Something from nothing?

Got a question from Rick today who asks…

Name: Rick
Message: Do atheists believe that everything came from nothingness or do they believe that something has always been?

Great question Rick!

This is a common question that most atheists get from believers and it’s understandable why. Believers are taught that all things have a beginning and that beginning starts with their god. So when they meet an atheist one of the first things they ask is “If there is no god, how do you think everything got here?” to which the atheist will more often then not responds with “How did your god get here?” showing the inherent hypocrisy in the question. Most theists are taken aback from this question because to them, their god has always been, he has no beginning and he has no end, so the question seems as ridiculous to them as the original question does to the atheist.

To most atheists we’re happy with answering “I don’t know”. Which in my opinion is the most honest answer anyone can give from either side of the theological fence. Even if you believe that a god created everything, that doesn’t tell you how he did it. Imagine asking a waiter how your meal was prepared and he answers with “The chef made it”. That really doesn’t answer your question does it? If the waiter actually knew, he would either explain how the chef cooked everything, or would say “I don’t know, let me ask the chef.” and you would be satisfied with his answer. However since no one actually can go talk to god and find out how it was all done, believers are stuck in the same pot with atheists in their “I don’t know and neither do you” soup.

That aside, when we do find the answer it will likely come from science and not from religion. Today the best answer for how something can come from nothing comes from Lawrence M. Krauss who is an American theoretical physicist and cosmologist and who is the Foundation Professor of the School of Earth and Space Exploration and director of Arizona State University’s Origins Project. Wikipedia notes that he has been “Working mostly in theoretical physics, Krauss has published research on a great variety of topics within that field. His primary contribution is to cosmology, as he was one of the first physicists to suggest that most of the mass and energy of the universe resides in empty space, an idea now widely known as dark energy. Furthermore, Krauss has formulated a model in which the universe could have potentially come from “nothing”, as outlined in his 2012 book A Universe from Nothing. As his model agrees with experimental observation such as the shape of the universe and the energy density of the universe, it is referred to as a “plausible hypothesis

If you have the time, there’s a great video on youtube where Krauss explains in a lecture at Harvard how a universe can arise from nothing. It’s a long video, over an hour, but it’s worth the watch. (here)

Well Rick I hope that helps. Thanks for the great question and feel free to discuss it more in the comment section below.

62 thoughts on “Something from nothing?”

  1. Hello Rick,

    Yes, this question has shown up a whole bunch in my life since I started talking about atheism online in the past 2 years. As Erick said, I automatically consider it a silly question as much as a ‘true believer’ probably considers it silly to ask, “where did god come from?”

    My personal view on the matter of the ORIGIN is agnostic in knowledge. Not only do I not know, but I strongly think that we, as humans, will NEVER know. I don’t think we are beings who will eventually have all knowledge of how the universe works, and it is just arrogant in my opinion to think that we will. But along with my stance of not knowing, I do also personally believe (or have a gut feeling) that the universe/existence is likely eternal. I’m even skeptical about the existence of time in the grand scheme of things honestly.

    Anyways though, bottom line to me is I personally think it’s an insignificant question and a waste of time to ponder. Whether or not the universe is eternal is of so little significance to my short ~100 year blink of existence that I don’t even find the subject interesting to tell you the truth.

    That’s just another atheist perspective for ya.

  2. So your answer to my question is “I don’t know and neither do you”. I do know that something does not come from absolute infinite nothingness and so do you. The question is not has something always been the question is what has always been? And your answer is “dark energy” has always been. So is it fair to say that Atheist believe that dark energy is eternal. Is this correct?

    1. Adam, I’m sorry I confused you and Erick. You say: “personally think it’s an insignificant question and a waste of time to ponder. Whether or not the universe is eternal is of so little significance to my short ~100 year blink of existence that I don’t even find the subject interesting to tell you the truth”.
      You sound more like an agnostic that an atheist! Why then did you take time to respond?

      1. Hi Rick, I wasn’t confused by your question. And yes, I’m an atheist, not an agnostic (although it might be good to inform you that ‘agnostic atheism’ is quite common, although I don’t have that stance). My atheism does NOT provide me with an explanation or a stance on “the origin of life/existence/the universe”. In fact atheism does NOT even touch on that subject at all. So, yes, I say I’m agnostic on that particular subject (Agnostic = “without knowledge”).

        I took the time respond because you took the time to post the question 🙂 haha. Simple as that really.

  3. Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    Thank you for your response! So your answer to my question is “I don’t know and neither do you”. I do know that something does not come from absolute infinite nothingness and so do you. The question is not has something always been the question is what has always been? And your answer appears to be “dark energy” has always been. So do most Atheist believe that dark energy is eternal? Is this correct?

    1. First, my answer is still “I don’t know”. Krauss’s hypothesis it’s a good one, but it’s just that, a hypothesis. One of the things he claims is that there is no such thing as absolute nothingness. So if he’s right, than that would render your question moot and you wouldn’t know either.

      I guess my question to you would be, how do you know there is such a thing as absolute nothingness?

      1. Erick, Actually I do believe something has always been! In fact that seems to be the one thing we should all agree on is the necessity of an eternal something. The discussion as to what the eternal something is would be a whole other discussion.

                1. Not at all Rick. My original point is that no one knows. You say that something can’t come from nothing but you don’t say what evidence there is that there is our is not a nothing. If you believe that there is no such thing as nothing then you would need to provide evidence for that as well. Krauss does a good job of this himself so I am wondering if you follow Krauss’s reasoning and if so, why?

                    1. Really? I only mentioned him in my post and gave a link to his video. If you didn’t take the time to watch it then blame yourself for your ignorance.

  4. “blame yourself for your ignorance” I am not blaming anyone here that I know of. I just asked a question on this site and you convinced me that you did not know the answer: “First, my answer is still “I don’t know””.
    I’m sorry if you thought I was blaming someone, thank you for your time!

  5. Hello Rick,
    My two cents worth …

    I think that the question of whether there was something that has always existed or nothing is interesting and worth pondering over.
    I do think it is worth spending one’s time over such questions. It can be time wasted though as we might not be able to get to an answer (maybe because we are not even equipped to get the answers – much like ants aren’t equipped to understand arithmetic). But its worth trying – sometimes just because you make so many other discoveries on the way to answering such questions.

    Science tries to explain what existed before the big bang (for e.g. Krauss’s hypothesis) through informed conjecture. Krauss speculates, like a number of physicists, that the energy of the universe is likely zero. Since energy and mass are the same (as Einstein showed) and the total energy of the universe is zero, it looks like the universe is … well … nothing (!) – or that at-least it came out of nothing.

    In quantum mechanics, “nothing” transforms into “something” all the time. (so the statement that something cannot come from nothing is not strictly correct). Particles and antiparticles appear out of “nowhere” and quickly annihilate each other. I think I remember reading that Stephen Hawkings explained black hole radiation through such pair creation near a black hole.
    Krauss, if I am not wrong, uses this fact from quantum mechanics and the speculation that the total energy of the universe is probably pretty close to zero to come up with his universe from nothing theory/ explanation/ conjecture.
    If the conjecture is correct, then the story does not end there. Science will then have to explain quantum mechanics in a fundamental manner. The current explanations (the Born interpretation of the wave function squared being a probability density) aren’t considered satisfactory by a number of physicists. And physicists keep working on getting to a more fundamental explanation.

    Religion on the other hand says “there was god” that always existed.
    But then, when we ask religion what was there before god / how did god come to exist, I don’t think religion tries to dig deeper into the matter.

    The thing is that on the “big” questions, science tries to dig deeper and deeper but religion stops at god (which I believe is why religious thought – even the best of it – is archaic. There is no questioning and renewal … all roads lead to “goddidit”).

    Is Krauss’s conjecture right? I don’t know. Unless Krauss comes up with an experiment that will validate his conjecture, we will not know for sure. The evidence he gives (quantum fluctuations and zero energy of the universe) seems to indicate that his conjecture is correct. And the point is that the evidence that he uses is for all to see, test and measure (provided you have the right equipment).

    When religion says that there was god, it gives us no evidence to support that conjecture. The evidence it gives to support the conjecture is anecdotal, subjective,often based on personal experiences and explainable through simpler explanations.

    1. Rohit, Thank you for your answer, I am not sure I can wrap my mind around “Particles and antiparticles appear out of “nowhere”” without any external contribution, but then we the lay community ultimately lean on faith, faith in Science and/or faith in God.

      1. I couldn’t wrap my mind around it either when I first studied quantum physics (I dropped out of the course in college because to me it made no sense). But then, its difficult to wrap one’s head around even the simplest of equations – like newton’s F = ma (force = mass times acceleration). I mean – why should it be so, why should force equal mass times acceleration, why not mass times acceleration squared?

        These are fundamental questions that physics tries to answer (though not all physicists and not all the time) by trying to find a deeper explanation of nature that hopefully links all laws of nature and requires the minimum possible “axioms” or assumptions.
        —–
        In any chain of reasoning you hit a place where you have to “believe” in certain axioms – certain things that you assume to be true. The test of whether one’s reasoning is sound is usually whether the things that you have to accept as axioms are the simplest possible.
        To me, random quantum fluctuations (which lead to particle and anti-particle pairs all the time – even right now) appear to be a more plausible axiom than a complex and intelligent god. Why – because they are random and thus there is no intentionality behind them (they appear to be a natural process not requiring the work of anything supernatural) and because they have been proven to exist.
        To accept the god hypothesis means I have to stop at an axiom that is not really the simplest. God must be complex if he/she/it exists. Quantum fluctuations are just random and disorderly – something which you expect to see in a nature that is not guided by any intelligent being.

        I believe we become an extraordinary community from a lay community when we shake our faith (or allow it to be shaken), decide not to settle for easy answers and keep searching for the truths of reality till we hit the core. It’s easier said than done – even in the scientific community.
        Science, however, does not say that anything it tells us is the ultimate truth – it says that the search goes on. So it does not allow anyone to have faith that its most recent discoveries are the ultimate truth. Religion on the other hand tries to pass itself off as “revealed truth” – eternal and unchanging.

        1. Rohit, Having slept and my mind rebooted, I essentially agree with everything you have said, however I must confess that the pursuit of God and the complexities of God are no more for the feeble minded than the pursuit of Science. Essentially it would seem you agree “To accept the god hypothesis means I have to stop at an axiom that is not really the simplest”.
          You stated in your first response regarding Krauss’s studies: “Since energy and mass are the same (as Einstein showed) and the total energy of the universe is zero, it looks like the universe is … well … nothing (!) – or that at-least it came out of nothing.”
          If the Universe came out of nothing, it appears that the Atheist perspective (or at least some Atheist) would then credit “nothing” for creating everything rather than entertaining the possibility that a supernatural cause might be responsible.
          Certainly the Atheist community has done a notable job in pointing out the “blind-faith” of many Theist, how is this different?

          1. Sleep is good … “Without enough sleep, we all become tall two-year-olds” (I specifically searched for a good enough saying on sleep – which is something I value a lot – and came across this gem).

            Ok … back to our discussion, Rick.
            Accepting Krauss’s hypothesis is not blind faith in my view. The hypothesis is supported to a large extent by other scientific fact and principles (which are there for all to observe and verify, and also, which are themselves based on the simplest possible assumptions).
            Even if an atheist accepts Krauss’s hypothesis (which probably is correct anyway – but it still needs to be proved) there is a lot of work to be done yet. Krauss’s hypothesis is based on principles of quantum physics and scientists are not agreed on how to interpret these principles. Also, science (physics) is not unified yet – the theories of the microscopic and the very large scale are not fully in agreement with each other and you cannot meld them into one theory of everything (string theorists have been trying to do that but they haven’t really succeeded).

            Assuming Krauss is right, any atheist who quotes him will still confront the following question (which to me seems to be the heart of Krauss’s conjecture, since he seems to be alluding that the universe sprung out of one big enough quantum fluctuation) – why are there any quantum fluctuations at all? Why is it that the laws of quantum mechanics exist?
            Just as a theist has to explain why his god exists, an atheist has to explain why his axioms (in this case the laws of quantum mechanics) are true. Science encourages us to go on and try to find a simpler yet set of axioms (which is what trying to find a theory of everything – like string theory or M-theory – is all about). Religion on the other hand asks the theist to accept the existence of god (it’s prime axiom) on faith.
            ——–
            Now you can say that an atheist who cannot follow all of science or Krauss’s argument has “blind belief”. But due to the technicalities of the math involved, it is not always possible to follow scientists fully – we have to live on the assumption that science (being a conjecture making system that actually allows no faith in anything – even it’s own current theories) leads scientists to deeper truths about reality. We as atheists borrow those insights. I can’t say that this is blind faith. We have every reason to believe that science (being a self correcting conjecture making system allowing no faith and no repose) can be trusted to lead to the right answers.
            If science was dogmatic about its axioms or its basic set of assumptions, it would arouse any atheists suspicions immediately. But over and over again, science has corrected itself and the correction continues, allowing us a clearer and clearer picture of reality.

            1. Rohit,

              It’s not the Science that I refer to as blind-faith; it is the interpretation of scientific discoveries that I am in reference.

              For example: if Krauss proves that the Universe “came out of nothing” the theist knows that this is in perfect harmony with the Biblical view. The atheist ignores the divine implications and “blindly” holds to a less attainable perspective believing” everything naturally come from nothing”.

              1. That’s the point I am trying to make Rick.
                If an atheist holds on to the view that the universe came naturally from nothing he/ she is right. By “naturally” then, he/ she means that natural laws acted in such a manner so as to produce something from nothing. Those laws as per Krauss (if I am not incorrect in interpreting him) are those of Quantum mechanics (quantum fluctuations arise spontaneously) for now. These laws are taken more or less as axioms / first principles by science right now. But science allows, in-fact encourages, us to go behind these axioms and find simpler ones.

                Religion says that something arose from nothing because of god. It basically replaces our absolute current ignorance of why there are any natural laws/ processes that acted on nothing to create something with the label of god. God is the first cause (the basic axiom) for religion.
                Where science says “go on and find simpler axioms”, and an atheist says “hold on, maybe I cannot comprehend these simpler axioms that science is talking about but it doesn’t look like these axioms require a complicated intelligent being to be behind them”, religion says “relax, we know its god. Have faith and take comfort.”
                Its not clear how religion can make that claim.

                1. Rohit, You say: “religion says “relax, we know its god. Have faith and take comfort”. While you are correct that some in religion might feel indifferent to pursue scientific truth, it is not because of religion. You said earlier that many within the scientific community are not compelled to search out these things, some teach, some engage in other support areas of structure, not because they are atheist or theist.
                  This discussion would indicate that the atheist is not open to the possibility of God being the cause agent while many theist are receptive to the findings of science.
                  This blind-faith that there is no God narrows the atheist’s pursuit of “truth” to this physical dimension.
                  Science is not the exclusive playground of atheists
                  Just want to let you know that I appreciate your tone an candor in these conversations, searchers for truth must be open!

                  1. Rohit,

                    The scientist that is an atheist benefits in focus, because his heart is not cluttered with considerations that extend beyond this physical dimension. The atheist scientist’s laboratory is limited to this physical reality.

                    The scientist that is a theist benefits in scope, because his heart is not limited by this physical dimension and has an eternal perspective (extra-dimensional).

                    The lay community, the taxpayer, industry, and the parents of the student-enrollments that fund much of scientific research, look for, and expect, tangible results. As long as the scientific community produces results that improve the lay community’s “way of life”, then little will be said. These lay-investors of science, while they are not impressed by the egotistical babblings of one that has narrowed his perspective of consideration to this physical reality, will look the other way as long as something tangible is produced.

                    Focus is important in any field of study. The atheist scientist essentially believes that all the evidence is before us and that it can be studied and measured. Any search beyond the confines of the physical laboratory is believed to be a waste of time, thus the focus.

                    One gifted in finding “truth” is not necessarily gifted in defining “truth”. We seek the opinions of the “rich and famous” all the time. If someone does something extraordinary, we falsely assume that they do everything extraordinarily. When, in fact, their focus or commitment to a narrow perspective, allows the extraordinary performance; which is the very thing that makes their opinions of little value beyond their field of excellence.

                    Considerations beyond the physical reality inspire mankind, and if, in fact, nothing is to be credited with everything, it ultimately becomes the chief anti-motivator of the lay community.

                    Clearly, the atheist scientist resents considerations that wander beyond the physical arena of applause, but is this not their own quest for personal divinity? They blame the distractions (religion), the short attention span (ignorance), of those that are not fully enamored (worship) by their discoveries. They would not want to share that spotlight with another… god!

                    The real question is not, “Is there a God?” but rather “Who will be God?

                  2. Hi Rick,

                    Just addressing this: “This discussion would indicate that the atheist is not open to the possibility of God being the cause agent while many theist are receptive to the findings of science. This blind-faith that there is no God narrows the atheist’s pursuit of “truth” to this physical dimension.”

                    That does not seem to be the case for most atheists. The vast majority of atheists that I talk to are simply “not convinced” that there is a valid reason to think a god exists. Very few have blind faith about it. In fact most that I have seen specifically say something along the lines of “It’s not that I believe there is no god, it’s that I don’t see any evidence that suggests there is one.”

                    Again, for no atheists that I know of, is it about taking a stance of “there is no god!” and then molding everything else they learn about the world to mesh with this stance. Many have desperately searched for a deity and have come out of a lifelong and deep faith because they just couldn’t find anything “real”.

                    I think it is much (much much) more common for theists to assume the existence of a god, and then mold all other knowledge they obtain to make that assumption make sense.

                    I think one of the major differences about atheists and theists, which most theists don’t seem to understand, is that (I think) most atheists don’t care if there IS a god. In saying that I mean, they aren’t devoting their being to the concept of there being no god. Instead, we say (in large, from my observations), “Hey if god made itself known to me, I’d become a believer in an instant.” And that’s exactly how I feel. I don’t care if I’m wrong. If I’m proven wrong some day, then AWESOME, that just means I’m hopefully closer to reality by letting go of a false stance.
                    i.e. it’s not about being right, it’s about seeking the truth.

                    1. Adam,

                      Thank you, for sharing and I can only assume you are correct, as I know very few atheists. You say: “The vast majority of atheists that I talk to are simply “not convinced” that there is a valid reason to think a god exists”.

                      If science determines that everything was once nothing and atheist then assume that “nothing” is the only candidate for creating “everything” then that is the blind-faith that I reference.

                      So Adam, how would an infinite eternal God make His reality known without compromising His infinite eternal reality?

  6. “First, my answer is still “I don’t know”. Krauss’s hypothesis it’s a good one, but it’s just that, a hypothesis. One of the things he claims is that there is no such thing as absolute nothingness. So if he’s right, than that would render your question moot and you wouldn’t know either.
    I guess my question to you would be, how do you know there is such a thing as absolute nothingness?”
    – Erick
    So, one of the things Krauss claims is that there is no such thing as absolute nothingness. If he is right, then there was never any such thing as absolute nothingness, which will further mean that there was always something instead of absolute nothingness, and that the universe has also originated from that something and not from nothing as so many scientists love to claim.
    So, the next question that can be asked here will be: what is the origin of that something?

    1. Rick,

      I certainly don’t think anything has ever come from nothing. The idea of “nothing” doesn’t even make sense to me to be honest. So I can’t relate to anybody who does think that.

      I don’t see how any method of a god making itself known would compromise its “infinite eternal reality”. But, if a god existed, and it had omniscience…and it created mankind, with our specific set of senses and curiosities…then it should be pretty easy for that god to think of a way to make itself known to us by appealing to our senses and human nature. That is, if it cared if we knew about it at all. Which honestly, if there was a “God”, I find it unfathomable to think that it would care if we knew of it or worshiped it. Those are very human desires.

      1. So Adam,
        Have you studied the Judeo-Christian perspective? There are many throughout history that would say that God has done just what you ask.

        1. I know enough about the Judeo-Christian perspective to know that the holy books are based off of primitive men who plagiarized older stories and spun together a new tale in order to manipulate others.

          Religion and theism are separate. I can understand theism, as a hypothesis. Religion on the other hand gets no respect from me, and I consider it the world’s greatest scamming device.

          1. Oh and if a god cared about me knowing about it, I don’t think my natural tendency would be to doubt the credibility of these holy books, or to be skeptical about claims in general. If a god wanted me to know it, and it was all powerful, it would make itself be known despite my skeptical nature.

        1. Or invisible pink unicorns, or flying spaghetti monsters, or almighty purple snarfwidgetes. You could imagine thousands of unproven causes if you wanted to. However science only deals with what we know and builds upon that foundation. Since there isn’t even the smallest bit of evidence for a god there is no foundation from which to build other then ones imagination. This is what you keep missing in this discussion.

          1. Errick,

            Saying it is so does not make it so, you can continue to say: “there isn’t even the smallest bit of evidence for a god”, in the midst of evidence that you may be wrong.
            How would you want God to prove His reality to you?

        2. Hi Rick,
          Thanks. I think candor is always good in discussions – allows place for all ideas.
          I like what Adam wrote above. Most atheists are basically not convinced that there is enough evidence to support the god hypothesis. I recall reading Bertrand Russell- the story goes that he was asked what if he died and in-fact there is a god and god asked him why the hell he did not believe. Russell said his reply would be simple – “not enough evidence, god”.

          I am one of the “hard” / “strong” atheists who actively believe there is no god. What I have tried to point out in this discussion is the basis of my belief.
          To put it again, simply – science unifies its theories and searches for deeper and deeper simplifications and has been astoundingly (though not fully) successful in it. Given this thrust of science I believe that ultimately we will hit on some very simple principles regarding the laws of nature which will probably be inevitable and self propagating.
          This belief is just a question of taking the quest of science to its logical conclusion. Krauss’s hypothesis for e.g. is a step in that very direction – that the universe sprung from nothing but that nothing is actually something on account of quantum fluctuations.

          One might say that an intelligent being behind the laws of nature is just as justifiable a belief as any other. To that my counter-argument is that it is not, simply because the hypothesis of an intelligent being is not simple and does not simplify things. By itself it is a huge assumption. We only think that the god assumption is simple because we have usually been brought up to believe in it. Its commonplace, so we think it is simple and obvious.
          Also, we are probably evolutionarily wired to believe in external agency behind everything in nature.

          Most atheists assign a very low probability to the intelligent being assumption (mostly because it doesn’t explain or clearly predict anything). I do confess to going one step further and assigning it a probability of exactly zero – simply because it is a very complex assumption and is not in keeping with the way we have been able to comprehend reality through science.

          One does not play god when one says there is no god. In-fact its just the opposite, we submit to the whims of nature and recognize it to be chaotic and ambivalent to/ unmoved by our desires when we say that. If scientific institutions receive money from taxpayers, the same taxpayers give their hard earned money (tax deducted) to churches and religious foundations all over the world to think and do whatever these institutions feel like thinking and doing.
          Anyway, the question I think is not one of ego or resources or fields of excellence here. The question is just one of reasoning, observation and logic which are applicable to all fields of study (except of-course, as we all might agree – politics 🙂 ).

          The atheist logic goes that there is not enough evidence for one to be convinced of the god assumption. But most atheists (except nuts like me) will assign a very low probability to the god assumption and say “I don’t know. It’s unlikely, but I don’t know for sure”.
          The theist logic goes that the god assumption is reasonable (i.e. the probability of it being one of the causes for creation should be high) – but again, I’ll say that I do not see why / how a theist can claim the reasonableness (high probability) of their complex assumption.

          1. Rohit,

            When one limits “reality” to things confined by the Physical Universe, they are saying that all answers then must come from within the confines of the Physical Universe. This perspective while “simpler” would in the light of this discussion seem to restrictive. Realize that the Bible does not claim that God is physical or that God is in anyway bound by or subordinate to the Physical Universe.

            Extra dimensional realities then would be a worthy consideration if in fact “nothing” within the Physical Universe” is responsible for everything.

            Erick, points to the necessity of a beginning “origin”, science has identified this as the “big-bang”, this singularity is also in concert with the Biblical rendition of the beginning.

            So to holds that there is not even “minimal evidence” is not being fair and objective.

  7. “If there was always something, then there was no origin.”
    – Erick
    Believers can also make the same claim about their God, that He was always there, and that therefore He cannot have any origin. But the thing is that they cannot give any definite proof/evidence that this God really exists.

    1. And that’s the difference. Krauss for example builds his hypothesis on what science already knows, which in and of itself is built on the shoulders of discoveries throughout the ages. The god hypothesis has no such foundation other then philosophical speculation.

        1. Again, you can say that about any cause that you can imagine. I could say that the Flying Spaghetti Monster created your god because he lives in a higher dimension then your god. When your foundation is your imagination you can make any baseless claim you want.

        2. If we limit “reality” to only those things that can be defined from a physical perspective then we will have difficulty understanding things that are not physical, like love, faith, hope and joy to name a few.

          1. Love, hope and joy are all emotions connected to how we live our lives. They aren’t physical things which exist on some kind of other “dimension”.

            Faith is simply wishful thinking.

  8. Some people approach the question of where the universe comes from feeling that they already have evidence that God exists and that a particular religion is true, but lets say that you didn’t. If you were approaching this question with no preconceptions, which would be a better answer: “I don’t know” or “God did it”? Here are my thoughts.


    1) We all agree that the universe exists. To believe that something else exists in addition to that requires additional evidence.

    2) Evidence requires that the possibility of reaching a different conclusion existed: otherwise it’s not evidence at all. Lets say I throw a bunch of darts at a dart board to prove that I’m good at darts. You’d consider every dart that hits close to the bull’s eye as evidence that i am, and every dart that lands far away from the bull’s eye as evidence that I’m not. Tests (like me throwing darts) contain the possibility for disconfirmation as well as confirmation.

    3) It sounds like physical evidence could confirm or disconfirm Krauss’s hypothesis. Rohit wrote, “Since energy and mass are the same (as Einstein showed) and the total energy of the universe is zero, it looks like the universe is … well … nothing (!) – or that at-least it came out of nothing.” Presumably, if energy and mass weren’t the same, or if the total energy of the universe wasn’t zero, his hypothesis wouldn’t have a leg to stand on. However, saying that God made the universe is very different. You’re saying essentially that “something that can do anything did something”. There’s no risk in that. There’s no possibility of disconfirmation. Something that can do anything could have made a universe where mass and energy were the same, or where mass and energy were different; where the total energy of the universe was zero, or one where it wasn’t. Saying that God did something is an easy answer, but in this case it’s not an evidence based answer.

    4) If you have no evidence for any explanation, then “I don’t know” is a better answer then “God did it”. Again, to say that something exists in addition to the universe requires additional evidence. We can’t use “God did it” as a default explanation simply because it can function as a cookie cutter response to any question we don’t have an answer to.

    5) When people have given possible scientific explanations, Rick has said that they support his position. He’s said, “if Krauss proves that the Universe “came out of nothing” the theist knows that this is in perfect harmony with the Biblical view. The atheist ignores the divine implications”. Yet he’s also said, “If in fact all agree that something has always been, then we all agree in an eternal imperative.” Well, there’s only two possible options. Either there’s always been something in existence or there hasn’t. Rick can’t claim that both options are evidence for his beliefs. That’s the equivalent of saying that no matter what the evidence is, it’s evidence that his beliefs are right.

    6) He also can’t claim that science is in harmony with the bible. There are several major claims (especially concerning the creation story and Noah’s flood) that are in complete contradiction to scientific consensus. Some theists interpret their beliefs so as to make them compatible with those conclusions. Others simply deny those conclusions. But either way, you can’t rationalize away any science that disconfirms your position, and then turn around and say that science supports your position.

    1. Sasha,

      If “everything” came from “nothing”, or at least nothing that is within the physical Universe, it is absurd to credit then a physical “nothing” with the existence of “everything”.

      An extra-dimensional cause is a logical solution, if science proves that “nothing” within they physical Universe is responsible, then something outside or beyond the physical Universe must be responsible. The “eternal-imperative” would have to be extra-dimensional.

      I make no speculations at this point on what the extra-dimensional eternal imperative is, but only that it is certain to exist.

      Sasha, I can say science is in harmony with the bible to the point of an eternal imperative being responsible for everything. I have not made any claims beyond this point. Adam and Rohit agree, “The vast majority of atheists that I talk to are simply “not convinced” that there is a valid reason to think a god exists”. If you agree with them, then there is evidence that an eternal imperative is responsible for everything. I may be able to say that the eternal imperative is extra-dimensional, depending on the outcome of Krauss’s findings. The fact that two lines of reason point to the same thing does not make the likelihood less, but more likely.

  9. Erick
    It is not true that God-hypothesis has no scientific foundation other than philosophical speculation. God-hypothesis can predict something about the external world that has been found to be correct by the scientific world. Let me first say how God is most commonly described. God is said to be spaceless, timeless, changeless, immortal, all-pervading, one, unborn, uncreated, without any beginning, without an end, everlasting and non-composite. Now there are some attributes of God from which nothing particular can be predicted about the external world, whereas there are some other attributes from which at least one or two predictions can be made. If we say that God is unborn and uncreated, then from these no prediction can be made about the external world. But if we say that God is one, then from this at least one prediction can be made: everything in this universe must be ultimately found to be reducible to one-thing only. This is because we say that God is the source from which everything has originated. Similarly if we say that God is spaceless and timeless, then from these two attributes of God we can predict that space and time in this universe must be relative. Why? Now what does it mean that God is spaceless and timeless? It means that for God space and time are simply non-existent, non-real. But for us human beings they are very much real, existent. If space and time have different values for different beings, then they cannot be said to be absolute. So, if such a God does really exist, then it is quite natural that space and time will be relative. Science has also found that space and time are indeed relative.
    This example shows that God-hypothesis is not merely speculative. Other examples can also be given. God is said to be timeless, and science has shown that at the speed of light time becomes unreal. So a being having zero rest-mass can be timeless. Now, if God does not exist, then why was it necessary for science to show that it is possible to be timeless? God is also said to be immortal, and science has also shown that it is possible to be immortal. Actually a timeless being is also an immortal being. I am very much alive at this moment, but at the very next moment I may die. But in a timeless world this very next moment will never arrive. So a timeless being will never die. If God does not exist, then why has science shown all these things? Just to confuse us? Or, to show that we cannot fully rely on science for finding out the truth about the external world?

    1. Sorry but just because your idea of a god happens to match up in some odd twisting of definitions way, does not mean that it has a foundation in science. It is not objectively verifiable, there is no falsifiability, there is no peer review, there is nothing scientific about it. I can take what you’ve said above and replace the word “god” with “snarfwidgette” and it would be the same argument.

      1. Erick,

        A Scientist’s study is limited to the Physical Universe. While the Physical Universe is an astronomically large laboratory, one would be foolish to speculate on the viability of a reality beyond the walls of that laboratory.

        The Scientist”s opinion has no more credibility than anyone else beyond the walls of their laboratory. We all are entitled to deny that a reality exists beyond this Physical Universe.

        Science gives us empirical knowledge of a vast Universe that we even yet are generally ignorant of. You have said over and over again: “I do not know”, and this is a truthful response that we all need to be comfortable in saying.

        If ones heart hopes beyond this Physical Universe then how does that threaten the one that does not? If your heart is uncomfortable contemplating a reality beyond the Physical Universe, that is your prerogative, it does not threaten me.

        Within this conversation we know that the physical evidence points to an “eternal imperative” and it is most logical that the eternal imperative is extra-dimensional. This is not “pink unicorns” this is reasonable people reasoning together.

    2. Udaybhanu,
      God being spaceless and timeless and everything else that theists attribute it to be cannot really be said to lead to space-time being relative. Space-time is not relative anyway – our measurements of the space and time coordinates of events in it are (due to our relative motions in it).

      If God is spaceless and timeless then it is “trapped” like a photon in some sense – it can perceive no passage of time and can be of no help to humans – so why worship it? Also, there is so much matter in the universe that does not interact with photons for e.g. (what physicists call dark matter). Maybe our timeless God doesn’t interact with it too? Then it can’t really be called omnipotent can it?
      Then it does not say if there is one god, or many gods (that exist outside of space-time). At it’s not clear which one to worship then – the one that created this space-time? Maybe all of them contributed in creating this space-time? maybe there is one leader among them? Maybe they are one?
      Or Maybe assuming that they just don’t exist is the simplest of all assumptions?

      Basically, such speculation (beyond space time) reduces to philosophical speculation and it is of little predictive power at all. It’s a lot of mumbo-jumbo but amounting to nothing.
      Philosophical speculation is always good for the mind – helps us expand our horizons. But at some point one has to weigh the time we put into it against it’s utility.

      God is beyond thought, beyond space time, beyond our imaginations etc, etc. … why does it need to require so much beyond-ness? So much protection from inspection?
      It always seems to recede to a beyond-ness that are defined by science’s current (and ever expanding) boundaries. Maybe it could try and be a bit more accessible, given it’s omnipresence?

  10. Erick
    “And then on the rest of the page it’s fairly obvious how I deduce the remainder of these attributes which form the central core of the theistic notion of God: a personal Creator, uncaused, beginningless, changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless, enormously powerful, and intelligent. In the words of Thomas Aquinas, this is what everybody means by God.”
    The above quote is taken from a debate that took place between William Lane Craig and Quentin Smith on March 22, 1996. The topic was: Does God Exist? The excerpt is from the initial arguments presented by Craig. In the above quote one can find the two terms “spaceless” and “timeless” appearing as well, and so it cannot be said that these two terms are merely my inventions for describing God. In eastern religion also Brahman, the supreme being, is described as spaceless and timeless. If you do not know all these things, then it is your problem, not mine. But you cannot put blame on others for your own ignorance.

    I have given some argument showing that if there is a spaceless and timeless being in this universe, then its presence would make space and time relative. If you think that there are some severe flaws in my argument, then please be kind enough to point them out to me. I will be greatly benefited. But if you cannot, then you will have to admit that the conclusion drawn by me is correct: existence of a spaceless and timeless being in this universe implies the relativity of space and time.

    God-hypothesis can make at least six predictions about the external world. These are as follows:
    1) Space and time must be found to be relative (This is because God is said to be spaceless and timeless);
    2) Time must have to be unreal by some means or other (This is because God is said to be timeless);
    3) Immortality must be found to be written somewhere, in some scientific theory or law or equation (This is because God is said to be immortal);
    4) Volume of the entire universe must be found to be zero (This is because God is said to be spaceless and all-pervading at the same time);
    5) Distance from any point of space to each and every other point of space must be found to be zero (This is because God is said to be all-pervading); and
    6) Everything in this universe must be ultimately reducible to one thing (This is because God is said to be one).

    If any one of above six predictions are found to be incorrect, then God-hypothesis would be falsified. So it is not true that God-hypothesis is not falsifiable.

    You have written: there is no peer review. This shows that you cannot make your own judgments yet. You still require spoon-feeding from peers.

    1. Udaybhanu,
      I’ll try and address the points 1 – 6 above through physics (a subject that I have always been fond of):
      1) Space-time itself is not relative. We are all in it and it exists for all of us. Einstein’s special theory of relativity simply shows that our measurements of events in space-time are relative. We measure events in space-time through 4 coordinates, the differences and rates of changes of which are measured to be different by different observers due to their relative motion in space-time. All this is very neatly explainable mathematically.
      2) Time is not unreal. It is the 4th coordinate used for measurements in space-time. What we call the arrow of time (that arises as a corollary of the second law of thermodynamics regarding entropy of systems) is very real.
      3) Science has not found immortality. The universe in-fact has a fate according to current cosmology – it’s called heat death.
      4) Volume of the entire universe has not been found to be zero. The universe is actually expanding. There are also speculations in physics on the exact radius of the universe very close to the big bang (near planck time – when the 10 dimensions of string theory compactified into 4 according to theoretical physicists). Before planck time, one can say that the volume was zero – but actually it is better to say that there is no concept of volume (since there are probably more than 4 dimensions before planck time … there are 10 according to string theory at-least).
      5) Distance of every point in space from every other is obviously not zero either.
      6) If the energy of the universe is zero … then the universe is basically just reducible to the quantum foam.

      I’d like to refer you (and Rick) to the following link which explains creation physics without mathematics very nicely and with minimal jargon from physics.

      http://abyss.uoregon.edu/~js/cosmo/lectures/lec20.html

      1. Rohit,
        I certainly did not day that Science “has found immortality”. I believe that would be a physical impossibility. I simply point to the evidence of something and the evidence of a physical beginning and determine that an eternal reality is imperative.

    2. Udaybhanu Chitrakar
      What point are you pressing here and why does it matter personally to you? Rohit in his own admission confines his perspective to Science or the Physical Universe. Therefore, any extra-dimensional considerations of the “Eternal Imperative” does not matter to Rohit nor Erik for that matter.

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