Faith in God Is Based on Nothing

Many people stopped believing in God because they were told some version of the following: In the Dark Ages, people believed in God, and everything was awful. And then science came and proved there was no God, and made life better.

This story contains two errors:

  1. Science disproved God.
  2. Christianity hampers science.

Believing in nonsense motivates individuals to make life-wrecking decisions, and if nonsense becomes consensus, it destroys the foundation of civilization and makes life on Earth, hell. So I will debunk both claims. I will deal now with the first error, and with the second error on a later post.

A Science Book Pretending to Be A Theology Book

Why does the universe exist? Has it always existed? If it had a beginning, was it created by God? Or did it just happen? The book A Universe From Nothing by New Atheist groupie Lawrence Krauss attempts to answer these questions. Krauss’ book attempts to prove that the universe came from nothing. If he can prove that the universe has its origin from nothing, then there is no need for a God to exist to create it.

The first sentence of Krauss’ book begins, “In the interest of full disclosure right at the outset I must admit that I am not sympathetic to the conviction that creation requires a creator.” The last sentence of his book ends, “God is unnecessary—or at best redundant.” In between those lines is a fairly decent science book that readers might mistake as an argument against God. It is not. Krauss fails to connect his humdrum summary of astrophysics with his thesis—that there is no God.

Nimrod is perhaps a prototype of a modern scientist like Krauss. Not only because the word “Nimrod” carries connotations of idiocy appropriate to the modern scientist, but also because the historical Nimrod was an incredible narcissist who also thought he could destroy God. Using the cutting edge technology of his day, bricks and arrows, Nimrod attempted to build a tower to heaven where he could lay assault to the kingdom of Heaven. The tower served a secondary function of preventing God from killing Nimrod with a flood, as God had done to the previous generation. The most simple-minded believer could see the folly in trying to shoot God dead with arrows from the top of a high tower. Yet the modern reader might fall for Nimrod’s tricks when Krauss makes a second attempt. Will man ever learn?

Krauss’ tower, his book, is an edifice that reaches to the top of heaven, extending all the way back to the Big Bang. From this towering height Krauss launches insult after insult, as if mocking Christ were somehow a new and radical idea. But the tower he builds lacks a foundation. Unlike Nimrod’s tower, which was destroyed by lightning, Krauss’ tower tips over of its own accord, because it is built on sand.

Nothing Ain’t What It Used to Be

Krauss’ fall is inevitable because of his hubris. Since he dismisses philosophy as “abstract and useless,” he does not know how bad he is at it. The point of his book is to prove that the universe came from nothing, without God creating it. He fails to prove his point, because he wrote his book without understanding what nothing means.

This would be similar if a man purported to write the authoritative book about Martin Luther King, but when you opened it up, you found nothing but quotes and facts about Martin Luther. Yes, both Luthers were religious men, protestants even, but a book about Martin Luther is not a book about Martin Luther King. Krauss’ book is not really about how the universe came from nothing, and so it fails to prove that creation does not require the Creator.

The idea that what is could not come from what is not was first introduced to the world by Parmenides around 475 B.C. Krauss appears to play the fool in not understanding the argument as he plays around with the word nothing, as if he is really struggling to understand the difference between is and is not. But when he writes that nothing is “every bit as physical” as something, that nothing is “a quantity,” and that nothing must be “based on empirical evidence,” one realizes that the struggle is real, he is not playing the fool; he means it.

To be clear, nothing is what is not. It is not “a quantity” because it cannot be measured, because it does not exist. It is not “physical,” because it does not exist. And there is no “empirical evidence” for it, because you cannot see, or even indirectly detect, a thing that does not exist.

Krauss blames his inability to comprehend the definition of nothing on old fools like Thomas Aquinas and Aristotle who did not know as much as Mr. Krauss does, “Neither Aristotle nor Aquinas knew about the existence of our galaxy, much less the Big Bang or quantum mechanics.” I am reminded of the classic scene from The Princess Bride where the Sicilian is attempting to poison the Dread Pirate Roberts, “Plato, Socrates, Aristotle. Morons!”

Krauss accuses philosophers and his “religious critics”of “semantic hocus pocus.” Supposedly religious fanatics keep changing the definition of nothing so that they do not lose the argument and can keep believing in their ridiculous and useless God. What he dismisses as “semantics” is the definition of the word is, and its distinction from is not. This distinction has not changed or been redefined since the time of Parmenides, over 2,500 years.

Krauss chooses to define is not or nothing, as “empty space.” To realize how inappropriate this definition is, take the fact that the Moon is 240,000 miles away from the Earth. If the stuff between the Earth and the Moon is nothing, then the Moon would be zero miles away. The Moon would be rolling across the surface of the Earth like a bowling ball. If empty space is nothing, then the Earth, the Moon the Sun, and the stars are not any distance away. All matter would be crunched together like the seed of the Big Bang.

Krauss excuses his “semantic hocus pocus” of defining nothing as “empty space” by blaming stupid religious people: “Once again, I realize that in the revised versions of nothingness that those who wish to continually redefine the word so that no scientific definition is practical, this version of nothing doesn’t cut the mustard. However, I suspect that, at the times of Plato and Aquinas, when they pondered why there was something rather than nothing, empty space with nothing in it was probably a good approximation of what they were thinking about.”

Krauss is a weasel for blaming others for his own folly. Krauss has to “suspect” what Plato and Aquinas think on the topic, because Krauss thinks reading Plato and Aquinas is a waste of time, and so he does not know what they actually thought. Plato and Aquinas understood the difference between is and is not, and so they knew that there was something between the Earth and the Moon, rather than nothing. They called that something that occupied space, “aether.”

Scientists now call aether “space.” By space they do not mean nothing, even if they claim to in order to mock and dismiss God. By space they mean an extremely fecund and mysterious element that Krauss spends the rest of his book describing.

Space is very interesting, and worth understanding. But it is most definitely not nothing.

More Than Empty Words

Krauss introduces the logical argument that “something cannot come from nothing,” in a way that makes philosophers and theologians appear ridiculous. He then swaps out the meaning of nothing to mean “space” and proceeds to write a hundred or so pages about the nature of space. Krauss’ readers are tricked into thinking a scientific understanding of the nature of space is somehow a rebuttal of the existence of God, because Krauss has swapped out the definition of nothing with something.

Krauss attempts to answer the question “Why is there something rather than nothing?” by redefining nothing as something. He says that because of science “the very meaning of the words involved have so changed that the sentence has lost much of its original meaning.” Rather than admitting to the reader that he is changing the definitions of words, Krauss claims the words changed because of new evidence from science.

Why the wordplay? Krauss later admits this, one-hundred and seventy three pages into his book: “The apparent logical necessity of First Cause is a real issue for any universe that has a beginning. Therefore, on the basis of logic alone one cannot rule out such a deistic view of nature.” Because the logical conclusion of existence is unavoidably God, in order to avoid the logical conclusion, logic must be abandoned and ridiculed as “a priori prejudices.”

Krauss wishes to abandon any truth that is not derived from empiricism. The danger of abandoning philosophy in preference to empiricism, is that empiricism itself is a philosophy. The philosophy of empiricism is as follows: The theory that all knowledge is derived from sense-experience. Krauss is philosophically an empiricist. This is why he dismisses the idea of nothing as semantics, while “total gravitational energy” is “not subject to arbitrary definition.” To Krauss, and other empiricists, things that cannot be observed, even indirectly, do not exist. If God exists outside of time and space, and is therefore unobservable by beings within the universe, then obtaining empirical evidence for God is impossible, because we could not see Him with telescopes, or reach Him with spaceships.

The famous empiricist David Hume drove a fell spear into the heart of empiricism two centuries ago, when he argued that the assumptions at the foundation of empiricism are not based on observation. Cause and effect, for example, are not seen, and therefore must be projected by human imagination. Because cause and effect are not directly observed, they had to be rejected by a consistent empiricist. This would quickly answer our question of “what created the universe?” Nothing! But our reason leaves us unsatisfied with such a doctrinaire non-answer. Causality is an assumption that we know to be true, even if we cannot prove it empirically. In other words, there are things we know to be true about reality, like cause and effect, even though we cannot observe them.

God’s Existence is Logical

The argument that God must exist if the universe exists is as follows:

No object we have ever observed contains within itself the reason for its own existence. The cause of its existence is something other than itself.

If everything that exists was caused by something else that also had a cause, there is no thing that exists that was not caused by something else. This is a logical absurdity known as an “infinite regress.”

A common example of an infinite regress is brought up by Krauss. Supposedly Hindus thought the Earth was held up by four elephants standing on the back of a turtle. When asked, “What holds up the turtle?” the Hindu answers “It’s turtles all the way down.”

Another example would be if you asked someone where he got his lawnmower, and he answered that he borrowed it “from my neighbor to the east” and when his neighbor was asked he said, “from my neighbor to the east.” An infinite regress would be if every neighbor to the east you asked said the same thing. If they weren’t lying, you’d eventually wrap around the Earth and begin where you started, without ever finding out where the lawnmower originally came from.

The lawnmower had to have come from somewhere. But the guy who made the lawnmower did not create himself. He had a father and a mother. And so did they, and so on and so on until the first humans. And before life there was matter. And all that matter came from something.

We are logically forced to conclude that matter was caused by something that itself was not caused. “This,” Thomas Aquinas concluded, “All men call God.” Krauss calls it a “facile semantic solution,” which is a fancy science-y way of saying “that’s just words.”

Even if the universe is eternal, time itself had to come into existence, or be caused. Something cannot come from nothing. The universe came from a thing that existed, but itself was not caused. Atheists hate this conclusion. And so they must reject logic, dismiss philosophy, and resort to the illogical idea that the universe is its own cause. A thing being its own cause is the same as a man being his own grandpa. It is a logical absurdity. Attributing divine attributes to the universe is an identical sort of paganism as practiced by those who pray for good vibes from the universe. The universe does not answer prayers. The universe also did not create itself. We will later look at just how ridiculous things become when men reject God.

A Big Fat Nothing

One-hundred fifty two pages into his book, Krauss writes, “It would be disingenuous to suggest that empty space endowed with energy, which drives inflation, is really nothing.” Now he is really going to take off the gloves. I was a bit apprehensive about reading this part. I truly thought Krauss might prove something comes from nothing, and destroy my faith. On the other hand I was a bit hopeful, because I would not have to go to church anymore. Alas.

Until this point in his book Krauss has defined nothing as “empty space,” with the caveat that empty space is not empty, but rather filled with particles and energy. But what if we could get rid of the particles, energy, and laws of physics, too? Then we’d really have nothing. And for a few pages one thinks that is what he will do. Then, he admits, that his nothing has “certain properties, like quantum mechanics.” So the closest to nothing that Krauss gets is to “quantum nothing” (his words). Nothing does not have modifying adjectives. There is not such thing as blue nothing, or tall nothing, or fat nothing. That which is has qualities, that which is not does not. So in the end, Krauss never actually talks about nothing. To be fair, Krauss cannot even comprehend the idea of nothing, because he is a hardened empiricist, who only believes in things that can be observed, even indirectly. Any concepts that refer to things that cannot be observed are, to Krauss, nonsense by default.

But even to get to this “quantum nothing,” the bounds of reason must be stretched like a clown’s balloon to the point of incredulousness. Krauss posits an infinite number of possible universes, and calls them the “multiverse.” This science-y nonsense he claims is more likely than God, because it is theoretically empirical, even if the universes exist “causally disconnected” from our own. How evidence of a causally-disconnected universe could reach your eyeballs, even indirectly, is not posited. But it is probably based on math, which Krauss admits into his empirical world-view, even though math is a form of a priori reasoning.

And in case you did not feel comfortable with Krauss positing an infinite number of imaginary universes in order to disprove the existence of God (Occam’s razor, anyone?), Krauss then comforts our fears by redefining the word “universe.” I am not making this up. If your ideas are nonsense, try changing the definitions of the words you are using until your readers are so confused that they go along with you so as to not appear stupid. If that does not work, use the word “quantum” a lot. Seriously. At certain points its is hard to tell the difference between this scientist and a self-help guru. You get the feeling that the word “quantum” is being thrown around to cast an atmosphere of science-y respectability over what we would otherwise quickly recognize as nonsense.

Krauss’ modern Tower of Babel is built on sand, because he defined nothing as something, and therefore built an argument without a foundation.

The Big Bang Did Not Explode Itself

Some still might not understand Krauss’ error, and think that he Big Bang explains the creation of the universe without having to refer to God. Let us address that.

The Big Bang, the theory that the universe began as an explosion from a single point, was concocted by a Catholic Priest by the name of Georges Lemaitre. The theory was at first ridiculed, and then adopted. The “Big Bang” was a name given to the theory by those who thought it was ridiculous.

Krauss recounts the story of how Pope Pius XII pointed out, as many of the theory’s critics had, that the Big Bang looked a lot like creation. It was an exciting coincidence, that the Bible records God as creating light first “Fiat Lux [Let there be Light],” and then everything else, and the scientists were saying the same thing, that matter could be made out of light.

Lemaitre commented, “As far as I can see, such a theory remains entirely outside of any metaphysical or religious question.” Krauss implies that religion is illegitimate, because science does not support it. Lemaitre, however, was not discounting religion, or trying to separate religion and science into two separate boxes. Rather, he was pointing out the metaphysical truth that science cannot answer the question of existence coming from non-existence. All that the Big Bang tells us, is what happens to existence after it exists. It does not and cannot tell us what happened before then, because empirical science is limited to reasoning from that which can be observed.

Krauss claims that “the mathematics of general relativity explain the evolution of the universe right back to its beginning without the intervention of any deity.” Two things are interesting here. First, that Krauss relies on mathematics—a form of a priori reasoning—to establish what happened during the Big Bang. In other words, he accepts a priori reasoning when coupled with empiricism, and rejects it in the realm of pure reason. Second, Krauss fails to mention that the laws of physics cannot be used to analyse the Big Bang itself, “because the deterministic laws that govern the universe will break down in the Big Bang,” according to Steven Hawking. In other words, there is a wall separating reason from what occurred before the Big Bang.

What Krauss is doing in denying the miracle of creation is akin to this: Suppose one ridiculed the idea that Jesus turned water into wine. In order to do so, he wrote a two-hundred page book about wine; how it is made, how grapes grow, the chemistry involved, et cetera. It would miss the point entirely. One could know everything science can tell you about wine, and that still says nothing about the transition from water into wine. The creation of the universe from nothing is an even greater leap, since both water and wine exist, and are made out of atoms, with advanced enough technology, one could perhaps rearrange atoms around a pot of water to turn it into wine. However, to go from is not, to is, is a change in being, not material. Science can tell us everything about what is. But it can say nothing about what came before what is. Krauss admitted this in his preface, when he said that nothing had to be a “quantity.” Empiricism is a powerful tool, but it can only analyze that which is. It can tell us nothing about nothing.

Krauss himself would love that conclusion, since he thinks “that theologians are experts at nothing.” But he would not like the implication, that empiricism is powerless when it comes to explaining how being came from non-being. This dilemma cannot be escaped by claiming the universe is eternal, because, as Aquinas pointed out, even time would need to come into existence for something to be eternal. Worse yet, empiricism is impotent when it comes to the questions that people really care about.

The Origin of Morality

Krauss does not know the limits of science. Again and again he claims that if something is not established through empiricism (the scientific method), it is just words. His ignorance about the limits of science leads him to the absurd idea that science could establish morality. By way of example, I will demonstrate why this is ridiculous.

Say you wanted to prove that murder was wrong. As a scientist, you gather the materials you need for this experiment—in this case, a statistically-significant number of murder victims—and you proceed to murder them. What would you “quantify” to establish that what you were doing was wrong? The wrongness of murder cannot be scientifically proven. Let us take a few steps into the ad absurdem of Krauss’ blunder just for fun. Perhaps you could weigh victims. Is there a correlation between heaviness and wrongness? Perhaps you could note your own emotional response, as your conscience reviles you for your act? But your feelings are subjective, and subjective responses are outside of the realm of objective science. And, besides, your feelings may just be a remnant of your cultural upbringing. If the victims have loved ones, you could measure the neural response to the news of loss. But, then again, how is the neural response of a human brain any more significant than the chemical reaction of vinegar mixing with baking soda?

Krauss argues that humans are no better than animals when he criticizes the Christian belief that we are created in God’s image. He writes, ”apparently other complex and beautiful beings were not!” Ha! Stupid anthropocentric Christian, arbitrarily putting himself above the other animals based on a dusty old book of myths. Then again, if Krauss thinks the other animals are on man’s level, why does he not take the lead and appoint a hippopotamus to a astrophysics faculty position at his university? The answer is obvious. He may mock Christian doctrine, but his actions prove he lives by the doctrine he despises.

Science does not tell us that pouring vinegar on baking soda is any more significant than the electrical signals in human synapses that make human emotion possible. Science does not establish that human life is any more valuable than the life of a fruit fly, or the existence of a rock. Science can never progress to the point where it can answer these questions, because moral questions are not settled empirically. Morality is practical reason based, like empiricism, on necessary assumptions.

Christians believe that murder is wrong because human beings were created in the image of God, a doctrine that Krauss thinks ridiculous. It comes as no surprise that as the world rejects Christianity, they return to the pre-Christian ritual of human sacrifice—the murder of human beings for worldly gain—in numerous forms (abortion, war, revolution). Science will not tell you that murder is wrong. It cannot tell you. That silence is comforting for those unwilling to reconcile their actions with their conscience. Instead they blame the guilt they feel on “false” traditions and cultural expectations.

Krauss argues against Christian morality by asking “What if God decreed that rape and murder were morally acceptable?” Because the question provokes discomfort, we are to take that discomfort as evidence that we have an internal mechanism that we can use to establish moral norms without God. Krauss is referring to our conscience. Nevertheless Krauss does not take into account confounding variables in this little thought experiment. The most glaring one being that those asked this question have been soaked in Christian morality for the last 2000 years. Our knee-jerk “common sense” assumptions about morality are deeply rooted in a Christian worldview. In addition, just as science builds on a foundation that is not established by science—i.e. the assumption that all knowledge is derived from observation is an assumption not based on observation—the logical arguments we make with our reason are based on assumptions that are not based on reason. A fundamental assumption to Christian moral norms is that human beings are created in the image of God. From that assumption, it logically follows that murdering, raping, or otherwise harming a human being is a sort of blasphemy. We have already noted that Krauss rejects this assumption that is the foundation of Christian moral norms.

Nice Car, Where You Going?

Empirical science can teach us about the world, but it cannot teach us what to do in the world. Our reason, which guides our morality, must necessarily take root in irrational assumptions. If men are not created in the image of God, then why is a man’s life worth more than that of a fruit fly? There is no rational argument either way without a shared Christian assumption. Both have life in common, but why should we assume that life is more valuable than non-life? Why should we treat animals better than rocks? There is no reason not to, without irrational assumptions or subjective feelings that it is otherwise.

Science also fails to establish where we are going. Krauss revels in how useful science is, and how useless theology is. You can almost hear him chuckle when he writes, “I have challenged several theologians to provide evidence contradicting the premise that theology has made no contribution to knowledge in the past five hundred years.” Whereas the fruits of science abound. Krauss correctly calls the kind of knowledge that science provides “operational knowledge.” In other words, science can build the car, and tell you how to operate or drive it. But science cannot tell you were to go.

A modern man could get married and have children, or live alone and watch porn all day. We can intuit which path would cause a feeling of meaninglessness and despair. Has not science absolved us from sin, once and for all, by proving that there is no sin, that we are absolutely free? Free to do whatever we want? Sin is not empirical, therefore it must not exist! Yet we feel pangs of conscience that motivate our actions, and we crave meaning. We feel that life is more than satisfying our appetites. We feel intuitively that our life has a purpose.

Science cannot tell us where to go. It can build the car, it can tell us how to drive it. But it cannot establish what should be done with the technology. It can tell us that we will die. And some are motivated by a desire to procrastinate death through technological innovation. But to what end? What is the point of extending the duration of a pointless existence?

“Operational knowledge,” and the false start of an empirical morality, leave us all dressed up with nowhere to go. And another soliloquy about how we are made of “star dust” sounds just as corny as the poem about Jesus’ footprints in the sand.

No Choice?

The easiest rebuttal of the atheist worldview—supposedly backed by science—is human agency. Atheist scientists believe all knowledge is empirical. Because truth can only be established by observation, truth can only be material, because only matter can be observed. To the scientist, man is not the crown of God’s creation, created in God’s image, and redeemed by God’s Son. No, man is a meat machine. Thoughts are excretions of a material brain, like bile squeezed from the gall bladder.

The materialist assumption leads necessarily to the absurd doctrine that man has no free will. Brain activity is just a chemical reaction. Chemical reactions must do what the chemicals added to them make them do. Your thoughts are no more volitional, or significant, than vinegar poured on baking soda. You have no free will, according to the atheist scientists.

The most obvious rebuttal to such nonsense is to throw their books away, and kick them in the balls if you ever see them. How can they get angry with you? You have no free will.

Learned men, of course, will not accept such a simple answer from simple folk. Educated people confuse themselves in very complicated ways, and they want the solution to their labyrinth of nonsense to be just as complicated.

You were created in the image of God. It is your duty to honor that image with your actions. You are accountable for how you revered your image, and the images of others, because you have free will. Your freedom allows you to do good and right things. It also gives you the freedom to err and sin. You are responsible for your sins. You must repent in the name of Christ for the wrong you have done.

The Son of God came into the world and died for your sins. He did that because your actions matter. Your life matters. You matter.

Further Reading

A Critique of Krauss from The Scientific American

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