Why is there something instead of nothing?

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Why is there something instead of nothing? is a philosophical question which ponders the existence of the universe. In particular, it implies that the universe is contingent (that it could either exist or not exist), and seeks an answer why one contingency happened rather than the other.

Although this is a legitimate question, I usually only hear it asked by religious people regarding the origin of the universe. It is asked, not because they want an answer, but as a "gotcha" question asserting that, if the question can't be answered, their personal religious beliefs are proven correct.

Why or How?

If you ask, "why did you go to the store?" I could answer, "to purchse lettuce." If you asked, "how did you go to the store?" I could answer, "I walked." If you asked, "how did lightning strike your house?" I could answer, "an electric current from the clouds discharged through the roof of my house to the ground." However, if you asked, "why did lightning strike your house?" I can't answer that question because it doesn't make any sense. The word "why" implies purpose, and lightning, which is not alive, doesn't do things with a purpose.

In common speech, we often use "how" and "why" interchangeably, but for profound questions like this, it is important to choose our words carefully. Many of the laws of the universe can be answered with "how," but, because the universe doesn't appear to be alive or do things with a purpose, questions asking "why" the universe does something do not make any sense.

The question "how is there something instead of nothing?" is a sensible question, and we might discover the answer. In order for the question "why is there something instead of nothing?" to make sense, we must first discover an underlying purpose behind the universe. When we

Contingent Universe

The question may not even be valid. We used to believe that the vacuum of space was void, and contained “nothing”, but, as it turns out, even the emptiness of space is something, dark energy and vacuum energy. The current understanding of the universe is that it’s not possible to have “nothing”. So, the question again becomes equivalent to “why does 2+2=4?”, because it must. So, you must first prove that it is even possible for “nothing” to exist before the question has meaning.

Unknown Doesn't Mean Known