## Why does the universe obey scientific laws?

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As far as anyone is aware, the universe consistently acts according to predictable laws (and scientific inquiry exists to determine those laws). Is there any metaphysical reason for this? Is such a question even answerable?

EDIT: I think my question was misunderstood, so I'll try to clarify. I know about the mathematics question, but this question is, why is the universe consistent? It's related to the problem of induction: just because all hitherto observed emeralds are green doesn't necessarily mean that all emeralds are green. Yet, those who have hypothesized that emeralds are green have (thus far) been found to be correct. In other words, as far as anyone can tell, the universe is consistent to the point where much of its behavior is predictable using known laws and statistics. Is there any philosophical discussion regarding why that appears to be the case?

FURTHER EDIT: The question is more fundamental than the simple, 'why are all emeralds green', to which the answer is obviously, 'because if it wasn't green, we wouldn't call it an emerald', and once I formulate the question better, I think that the answer becomes obvious. Let's use an actual law, F=ma. We've checked rocks, we've checked feathers; we've checked slow moving objects and fast moving objects, and yet, lo and behold, the law always seems to be true, and it's stayed true for at least a few hundred years (but we can reasonably assume that it was just as true a millennium ago). Now, I ask the metaphysical (in the most literal sense) question: why is this law always true? Why does the universe behave so consistently?

More reasonable question: Why do scientific laws obey the universe? – jjack – 2018-01-03T16:41:45.363

Analog rhetorical question: why does the hole in the ground fit the puddle of water that resides in it? – MichaelK – 2018-08-08T07:12:26.170

Some people would say it's because the manifest universe is a product of Mind. – None – 2018-08-08T11:56:49.927

Also: Why do points equidistant from another point form a circle? --- I think you are going about this the wrong way: If F=ma would not work for, say feathers, we'd just classify feathers something else. F=ma does not hold for: Dreams, the color Green, Sarcasm, ... But, But! Dreams do not have mass! And how do we know that? Because, among other things, F=m*a does not hold for dreams... – bukwyrm – 2018-09-06T07:58:51.827

I feel the question is deeper than most of the answers. The only answer i can come up with is to speculate the Universe is a product of Mind. If so then it will obey the laws of Mind, including the laws of logic. But this may just push the question back a step. – None – 2019-11-16T14:24:21.157

2I suggest replacing 'scientific laws' with 'mathematical constructs'. That is, reality seems to be fundamentally mathematical. Lots of discussion has been had about this observation! – labreuer – 2014-06-30T17:12:15.863

3Uhm... We have defined the laws based on the universe's behavior, so of course they're consistent with it and it's consistent with them. In the places where we suspect the two diverge, research continues in an effort to refine the models to the point where they are consistent; in the places where two models agree with the universe but not each other, research continues to try to find ways to further test them and distinguish which model works better. That's inherent in rational thought, not just in science... – keshlam – 2014-07-01T03:15:01.777

Physics has it that what we see as the 'universe' was once very small and expanded to what we now observe. Hence, whatever laws were present in that small region region of the multi-verse apply through the visible universe. I think this relates to the "consistency" part of the question. Some believe that other parts of the multi-verse obey different "laws". However, whilst those laws might differ vastly from the Standard Model, most would make a tacit assumption that the general principles would still stand. This is turn is because we don't know how to describe a universe without such laws. – Keith – 2014-07-01T03:41:51.870

Because scientists rules B| ( Just a joke C: ) – Baruch.wolf – 2014-06-30T20:39:38.187

4What is the alternative? – Praxeolitic – 2014-07-01T07:52:50.497

2It depends on what you think of as consistent and how far you're willing to go. The speed of light could be easily said not to be consistent, according to my intuition at least (special relativity). The shape of spacetime isn't consistent, in the same way (general relativity). The nature of an electron as a particle or a wave isn't consistent either, unless you take into consideration the rather weird variable of whether it's being observed (quantum mechanics). But we have managed to take this inconsistency and factor it into our formulas, which makes these things seem consistent again. – T. C. – 2014-07-01T08:02:16.070

11It's not that universe obeys, it's just that the "scientific laws" are constructed so that they suit the way the universe is. – Cthulhu – 2014-07-01T08:51:44.317

It's related to a point that has already been made in some comments and answers but the terminology is loaded to the point of being very misleading. The universe does not obey scientific laws in the way humans obey laws. – Relaxed – 2014-07-01T10:40:49.983

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You might find this text from Heidegger interesting: http://www.dhspriory.org/kenny/PhilTexts/Heidegger/ModernScienceMetaphysics.pdf

– leonbloy – 2014-07-01T14:08:51.167

This is a awesome question! Unfortunately any answer does not provide a proper explanation. We need to ask this somewhwre else. – Kartik – 2014-07-01T15:26:55.203

1I don't 'rate' giving an answer so I'll comment. My physics teacher once said there is nothing to say gravity won't stop tomorrow. That has stuck with me for decades and I think illustrates what you are asking. My perspective for this philosophical question is, since we are still in the process of discovering what the laws currently are, we really don't have any idea if what we perceive as stable actually is. Currently things appear stable but we might discover something that changes our perspective. It is worth noting though that small changes to basic constants could obliterate the universe. – CramerTV – 2014-07-01T18:56:34.640

The universe doesn't obey anything; it just is. The question is, why does the universe behave in a way that can be described by relatively simple equations. – David Richerby – 2014-07-02T08:38:16.970

5It's related to the problem of induction: just because all hitherto observed emeralds emerald is green doesn't necessarily mean that all emeralds are green. If the gem is not green, then it does not fit the definition of emerald. Thus all emeralds are green, no exception. I do not study philosophy, but from engineering POV it makes sense... – jnovacho – 2014-07-02T10:33:55.783

@jnovacho same sentiment here. Also, when there are "exceptions" to physical law, then the law is adapted - we don't see this as the universe misbehaving. For example, the recent proposal that the speed of light might not be what we though, based of neutrino observations from a supernova. Nobody would suggest that this constitutes to the universe not obeying laws. – Silly Freak – 2014-07-02T13:12:19.947

It's because the universe police are a bunch of time-travelling mad monks with lightsabers. The universe has to obey the law, or it'll have to deal with those crazy fools and nobody wants that.

That or the definition of the term "law" when used to describe how something acts differs from the definition of the term "law" when used to define how something should act. http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/law

My money's on the mad monks.

– m-smith – 2014-07-02T16:26:33.363

I can't add this as answer so it's going here: It's not the universe that obeys laws of physics. It's the laws of physics that created the universe as we know it. The universe is mere outcome of these laws. Even if they are not consistent, we are the result of local bubble of conditions we call "consistency". – Agent_L – 2014-07-02T17:18:01.933

Scientific rules are invented by humans to quantize and classify events that occur in the universe, and if the universe disobeays science, the science is revised. Furthermore, many philosophical questions regarding universes, and our own, can be rephrased as... Why do durable timespans in which intelligent life evolve that can question the nature of the durable timespan, exist? in other words, only a universe with relative stability over time can provoke your question, and that you could only ask that question in a stable universe, where things bareley ever change from a routine of laws. – aliential – 2014-07-02T19:55:31.913

There are some serious looking investigations into the hypothesis that our universe is a numerical simulation, which would explain why it's logical, lol. In all seriousness, your question implies there could be a universe which does not follow rational laws -- but in what sense is such a conception "a universe"? IMO it sounds more like a semantic chimera, sort of like the idea that "there could be nothing instead of something" (an inappropriate reification of the word "nothing").

– selfConceivedAsEvil – 2014-07-02T20:54:29.323

1It's really quite simple - scientific laws have nothing to do with legal laws. There's no question of obeying or disobeying, or finding loopholes. The universe seems to behave in a consistent manner? We can build our understanding of the facts around that. It doesn't? Well, we'll build it around that then. However, given that it's hard to imagine a universe that behaves significantly inconsistently, and yet hosts intelligent life, we can also invoke the anthropic principle - universes not consistent enough wouldn't be fit for life as we know it and you wouldn't be asking this question :) – Luaan – 2014-07-03T08:38:54.203

If the universe did not conform to any laws, then we couldn't exist to observe these laws. – None – 2014-07-03T18:41:22.813

1I'm really curious as to how in the world this question became the top question of the month. It's not really based on anything in philosophy, and it seems like nothing more than 'why is the world the way it is'. Any upvoters have any insight as to why this question became so popular? It would help me know what kinds of questions to ask here in the future – That Guy – 2014-07-04T07:38:57.797

If our universe were "totally upside-down everywhere", then... there will be laws for that, just even more complicated then ours. But where is the threshold between "complicated but still predictible", and "no more"? All science is about this: if it exists, it can be figured out (even if not feasible). So there is no graduation at all: either it's predictible, or not. Finally, imagine a universe where nothing is predictible. Welcome to Hell. – Gras Double – 2014-07-04T15:14:55.200

@Matt, I believe this question is so popular because it is very much a worldview question since observational science does not tell us why the world is consistent, but merely tries to understand and explain its mechanisms in a consistent, categorized manner, thereby assuming it is consistent. – Christian Di Lorenzo – 2014-07-05T16:44:49.097

I think that the answer is that Newton's second law of motion (for example) is used to describe what we observe, but if we'd observe inconsistencies, we'd use different laws for different situations. In our example, if the object is moving so quickly that it approaches the speed of light, Newton isn't enough; we need special relativity. The question of the universe's consistency is therefore quantitative, a question of degree: why is the universe as consistent as it is? The right response, I think, is the anthropic principle: a less ordered universe wouldn't provide anyone to ask it anything – That Guy – 2016-05-23T00:52:32.937

i feel that it's a pseudo question, but not obviously so – None – 2016-09-15T03:08:57.833

Because the entire universe, everything, is made up of the same type of particle with consistent behavior. – Canadian Coder – 2016-09-15T20:03:17.457

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I like immortal squish's answer, but I'm going to take it a step further.

Physics (and other science) as we know it is a way to describe how the universe behaves. If gravity worked in reverse, but it was consistent about it, that would be the physics. It's perfectly valid to say that the universe has a set of physics, for example. A different universe could have a different physics - at least in theory.*

However, that doesn't say anything as to why the universe has a consistent set of physics in the first place. The answer to that is that we don't know if it does. We only know what the physics in the area we're able to explore. Light could travel in spirals before it gets within the "bubble" of physics as we know it, where it begins traveling in a straight line. However, there is no evidence for this, nor can there be, by definition - everything in our area behaves consistently, according to the one set of physics.

If physics weren't consistent from moment to moment, at least in our local area, then it's highly unlikely anything even remotely resembling intelligent life as we understand it would have been able to emerge. If gravity started varying in how quickly it falls off, or the nuclear force equations changed, or suddenly there were one fewer type of quark, then everything would fly apart, or crush together, or annihilate itself, or so on. That is not to say that there can't be other physics - just that what we do have has to be consistent.

* Side note: This theory is a big part of how many science-fiction stories get around the apparent restriction on FTL travel - the traveler dips into other universes where the physics allows for it, or pulls some of it here, or otherwise goes "around" physics with other universes/dimensions/etc.

Just to edit in some of the things I've been saying in comments:

Is this just the anthropic principle? Sortof, in a much more general form than it's usually used. We can conceive of intelligence in a different universe with radically different physics. That isn't to say we can describe how consciousness could exist in a universe where gravity fell off twice as fast or one where atoms didn't hold together into molecules, but we can conceive that that awareness could exist. (See Boltzmann brains, for example).

What was that about life evolving? I've corrected it to "emerge". I didn't intend to invoke evolution. Spontaneously generated intelligence (such as the aforementioned brains) would count as "emerging", but definitely not "evolving".

Why couldn't we conceive of such an intelligence? Mostly, because of the lack of the ability to convey information. If fundamental particles (whether or not they're the same fundamental particles we have) don't behave in consistent manners, then there's no way to know anything about them or any larger structures based on them. We see color because of the wavelengths associated with a photon. If that photon suddenly became a proton, it would no longer convey that information. And without the ability to receive information from the environment, there's no way to observe (in the quantum sense) anything. And intelligent life that is unable to observe is incomprehensible to us.

+1 from me. It's the second paragraph that addresses what I was actually asking about; sorry if I was unclear. But as noted, even if we can't actually prove anything learned by induction (and so yes, it could in fact be that the universe isn't consistent) it has been so far (as far as we can tell). Just to clarify then, is the final answer an appeal to the anthropic principle? (In that in any universe, or any part of our own universe, only in systems that adhere to consistency support the beings that would question it) – That Guy – 2014-07-01T06:30:23.243

1@Matt - A very generalized form, yes. Basically, "Without consistency, it's impossible to have anything that we would recognize." We can conceive of a universe with different physics and what those physics may imply for how things work, but we can't conceive of how inconsistent physics would work, let alone an intelligent being that can survive said inconsistent physics. – Bobson – 2014-07-01T12:33:24.767

1One funny way a science fiction show called Futurama gets around the speed of light issue is that the ship doesn't physically move - the universe moves around it. Of course, this is the speed of light after it's been raised somehow hundreds of years in the future. Don't ask how those 2 sentences can describe the same universe. – trysis – 2014-07-02T00:25:46.507

I have a little bit of heartburn here. We recently validated the shape of the universe, so we know that light doesn't twist in spirals--we live in a flat universe. – avgvstvs – 2014-07-02T14:55:41.470

2@avgvstvs - No, we know that based on what we can see it doesn't twist. The whole point is that if physics were different beyond a certain area, then after crossing over the transition into our area, everything would behave exactly as expected, because it's now obeying known physics. ----- For the record, Occam's Razor is a valid argument against this being the case, but it's not proof of any sort. – Bobson – 2014-07-02T15:22:35.277

I'm not sure I see why "Without consistency, it's impossible to have anything that we would recognize." It's pretty easy to conceive of an inconsistent universe where Boltzmann brains pop into existence, experience their surroundings as we experience ours for a period of time, and then morph into PBJ sandwiches. In such a case, "would have been able to evolve" is not a requirement. Without the 'given' of a consistent universe, how can we even say such a thing is unlikely? – LarsH – 2014-07-02T15:31:48.727

@LarsH - Define "experience their surroundings" in a way in which there is no consistency. Photons are just as likely to travel slowly as they are to travel "at the speed of light". The same photon can randomly switch back and forth between any given speed and whether it's even a photon and not a free electron or some particle which doesn't even exist in our universe's physics. There is no way I can conceive of to gather any form of information from such an environment, and if you can't gather information, then observation is impossible. – Bobson – 2014-07-02T18:05:50.090

1If physics weren't consistent from moment to moment, at least in our local area, then it's highly unlikely anything even remotely resembling intelligent life as we understand it would have been able to evolve. This is circular reasoning. You invoke evolution as part of your explanation, but evolution is a scientific theory, and the question is why the universe obeys scientific laws. As a counterexample, it's easy to imagine a universe that contains intelligent life, that doesn't obey any scientific laws, and that is run according to the will of a god. – Ben Crowell – 2014-07-03T16:18:15.937

I think people may be misunderstanding... "it's highly unlikely anything even remotely resembling intelligent life as we understand it would have been able to evolve" (emphasis mine). I think that to say that intelligent life is impossible if the universal laws were inconsistent is presumptuous. We have no idea whether or not intelligence may arise. The only thing that we can be fairly sure of, is that it will be nothing like us. But that would also be true for any other life in this universe. – Benjam – 2014-07-03T16:28:35.510

@BenCrowell - Yes, I keep meaning to edit it to remove that particular reference. I was using it in the sense of "emerge" without specifically meaning it in the "survival of the fittest" sense. – Bobson – 2014-07-03T18:43:55.610

@Benjam - It's more a question of information. How can a being in a universe with inconsistent physics observe anything, when there can't be any information conveyed? After all, if photons spontaneously convert into electrons moving at right angles, you lose whatever information about color the photon had. – Bobson – 2014-07-03T18:45:47.227

I've updated the answer to incorporate some of what I've been saying in these comments. – Bobson – 2014-07-03T18:54:24.397

@Bobson, a universe does not have to be anywhere near as chaotic as you describe in order to be inconsistent. It could appear to be consistent most of the time, with occasional anomalies. In our universe, we have imperfectly predictable observational powers, yet this doesn't prevent us from experiencing. It just means that our experiences aren't always a perfect guide to reality. Nevertheless we get by pretty well, I think. – LarsH – 2014-07-04T02:44:55.360

@LarsH - I would classify "consistent most of the time, with occasional anomalies" as a consistent set of physics, where the occasional anomalies are part of that set. Whether they're explicable doesn't really matter, but if they're consistently anomalous, then that's still consistent. – Bobson – 2014-07-04T14:07:43.670

@Bobson: maybe you understood 'anomaly' in a different way than I meant. I meant, events that are not merely unusual, but don't obey the laws of physics. As such, it's not possible, by definition, for occasional anomalies to be part of a consistent set of physics. – LarsH – 2014-07-05T11:18:28.687

@LarsH - You might need to define the scale of anomaly you're talking about. If a universe is 90% consistent, that still means that 10% of the information received at a later point will be corrupted. But it will consistently be 10% (or 10% per period of time). If a universe is entirely consistent, except for occasional anomalies, then the anomalies can be ignored. It's only when the "noise" of the anomalies start drowning out the information carried on the "signal" of physics that they are problematic. Effectively, either the universe can reliably transmit information or it can't. – Bobson – 2014-07-06T02:54:33.787

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I say it's not that the universe acts according to "scientific laws," but rather that these laws are a tool for people to use to quantify how the universe works.

In other words, the universe works how it works. Not according to any laws or conventions, but because "that's how it is." The fact that the observable universe is consistent allows us to create scientific laws/theories to describe (and predict) it's behavior, but there is no prescriptive power in these labels.

Edit: I previously called Scientific Laws outdated terminology. Turns out I was incorrect.

6It's a non trivial fact the universe is consistent. An incredibly improbable event. I was hoping for a bit more than "that's just the way it is" :) – yters – 2014-07-02T00:03:36.067

1@yters: Google "anthropic principle". If it weren't consistent, you probably wouldn't be here to hope for anything. :) – cHao – 2014-07-02T02:07:58.630

7Saying it is an incredibly improbable event suggests that we have other universes to compare it to, or at least firm knowledge of universes existing that do not operate in the same manner ours does. Since nothing in this universe seems to operate by chance, there is little reason to assume that chance played a role in how this universe turned out (that doesn't mean there aren't other ways a universe COULD have come about or operate, but without evidence there is no basis for treating those as anything but hypothetical). – immortal squish – 2014-07-02T14:30:26.203

Good point @cHao, just as there is not much random about life only occurring on planets that can actually support it (e.g. Earth), there is not much chance of life as we understand it in a universe without consistent physics/properties. Everything from how life acquires energy to how it reproduces is inextricably tied to the consistent operation of the universe. So even if there are inconsistent universes out there, organisms like us wouldn't be well suited to it. – immortal squish – 2014-07-02T14:41:25.760

I'll let the quantum physicists know that nothing in the universe operates by chance ;) I was also unaware that observing an event has any impact on its probability of occurrence. That's why I love this SE, I learn something new every time I visit. – yters – 2014-07-03T01:06:23.997

@yters Yeah, you've got that sci-fi diseased undestanding of quantum physics. It doesn't really operate by chance either, unless of course you accept the very much flawed Copenhagen interpretation. There's also no reason to assume there's only one universe (and no reason to assume the opposite either :)). The argument behind the anthropic principle is not about saying it's impossible to have universes (etc.) that don't support human-like life - it's just that we wouldn't exist in those, obviously. And until we have a way to interact with those universes, our own is the only source we have. – Luaan – 2014-07-03T08:44:59.653

This feels relevant: http://arstechnica.com/science/2014/07/quantum-state-may-be-a-real-thing/

– Bobson – 2014-07-03T19:05:16.040

Well, if you think for every possibility there are two real universes, I guess you get to have your cake and eat it. I personally like the multiverse hypothesis, because then I never have to choose between two possibilities. I actually always choose both! Of course, no one ever believes me, but that's only in this universe :) – yters – 2014-07-03T20:32:39.770

Anyways, is there really no better explanation you have besides the anthropic principle? I.e. I don't say I picked up the milk at the store because I observe that I picked up the milk at the store :P In any other field such an explanation would be laughed at. – yters – 2014-07-03T20:40:30.377

@cHao appealing to the anthropic principle is the correct way to go, I believe, but not included in the text of this answer (which is why I picked Bobson's answer as the accepted one) – That Guy – 2014-07-08T16:37:36.357

@yters: The anthropic principle doesn't even attempt to explain the universe. (Frankly, there isn't a good explanation. Causality tends to break down at that level, as eventually you run out of potential causes.) It's simply an observation that a lawful universe is what makes the question possible at all -- if everything were random, we wouldn't exist to ask it. – cHao – 2014-07-08T18:09:33.653

@cHao - if you survived a catastrophic accident in a highly unlikely way, would you be satisfied with the statement "well, if you hadn't survived you wouldn't be here to observe the fact you survived."? Really, the anthropic principle doesn't tell us anything, and is merely an empty tautology. – yters – 2014-07-08T22:06:13.960

@yters: On the contrary...it tells us that in order for the question to exist at all, someone must first exist to ask it. And in order for someone to exist, the universe must be able to support their existence. Were the universe not lawful, complexity could not evolve -- let alone life, let alone intelligent life -- and you wouldn't be here to wonder. Call it wagging the dog if you want, but any other "explanation" is even more broken. Any non-circular reasoning behind the most fundamental properties of the universe, must include the unsupported assertion that the universe was designed. – cHao – 2014-07-09T17:18:44.863

That's incorrect. The question's existence does not depend on the asker. The asking of the question depends on the asker. Anyways, still a very unsatisfactory answer from a scientific perspective. You can give the exact same answer for just about any physical property. An answer that explains everything explains nothing, and is a god-of-the-gaps answer. If we did science your way, we'd still be stuck back in the dark ages. I still can't believe this is the most highly rated answer on this question. I guess that's just the inherent flaw of this site. – yters – 2014-07-13T02:15:19.763

2Well, just to chime in: The phrasing of initial question seemed to presuppose that there is a reason the universe operates the way it does (beyond the fundamental mechanics of the universe). Asking "Why" in this context inherently assumes that there is some intelligence and/or agenda justifying why everything is the way it is. I believe that to be an incorrect position from which to start. – immortal squish – 2014-07-14T19:20:01.800

terrible answer imo. either you're advocating nihilism, that we know nothing about the behaviour of the universe, or it's very poorly worded and should be edited – None – 2016-09-15T03:14:00.093

scientific laws need not be exception-less regularities, is what i mean. without your saying that's what you mean by 'law' it's apt to be misunderstood :) – None – 2016-09-15T03:31:00.093

1@MATHEMETICIAN my answer is not meant to question the benefits of scientific inquiry. It is meant as a counter to an assumption I've seen often (and believe the OP had). My point is only that scientific laws do not control the operations of the universe, they describe/predict them. It is an important distinction. – immortal squish – 2016-09-15T14:53:19.033

1the dog is wet because it has rained. that's not a prediction, and if it's a description then it says why something has happened. if we have a reason for why something happened, how is the rain not "controlling" (i.e. responsible for etc.) the dog being wet? how is the dog not made wet "according" to the rule that rain makes things wet? yet you say that nothing acts or works according to or controlled by anything else. i can't make sense of it – None – 2016-09-15T15:12:25.793

@MATHEMETICIAN: You are over-generalizing. Specific events are usually traceable to specific causes (dog gets wet because owner put him outside in the rain). Metaphysical questions are not so easy and to attribute the consistency of the universe to a specific cause would require evidence to that effect. – immortal squish – 2016-09-15T16:00:19.933

it's not a metaphysical question whether smoking causes cancer, or whether the sun rose because of gravitational pull. so in what sense does the sun not rise "according" to gravity, or "controlled" by it. how is gravity not "responsible" for the sun rising. if you mean that the question is metaphysics, which cannot be done, i agree. but it's not clear that you meant this, or why. maybe i'm being a da – None – 2016-09-15T16:03:38.373

@MATHEMETICIAN: Why the universe is consistent is a metaphysical question, and the one I was responding to in my answer. Yes we can determine the causes of the sun rise and lung cancer, but that is different than questions about the fundamental operations of the universe. When you get to questions like, "why does the universe exist?" we just don't have enough scientific knowledge to say there IS a cause. – immortal squish – 2016-09-15T16:30:05.493

1how is it "different to questions about the fundamental operations of the universe". nowhere have you shown that – None – 2016-09-15T18:23:01.343

same old, tired, and ridiculous trick of reading what you don't want to read into a statement. not what stackexchange should reward, unless ofc we want it to be the equivalent of a debating society at an ex polytechnic – None – 2016-09-15T18:26:16.030

– immortal squish – 2016-09-15T18:33:50.733

14

The lawfulness of the Universe originated with the philosophy of the Stoics. Prior to the Stoics, there were many philosophies that were rooted in religion and religious ontology. In these, the Universe was lawful because the gods and cosmic scheme operated as they did. In contrast, the Stoics asserted that the Universe was lawful, regardless of the nature or source of those laws:

"Everything is subject to the laws of Fate, for the Universe acts according to its own nature, and the nature of the passive matter it governs." Wikipedia

The lawfulness of the Universe is not derived from induction, but it does facilitate inductive methods. The lawfulness of the Universe exists prior to -- ex ante -- to any attempts to understand it, including inductive methods.

Creationists disagree on this. The Creationist view is, taken literally, the laws of the Universe can change at any time and change by any arbitrary degree to bring about the will (end goals) of the Creator. Emphasis: these changes are due to an exogenous Creator. This is not something you can anticipate or understand with the system of the Universe.

The lawfulness of the Universe is rooted in the mechanisms of causation at a physical level. If there is no meta-process of change operating on these mechanisms of causation, then those mechanisms won't change. Once "Natural Philosophers" let go of religious and Creationist belief systems, there was no theory of meta-process for change. Furthermore, experimentalist who assumed stationary causal processes were not surprised. (Or, any "surprise" was later attributed to mistakes and errors.)

The Medieval philosopher Duns Scotus was perhaps the first to advocate inductive methods to investigate the lawfulness of the Universe. Paraphrasing: "We don't have to sample every data point, but only a great many. What we find will represent the whole." And: "We don't have to keep sampling every possible data point."

If the Universe is not lawful (i.e "lawful" = same laws operating at all times, in all settings, and independent of all observers), then experimental science would founder. No experiments would be repeatable. Now experimental science is not perfect and not all scientific experiments are easily reproducible. But for the most part experimental science is successful and viable. This doesn't prove the lawfulness of the Universe, but it adds weight of evidence against the proposition that the Universe is unlawful.

It should be noted that the precursors of the idea of a lawful Universe go back much farther, to Plato's Ideal Forms, to Pythagoras' Transcendental Philosophy, and to the Pre-Socratics. What these early systems lacked was an explicit and formal process for specifying mechanisms. Starting with Galileo, Newton, and Kepler, the laws of the Universe could be specified in mathematics in a way that fully characterized the causal mechanisms.

Would you cite the bit about "the Creationist view"—especially "the"? – labreuer – 2014-07-01T01:35:35.943

See: Naturalism, Evidence and Creationism: The Case of Phillip Johnson, pp 552 - 556

– MrMeritology – 2014-07-01T01:45:35.543

3The problem of induction also supports "the Creationist view": the regularity of nature is not guaranteed. Karl Popper in Logic of Scientific Discovery goes as far as to say that science must be agnostic as to allegedly unrepeatable (this includes law-breaking) events (22-23). Furthermore, the idea that knowing a final cause would eliminate the need to discover formal, material, and efficient causes is unfounded. I am not a Creationist, but I dislike misrepresentations of them, on principle. – labreuer – 2014-07-01T05:46:37.200

Yeah, in my view, the stoics were thinking about natural laws, while the "god is law" approach is basically saying that natural laws are just like legal laws, except that they are given to us from the outside of the universe. – Luaan – 2014-07-03T08:47:57.853

2If the Universe is not lawful (i.e "lawful" = same laws operating at all times, in all settings, and independent of all observers), then experimental science would founder. No experiments would be repeatable. The restrictive definition in the first sentence isn't consistent with the strong conclusions in the later sentences. For example, the universe could operate according to certain laws except on the rare occasions Zeus causes something miraculous to happen. Science would work just fine in such a universe, and in fact the only way to recognize the miracles would be that they violate laws. – Ben Crowell – 2014-07-03T16:22:37.613

@BenCrowell - I disagree that "Science would work just fine" in a Universe where gods could enact miracles at arbitrary times. It would be impossible to know whether any given experimental result was due to the "normal laws" or "miracle" or both. – MrMeritology – 2014-07-03T19:28:30.453

@MrMeritology, when you say Creationism, are you referring to Biblical Creationism or creationism in a general sense where some external being created the world? – Christian Di Lorenzo – 2014-07-05T16:38:16.460

@ChristianDiLorenzo - I'm referring to creationism in a general sense. I'm not trying to make strong statements about any particular creationist philosophy or religion. I'm referring to philosophy that asserts that natural laws can be suspended by a being not subject to those laws. These are no longer laws, but conditional mechanisms. – MrMeritology – 2014-07-05T17:33:09.803

I have a quick question then, taking the example of the law of gravity. Can't the law of gravity be "countered" by an external force, whether natural or supernatural? Does it require actually breaking a law if an external force influences the default observed behavior? – Christian Di Lorenzo – 2014-07-06T01:49:28.040

If the "law of gravity" can be countered by an external force, then it isn't a "law". It's a "contingent mechanism". If the external force is arbitrary, then there is no meta-law to encompass it. In this, I'm not arguing for or against either view. I'm not sure why people here are arguing in favor of a lawful Universe that can be abrogated by external forces at arbitrary times, in arbitrary ways. Such a Universe is no longer lawful, but something else. – MrMeritology – 2014-07-06T03:06:08.900

11

Let's take the counter-proposal. Suppose the world does not act in accordance with any laws. What would this mean? It would mean that there are no observable regularities ever.

Then the sun may or may not rise tomorrow. Today you might speak English at 3 o'clock and at 5 o'clock you are a Donald duck. This spoon I am holding might fall up towards the sky and that tree is actually a pyramid. When I add 2 to 2, I get 7; when you do it, you get 12.

There can be no meaning attached to a world without laws. You could conceivably claim that a world without law, has a law: the law of no laws. But one doesn't have to go so far - that is, to attend to such reflexive paradoxes.

Metaphysically the world must act in accordance with some law. It may not be easy to discern fully - and historically it hasn't been. It has been a long haul over two and a half millennia to get as far as we have now.

The question is how does that law come about? Hume, applying the strict logic that you are suggesting, showed that causality and induction are problematic. He suggested that human psychology plays a part inferring regularities. This was affirmed by Kant who placed the mechanism deeper than psychology, in the very fabric of the mind. He called it the intuition. For the mind to experience the world it must already have a notion of space, time and causality. These are what he called the conditions for experience.

2Great answer. But this is exactly the problem that Meillassoux responded to in After Finitude. He argues that we can never know that we are not in the universe you describe - in fact we must be certain that we are, since it makes no sense for us to think that we are not. He uses a mathematical justification, but you could see his argument as saying that perhaps everything we know is '3 O'Clock' in your description - at '5 O'Clock' we will be Donald Duck, but we are still looking at too local a set of observations to rule out the sudden and disorienting changes to the universe. – None – 2014-07-01T08:54:48.683

@jwg: what does Meillassoux mean by Finitude? Sure, it is possible that the universe might undergo some sudden change, but what I'm driving at is that this change will be determined by some law that we have no cognisance of; whereas from your summary of Meillassoux he seems to be tending to Unlawful - ie aribtrary. – Mozibur Ullah – 2014-07-01T09:10:44.700

It's hard to summarize what Meillassoux said, and I probably couldn't be as clear as he himself and some others. 'Finitude' comes from the mathematical argument about probability that he uses - roughly if the world of 'possible universes' were finite, we would be able to reason that it is completely improbable to live in an unstable universe, but yet experience stability. However, if we see the space of 'possible universes' as (uncountably) infinite, probabilities behave differently, and it is no less unlikely that we live in an 'arbitrary universe', but in a piece of 'arbitrary stability'. – None – 2014-07-01T09:40:41.660

2There is no way to disprove a hypothesis that the observable world (including you and your memories) was created this morning and will drastically change right after you finish reading this comment. We can only assume that the world really acts and will continue to act according to some fixed laws, but we can't ever be sure. This assumption is reasonable and useful, but it's only based on Occam's razor - if we don't have any evidence to presume that our world is, say, a simulation experiment that'll have arbitrary effects from outside, then we assume that it's simple and regular. – Peteris – 2014-07-01T10:03:26.357

2Lets take the counter-proposal - the world does not act in accordance with any laws. What does this mean? It would mean that there are no observable regularities ever. The negation of the statement "the universe obeys scientific laws" is not necessarily "the universe never obeys any scientific laws." It could be "cases exist in which the universe violates scientific laws," or "the laws governing the universe are not scientific (could be religious, etc.)." – Ben Crowell – 2014-07-03T16:26:59.507

Sure; but isn't that already true? Dark mass, dark energy; the existing differences between QM & GR? But there is an expectation that because the universe is a unity that eventually some theory superseding both will be found; its that unity that I am referring to; I am also refriing to religous law to though I didn't make that explicit in my answer; for example there is a line of thought in Islamic Philosophy that says the Universe is the greater Qu'ran meaning it follows a religous law; – Mozibur Ullah – 2014-07-03T19:34:53.033

and of course there is the opening line in the Gospel of John - in the beginning was the Word - so perhaps logos; – Mozibur Ullah – 2014-07-03T19:35:38.190

Does Occam's razor really imply we should assume regularity? A much simpler model is maximum entropy, which means everything is as random as possible. – yters – 2014-07-03T20:36:37.933

@yters: and is that 'maximality' not a law? And that one can define 'entropy' another one? And entropy of what, and where? Does that not imply something like atoms which follow their own law; and of space which follows another? – Mozibur Ullah – 2014-07-05T16:35:53.017

My comment was directed @Peteris. He claims the simplest model is a regular one, a claim I'm skeptical of per my entropy comment. Regarding your comment, when I've got some more time I'll start another question about this topic, which is interesting. – yters – 2014-07-07T21:12:45.937

@yters Occam's razor still requires models to correspond to observations - a model where the world behaves completely randomly might be simpler if we didn't know anything about the world. That might as well be reasonable to an outside 'observer' that can't observe anything at all and must guess or assume everything, but from what we can see around us, the simplest models that match our senses actually are quite regular; Maxwell's equations are much simpler/smaller model than describing all the observed EM radiation as an infinitely long list of exceptional events. Kolmogorov complexity et al. – Peteris – 2014-07-07T22:29:13.183

@Peteris, as you quote KC, you probably realize that simple models are vastly improbable. That's the problem here. – yters – 2014-07-08T22:11:54.480

4

Is such a question even answerable?

No, it isn't. It's easy to construct counterexamples in the form of hypothetical universes in which there are no scientific laws.

For example, we could have a universe in which everything that happens (weather, love affairs, crops growing) is the result of the whims of a group of gods who live on the top of Mt. Olympus. You could argue that this universe has laws, e.g., that if you fail to sacrifice a dove to Zeus he may blast you with lightning. But these aren't scientific laws, and we can make them as mysterious and inconsistent as we like.

Many arguments made here have seemed to assume that the only alternative to a fully lawful universe is one with no natural laws whatsoever, but that's not true. There are quite reasonable counterexamples that interpolate between the extremes of a totally-unlawful Olympian universe and a purely naturalistic universe. For example, I have a colleague who's a physicist and who believes that the universe does normally operate according to scientific laws, but she also believes that Jesus performed the miracles described in the gospels. In her view, I suppose that the fact that walking on water violates Newton's laws of motion is the whole reason why it's an impressive miracle, even for illiterate people in the ancient world who only had an intuitive feeling for Newtonian mechanics; that would presumably be why God chose it as a way of persuading people to follow Jesus.

There's been some discussion of an anthropic explanation for why our universe has scientific laws. This doesn't work for two reasons. (1) It's circular reasoning. The anthropic explanation invokes naturalistic processes such as evolution to explain why we exist as intelligent forms of life, and says that if the universe had been entirely unpredictable, then intelligence would not have had any adaptive value. But evolution is a scientific theory, so by assuming evolution as the explanation for intelligent life, we're assuming the success of scientific theories, which is what was supposed to be proved. (2) This explanation is also flawed because it assumes that the only alternative to a perfectly lawful universe is one that's totally unlawful. The lawful-except-for-Jesus universe is consistent with naturalistic evolution of intelligent life, including intelligent beings who do science.

2

Science is frequently misunderstood as wanting to define everything: in fact, science is merely a tool for describing everything, and in fact must always be open to counter-examples, to review, to new evidence, and to refinement.

Indeed, scientific process requires that any "law" be held to be true only as long as it is convenient to do so: if some piece of counter-evidence or a single counter-example be found then the "law" which had previously been held must, of necessity, be re-examined. The counter-evidence or counter-example is itself subject to similar scrutiny, of course.

So how does this relate to the original question:

the universe consistently acts according to predicable laws...Is there any metaphysical reason for this?

The simple answer is no, there is no metaphysical reason that dictates that it must be so. It is merely convenient for us that we have, so far, discovered a set of rules which are self-consistent and which have managed to explain everything that we have observed. Or, more accurately, no-one has yet come up with a counter-example which has torn up the rule book and told us to start again, because we've so far been able to adapt or refine the models which explain everything.

It is inevitable that our understanding of the universe will improve over time and that the model will evolve, and nothing yet has shaken the scientific foundation upon which we build our explanations, but there is no certainty that this will remain the case indefinitely - it is always conceivable that there will be a scale at which "laws" simply stop applying and that we have to concede that they only apply on our local scale.

Or perhaps they only apply temporarily and will, at some point, stop.

I think your answer is just glibly assuming. This debate is called the anthropic principle. – virmaior – 2014-07-01T01:08:17.257

1Or perhaps your own assumptions have clouded your ability to read what I said in the way that I meant it. – ClickRick – 2014-07-01T06:48:13.713

The paragraph in question is "The simple answer ... explain everything." There's some weird conflation going on there. On the one hand, you're asserting carte blanche there is no metaphysical reason why the rules of the universe work out. Then, you're discussing the rules of the universe as explanatorily powerful but defeasible. The meaning changes between the two sentences. The latter refers to the way we define the rules of the universe; the former the ordering of the universe itself. Our understanding's tentativeness says nothing about the order in the universe itself. – virmaior – 2014-07-01T07:35:51.957

1

(1) A non-universal theory is a problematic explanation. If a theory doesn't apply universally then either there is an explanation of why it doesn't reply or there is no such explanation. If there is an explanation then that explanation is universal. If there isn't then your theory has a serious problem that should be fixed: it has an unexplained qualification.

(2) The laws of physics allow the existence of universal computers. Any finite physical system can be simulated by a universal quantum computer operating on a finite number of qubits. There are also subsets of the repertoire of the universal quantum computer that can simulate some systems, such as the classical Turing machine and classical computational networks. These require only the ability to compose a small number of primitive operations. As a result the laws of physics do not forbid you from understanding how anything works.

(3) This is connected with a problematic assumption in your question. Scientific knowledge is not created by induction. Induction is a variety of justificationism: the idea that it is possible or desirable to show that your ideas are true or probably true. If you assess ideas using argument then the arguments have premises and rules of inference and the result of the argument may not be true (or probably true) if the premises and rules of inference are false. You might try to solve this by coming up with a new argument that proves the premises and rules of inference but then you have the same problem with those premises and rules of inference. You might say that some stuff is indubitably true (or probably true), and you can use that as a foundation. But that just means you have cut off a possible avenue of intellectual progress since the foundation can't be explained in terms of anything deeper. And in any case there is nothing that can fill that role. Sense experience won't work since you can misinterpret information from your sense organs, e.g. - optical illusions. Sense organs also fail to record lots of stuff that does exist, e.g. - neutrinos. Scientific instruments aren't infallible either since you can make mistakes in setting them up, in interpreting information from them and so on.

We don't create knowledge (useful or explanatory information) by showing stuff is true or probably true for reasons so how do we create knowledge? We can only create knowledge by finding mistakes in our current ideas and correcting them piecemeal. You notice a problem with your current ideas, propose solutions, criticise the solutions until only one is left and then find a new problem. Experiments are useful only as criticism. Ideas can't be derived from experiment any more than from any other set of premises. Rather, the idea is that you work out how the consequences of one theory differ from those of another. Then you conjecture ideas about experimental setups that would enable you to see the relevant consequences and criticise them. Once you have a setup that works about as well as you can make it work you use it to do the test. If the results are compatible with one theory and not the others then you may have successfully refuted some false ideas. Sometimes a purported successful experimental test will be successfully criticised because a test is a conjecture about something that happened and that conjecture may be wrong, so experiments don't prove anything, nor do they support ideas.

If your propose a universal theory then it is easier to criticise than a theory that you have hedged because if you find any exception to the theory you have to discard it. As a result you can make faster progress.

For more on non-justificationist epistemology see "Realism and the Aim of Science" by Karl Popper, especially chapter I, "Objective Knowledge" by Karl Popper, chapter 1, http://fallibleideas.com/, http://fallibleliving.com/. For some stuff on epistemology and universal computation, see "The Fabric of Reality" and "The Beginning of Infinity" by David Deutsch and a couple of papers:

1

In your question, you imply that "the universe consistently acts according to predicable laws". This is not quite true, although violations of the laws are so rare, short-lived, and unpredictable that it is practical to ignore them. There is a huge body of anecdotal evidence for bizarre events that violate the laws of physics. Scientists typically ignore them or dismiss them as fraud or mental disturbance. This is a sensible policy for scientists, because these phenomena are unrepeatable and unamenable to scientific investigation. As far as planning our lives is concerned, at any scale and in any field of human activity, we may conveniently and safely ignore such phenomena, and it matters not a jot whether we believe in them or not. (Occasionally, though, some of us will get a surprise.)

Accordingly, the revised question should be "Why does the universe almost always, but not quite always, act according to predicable laws". The difference is small but philosophically significant. The extra complexity of the question suggests that the answer will be harder to find.

1Whoa, really? There's a 'huge body of anecdotal evidence' of violations of the laws of physics? First of all, how reliable is this evidence? Second, doesn't that just mean that there are unexplained physical phenomena? The 'laws of physics' merely exist to describe the universe as we observe it. If it's observed differently, we should update our model. (And I think Van Inwagen has an essay on miracles as falsifying laws of nature but I can't look for it right now) – That Guy – 2014-07-04T16:33:12.213

@Matt: I expect the majority of rational and scientifically educated people to disagree with me, as you do and as I did for many years. Assessing the reliability of this enormous ragbag of anecdotes requires the same kind of analysis as in judging whether people are honest or sane. These phenomena are so irregular that they do not remotely fit physical laws. Updating physical laws to accommodate them would be like updating the laws of arithmetic to say that 2 + 2 = 4 except that, very rarely, 2 + 2 = 5. I discount miracles, for reasons that would break the 500-character limit. – John Bentin – 2014-07-04T17:28:39.563

Ok then. Just don't expect any upvotes if the majority of the academic community disagrees with you (no offense of course, that's just the way things work) – That Guy – 2014-07-04T18:12:08.247

@Matt: Yes. By the way, the high vote-up for your question may be because (1) it's a good question and (2) a highly up-voted question is broadcast to the Stack Exchange generally, and so may draw in many infrequent visitors to the Philosophy site, which raises its potential to get even more votes. – John Bentin – 2014-07-04T19:32:34.530

Thanks. Also, on exception to known physical laws, my opinion: http://philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/914/what-should-a-rational-person-accept-as-a-miracle/14476#14476 (if you're interested)

– That Guy – 2014-07-04T20:26:43.227

1

No "laws of the universe" are universal.

They work to a certain scale of statistical observation. With more observation or new instrumentation they invariably fail. New laws reconstitute symmetry, then fail in turn.

The most fundamental law of physics is the second "law" of thermodynamics. It can only be argued statistically from a given scale of observation. Yet is the "most fundamental" law.

Conclusion: Laws of physics reconstitute symmetry. They are our way of exporting entropy. What we call "the universe" is better conceived of as our entropy exporting "membrane."

0

"In the external world the idea of law is the same as the internal - the expectation that a particular phenomenon will be followed by another, and that the series will repeat itself. Really speaking, therefore, law does not exist in nature. Practically it is an error to say that gravitation exists in the earth, or that there is any law existing objectively anywhere in nature. Law is the method, the manor in which our mind grasps a series of phenomena; it is all in the mind. Certain phenomena, happening one after another or together, and followed by the conviction of the regularity of their recurrence - thus enabling our minds to grasp the method of the whole series - constitute what we call law." Swami Vivekananda, Complete Works, Vol 2, pages 94-95.

0

As far as anyone is aware, the universe consistently acts according to predictable laws (and scientific inquiry exists to determine those laws). Is there any metaphysical reason for this? Is such a question even answerable?

Yes, the Universe and everything in it operates according to eternal laws. The laws by which all things function are unchanging. All things have a law by which they function, and there are never any exceptions to these laws. However it takes an Omniscient Being to know what all of those laws are, and to communicate them so as to enlighten the mind of man. Inquiry and experimentation are vital to understanding laws, but no matter how many experiments we have conducted, the question always remains of whether there are any exceptions or points we are missing or whether we are incorrect in our models altogether. It takes Divine enlightenment to obtain the surety that our understanding of a matter is complete and correct.

why is the universe consistent?

The Universe is consistent because nothing that is (atomically, internally) inconsistent can exist. Inconsistency in the usual sense is merely the observation that multiple competing influences are present--it indicates a war between factions. For example, consider the Useless Box. We call it inconsistent, but it is merely the combination of two systems that are mutually competitive over an objective. Synchronous computers and memory cells operate on the same principle: Computers advance based on the arrival of a clock edge or transition between states. Memory cells keep a bit in memory through constant oscillation, ensuring that the value and its opposite are consistent through a logical loop, even long after the input has vanished. If there were no opposition, nothing could exist. That is, nothing exists that does not have an opposite: Matter and empty space, dimensions--up and down, left and right, light and darkness, positive and negative. Said another way, lacking contrast, it is impossible to identify that a thing exists. Any purported inconsistency is simply the observation that multiple competing forces exist, and a refined understanding will indeed isolate and characterize them from the larger system.

It's related to the problem of induction: just because all hitherto observed emeralds are green doesn't necessarily mean that all emeralds are green. Yet, those who have hypothesized that emeralds are green have (thus far) been found to be correct. In other words, as far as anyone can tell, the universe is consistent to the point where much of its behavior is predictable using known laws and statistics. Is there any philosophical discussion regarding why that appears to be the case?

The laws of the Universe are immutable and eternal, but as you have pointed out, it is impossible to rule out exceptions based on experience alone, that is, without a Divine confirmation from an Omniscient Being. Yes, we have seen plenty of evidence that the Universe and all things are governed by law--but as I have stated, both experience and revelation are necessary to prove what those laws are.

why is this law always true? Why does the universe behave so consistently?

Because the laws, so far as we have observed and understood them correctly, exist in their sphere and are true laws. All things are governed by law, and the discovery of the laws will yield an unfailingly accurate characterization of the things governed by them. After we have worked, studied, observed, and received evidence which has increased our confidence to a great degree, perhaps the only thing remaining to establish law is to seek and receive a confirmation from the Omniscient Being that the model we have derived from experience is indeed without exception an eternal law in the full sense. It is obvious that neither reason nor experience alone has authority nor power to provide this final confirmation. Sometimes the amount of evidence we need to consider and the details we need to exercise exceed our patience, but all things operate according to immutable laws, we simply need to find out what those laws are and work according to our knowledge of them.

-1

I don't believe the universe obeys, per se, any scientific laws. All, so called, "scientific laws" result from the fact that a large amount of energy was "allowed to escape," thereby creating space, and as some of the energy coalesced - matter. As the space (volume) increased, the energy cooled and formed "particles" with properties resulting from the type, distance, and number of them. It is the geometry of these particles, that dictates the "scientific laws".

-1

The key word in your question is 'predictable'. F=ma is at least approximately true, and that is required for causality {If F=??? were true, it would violate causality}. Without causality, there can be no evolution, and without evolution there can be no conscious observers like us.

-1

I think you've equivocated on a pseudo question and a question about Being.

If we could scientifically explain why everything happens, then we know why the universe behaves the way it does.

But alas, explanation has to, in practice, stop before it is complete (a professor of mine said Wittgenstien said this, I'll look for a quote). As such, we don't know why our fundamental facts are the case.

Any confusion in questions like this may be from the difference between the ontic and ontological (again, a professor told me this). Even if we knew why everything happens, we need not know why that has Being.

This isn't explicitly why is there something rather than nothing, though I also think that why is there this something rather than nothing does end up meaning the same thing: if we give up on metaphysics.

-1

A theory in physics is that the absolute groundstate of the universe is a supersymmetry, this supersymetry is linear. If a supersymmetry is spontaneously broken a kind of asymmetry and nonlinearity emerges, this is the universe we perceive. When assuming that the universe is self-referential, meaning there is no influence from 'outside' ( actually this asumption is included in the supersymmetry ) the universe we perceive can be regarded as a nonlinear, self-referential system, these systems are subject to chaos theory. In nonlinear, self-referential systems exist attractors and repellors, any Law of Nature is either attracting or repelling.

So the Laws of Nature possibly emerge from the spontaneous breaking of the ontological supersymmetrical nature of the ground state of the universe.

It is proven that fractality and multifractality, that emerge both from nonlinear self-referential systems, exist virtually anywhere in the universe, this includes that similar structures appear anywhere in the universe and on different scales.