The Redefinition of Nothing

Believe or not, many atheists are contending that it was possible that the universe came into existence out of nothing.  One reason for this contention could be because of the influence of Dr. Lawrence Krauss, a theoretical physicist at Arizona State Universe and the author of, “A Universe from Nothing”.  Dr. Krauss has made this view very popular in recent years.  In addition to his scholarly credentials, Dr. Krauss is also an outspoken atheist.  His view of the universe coming into existence out of nothing bodes conveniently well with his atheistic worldview because he seemingly removes the need for a Creator.  However, one may wonder how someone such as Dr. Krauss can come up with such a radical conclusion.  The answer is in the new definition of “nothing”.    

In the debate between Dr. Krauss and Dr. William Lane Craig, Dr. Krauss made this remark about the origin of the universe, “But it (the universe) can come into being out of nothingness because nothing is unstable”1.  When Dr. Krauss refers to “nothing” he is referring to the quantum vacuum.  The quantum vacuum is what Dr. Craig describes as, “empty space filled with vacuum energy. It is a rich, physical reality described by physical laws and having a physical structure”1.  So, if “nothing” isn’t really nothing, why is Dr. Krauss using it as such?  It is terribly confusing to those who don’t understand the terminology of physics.  As Dr. Craig described the way Dr. Krauss uses the term “nothing”, “This is the grossly misleading use of “nothingness””1

Above is a video of Dr. Craig describing this inappropriate use of the term “nothing”.  Many atheists that have adopted this theory seem to be confused as to how “nothing” should properly be used in a sentence, which is likely due to Dr. Krauss’ propagation of the incorrect usage. 

Ultimately, why is this misusage of terminology such a big deal?  It is a big deal because people are becoming convinced that the universe popped into being uncaused.  Dr. Krauss labeling “nothing” as the quantum vacuum is incorrect.  The quantum vacuum is something, and somethinghas a beginning, which is therefore caused.  In 2003, a theorem called the Borde-Guth-Vilenkin Theorem was developed by three leading cosmologists that supported the claim that the universe is finite and not eternal.  Prominent cosmologist Alexander Vilenkin said,

“It is said that an argument is what convinces reasonable men, and a proof is what it takes to convince even an unreasonable man. With the proof now in place, cosmologists can no longer hide behind the possibility of a past eternal universe. They have to face the problem of a cosmic beginning”3

If Dr. Krauss is implying that the quantum vacuum has always been in existence and subsequently popped out a universe, there is evidence to show that the universe had a beginning and is not the product of an eternal quantum vacuum.  As Christians, we hold that the universe was created ex nihilo, which means that God created the universe without a material cause.  However, I’d like to clarify that the universe didn’t come into being by nothingbecause God is the cause for all matter and energy2.

In conclusion, it seems that “nothing” has replaced “something” in Dr. Krauss’ dictionary. However, the reality is that “nothing” means “not anything”.  Since the quantum vacuum is something, it doesn’t meet the definition of “nothing”.  Therefore, I feel it is important to reiterate the significance terminology holds in the grand scheme of things because it ultimately affects the meaning of what is being communicated. What Dr. Krauss is doing is simply irresponsible scholastics and Christians should be prepared to give an intelligible response to the new “nothing”. 

Notes

1 William Lane Craig vs. Lawrence Krauss debate (March 30, 2011 at North Carolina State University)

2 William Lane Craig, Must the Universe have a Material Cause? (Reasonablfaith.com)

3 Alex Vilenkin, Many Worlds in One (New York: Hill & Wang, 2006), p. 176.

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