The origin of the universe poses a problem for atheism.
It is logically impossible to provide a natural explanation for how nature came into existence. Such an explanation must assume the existence of nature in its opening premises, thus, committing the circular fallacy. Necessarily, then, the origin of nature must be super-natural (i.e., not natural).(1)
When Lawrence Krauss began promoting the idea of a universe arising from ‘nothing’, it was hardly surprising that he rapidly achieved saviour status among atheists such as Richard Dawkins. When one hears an answer that one very much wants to be true, there is a great temptation not to examine the answer very critically. This is certainly true of atheists who simply accept Krauss’ ‘nothing‘ at face value.
Just to be perfectly clear, I am not arguing that Krauss is wrong (assuming he knows jolly well that his ‘nothing’ has certain requirements that turn out to be ‘something rather important’). The purpose of this post is to educate those who have been misled into thinking that Krauss’s ‘nothing’ is ‘absolutely nothing at all’.
When listening to the various explanations for a universe from nothing, a critical thinker will observe that there must be special requirements for this ‘nothing’. These include:
- empty space,
- a law of quantum gravity
- some sort of ‘laws of nature’
- a variable of time so that the equations of quantum mechanics can be meaningful
- a ‘false vacuum'(2)
- a multiverse from which our universe can expand from some other empty space containing zero energy and mass.
Obviously (at least to a physicist) none of these things qualify as ‘absolutely nothing at all’. Yet this is precisely what is needed if Krauss’ argument is to deliver what many atheists think it promises.
In another video, a mathematician states, ‘if nature can find simply a way of dividing zero by zero it has a lot of creative power, it can create anything‘. However, one is left wondering how ‘nature’ can both be absolutely nothing at all, and also find a way of dividing zero by zero.
Bottom Line: The ‘nothing’ that Krauss and others refer to is not what it seems to the naïve listener – something must always be included.
A simple refutation:
Rather than engaging in confusing discussions of ‘nothing’ and what it actually includes, there is a much simpler solution.
In physics, both the left and right sides of an equation must have the same dimensions (or be able to be converted to the same dimensions). To quote a tutorial from the University of Guelph Department of Physics …
An equation in which each term has the same dimensions is said to be dimensionally correct. All equations used in any science should be dimensionally correct. The only time you’ll encounter one which isn’t is if there is an error in the equation. (3)
For a highly simplified example, if we observe someone arguing that space (length L) and time (T) came from nothing, we can simplify the equation to L.T. = [dimensionless]. Since we have Length and Time on the left, and a dimensionless, absolutely nothing at all on the right, the equation is dimensionally incorrect. Therefore, we know that the person has either:
- made an error in their theory or,
- their ‘nothing’ is not actually nothing, but contains some form of Length and Time, even if they originate from a quantum fluctuation in another universe.
Conclusion: A universe from absolutely nothing at all is incorrect; both the left and right sides of even a complex equation must contain the same dimensions.
Notice of revision: I have slightly revised my highly simplified example for increased clarity.
- K. Durston, ‘God, Sean Carroll, and the Origin of Nature’.
- D. He, D. Gao & Q. Cai, ‘Sponataneous creation of the universe from nothing’, arXiv:1404.1207 [gr-qc].
- ‘Dimensional analysis’, Dept. of Physics, University of Guelph.