Tinkling into the Void
A casual and eventually thoroughgoing acquaintance with science and philosophy establishes the fact that most thinkers don't actually deal with the issue, but rather, simply stop asking questions at some point, thus violating the principle of sufficient reason, which says that any effect requires a cause adequate to account for it; which is a fancy way of saying that you can't get blood out of a turnip.
Another way of looking at this question is to say that before we look for an explanation, we have to first decide what would constitute one. Therefore, if you're following me, one not only has to have an idea of what would constitute truth, but this idea must lie outside or "above" the explanation itself.
This is where evolutionists and materialists in general run into so much trouble, eg: man is just another animal, animals are just the expression of selfish genes, and that's the truth. One of these statements is not like the others!
Bryan Magee has a good analysis of the problem in his fine biography of Schopenhauer:
"It is possible for us to pose some sort of Why? question with regard to anything. As Schopenhauer puts it: 'The validity of the principle of sufficient reason is so much involved in the form of consciousness that we simply cannot imagine anything objectively of which no 'why?' could be further demanded."
Now, the core of any discipline, whether science, philosophy, history, or law, revolves around this question of sufficient reason, of which there are different kinds. For example, physical causation is not the same as moral causation. If Al Gore defenestrates Keith Olbermann, and Olbermann falls on and kills a pedestrian below, we do not hold Olbermann responsible for the death. Yes, he is the direct material cause, but that is not a satisfactory moral account.
For Schopenhauer there are four main kinds of sufficient reason: the type of direct physical causation that occurs, say, between billiard balls; mathematical determination; logical entailment; and the sort of "motivated action" that can only arise from a free subject, or mind.
In each case, philosophical questions arise, but the first three categories are not nearly as problematic as the fourth. But even then, if you really want to be a noodge, you can ask a physicist, for example, "but what exactly is energy?", or "what is the cause of mathematics?" "[T]he scientist gestures in the direction of the philosopher," who then pretends to answer the question. The metaphysical theologian raises his hand and says "I know I know I know," but they refuse to pick him.
The bottom line is that "science is, in a serious sense of the term, occult, in that it explains everything else without itself being explained" (ibid). Ironically, this is one of the definitions of God, i.e., the uncaused cause.
Equally ironic is that, at the end of the day, after all the science has been, er, settled, "the mystery of the world as such would be as great at the end of the process as it had been at the beginning" (ibid). Why? That's why: because we can still ask why?
In lieu of the above, we could probably save a lot of time with a one word, all purpose protest: Gödel!, proving once again that you can't crack the cosmic egg without breaking out the umlaut.
For "the laws of logic, like the basic concepts of science, and the axioms and the rules of mathematics... must involve circularity, since they themselves generate the justification procedures in their universe of discourse" (ibid).
But interestingly, we all recognize the flaw in this approach when it comes to moral justification. Our whole legal system is -- or was, before liberals hijacked it -- built around the idea that we do not allow people to get away with crimes just because they felt morally justified in doing so.
This whole discussion hits rather close to home, because, as a forensic psychologist, I am routinely asked to give a precise opinion as to what "caused" a patient's "psychiatric injury."
The problem here is that there is an utter conflation between the kind of causation that applies to matter with the kind of causation that is adequate to explain mental events. In no way am I permitted to provide fully comprehensive explanations appropriate to the subject -- for example, the percentage of causation that may be attributed to man's fallen nature, or just the fact that life is hard, so deal with it. Rather, I must pretend that the all mental causes are as discrete and proximate as those in a game of billiards.
In any event, as Magee explains, "there is a point where natural science, and indeed every branch of knowledge, leaves things as they are" and "does not go beyond this point."
Looked at this way, the belief that the "big bang" ends the discussion of our origins is no better than the belief that the cosmos was caused by the god Witoto taking a leak into the void. Neither one satisfies me. I mean, I certainly prefer the former, but it's not as if it's a self-sufficent explanation.
For example, where do all those elegant equations governing the big bang come from? Who knows, maybe Witoto tinkles them into the void.
Or maybe, just maybe, as reveiled in the Encirclopedia Raccoonica, it was not good that this Godhead, the Most High, should be allone, so He expired with a big bong and said "let there be higher physics," and it was zo.
To be continued...