Sunday, 7 October 2012

Lawrence Krauss has nothing to talk about

Last Thursday I was very pleased to attend a lecture at Portsmouth Grammar School given by Professor Lawrence Krauss. His book A Universe from Nothing has caused a stir in both religious and scientific circles. Richard Dawkins has (somewhat hyperbolically) characterised its significance on a par with Darwin's Origin, while apologists such as the mathematician John Lennox have complained that the "nothing" that Krauss writes about is not a "real" nothing (non-tautologically speaking, if that's possible).

Krauss is an excellent speaker, and though his talk did get into some very abstruse concepts — which gave him a legitimate opportunity to suggest that a more expansive explanation is available in his book — he was engaging throughout.

I have the Kindle version of A Universe from Nothing, so could not get it signed by the author. But I also have a copy of Quantum Man, so my dad (who has his own copy) and I queued up after the lecture for the signing. Here's Dad with the Prof:


Jonathan Pearce posted a response to the lecture on his A Tippling Philosopher blog. I commented as follows:
It was great lecture and my dad and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

As for the question, “why is there something rather than nothing?” — I tend to the view that there was always something, and that the philosophical nothing is a concept only.

The way I see it there are four options:
1. There never was anything, and there never will be.

2. There was something, and then there wasn’t.

3. There always was something.

4. There was nothing (the philosophical nothing) and then there was something.
Clearly (1) is not the case, and (to us) is indistinguishable from (2) as both these positions are refuted by the existence of anything at all. (4) is contentious if one believes that a true philosophical nothing is incapable of spawning a something. Which leaves (3) — the eternal something (at least, eternal in the past — it may be possible for the sum total of all the somethings to self-annihilate and become a philosophical nothing).

If theists want to complain that Krauss’s nothing is not a philosophical nothing, that’s fine by me, but then I would ask them if their God is eternal. If God is eternal then the philosophical nothing is an impossibility, and they should stop asking how something can come from nothing.
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