Seems one Lawrence Krauss has committed a book entitled A Universe from Nothing: Why There is Something Rather than Nothing, wherein he marvels at the ability of the universe we know to leap into existence from, well, nothing. The book has been lauded by such as Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins, you know, the intellectual lights of the age. The book is important only because he has tried feebly to address the fundamental ontological question at the heart of all true philosophy, the question that pressed Plato and especially Aristotle. In fact, you need go no farther than Aristotle’s Physics to find that this question leads inexorably to You Know Who, or that it does for a fairly fearless pre-Christian pagan. Then again, who am I to pit Aristotle against the likes of Krauss and Dawkins? Besides, Aristotle did get a few things wrong you know, so, like, there.
You can find an interview with Dr. Krauss in The Atlantic. I have little enough to say about this, except to note a particularly egregious assertion by the good physicist: ‘…although I will add that it was plenty good enough for Augustine and the people who wrote the Bible. For them an eternal empty void was the definition of nothing, and certainly I show that that kind of nothing ain’t nothing anymore.’ As usual the scientist gets ‘nothing’ wrong. For Augustine and the gang ‘an eternal empty void’ was most certainly not the definition of ‘nothing’ in ‘creation from nothing’. And when we see the ‘earth’ ‘without form and void’ in the Bible, *creation from nothing* has already happened ‘in the beginning’, whatever that is. Given this elementary misunderstanding, the ontological claims made by Dr. Krauss and his ilk must of course fail.
I will say nothing of the historical claim that science ‘progresses’, except to note that physics seems to be simply retelling classic philosophical and theological controversies in the language of mathematics. So we have eternal universes, multiple universes, and now spontaneously self-creating universes. If we cared to do some labor, we could discover these same cosmologies developed variously by Plato, Origen, Epicurus, Thales, Thomas Aquinas, Gregory of Nyssa, Aristotle, Augustine, Nicolas of Autrecourt, al-Ghazali…well, you get the idea. What’s different is the often rather adolescent atheism that motivates philosophes like Krauss, Dawkins, et al, a puerile rebellion that would have astonished the great pagans of the past, even the ‘atheists’ among them. After all, unlike Epicurus our New Atheists do not have even the good sense to be sad in a world abandoned by the gods.