Causal conundrums

  1. Beginnings

If causes explain effects, then what explains causes?

Does the existence of ‘cause-and-effect’ tell us all we need to know about existence?

What makes us believe that the fact of causality proves that existence must have a first cause?

Does it help us to explain chickens or eggs by knowing which came first?

What is a cause without an effect, and what is an effect if it is not radical enough to make a real difference?

What explains causality?  Is it just ‘the first cause’ that defies explanation?  But what would that first cause look like or amount to apart from ‘its effect’?  Then is the effect actually the first significant event, since nothing is seen to happen until it emerges to make a difference?  Yet we attribute that event to a precipitating cause in an unseen (theoretical) reality.  Afterwards, reality moves on visibly, at a pace, with each new event heralding a change to things as they were – otherwise nothing happens.  So is it the same for each successive ‘cause’ that represents leading events in own turn – that is, are we merely observing a chain of empowered effects which, like that first cause, we can only explain in theory?

What makes causality work in the way it does when it doesn’t work that way at quantum levels of reality?  Then could there be yet further levels of reality that we cannot explain in terms of the status quo?

Is anything possible given a suitable cause, or are there ‘boundaries of possibility’ acting as crypto-causes (hidden patterns or ‘blueprints’) ahead of all the action?

Are causes mere agents of possibilities propelling themselves forwards?  But what explains possibility?

Can chance tell us what’s possible by entreating us to believe that anything is possible?  Can chance tell us what makes possibility possible, or why certain alternatives become excluded or included by others?  Does it take an infinite array of alternative universes to explain why alternative possibilities continuously become possible?  Do we know enough about a finite universe of possibilities to know where it all leads?

If one small part of nature can manifest intentional action, then was nature ever deficient; unless, things change – to realise something new – a capacity inherent to a universe of possibilities beyond the bounds of previous ‘natural causes’?

Is science a dialogue with nature that we wouldn’t need to have if the facts really spoke for themselves?

Mike Laidler


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