Can you get a something from a nothing?
by Lenny Esposito
In my debate against Richard Carrier, I argued that the beginning of the universe pointed toward the existence of God. I had said, “The most fundamental law of science is ‘Out of nothing, nothing comes.’ We simply do not see things popping into existence for no reason. Every parent understands this axiom when they find crayon marks on the wall or mud scraped across the floor. A child’s response of ‘no one did it, it just appeared’ would be rightly rejected as silly.”
This seems pretty common-sensical to me. One cannot get a something from a nothing. In fact, the word “nothing” can be broken apart to show that it means “no-thing.” But Carrier replied to my point with this statement:
Oh yes, “out of nothing, nothing comes” is another one. If there is absolutely nothing, then there are no rules governing what will happen. So the idea that “only nothing can come from nothing” is a rule. That’s something; that’s not nothing. If you really have absolutely nothing then anything can happen. Nothing governs what’s going to happen. If we start with nothing, we have no idea what could occur. As physicists will tell you, like Victor J. Stenger in The Fallacy of Fine Tuning, nothing is inherently unstable. So if we did start the universe with nothing, we could actually expect something to come out of it because the probability of nothing remaining nothing is rather low and because there is nothing governing what will happen.
There are a lot of problems here. First, let’s look at what we mean when we use the word “nothing.” When I say the universe began to exist, I mean that all matter, energy, space, and time came into being where they had previously not existed at all. In fact, when philosophers talk about the concept of nothing, it is generally understood to mean a state that is devoid of all properties. If there is nothing, then there are no physical things that can act and there are no laws of nature by which the non-existent entities would be able to act…