The Mystery Of Existence edited by John Leslie and Robert Lawrence Kuhn (book review).

The sub-title of ‘The Mystery Of Existence’ is ‘Why Is There Anything At All?’ to which I heartily retort say, ‘I think, therefore I am.’ Trying to unravel existence is something that is never likely to have that much of a solution. Mostly because we are part of it and our objectivity has to be tainted simply because if we weren’t here, how could we ask a question about the subject? If there was a choice between being here or not, I think practically all of you would prefer to be here.


This book looks at the viewpoints and theories of a lot of people from philosophers to scientists. Even Stephen Hawking says he can explain how the universe functions but not why to which I wryly thought why not? If we didn’t exist, then someone would have invented us. Does that support the God theory? I think there is a closer similarity to a story I wrote a couple years back saying that the universe was created when someone in the past opted to go faster than the speed of light and whose matter is spread across the cosmos which is what would happen. After I wrote it and thought the logic sound, I realised it led back to square one. Namely, what would have been there before? At the end of the day, who knows? The important thing is the universe would exist with or without a God supervising it and if there is some divine intervention, he’s not doing much good for unity, spreading the galaxies ever further from each other. If God wanted everyone to live happily together, wouldn’t he have everything a lot closer?

I was concerned why no one had raised the Conservation of Matter and Energy which finally came up in chapter 5. I think some of the people fail to acknowledge that atoms are made up of ever smaller particles before becoming energy which doesn’t cut back on the total in the law whether it’s compressed at the singularity at the start of the Big Bang or now. If this matter came from a different universe, then there must have been a limit to how much matter, black matter, whatever could get through before it got cut off. If it did happen that way, one would have to consider what caused the cut-off point or why hasn’t more energy/matter leeched across which would surely have violated the Conservation of Matter and Energy.

It’s inevitable that the editors would discuss God and one thing that popped into my head was that if God is everything then he must also be attributed to being evil as well. Not sure if that would move the discussion very far, just ammo for the next religious person who knocks on the door. One thing that isn’t presented is someone analysing why there is a need for a belief in God than saying that existence is the result of random chance and we were just lucky.

Man always seeks the answer to puzzles and when there are no answers, will invariably put something in there as a possible answer which is where we got the pantheons of gods since Man could think and imagine the answers before seeking scientific proof. To discover it was purely by chance just doesn’t make sense to many people because it doesn’t sound like a logical answer. Then again, does the existence of an almighty deity sound like the right answer? To even find we’re insignificant in the face of the universe really puts us in our place. I do wonder what would happen when we meet extra-terrestrials for real and see what spin they would have on the subject. Would they have religion or accept blind chance? Let’s hope they aren’t religious zealots.

I do suspect that even if someone does come up with irrepressible proof about why we exist, people will still debate about it let alone if it was deserved. I think that’s the point of human nature. As such, much of this book is more about philosophical than scientific argument and no one knows which side God(s) is on in all of this debate.

Whether you agree with any of the people’s discussion points or not, then it will make you think, as witnessed in my comments above, going a little further than they have. I should point out that this is a heavy read and you really need to pace yourself out a bit when you’re pondering all the implications. The one thing that none of them can deny is that we are here. Even if the odds are against it, that won’t change. If the odds are high against existence, it doesn’t make any difference overall because it only needs to happen once to show it’s not impossible. I’m still here. The universe hasn’t folded. Shouldn’t we be happy with that? Maybe the question that should be asked is why can’t we accept things the way they are?

GF Willmetts

April 2013

(pub: Wiley-Blackwell. 314 page indexed enlarged paperback. Price: £17.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-470-67355-3)

check out website: www.wiley.com/wiley-blackwell


Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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