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Why you exist according to ChatGPT

Unsplash/Rolf van Root
Unsplash/Rolf van Root

The question of why there is something rather than nothing at all is one of the most profound and fundamental questions in philosophy, cosmology, and metaphysics.

At least that’s what ChatGPT says when you ask it why the universe or anything like you and me exists.

And, it’s right — the question originally posed by German mathematician, logician, and philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716) of why we have something rather than nothing at all has provoked all kinds of explanations from the best of the best in every discipline.

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In his work, Principles of Nature and Grace Based on Reason, Leibniz answered the question like this: “…given that things have to exist, we must be able to give a reason why they have to exist as they are and not otherwise. Now, this sufficient reason for the existence can’t be found in the series of contingent things … it must be something that exists necessarily, carrying the reason for its existence within itself; only that can give us a sufficient reason at which we can stop. And that ultimate reason for things is what we call ‘God.’”

Thankfully, ChatGPT includes God as one of the possibilities for why you and I exist. And, amazingly, it includes the other 3 possibilities as well.

Option 1 — it’s all an illusion

As the last option in its answer, ChatGPT includes the possibility that is akin to the movie The Matrix — everything you see and experience is just an illusion and not real. Of course, just like in the movie, there has to be something real behind the illusion that is actual reality, so this possibility isn’t viable.

It’s somewhat like the philosophy student who once asked his professor, “How can I know that I really exist?” The professor looked down his glasses at the student and responded, “And who may I say is asking?”

Option 2 — we made ourselves

ChatGPT also offers the option that was championed by Stephen Hawking and some other physicists, which is self-creation via quantum mechanics. In other words, the universe / we made ourselves.

ChaptGPT puts it like this: “Some physicists propose that quantum fluctuations in a vacuum could spontaneously generate particles and even entire universes. According to this view, the universe could arise from a state of ‘nothingness’ defined by quantum fields.”

Let’s give ChatGPT three cheers for putting “nothingness” in quotes. It’s great that the AI chatbot communicates the fact that quantum fields are not nothing. Nothing, as Aristotle said, is what rocks dream about.

And that’s really the rub with this option. Not only are quantum fields not nothing, but something can’t be ontologically prior to itself. So, the idea of self-creation is not an option to entertain when it comes to answering the question of why you and I exist.

Option 3 — we’re just here because we’re here

If option 3 doesn’t sound like it’s really helpful on the surface, you’re right, it isn’t. But, as ChatGPT says, that doesn’t stop people from throwing the option into the ring.

However, when you dig into this possibility composed by the chatbot, it deserves a little more attention: “Brute Fact: Some philosophers and scientists accept the universe as a ‘brute fact’ — something that exists without explanation or cause. This perspective suggests that the universe's existence is simply a fundamental aspect of reality.”

So, now we’re actually getting somewhere because, as theologian Jonathan Edwards said in his short answer to the question of why we exist, the only explanation is that there is a necessary and eternal ‘something’ that exists. In other words, there must be, as ChatGPT says, “a fundamental aspect of reality.”

ChatGPT supplies the usual non-supernatural suspects in its list of possibilities, including multi-verses and our singular universe big bang model, although it admits “this theory describes how the universe evolved, not why it exists in the first place.”

Score another one for ChatGPT!

When it comes to the multi-verse idea, Dr. Alexander Vilenkin shot that proposal down in his “State of the Universe” paper, which was presented at the 70th birthday celebration of Stephen Hawking that took place on January 2012. Vilenkin said: “All the evidence we have says that the universe had a beginning.” And if our universe or any multi-verse has a beginning, they have a cause and are not eternal. 

Commenting on the multi-verse idea, Dr. John Polkinghorne says, “Let us recognize these speculations for what they are. They are not physics, but in the strictest sense, metaphysics. There is no purely scientific reason to believe in an ensemble of universes.”

Option 4 — what Leibniz said

ChatGPT, of course, includes Leibniz’s God option for why we exist, saying “Many religious traditions posit that a divine being created the universe with purpose and intent. This being, often referred to as God, is seen as the ultimate cause of the existence of everything.”

Even with the other options crashing and burning, we shouldn’t be lazy and just default the God hypothesis in. However, it has a strong start because, as French philosopher and historian of philosophy Etienne Gilson remarked, “But why anything at all is, or exists, science knows not, precisely because it cannot even ask the question. To this supreme question, the only conceivable answer is that each and every particular existential energy, each and every particular existing thing, depends for its existence upon a pure Act of existence.”

He's right. This being true, it’s no coincidence that this is exactly how God described himself to Moses when he asked Him His name: “I AM WHO I AM” (Ex. 3:14), which literally translates in Hebrew to “I be who I be” — a declaration of pure existence.

In the end, although ChatGPT includes 4 basic possibilities on why you and I exist, they can really be cut in half, just as mathematician Dr. John Lennox explains: “There are not many options — essentially just two. Either human intelligence ultimately owes its origin to mindless matter; or there is a Creator. It is strange that some people claim that it is their intelligence that leads them to prefer the first to the second.”

My bet is on #2 — how about you?  

Robin Schumacher is an accomplished software executive and Christian apologist who has written many articles, authored and contributed to several Christian books, appeared on nationally syndicated radio programs, and presented at apologetic events. He holds a BS in Business, Master's in Christian apologetics and a Ph.D. in New Testament. His latest book is, A Confident Faith: Winning people to Christ with the apologetics of the Apostle Paul.

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