A Universe from Nothing? Has Lawrence M. Krauss Missed the Point?

To cut to the chase it is my view that Dr. Lawrence M. Krauss, eminent cosmologist, theoretical physicist, and author of A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather than Nothing,[1] has missed the point of the argument. Yet, his book is fascinating, and the discoveries he discusses are very significant, perhaps in ways he has not yet considered.

Let me state quite plainly that I accept and respect all the scientific discoveries and theories that Krauss describes. I have neither the skill nor the training to counter them, and nor do I feel a need to do so. I have faith in the integrity and dedication of the scientists who are collecting and analysing the data, and proposing the theories based on mathematical calculation and/or study of the data. If they have it wrong, I know they will correct it, and slowly but surely, the physical scientific realities of the universe will be uncovered. So that is not my focus.

My concern is the philosophical and spiritual interpretation that is derived by scientists from their theories and data, even if it is purely to say that there is no need for God or that what philosophers or theologians might have to say is necessarily of little worth. Accordingly, my mission is to find the middle path reconciling both the scientific and philosophical/spiritual views in a way that is coherent and all-embracing. It is logical to me that there is a theory of everything being uncovered, and that this theory must incorporate science, philosophy, spirituality, religion, and every other body of work and view of the universe, each of course honed to its own accurate and “perfect” set of truths.

Krauss initially changes the question from why there is something rather than nothing, to how there is something rather than nothing. As he points out, using the word why implies purpose, and as a scientist he would rather describe the process of how it is possible for something to derive from nothing.

As with many scientists who see everything as being explained by science, Krauss sees no need for a God or a Creator. Krauss does not consider the possibility that God designed and implemented science’s physical laws in order to create the universe as it is. While I can understand that physical laws need to be coherent and obviously are, there is no reason in my mind why these could not have been designed by a superior Designer to work in just that way. It would appear to me that the how that Krauss insists on discovering is exactly the uncovering of the path that God took to achieve what He (She, It) achieved. In many ways the why question is far more challenging and momentous than the physical and cosmological discoveries under discussion.

Krauss explains three ways in which something can come from nothing. In brief they are (though I accept that my descriptions may not be perfect):

  •  In the first fraction of a second of the Big Bang a period of inflation occurred, where the universe expanded by a factor of more than 1028, and the resulting quantum fluctuations allowed matter to form out of nothing.
  •  A quantum gravity of zero allows, and even initiates, matter (and thus the universe) to be created from nothing. A state of nothing is ultimately unstable.
  • The concept of a multiverse shows that up to 10500 (that is 1 with 500 zeroes) unique universes may exist. Thus by chance our one happens to have the perfect set of physical laws to produce the universe we see.

 Krauss admits that in the first of these three possibilities, the nothing described is empty space storing energy, and allows for the existence of the Laws of Physics. In the second possibility, the need for pre-existing space has been removed. In the third and final way in which something can come from nothing, Krauss takes away the Laws of Physics, in that they become measurements and descriptions of what exists as opposed to needing to pre-exist in order to create the universe we know.

It does not take much to see that we are still not talking about creating a universe from nothing, or answering the question of why there is something rather than nothing. Krauss suspects that at the time of Plato (423-347BC), or even St Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), they were defining nothing as empty space, as they considered why there was something rather than nothing. I suspect that this is very far from the truth.

Why is there something instead of nothing? My definition of nothing, and I would have thought, the definition of everybody else except scientists, is that nothing means absolutely and entirely nothing at all. Therefore no space, no time, no physics, no mathematics, no nothing! Krauss complains about people redefining nothing to suit their purposes, but frankly, I believe that is exactly what he has done. To me, nothing means absolutely nothing at all.

So on to my argument. Yes, there could have been nothing at all instead of a universe. There really is no reason why there should be anything. Why bother? And who would there be to bother? Yet clearly we have a universe, as so ably described by Krauss and his fellow scientists. Therefore there can never have been the state of nothing, because if there were nothing, absolutely nothing at all, how would anything ever have got started? There would be no virtual particles to pop in and out of existence as suggested by quantum mechanics, and there would be no space in which they could pop. There would be no source of a multiverse and there would be no conditions to initiate a Big Bang.

It follows that something did pre-exist the Big Bang, and Krauss confirms that today’s thinking is that the Big Bang was a certainty. Great, I am perfectly happy with that, and happy that it happened too, as I am sure you are. It would also seem sensible to suggest that, whatever pre-existed the Big Bang, it has existed eternally, whatever that term might be interpreted to mean. There could never be the time, place or situation where there was nothing at all, as even this pre-existing state could never have got started.

My suggestion is that the eternal, pre-existing state was Consciousness. It could also be called Life or Being. By many people, especially those with religious beliefs and affiliations, It is called God (or their alternative words for God). In my book, whatever Its nature or qualities, that eternal, pre-existing state that enabled there to be something rather than nothing, and got the universe started, is absolutely worthy of the name God, whatever that Ultimate Reality is.


[1] Krauss, L., A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather than Nothing, Free Press, New York, 2012

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7 comments on “A Universe from Nothing? Has Lawrence M. Krauss Missed the Point?

  1. Per your request of feedback on the God Franchise, Bravo. The contents of your book are right on!

    Also: Per your explanation of how something can come from nothing (and especially as your words relate to both “wholeness” and “oneness”), you may find of interest the third part of my http://familycology.org proposals. at least that is where I seek to mathematically portray aqs best I can how and where “going from zero to eventual wholeness” and “coming down from infinity to eventual total oneness” meet at a union/coincidence of complementary opposites. .

    Warmest regards, Yale

  2. Reece, writing an essay on this stuff says:

    This is rather late, however;

    1. Something “began to exist” if there was a time when it did not exist, followed by a time when it did exist.
    2. Something is “eternal” if there was no time when it did not exist, and at every point in time it has existed.
    3. There is no time when the universe did not exist, and at every point in time the universe has existed. (Big Bang also created time itself)
    4. Therefore the universe is eternal, and did not begin to exist.

    Applying Laws in our Universe, such as things requiring causes, to the Universe itself seems quite a leap we cannot be sure to make.

    What caused planets, what caused atoms, can be explained, but what caused the big bang? could be as illogical as:
    Whats north of Scotland, north of Iceland, North of the Arctic Circle, but what is north of the North Pole?
    The Laws we observe may only apply to things within the Universe, not to itself.

  3. In the 5th paragraph you raise the question related to a scientific interpretation of discoveries as the lack of need for the god. Your countering that point of view with – in your mind you can imagine that the god (supreme being) created the laws of physics – is an empty statement! If you make such supposition, what stops us from asking who created or how did the supreme being come into existence. There appears to be no end to such question for obvious reasons. If you come up with an answer to who created a supreme being then you can argue that there is a hierarchy of supreme beings (I don’t want to go into the implications of such hierarchy).

    So, postulating god or anything like it, explains nothing. Science simply does not invoke the god and aims to weave a story about what is known. I think this is the point Krauss is trying to make. An argument about how successful he was can be had but that is another matter.

    • Alan H. Dawe says:

      I cover this issue in some detail in The God Franchise, my book on this subject. I expressed my argument for a God in my blog in December 2011, Does God Really Exist? Please see that. Briefly, though, I believe that what religious people call God is in fact a consciousness that exists eternally into the past and into the future (from our perspective today), or in other words, outside of time. I prefer to use the name God-Consciousness, and while I use the pronoun He most frequently, the correct pronoun is It. God-Consciousness was not created so there is no creation hierarchy possible in the sense you suggest, and so no argument about this. As I see it, there cannot have been nothing before the Big Bang, and Consciousness had to pre-exist it. There had to have been some impetus or nothing, the state of absolutely nothing at all, would just have continued – as nothing. The impetus is what people have called God. Please note that the God I talk about is NOT identical with the concept of God as described by the Church. It is not a Being, but Being itself. And the alternative Nothing, has be treated as absolutely nothing, not redefined as Lawrence Krauss has done.

  4. [...] A Universe from Nothing? Has Lawrence M. Krauss Missed the Point? (thegodfranchise.wordpress.com) 33.474246 -82.009670 Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. [...]

  5. Bob Green says:

    I think the book “The Origin of the Universe – Case Closed” does a much better job of explaining why we have something rather than nothing. Krauss’ work lacks the proof.

    • Alan H. Dawe says:

      Thank you, Bob. I have bought the book, “The Origin of the Universe – Case Closed”, and will read through it. Thanks for bringing it to my attention, and of course, to the attention of anyone who reads this blog.

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