How Does Something Come From Nothing?

There’s an Australian show Q & A where a panel of experts in various fields come together to answer the questions of the audience. In a recent episode, Lawrence Krauss answered everything from why there’s “something” rather than “nothing” to how science’s impact on humanity can truly be measured:

I haven’t seen the entire thing, but there are individual timestamps for the different questions on the show’s website! Leave your own favorite bits in the comments below.

(Thanks to Richard for the link!)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Rich Wilson

    I was in general shocked at how much creationism (and hell) they’re teaching in Queensland.

    There was also a pertinent comment at about 25:25 about how people use the fact that scientists earn money for a living as a way to dismiss anything the scientific community says.

    If you’re not an expert in a particular field, and you think the very small minority is equal to the vast majority opinion, you might suffer from confirmation bias.

  • Cecelia Baines

    Good point; like preachers/pastors/priest and other medicine men don’t get paid for their work.

    Well said Rich

  • Paul Caggegi

    Queensland is kinda like our (Australia’s) Texas. Nice folks; bad legislation.

  • GodVlogger (on YouTube)

    Wow. Lawrence Krauss really wasted no time coming out not only strongly in favor of science, but also he was unequivocally strong *against* religion.

    The more I see of Krauss the more I love this guy. He is awesome.

  • Cicada

    Here’s a YouTube link for anyone who wants it:

  • Bribase

    I wish that when John Dickson says that the laws of physics look “rational” and “set up to be known” (35:02) Krauss could chime in with something like “We really ought to meet after the show so you can explain how to quantum gravitation works. The greatest physicists in the world have been stumped on the subject for the last three decades.”

    The more you understand about physics, the more you realise that it is decidedly irrational; Behaving in a way that has no comparison in the macro-scale world. And that never fully understanding the behaviour and origin of the physical world is a very real prospect.

  • rwlawoffice

    Fascinating discussion. Folks in Australia can disagree in a cordial manner without insulting each other. That is nice to see. I am no quantum physicist and don’t pretend to understand how it all works. Krauss did a nice job of explaining how changing the definition of nothing leads to something coming from nothing but it avoids the real question. Which is, if you base everything on the natural world, regardless of how you want to define nothing, you inevitably end up with there being something coming from nothing. Even the particles, radiation, gravity and other things which he says pop into and out of existence are natural phenomenon which it seems must have a beginning from nothing.

  • eric

    Indeed. In hindsight, a lot of stuff we know now may look like it was “set up to be known,” but that’s incredibly arrogant when you think about it. It discounts the struggle and hard work of humans over thousands of years to try and figure these things out. No, (e.g.) celestial mechanics were not “set up to be known.” It took centuries of hard work to get to where we are now, and we still don’t know everything. They are about as set up to be known as my computer password – you might be able to brute force it with a lot of time and effort, but its not at all obvious or deducible from rational first principles.

  • Andrew B.

    Isn’t it said that God created the universe from a void? How is that not also “something coming from nothing?”

  • Rich Wilson

    I’d call that something from God. That is, not truly nothing, since there is something, namely God.

    What strikes me about this whole “he’s redefining nothing” or “he’s mistaken” is that Krauss is taking ‘nothing’ further than I think most of us had considered. I know when I used to envision ‘nothing’ I just meant no particles. The absence of time never crossed my mind.

    Seems kind of like giving someone the challenge of living off the grid for a year, and giving them clothes and a lighter. But they take off the clothes and drop the lighter, since they are part of the grid.

  • sane37

    They do get paid. How do you think they eat? Where do you think church donations go?

  • Randomfactor

    But their god apparently came from nothing. And unto nothing it is returning, at last.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    This is the usual progression of things. First, “it’s impossible, so God must have done it.” Later, after a lot of scientific investigative work, “It’s possible, so God must have made it that way.”

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Yes. Can they explain why there is/was God instead of nothing? If they can’t, then they haven’t truly answered any question; they have just artificially moved it back one level, and are pulling a sleight of hand. It might just as well have been leprechauns.

  • Hanan

    Andrew said

    “Isn’t it said that God created the universe from a void? How is that not also “something coming from nothing?””

    If Krauss can show something out of nothing that would be fine, the problem people have with him is that he decided to redefine “nothing” into a “something”

  • Nate Frein

    Except that’s not what he did.

    He started with what we define as nothing (empty space) and explains how that nothing is far more complicated than we think. Just because people want to oversimplify his answer doesn’t mean he’s “redefined” anything.

    In the same vein, if he’d pointed out quantum gravitation when the preacher brought up how “physics feels meant to be known”, he would not be “redefining” gravity so much as explaining how much more complicated gravity is than what someone picks up from the little bit of physics you get while pursuing a degree in a different field.

  • rwlawoffice

    Actually no. The Christian perspective is that God is eternal. He was not created, thus did not come from nothing. It is what is sometimes referred to as a necessary being, something that has no possibility of never existing.

  • Hanan

    That’s why I supplied that link where even an atheist like Massimo objects to him all of a sudden saying “nothing” has a “something” in it. It’s not that we have been over simplifying it, it’s that he only cares for what, in his words: “nothing meanings to a scientists, not what it means in philosophy.” So sure, he gets to say something comes from nothing, though that nothing has something. It is quite orwellian of him because he clearly is trying to throw his gloves the whole debate of “something coming from nothing” which is the questions philosophers have been pondering. The title to his book is clearly meant to enter the realm without using “nothing” as is understood by those that ask it.

    If he is saying that “nothing” really has something in it, then that ISN’T the nothing we have been talking about because all he does is push that ultimate question a little further, but yet remain unanswered.

  • Rich Wilson

    It is what is sometimes referred to as a necessary being, something that has no possibility of never existing.

    Also known as an a priori assumption stated as fact when presenting the Kalam Cosmological argument.

    Notice how WLC is with the Cosmology sector of the scientific community when its findings support his argument (a beginning to the universe is necessary for kalam) but not so much when they present evidence that there is no necessity for a ‘necessary being’. Now they’re ‘mistaken’.

  • Rich Wilson

    If he is saying that “nothing” really has something in it

    He’s taking ‘nothing’ to ‘no space and no time’. I’m not sure where there’s room for anything there, other than maybe the rules themselves. There’s probably a limit to what we can certainly know about our universe. As Krauss points out, we’ll never disprove the 3 second old illusion. But the gaps for God to hide in are shrinking. God was squeezed out of the 6K year old gap and the special creation gap a long time ago.

    Massimo is taking issue with Krauss’s treatment of philosophy, not, from what I read anyway, the science.

  • Hanan

    Right. Because Krauss was reacting a different philosopher’s criticism (with a background in Physics) over what he sees as nonsense when you decide to redefine the terms in the argument.(i.e. that nothing was nothing even though it was always really a something) Krauss just brushes him as some moron. As Massimo has admitted to being a sarcastic individual, I can only understand the comment “a nothing full of stuff? Fascinating” as sarcasm directed towards Krauss.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Asking “why is there God instead of nothing” avoids the issue of whether God had a beginning, so suggesting He is eternal does not get around it. The whole “no possibility of never existing” thing is clearly special pleading of the highest order.
    One frequently hears from apologists that God is “outside of time,” a phrase whose meaning is not clear.

  • Thegoodman

    I’ve never understood the argument of “something cannot come from nothing!”. How does anyone know there was ever nothing? What if it has just always ‘been’? Infinity seems so difficult for some to grasp that they outright deny it.

    “There must have been a start!”
    “There must be an end!”
    “The universe must have an edge!”
    “No football games should end in ties!”