Mar 06 2008

Something from Nothing

There are certain Xian fabrications that just won’t die. It’s like getting one of those bad e-mail claims that you know before you type in “snopes.com” is going to turn out to be a fraud.

It’s a fraud. It’s listed as a fraud at fraud-checking sites. And yet, here it is, again, in your in-box. Often you might get it again a few months later from the same person you sent the snopes link to previously.

On our tv list at ACA, a young person wrote to us to ask some questions. I’m glad he’s asking, but one of his questions started out pretty much saying (and please don’t stop me, even though I know you’ve heard this one before): Even though Big Bang has a lot of good theory behind it, I don’t see how something could come from nothing?

Let’s examing “nothing” in the context of Big Bang: “Nothing” in the theory of Big Bang ever states that something comes from nothing. “Nothing” in Big Bang hints at this. “Nothing” in Big Bang could possibly be confused with this idea that something came from nothing. But like a bad penny, it just keeps coming back: “How can Big Bang say something comes from nothing?”

I pointed out that BB doesn’t say that. That there is a Law of Conservation of Matter that agrees with the boy’s observation that “something” just doesn’t seem to come from “nothing”; and I pointed out that the only model of origins I know that states such a thing is creation ex nihilo or “God made something out of nothing.” And I added that that claim boils down to “magic.”

In other words, if I do a card trick in front of you, and you say, “Wow. How’d you do that?” And I say “Magic!” Are you going to think, “Oh. Now I understand how it’s done.” Or are you going to believe I’ve skirted answering you? Telling you “by magic” (or “by god”) tells you nothing at all.

God has not been examined. This make god an unknown variable. God is, quite frankly, X.

Saying “God did it,” while we have no god to examine, is no different than saying “Let’s plug in X as the origin of the universe.” And when someone says, “How did the universe come to be like it is now?” We can say “X did it”—and that’s all the answer we need.

How is X an answer if we have no way to solve for X?


  1. 1

    What I always have to explain is that all the Big Bang theory describes is the event which caused the universe to expand into its present state. I think that when the scientifically illiterate think of the BB, they visualize this big Hollywood movie explosion. Nope, not quite.Phil Plait has a good recent post on what we currently know of the age and development of the universe.

  2. 2

    Does Big Bang Cosmology Prove the Universe Had a Beginning?There is a point in time called the “Planck time” (after the late physicist Max Planck, one of the pioneers of quantum mechanics) before which our ability to infer the behavior of the universe on the basis of general relativity alone is destroyed. The problem is that prior to the Planck time, the universe is so small that quantum mechanical effects become very important. Therefore, a correct description of the behavior of the universe prior to the Planck time requires a synthesis of quantum mechanics and general relativity–a theory of quantum gravity, in other words. And to this date, no full theory of quantum gravity has been developed, much less attained the consensus status that post-Planck-time Big Bang theory enjoys. Without such a theory, we cannot draw from cosmology any conclusions about whether the universe had a beginning or not.Planck time is typically referred to as something like “the first 10^(-43) seconds of the universe.”

  3. 3

    I recently watched the "something from nothing" clip on youtube where the caller hints at an infinity problem. His problem may be similar to one that perplexes me.In order to count as infinity, a quantity must be beyond increase. Infinity plus one is nonsensical. Using this reasoning, I can know for sure that there are not, say, infinite stars since many more stars could fit between the ones that exist. Their number may be beyond imagination (it is), but nonetheless finite.This reasoning is less satisfying when it is applied to time. Since we experience ongoing moments, an infinite amount of moments before now could not have been. Therefore time must have begun. Accounts of time as cyclical do not escape this problem. The unsatisfying bit is that no causal account can bridge a non-time state to a time state, since causality presumes different states in time.I do not know enough about theoretical cosmology to go any further. Neither am I too keen on "space-time". Can anyone find an error in my reasoning, or illuminate me?Thanks!

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