That first question was famously asked by Stephen Hawking ("What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe?”), while the second was asked by me when out walking yesterday.
Before trying to answer them, let's see what Hawking came up with, since he was a genius and I'm only a Subgenius, albeit a member of the priesthood. I have the same business card:
Hawking posed the question in his A Brief History of Time, which I never got through. Too bad, because on the last page he suggests that “if we do discover a complete theory” of the universe, then
it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason -- for then we would know the mind of God.
However, "Even if there is only one possible unified theory, it is just a set of rules and equations”:
The usual approach of science of constructing a mathematical model cannot answer the questions of why there should be a universe for the model to describe. Why does the universe go to all the bother of existing? Is the unified theory so compelling that it brings about its own existence?
But in a later book he went wobbly and speculated that
the Universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the Universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the Universe going.
Okay, but on a purely logical basis, what is more reasonable, creation from nothing or… creatio ex nihilo?
It indeed looks like he’s echoing Christian metaphysics except for the logical contradiction that anything can be the cause of itself.
In reality, nothing can be the cause of itself, let alone everything. If this were the case, then it would undercut one of the top five or so principles that permit the existence of logical thought. It would be as destructive to intelligence as denying the principle of identity, and for what? Just to save your atheism? Why is that so important, and why would anyone want to base his metaphysic on the destruction of thought? Oh well:
What some call religion hardly astonishes us more than what others call science (Davila).This principle of creation is certainly “the reason why there is something rather than nothing.” We can remove God from the principle, but this merely elevates the principle to God, which is just a semantic evasion, i.e., the same meaning in a different — and less adequate — word.
Which is why we always say that the most literal-minded creationist is infinitely closer to the truth than the flat- and narrow-souled individual who denies the Creator -- just as the person who literally believes God formed man out of the dust is infinitely closer to the truth than the one who pretends man may be reduced to animality.
In one of his 10,000 aphorisms, Davila says that If laws of history existed, their discovery would abrogate them.
And truly truly I say to my readers that if a law of evolution existed, its discovery would abrogate it.
Well, I just googled it, and you'd better believe there's a law of evolution. One result proclaims it "as well substantiated as any other natural law, whether the Law of Gravity, the Laws of Motion, or Avogadro's Law.”
I'll bite: Avogadro? “Equal volumes of all gases, at the same temperature and pressure, have the same number of molecules.” Okay. That checks out. But it sounds pretty much like the identity principle: "When A belongs to the whole of B and to C, and B also belongs to all C, it is necessary that A and B should be convertible.”
Now, regarding “laws of history,” it turns out that Marx didn’t go nearly far enough, because every law, insofar as it is a law, is a law of history.
In other words, we now know that our cosmos has been evolving for 13.8 billion years, long before biological or psychological evolution arrived on the scene. What we call “history” turns out to be Everything, just in different phases.
Which, as it so happens, is one of the points of this so-far excellent book called From the Dust of the Earth: Benedict XVI, the Bible, and the Theory of Evolution. I didn’t intend to blog about it until finishing it, but what the heck. It begins with a quote by Dawkins that
Before Darwin came along, it was pretty difficult to be an atheist…. Darwin triumphantly made it easy to be an intellectually fulfilled and satisfied atheist.
It’s too easy to bag on Dawkins, but the truth is rather the opposite of what he says, minus the fulfillment, satisfaction, and triumphalism, which we should put to the side when discussing Truth. After all, there are hard truths that I wish were otherwise, but they are what they are regardless of my personal satisfaction.
In any event, Darwin actually makes it impossible to be a metaphysical atheist for the reason given above: our discovery of the law of evolution abrogates it. Conversely, if we are fully explained by and confined to this law, then we could never explain it.
It’s late again, and maybe I should resolve to wrap things up by noon...