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.

I had considered this to some extent when I had posted. My issue with postulations at that extreme only come down to semantics. Mostly, the way they use the terms 'natural' and 'improbable'.

Yet it doesn't really alter my position at this point in time. At the macro and micro level, a great deal of observable existence appears to have a nature and are subject to causality. It's unimportant to me is the entire universe is ordered, but rather I am concerned with a universe in which no order exists at any level. Even if there is are universes out there with different parameters, it's a question of whether or not those parameters will result in some describable mechanics within that universe. Or in our own universe, even if our observed constants are conditional, it's a matter of why those constants exist at all.

Where I am a bit lost with quantum physics is in the use of the word random:
Does it mean that a finite set of behaviours could occur in an inherently unpredictable way, or does it mean that, hypothetically, anything could be anything without prediction?

In the former case, I'm not so disturbed. Imagine a universe which consists only of a roulette table and a robot programmed to place bets. Even if we state that the roulette wheel is inherently predictable, it can only be defined as one of thirty-seven (?) states at a given time. Once a state comes into existence, all other aspects of this universe are ordered above that.

In the latter case... I've considered it, but I don't know if my considerations are problematic at this point in time.

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. 

That doesn't quite satisfy, possibly because you've anthropomorphized it. Choice and art appreciation in humans seems to be well within the realm of causality. I cannot, by nature, choose what I will never choose. What I appreciate is limited by exposure, available mediums, biology and physics. How would atoms be freed from this in principle?

Imagine there is a universe in which there are only two particles: betty and bob. Both betty and bob, at any given instance and without prediction can:

  • exist or not exist
  • be any size in relation to one another
  • be any distance from the other
  • change identity to be the other provided there is only one bob and one betty at any given time

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

  1. The universe can only be said to exist as long as betty or bob has the potential to exist.
  1. While betty is bigger than bob, bob cannot be bigger than betty.
  2. Betty can never be further from bob than bob is from betty.
  3. Betty can only become bob while bob is non-existent, or unless betty and bob switch simultaneously.

Yes, it's not the kind of law or constancy we might appreciate in this universe, but as long as betty and bob have any properties whatsoever, it seems as if we will be able to define rules, even if those rules are predicated on something unpredictable.

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.

The third (actually fourth, but the formatting screwed up) is as much a truism, but that isn't unique to this hypothetical universe. There are such cases even in evolutionary biology. 'Survival of the fittest' is an example once you're down to the core principle.

Aside from perhaps the most fundamental aspect of the universe, if such a thing exists, it seems like everything is the product of such truisms.

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……

Is it correct to say that the existence of the laws does not require an observer?

Yes. Physics, as we understand it now, predates our species and our observations. When we describe the earliest know states of the universe, are we not describing a period in which there were (hypothetically) no observers? Laws of physics are only descriptions of what occurs with or without us. I am not asking if a universe without our understanding of laws exists; I am asking if a universe

In this hypothetical space, it was necessary to clarify as we could be talking about a universe with which it is impossible for us to interact.

All will be darkness with “nothing” left so therefore our Universe might be one without any laws…..

Define 'nothing' as you are using it as best you can. Is it the absolute sense, or is it (as it sounds) the sense used in A Universe From Nothing?

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.


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