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The universe is finite. It is constrained by laws of nature and it has a limited amount of space (even though it is expanding). When one tries to explain and understand the origins of the universe, one always backs into an infinite regress. For instance, if one explains the existence of earth through the Big Bang, it is not clear where the original matter necessary for the Big Bang came from. Could one prove the existence of an external force that is the origin of the universe based on the above facts?

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In the narrow sense, the answer is yes. Consider the decimal expansion of pi, 3.14159.... It is an infinite series of numbers, but you can derive any number of finite sequences from it (1415, 314, 159, and so forth).

In the larger sense, this is analogous to the problem of evil (how can an all good God create a world that contains evil), in as much as it is a question of how a perfect being could ever create anything less than perfect (where the finite would be considered as imperfect and the infinite as perfect).

As such, I'm not sure it has a definitive answer, but you might look up considerations of the problem of evil to see how great minds have tackled it.

  • I'm not sure how this is analogous to the problem of evil. If one wants to avoid an infinite regress then sooner or later one is forced to conclude that the ultimate origin of the universe must have been self-originating. The thing is that that source must have been very very simple. Simple on the level of the most fundamental particles of the universe. – JonS Aug 20 '14 at 15:25
  • Thank you for the comment. Why do you believe the origin of the universe must have been simple? – user8669 Aug 23 '14 at 2:11
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It is not known if the universe is finite or infinite.

Although we assume that the laws of physics apply uniformly in our observable universe (viz. homogeneity and isotropy), it is not know if the same rules apply in causally-unconnected parts of our universe. By causally-unconnected, I mean those areas beyond our observable universe, so far away that light (information) has not had enough time to reach us.

Big Bang Theory requires no "original matter". Space, matter, and energy were all created in the big bang event. Our universe if often described by supporters of big bang (almost everyone) as the ultimate free lunch. I believe the technical mechanism preferred by cosmologists is some sort of quantum fluctuation where energy is borrowed from "the future". That sounds wacky, but so does most quantum theory.

So, in reply to your headline questions, I would say yes, I believe that most cosmologists would be happy to say that our universe is "self-originating".

EDIT I should have not said "matter" was created in the big bang event. Only space and energy were created. Some energy would then have become matter when things had cooled down enough. (Recall that Einstein's famous equation declares that energy and matter are the same thing in different forms - E = mc2.)

  • I think you can split the difference by saying what we call matter and energy originated in the big bang. What exactly was present before is not like either. – virmaior Aug 22 '14 at 1:14
  • @virmaior According to big bang theory, nothing was present before the big bang event. I know that sounds like a total cop-out for it is inconceivable that there could have been nothing. The problem with discussing these issues is that cosmology is very much a work in progress. – Nick R Aug 22 '14 at 1:18
  • I don't think that's quite right. I think it's better to say there was no information prior to the big bang (where information here is used in accordance with its meaning in physics, i.e. Σω = 0.) It's not quite identical to a metaphysical claim that nothing is present, but it is compatible with one. Also, unless you're referring to the critically-acclaimed TV show, I never heard anyone call it "big bang theory" during my BS in Chemistry. – virmaior Aug 22 '14 at 1:22
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    @virmaior You are quite right. Current scientific theory does indeed require that "nothing" is impossible. I was referring more to cop-out view that science is based on observation, measurement and experiment, and therefore can have nothing to say about what may or may not have been before the creation event. – Nick R Aug 22 '14 at 1:26
  • Matter and energy came out of the big bang (specifically vacuum energy). That was the instant of the big bang. Before that, the universe was a singularity, which we don't really understand what exactly that is. Relativistic physics would say this is an infinitely dense, infinitely hot, infinitely small place. – Scuba Steve Aug 24 '14 at 3:45

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