A Universe from Nothing: Guest Blog Post by Lawrence Krauss
In the lead-up to the Global Atheist Convention, taking place in Melbourne in April this year, we’re running a series of blog posts by participating speakers. Today we hear from Lawrence Krauss - American theoretical physicist and author of the upcoming book A Universe From Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather Than Nothing.
The question, ‘Why is there something rather than nothing?’ which forms the subtitle of my new book, is often used by the faithful as an unassailable argument that requires the existence of God, because of the famous claim, ‘out of nothing, nothing comes.’
While the chief point of my book is to describe for the interested layperson the remarkable revolutions that have taken place in our understanding of the universe over the past 50 years—revolutions that should be celebrated as pinnacles of our intellectual experience—the second goal is to point out that this long-held theological claim is spurious.
Modern science has made the something-from-nothing debate irrelevant. It has changed completely our conception of the very words ‘something’ and ‘nothing’. Empirical discoveries continue to tell us that the Universe is the way it is, whether we like it or not, and ‘something’ and ‘nothing’ are physical concepts and therefore are properly the domain of science, not theology or philosophy. What I find remarkable is the fact that the discoveries of modern particle physics and cosmology over the past half century allow not only a possibility that the Universe arose from nothing, but in fact make this possibility increasingly plausible. Everything we have measured about the universe is not only consistent with a universe that came from nothing (and didn’t have to turn out this way!), but in fact, all the new evidence makes this possibility ever more likely.
Darwin demonstrated how the remarkable diversity of life on Earth, and the apparent design of life, which had been claimed as evidence for a caring God, could in fact instead be arrived at by natural causes involving purely physical processes of mutation and natural selection. I want to show something similar about the Universe. We may never prove by science that a Creator is impossible, but what is really important to understanding ourselves and our place in the universe is not trying to parse vague philosophical questions about something and nothing, but rather to try and operationally understand how our universe evolved, and what the future might bring.
Progress in physics in the past century has taken us to the threshold of addressing questions we might never have thought were approachable within the domain of science. We may never fully resolve them, but the very fact that we can plausibly address them is worth celebrating. It is this intellectual quest that I find so very exciting, and which I want to share more broadly, because it represents to me the very best about what it means to be human.
I am particularly happy that I will have the opportunity to address these issues at the Global Atheist Convention in Melbourne because it strikes at the heart of what I think the convention is all about: accepting the Universe for what it is, rather than what we would like it to be, and using that understanding to meet the important challenges of the 21st century.
Lawrence Krauss is Foundation Professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration and Physics Department, and Inaugural Director of the Origins Initiative at Arizona State University.
The 2012 Global Atheist Convention takes place April 13-15 2012 at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre. Find out more at www.atheistconvention.org.au . Readings is a major partner and official bookseller of the convention.
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