More on Krauss’s Nothing

Will we have much ado about nothing? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Last time, we noted how Krauss begins his book with early on asking “Who created God?” I had stated that I did not expect to find much more of substance in theology and philosophy beyond that. I was not disappointed.

This does not mean that the history of astronomy and the scientific information is uninteresting. Indeed, it is and this is to Krauss’s credit. When he talks in his field, he pays great attention to detail and wishes to make sure the information is presented accurately.

He’s not so charitable with other fields.

Myself, not knowing his field, will not really comment on it. This is sadly a lesson the new atheists haven’t learned thinking that their field of knowledge is often the only field and all others are just mere servants of their one field. If something is scientific, it is not worth talking about.

I find such an attitude not only wrong, but an insult to science. It is as if a true scientist will not trust his wife when she says she loves him but will need to do experiments. It is as if someone cannot know anything apart from what they learn in science. When science seeks to become a methodology and becomes a worldview instead, it quickly becomes as much holy writ as the very Scriptures atheistic scientists seek to denigrate.

Krauss does make mistakes that show a lack of study of those he critiques. For instance, he writes about how many angels could dance on the head of a pin on page 65 and how Aquinas answered this, except Aquinas did not answer it! No medieval asked it. They instead asked about the relation of angels to place. One can read question 52 of the Prima Pars of the Summa Theologica for his look at this at newadvent.org. There will be a link at the end.

Starting on page 141, Krauss talks about miracles. Krauss states that miracles no longer occur though they apparently did in the past. Yet had he accepted the same testimony, he would hear they occur in the present. People today in the modern world believe they have been the recipient of a miracle or seen someone be.

Now of course, Krauss will not believe this, but what we are saying is that the testimony is there just as it was in the past. All Krauss believes is that they have not happened and the time period would not make a difference as we find claims in both periods. Why does he make a case then as if such claimants have ceased?

On page 143, Krauss says when we ask a Why question, we really mean a How. Perhaps sometimes we do, but upon what basis can he say that all why questions like this are how questions? Could it be some people are actually interested in asking why something does this even after they know how it does it? It’s more likely that Krauss is trying to avoid teleology, which is a strong indicator of purpose.

On page 144, Krauss argues that science makes new discoveries while theology does not. Most likely, Krauss could simply go to a library and get a theological journal first off and see what is being debated. Even if he could not find something new, his point is still invalid.

Philosophy and theology work differently. For those, we have had the foundations to work with for thousands of years. Most of us do not expect new data, but rather a deeper understanding of the data that we have and a newness in application. Perhaps we are not coming up with new moral principles, which is ridiculous, but that does not mean we dispatch with the ethicists and say they contribute nothing to knowledge.

You can be a good physicist today and never read Newton. You can be a good biologist today and never read Darwin. This is because those fields start from matter and go to other principles from there and rely on the latest material. A knowledge of how one got there could be fun and beneficial, but it is not essential.

On the contrary, with philosophy, you will need to know older material. You will need to know Plato, Augustine, Aristotle, and Aquinas, as well as numerous others. You will want to know what Descartes, Hume, Kant, and others have said. Later philosophers would most likely respond to the old systems without presenting much that is new, although some do of course. The same could be said of theology.

But the underlying idea is that theology and philosophy are not science, therefore they are not sources of knowledge.

On page 149, Krauss says his definition of nothing is empty space and that when he considers Aquinas and others, that this is what they had in mind. It is remarkable that in the same paragraph he talks about those who redefine the word when this is exactly what he has done right here. Aquinas meant “non-being.” He was a metaphysician and not a cosmologist. For an example of how Aquinas used it, see Question 45, article 1. I will show some of it here. I recommend reading the whole of his work on creation.

“I answer that, As said above (Question 44, Article 2), we must consider not only the emanation of a particular being from a particular agent, but also the emanation of all being from the universal cause, which is God; and this emanation we designate by the name of creation. Now what proceeds by particular emanation, is not presupposed to that emanation; as when a man is generated, he was not before, but man is made from “not-man,” and white from “not-white.” Hence if the emanation of the whole universal being from the first principle be considered, it is impossible that any being should be presupposed before this emanation. For nothing is the same as no being. Therefore as the generation of a man is from the “not-being” which is “not-man,” so creation, which is the emanation of all being, is from the “not-being” which is “nothing.” ”

Please note this. Of all the times Krauss talks about what Aquinas thought, not once does he give a reference or directly quote. It is most likely that Krauss has never read a word of Aquinas. If he has read anything, it is likely a Wikipedia article on him. Krauss redefines what Aquinas means by nothing and then complains that too many people redefine what the word “nothing” means.

You just can’t make this stuff up.

Chapter 11 is the greatest train wreck in the whole book.

Krauss starts with a question about morality and refers to Steven Pinker with the Euthyphro dilemma, as if this is something new for theologians. We’ve only had it since the time of Plato. Krauss is either unaware of the replies or doesn’t care, or a sad combination of both. No voluntarist would be convinced by his words as they know this objection. I would state how we know what is good differently by seeing what goodness itself is and realizing God is the perfection of goodness, but alas, such ideas never enter Krauss’s mind. One can be sure that there are simplistic disagreements with the Big Bang that Krauss would not want anyone putting forward, but he does the same with theology.

Krauss says in this chapter that the first cause or unmoved mover does not bear a relation to the God of the great religions of the world, but this is to say the argument is to prove a great religion. One could prove the Five Ways of Aquinas entirely and it could still be the case that Christianity is not true. Maybe Judaism or Islam or some other belief system is.

However, the deity shown through reason alone is not incompatible with the Christian God. It is just a small piece of the theistic pie of course, but it is still a piece and the existence of that piece is all that is needed to refute atheism.

On page 174, Krauss says that the idea of “Out of nothing, nothing comes” has no foundation in science. Perhaps it doesn’t when using the scientific meaning of nothing, but not the metaphysical meaning. Krauss has just changed the definition.

Krauss also speaks of how we say God created out of nothing. This is a misconception, as if nothing was something that God had to work with and with that nothing He pulled out something. What it means is God needed no pre-existing material to form anything. He merely created something more by His own will.

The sad reality is that in all of this, I see no clear explanation of how something comes from nothing. The book fails to deliver on its main promise.

Finally, in an Afterword by Richard Dawkins, Dawkins says that David Hume would not have to get out of his armchair to answer the objection that God did something because Hume would just say “Who created God?” It is amazing that Dawkins has been corrected on this ad infinitum, but he still plows on in the exact same direction.

Dawkins thinks that as one reads Krauss’s book, the question of “Why is there something rather than nothing at all?” shrivels up. It is more likely instead that Dawkins has such an inferior grasp of the issues that he doesn’t realize that what he considers a knockout blow, in his own words, is nothing more than a tickle that brings some laughter. That atheists are convinced by this goes to show how little the atheists understand of what they speak.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Question 52 – http://newadvent.org/summa/1052.htm

Question 45 – http://newadvent.org/summa/1045.htm

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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