Apologetic Wednesday: A Blog about Nothing

If you will give me just a few minutes of your time, I would like to talk about nothing. Now, I know you may be thinking, “Well, if you are going to talk about nothing, then why are you talking about something?” But I don’t want to talk about something. If I wanted to talk about something, I could practically talk about anything, because everything that exists is something. Yet, I want to talk about nothing. That is, I want to talk about the concept of nothing, not say nothing, because clearly I am saying something! Confused? It sounds an awfully lot like the Abbott and Costello bit called “Who’s On First?” doesn’t it?

Early this year theoretical physicist, Lawrence Krauss, released a book entitled A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather Than Nothing. He attempts to promote the idea that the universe could have risen from nothing, thereby removing the need for a Creator or First Cause. Many people have been intrigued by the title. Krauss has garnered a lot of attention as of late. In fact, he has become ubiquitous, many who did not know his name now do. He even garnered an appearance on the Colbert Report, which was highly entertaining.

Prominent spokesperson for Atheism, Richard Dawkins, seems to think that Krauss’ work is the nail in the coffin of the Theist. He writes, “Even the last remaining trump card of the theologian, ‘Why is there something rather than nothing?,’ shrivels up before your eyes as you read these pages. If ‘On the Origin of Species’ was biology’s deadliest blow to super­naturalism, we may come to see ‘A Universe From Nothing’ as the equivalent from cosmology. The title means exactly what it says. And what it says is ­devastating.” I am unsure why Dawkins feels the need to dote on this title, because the book answers no such question.

The problem rests on that pesky, little word, “nothing.” Krauss asserts that the universe did arise from nothing, but the nothingness from which he says the universe came is the quantum vacuum. Do you see the problem? He has renamed something (the quantum vacuum) nothing, when clearly it is something.  The quantum vacuum is essentially empty space, but it is rife with energy, it also weighs something. So what we have here is still something. Krauss doesn’t answer the question of why there is something when there should be nothing. He merely steps the question back a step. He has not dealt with the fact that one must explain where matter, energy, and the physical laws that our universe operates under come from in the first place. He simply redefines the term “nothing” to fit with his own naturalistic presuppositions that there is no God.

So that leaves us with our original topic to discuss, nothing. What exactly is nothing? Aristotle mused that, “Nothing is what rocks dream about.” That is to say, nothing is a complete absence of anything. It is a term of universal negation. Physics cannot describe nothing, because nothing has zero properties to be described.

Christianity has always maintained that God created the universe Ex Nihilo, literally out of nothing. When it comes down to it, something has always existed. There is something that has always been out of necessity. Christians would say that this is God, whereas Krauss must appeal to a multi-verse (an infinite number of universes). Modern cosmology points to a specific beginning of the universe which seems best explained by an external, necessary agent, God.

So, as it is, the title of Krauss’ book is misleading, but I am sure it helped the book to move. He has done well with it, and it has offered him a greater degree of notoriety, to which I say kudos. Yet, it is possible that some laity will take his definition of “nothing” at face value when his nothing is really something.

As it turns out, nothing from nothing is still nothing, because nothing ever could.

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” –Genesis 1:1

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

Further Reading/Viewing:
William Lane Craig Vs. Lawrence Krauss Debate
New York Times Review of Krauss’ book by David Albert

16 Comments

  • efchristi says:

    Even when there was nothing there was God! Nothing from nothing will always equal nothing, but from nothing God created us. That is a lot of nothingness to say God has always benn and will always be with us. Amen.

    Thanks Josh – it is very thought provoking.

    Walk daily with God at your side.

    Ed

  • Kim Melancon says:

    I thought Colbert done a great job of exposing the flaws in this Idea.. I have always thought the fact you cant get something from nothing is very good evidence that someone had to invest in what we have here, It only stands to reason someone would try to interject some kind of off the wall explanation and I am sure there those that are satisfied that nothing is something and I am not surprised, But I ain’t goin for it..!

  • Grundy says:

    DId you read the book? There is a whole section talking about “nothing.” Krauss is very clear that the quantum vacuum is not nothing, but that the only definition of nothing Christians accept includes the “lack of potential for something.” Under this diefinition, God couldn’t have created something from nothing either. Like you said, God is something, so under both the spiritual and scientific wordview nothing, strictly speaking, never existed.

    While the title is a little misleading, the book shows how the universe could have been formed naturally without any supernatural agents like God. I agree, however, that Dawkins’ comments about the book seem premature.

    • Josh Fults says:

      You are correct. He does give that brief caveat toward the end of the book. My point was, the laity will read the title and be mislead. Many will not read the book. Some that do, will still not get the blurb toward the end.

      Christians would not argue that “nothing” ever existed, as you are correcting with the assertion that God has always existed. They would state though that in the space-time universe there was once a complete absence of anything (i.e. matter and energy).

      I do not think the book gives a natural explanation of origins. As I said, it simply steps the question back.

      Thanks for your thoughts my friend.

      • Grundy says:

        Not sure how you could think that it doesn’t give a natural explaination of origins. It surely does that, whether or not you understand it. I don’t think there is sufficient evidence that this explanation is necessarily correct, but it makes more sense than the supernatural, which almost by definition makes no sense.

        (BTW, I like how you make your own graphics for your posts.)

  • Duh says:

    If you had read the book or seen the lecture that eventually became the book you would remember that Lawrence goes into some detail about why cosmologists think that the Universe is flat. This turns out to be very important because this is the only type of Universe in which the matter energy and the gravitational energy of the entire system can perfectly cancel – in other words, this is the only type of Universe that could have come into existence without a cause. If our Universe had been open or closed this could not be the case. The cosmic microwave background has been repeatedly measured by many satellites and this conclusion is becoming more robust all the time.

    But let’s say that the God of the Bible did create the Universe – why would He create a Universe in which the calcium atoms in your bones and the oxygen atoms in the air would have to come from exploding stars? Why would He creates a Universe in which our galaxy is destined to crash headlong into the Andromeda galaxy, effectively destroying both of them? Why would He create a Universe that seems to scream that it formed its structure based on very simple natural mechanisms? If God wanted us to come to the conclusion that He created the Universe, He should have created it in a way.

    • Josh Fults says:

      I would agree and say that little doubt remains that our universe manifests something very close to a flat geometry. Despite the fact that the gravitational energy of the universe is zero, the universe does not reduce to nothing.

      Why couldn’t God create the universe however He pleased? Why can’t he use the same substances in different places? “Does a clay pot argue with its maker?
      Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it, saying, ‘Stop, you’re doing it wrong!’ Does the pot exclaim, ‘How clumsy can you be?’” (Isaiah 45:9)

      Just because the universes are heading toward one another does that mean God will let them crash? I would think an omniscient being would plan for that.

      I think God did create a universe that points us to an intelligent mind. You have said yourself that the universe appears “seemingly designed.”

      • Duh says:

        This makes no sense. The Universe is flat therefore there is no need to invoke a creator for something that could have created itself.

        Why would it be the case that carbon and calcium atoms did not exist until stars heavy enough to fuse them died? Why wouldn’t God just make all the elements of the periodic table all at once?

        There is no saving the Milky Way. It will crash into the Andromeda galaxy and both will be destroyed in the process. God clearly meant for this to happen because he created gravity which is causing this eventuality.

        You misquoted me in saying “You have said yourself that the universe appears “seemingly designed.”” You are the one that thinks the Universe was designed. I, on the other hand, realize that the Universe, the galaxy, the solar system, the Earth and life itself only appear to be designed. Gravity and chemistry did all the real work and humans like yourself seem ready to give the credit to something supernatural which almost by definition makes no sense.

  • Chase Chick says:

    Cool blog entry. Here’s mine written way back when…. after The Grand Design came out reporting a similar conclusion.

    http://aggiechase37.wordpress.com/2010/09/04/hawkings-error/#comments

    • Josh Fults says:

      Thanks man. I checked out your post as well. I definitely agree. Thanks for stopping by!

    • Duh says:

      Well Chase, you seem to be suffering with the same problem as Josh. From your writing you don’t appear to have a firm enough grasp on the subject to be able to make a cogent argument. You simply declare, as if you have any knowledge otherwise, that Hawking’s conclusions are false when you don’t even address the evidence that he used to support the claim. The central question in this debate is ‘What shape is the Universe?’. If (as the evidence suggests) the Universe is flat, then it could have come into existence on it’s own without a cause because this is the only type of Universe that can do that. This is because flat Universes have zero net energy (as opposed to positive or negative net energy).

      You then go on to, incorrectly, count a) the number of stars in our galaxy and b) the number of planets in the solar system. You also don’t seem to realize that the 150 billion galaxies in the Universe with their 100 billion+ stars per galaxy and each stars possible planets plus each planet’s possible moons plus each solar system’s trillions of comets and asteroids provide ample real estate for life to take hold. We don’t even know what forms life can possibly take so how could you be arrogant enough to say “All it does is add numbers”. This is a very serious point. It is not, for example, true that Earth is the only place life could exist and probably is not the only place in the solar system life does exist. Europa has liquid oceans. Why couldn’t bacteria live in these oceans? Mars used to have lakes and rivers. Why couldn’t bacteria have lived there?

      As a psychologist you seem shockingly ignorant of the way science is done. Scientists don’t just make things up and then declare them to be true – that’s religion. In science you have to have evidence (such as the flatness of the Universe) to support your claim (such as ‘the Universe doesn’t need a creator’). You should check your facts before using them to “disprove” other people’s arguments.

  • […] across an article critiquing the book A Universe From Nothing by Lawrence Krauss. The article is here. As usual, though, the comments were far more interesting than the article itself. A person that […]

  • Bart Visscher says:

    there is a utube movie with Dawkins and Krauss talking about this book……at the 5:09 minute mark Dawkins says “starting not quite from nothing”…….even he knows that it is not possible……they then spend the next 2 hours talking about nothing……http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YUe0_4rdj0U

  • Bart Visscher says:

    if you have nothing, you will always have nothing, so logically, if you have something, like this universe, someone or something must have created it, by the same logic that creator would have to be eternal.

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