Can a universe exist which has no natural/ physical/ scientific laws?
N.B. In using the term 'law', I am not talking about a formalized human definition of a physical relationship/ pattern/ property; I am talking about the thing itself which is being described independent of description.

One of the arguments which alienates from certain theists the most is the idea that physical law is somehow an indication that a god exists. It leaves me scratching my head as with or without a god, I cannot conceive of a universe which has no laws. As long as existence exists, law exists.

There are two points in which our perspectives may likely differ.

i) The theist may see laws as active forces which dictate how phenomena behave. Worded differently, law defines reality. I see laws as descriptions of how phenomena behave. Worded differently, reality defines law.

ii) The theist may see laws as purpose driven. The laws which exist have to exist as they do for the purpose of achieving a certain effect. I see laws as the mere byproduct of things having properties and finite aspects; natural law doesn't serve a purpose or intent.

Can anyone actually conceive of a hypothetical lawless universe?

  • The existence of law does not require an observer.
  • Universe can either mean a single universe in a multiverse system, or the sum total of all existence.
  • Pure nonexistence doesn't qualify as a universe.
  • This hypothetical universe does not need to reflect our own in any given aspect.
  • The supernatural can be invoked provided you can explain how it qualifies as lawless.
  • You aren't required to agree with my views in the above i) and ii), but again, you would have to justify why it qualifies as lawless.

Personally, I would answer 'no', but I find it an interesting, even if masturbatory, mental exercise. Everything I come up with still results in some physical constant.

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The multiverse scenario is slowly gaining traction among some physicists. Among others: meh. From the linked article:

"Physicists reason that if the universe is unnatural, with extremely unlikely fundamental constants that make life possible, then an enormous number of universes must exist for our improbable case to have been realized. Otherwise, why should we be so lucky? Unnaturalness would give a huge lift to the multiverse hypothesis, which holds that our universe is one bubble in an infinite and inaccessible foam. According to a popular but polarizing framework called string theory, the number of possible types of universes that can bubble up in a multiverse is around 10500. In a few of them, chance cancellations would produce the strange constants we observe."

[...]

"What [new particles] the [Large Hadron Collider] does or doesn’t discover in its next run [in 2015] is likely to lend support to one of two possibilities: Either we live in an overcomplicated but stand-alone universe, or we inhabit an atypical bubble in a multiverse."

The idea is that you'd have all kinds of universes. The ones that had "laws" that worked well enough would form. The ones that didn't have good enough "laws" would fail to form. Some would have laws that "work" well enough for life to emerge. Most would not.

But it's all conjecture of course.

A hypothetical lawless universe is one where any matter or energy has free will of its own.  An object, like the Roadrunner, can run off a cliff and choose whether to fall, or not.  Or when to fall.  Or how fast.  You can even try to convince it not to fall.

Perhaps atoms choose to group together for a time because of personal affinity or social contract or just a desire to create atomic art they find pleasing, but they are not obliged to do so. 

In that universe, would you not still end up with describable rules?

You just described a rule... so yes. If you take away the change identity rule, or change it to "change identity to be the other or anything else", then we are starting to see something lawless.

it's not the kind of law or constancy we might appreciate in this universe

Those are truisms, except for number 3, which is adding additional detail to the change identity rule.

Is it correct to say that the existence of the laws does not require and observer? In the past the anthropic principle pondered why the Universal laws of physics are the way we observe them and not any other way. So if there is no observer to understand them then maybe they do not exist as laws. They may operate by their own Standard Model that we cannot conceive of.

At some point in the distant future all matter in our Universe will have no mass acting on it (due to expansion) and will keep moving towards entropy until it disappears. The will be nothing for the remaining forces to act on so maybe they will not exist. All will be darkness with “nothing” left so therefore our Universe might be one without any laws…..until “something” comes from this nothingness and “Bang” off we go again……

Yes, as in a Universe from Nothing, without quantum fluctuations of particles popping in an out of existence.

Just an idea, in BB cosmology it is suggested that in the clash of matter and antimatter that instigated it, at tiny amount of matter was left over whose intense energy caused Inflation and the start of the Universe (short version). If antimatter “won” then would there be a Universe with “nothing” in it so no need for any laws…..I have not thought that through yet…..I will go and knock on my neighbor and ask her… Penny, Penny, Penny…lol.

They may operate by their own Standard Model that we cannot conceive of.

That model is precisely what science is striving to understand. All of our current "laws" are really just our current best description of how stuff works.

I apologize. I did not notice that this was in "Philosophy". The wording of your OP indicated to me a question about the basic laws of how the universe operates rather than philosophical or theistic "laws". The offending posts have been deleted.

What you are calling a law is really just an interaction between particles. The law part of it is the human description of what is happening. A "Lawless" universe would therefore consist of stuff that is unable to interact with anything. To my knowledge, It would look quite similar to the very early universe, just after the beginning... free floating quarks, but because they are unable to interact, there would be no additional expansion.

An interesting hypothesis , would like to here from a physicist about this...

Question: Is a Lawless Universe Nonsense?

Answer: Yes.

Your question contains the answer.

By using the descriptive word "universe".

There is a something and there isn't a nothing.

A "universe" is a something.

A something exists.

To exist a cause is required.

Law is cause, cause is law.

All existence is caused.

The current 10,382 universes (yes, I counted them) exist and are caused. :)

Therefore answer is Yes.

If it's coherent enough to qualify as a universe, there is a principle of coherence of some sort, is there not? And is that not some sort of natural law?

I'm reluctant to use the word Law. The universe is a very big place. Things work the way they do in our neighborhood because of the things IN the neighborhood. What we perceive to be laws, or "universal reactions" to put a Newtonian spin on it, may be changed or negated by something outside of our observable universe, or even much closer in a separate galaxy. What there was something like a large antimatter nebula somewhere, and some strange natural phenomenon somehow kept even a speck of matter from entering the cloud, which would surely detonate it, causing quite a loud pop. What if we somehow discovered a naturally formed Dyson sphere? What sort of force would keep it from collapsing? What sort of event could have caused it's formation to begin with?

My point is, that there is no proof that these laws are infallible, or at least constant every where in the universe, They just seem to be in our neck of the woods.

Now, a universe with no laws would have to have absolutely no reactions. So what you're really looking for is a description of nothing, specifically the nothing that the universe came from. Every thing has a beginning, and so there must be some sort of pocket or space that has No matter, or energy, or anything else. Such a place would be impossible to detect, because the second we try to observe something like that, then we would introduce matter and/or energy.

It's an interesting quandary for sure, careful not to get stuck in an infinite loop.

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