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How many questions can we actually ask? And is there an end to that list?

The Cause and Effect Problem Jun 19, 2013 5:10am UTC
We are all capable of asking questions which further our knowledge of the universe. For example, we might ask what a planet is, and be given an answer. We can follow that up by asking where a planet comes from. In other words, what causes a planet to come into existence? There are a vast number of similar questions we can ask which have (or will eventually have) answers, but a better question than any of those might be: "can there be a question which has no answer?"

Let me give you an example of what I'm talking about. The question, "where did all of the planets come from," is answered by looking at the interactions of the remnants from the Big Bang, which formed the stars and galaxies we know of in the universe. The question, "what caused the universe to come into existence," is answered by the Big Bang Theory itself. This is the theory that all matter originated in one location in the universe until a huge explosion sent the matter hurling in all directions.

Taking the example from above into consideration, a logical follow up question might be, "where did the constituents of the Big Bang come from?" Or worded differently, "what caused the constituents of the Big Bang to come into existence?" If you see the pattern developing here, we eventually reach a point at which we seem to have a universal problem. And we also reach the point at which I will tie in the concepts of recursion, cause and effect.

For every answer we are given, a follow-up question of "why" always appears to be valid. If we are told about a particular effect or observation, it is always logical to ask for the cause of that particular observation. By doing so, we create a recursive pattern by which the complete answer to question "B" is always dependent on question "A" having already been answered.

I see two views which could be taken from here. First is the view that there is eventually a question which is so fundamental, that when answered, it literally leaves no further questions to be asked. It's just a matter of drawing the lines between points "A" and "B". Arguably, if this point is reached, then all science and physics questions become mathematical proofs more than anything else.

But the second view is a bit different. The second view is that there is always another question on which the "current" answer depends. Expanded, this would mean that in fact, there are an infinite number of questions which at any point in time would have no answer.

As you can see, the discussion begins skewing towards the philosophic rather than the scientific. This is, of course, a great argument as to why it's pointless to debate things like "science vs. religion". There's either a point at which we can explain everything or a point where we can't (depending on which view you side with from above). Quite frankly, neither of these realizations have anything to do with the concept of religion; they are merely based on cause and effect.

The moment you mix scientific questions with philosophic ones is when you end up with a never-ending debate between those who provide answers which do not include belief, hope, or love (non-quantifiable properties) and those who accept that existence can continue with unanswered questions. The cool thing is that no matter where you fall on this spectrum, your existence is not fundamentally altered.


For what it's worth, I believe that after my existence is complete, there'll be a hand to shake and someone to thank for the awe and beauty I witnessed on and around Planet Earth. Oh, and someone to ask questions to... or perhaps just one question: is there a question which has no answer?
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