Beware of false atheist advertising!
100% natural! While walking the aisles of a local grocery store, one is likely to encounter this advertising claim a couple dozen times. And in most cases, the term is applied deceptively, as the savvy consumer with a habit of reading product labels knows. Similarly, many famous atheists are fond of suggesting that our universe is the result of natural causes, and therefore, God need not be cited as the cause for the universe. But the savvy consumer of books by atheist science popularizers should immediately recognize that it is absurd to cite natural causes for the origin of the natural universe. To do so would be every bit as ridiculous as citing human causes for the human race.
Physicist Lawrence Krauss’ provides a great example of such a deceptive atheist claim in his book A Universe From Nothing. In this book, Krauss claims that the universe popped into existence out of nothing, and therefore, we need not cite God as the cause for the universe. A 100% natural cause for the natural universe!
Why cite God as an explanation for the universe, he argues, when nothing can substitute for God as an explanation just perfectly? After all, Krauss suggests, particles pop into existence from nothing all the time, in what is known as a quantum vacuum. But, as David Albert (who holds a PhD in theoretical physics) points out in his scathing New York Times book review of Krauss’ book, claiming that particles pop into existence out of nothing in a quantum vacuum is equivalent to claiming that one can make their fist pop into existence out of nothing by closing one’s fingers together:
“Relativistic-quantum-field-theoretical vacuum states — no less than giraffes or refrigerators or solar systems — are particular 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 arrangement of the fields — what it is (obviously, and ineluctably, and on the contrary) is the simple absence of the fields! The fact that some arrangements of fields happen to correspond to the existence of particles and some don’t is not a whit more mysterious than the fact that some of the possible arrangements of my fingers happen to correspond to the existence of a fist and some don’t. And the fact that particles can pop in and out of existence, over time, as those fields rearrange themselves, is not a whit more mysterious than the fact that fists can pop in and out of existence, over time, as my fingers rearrange themselves. And none of these poppings — if you look at them aright — amount to anything even remotely in the neighborhood of a creation from nothing.”
Like Krauss, physicist Stephen Hawking declares (in his book The Grand Design) that nothing is a perfectly reasonable substitute for God as the cause of the universe. But, also like Krauss, Hawking commits an open-and-shut equivocation fallacy by speaking of a quantum vacuum as if it were nothing. (An equivocation fallacy occurs when a person speaks of two different things as if they were the same). A quantum vacuum is far from nothing. William Lane Craig cites elite physicists Frank Tippler and John Barrow in the context of refuting claims made by the atheist physicist Quentin Smith, which are similar to the claims made by Krauss and Hawking:
“The microstructure of the quantum vacuum is a sea of continually forming and dissolving particles which borrow energy from the vacuum for their brief existence. A quantum vacuum is thus far from nothing, and vacuum fluctuations do not constitute an exception to the principle that whatever begins to exist has a cause.”
Please click here to watch Hawking’s colleague, the Oxford University physicist Sir Roger Penrose, describe Hawking’s M-Theory (featured Hawking’s book The Grand Design) as, “Not even a theory. It’s a collection of ideas, hopes, and aspirations.” In fact, Hawking titled his theory “M-Theory” because theories A through L failed to explain away God (just kidding).
As I mention in Is Belief in God Like Belief in Unicorns? , William Lane Craig points out Hawking and co-author Leonard Mlodinov’s painfully obvious equivocation fallacy in an interview about their book with TV talk show host Larry King on Larry King Live:
Hawking: “Gravity and quantum theory cause universes to be created spontaneously out of nothing.”
King: “Who created the nothing? Where did the nothing come from?”
Mlodinov: “According to quantum theory, there is no such thing as nothingness.”
In this ridiculous exchange, Hawking is using “nothing” to refer to the quantum vacuum, whereas Mlodinov uses “nothing” in the traditional definition of nothing as non-being. Again, a quantum vacuum can no more be characterized as nothing than a giraffe, a refrigerator, or solar system, as David Albert points out above. And a particle appearing in quantum vacuum no more constitutes something-from-nothing than a fist appearing when one closes one’s fingers together. Science popularizers who suggest otherwise are using false advertising, pure and simple.