Godless universe untenable
A review of A Universe from Nothing: Why There is Something Rather Than Nothing by Lawrence M. Krauss
Free Press, New York, 2012
Atheists insist that all of nature can be explained on its own terms without invoking a supernatural creator. Some argue, as does Lawrence Krauss (figure 1) in his recent book A Universe from Nothing, that modern science has now made it plausible that space-time, matter-energy, and even the universe can emerge from nothing. As we shall see, these ideas are self-contradictory and not aligned with current thinking—even in the secular scientific community—concerning the possibility of a universe existing in the eternal past. Krauss does provide his readers with interesting insights into physics, the big bang theory, virtual particles, dark matter, inflation theory, the ‘landscape’ of a multiverse, dark energy, relativity, string theory, and science associated with these topics. However, he does not successfully show how the universe could emerge from nothing. Much of what is in Krauss’ book was brought out in a debate with William Lane Craig in 2011 at NC State University, a debate Craig won in my opinion. The debate is available for viewing on the internet.1
Lawrence M. Krauss, Ph.D., is Foundation Professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration and the Physics Dept., Co-Director of the Cosmology Initiative, and Inaugural Director of the Origins Initiative at Arizona State University.
Krauss begins by making it clear he dislikes theism. He argues that science is based on observation and experiment, religion on unprovable faith. He dislikes the definition of nothing as the absence of the potential for existence (he has trouble arguing against it). He starts off on a philosophical note and ends on one, with his science offered in between. He thinks that the direction of scientific discovery is progressively eliminating the need for God as an explanation for natural phenomena and the origin of everything. He thus thinks God is the ‘god of the gaps’ that science will eventually eliminate, although the real arguments are based on what we do know not on gaps.2 Much of his science is speculative. He seems to be saying that what is scientifically plausible is so compelling that theism is automatically an inferior explanation. He does admit, however, that science may never have an unambiguous explanation for the origin of the universe. In a debate, he said he could become a deist.
Krauss admits his atheism. He asks: if God is the answer to the origin to the universe, then who created God? Real Christian apologists, including his opponent Craig, have long argued that it’s only things that have a beginning that have a cause. Christians believe that God is self-subsistent and exists outside of time and had no beginning, properties Krauss wishes nature had. He claims that science is epistemologically superior to revelation, and that theology has not added to knowledge for hundreds of years. He overlooks that modern science arose from a culture that assumed a Judeo-Christian worldview, which believed a reasonable creator would have made a reasonable creation. He admits that Isaac Newton was probably the greatest scientist that ever lived, but overlooks that Newton was drawn closer to God by his discoveries.
Krauss says ‘nothing’ has physical properties because he assumes the eternal operation of quantum mechanics. However, theologians say a quantum vacuum is not ‘nothing’; ‘nothing’ is the absence of the potential for existence. Krauss says that if that is so, then even God can’t create the universe. But this definition of ‘nothing’ simply means the absence of the possibility for existence within itself, and does not exclude the potential for creation ex nihilo by God. Since God exists independently and separately from the universe, then He is the initial ‘something’ from which all else came. It is self-contradictory to say something (the universe = everything in nature) can create itself because if the universe were able to create itself, it would have to already exist (quantum mechanics) and would not need creating.
Krauss says: 1) science is the best way to know things because it follows the evidence wherever it leads, 2) scientists must be willing to find evidence for and against their theories, and 3) experimental results are king regardless of personal preference.
Strictly, his statement is self-refuting, because there is no scientific way to test those three premises. As meta-scientific philosophy, these guidelines for science are commendable, but Krauss does not consistently follow them. For example, William Dembski and several others in the Intelligent Design Movement have shown convincingly that the fine tuning of physics and the information in biomolecules are strong evidence for the creative work of an intelligence and not the result of random natural processes.3 Indeed, Krauss believes we are getting close to showing how abiogenesis may have occurred on Earth when in truth no such breakthrough is near. At best, science has possibly shown how two of the four nucleotides of RNA might have emerged naturally.4 But that is only the first step of a thousand-mile journey to explaining abiogenesis (chemical evolution).
Chapter 1—A Cosmic Mystery Story: Beginnings
Krauss explains how Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity, our best theory of gravity, has been supported by observations such as the precession of the planet Mercury’s orbit and the expansion of the universe. But then he makes a leap to claiming science has shown that the universe emerged from a hot big bang 13.72 billion years ago and continues to expand, and had a beginning. But as we will see, he thinks ours is but one of an infinite number of universes that have been popping out of nothing for all eternity.
Krauss explains the evidence for the expansion of the universe from Edwin Hubble’s work on galactic redshifts. Hence Hubble found empirical support for general relativity. Krauss also asserts that the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation (CMB) and the abundance of light elements (H, D, He, Li) support the big bang model. However, he fails to explain why the CMB fails to cast the shadows expected from the big bang.5
Chapter 2—A Cosmic Mystery Story: Weighing the Universe
Astronomers have been puzzled that the visible matter in the universe can’t account for the rotational behaviour of spiral galaxies; there is not enough mass. So astronomers have proposed an invisible halo of ‘dark matter’. In reality, their physics is deficient—Carmelian special relativity explains the galactic rotation curves without needing the fudge factor of ‘dark matter’.6
Another related problem is that the visible number of protons and neutrons are less than expected based on the abundances of the light elements. Where is the missing matter?
One method for weighing a galaxy cluster is to take advantage of a phenomenon called gravitational lensing. Predicted by Einstein, gravitational lensing occurs when the light from a very distant object passes through the vicinity of a large mass (e.g. galaxy cluster) on its way to an observer on Earth. According to relativity, matter bends space. The bent space around a galaxy cluster would cause the light of the distant object to be bent or lensed on its way to Earth. The amount of bending depends on the mass of the galaxy cluster. Astronomers can determine how much normal matter is in a galaxy cluster by the light from it. The entire mass of the galaxy cluster can be determined by the amount of gravitational lensing of very distant objects. What astronomers have found is that gravitational lensing says there is much more mass present in the galaxy cluster than can be accounted for by normal visible matter alone. Once again, ‘dark matter’ is hypothesized, and once again, Carmelian relativity explains the observations without recourse to this fudge factor.6
After weighing everything, many astronomers say our universe consists of 4% ordinary matter, 23% dark matter, and 73% dark energy. Again, Carmelian relativity predicts the observations adduced to support dark matter.7
Chapter 3—Light from the Beginning of Time
We have already mentioned the CMB as a fallacious proof of the big bang. The CMB has been mapped by COBE, WMAP, Boomerang, and currently by Planck space probes. Astronomers have used the CMB to determine the geometry of space-time. The three possibilities are closed, open, and flat. A closed space-time would occur if the gravity of the matter (all types) of the universe exceeded the rate of expansion. In such a universe, the expansion would eventually reverse and the universe would collapse. In an open geometry, the expansion would exceed the gravity of the matter in the universe and the universe would continue to expand. In a flat universe, the gravity and expansion of the universe are balanced so that the universe expands but at a progressively slower pace. In a closed universe, reversal of the expansion could occur before stars and galaxies have time to form. In an open universe, the expansion could be so fast that gravity would never able to pull the light elements together to form stars. Only in a flat universe are the gravitational forces and expansion rate balanced so that gravity can form stars and galaxies that then continue to exist. According to measurements of the CMB, our universe has a flat geometry. But when it comes to observed matter, the universe seems open: “several measurements currently seem to suggest a density of only a fraction Ω ≌ 0.3 of the critical density.”8 However, Krauss suggest that there is enough dark matter to close the universe.
Chapter 4—Much Ado About Nothing
In this chapter, Krauss gives evidence for entities called virtual particles. They are called virtual because they have never been directly observed due to their fleeting lifetimes (less than Planck time). However, the existence of virtual particles is allowed by quantum mechanics, from the uncertainty principle. There is indirect evidence for their existence. The calculated energy levels associated with the orbitals of hydrogen differ slightly from experimental measurement. However, if a virtual particle pair is assumed to be located around the hydrogen nucleus, the calculated energy levels match the experiment exactly. They are believed to convey the strong force between quarks in protons and neutrons. Virtual particles are usually invoked in strong fields (electromagnetic, gravitational). Hawking radiation, predicted to be a mechanism by which black holes could ‘evaporate’, depends on the existence of virtual particles, but has not been observed so far.
Krauss says a universe where the total mass/energy is balanced by the potential gravitational energy has zero net energy and so could pop into existence from nothing without violation of the first law. Such a universe should, however, collapse and disappear in periods shorter than the Planck time unless inflation allows it to exist beyond the Planck time.
Krauss also says that this proves you can get something from nothing given the energetics of empty space and the law of gravity. So he says you can get a universe from nothing if you can start with empty space with non-zero energy and the laws of gravity and quantum mechanics. He admits empty space with non-zero energy is something!
A quantum theory of gravity would mean quantum mechanics applies to space, not just to objects in space. Then we could say that space-times pop in and out of nothing if the total energy is zero. But we don’t yet have a quantum theory of gravity.
Krauss concedes that this speculation does not prove our universe arose from nothing, but says it makes such a scenario more plausible. And plausibility is apparently all he needs to justify rejection of God. So much for basing his worldview on hard, cold facts alone.
The energy calculated for empty space assuming virtual particles is 10120 times greater than that observed. This is a long-standing unsolved problem.
Chapter 5—The Runaway Universe
The expansion rate of the universe is accelerating. Astronomers used Type 1a supernovae to determine this.9 When Einstein first realized that his Theory of Relativity required the universe to be expanding or contracting, he thought it was wrong and added a fudge factor, the so called cosmological constant, to make his equations give a static universe. Later, after Hubble showed the universe was indeed expanding, Einstein called his fudge factor a great blunder. However, in light of the accelerating expansion of the universe, it appears the cosmological constant is real after all. The cosmological constant means that there is an energy that causes space to expand. This mysterious energy has been dubbed ‘dark energy’. The nature of dark energy is a major problem for physics, again solved by Carmelian relativity without recourse to dark entities.10 Eventually all galaxies will be moving away from us at speeds > c.
Krauss claims the universe is not rotating, but this is still an open question (‘axis of evil’). Polarization of light from galaxies and CMB both point to a similar axis.
Chapter 6—The Free Lunch at the End of the Universe
Krauss says that the flat geometry of space-time requires very specific initial conditions and expansion rate. There is nothing known in physics that required these conditions to exist.
There is another problem in cosmology called the horizon problem. The problem is that the CMB is very smooth (almost the same temperature). At the time the CMB was allegedly emitted, 300,000 years after the big bang, the CMB uniformity implies that thermal equilibrium spanned a range over 10 times larger. But even at the speed of light, heat could not have travelled that far to equilibrate the temperatures (figure 2). Note, this is a ‘light travel’ problem for big bangers, who therefore have no grounds to point to the hoary old distant starlight problem for Genesis.11
A theory called Inflation allegedly solves this and the flatness problem. Inflation says that within a fraction of a second after the big bang, the universe expanded by a factor of 1028. (Relativity allows the expansion of space-time to be faster than the speed of light; it just prohibits objects accelerating to the speed of light through space.) The expansion then settled to a rate similar to today. The predicted pattern of density fluctuations in the CMB that would result from quantum fluctuations during inflation is what is observed in the CMB. Quantum fluctuations would be ‘frozen’ by inflation. No-one knows why inflation would start or stop. The universe became flat because the originally dominant matter density was diluted during inflation to the point that gravity and the expansion were balanced.
Chapter 7—Our Miserable Future
In this chapter, Krauss discusses what will happen to our universe if the expansion accelerates indefinitely. He says that eventually other galaxies will be receding from us at speeds greater than the speed of light so they will disappear. Supposedly at some distant future time even atoms will be torn apart.
Chapter 8—A Grand Accident
Physicists have looked for a theory that would explain everything—why we have the physical laws and constants we have, a theory that would require our universe to be the way it is. However, no theory like this has ever been developed. In fact, Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem shows that none could be developed, as Stephen Hawking belatedly realized.12
As far as we know, there are no laws of physics that require our universe to have the constants and laws it has. It is well known that many of the laws and constants of nature are exactly what they must be for life as we know it to exist. Change any of these constants just a little and you get different elements, different stars, a different geometry of space-time, a different universe! In other words, our universe appears to be fine tuned for life for no apparent physical reason. Christians point to this fine tuning as evidence for intelligent design consistent with the existence of the God of the Bible.
This is where Krauss gets philosophical. He embraces the anthropic principle and the idea of a multiverse. The anthropic principle says that the universe looks the way it does because if it did not, we would not be here. The multiverse idea postulates countless universes with different physical laws and constants (the landscape); we just happen to be in a universe where the physical laws and constants allow for galaxies, planets, and people.
The idea of the multiverse is consistent with some particle physics and string theory. Inflation could explain a multiverse. During expansion, some regions may exit inflation while others continue to inflate; this is the eternal inflation model. Regions that exit will become causally isolated universes. However, inflation models are not eternal in the past.
String theory holds that tiny vibrating strings determine elementary particles and forces. Scientists would like to have a theory of everything, so efforts have been directed at combining relativity with quantum mechanics to produce a quantum theory of gravity. String theory is an attempt at this fusion. String theory says gravitons are the force-carrying particles of gravity but only if strings can vibrate in 26 dimensions. By adding the math of super-symmetry, the number of dimensions is reduced to 10. By this reasoning, we live in a 10-dimension universe where there are 4 large dimensions and 6 dimensions that are so small they elude detection. Physicists speculate that some of the compactified dimensions may be revealed with the Large Hadron Collider. It now appears that branes (membranes) may be the fundamental object, not strings. We still don’t know if string theory has anything to do with the real world.
Krauss says that the difference between speculative physics and spiritual realities is that the former can be measured in principle (p. 133). However, this ignores personal spiritual experience, the fulfillment of prophecies, the empirical detection of design in nature, the historical accuracy of the Scriptures, the over 500 eye witnesses to the Resurrection of Christ, etc. These spiritual realities have been measured in fact.
Krauss says all this speculation (e.g. string theory) challenges the notion that our universe is unique. String theory says there may be as many as 10500 universes with 10 dimensions, 4 of which are large like ours. The theory of everything becomes the theory of anything. Each universe would have different particles, forces, space-time, physics, etc. Allegedly, we just happen to be in one of the universes that has the physics required for our existence. Krauss hopes for a theory of everything that confirms the multiverse and eternal inflation; he would then have support for the landscape and anthropic principle.
But this sort of ‘reasoning’ proves too much. That is, even features that Krauss would agree were designed by humans could be explained as chance, since given an almost infinite number of universes, even the most unlikely events must take place in one of them. For example, even though there is an infinitesimally small probability that ink molecules could spontaneously rearrange to form the content of A Universe from Nothing, we could just happen to be living in the one multiverse where this probability is actualized.
Chapter 9—Nothing is Something
Krauss starts off talking about Newton, revelation versus science, and some philosophical issues. He again mentions how he does not like the definition of nothing as the absence of even the possibility to exist.
He states that the Newtonian gravitational energies of galaxies moving with the Hubble expansion is zero and space-time is flat according to observation.
Assuming the existence of empty space and the laws of physics, space has a non-zero energy. During inflation, the expansion dumps energy into empty space as it becomes flatter and flatter. When inflation stops, the energy of space gets turned into the energy of real particles and radiation (big bang). Quantum fluctuations leave some irregularities in spacetime and hence in the distribution of particles and radiation—allegedly reflected in the CMB (if you can trust the low radiological standards13,14).
Chapter 10—Nothing Is Unstable
Empty space is boiling with virtual particles that pop in and out of existence on time scales too small to measure (shorter than the Planck time). Quantum mechanics allows for violations of the 1st Law of Thermodynamics over brief periods of time. Krauss says nothing always creates something if only for an instant. Quantum mechanics can sneak energy from empty space as long as it is returned before anyone can observe it. Krauss invokes Hawking radiation to support this. However, Hawking radiation has never been observed!
One unsolved mystery is why there is an excess of mater in our universe; this is the Matter/antimatter problem. Why is the universe only made of matter? Matter/antimatter particles annihilate each other to produce radiation. Radiation coverts to equal amounts of matter and anti matter. Krauss says that the CMB suggests the photon-to-proton ratio was a billion to one. He says that by ‘plausible quantum processes’ the universe started out with 1 part per billion more matter than antimatter. Most of the matter and antimatter combined to make photons. Later he admits we still don’t really know how this asymmetry between matter and antimatter began.
Chapter 11—Brave New Worlds
Krauss gives many of his reasons for not liking God as an explanation for the origin of the universe (intellectually lazy, no evidence, god of the gaps, etc., etc.). He asks if God is the answer, what determined God’s rules? [God did; He revealed some in the Bible, and left some for scientists to discover, as Kepler and Newton believed they were doing.] Krauss iterates his ipse dixit that there is no evidence for God—but as shown, his explanations such as multiverses are not scientific and beg the question. He says a first cause is needed for a universe with a beginning but it does not have to be the God of the Bible (he has admitted elsewhere that deism might be true)—but no Christian apologist would claim that, merely that it’s consistent with the Bible; the Bible is supported by other lines of evidence. He suggests the universe might be eternal in the past and future and that physical law may have always existed. He admits that this raises the question of where the laws came from and how they got to be what they are. He asserts that one can’t define ‘nothing’ as the lack of the potential to exist since then even God could not create anything (not true if God is outside of and separate from nature). He says the universe will eventually die a heat death, even protons and neutrons will decay.
He says we must choose what we believe based on fact, not revelation. Yet his faith is based on unproven speculation.
He says science has made it possible to not believe in God (sounds like Dawkins). But God has always made it possible for people to deny him.
- Krauss must assume quantum mechanics so the universe does not actually come from nothing.
- Most recent scholarship on major cosmological theories all require a beginning.15,16 No current theory allows an eternity past! Hence all current theories say there still had to be a beginning.
- Fine tuning is still a problem for materialists. No evidence so far for hidden dimensions, other universes, string theory, etc.
- The matter/antimatter problem is still unsolved.
- Krauss admits deism may be right. His rejection of Christianity seems to be based more on personal rather than scientific criteria.
- Young earth/old universe cosmologies such as Russell Humphreys’ and John Hartnett’s can explain the CMB, abundance of light elements, ‘axis of evil’, expansion of the universe, and the starlight-time problem.
- Even if the landscape and the anthropic principle are correct (there is no evidence they are), one still has to explain origin of life and evolution. However, there is still no evidence for hidden dimensions, other universes, Hawking radiation, etc.
- Much of Krauss’s scenarios is speculative and depends on a quantum theory of gravity which is not currently available. The universe had a beginning (Genesis 1:1) and was created by God for his glory (Psalm 19:1). God has hidden in mystery how the universe came to be (Eccl 3:11). Science may help us see more of God’s glory, but only He can reveal what He has hidden.
- William Lane Craig vs Lawrence Krauss, you tube.com, 16 April 2011. Return to text.
- Weinberger, L., Whose god? The theological response to the god-of-the-gaps, J. Creation 22(1):120–127, 2008; creation.com/gaps. Return to text.
- Reynolds, D.W., Intelligent Design, TASC (Triangle Area Association for Creation) Newsletter, May 2006; tasc-creationscience.org; see also creation.com/design. Return to text.
- Reynolds, D.W., Has Science Found How Life Began and Species Evolved? An Examination of the “RNA World” Hypothesis and Rapidly Changing Lizards, TASC Newsletter, June 2009; tasc-creationscience.org; see also creation.com/rna. Return to text.
- Hartnett, J.G., The big bang fails another test: The ‘background echo of the big bang’ was supposed to cast a shadow—but only if it is really true that this radiation is coming from far away, creation.com/cmb, 15 September 2006. Return to text.
- Hartnett, J.G., Spiral galaxy rotation curves determined from Carmelian general relativity, Int. J. Theor. Phys. 45(11):2118–2136, November 2006; arxiv.org/abs/astro-ph/0511756. Return to text.
- Hartnett, J.G., The distance modulus determined from Carmeli’s cosmology fits the accelerating universe data of the high-redshift type Ia supernovae without dark matter, Found. Phys. 36(6):839–861, June 2006, arxiv.org/abs/astro-ph/0501526. Return to text.
- Kamionkowski, M., The case of the curved universe: open, closed or flat, Science 280:1397–1398, 1998. Return to text.
- But see de Repentigny, M.B., What are type 1a supernovae telling us? J. Creation 25(1):123–127, 2011. Return to text.
- Oliveira, F.J. and Hartnett, J.G., Carmeli’s cosmology fits data for an accelerating and decelerating universe without dark matter or dark energy, Found. Phys. Lett. 19(6):519–535, November 2006; arxiv.org/abs/astro-ph/0603500. Return to text.
- Lisle, J., Light-travel time: a problem for the big bang, Creation 25 (4):48–49, 2003; creation.com/lighttravel. Return to text.
- Sarfati, J., Hawking atheopathy: famous physicist goes beyond the evidence, J. Creation 25(1):25– 29, 2011; creation.com/hawking (review of Hawking’s book The Grand Design). Return to text.
- Robitaille, P.-M., WMAP: a radiological analysis, Progress in Physics 1:3–18, 2007. Return to text.
- Hartnett, J.G., WMAP ‘proof’ of big bang fails normal radiological standards, J. Creation 21(2):5–7, 2007; creation.com/wmap (discussion of Robitaille, ref. 14). Return to text.
- Grossman, L., Death of the eternal cosmos, New Scientist 213(2847):6–7, 14 January 2012. Return to text.
- Catchpoole, D., Physicists: The universe had a beginning, creation.com/universe-beginning, 5 June 2012 (discussion of Grossman, ref. 160). Return to text.