16th June 2015

Much Ado About Nothing

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
Genesis 1:1 (NIVUK)

In an afterword in the recent book by the cosmologist Lawrence M Krauss, entitled A Universe from Nothing, Richard Dawkins claims, “Even the last remaining trump card of the theologian, ‘Why is there something rather than nothing?,’ shrivels up before your eyes as you read these pages…” Apparently this was not the view expressed by David Albert (professor of philosophy, Colombia University) in his sharply negative review of the book[1]. This negative review, in turn, brought a negative response from Krauss.

The book makes the claim that the laws of quantum mechanics (a branch of physics) have in them the makings of a thoroughly scientific and secular explanation of why there is something rather than nothing. Albert, who has a PhD in theoretical physics, makes the following points about the book. “Where, for starters, are the laws of quantum mechanics supposed to have come from? Krauss is more than up front, as it turns out, about not having a clue about that.” Albert goes on to state that, since the scientific revolution of the 17th century, physics has taken it for granted that there is, at the bottom of everything, some basic elementary eternally persisting physical stuff.

The fundamental physical laws that Krauss discusses in his book are the laws of relativistic quantum field theories. In this case the eternally persisting elementary physical stuff of the world consists of relativistic quantum fields. But as Albert points out, “they have nothing whatsoever to say on the subject of where those fields came from, or of why the world should have consisted of the particular kinds of fields it does, or of why it should have consisted of fields at all, or of why there should have been a world in the first place.”

The review goes on to state that some arrangement of fields correspond to the existence of particles, other arrangements do not. All arrangements of these fields, whether they correspond to the existence of particles or not, “are arrangements of elementary physical stuff. The true relativistic-quantum-field-theoretical equivalent to there not being any physical stuff at all isn’t this or that particular arrangements of fields—what it is…is the simple absence of the fields.”

It is clear from the above that scientists still cannot explain the origin of the universe by purely scientific means; however, it can give the mechanisms by which the universe has expanded to the present day.

The Bible does not deal with mechanisms but begins with a simple statement about origins: in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. This is further expanded in the New Testament which reveals that the universe does not have its origin in the laws which describe it, but in the creating and upholding work of a personal God. The Bible, particularly the New Testament, emphasises the supremacy of Christ. This includes his supremacy over all creation, as the apostle Paul wrote in Colossians 1:15-17, “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”

Creation is not a single act, but the bringing into being, and moment by moment keeping in being, of the whole universe. Behind the laws which describe this universe is the creating and upholding work of a personal God.

Science can answer many fundamental questions about this physical universe and its laws; the Bible is intended to answer some fundamental questions about humanity. Questions of origin, meaning, morality and destiny: these are answered, not by science, but in the gospel message.

Prayer
Father, we thank you that through Jesus you have created and sustain this universe and through him we are given meaning, morality and an eternal destiny.
Amen

Study by Eddie Marsh

[1] Book Review New York Times 23 March 2012 David Albert

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eddiemarshAbout the Author:
Eddie Marsh attends Grace Communion International in Sheffield.

Local Congregation:
Grace Communion, Sheffield
Please email for Meeting Place

Meeting Time:
Saturday 10:30am

Local Congregational Contact:
Email: sheffield@gracecom.org.uk

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Comments

One Response to “16th June 2015”

  1. Jonathan Buck on June 16th, 2015 8:16 pm

    Re: your mention of the origin of the universe being “the creating and upholding work of a personal God.” It struck a chord because I’m reading N,T.Wright’s “Surprised by Hope” which talks of the origin of the universe being love (page 96). Without love would this universe have come into being at all? Only love can explain it.
    Too bad that scientists don’t focus on why the universe came into existence, because why would it exist if there was no purpose to it?

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