The Bible plainly denies the notion that anyone can honestly consider the universe and conclude that there is no God, “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse” (Rom. 1:20). In other words, the Bible claims that the universe testifies so clearly to God’s existence that every human being (yes, even those who deny He exists) knows He exists, and are, therefore, “without excuse” for rebelling against Him.
Lawrence Krauss, however, claims that this is simply not the case. In fact, he argues exactly the opposite, namely, that the universe clearly testifies that the universe could exist entirely apart from God. As result, he claims to have answered the age-old question, “Why is there something rather than nothing?” How, then, does the universe explain away the need for a Creator? How has science finally done away with the need for God?
Answer: Quantum mechanics.
You may be asking, “What is quantum mechanics?” In short, quantum mechanics is the theory that what we call “nothing” is actually something. “Nothing,” according to Krauss, is, “a boiling, bubbling brew of virtual particles that pop in and out of existence in a time scale so short that you can’t even measure them” (Interview on NPR). Further explaining his theory, Krauss says:
You take space, get rid of all the particles, all the radiation, and it actually carries energy, and that notion that in fact empty space – once you allow gravity into the game, what seems impossible is possible. It sounds like it would violate the conservation of energy for you to start with nothing and end up with lots of stuff, but the great thing about gravity is it’s a little trickier.
Gravity allows positive energy and negative energy, and out of nothing you can create positive energy particles, and as long as a gravitational attraction produces enough negative energy, the sum of their energy can be zero. And in fact when we look out at the universe and try and measure its total energy, we come up with zero.
“Once you allow gravity into the game?” Doesn’t this beg the questions, “Who allowed gravity into the game?”, and, “Where did gravity originate?” Krauss seems to take for granted the existence of the factor upon which the entire system apparently lives or dies: gravity. If this is the case, then quantum mechanics has not answered the question, “Why is there something rather than nothing?”, but has merely pushed it back a degree, shifting its focus from the material (i.e., matter) to the immaterial (i.e., gravity). As result, the question becomes, “Why is there gravity, or “negative energy,” rather than nothing?”
William Lane Craig has written an article that provides a much more thorough response to quantum theory than I have, and provides what I believe is a particularly helpful perspective on the failure of quantum mechanics to answer the ultimate question of origins. He writes:
The recent use of . . . vacuum fluctuations is highly misleading. For virtual particles do not literally come into existence spontaneously out of nothing. Rather the energy locked up in a vacuum fluctuates spontaneously in such a way as to convert into evanescent particles that return almost immediately to the vacuum. As John Barrow and Frank Tipler comment, “. . . the modern picture of the quantum vacuum differs radically from the classical and everyday meaning of a vacuum– nothing. . . . The quantum vacuum (or vacuua, as there can exist many) states . . . are defined simply as local, or global, energy minima (1986, p. 440). The microstructure of the quantum vacuum is a sea of continually forming and dissolving particles which borrow energy from the vacuum for their brief existence. A quantum vacuum is thus far from nothing, and vacuum fluctuations do not constitute an exception to the principle that whatever begins to exist has a cause.
In the end, I am more amazed at the trustworthiness of the words of the prophet Isaiah, who reminded us that, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever” (Is. 40:8). Amen!
James Redford says
Hi, Chad Barnes. For more on this topic, see my following article on physicist and mathematician Prof. Frank J. Tipler’s Omega Point cosmology, which is a proof of God’s existence according to the known laws of physics (i.e., the Second Law of Thermodynamics, General Relativity, and Quantum Mechanics), and the Feynman-DeWitt-Weinberg quantum gravity/Standard Model Theory of Everything (TOE):
James Redford, “The Physics of God and the Quantum Gravity Theory of Everything”, Social Science Research Network (SSRN), Apr. 9, 2012 (orig. pub. Dec. 19, 2011), doi:10.2139/ssrn.1974708, http://ssrn.com/abstract=1974708 .
Chad Barnes says
James, thank you for your response. That is quite the paper you have written (185 pages)! I downloaded it and hope to begin working through it. Out of curiosity, how did you find my blog? Regardless, I’m glad you did and I appreciate your help!
James Redford says
Hi, Chad Barnes. I found your blog via the quote you gave of Prof. William Lane Craig, wherein he mentions Prof. Frank Tipler. That is, I found your blog by doing a Google Blog search on +frank +tipler.
So I guess one might say that you invoked the magical combination of two words required to summon me. And that without even intending to, given that you were simply quoting Prof. Craig.
I thank you for your nice words to me. Take care, Mr. Barnes.
Jay Laudig says
Here’s your problem: Â Â “As result, the question is not answered, but is merely pushed back a degree, so that the question becomes, ‘Why is there gravity (i.e., â€œnegative energyâ€) rather than nothing?'”
The same argument applies to your worldview, replacing “gravity” with “God”. It is logically unjustifiable to deny your opponent a boon you allow yourself.
The whole idea that something cannot come from nothing is flawed from the start anyway, because nobody – Christian, atheist, or other – has ever dealt with “nothing”, so drawing conclusions about what it can or cannot do is inescapably nothing more than speculation.
What we do know is that the quantum vacuum – the closest to “nothing” anyone’s ever come – can produce something.
Chad Barnes says
Jay, thanks for commenting. In response to your comment, I don’t believe Christianity has the same issue because the Bible doesn’t claim the self-creation of God (i.e., something from nothing), but the eternal existence of God (i.e., something that always is).
Chad Barnes says
I’ll offer one further clarification. I’m not offering the traditional cosmological argument for God, which states that every effect must have a cause, because what seems to be a glaring weakness to that argument is the fact that God is also subject to it. I’m simply arguing that something cannot come from nothing, since that something would had to have existed before it existed in order to create itself. I do not believe that God or the universe came about that way because such is plainly contradictory, and I think you and I are probably in agreement on that point.
So far as I can tell, the only other explanation that seems possible is that something eternally existed, either the universe or the Creator of the universe. While there are numerous arguments that the universe had a beginning, an argument made by Al-Ghazali, an Islamic philosopher who lived in the 11th-12th century, is currently my favorite. Al-Ghazali essentially argued that today arrived only because time had a definite starting point in the past. If time had no beginning, no definite starting point in the past, there would be an infinite number of days in the past. Since infinity is, by definition, unreachable, today could never have arrived. As result, it seems that the universe cannot be eternal, which leads to the logical conclusion that the Creator of the universe is eternal.
Jay Laudig says
Chad, I’m afraid you and I are not in agreement where you think we are.Â The assertion that something cannot come from nothing is ultimately a baseless assumption.Â As I noted above, none of us has any experience with “nothing”, so statements about what can and cannot come of it are just guesses.
“So far as I can tell, logically, the only other possible explanation is that something eternally existed, either the universe or the Creator of the universe.”
The problem here is you have biased the outcome by naming a “Creator”.Â If something must have existed eternally, the neutral expression of the dilemma would be, “either the universe or that from which the universe sprang”.Â Expressed so, the latter option embraces the possibility not only of a sentient creative being but also of a mindless physical process – perhaps an eternal quantum vacuum.So even if something cannot come from nothing, and if the universe cannot be eternal, we still are not forced to accept that its birth required an intelligent agent.
What it boils down to is this:Â we both believe the universe exists, and we both believe that something can exist without being created (whether it can “create itself” or is eterrnal).Â Your additional belief that intelligence is required to bring about the universe has not yet been revealed as the only rational possibility.Â Why should I prefer the creator hypothesis to the random quantum fluctuation one?
Chad Barnes says
Jay, the claim that something cannot come from nothing is built upon the sound logic that in order for something to exist, it would have toÂ preexist itself in order to create itself. Your claim that no one hasÂ any experience with nothing in order to determine what can come fromÂ it seems to presuppose (maybe I’ve missed something?), as apparently Krauss does, that nothing is actuallyÂ something (i.e., quantum fields, which are comprised of immaterialÂ things). In other words, my claim that something cannot come fromÂ nothing presupposes actual nothing (i.e., see Webster’s definition ofÂ nothing), not something-nothing. If the latter, the existence of the “something’s” that comprise the “nothing” cannot be taken for granted.
Regarding the eternal existence of quantum fields, I think theÂ existence of them at all would have to be established first. AccordingÂ to Krauss, they have never been measured or observed!
As for naming the Creator, I know this sounds offensive, but I simply do not believeÂ people are confused about who the Creator is.
Time is nothing more than a thermo-dynamic expression. Â Therefore time, logically, can be rolled back to when the universe had the lowest entropic state. Â That doesn’t mean ‘begininning’, just that entropy was the lowest. Â
Chad Barnes says
Duh, I don’t know what exactly you’re implying, but I assume you are countering Al-Ghazali’s argument from time. If so, I don’t think the unpredictability of time in less entropic states weakens Al-Ghazali’s argument because whether time is predictable, or whether time functions exactly as it does now, an infinite past is an infinite past. If, in fact, time eternally exists, then an infinite amount of time would have had to pass before today could arrive, which means that today could never arrive. The fact that today did arrive and you and I are having a conversation seems to provide solid evidence that time itself is not eternal/infinite.
Regarding your explanation of time, I noticed that The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Time seems to disagree.
“AÂ science like thermodynamics wonâ€™t be able to tell us about time perÂ se. But the theory will have much to say about everyday processes thatÂ occur in time; and in particular, the apparent asymmetry of thoseÂ processes” (The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Time, 2011).
To be clear, I don’t cite Oxford as a trump card. I just noticed that their definition seems different from yours, and am wondering if you could speak to that.
Chad Barnes says
I’ll offer one further clarification. I’m not offering the traditional cosmological argument for God, which states that every effect must have a cause, since a weakness to that argument is the fact that God is also subject to it. I’m simply arguing that something cannot come from nothing, since that something would have had to existed before it existed in order to create itself. I do not believe that God or the universe came about that way because that seems silly, and I think we are probably in agreement on that point.
The only other explanation that seems possible is that something eternally existed, either the universe or the Creator of the universe. While there are numerous arguments that the universe had a beginning, an argument made by Al-Ghazali, an Islamic philosopher who lived in the 11th-12th century, is currently my favorite. Al-Ghazali essentially argued that today arrived only because time had a definite starting point in the past. If time had no beginning, no definite starting point in the past, there would be an infinite number of days in the past. Since infinity is, by definition, unreachable, today could never have arrived. As result, it seems that the universe cannot be eternal, which leads to the logical conclusion that the Creator of the universe is eternal.