Robert Lawrence Kuhn: "Why the Universe: Toward a Taxonomy of Possible Explanations"
Perhaps the most fundamental question that is possible to ask, even in principle, is "Why is there Something rather than Nothing?" or, shorter, "Why Not Nothing?" Though this question may seem impenetrable, "Why This Universe?", revivified by remarkable advances in cosmology, may be accessible. While they are not at all the same question, perhaps if we can begin to decipher the latter, we can begin to decrypt the former. Modern cosmology seems to suggest that the laws of physics, and the constants that are embedded in these laws, are all exquisitely "fine tuned" to allow, or to enable, the existence of stars and planets and the emergence of life and mind. If the laws of physics had much differed, if the values of their constants had much changed, or if the initial conditions of the universe had much varied, what we know to exist would not exist since all things of size and substance would not have formed. Since the 1970s, theists have invoked the fine-tuning argument as empirical evidence of a creator, assuming that there are only two explanations: God and chance. But to pose such a stark and simplistic choice is to construct a false and misleading dichotomy. Since the Anthropic Principle, which developed from this apparent fine-tuning of the universe and which states that any universe that can be observed must be so structured as to allow the appearance of observers, leads to the postulation of multiple universes (a "multiverse"), and multiple universes in turn open the door to a host of other possible explanations as well. I document 27 such explanations of existence, a constellation of what I "ultimate reality generators," in a kind of typology of cosmological conjecture. My taxonomy of ultimate explanations for existence can be structured with four overarching categories: One Universe Models, Multiple Universe Models, Nonphysical Causes, and Illusions. Though only minor analysis is provided, the taxonomy itself may suggest new ways to ponder the nature of reality and the substrate of existence.
5 June 2007