Saturday, 10 March 2012

Nothing is not something

Mixing science with magic is a mistake, as the Alchemists should have realised by their failure to turn lead into gold.

 Lawrence Krauss’s book A Universe from Nothing: Why there is something rather than nothing (January 2012) has an Afterword by Richard Dawkins. Predictably it seeks to show that the universe need not have been created.

To be fair the book does not actually resort to supernatural magic. It merely seeks to deceive the reader by defining ‘nothing’ not as complete existential nothingness but as the quantum vacuum, i.e. space seething with energy and virtual particles. These fleetingly come out of the quantum vacuum and disappear back into it. Where this ‘nothing’, which is actually ‘something’, comes from is passed over. Atheists seeking solace in it will be disappointed. Dawkins’s seal of approval will not help – the central argument of his own book the God Delusion has been dismissed by all serious philosophers and thinkers as non sequitur.

 So if the physics in the book is sound Krauss is simply describing how one form of energy is converted into another. Philosophically the book is flawed.

A common misconception is that the Big Bang was an explosion from a point in space-time. This is not standard theory. Space-time and energy were created and, assuming the quantum vacuum does exist, this is simply a form of the energy that was created. The mystery is what created it and many scientists see this as a dangerous question, because they think it will cause scientists to abandon reason by invoking God as an explanation for everything. On the contrary, modern science evolved from a belief in a God who is all powerful and, like certain ancient Greek philosophers but unlike Krauss and Dawkins, rational. It is unfortunate that the prevailing world view of the Greeks was rather chaotic, full of arbtitrary gods, so that rational coherent theories of science and the universe could not flourish.

I see no point in reading this book except for any valid cosmology which may be mixed in with the atheistically-motivated dogmatism and for the intellectual curiosity of seeing how they come to their conclusion. A lot of effort would have to be invested in understanding a nonsensical argument.

 Cosmology and quantum physics are fascinating subjects and there must be much better books around for getting a grip on the frontiers of scientific knowledge.

Perhaps the second hand information I have on this book is wrong. If so, please correct me.

 What has this to do with Peace on Earth? A lot. Call me dogmatic but I believe that a peaceful world can only be built on a foundation of truth and love, and these do not come from any human being.


PS Multiverse and oscillating universe models which attempt to eliminate the need for a creation event by invoking infinity and eternity have been dealt a severe, if not final, philosophical blow by the BGV theorem of 2003. see the posting Infinity, eternity and cosmology).