• Pattern-chaser
    1.8k
    This is a simple question. It's the answer that's difficult.

    Does every effect have a cause, or is it possible for causeless effects to happen?

    I asked this question in another topic, and received baseless and unjustified assertions in response. People seem surprised that someone would even ask if causeless effects could occur. But isn't that what philosophers do? They ask questions, and they question things others take for granted (without scrutiny, I might add :wink: ).

    I definitely do not assert that causeless effects exist, or can occur. I just wonder, that's all. Do you wonder too?

    It seems to me that every effect has a cause, but is that simply because I was raised to think that way? A lot of our thinking assumes that effects are caused. It's difficult even to imagine otherwise. Is this because effects and causes are indivisibly and irrevocably linked, or our lack of imagination?
  • Devans99
    2.1k
    To be fair we were discussing whether causeless effects could happen without something from nothing happening.
  • Christoffer
    543
    Does every effect have a cause, or is it possible for causeless effects to happen?Pattern-chaser

    Every effect on large scales has a cause. In quantum physics, however, there are particles popping in and out of existence all the time. The famous outburst from Einstein about not playing dice with the universe is in relation to that. What causes these particles to pop in and out of existence? They seem to be exactly that, something out of nothing, then back to nothing.

    The full understanding of this is unknown at the time and that's just the point. If we cannot know it, we cannot deduce that something cannot come from nothing. Claiming that requires knowing more than all of science can know at this time in history.
  • Shamshir
    856
    A cause is its own cause and effect.

    In this sense: It is self-caused, having a cause - and causeless, having no cause.

    Here's an analogy: You see it because it is there. It is there because you see it.
  • Frank Apisa
    896
    This is a simple question. It's the answer that's difficult.

    Does every effect have a cause, or is it possible for causeless effects to happen?
    Pattern-chaser

    I have no trouble with the answer for me:

    I do not know. Nor do I see any way to determine if it is more likely "Yes than no" or more likely "No than yes."

    I would add: I doubt anyone else knows either.
  • Devans99
    2.1k
    The full understanding of this is unknown at the time and that's just the point. If we cannot know it, we cannot deduce that something cannot come from nothing. Claiming that requires knowing more than all of science can know at this time in history.Christoffer

    We can however deduce that something permanent cannot naturally come from nothing if time was infinite (because matter density would become infinite).
  • Pattern-chaser
    1.8k
    An effect is a (detectable) event of some kind. And events happen all the time. It's not the event that's different or special, it's that the event had no cause: it happened spontaneously. So the question I'm asking here turns into this: can events happen spontaneously?

    It seems that some QM events can and do happen spontaneously, so is that the answer to my question? [I'm no QM expert, so I may have misunderstood.]
  • Pattern-chaser
    1.8k
    We can however deduce that something permanent cannot naturally come from nothing if time was infinite (because matter density would become infinite).Devans99

    Unless a balancing amount of 'permanent' somethings go back to nothing at some point/time, as in the QM example?
  • Pattern-chaser
    1.8k
    Every effect on large scales has a cause.Christoffer

    Assertions (without justification) are a problem here. We are wondering if effects can happen without causes, and you respond by saying they can't and don't, but you offer no justification. Don't misunderstand me: I have no magical explanation. But simply to assert "No, they can't happen" does not advance the discussion.
  • Devans99
    2.1k
    Unless a balancing amount of 'permanent' somethings go back to nothing at some point/time, as in the QM example?Pattern-chaser

    It is not our experience that matter disappears. I have not heard of this from QM. I would have thought that the conservation of energy means matter would not disappear, it would possibly convert to energy. But then that leads to infinite energy density (with infinite time).

    If matter appeared randomly, lasted for a set time, then disappeared, what accounts for the overwhelmingly positive balance of matter in the universe? The appearance/disappearance ratio would have to be set precisely right I think to avoid infinite density?
  • Christoffer
    543
    Assertions (without justification) are a problem here. We are wondering if effects can happen without causes, and you respond by saying they can't and don't, but you offer no justification.Pattern-chaser

    I'm referring to entropy, to causality for any large events (large being larger than quantum level, which means smaller than atoms, neutrons/protons and even quarks, is the quantum limit. If the probability of events not happening at random is at an infinite number as soon as their properties as matter and energy becomes defined by quantum events, then causality can't be broken, i.e causality for large scale events are determined. But at quantum levels, where matter and energy get properties by how the elemental particles behave, particles can form out of nothing. Meaning, there is no cause to a particle popping into existence and there's nothing after it disappears.

    My conclusion isn't that this concludes in any answer, my conclusion is that because of this, we don't have an answer. Therefore to claim that something cannot come from nothing is lacking enough data to support such a conclusion, especially when little is known about the properties of the universe pre-BigBang.

    The simple conclusion we can arrive at by just reasoning is that we simply don't know at this time and cannot conclude anything out of that uncertainty. Any attempt is to assume something we have no data in support of.
  • Devans99
    2.1k
    A virtual particle can indeed pop up out of thin air and disappear. But that process must not lead to a permanent increase in matter density else we get infinite matter density with infinite time. So long term the conservation of energy must be respected and the universe therefore cannot come from 'nothing'.
  • Pattern-chaser
    1.8k
    the universe therefore cannot come from 'nothing'.Devans99

    But that is my understanding of the Big Bang. I have read that a load of nothing transformed itself into a load of something, and a balancing number of anti-somethings. Somehow, the anti-somethings returned to nothingness in greater numbers than the somethings, leaving a load of somethings behind. The universe. Have I got this wrong?
  • Pattern-chaser
    1.8k
    I'm referring to entropy, to causality for any large eventsChristoffer

    But causality is what we're questioning here, so I'm afraid this resolves to another unjustified assertion, doesn't it? You are using causality to justify causality.... :chin:
  • Devans99
    2.1k
    The early stages of the BB are somewhat shrouded in mystery:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Bang#Singularity

    The matter either preexisted the Big Bang (existed timelessly) and went into making the Big Bang.

    Or there was some special process that only took place in the Big Bang that made matter from nothing. A hypotheses along these lines is:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zero-energy_universe
  • Christoffer
    543


    It's not the point. The point, the conclusion I made was that because we don't have enough data and understanding of pre-BigBang properties we cannot conclude anything. You cannot apply our universal laws to something that defies them or works in another way. Just as you cannot explain the properties of the center of a black hole.

    As long as you can't solve what was before, you can't conclude anything. For example, why is there not equally an amount of anti-matter to matter? It all formed at Big Bang, so if you know the properties of pre-BigBang, you would have an answer to that question as well.
  • Pattern-chaser
    1.8k
    So the universe did come from nothing, contradicting what you just said:

    the universe therefore cannot come from 'nothing'.Devans99

    :chin: Universes! :gasp: You just can't trust 'em! :wink:
  • Christoffer
    543


    Did you read the entirety of what I wrote? Causality in our universe from Big Bang has mathematical precision, before it, we don't know. Therefore defining anything based on causality or any properties of our known universe to something outside of it is impossible with our current knowledge.
  • Pattern-chaser
    1.8k
    Did you read the entirety of what I wrote?Christoffer

    Yes. I commented on the bit that I couldn't make sense of. :up:
  • Terrapin Station
    13.8k
    It's possible for "causeless effects" to occur? Sure. Because what makes something impossible is that it would amount to a contradiction obtaining. It would probably be better to not use the word "effect" for them, but it doesn't really matter what we'd call the phenomenon.

    Per the usual Humean approach, do we really observe causality in any case of phenomena that we observe? It's not clear that we do and that we're not always talking about conceptual abstractions that we make.

    So it's not clear is we ever observe "causeless effects" or "caused effects," and it's not clear how we'd ever empirically establish the difference with any epistemic certainty.
  • Devans99
    2.1k
    We don't know precisely what if anything happened pre-BB. But I believe we can conclude there was a start of time and a first cause. So lack of specific knowledge of the detailed processes involved does not prevent high level deductions being made.

    So the universe did come from nothing, contradicting what you just said:Pattern-chaser

    I am making the special exception that for the special BB, it is possible that something came from nothing (zero energy universe hypothesis)

    But personally I'm more in favour of the matter pre-existing the BB (conservation of energy).
  • Christoffer
    543


    We could go into detail on causality in itself, but I think the key answer to the question of causeless effects is that in our universe, no, not possible. But we have areas, both before Big Bang and for example in black holes, that defy our laws of physics, which means we cannot know if it is possible without making a huge assumption on what was before and what is inside a black hole.
  • Jake
    1.4k
    The following excellent video on the subject of time may help confuse the issue further. :smile:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Qu9XaF2K10

    The video explores a variety of time related issues, some proven fact, others only interesting theories.

    As example, it's proven that time runs at different speeds in different circumstances.

    The video claims that there's nothing in the laws of physics that would prevent time from running backwards.

    The video speculates that all moments in time, past, present and future may exist simultaneously.

    As best I can tell, the speculation and unproven theories in the video are all based on reference to current physics. That is, it's not a new age video or anything of that nature.

    Point being, if we can't firmly establish that time runs in only one direction, then cause and effect may be a meaningless concept.
  • Christoffer
    543
    But I believe we can conclude there was a start of time and a first cause. So lack of specific knowledge of the detailed processes involved does not prevent high level deductions being made.Devans99

    We cannot know, how can we? How can you make a certain deduction without the certainty of the properties of pre-BigBang? You make an assumption that fit the narrative of a first cause argument, but you simply cannot know. And as the math shows about things like black holes, it's not easy to simply slap a "first cause" to something that doesn't exist under our known laws of physics. Before we know the properties of pre-BigBang, we cannot assume anything. And doing so is only in support of an agenda, not deductive truth.
  • Devans99
    2.1k
    My argument that there is a start of time is independent of BB physics. It does not even assume that the BB is the start of time:

    https://thephilosophyforum.com/discussion/5302/an-argument-for-eternalism/p1

    That argument does not use cause and effect and it still leads to a timeless first cause.

    Most of the other arguments for a timeless first cause use cause and effect. But when it comes to pre-BB physics; if causality does not apply, it would surely be just a crazy, impossible universe?
  • Harry Hindu
    2.5k
    Information is the relationship between cause and effect. Any effect without a cause carries no information.

    Another term we use for effects without a cause is "randomness". Effects that appear random are so because of the lack of information we have (we try to get at the cause). Once we determine the cause, things are no longer random. They become predictable. How can things go from being random to predictable if there is no causation? How can a random process (QM) give rise to a predictable one?

    QM seems to imply that consciousness is part of the cause for how things turn out (the effects) in the quantum world, but our lack of understanding of consciousness prevents us from explaining just how, so quantum events seem random, when it's not. Our understanding is incomplete.
  • Pattern-chaser
    1.8k
    So it's not clear i[f] we ever observe "causeless effects" or "caused effects," and it's not clear how we'd ever empirically establish the difference with any certainty.Terrapin Station

    Point being, if we can't firmly establish that time runs in only one direction, then cause and effect may be a meaningless concept.Jake

    Interesting. Thank you both.

    We don't know precisely what if anything happened pre-BB. But I believe we can conclude there was a start of time and a first cause.Devans99

    Yet another unjustified assertion.

    I am making the special exception that for the special BB, it is possible that something came from nothing (zero energy universe hypothesis)Devans99

    So when we consider the only example we've come up with, of what could have been a causeless event, you dismiss it as a special case? :gasp:

    We could go into detail on causality in itself...Christoffer

    Yes, isn't that what we're trying to do?

    ...but I think the key answer to the question of causeless effects is that in our universe, no, not possible.Christoffer

    Oh look! Another unjustified assertion! :worry:
  • Devans99
    2.1k
    Yet another unjustified assertion.Pattern-chaser

    The justification is here:

    https://thephilosophyforum.com/discussion/5302/an-argument-for-eternalism/p1

    So when we consider the only example we've come up with, of what could have been a causeless event, you dismiss it as a special case? :gasp:Pattern-chaser

    The BB has a cause. But the BB itself generates matter from nothing - so that is not causeless matter but it is matter from nothing (well matter in exchange for negative gravitational energy).
  • Pattern-chaser
    1.8k
    if causality does not apply, it would surely be just a crazy, impossible universe?Devans99

    Ah, so the reason you argue against causeless events is because you can't imagine a universe where such things exist? And you could be quite right, of course. But should we abandon our consideration because we don't understand? After all, it was my own lack of understanding that lead me to post this topic, to see if anyone else had any ideas, or helpful explanations. IMO, the best philosophy tries to break new ground. That isn't easy, but that's no reason not to try, is it?
  • Pattern-chaser
    1.8k

    No it isn't. I keep looking at that link when you post it, and - surprise! - it turns out to be based on unjustified assertions and nothing else. Wishful thinking is what it looks like to me.
  • Pattern-chaser
    1.8k
    The BB has a cause.Devans99

    And that cause is...?
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