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by Khaldoun A. Sweis
I care about nothing and this post is about Nothing. Yes, you read it right, nothing. Stephen Hawking in his latest book, The Grand Design, makes the amazing claim that “because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing.” Lawrence Kraus is an American theoretical physicist and cosmologist who is Foundation Professor of the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University, argues the same thing in his book, A Universe From Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather Than Nothing (Free Press, 2012). According to Richard Dawkins: “The title means exactly what it says. And what is says is devastating” (Richard Dawkins, ‘Afterword’, A Universe From Nothing, p.191.)
I am currenly also reading a book about Nothing. It’s called “Nothing: A very short Introduction. I can tell you one thing for sure it is NOT about nothing.
Now the question before us, is “what do Krauss and Hawkins mean by Nothing?” They do NOT mean non-being, no no-thing.
David Albert is a professor of philosophy at Columbia and the author of “Quantum Mechanics and Experience,” wrote regarding the work of Krauss:
…the fact that particles can pop in and out of existence, over time, as those fields rearrange themselves, is not a whit more mysterious than the fact that fists can pop in and out of existence, over time, as my fingers rearrange themselves. And none of these poppings — if you look at them aright — amount to anything even remotely in the neighborhood of a creation from nothing. Krauss, mind you, has heard this kind of talk before, and it makes him crazy. A century ago, it seems to him, nobody would have made so much as a peep about referring to a stretch of space without any material particles in it as “nothing.” And now that he and his colleagues think they have a way of showing how everything there is could imaginably have emerged from a stretch of space like that, the nut cases are moving the goal posts. He complains that “some philosophers and many theologians define and redefine ‘nothing’ as not being any of the versions of nothing that scientists currently describe,” and that “now, I am told by religious critics that I cannot refer to empty space as ‘nothing,’ but rather as a ‘quantum vacuum,’ to distinguish it from the philosopher’s or theologian’s idealized ‘nothing,’ ” and he does a good deal of railing about “the intellectual bankruptcy of much of theology and some of modern philosophy.” But all there is to say about this, as far as I can see, is that Krauss is dead wrong and his religious and philosophical critics are absolutely right. Who cares what we would or would not have made a peep about a hundred years ago? We were wrong a hundred years ago. We know more now. And if what we formerly took for nothing turns out, on closer examination, to have the makings of protons and neutrons and tables and chairs and planets and solar systems and galaxies and universes in it, then it wasn’t nothing, and it couldn’t have been nothing, in the first place. And the history of science — if we understand it correctly — gives us no hint of how it might be possible to imagine otherwise.
Nothing is just that, nothing.
If I say “I ate nothing for lunch,” you would be silly if you asked me “how did it taste?”
These men, with all due respect, are playing games with words.
The term nothing means nothing to the vast majority of their fans and readers. But they don’t mean nothing when they say nothing. But it sells a lot of books.
They are equivocating, which is a logical fallacy…
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