The book is entitled A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather than Nothing, and was described by well-known fellow science-popularizer Richard Dawkins with these words:
“Even the last remaining trump card of the theologian, ‘Why is there something rather than nothing?,’ shrivels up before your eyes as you read these pages. If ‘On the Origin of Species’ was biology’s deadliest blow to supernaturalism, we may come to see ‘A Universe From Nothing’ as the equivalent from cosmology. The title means exactly what it says. And what it says is devastating.”This encomium alone should be sufficient clue that there is less here than meets the eye.
And indeed, Krauss does not tell us that the universe -- the collection of everything that exists -- comes from nothing. He tells us that it comes from arrangements of relativistic quantum fields. The alert reader will recognize that the fields are therefore the matter and their arrangement is the form. And that therefore there was not nothing.
The way it works is this. In relativity, physical matter (particles) are simply states of the field of Ricci tensors. Quoting Albert's review:
According to relativistic quantum field theories, particles are to be understood, rather, as specific arrangements of the fields. Certain arrangements of the fields, for instance, correspond to there being 14 particles in the universe, and certain other arrangements correspond to there being 276 particles, and certain other arrangements correspond to there being an infinite number of particles, and certain other arrangements correspond to there being no particles at all. And those last arrangements are referred to, in the jargon of quantum field theories, for obvious reasons, as “vacuum” states. Krauss seems to be thinking that these vacuum states amount to the relativistic-quantum-field-theoretical version of there not being any physical stuff at all. And he has an argument — or thinks he does — that the laws of relativistic quantum field theories entail that vacuum states are unstable. And that, in a nutshell, is the account he proposes of why there should be something rather than nothing.Shazaam! The vacuum state being unstable, it will spontaneously decompose into a state with particles and -- hey, presto! -- we have something rather than nothing.
|Physicist Stephen Barr has a |
different take from physicist
Of course, a vacuum state is not nothing. It is a quantum state. (And you cannot have a "state" without a thing to be in that state. A state of confusion implies that someone or something is confused. It's the old medieval thingie "no white without a white thing." No form without a matter to be informed.)
Krauss is confusing zero with nothing. Physicist Stephen Barr compared this a couple of years ago to a bank account.
There is a difference ... between a bank account with no dollars in it and no bank account at all. To have a bank account, even one with a momentarily zero (or negative) balance, requires having a bank, an agreement with that bank, a monetary system, a currency, and banking laws. Similarly, to talk about states with various numbers of "universes" requires having a quantum system with different possible "states," and laws determining the character of those states and governing the transitions among them. The term "the universe" should really be applied to this whole system with its laws, and not, as is misleadingly done in such discussions, to "space-times" that are coming into and going out of existence.
Albert, more amusingly uses the image of fingers and fists:
The fact that some arrangements of fields happen to correspond to the existence of particles and some don’t is not a whit more mysterious than the fact that some of the possible arrangements of my fingers happen to correspond to the existence of a fist and some don’t. And the fact that particles can pop in and out of existence, over time, as those fields rearrange themselves, is not a whit more mysterious than the fact that fists can pop in and out of existence, over time, as my fingers rearrange themselves. And none of these poppings — if you look at them aright — amount to anything even remotely in the neighborhood of a creation from nothing.
The problem is, it was the post-Cartesian scientists who moved the goal posts and that they "currently describe" "various versions" of "nothing" incorrectly does not change the fact that "nothing" means precisely what it says: no thing. That is, nothing is not a particular sort of thing any more than "no one" is a particular sort of person.
And how can there be "various versions" of nothing? I mean, c'mon!
Sorry, Charlie, but the folks who started the whole discussion of creatio ex nihilo used a particular and straightforward definition of nihil. If scientists are now equivocating on the term, confusing an analogous usage with a proper usage, that is the fault of their own imprecise thinking.
Science, as always, deals with transformations. Matter in one form changes to matter in another form.
- A sodium atom (Na) is transformed into a sodium ion (Na+) by losing an electron.
- A species of beardog is transformed into a dog by natural selection.
- A strand of DNA is transformed into two new strands by replication.
In other words, there is always something on both sides of the transformation. There is never nothing. Scientists are so accustomed to this sort of thing that when they do try to deal with nothing, they cannot help but conceive it (or worse, merely imagine it) as a kind of something, relabeled for their purpose.
Postscript. As lagniappe, we can also see why natural selection was not the deadly blow that Dawkins imagined. Not when Thomas Aquinas himself commented in passing that if new species ever did arise, they would do so from powers that were given to nature from the beginning. Transformations of matter from one form to another simply is not the same kind of thing as creation.