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A Universe from Nothing Overview

04/20/2013

Krauss intends to write a science book, but I think his point is primarily philosophical, which he might not want to admit. Lots of people seem to straw man his arguments by saying his view of “nothing” is naive, but he seems to be fully aware of the different definitions, and addresses each in turn.

Nothing as empty space:
This “nothing” is still infused with energy, matter is expected to come into existence (Chapter 9).

Nothing as lack of even space or time:
Because of the underlying physics of quantum gravity, a universe with characteristics like those of ours are expected to come into existence from a lack of space or time (Chapter 10).

Nothing as lacking our laws of physics:
Even these may not have been as they are. Krauss puts forward what he calls a “plausible” (p. 175) explanation for where our laws of physics came from. which is the idea of a multiverse. There may be infinite causally separate universes, each with its own laws of physics. Perhaps most have no matter, no space, no laws that can generate anything meaningful to us, but by pure odds alone, we can expect some to have what is necessary for a universe like ours (Chapter 11). In short, the idea of a multiverse lets us expect our laws of physics to come from nothing, understood as universes generated from infinitely varying laws of physics.

That’s about as far as he gets. He fully acknowledges that in a way, if our laws of physics are generated, then one might consider them to be generated according to more fundamental laws of physics, which some may consider to be “something.” This may lead to an infinite recursion of more and more fundamental laws. His view is that understanding nature one step further at a time is pretty much all we can hope for, and simply stopping the search by positing God is inserting a being for which there is no evidence whatsoever. On the contrary, each step further to more fundamental explanations in physics has been warranted by the empirical evidence.

Philosophy as the better approach:
While his point is well taken, I think he would do well to criticize the God hypothesis more on philosophical ground instead of empirical ground. Each time he posits something coming from nothing, no matter how he defines nothing, one could always say that there are fundamental physical or logical rules that are the “something” from which more things come. And so they’ll always be able to say Krauss hasn’t really answered the question of “Why is there something rather than nothing?”

That criticism is sort of fair. What makes no sense is people thinking that therefore God solves the problem. Really? Why is there something rather than nothing? Because God put that something there. Obviously this doesn’t answer the question. If the laws of physics count as a “thing” and not nothing, then of course God counts as a “thing” too.

We can rephrase the question. Why is there something, including God, instead of nothing? The answer to this more pointed question is usually something about how God is a necessary being. It is not possible for him to not exist, and then by extension, he creates the universe. Problem solved now, right?

Of course not. Now, there is an appeal to the laws of logic as being the fundamental ground of God. Again, if the laws of physics aren’t fair to use as answering the something from nothing question, then neither are the laws of logic. If theists are never, ever satisfied with the more and more fundamental answers from physics as to why there’s something rather than nothing, then the same problem will apply to any conceivable answer from theism. There’s always some fundamental law of physics or logic that are the basic grounding for everything, or there’s an infinite regress.

The question of something from nothing is a tough question to answer, but theists end up with the same fundamental problems that they accuse theists of.

General points:
Krauss also seems to think that Plato and Aquinas thought of nothing as empty space. He only mentions this in passing, so it would have been really nice to see some sort of backing to this point, which philosophers seem to dispute.

There are some interesting science facts about how we know certain things. That’s the sort of thing I find most interesting, the detective story of finding out about the universe. How do we know how fast stars are moving away from us? Their spectrums of light are red-shifted, which we know about from looking at the absorption bands of the light emitted, which are shifted depending on the speed away from us.

How do we know about how far galaxies are from us? We use supernovae, coupled with our knowledge that the larger the original stars are, the longer the supernovae last. With this, we know how bright the original stars were, and using that we know how far away they are.

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