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.
Question 52 – http://newadvent.org/summa/1052.htm
Question 45 – http://newadvent.org/summa/1045.htm