were cut off from the outside, matter fell toward the center of the black hole, quantum effects caused it to rebound into a big bang. From that Universe, distinct universes were created. Our "universe" is part of a multiverse. If the question is what was there before the "multiverse" began or how the multiverse came to be, no one knows(I think)

PS: anyway, for those who consider String Theory rubbish then they will also find that explanation rubbish.

Edited by Omega
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From that Universe, distinct universes were created. Our "universe" is part of a multiverse.
The main problem with this is that it is terminologically confused. It's not that distinct universes were created, but that the universe may have many phases (or something like that). Rather than redefine universe so that we talk about a "multiverse", we simply have to (possibly) refine our understanding of the universe, to say that the Big Bang is not really the "beginning".
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It seems to have already been addressed, but I'll add my two cents.

The question itself is flawed. Asking "what was there before the universe" assumes that there was, in fact, something. The proper answer to this question is not to say that "there was nothing before the universe," but rather, "there was no before the universe."

Similarly, when someone asks "what is outside the universe," the proper answer is not "nothing." The proper answer is "there is no outside the universe." In each case, the question has no referent.

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  • 3 weeks later...
I'm in my appartment, which is located in the US, which is a part of North America, which then lies on Earth, which is situated in the Solar System, which is part of the Milky Way, which is one of great many galaxies in our Universe.

The way I think about the Universe right now, is that it started at one single point, and then exploded into what we have right now. I know there are different theories on what's going to happen (i.e. whether the Universe will keep expanding, or not). But that's not my question. What I can't wrap my mind around, is what was there, before there was nothing? What was out there 10000000000000000000000 years ago?

How far back do you have to go, to reach the origin? Or is it even the right question to ask - because it almost seems like the concept time may not be an adequate way of looking at things of that proportion?

And once you reach the origin, how do you explain the nothingness preceding it?

How does one grasp this, without going crazy?

I am sure everyone has already stated the point that there is nothing "before" the universe since time is a property of the universe. To quote Hawking, its like asking "What's north of the North Pole"?

However, one point that probably isn't mentioned here is that you are kind of making the assumption that nothing actually existed at one point, which it can't. Second, supposing our definition based arguments fail in reality because of bad definitions, and that there was some "nothing" that preceded the universe, even then you wouldn't know the properties of "nothing," because no human has ever had any interaction with nothing. You have never experienced "nothing"--you know, not just darkness, but a complete lack of space-time.

I think to make the statement that something can't come from nothing is an arbitrary statement since there is not a single documented case of someone experiencing nothingness.

I hate the term multiverse, but to seriously address your question, it is thought by a few theorists that our universe spawned off of another dying universe. This is not really testible as far as anyone knows, so you may just have to settle for going crazy.

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  • 3 months later...

This is indirectly related, but subatomics particles change into others (sometimes lesser of greater!) but for a ludicrously short time before switching back and the greater the discrepency in matter the faster the whole thing. These are called virtual particles. the same thing happens in total vacums, virtual particles come into existense and disappear even faster. And there is always a (stupidly small) chance of them reacting with other virtual particles. If you are insistent on looking for a state of universal emptyness, this might help you. (this does come from string theory) (I think)

aight?

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Having read the article, I guess, the answer is that the Universe has always been, and will always be (the time-machine analogy makes that somewhat clear to me). But I'm still at a loss trying to understand how can something just exist, without having been created.

Check your premises. What inductive generalization necessitates (or even suggest) that the universe must have been "created"? This is a common argument for God. "Here is the world. What made it? It must have been made."

"Creation" in any sense you would normally think of it is the transformation of existing matter/energy into a new form. There is nothing about this that would lead me to necessitate that simply because matter/energy could change form, that it must have had an initiation. You are at a loss because you are trying to misapply some sort of generalization about what it means to be created.

I dont understand how the universe could have always existed. I'm not saying the theory is wrong, but can someone explain to me how its possible?

Why do you think it is not possible?

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I dont understand how the universe could have always existed. I'm not saying the theory is wrong, but can someone explain to me how its possible?

If you think about it, it would be a lot harder to explain how the universe could not always have existed.

Unless you mean by "explain" arbitrary assertion and/or wishful thinking.

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If by universe you mean all that is, if all that is isn't existent, there is nothing for it to be created in.

Most of these question we all can easily solve ourselves with spare thought, let us only ask what comes from answers of the obvious questions.

aight?

:D something just hit me.... God created all that exists, so he doesn't exist. Creating himself would defy logic, he wouldn't do that would he?

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It doesnt need any more of an explanation than it just is. I was just clarifying what I thought the answer is.

No problem. I was just highlighting the basic issue.

The questions are non-sequitirs.

Why existence is (which is what I took your questions for a "way to explain it"), or what caused existence are not valid questions. The axioms arise from of existence, but then can't really be used outside of it.

All you can say it, "It is. It has identity. It has causation, and I can perceive it."

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If by universe you mean all that is, if all that is isn't existent, there is nothing for it to be created in.

Most of these question we all can easily solve ourselves with spare thought, let us only ask what comes from answers of the obvious questions.

aight?

:D something just hit me.... God created all that exists, so he doesn't exist. Creating himself would defy logic, he wouldn't do that would he?

God IS defiance of logic; that is, the believer chooses to defy logic, and calls it God.

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I dont understand how the universe could have always existed. I'm not saying the theory is wrong, but can someone explain to me how its possible?

Have you ever observed creation - in the true sense of the word? Something coming into existance out of nothing? Conversely, have you ever seen destruction? Some existent absolutely destroyed, turned into nothing at all?

It's very easy to accept that the Universe has always existed and always will when you realize that in your whole life you have never percieved "creation" or "destruction". You know those things can't happen.

There may very well have been a Big Bang, something went "bang" though. The North Pole analogy is flawed in that it admits that the Universe could have a beginning.

mrocktor

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