The current battle that’s being raged on the fields of academia is over the definition of ‘nothing’. Some physicists, notably Lawrence Krauss, are asserting that the universe can indeed come from nothing, contrary to traditional thought on the subject. Nothing from nothing comes.
The issue surfaces when the definition of ‘nothing’ as the total absence of all being, as has been the classical definition, becomes roughly ‘an odd kind of something governed by the laws of physics’. This has, surprisingly enough, caused a lot of debate. There is more to this cosmological battle, of course, than simple definitions. By attempting to show that a universe can come from nothing, Krauss and others (Richard Dawkins comes to mind) hope to show that the last bastion of religious and philosophical thought has been stormed – if it can be shown that the universe can arise from nothing, then sure a creator isn’t needed. This would seem to be a great victory for non-theism.
This is a very quick overview of the issue, however. A simple google search will yield more in-depth information on the subject.
My own thoughts on this debate: why is this seen as a threat to theism? To my mind, this is just another instance of how amazing the universe is: that nothing literally has to be redefined is amazing to me. Maybe it won’t be, and maybe in the future this will be seen as a really stupid debate, but at the moment, it’s very exciting. Obviously, God isn’t something that is simply postulated as the best explanation for the existence of the universe – one that can be explained away by an exciting new discovery. If this turns out to be the correct interpretation of the data, what follows? That there is no God?
I don’t think so – and neither do any other Christians I’m aware of. There may be a debate on the attempt to redefine the word ‘nothing’ and some of the other philosophical debates around the issue – but these aren’t the desperate defences of desperate theists desperate to hold back to surging forces of non-theistic science from overwhelming their fortress of nothing. These are (or at least should be) academic debates on the nature of the physical world, not attacks or defences of theistic positions.
However, since it does appear that this debate is motivated at least in part by a desire to remove God from the question ‘why?’, I shall end this post with a rather provocative quote:
‘The singularity of the universe is a gigantic springboard which can propel upward anyone ready to exploit its metaphysical resilience and catch thereby a glimpse of the Ultimate and Absolute in the form of a unique inference. Catching that glimpse, or sensing the truth of that inference, is always transitory, nay momentary. Our need and hunger for the sensory quickly pulls us back to things tangible which, when properly touched, will again propel our minds toward the Absolute as the explanation of what is singular and contingent. The alternative to this continual surging upward is to envelop existence in a never-to-be-resolved mystery. Those who prefer this mystery-mongering to an explanation which is a surrender to the existence of the Creator, are right in stating that no surrender is without agony. As to the agony of surrendering to the Creator, it certainly does not have its source in that cosmology which more than any other branch of science showers nature in her powerfully strong, yet beautifully lucid singularity.’ (Stanley Jaki ‘The Roads of Science and the Ways to God,’ p. 278)