Why Do Some Physicists Talk Nonsense about Nothing?

by Bill Vallicella

talking nonsenseSam Harris poses the following question to physicist Lawrence M. Krauss:

One of the most common justifications for religious faith is the idea that the universe must have had a creator. You’ve just written a book alleging that a universe can arise from “nothing.” What do you mean by “nothing” and how fully does your thesis contradict a belief in a Creator God?

The answer Krauss gives is such an awful mess of verbiage that I will not  quote a big load of it, but I will quote some of it.  The reader can read the whole thing if he cares to.

1. The "long-held theological claim" that out of nothing nothing comes is "spurious."  This is because "modern science . . . has changed completely our conception of the very words ‘something’ and ‘nothing.’ " We now know that " ‘something’ and ‘nothing’ are physical concepts and therefore are properly the domain of science, not theology or philosophy." 

Wow!  Modern science has completely changed our conceptions of something and nothing! That is something!   Something and nothing are physical concepts?  You mean, like mass and momentum?  Please tell me more!

2. "The old idea that nothing might involve empty space, devoid of mass or energy, or anything material, for example, has now been replaced by a boiling bubbling brew of virtual particles, popping in and out of existence in a time so short that we cannot detect them directly. I then go on to explain how other versions of ‘nothing’—beyond merely empty space—including the absence of space itself, and even the absence of physical laws, can morph into “something.” Indeed, in modern parlance, “nothing” is most often unstable. Not only can something arise from nothing, but most often the laws of physics require that to occur."

There is no point in quoting any more of this stuff since it is obviously gibberish.  What is not obvious, and indeed what is most puzzling, is why anyone who is supposedly intelligent would spout such patent nonsense.  Or is he joking?  Pulling our leg?  Trying to sound ‘far out’ to sell books?  It surely sounds like a weird joke to hear that nothing boils and bubbles and ‘morphs’  and is unstable with particles popping in and out of existence.  If a virtual particle popped out of existence would it be even more nothing than the nothing that it was a part of?


Maverick Philosopher: Why Do Some Physicists Talk Nonsense about Nothing?



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