So I went to see theoretical physicist and cosmologist Lawrence Krauss last night in Portsmouth. This was great for two reasons. Firstly, Krauss is a great public speaker and a seemingly top bloke. Secondly, it shows that, occasionally, Portsmouth (UK) is not the cultural wasteland many think it is. Occasionally. Very occasionally.
The night started off well as a few of us Tippling Philosophers met in a pub and got talking to a playwright who had a vast and interesting array of knowledge in some areas close to our hearts – the making of Messiahs, philosophy and such like (so much so that he bought one of my books, The Nativity: A Critical Examination, there and then). After some fascinating discussions ranging from cognitive dissonance to Sabbatai Zavi and Appolonius of Tyana, we moved to the venue for the talk.
Krauss started off superbly by talking about the for of the question “why is there something rather than nothing” being problematic and question-begging. Funnily enough, we had just been talking about purpose in the pub, and this very problem. Krauss rightly pointed out that you cannot ask why questions without presupposing the notion of a purposer. ‘Why’ is seeking a purpose – ‘for what purpose did this happen?’. And an objective purpose requires there to be an ultimate being to give purpose. Intrinsic purposes are incoherent. For more on this, see my essay on the meaning of life.