October 24, 2010

The Universal Nothing That Is Something

Justin Katz

So, you might have come across the minor splash that physicist Stephen Hawking recently made by publishing a book that declares the concept of God unnecessary. Physicist Mike Flynn notes some need for specificity of terms, in such conversations:

... to say that a space-time manifold came from "nothing" is a stretch. The "no-universe state" is not nothing. It is a particular quantum state in "an intricate rule-governed system" and has "specific properties and potentialities defined by a system of mathematical laws." IOW, there is a whole pre-existing system of quantum physics from which it comes. And this is why Hawking can talk about physical laws before there is anything physical to obey them. See item 2, above. IOW, he has not conceived of Nothing. There is always Something pre-existing.

Barr draws an analogy to the banking system budding off savings accounts. There is a difference between an account with no balance and no account at all. And even when there is no account, there is an "intricate rule-governed system" of banking laws that allows an account to come into existence. That isn't nothing.

Applying this clarification to the argument on the table, Flynn finds Hawking to be rephrasing the explanation for the origins of the universe offered at the beginning of the Gospel according to St. John. It's a very interesting dynamic of atheistic science that the farther it advances in search of non-religious causes, the closer it brings our understanding to God — if one just steps back from the equation and incorporates the fact of being.

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My head hurts.

Posted by: michael at October 24, 2010 12:25 PM

I wish I could I believe that I fully comprehend Hawking.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at October 25, 2010 1:01 AM

Sorry Justin, but I'm still not convinced. Just because we don't know the answer doesn't mean I should accept on faith an answer that another person, long ago, put over on a credulous public.

Posted by: BobN at October 25, 2010 4:59 PM


I think you misunderstand. I'm not making a negative point about what is not known. My opinion is much more a negation of the possibility of disproving God.

I'm arguing that religious --- specifically Christian, and more specifically Catholic Christian --- thinkers have used reason and intuition (aka revelation) to generate conceptual frameworks by which to understand reality, and as we learn more about the way the universe works, that picture is fleshed out rather than disproven.

Posted by: Justin Katz at October 26, 2010 9:14 PM
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