The Lateran IV Council of the Catholic Church in 1215 proclaimed that:
“God… creator of all visible and invisible things, of the spiritual and of the corporal; who by His own omnipotent power at once from the beginning of time created each creature (from nothing), spiritual and corporal, namely, angelic and mundane, and finally the human, constituted as it were, alike of the spirit and the body (D.428)” “Deus… de nihilo condidit.” God, out of nothing created all things (even the angels). Angels, huh ? Really?
Lions and tigers and bears, oh my.
‘Ex nihilo nihil fit’ “Out of nothing, nothing comes” unless God decides to create something from nothing and only he can do so and did so. That’s the crux of the theological and philosophical biscuit.
This idea has been around for millenia, going back to the Greeks (doesn’t everything?).
And thus it came to pass it became a religious truism and a dogma of the Church for the last 1,000 years or so and it has creeped along silently deep in our culture ever since as sort of an unquestioned cosmic given:
“Once upon a time there was absolutely nothing, and God made everything out of it.”
It seems to have permeated philosophy as well as theology, but not modern science. Scientists are always willing to adjust their metaphysical assumptions to whatever they actually find in the world, our theological and philosophical friends appear a bit more recalcitrant.
What if despite the Lantern Council’s proclamation, there is no true absence of anything, be it matter or energy (which we know from Einstein’s E=mc2 are manifestations of the same “thing”). What if we discover, as is the case of otherwise empty space devoid of matter, there is an energy, space isn’t really completely empty, so far we find there is always some thing there, matter or energy, the true absence of any thing doesn’t exist. What if this nothing, nihilo, is merely an idea, an old idea, a very old idea in philosopher’s and theologian’s heads?
What if true absence of “anything” is merely a metaphysical construct, an imaginary idea like the firmament, caloric, heaven, phlogiston, protoplasm, monads, hell, soul, or the luminiferous aether; all entities once proposed to explain how reality really is that are not found in the world we find ourselves in.
Like unicorns… they are in the Bible, after all.
Lawrence Krauss’s book: “A Universe from Nothing” is a fascinating and dense wind through modern cosmology that redefines “nothing” and shows that from the kind of “nothing” the physicists find “something” (our universe and everything in it) can and most likely did come “ex nihilo” without need, without evidence of any god… and the philosophers and theologians aren’t satisfied with the cosmologist’s answers.
They want the theoretical physics to describe and the experimental physics to discover the theologians’ “true and absolute nothing“, the “nihilo“, the kind out of which nothing comes… unless God decides to create it. And they want evidence of god. So far none is forthcoming.
So check these two videos of Lawrence Krauss in Stockholm: the first is his lecture on the “Universe from Nothing” and the second another whole hour of Q&A, with a very impressive panel of educated folks… and it gets a bit testy.
Why? Why the anger? Kids get beat regularly all over the world just for thinking different than their parents and our history is littered with examples of adults killing each other horrifically and wantonly over differences in mere ideas, like burning each other at the stake for arguing over how one believes in the Trinity. We will kill over trivia, even wholly imaginary trivia.
We humans really get torqued over mere ideas. We are really emotionally invested in our thoughts and especially our pronouncements, especially the supernatural and metaphysical ones.
So Krauss says that the nothing discerned by modern cosmology isn’t really nothing; empty space has energy, and the physicists and cosmologists are led to the conclusion that our universe just may be one of an infinite number of universes (the “multiverse” idea). So there may not be the kind of nothing the philosophers and theologians have assumed must exist for their god to pop all of existence out of.
For Krauss the multiverse is “well motivated,” while the others on the panel (theologians, philosophers, and some rather educated journalists –rather impressive-this is not Fox News) decry that Krauss and his colleagues are just doing their own speculative metaphysics in postulating a multiverse, merely to dodge the real explanation from nothing the philosophers expect.
They misconstrue the multiverse conclusion as if it were a theory, an ad hoc hypothesis more precisely, posed to avoid finding the “nothing” ours came from. Again “ex nihilo” is assumed as an unquestionable entity because it is in the cultural background so entrenched they expect Krauss and the whole of cosmology and particle physics to find it.
Krauss explains here in the lecture and Q&A video and in his book that the multiverse is not a theory someone made up, it’s a prediction, a component of, a consequence of the early inflation of the universe, it is not a separate theory just posed, or an ad hoc explanation pasted on or just made up to explain where our universe came from, how our universe appeared. The folks on the panel want “nothing” because “out of nothing, nothing comes” therefore God. You need an intelligent agent of some kind to make “something” out of nothing.
But that’s just made up. It’s just an old idea. It is merely another construct; there is no theory or observation behind it, wholly unlike the gozillion observations and theoretical paths in cosmology and particle physics that lead to the multiverse conclusion.
Ironically, the philosophers and the theologians through the centuries sitting in their armchairs actually observed “nothing” to get the ex nihilo idea: they did no experiments, didnt arrive at any theoretical constructs built on observations, experiments or calculations that lead them to the proclamation of the ex nihilo. They made it up. It has no basis in the real world. It is pure speculation. Which is exactly what most philosophers and all theologians do, with the exception of some modern philosophers who take the empirical findings of science as their starting point: Dan Dennett, Peter Singer, Paul and Patricia Churchland to name a few.
On the contrary the multiverse conclusion and the observation that space is not really empty is based in what we have found, the real world we find ourselves in.
As Krauss says:
“While inflation demonstrates how empty space endowed with energy can effectively create everything we see, along with an unbelievably large and flat universe, it would be disingenuous to suggest that empty space endowed with energy, which drives inflation, is really nothing.” (p.152)
My previous post stressed the importance of our progress as a species in discerning our world by actually going out into it and testing our conjectures. We can’t sit back in our armchairs and ruminate and then pontificate any longer. We have to test our ideas in reality. Oddly enough, some folks don’t like that at all.
So what comes out of nothing: No observation, no experiment, no verification, no replication? Murda taurturum.
Krauss, L. (2012). A Universe from Nothing. New York: Atria.