In the pages of Scientific American, Lawrence M. Krauss writes:
As a scientist, the fascination normally associated with the classically phrased question “why is there something rather than nothing?”, is really contained in a specific operational question. That question can be phrased as follows: How can a universe full of galaxies and stars, and planets and people, including philosophers, arise naturally from an initial condition in which none of these objects—no particles, no space, and perhaps no time—may have existed? Put more succinctly perhaps: Why is there ‘stuff’, instead of empty space? Why is there space at all? There may be other ontological questions one can imagine but I think these are the ‘miracles’ of creation that are so non-intuitive and remarkable, and they are also the ‘miracles’ that physics has provided new insights about, and spurred by amazing discoveries, has changed the playing field of our knowledge. That we can even have plausible answers to these questions is worth celebrating and sharing more broadly.
This paragraph is a perfect example of why I find Krauss exasperating. They guy seems incapable of thinking and writing clearly.
First of all, no one can have any objection to a replacement of the old Leibniz question -- Why is there something rather than nothing? See On the Ultimate Origin of Things, 1697 -- with a physically tractable question, a question of interest to cosmologists and one amenable to a physics solution. Unfortunately, in the paragraph above, Krauss provides two different replacement questions while stating, absurdly, that the second is a more succint version of the first:
K1. How can a physical universe arise from an initial condition in which there are no particles, no space and perhaps no time?
K2. Why is there 'stuff' instead of empty space?
These are obviously distinct questions. To answer the first one would have to provide an account of how the universe originated from nothing physical: no particles, no space, and "perhaps" no time. The second question would be easier to answer because it presupposes the existence of space and does not demand that empty space be itself explained.
Clearly, the questions are distinct. But Krauss conflates them. Indeed, he waffles between them, reverting to something like the first question after raising the second. To ask why there is something physical as opposed to nothing physical is quite different from asking why there is physical "stuff" as opposed to empty space.
One would think that a scientist, trained in exact modes of thought and research, would not fall into such a blatant confusion. Or if he is not confused 'in his own mind' why is he writing like a sloppy sophomore? Scientific American is not a technical journal, but it is certainly a cut or two above National Enquirer.
To make matters worse, Krauss then starts talking about the 'miracles' of creation. Talk of miracles, or even of 'miracles,' has no place in science. The point of science is to demystify the world, to give, as far as possible, a wholly naturalistic account of nature. It is a noble enterprise and ought to be pursued to the limit. But what is the point of bringing in a theological term with or without 'scare' quotes? The same goes for 'creation.' In his book he refers to the physical universe as creation. But creation implies a creator. Why the theological language? Is he trying to co-opt it? What game is he playing here? Whatever it is, it doesn't inspire confidence in anything he says.
Go back to my opening point. There can be no objection to a replacement of the Leibniz question with one or more physically tractable questions. Unfortunately, Krauss is not clearly doing this. He thinks he is answering the Leibniz question. But he waffles, and he shifts his ground, and he backtracks when caught out and criticized.
Whatever merit his book has in popularizing recent cosmology, it is otherwise worthless. The book is a miserable exercise in 'bait and switch.' From the very title (A Universe From Nothing: Why There is Something Rather Than Nothing), Krauss purports to be answering the old philosophical question using nothing but naturalistic means. But having baited us, he then switches and waffles and backtracks and plays semantic games.
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