This blog post will explain how the universe can "be" and "not be" before time. It was inspired by a post on the Tough Questions Answered blog, in which I recently argued that whether or not anything in the universe has a cause or does not have a cause is a moot question with regards to whether there is a supernatural cause, or one that can be explained naturally. I have been working on the idea that the universe is "in its own nature" for quite some time now. In the post, I argued that as an Ignostic, everything we know of that has a cause has been proven to be caused by something natural. Using the Hypothetico-Deductive method, and the best explanation, everything that has a cause in our universe is caused by something natural. With regards to the universe itself, again, using the Hypothetico-Deductive method and the best explanation, the cause of the universe being "in its own nature" is a better explanation than "goddidit." And note, that however it happened would have happened before our known universe and time as we know it.
In response to this, a Christian replied:
"Wow, so you are claiming that the "nature" of the universe (before it existed mind you) caused the universe to exist? That's like saying I'm my own Grandfather. Can I be the cause of my father who caused me before I even existed? How can anything in a nonexistent state cause anything at all much less itself? The definition for nonexistent is not having being or existence. "
"So, everything IN the universe is bound by the law of causality but not THE universe? How is that even possible? Isn't the universe the description for all the "stuff" that is bound by the law of causality How is your point applied to the scientific method? Where is science do we see uncaused universes? How can all time space and mater inside the universe be bound by something and not the universe? Just irrational..."
My answer to this is quite simple. How this might be possible is that everything we know of the universe is that part of the universe that is a part of our sensory/ phenomenal realm. We define this as the universe. That part that was before the universe that we know, is the part that I am defining as being "in its own nature." It literally existed prior to that part of the known universe. Another way of putting it is how the Taoists explain it:
In the beginning is wuji, or Tao – an undifferentiated Unity, beyond vibration.
From this emerges taiji – vibration/qi in its complementary aspects of Yin and Yang. It is the “dance” – i.e. the continual transformations -- of Yin & Yang that fuels the flow of qi. This stage represents the emergence of duality/polarity out of the Unity of Tao.
“We desire to understand the world by giving names to the things we see,
but these things are only the effects of something subtle. When we see beyond the desire to use names, we can sense the nameless cause of these effects.” ~ Lao Tzu
"The Tao which can be expressed in words is not the eternal Tao; the name which can be uttered is not its eternal name. Without a name, it is the Beginning of Heaven and Earth; with a name, it is the Mother of all things. Only one who is eternally free from earthly passions can apprehend its spiritual essence; he who is ever clogged by passions can see no more than its outer form. These two things, the spiritual and the material, though we call them by different names, in their origin are one and the same. This sameness is a mystery, — the mystery of mysteries. It is the gate of all spirituality." Tao #1
According to the Taoists, the Tao existed "before heaven and earth," and from the Tao came a primordial matrix of undifferentiated energy, and from this matrix, all of existence, including myriads of Taoist gods, emerged.
According to the Tao Te Ching, something existed "before heaven and earth" and the author, not knowing the name of that something, called it Tao (Ch. 25). This Tao is a very different Tao from the tao considered as "The Way."
Let me paraphrase for you. The Universe existed before "heaven and earth," and the author, not knowing the name of that something, called it the Universe. This Universe is very different from the universe considered as the universe.
Another analogy to this process would be that of an egg and a sperm--which are totally different from the person they become. The "Universe" of the egg and sperm" is different from the "universe" that is that particular person. The egg and sperm exist before the child does, and now we see they are one and the same, and yet quite different. Note, that when a child is born, we start counting its time as being from that moment, and the conception and gestation is prior to time and the existence of that person.
Therefore, the existence of the universe is best explained by it being "in its own nature" and there is no absurdity or irrationality in this explanation, as I have shown, it can be held quite consistently.