Why Does The World Exist?
Why Does The World Exist? by Jim Holt is a fascinating book that asks the question, ‘Why is there something rather than nothing?’ Holt looks at all sides of the question, interviewing scientists, philosophers, atheists and believers (Richard Swinburne, John Irving, Roger Penrose, Adolf Grunbaum…). There are three types of theorist:
The “optimists” hold that there has to be a reason for the world’s existence and that we may well discover it. The “pessimists” believe that there might be a reason for the world’s existence but that we’ll never know for sure… Finally, the “rejectionists” persist in believing that there can’t be a reason for the world’s existence, and hence that the very question is meaningless.
Leibniz’s Principle of Sufficient Reason says that ‘For every thing there must be a reason for that thing’s existence‘, which is the basis of our scientific worldview. Holt does a good job of summarizing some knotty philosophy, physics and maths (understanding it is another matter!). Although he offers no firm answers, the book left me feeling “optimistic”; and it’s oddly comforting that after picking the brains of the world’s greatest thinkers, Holt concludes,
No one can confidently claim intellectual superiority in the face of the mystery of existence.
Photo: Solar eruption, Dec 31, 2012 – courtesy of NASA Images