Nothing is a big deal in physics nowadays. As noted in a previous post, scientists have found that even seemingly empty space actually is seething with energetic activity.
So much so, as cosmologist Lawrence Krauss describes in his new book, "A Universe from Nothing," nothing can reasonably be viewed as the creative principle which brought the universe into being -- a job most religions give to God.
We have discovered that we live in a universe in which empty space -- what formerly could have passed for nothing -- has a new dynamic that dominates the current evolution of the cosmos.
We have discovered that all signs suggest a universe that could and plausibly did arise from a deeper nothing -- involving the absence of space itself -- and which may one day return to nothing via processes that may not only be comprehensible but also processes that do not require any external control or direction.
In this sense, science, as physicist Steven Weinberg has emphasized, does not make it impossible to believe in God, but rather makes it possible to not believe in God. Without science, everything is a miracle. With science, there remains the possibility that nothing is. Religious belief in this case becomes less and less necessary, and also less and less relevant.
I've finished reading Krauss' book. Now I better understand why this statement by Richard Dawkins in his afterword to "A Universe from Nothing" isn't as overblown as it will seem to many.
Even the last remaining trump card of the theologian, "Why is there something rather than nothing?" shrivels up before your eyes as you read these pages. If On the Origin of Species was biology's deadliest blow to supernaturalism, we may come to see A Universe from Nothing as the equivalent from cosmology. The title means exactly what it says. And what it says is devastating.
Devastating to religiosity. Devastating to a belief in a creator God. But for me, the message is wonderfully inspiring.
The Beatles sang, "All you need is love." I'll agree, so long as what is loved is real. Love minus reality is fantasy. Like John Lennon, I'm also a lyricist, albeit a crappy one. As shared before, here's an original song that I like to sing in the shower.
I love my dog.
I love my cat.
Only problem is,
I don't have a cat.
It's hard to love
What you don't have.
(If the song seems stupid when you just read the lyrics, believe me, it sounds way stupider when I sing it off key.)
I used to love God. Now I realize that I never did. I loved my idea of God, my fantasy of God. The real universe, nature, is so much more lovable that any imagined divinity. As Krauss says, "We need to live our experience as it is and with our eyes open. The universe is the way it is, whether we like it or not."
Speaking of "is"...
The mystery of is-ness remains even after science has discovered how a quantum vacuum of nothingness could produce not only all the stuff that exists within the vastness of space, but even space itself. So when Dawkins speaks of science coming to grips with the Big Question of "Why is there something rather than nothing?", this doesn't mean that science knows why existence itself exists.
Nor does religion. The existence of is-ness, of anything at all, is a primal mystery which almost certainly will remain an enigma to the human mind.
Why? My theory is that the question itself is meaningless from a cosmic perspective. We humans are used to everything having a cause, so we extrapolate from everyday experience to the cosmos as a whole.
Thus religions are created, to explain a creation that doesn't need explaining. The cosmos is. End of story. God doesn't add anything to the tale, because unless God also is viewed as a simple "is" (always has been, always will be), there's a need to ask what created God.
Science and religion both end up staring at the unfathomable blank wall of the mystery, is. However, most religions unnecessarily multiply the mystery with an imagined unseen God who is believed to have existed prior to the creation of the cosmos.
As Krauss describes in his book, modern science has learned enough about how "nothing" behaves to know that it's entirely possible for entire universes to emerge from nothing.
Sure, this isn't the "nothing" of religion. But nothing is that "nothing." Meaning, no religion starts with absolute nothing with lacks the capacity for "something." The Christian God supposedly created the universe out of nothing, but this isn't true. Isn't God considered to be something?
So cosmology indeed is rendering God increasingly irrelevant. Once there is the bare something of "nothing" (basically, the laws of quantum mechanics, to my understanding), universes bubble up into being without any other creative force.
As to the mystery of is-ness, let it be (another wise bit of advice from the Beatles). Krauss says:
The response to why there is something rather than nothing becomes almost trite: there is something simply because if there were nothing, we wouldn't find ourselves living there!