What the Laws of Physics Are and Why They Could Not Have Been Created

G. Stolyarov II
Issue CXXXVI - December 23, 2007
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Some advocates of the view that the universe was created – especially created by some kind of personified being (i.e., a god) – hold that the laws of physics must have had a temporal origin, which points to the existence of a creator of such laws. Here, this view shall be refuted.

What Are the Laws of Physics?

            First, we must ask what kind of existents the laws of physics are. They are not entities, because they lack the ubiquitous qualities of entities – such as matter, length, width, height, and time. One cannot say that laws of physics weigh ten kilograms or are five years old or six meters high.

            The key to ontologically classifying the laws of physics indicated in “How Life Follows the Laws of Physics,” which explicates the conditional nature of physical laws:

"However, the laws of physics, even in their very formulation, have always been conditional. To paraphrase Isaac Newton, if an object is at rest it will remain at rest unless  acted on by an outside force. If a force is acting on an object, it will be equal to the  product of its mass and acceleration. If an object is pushed by another object with a  certain force, it will exhibit an equal and opposite reaction force on that object. All the laws of physics, properly rephrased, entail an "if"component to them, which renders them conditional on the given situation and begs the question: what brings about the situations  wherein these laws can manifest themselves?"

The conditional aspect of the laws of physics implies that the physical laws an entity will follow depend in part on the surroundings of that entity – i.e., the other entities in its vicinity. After all, an object cannot follow physical laws relating to electricity or magnetism if it is not present near any electrically charged or magnetized objects. Similarly, an entity cannot be affected (at least substantively) by the law of gravitation if it is not present near another massive object. The laws of physics depend on the qualities of the entity in question as well (such as matter – essential for an entity to follow the law of gravitation), but they also depend on the qualities of the entities to which the entity in question is relating.

            Thus, the laws of physics are convenient and precise descriptions of relationships among specific entities having specific qualities and existing in specific arrangements with respect to each other or to their own past states. The actual relationships these laws describe in specific circumstances can include motion, acceleration, matter transfer, and transfer of luminosity – among other possibilities. Newton’s First Law, for instance, gives the following predictions: “If Entity A is not exhibiting the relationship of motion, then, unless some other entity acts on it, Entity A will not exhibit the relationship of motion one second from now. If Entity B is exhibiting the relationship of motion at a rate of 5 meters per second, then, unless some other entity acts on it, in one second Entity B will be 5 meters away from its present position in the direction of its movement.”

            So the laws of physics can be said to be descriptions of potential relationships and the circumstances in which these relationships arise. The manner in which these laws are formulated – mathematical equations – is a human invention capable of accurately modeling and representing the external world. But these equations themselves are not the external world, any more than the word “cat” is the same as a living, breathing creature with four legs and a fur coat. The laws of physics are analytical tools that human beings use to understand, study, and control the behavior of other entities. But they are not the actual motions, accelerations, and quality transfers that they describe.

            At the same time, however, the laws of physics could not be different in substance from what they are – even though they can and do differ in the manner of their formulation. This is because these laws refer to the qualities and behaviors of entities outside the formulator, and the formulator cannot change such qualities and behaviors merely by wishing it. So it is possible to use different verbal or mathematical terminology to describe the Law of Universal Gravitation, but none of these formulations, if true, would admit for the gravitational constant to be, say, 7.67248*10-11 m3kg-1s-2 rather than its true value of 6.67248*10-11 m3kg-1s-2.

            Thus, the laws of physics themselves are not invented by humans, but rather discovered. That is, entities “followed” these laws in the sense of behaving in specific ways under specific circumstances prior to the time at which humans first understood the regularity of these behaviors. But the laws of physics do require some kinds of entities to exist and to relate to each other in order to exist. If no entities existed, then the laws of physics would not exist, either. But “The Impossibility of First and Last Entities shows that it is impossible for no entities to have existed at any time – past or future.

            Furthermore, it is known that every entity follows the laws of physics – in the sense that if it has specific qualities and is in specific surroundings, it will behave in specific ways as predicted by the appropriate mathematical equations. Thus, we arrive at the following conclusions.

(1.) At any particular moment in time, some entities have existed or will exist.

(2.) Any entity that exists follows the laws of physics.

Therefore,

(3.) At any particular moment in time, some entities have followed or will follow the laws of physics.

Therefore,

(4.) The laws of physics have always existed and will always exist.

We note that

(5.) That which has always existed cannot have been created.

Therefore,

(6.) The laws of physics could not have been created.

G. Stolyarov II is a science fiction novelist, independent philosophical essayist, poet, amateur mathematician, composer, contributor to Enter Stage Right, Le Quebecois Libre,  Rebirth of Reason, and the Ludwig von Mises Institute, Senior Writer for The Liberal Institute, weekly columnist for GrasstopsUSA.com, and Editor-in-Chief of The Rational Argumentator, a magazine championing the principles of reason, rights, and progress. Mr. Stolyarov also publishes his articles on Helium.com and Associated Content to assist the spread of rational ideas. His newest science fiction novel is Eden against the Colossus. His latest non-fiction treatise is A Rational Cosmology. His most recent play is Implied Consent. Mr. Stolyarov can be contacted at gennadystolyarovii@yahoo.com.

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Learn about Mr. Stolyarov's novel, Eden against the Colossus, here.

Read Mr. Stolyarov's new comprehensive treatise, A Rational Cosmology, explicating such terms as the universe, matter, space, time, sound, light, life, consciousness, and volition, here.

Read Mr. Stolyarov's new four-act play, Implied Consent, a futuristic intellectual drama on the sanctity of human life, here.