When all questions are eventually asked, and all answers eventually postulated, the great remaining mystery for mankind is likely to be the existence of existence. Why does existence exist? Why is there something rather than just nothing? Martin Heidegger characterized this as the most fundamental issue of philosophy. Are eternity and existence synonymous, or was there a time without existence? Was there a first cause, or is existence continuous, without beginning or end, constituting all past, present, and future states? When physicists describe the universe as expanding, what is it expanding into? When philosophers speak of the beginning and end of time, what broader time scale are they using for reference?
We have some knowledge about existence and how it evolved. Our current wisdom allows us to peel back the sequence of cause and effect, starting from our present condition and working back toward the beginning of time as we know it. We are able to do this in the context of several scientific disciplines. For example, the theory of evolution describes life’s ascent, in reverse order, to human from primate, to primate from small mammal, to small mammal from fish, to fish from marine invertebrate, to marine invertebrate from multi-celled organism, to multi-cell organism from single cell, and to single cell from How to construct great arguments the basic building blocks of proteins and replication code. We can also examine reverse chronology through the lens of geology and astronomy. Mountains and valleys emerged from plate tectonics, plates coalesced from an earth formed from solar system debris, the solar system was forged from the remnants of earlier stars, earlier stars gravitated from clouds of hydrogen gas, clouds of gas erupted from plasma during the inflationary expansion of the big bang, and the big bang exploded from the original singularity of the current universe.
Unfortunately, no matter which discipline is used to unravel the evolution of our existence, they all dead end with the most basic question – why is there anything at all? Why are there molecules and atoms and quarks? Why are there stars and galaxies and planets? These questions are not about why did hydrogen atoms become stars, or why did stars fabricate more complex atoms, but why is there any damn thing at all? Why isn’t there just nothing? Why isn’t there just a formless, timeless, empty set of obsidian oblivion, with nary a sound, nary a ray of light, or nary a quantum of matter?