Apparently, inert matter made galaxies, stars, planets and life by accident and whatever made the universe abandoned it to physical laws long ago. The laws of thermodynamics doom everything to run down, whether our bodies, the sun or the universe, so the expected end state is an eternally empty big freeze. If the universe is ultimately pointless then we are too, so it doesn’t matter what we do because nothing really matters at all. This dismal vision, that the laws of matter drive us, denies the accountability that societies need to work (Whitworth & Ahmad, 2013), so civilization would collapse if it was widely accepted.
This cosmic nihilism calls itself the voice of reason but genuine reason suggests otherwise. Our universe began, so something else must have made it. Quantum randomness has no physical cause, so matter isn’t all there is. Claims that consciousness arises from physical complexity (Zizzi,2003) fail because supercomputers show no signs of consciousness. A universe that has been decaying for billions of years had to begin very ordered, which the primal chaos wasn’t, so decay isn’t the only principle at work. That quantum laws are probable not certain means that the universe isn’t a machine whose future is written. When examined closely, the story of a dead world going nowhere that made us by accident makes no more sense than that of a world built just for us by a supreme being.
A machine is designed to a blueprint, built from inert parts, then runs in a predictable way. A universal machine should arise like this but it isn’t possible. If the physical universe began from nothing, where was the blueprint kept? If matter was built from fundamental parts, where did they initially exist? And if the universe is a predictable machine, why does quantum randomness have no physical cause? Newton’s vision of a universal machine designed, built and run by God isn’t supported by modern physics.
Nor does the evidence suggest that we are powerless servants of a divine plan. That our universe is evolving at every scale suggests it wasn’t built as a watchmaker builds a watch but born like a baby, not knowing where it is going or why. An acorn that will become an oak in the right setting wasn’t designed to be a tree but inherited “tree-ness” from its origin. Its genes aren’t the “blueprint” to build a tree but grow one and it always becomes an oak tree not some random thing.
In the same way, a baby’s birth may be accidental but that babies in general are born is no accident because that is how species survive. Baby’s brains are predisposed to learn language and recognize faces so a specific baby can learn any language and recognize any face. The details may be accidental but the overall result isn’t. If the universe itself is likewise predisposed to evolve, evolution may involve accidents but what is emerging isn’t entirely random.
Emergence means to become a new sort of being, as a butterfly with wings emerges from the pupa of a caterpillar that crawls. Given time and the stability of a shell, caterpillar genes recombine to form a butterfly that is a new sort of being. The same thing happens to matter when hydrogen and oxygen gases combine to form liquid water. In both cases, what existed already combines to form a new way of existing with entirely different properties from its predecessors.
To say a butterfly contains a caterpillar within it or that water has a gaseous base is to misunderstand emergence, yet physics today assumes that its fundamental matter parts persist when they combine, so a nucleus is just a bunch of protons and neutrons sitting side by side. In essence, it denies emergence but in quantum realism, emergence is a key feature of the universe at every scale. Emergence allowed light to combine into electrons, quarks to combine into protons, protons and electrons to combine into Hydrogen atoms, and this was just the start.
Ideas of designing, building and controlling don’t work when it comes to emergence. If the universe is emerging from simple parts to complex wholes, it is doing so in a way that even it can’t foresee. It is becoming what it can be so we exist because we can, not due to some plan. Evolution works by accident but isn’t itself accidental, as trying every option eventually leads to what works. We are neither accidental nor designed but rather emerged naturally from the universe.
Table 4.8 compares quantum realism and physical realism for matter so the reader can decide for themselves. It implies a living universe born to actively evolve into an emerging future but if so, what might that be?