Is a fundamentally broken question.
It implies that nothing is an option. That there can ‘be’ nothing.
OK, so “Why is there something rather than an absence of something?”
Not much of an improvement, because an ‘absence of something’ implies something. We can only have an absence of something if something exists, (or can exist?).
However you try to phrase this question it always seems to create this vision of a ‘timeline’ of sorts (without necessarily assuming the existence of time into the nothingness before existence) where there was nothing…. and then there was something. But the “nothing” that came before the “something” can’t exist. There can’t “be” nothing.
It does of course seem utterly absurd to claim that existence has always been, but how could it have ever been any other way? On one hand, I guess my argument here is fundamentally an anthropic principle styled argument. Something exists, so clearly that is the case. But the idea that ‘nothing’ ever existed cannot ever be realistically derived from our existence.
More importantly, this idea of ‘nothing/absence of something’ that we try to invoke in this context is immediately troublesome. Nothing is a real concept, no doubt. When one says “I have nothing in my bank account”, that has a clear meaning. But when we try to imagine the *absolute nothingness* of non-existence, I am unsure that the concept even makes sense.
The ‘nothing in my bank account’ makes sense because it has a context and an absence of a thing that is known to exist in it. And I think that every time we ponder this question, we naturally assume similar sorts of contexts in and around the nothing. The Christian approach for example, imagines a God being perspective looking over the nothing and deciding it doesn’t like that state of affairs. Clearly not nothing. But even if we remove god from the picture, I don’t know about you, but my brain continues to want to ‘picture’ a black abyss, an empty space, a great big “nothing” waiting for “something”. We’re either thinking of a nothing before something, or a nothing within a specific space, or a nothing that happens to someone else. Like, “How lucky are we to live in the universe which exists, rather than all those other universes which don’t exist!”
If you’re playing along at home right now, do your best to get your head around “absolute nothingness everywhere and forever”. Because it is only when you get your head around that idea that you realise that, well, sure, that is arguably an option that we can imagine – but is utterly meaningless because something does exist, and because something exists, it means, actually, in reality, in all realities, in all possible realities, there is actually no possible way for ‘absolute nothingness’ to have ever actually been an option.
I just read this out to my girlfriend and she said, “Sure it can. There was nothing, and then time came into existence and there was something.” Which again, assumes time into existence, negating the ‘nothing’. Time always was. There was never, ever, at any point, or in any place absolute nothingness.
The absolute nothing that is meant to contrast against the ‘something’ that we have, is a nonsense that could never have been. It’s not an option.