Opening Thoughts On A Universe From Nothing

Does Krauss have a case? Let’s discuss it today on Deeper Waters.

Recently, an atheist told me I should read Lawrence Krauss’s book “A Universe from Nothing.” Naturally, I was at the library as soon as I could ordering it. I have just recently started it and true to what I have heard, I have thus far been disappointed.

At the outset, I have yet to finish the book and hope to soon. For the positive, I will say that when Krauss talks about the actual data itself, it is an interesting read. There is fascinating material on the history of the Big Bang Theory and learning how our universe works. Note that if someone finds a problem with Big Bang Cosmology, they should not object to it because it is scientific, but they should if they think it is bad science. For the person who does that, of course, they have to bring forward their case scientifically and show why the other is wrong.

The book is also written for the style of the layman in science. Krauss does explain his terms so those of us who do not understand science will be able to follow along somewhat. There are numerous illustrations throughout the book to facilitate knowledge.

So then, why am I, a non-scientist, critiquing a book on science?

Insofar as the book is scientific, I am not going to critique it. I am not going to argue why some scientific data is wrong and some is right. That is not my area and I believe people should comment on their areas. I will not dare challenge Krauss on cosmology. There are some Christians who might want to do that. I’m not one of them.

Yet while saying that, it would be good if Krauss had stayed in his area for when he does step out of it into theology and philosophy, he blunders greatly. Let’s look at the start as there was enough in the Preface to even tell me what was coming.

Krauss points out that people will ask “Where do the laws of physics come from?” and “Who created those laws?” Krauss says we can think we have the need to go to a first cause like in Plato, Aquinas, or the modern RCC. He then says the question comes to “Who created the creator?” In his words “After all, what is the difference between arguing in favor of an eternally existing creator versus an eternally existing universe without one?”

Yes. Krauss thinks study for thousands of years in theology has never once thought of the question of “Who created God?” I’m reminded of how one atheist on TheologyWeb hearing the arguments from Aquinas said that Hume refuted Aquinas by asking “Who created God?” Aquinas would have just laughed at Hume.

Let’s start with Aristotle. Aristotle did believe in an eternal universe and yet, at the same time he was a monotheist who believed in one eternal God. He got there from reason. “Yeah,” the atheist says. “But he didn’t believe in the Christian God.” Correct. So what? He believed in a deity that is compatible with the Christian God in its nature but does not necessitate the Christian God. In fact, when Aquinas saw views in Aristotle he thought were incorrect, he was willing to refute Aristotle.

It would be difficult to say that Aristotle just wanted to believe in a god and so he made one up. Aristotle saw God as necessary to the system, though not in the way Aquinas did, and yet this did not go against his belief in an eternal universe. In fact, it was needed for the eternal universe. The two do not contradict. It’s not an either/or game.

As to why it could not be the universe that is the ultimate, Aquinas would have answered based on his doctrine of existence. The universe is material and thus undergoes change in its existing. It moves from one mode of existence to another. That shows that for the universe, existence is not primary. That for which existence is primary is that which does not change at all but simply exists.

In fact, its very nature is existence. This is why it makes no sense to ask “Who created God?” It’s like asking “What brought existence into existence?” Whatever it would have been would have had to exist and if it already existed, it could not bring existence into existence.

It is usually told that special pleading is going on. Aquinas does not explain change in God. That is because Aquinas sees no change in God. It’s not because he’s begging the question, but because he knows the chain must be explained by something that is pure actuality. That is something that is incapable of receiving change but can cause change in other beings. That something is God.

For someone who wants to say Aquinas’s argument does not prove the Christian God we answer “So what?” It’s not supposed to. It proves a small piece of theism. That is all. It proves enough that atheism is refuted. You will not be able to reason your way to Christianity. Christianity has philosophical ramifications, but is itself not a philosophy. It is a revealed truth.

Krauss also says that theologians and philosophers tell him he is speaking of nothing in an incorrect sense. Nothing is non-being in an ill-defined sense. The claim is quite ridiculous. If we are speaking of non-being, what can be said about it positively? That assumes that there is something that exists that has claims that can be said about it. There is not. Krauss also says:

“Similarly, some philosophers and many theologians define and redefine ‘nothing’ as not being any of the versions of nothing that scientists currently describe.”

It is hard to keep a straight face reading a sentence like this. We have had the concept of nothing and talked about it for thousands of years. Then, scientists come and define it according to their fields and yet, we are the ones who are supposedly changing the definition.

Now I’m not against physicists using the word “nothing” in a way that is relevant to their field. I am against them coming and saying “This is the only way it works and you have to use the word the way we use it.” I have the same problem in looking at the first way in Aquinas when the modern comes and says “Aquinas says motion! Let’s see what Newton says!” This assumes that while Aquinas and Newton could have used the same word, that the meaning was the same for a metaphysician as it was for a physicist hundreds of years apart.

Krauss also says that if no potential existed for creation, God couldn’t have created. Because of this, to use God is intellectual laziness.

I do not doubt punting to God with a God-of-the-gaps is intellectually lazy. This assumes however, that positing God any time must be a God-of-the-Gaps. Could it not be that there could be positive evidence for God and people honestly think God is the best explanation?

As for the potential of creation, the creation did not exist in non-being. That assumes non-being is something. The potential was an active potential God had. God has the capacity to create and to not create. This is not a change in Him as God is not receiving change but is rather causing change.

Overall, looking at just the preface of the book, I believe I am going to be disappointed. It will all hinge on what Krauss thinks nothing is. We’ll see as we go on.

In Christ,
Nick Peters


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