Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Will humans ever really understand why the universe exists?

  1. In time, yes, we will know exactly why the universe exists.

    29 vote(s)
  2. The true origins of the univesre, and specifically WHY it exists, will never be fully understood.

    57 vote(s)
  3. Undecided at this time.

    16 vote(s)
  1. Apr 25, 2008 #1
    We can and have made models that explain in great detail how the universe behaves, the laws that apply, and have even speculated upon the conditions of the early universe, mere fractions of a second after it came into being.

    I suppose as time goes on, future generations will gain even more knowledge, but isn't it safe to say that we shall never be able to understand how, and even more importantly, WHY the universe exists at all?
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 25, 2008 #2
    No brainer for me *whistles*
  4. Apr 25, 2008 #3


    User Avatar

    well, there are hard-core atheists that believe that someday humans will. i think Richard Dawkins is an example.
  5. Apr 26, 2008 #4
    I think that your question is flawed. Why must there be a why? I don't think we will ever discover why the universe is because 'why' is an arbitrarily human creation. There doesn't have to be a philosophical reason for everything, only a mechanical.

    If we as humans can maintain a stable and supportive society for long enough i most certainly believe that we will discover HOW the universe works, but to search for a why is futile.

    I don't mean to say that philosophical speculation on the meaning of things is useless but I do mean to say it is entirely a product of the human mind and does not exist outside ourselves, where as atoms and galaxy clusters do.

    I ask, how much easier is it to remain a happy and stable individual knowing that your life 'matters' and has a 'meaning' and that the world around you has a meaning, as opposed to knowing that your life and the world around you means nothing at all outside a human mind; knowing that the world around you is simply a system of actions and reactions based on the physical make-up of the world and has no sense of caring or compassion for you or anyone you hold dear?

    Evolution has shaped us to love one another and gravitate to anything with human emotions/traits 'birds of a feather'. And inversely we have been shaped to shy from and even detest things and ideas that seem foreign or fakely human. Which is the more popular pet: a dog bursting with pack mentality and love and emotion, or a harmless yet emotionless fish? Or look at our attitudes towards machines with almost human like emotions, they seem strange and frightening. Even video game designers have troubles because graphics now-a-days are extremely good, yet can not quite express proper human emotions and gamers can feel disconnected and even put off by characters.

    My point being we search for a 'why' in the universe because the universe is to cold without one. We desperately want there to be a why. i.e. religion

    But we must remember to separate our evolutionary skewed thinking from the actual world. There will never be a meaning to something unless a human prescribes it a meaning. The universe is; and we can describe and measure and discover how, when, where, and what but the why drops out of the equation simply because there is no why and there is no need for there to be any why outside of ourselves.
  6. Apr 26, 2008 #5
    For those of you out there who have had children, you will remember times when your child asked "why?" and then kept repeating it over and over no matter what the answer. At some point, after the parent has unpeeled the onion of the "because" answers enough times, there is that moment where you realise that the child wins. You can always keep asking "why" forever, until the question becomes absurd.
  7. Apr 26, 2008 #6
    Of course not, C'mon.
  8. Apr 27, 2008 #7


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    Whether or not we will ever understand why the universe exists is not a question that Cosmology can answer, thus I am moving it to Philosophy.
  9. Apr 28, 2008 #8
    I selected "In time, yes, we will know exactly why the universe exists.", although, I think it should say "how it came in to existence", not why.
  10. Apr 28, 2008 #9
    Non-existence is impossible.


    Because the universe exists. (Duh.)


    See first sentence.

  11. May 5, 2008 #10
    I don't think we'll ever fully understand WHY. It's not possible to find the ultimate answer/truth. For one thing, how would we even know it was the ultimate answer. Human knowledge is both limited and limitless at the same time. We'll only ever know what we know and that IS the limit, but if we think of/discover/develop new things, ideas of theories - that becomes the new limit. So, even when we think we've found the reason why or how... it's limited by what we know thus far, and therefore not the ultimate answer.
  12. May 5, 2008 #11


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    What does the question "Why?" even mean?
  13. May 5, 2008 #12
    Also, there's a limit to self-awareness and higher consciousness. Sorry to reiterate the obvious, but I felt it was relevant.

    There's a quote: "Our greatest weakness as human beings is not knowing that we don't know".

    There's no level of self-awareness/higher consciousness that will grant access to knowing the things we don't know. I personally don't think it's our 'greatest weakness'. As long as you've made peace with the fact that you can't know or understand everything, it no longer qualifies as a weakness, per se. That's not saying you should just give up and stop questioning and wondering - there's still so much out there you can gain from questioning.

    There's always going to be the illusion that we're getting close to the answer(s), but once again that's just because we're limited to what we know or what we think there is to know.

    ∴ (In my opinion) we'll never understand why...

    n.b. I haven't been on these forums since 2004, and I love how the cogs in my head are turning again. Cheers for all the intellectual discussions on here. It's nice to have my mind on something other than college gossip *sigh*.
  14. May 5, 2008 #13


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    We already know why the universe exists. It is there to make me possible. :cool:
  15. May 8, 2008 #14
    I agree completely, the question is biased. If we ask "Why?", we assume that there is a reason for our existance; hade we asked "If there's a reason, then why?" it would have been unbiased.
  16. May 8, 2008 #15

    I'm not invoking any underlying "meaning" or "purpose" when I use the word "why". "How" and "why" are essentially the same thing here.

    Why do objects fall to the ground when dropped? We can explain that fairly well without invoking anything other than scientific theory.
  17. May 10, 2008 #16
    I drew up a diagram of English's interrogatives awhile back, and drew the conclusion that they all are built upon "What"

    Who: What person?
    When: What time?
    Where: What place?
    Why: for What reason?
    How: by what means?

    But then we get down to: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/what" [Broken]

    It requires one to select an answer out of not necessarily wholly defined set of answers. It requires a set of criteria, and a decision that is backed up by that criteria.

    So, in context:

    "Why" does the universe exist?
    can equate to:

    for what reason does the universe exist?

    Primarily, I would argue that "Why" is a question of purpose, or more ethereally, a question of "inner meaning". To that, I would say we have several answers, but I would argue that the scientific method is not the best way to go about finding them, since an object with a purpose can be used for another purpose, and there isn't a single answer.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2017
  18. May 11, 2008 #17
    I think the universe has always existed. I think the universe could care less what occupies it. Just like hurricanes and other earthly disasters are not going to be nit-picky about who lives and who dies if a person happens to be in the way of the hurricane. Why do humans care about a universe that could care less about the fate of humans
  19. May 11, 2008 #18
    Humans are incredibly curious. We want to find out as much as we can, and explore as far as we can go. Also there is always the possibility that understanding the fundamentals of our universe might pay off in some practical way, such as enhanced ability to survive.

    I agree with you that the universe could care less about the fate of humans. The universe is not a sentient being, at least in my opinion. I also think the OP clearly stated in a follow up post that the original question was not asking in a religious sense about why the universe exists but was asking mechanically what got everything started at a particular point in time or in space. But if you are right and the universe has always existed, there may not be a reason for it.
  20. May 11, 2008 #19
    The true question is not will we understand, but will we comprehend its existence?
    Also I believe that if humanity had a long enough time we would discover and comprehend our universe.
    But I believe we as humans will destroy our selves many centuries before.
    Last edited: May 11, 2008
  21. May 11, 2008 #20
    That's a bummer.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook