I’ve just purchased the book A Universe from Nothing by Lawrence Krauss, and am eagerly awaiting its arrival from Amazon. I’ve done a bit of reading on the book and found, to my disappointment, that Dr. Krauss does not in fact explain why we have a universe. In fact, Dr. Krauss apparently makes some common mistakes of logic that are, I think, very ancient. I will reserve my judgement on the book until I get it and get to read what a physicist thinks about theology.
However, this short piece is on what a student of theology thinks about physics, an equally bracing and invigorating endeavor, I hope. In a review of Dr. Krauss’ book, I found an interesting statement that reinforced something I had known for a while: modern science does not attempt to explain where the laws of physics or quantum fields come from (http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/cross-check/2012/04/23/science-will-never-explain-why-theres-something-rather-than-nothing/). They are givens, already on the field before the game starts. So when a professor of physics states in his blog (http://www.csicop.org/sb/show/why_is_there_something_rather_than_nothing) that we can model “nothing” at the beginning of time, he slips in that we also need to imagine first a “monochromatic electromagnetic field.” Now, Dr. Stenger, whose blog I’m referencing, does not tell us where this field came from. Nor does he explain how the field, being something, is also nothing.
Anyone familiar with the ancient world will see what is happening here. Such attempts are nothing more than the old model of pagan “creation” stories. We begin with Gaia, or Uranos, or Ginnungagap, or the deep. From these things, other things arise. The world cow, Audhumla, licks the ice and a head appears. The world gives birth to the sky, or vice versa, and then all things come from their union. The hero rises from the depths of the primordial ocean.
Or, in the modern world…a monochromatic electromagnetic field gives rise to particles because it is unstable.
They are the same answer to the same question. They answer it in the same way, and they fail at answering it in the same way. For the Norseman, Ginnungagap simply was, and then there was the cow, and the first giant. For the modern physicist who tries to explain these things, there are fields. And while the modern physicist has bigger words (though Ginnungagap is pretty big and much more fun to say than monochromatic), he doesn’t have more precise tools to answer the real question. Where did Ginunngagap come from?
For, no matter how we torture the words, we cannot explain quantum fields by means of quantum fields, just as the heavens are not an explanation for themselves in the Greek myths. Quantum fields are not self existent. For quantum fields are in relationship to each other in a context. One field is not the other, nor is it the context in which all the fields exist. For two things to have relationship to each other, they must exist within a shared context. Anything that exists within a context is not self existent, for if it were, the principle of its own being would be itself. If that is the case, that being can have no shared reality with anything else unless that reality is based on the self-existent object. Quantum fields do not have the principle of their own existence within themselves. We know this because they are in the universe. The only thing that we know of that could fit the requirements of a self-existent thing, as far as our reality is concerned, is the universe itself. And here I mean that vast empty space with no attributes, not the ever expanding conglomeration of space-time that we inhabit.
And here is where the problem of a self-existent universe comes in. For if the vast empty space with no attributes is self existent, then how does it come to have things inside of it. It is logically possible, as I said above, for a self existent thing to bring other things into being that have a shared context with each other, and with the self existent being. However, if that being is simple, (and it must be, for if it is composite, where do its composite parts come from?) where does its creative power come from? For to create is the function of a mind and power. Thus, if the vast empty space is self-existent, then it must also be a mind and agency. But then these two ideas are obviously contradictory. For if the endless empty space is truly empty, then where is the mind and what is the tool of its power? If we say one of the things in the universe, we have contradicted ourselves, for the question is where those things come from.
Christianity answers all of this and says that the self-existent being is simple, non-composite, and creates a separate reality from itself that exists as a dependent on that self-existent reality. That being is mind, meaning that it thinks and has a will. It chooses to create something other than itself. It is omnipotent, and thus has the ability to create.
Now, all of this has been said before. But what I would like to propose is that there is an element of this that is not often considered. And here is where I will bring in my other area of some knowledge, computer programming.
When we create virtual worlds, such as video games, we create an interesting three layer reality. There is the reality inside of the game world, where objects relate to each other by the rules of the world. There is the reality that we exist in, where the game is represented by electrical impulses and silicon in our computers. Then there is the layer which defines the world of the game, in other words, the computer code. That code exists in one way in our reality, and in another way in the game’s reality. In our reality I can write:
void CalculateVelocity(ref GameObject O)
if (O.Mass > MassLimit)
O.Speed -= 1;
In simple terms, this simply means that I can check the mass of an object in my game world, and make a choice. If it is higher than a threshold that I set, then the speed of the object decreases. If it is not, then it increases.
Now, there are two things to note here. First, this is not a representation of how mass and speed work in our world. I know that much science. Second, this doesn’t matter at all, because that code is defining how mass and speed work in the virtual world that I’m creating.
What is fascinating is that in the game world, these rules work just like the laws of physics. You can observe them working, and you can, through experimentation, deduce what they are. But, search the whole game world and you will never find them. Because they both exist and do not exist in the game world. They are part of its makeup, but not in the same way that the objects in the world are. They are not affected by the laws of the world; they are the laws of the world. And the laws of a world, while observable, are hidden.
And this is a good hint to us that we live in a created universe. For, just as we create very small virtual worlds, and observe that they function a certain way, we observe that our world works in the same pattern. And since we know for certain that the virtual worlds are created worlds, it may be a safe bet to say that the universe, which displays this same strange quirk of having observable but hidden laws, is also a created thing.
It also shows why science can never answer the question of “why there is something rather than nothing.” For while it might catalog everything in the universe, the laws of physics and quantum mechanics are not “in” the universe the same way that matter is. They govern the universe. But to govern it, they must be, in some way, outside of it, and therefore outside of the reach of science. They are, even if we do not think of them this way, supernatural to the universe.
And thus, without a real understanding of the doctrine of Transcendence, which the ancient pagans did not have (with the possible exception of Plato), the best we can do is Ginnungagap and the monochromatic electromagnetic field. We find that materialism always leads to the same results, just with different formulations. And, contrary to Dr. Strenger’s strange assertion, we do not fall back as a last resort to the question “why is there something rather than nothing?” Instead, we begin with the revolutionary and startling statement:
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.