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Science Will Never Explain Why There’s Something Rather Than Nothing

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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When predicting something that science will never do, it’s wise to recall the French philosopher Auguste Comte. In 1835 he asserted that science will never figure out what stars are made of. That seemed like a safe bet, but within decades astronomers started determining the chemical composition of the Sun and other stars by analyzing the spectrum of light they emitted.

I’m nonetheless going out on a limb and guessing that science will never, ever answer what I call “The Question”: Why is there something rather than nothing? You might think this prediction is safe to the point of triviality, but certain prominent scientists are claiming not merely that they can answer The Question but that they have already done so. Physicist Lawrence Krauss peddles this message in his new book A Universe From Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather Than Nothing (Free Press, 2012).

Krauss’s answer is nothing new. Decades ago, physicists such as the legendary John Wheeler proposed that, according to the probabilistic dictates of quantum field theory, even an apparently perfect vacuum seethes with particles and antiparticles popping into and out of existence. In 1990, the Russian physicist Andrei Linde assured me that our entire cosmos—as well as an infinite number of other universes—might have sprung from a primordial “quantum fluctuation.”

I took this notion—and I think Linde presented it—as a bit of mind-titillating whimsy. But Krauss asks us to take the quantum theory of creation seriously, and so does evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins. “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,” Dawkins writes in an afterword to Krauss’s book. “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.”

Whaaaa…??!! Dawkins is comparing the most enduringly profound scientific treatise in history to a pop-science book that recycles a bunch of stale ideas from physics and cosmology. This absurd hyperbole says less about the merits of Krauss’s derivative book than it does about the judgment-impairing intensity of Dawkins’s hatred of religion.

Philosopher David Albert, a specialist in quantum theory, offers a more balanced assessment of Krauss’s book in The New York Times Book Review. And by balanced assessment, I mean merciless smack down. Albert asks, “Where, for starters, are the laws of quantum mechanics themselves supposed to have come from?” Modern quantum field theories, Albert points out, “have nothing whatsoever to say on the subject of where those fields came from, or of why the world should have consisted of the particular kinds of fields it does, or of why it should have consisted of fields at all, or of why there should have been a world in the first place. Period. Case closed. End of story.”

If you want a more satisfying exploration of The Question, check out Why Does the World Exist? by the science and philosophy writer Jim Holt, to be published this summer by W.W. Norton. Holt is neither foolish nor arrogant enough to claim that he or anyone else has answered The Question. Rather, he ponders and talks about The Question not only with physicists, notably Linde, Steven Weinberg and David Deutsch, but also with philosophers, theologians and other non-scientists. And why not? When it comes to The Question, everyone and no one is an expert, because The Question is different in kind than any other question posed by science. Ludwig Wittgenstein was trying to make this point when he wrote, in typically cryptic fashion, “Not how the world is, is the mystical, but that it is.”

In my favorite section of Holt’s book, he chats with novelist John Updike, whose work explored our yearning for spiritual as well as sexual fulfillment. Updike prided himself on keeping abreast of the latest scientific ideas, and one of his novels, Roger’s Version (Random House, 1986), features characters who debate whether science can displace religion as a source of ultimate answers. Updike told Holt that he doubted whether science would ever produce a satisfying answer to The Question. Science, Updike said, “aspires, like theology used to, to explain absolutely everything. But how can you cross this enormous gulf between nothing and something?”

The theory of inflation, Updike noted, which Linde and other theorists have promoted as a theory of cosmic creation, “seems sort of put forward on a smile and a shoeshine.” Updike, who died in 2009, a year after Holt interviewed him, toyed with the idea that, if there is a God, He created the world out of boredom. Thirty years ago, I had a, shall we say, experience that left me pondering a slightly different theological explanation of creation: If there is a God, He created this heart-breaking world because He was suffering from a cosmic identity crisis, triggered by His own confrontation with The Question. In other words, God is as mystified as we are by existence. This idea, which I divulged in The End of Science (Addison Wesley, 1996) and Rational Mysticism (Houghton Mifflin, 2003), is totally wacky, of course, but no more so, to my mind, than the preposterous claim of Krauss and other scientists that they have solved the riddle of existence.

Science has told us so much about our world! We now understand, more or less, what reality is made of and what forces push and pull the stuff of existence to and fro. Scientists have also constructed a plausible, empirically founded narrative of the history of the cosmos and of life on Earth. But when scientists insist that they have solved, or will soon solve, all mysteries, including the biggest mystery of all, they do a disservice to science; they become the mirror images of the religious fundamentalists they despise. Comte was wrong about how science is limited, but not that it is limited.

About the Author: Every week, hockey-playing science writer John Horgan takes a puckish, provocative look at breaking science. A teacher at Stevens Institute of Technology, Horgan is the author of four books, including The End of Science (Addison Wesley, 1996) and The End of War (McSweeney's, 2012). Follow on Twitter @Horganism.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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  1. 1. caleb_scharf 8:25 am 04/23/2012

    John, an interesting and provocative piece. But I don’t think Krauss is making as simplistic or as heavy-booted assertions as you suggest. He actually (and I have read the book) treads pretty carefully through precisely what he thinks physics is telling us, and doesn’t profess to make a hugely sophisticated anti-theological argument (although admittedly Dawkins does run with it in the afterword). To my mind he gathers up and articulates the status of physicists’ current best answers to ‘the Question’ more clearly and elegantly than most pop-sci efforts – he does know his stuff. And to not acknowledge the extraordinary nature of what theory and observation of the universe is now pointing us to (a universe from nothing, and laws of physics from nothing) is, I think, missing most of the point. That is what disappointed me with David Albert’s NY Times review, and disappoints me with your assertion “I’m nonetheless going out on a limb and guessing that science will never, ever answer what I call “The Question”: Why is there something rather than nothing?” Really? So it’s ok to chuck 2,000 years of scientific method out the window – a method that does not claim it will always find the truth, but a method that at least doggedly pursues the possibility that one *can* find answers rather than shrugging and assuming that not everything can be understood.

    I know which approach I’d rather take!

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  2. 2. lawkrauss 9:38 am 04/23/2012

    Thank you Caleb.. I must say that this kind of silly piece from an author who also “went out on a limb” 20 years ago to say physics was over is rather telling… it is just about as cogent.. and demonstrates more an unwillingness to seriously consider the ideas I and others have raised than a desire to create some interest in his blog..

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  3. 3. jhorgan 10:43 am 04/23/2012

    Caleb and Lawrence, thanks for your comments. Larry, I’ll always be grateful to you for helping bring me up to speed on modern cosmology a dozen years ago when I was researching an article for Scientific American. And what’s disappointing is that, apart from the discovery of the acceleration of the cosmic expansion, which was certainly a big surprise, nothing has really changed since then. You and/or your popularizing colleagues–Hawking, Greene, Kaku, Susskind–are still marketing various unsubstantiated versions of inflation, multiverse theories, string theory, vacuum energy, anthropic principle, etc. What’s ironic is that, although you don’t have any more evidence for these speculations, your marketing of them has become more aggressive, a trend that I predicted in The End of Science. Even Caleb implicitly acknowledges that your book’s title oversells its actual content, and yet you accuse ME of hype. Come on Larry, face it, physics, at least in its grandest mode, is in big trouble.

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  4. 4. jhorgan 10:45 am 04/23/2012

    Um, make that 22 years ago that you helped me with that Scientific American article. Spacetime flies!

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  5. 5. rloldershaw 11:03 am 04/23/2012

    An infinite fractal cosmos is eternal.

    While any system at any level of the self-similar hierarchy may form or be annihilated, the infinite cosmological hierarchy is, was and always will exist and will maintain the discrete self-similar organization and processes.

    Starting with “nothing”. Surely the celebrity fizzicists jest. What Platonic “world” are they living in?

    Robert L. Oldershaw
    http://www3.amherst.edu/~rloldershaw
    Discrete Scale Relativity

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  6. 6. lawkrauss 11:09 am 04/23/2012

    John.. first, I didn’t make any definitive claims.. and I get offended when people claim I make such.. second I tried to indicate how much has changed in the last 22 years.. that is the purpose of the book.. things are dramatically different than they were then, and I went through a very careful analysis to describe these changes….. the analysis of fluctuations in the CMB, the discovery that the universe is flat.. these are REAL empirical discoveries that both impact upon and add credence to many of our ideas..

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  7. 7. jhorgan 5:37 pm 04/23/2012

    Larry, so you’re saying that you’re not claiming to have answered the question posed by your book’s title? You’re just tossing some ideas around, and you don’t expect anyone to take them too seriously? OK, that’s a useful clarification. It also means that things have not progressed in the last 22 years, in spite of what you just asserted. I think you better tell Dawkins, before he embarrasses himself further.

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  8. 8. Lenedwin 5:50 pm 04/23/2012

    No matter how we try, we must come to the inevitable conclusion that the universe somehow created itself. If it were the work of some ‘God’ then what universe does he reside in? etc etc. Everything we observe has ‘parents’; a source of their existence but we come to a point where there are no ‘parents’; an entity that somehow came into existence out of nothing. This is a mind bending concept.
    And I feel the answer is totally beyond our brain power. If we could only see beyond the four dimensions allowed us then all would be perfectly clear, but alas we have not been given that ability.

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  9. 9. S. Lyn Hill 5:50 pm 04/23/2012

    Thank you so much for this article. I keep coming across claims in scientific publications that I believe fall in my field–theology. I find it annoying when scientists claim to have empirical proof that God does not exist, that there is no life after death, etc.

    The first problem with these claims is that empiricism is elevated to something it is not. Many people assume that because empiricism is so effective in helping us understand the physical universe, empiricism is the only valid form of knowledge. But the assumption behind empiricism–that reality consists only of that which is given to us through sensory experience–cannot be proven.

    People of faith believe in the reality and validity of revelation. I don’t believe revelation should compete with empiricism: it simply gives us access to depths of reality empiricism cannot reach.

    Second, Paul Tillich pointed out that, technically, the term “existence” refers to finite reality–including time, space, and the physical universe. It is therefore incorrect to speak of God as “existing” because God is not finite. God “is” or God is real. Empiricism is bounded by time and space. Faith puts us in relation to the one who is above time, space and the physical universe.

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  10. 10. rloldershaw 6:23 pm 04/23/2012

    Carl Sagan [in the book Cosmos] said the the idea of an infinite fractal cosmos was: “haunting, evocative…perhaps the most exquisite idea in science or religion…”

    Why do theoretical physicists totally ignore this beautiful and highly unified alternative to the old paradigm?

    The ignore-ance is more egregious when you consider that the idea has been developed scientifically, has made a host of definitive predictions, and has successfully predicted pulsar/planets, trillions of unbound planetary-mass “nomad” objects, and the lack of planets orbiting the lowest mass M dwarf stars.

    Details at http://www3.amherst.edu/~rloldershaw

    Robert L. Oldershaw
    Discrete Scale Relativity

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  11. 11. macgupta 7:08 pm 04/23/2012

    John Horgan wrote: “What’s ironic is that, although you don’t have any more evidence for these speculations, your marketing of them has become more aggressive, a trend that I predicted in The End of Science.”

    Hehehe, in terms of successful predictions the score is as follows:

    John Horgan: 1
    String theorists: 0

    Looking forward to more innings.

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  12. 12. jgrosay 7:10 pm 04/23/2012

    Your initial question in the title of this article is a very sound one, but finally we are here with no other choice, and we don’t know our final fate, as there are several possibilities; the rest doesn’t matter at all, is out of our reach. Salut +

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  13. 13. forces4 7:47 pm 04/23/2012

    Wow, the uncaused cause. It is a strange feeling I get when I try to wrap my head around the creation of time. How could that event occur, when there -is- no time and therefore no mechanism for change?

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  14. 14. sunspot 7:54 pm 04/23/2012

    This is like watching Kirk and Spock fighting. Horgan wins on logical points. Over 40 years ago, an old PhD physicist – a dedicated priest – told us (his college physics majors) that if any student asked him “How does the universe work?”, then they will be talking science. But if a student asked him, “Why does the universe work?”, the student will fail science, and will be sent to the philosophy class down the hall!

    Considering the subtitle of Krauss’ book, perhaps he’s turned the bend (as my old mentor would say) on science, and gone down the hall. But, as the journalist Horgan rightly points out, all the recently well-known physicists seem obliged to “sell” their pet theories in this way. Talk about religion! What ever happened to the dispassionate scientists who inspired us, and who referred philosophy and religion questions to their aforementioned place “down the hall”?

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  15. 15. Paul108 10:15 pm 04/23/2012

    The apparent choice between science, starting from materialist presumptions, and religion, making leaps of faith without evidence, is a false one. Consideration of “The Question” – Why is there something rather than nothing? – can be a pointer to something beyond that, as Wittgenstein, for one, noted.

    For an expression of an understanding beyond the limitations of science and the idea of a Creator-God, see this video clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VjOsz4BDkCE

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  16. 16. DrKrishnaKumariChalla 11:13 pm 04/23/2012

    What a gloomy picture?! Negative vibes? Yes. Science is still in its infancy. We cannot expect much from a child. It still has to grow a lot, learn a lot, think a lot, experiment a lot and come up with explanations.Is it even right to expect a child to solve all your problems and answer all your questions?
    Is it right to explain things in the way religion or baseless beliefs do about the existence of our universe? If God, if one really exists, came into existence on his/her own from nothing, like the believers say, the universe could also have originated out of nothing without anybody or anything creating it! How is that for an explanation?!
    Some Eastern religions say God is present in each and every atom of this universe and universe itself is the image of God and you cannot separate God from the universe! This fundamental question of origins of universe or God is too complex for an infant science to answer. Science has imbibed positiveness in me and I hope the difficult questions will be answered by science one day not in the immediate future though or in our life times.Have patience. Let science and human understanding grow to an adult stage. And be positive.

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  17. 17. bfbbrown 8:01 am 04/24/2012

    Science may never answer why there is something, instead of nothing, but neither will philosophy.

    The reason for this is because, in principle, any question that cannot be *”truly”* answered by science, cannot be addressed by any other discipline – science, at it’s most basic is roughly: (sensory) evidence and reason. Philosophy often omits the latter. So philosophers have a tendency to create elaborate and beautiful spider webs of thought that are ultimately divorced from reality and, therefore, entirely useless.

    The explanations provided by the humanities (including philosophy), except insofar as they are informed by scientific inquiry, are – although sometimes useful and inciteful – ultimately incorrect.

    Non-scientific study has its place, but only until science advances to the point where it can carry such studies under its own umbrella.

    We can see an overarching historical trend of this umbrella’s expansion: in ancient times everything was philosophy or theology. Over the centuries, scientific inquiry has expanded to usurp these two pseudo-studies in more and more areas of inquiry – we no longer resort to supernatural explanation to explain madness, for example.

    The utter failure of philosophy to answer even it’s most fundamental questions is illustrated by this survey of philosopher (professors and those pursuing graduate degrees): “http://philpapers.org/surveys/results.pl”. To summarize, even among professional philosophers and professionals-in-traininig, there is nothing close to consensus on *any* of the fundamental problems of philosophy. Looking at the history of philosophy, one cannot even see progress being made. Philosophy has, for the past 100 years, been nearly barren and fruitless. Compare this with the fantastic advances of the sciences over the past century, advances which beggar belief.

    I look forward to a day in which science dominates all rational discourse. A scientific analysis of philosophy’s (in)ability to explain existence would be something worth pursuing as a Scientific American article. This article does readers a profound disservice by implicitly promoting a study that has no more explanatory power (except as informed by science) than theology.

    Thank you for your time. Please forgive any grammatical errors and my stilted prose. Rational counter-arguments and rebuttals to the above would be greatly appreciated (please assume good faith).

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  18. 18. accessoriesorig 8:15 am 04/24/2012

    Wow, this article is like a petulant child throwing around quotes because he didn’t like his preconceived notions shattered. Don’t worry, children, there are plenty of other dark holes to shove your god, and ego, in.

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  19. 19. rloldershaw 10:13 am 04/24/2012

    Science does not ask or attempt to answer teleological questions like: “Why are there atoms” or “Why is there something rather than nothing”.

    Science can and does ask HOW atoms fit into a cosmological paradigm, and in the new discrete fractal paradigm atoms are fundamental constituents of the Atomic Scale. The discrete self-similar cosmological hierarchy simply must have the atomic levels. It is unthinkable that any fundamental cosmological Scale [Subquantun, Atomic, Stellar, Galactic, Metagalactic] is arbitrary or optional.

    Nature is hierarchically organized. The hierarchy is strictly divided into Scales [sub-hierarchies of the infinite cosmological hierarchy] and the Scales are exactly self-similar to one another.

    That is the way nature IS. Scientists do not ask “why?”. Rather they seek to explore the detailed properties and symmetries of what self-evidently exists.

    Robert L. Oldershaw
    Discrete Scale Relativity
    http://www3.amherst.edu/~rloldershaw

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  20. 20. klatu 1:33 pm 04/24/2012

    “The question” and the “idea of God” has obviously created the intellectual tension between religious and secular, as ideas compete for credibility in the modern modern world. But there is one presumption, mostly unspoken, that both the hubris or science and religion share. That is: no demonstrable proof of God is possible. And while ‘religion’ as we know it has never had any proof potential, being no more than theological wishful thinking, science has been about imagining the impossible and then searching out the necessary evidence, sometimes called proof! Well no doubt dismaying to the likes of both Krauss, Dawkins, Holt and those religious in particular, ‘The Question’ may have found an unexpected answer, an answer that begins with the oldest quest, ‘What is the good life and how can we know,’ For what science and religion thought impossible has now happened. History has its first literal, testable and fully demonstrable proof for faith.

    The first wholly new interpretation for two thousand years of the moral teachings of Christ is published on the web. Radically different from anything else we know of from history, this new teaching is predicated upon a precise, predefined and predictable experience and called ‘the first Resurrection’ in the sense that the Resurrection of Jesus was intended to demonstrate Gods’ willingness to real Himself and intervene directly into the natural world for those obedient to His will, paving the way for access, by faith, to the power of divine transcendence. Ultimate proof!

    Thus ‘faith’ becomes trust in action, to search and discover this direct individual intervention into the natural world by omnipotent power to confirm divine will, law, command and covenant, which at the same time, realigns the human moral compass, “correcting human nature by a change in natural law, altering biology, consciousness and human ethical perception beyond all natural evolutionary boundaries.” So like it or no, a new religious teaching, testable by faith, meeting all Enlightenment criteria of evidence based causation and definitive proof now exists.

    The only existential, “cosmic identity crisis” may very well be our own? To test or not to test, that is the question? More info at http://www.energon.org.uk,

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  21. 21. FrTimMoyle 2:18 pm 04/24/2012

    It would seem that other scientists agree with Dawkins and Krauss. Michio Kaku in his book ‘Physics of the Impossible’ writes: “Christian theologians, at a loss to explain where heaven might be located, have often speculated that perhaps God lives in a higher dimensional plane. Surprisingly, if higher dimensions did exist, many of the properties ascribed to the gods might become possible. A being in a higher dimension might be able to disappear and reappear at will or walk through walls—powers usually ascribed to deities.”

    I have postulated for quite a while that science and theology are coming closer and closer to explaining the same reality each using their own narrative. As science advances further and further into its understanding of the true nature of the universe, it is adding to the evidence that it is indeed possible and perhaps probable that the acceptance of a God as creator might be the right answer.

    Theology need not fear these advances in scientific understanding. It should applaud and thank them for finally offering a scientific explanation for how God would and could act in this universe.

    Fr. Tim

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  22. 22. fraju 2:38 pm 04/24/2012

    LK, I encourage you to read Leibniz, because Leibniz is arguably the first person who articulated the issue as “why is there something rather than nothing?”

    You talk of pompous theologians who claim that from nothing, nothing comes. Leibniz is one such theologian. He takes the term “nothing” to be just that: nothing. You take it to mean something else. And because you do, you don’t have anything very much useful to contribute to the discussion of why there is something rather than nothing.

    If you are saying that such theologians are incorrect, then you’ve committed yourself to believing that something can come from absolute nothing, not an unstable quantum vacuum that exhibits law-like behavior. However, if you define “nothing” differently from how theologians define “nothing”, then you cannot possibly substantiate your claim that the theologians are incorrect that “from nothing, nothing comes”.

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  23. 23. fraju 2:46 pm 04/24/2012

    Either something can indeed come from absolutely nothing, or from absolutely nothing, absolutely nothing comes. You seem to pretend to prove the first claim (which is why your book is titled “Why there is something rather than nothing”) while never doing so, and you define “nothing” in a way that makes your discussion totally irrelevant to the question these theologians are concerned with. So I’m not sure you have proper standing to call these theologians “pompous”. I’m not sure that you’ve said anything interesting at all about the subject.

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  24. 24. Cardiff_Giant 9:16 pm 04/24/2012

    “Science” does not want things or try to do anything. Science does not ask questions or attempt to explain things. Science is a method/tool used by people to understand things. People ask questions and attempt to explain things.

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  25. 25. CrazedLeper 9:46 pm 04/24/2012

    Of course “science” can explain why there is something rather than nothing because “science” is men and men see what they want to see. “Science” has already determined that it is the opposite of religion when, in fact, it is not. “Science” has already determined that it is the anti-god and that all opposing conclusions are invalid. Religions teach and believe within their own relative framework. “Science”, therefore, became a religion in the same stroke of the pen with which it defined it’s precepts.

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  26. 26. brodix 11:31 pm 04/24/2012

    To ask where “something” came from makes a presumption about time; That it is some external vector along which the point of the present moves/exists. While we perceive time as a series of events, proceeding from past to future, the physical process is a changing configuration of what exists, ie. the present, turning future into past. It’s not that the earth travels some fourth dimension from yesterday to tomorrow, but that tomorrow becomes yesterday because the earth rotates.
    This means time is a measure of action, ie, rate of change. Just like temperature is a measure of level of activity.
    The cat is not both dead and alive, as events proceed into the probabilistic future, because it is the collapse of probabilities, the future, into actualities, that creates time.
    So there is just the eternal “what is.” If nothing moved, there would be a temperature of absolute zero and no change to measure.
    I would suppose fluctuation is eternal, since nothing seems unstable now, so why would it have ever been stable?

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  27. 27. brodix 11:47 pm 04/24/2012

    The problem with the concept of God is that a spiritual absolute would be the elemental essence of being from which we rise, not an ideal form from which we fell. Knowledge is the intersection of awareness and complexity.
    Good and bad are the primordial binary code of attraction to the beneficial and repulsion of the detrimental. What is good for the fox, is bad for the chicken and there is no clear line where the chicken ends and the fox begins.
    Energy manifests information and information defines energy. In order to create new information, old information has to be erased, since the amount of energy is constant. Without motion, nothing exists. With motion, nothing exists forever.

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  28. 28. hvanfleet 5:06 pm 04/25/2012

    If I could put my two cents in here . . . It seems pretty obvious to me that the universe doesn’t need any laws. Humans do. The universe operated as it was supposed to long before we humans came along and I’m sure it will continue doing so long after we’re gone. So, the question of why there is something rather than nothing is something like a Cartesian maxim; I ask why, therefore there must be an answer. I suppose this view could be called the anti-anthropic principle: The universe doesn’t need us, we need it.

    As I understand it (I’m not a scientist), what we know about the universe, intellectually and existentially, is built around a series of mathematical models, which, in essence, attempt to describe and/or explain observable reality, whatever that is. But since it was we humans who invented the rules of the game, we sometimes get caught up in the details. For example, the possible solutions to String Theory, or so I’ve heard, is in the range of some 500 orders of magnitude. And in eleven dimensions. Seriously?

    But there are other conundrums to be addressed, some of which have been pointed out above. Indeed, ex nihilo phenomena have been observed both quantum mechanically and cosmologically. So, whether our universe is the result of two “branes” rubbing against each other, or the result of a series of expansions and collapses of the previous universes until the physics were just right for ours to exist, it is probably, like string theory, more a matter of philosophy than a definitive calculus. As Sir Arthur Eddington once wisely observed, “Not only is the universe stranger than we imagine, it is stranger than we CAN imagine.” But whatever we learn, it will be a product of human understanding and only human understanding. The universe could care less, that is, if it had the ability to care at all.

    A couple of years ago, I posted this about “nothing” on another blog: “It is my unerudite opinion that nothing is, in point of fact, something. Indeed, nothing is a wannabe something, a something lying in wait, if you will. Of course, nothing is also something that ceases to be.

    “Trillions of years from now when all the suns in the universe will have burned up all their fuel and the forces of nature will have stopped being, well, you know, forces of nature, then nothing will not only be something, but nothing will be everything!”

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  29. 29. JordanB 7:31 pm 04/25/2012

    Lawrence’s book explains properties of empty space which everyone here should consider an aspect of the study of ‘nothing’. Right now people don’t even know if they should be talking about an empty set or the absence of sets (which might entail some very weird things) so Krauss should be commended for trying to use science to inform that discussion.

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  30. 30. DrEvel1 8:38 pm 04/25/2012

    I tend to concur with Hvanfleet (#28) (although I believe that the quote is actually not from Eddington but rather JBS Haldane) – just because certain words can be arranged in the grammatical form of a question does not guarantee that an actual meaningful question exists, in the sense that something resembling an “answer” might be forthcoming. The “why is there something…” statement falls into this category. The term “why” belongs purely to the sphere of human construction of reality and the necessarily limited range of perceptions that is part of the human condition. By contrast, the question “Why should I care if there is something rather than nothing?” also makes grammatical sense, and is answerable within the domain of each individual’s perceptions, although there is no global answer that is likely to be more than marginally satisfactory to those posing the question. To attribute more value to pondering this issue than might be accrued in any other Wittgensteinian “language game” is a waste of time that might better be spent figuring out if some newly heard-of sexual practice might be more entertaining than those to which one is routinely accustomed.

    I find the most satisfying summation of this issue to be bound up in Stephen Crane’s fine poem:
    “A man said to the Universe,
    “Sir! I exist!”
    “However,” said the Universe,
    “That fails to inspire in me
    a sense of obligation.”

    Some language games are informative; some are satisfying. Others are merely futile. Learning to tell the difference makes all the difference.

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  31. 31. BasicFunguist 8:57 pm 04/25/2012

    Nihil ex nihilo fit.

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  32. 32. BasicFunguist 9:01 pm 04/25/2012

    Fr. Tim, v. comment 31.

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  33. 33. Jachra 9:28 pm 04/25/2012

    This post references spiritualist absurdities. I am ashamed that this has appeared in Scientific American, a normally rational publication.

    You are quite right in that Krauss may be overstating matters somewhat, and that a proper skeptical eye is skeptical of such claims, but don’t take to referencing matters already lacking in evidence as evidence of something missing!

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  34. 34. kganesh26@gmail.com 2:38 am 04/26/2012

    Science does not have to explain why there should be nothing instead of something, because if there is nothing actually, then we can’t be discussing the issue at all.
    How it all started is a fascinating question, but at the same time it is an invalid question. The basic premise behind this question is that there was nothing initially and then suddenly something came into existence. It is a totally illogical and unacceptable premise because something has been there all along and there was never a time when there was nothing. To put it simply, the universe never had any origin as such. Bertrand Russell said it succinctly —- ‘To think that things must have a beginning is due to poverty of our imagination’

    The existence of this universe and life is a mental event and it is basically linked to our mind only. Ultimately it is our mind that comes to the conclusion about existence of any entity making use of our senses and thought process. So the truth is that existence of the universe is a mental phenomenon. As it is a mental phenomenon, the universe can appear and disappear just like that and there is no need to assume that it had a beginning or there was a creation or creator etc.

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  35. 35. inciwincispider 11:55 am 04/26/2012

    This might be the most unscientific piece I have ever read. we are in trouble as a species if we say ” I don’t understand this so it must not be true” .. and to claim that “science will NEVER explain..” and not back it with anything more than your personal opinion is probably as unscientific as someone can get.Understanding of a subject in science or any other field for that matter is refined and revisisted over time with lots of effort .this perseverence is what we ought to recognize and appreciate. To discredit that is just lazy and ignorant at the very least.

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  36. 36. xexz 10:09 pm 04/26/2012

    That is the answer : ‘Natural number can not be used for quantum phenomena = Geocentric Theory’

    By the way ,is a chinese answer ,I’m certainly in the ‘the chinese room’ :P

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  37. 37. Dr. Strangelove 3:35 am 04/27/2012

    Horgan, I think you are reading the wrong book. If you’re looking for the meaning of life, the universe and everything. Read Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. You will find that the answer is actually 42. But The Question is unknown.

    Earth is actually a gigantic computer created by hyperintelligent pandimensional beings to find out what The Question was. But it was mistaken for a planet by its dumb ape-like inhabitants. BTW these dumb creatures were part of the computer program.

    “There is a theory that states if ever anyone discovers what the universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizzare and more inexplicable. There is another theory that states this has already happened.”

    – Douglas Adams
    The Restaurant at the End of the Universe
    (Book 2 of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy)

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  38. 38. sea_urchin 4:50 am 04/27/2012

    It amazes me, how wise and intelligent commentators here touch on the whole point and yet miss it. And it constantly happens to even such brilliant minds as Lawrence Krauss or Richard Dawkins when debating all those theologians, agnostics and alike.

    Dear author, I see what you did there. Your article is a classical example of sophism. First, you attribute a goal to science, which it clearly doesn’t pursue, and then you prove that science is somehow deficient because it cannot reach this goal.

    Science does never, ever answer any questions starting with “Why?” in any circumstances, except when that “Why?” means “How?” or “In what way?” or “By what law or model?” Period! End of discussion!

    The illusion that objects around us come in and out of existence for a purpose is nothing more than a product of our pattern-seeking brains. That is why religious lunatics have always been so successful in brainwashing people. They abuse this core feature of human brain. And, alas, this article does too.

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  39. 39. xexz 10:40 am 04/27/2012

    “You will find that the answer is actually 42. But The Question is unknown.”
    No…
    The Question is ‘Dos Natural number can be used for quantum phenomena?’ ,Such as 42 :P

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  40. 40. xexz 10:44 am 04/27/2012

    Sorry , dos=does dos=does , Same in chinese :P

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  41. 41. Dave_Oblad 4:24 pm 04/27/2012

    The Universe is “Composed” of Math, not just described by Math. Specifically Boolean (logical) Math.

    To be fully explained Logically, the Universe must reduce to Nothing (No time or space, and thus no matter or energy). If ANYTHING at all was truly inexplicable, then the Universe would ultimately be inexplicable, and thus illogical, and thus impossible. If the Universe is truly Logical, it must ultimately reduce to Nothing.

    The interesting thing about a Logically produced Universe is that it is a Solution to an Equation and thus needs no Creator. For any logical Equation without ambiguities, a solution will EXIST, regardless of how complex that solution becomes. That solution could be a whole Universe. And if that same Equations solution contains self-aware Entities, well then good for them.

    The Answer to “The Question” has been answered by Science. Just because one can’t understand (or refuses to understand due to Cognitive Dissonance) the Answer.. is not the fault of Science.

    Best wishes,
    Dave Oblad

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  42. 42. The Magic Dragon 9:23 pm 04/28/2012

    THERE IS SOMETHING, RATHER THAN NOTHING, because we live in a Dual world. You can’t have one without the other: no nothing, no something and vice versa! Additionally, opposites attract (enantiodromia), one seeking the other in the cosmic ‘dance.’ This creates the ‘vibration,’ which everything is, in some ‘form,’ nee the formless creating form, etc.

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  43. 43. MandoZink 12:20 am 04/29/2012

    I believe it was P.D. Ouspensky, a Russian mathematician, who began a proof of existence with only one fundamental assumption:
    “There either is or isn’t. Since there appears to be, I will assume that there is.”

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  44. 44. Cloe 1:51 am 04/29/2012

    Science cannot disprove a god because a god has never been proven. Science however does offer us proofs, to which are always up to challenge. Philosophies accept challenges, some religions don’t. There are no absolutes (I know that is an absolute statement, but the language ain’t absolute either). The only constant is change, so if there were an absolute as in a god than it would be cancelled as an absolute by change. A dimensional entity that can walk through walls would not be an absolute as the very act of walking is change. Sorry for the philosophical rant, but it’s how us humans speculate and reach new ideas like starting academies and what ever they are called these days. ;)

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  45. 45. dmpjedlicka 3:57 am 04/30/2012

    You quote Wittgenstein in this piece:

    “When it comes to The Question, everyone and no one is an expert, because The Question is different in kind than any other question posed by science. Ludwig Wittgenstein was trying to make this point when he wrote, in typically cryptic fashion, “Not how the world is, is the mystical, but that it is.””

    There is definitely a vein of mysticism that runs through Wittgenstein’s thinking but you get him wrong here, though in a subtle way. For Wittgenstein the mystical is something (not even something) ineffable, unspeakable. You call this ‘the Question’. Wittgenstein would have been adamantly against the notion that this is or could be in any way a coherent ‘question’ (the whole reason Wittgenstein is such a remarkable thinker is because of the deep tension that exists between his inner ‘mystical’ sensibility and the extreme anti-mysticism of his philosophy). In as much as there is an actual question here it is a subject for science if it is a subject for anything.

    The ‘question’ ‘why is their something rather than nothing?’, is a variant of ‘why are things this way, rather than that?’. It is a very useful question to ask, it can teach us a lot, provide us with all sorts of different types of answers and we cunning, talkative mammals have become very adept at asking it. One can give concrete physical explanations for ‘why is the sky blue?’ but those explanations may not take away our inborn sense of the existential contingency of everything, a sense that leads us to continue asking, ‘but why?’ even after we have what amounts to perfectly valid physical explanations. But even this sense of ‘why?’ with all its seeming irreducibility is a potential subject for science and as we uncover more about the way the brain works and our evolutionary heritage perhaps we will be able to give coherent physical explanation for this as well. Of course doing so will not make it go away, we are I think stuck with it.

    One other thing, the way Brian Leiter and some other philosophers who claim to be ‘naturalists’ have responded to this, is frankly a betrayal of the basic ethos of naturalism. Quine is by many accounts one of the great philosophers of the 20th century. He has had a tremendous impact on the discipline as it now exists, and is the central reference point for what ‘naturalism’ is thought to entail. The ~50% of US philosophers who call themselves naturalists (including Leiter) all live in Quine’s wake. Quine would be with Krauss on this not with Leiter, and so should any serious post-Quinean naturalist. The -only- interesting philosophical question here is identical to the scientific one, there is no special domain of properly ‘philosophical’ problems, as nice as that might be for academics seeking to justify their raison d’etre to a bunch of MBA flunky administrators. Leiter has let his justified concern for the fate of his discipline (something with which he is very involved and to which I am somewhat sympathetic) compromise his position here.

    As for the existential ‘why?’, I like to turn off the lights and listen to Mahler. I neither want, nor expect to find, a better answer than that.

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  46. 46. Bengt Frost 3:29 pm 04/30/2012

    It is interesting to note that it now has been a sliding what Lawrence Krauss really expresses in his book “A Universe From Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather Than Nothing.” Apparently, he no longer answer the question “Why There Is Something Rather Than Nothing” but rather “Why There Is Something Rather Than Nothing according to the Quantum Mechanical Framework.”

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  47. 47. hybrid 3:37 am 05/1/2012

    The more the astrophysicists, particle physicists and scientists in general discover, the more difficult it becomes to explain the findings with conventional concepts, so may be it is time to throw away the box instead of just trying to think outside of it.
    Missing mass , black holes, dark energy believe it or not, can be addressed by the introduction of a dynamic energy field, as can other illusions such as space and time.
    The basic surmise can be simply stated by:-

    The physical universe is a disturbed field of pure energy seeking equilibrium.
    Nothing (to us) is the undisturbed field of energy, and the something is the universe.
    If and when equilibrium is achieved our material universe will be gone.— until the next disturbance/universe?

    The question of what caused the disturbance could be answered by the interception of another undisturbed field of energy.

    To get theological about such a concept let me point out that all in such a universe including us are generated by a flow and counter flow of energy, however not being aware of this could be the price of living an ordinary normal life. This barrier of knowledge may have been penetrated from time to time by people of great mental dimensions, usually at a time of extreme stress, verging on a nervous breakdown. This event repeats historically on the world stage. The few who remain sane after the event can find no words to describe the revelation, but then came a singular few, who were able to transpose this feeling into everyday local habits with stories designed to make people aware of this other marvelous realm which they were part of. In the proper sense, and in the human way of things God became the personification of this field of energy, and heaven maybe is where the human energy hopefully rejoins the balanced area of the field, after death. A subconscious knowledge gives credence to stories such as the fall of angels, with Satan as the disturbance etc. Christianity, Jewish Faith, Islamic Faith and maybe the Mormon congregations are examples of interpretations of the energy systems into local habits, customs and languages, but all geared to the same end, allbeit by different means.

    A forthcoming publication addresses the above in greater detail and goes on to encompass more seeming enigmas, generally unexplainable without introducing a dynamic energy thesis to do so.

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  48. 48. RMiller 3:44 pm 05/3/2012

    This “nothing comes from nothing” argument goes back to the Greek Presocratic philosophers, NOT Christian theologians (Johnny Come Latelys, comparatively, of course they read the material and commented on it, which may be why the idea is so distorted in this debate). Namely, Parmenides (dealing with the metaphysics of change), and later on Empedocles (an early guess at the conservation of energy), moving through Democritus (the first atomic theory). It was further built on by Epicurus and his school during the Hellenistic and Roman periods, in which we have the testimony of Lucretius to whit. For the Epicureans, they used it in arguing that animals could not poof into full form from anything without a “seed” (this is an early, early glimmer of biological inheritance and evolution) and the argument is still largely correct in its proper historical context today.

    None of these figures from the early history of metaphysics and science had any clue of quantum theory, but I think I am accurate in saying that if they had not posed these questions about the “nothing”, it would have taken much longer to get to where we are now.

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  49. 49. Zephir 11:36 am 05/10/2012

    In dense aether theory the reality simply is random, because the existence of random state requires less postulates/assumption, than the existence of any particular state (including the zero state). From this reason the Universe appears like random clouds or Perlin noise, the dense aether model says.

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  50. 50. Roger846 12:44 am 05/19/2012

    My proposed solution to the questions of “Why do things exist?” and “Why is there something rather than nothing? is summarized in the below abstract of my ideas at:

    https://sites.google.com/site/ralphthewebsite/filecabinet/why-things-exist-something-nothing

    In this paper, I propose solutions to the questions “Why do things exist?” and “Why is there something rather than nothing?” In regard to the first question, “Why do things exist?”, it is argued that a thing exists if it is a grouping, or collection. A grouping is some relationship saying, or defining, what is contained within. Such a definition or grouping is equivalent to an edge, boundary, or enclosing surface defining what is contained within and giving “substance” and existence to the thing. An example of a grouping, and thus an existent state, is a set. Without a relationship defining what elements are contained within a set, the set would not exist. This relationship, or grouping is shown by the curly braces, or edge, around the elements of the set, and is what gives existence to the set. In regard to the second question, “Why is there something rather than nothing?”, “absolute nothing”, or “non-existence”, is first defined to mean: no energy, matter, volume, space, time, thoughts, concepts, mathematical truths, etc.; and no minds to think about this absolute lack-of-all. This absolute lack-of-all itself, and not our mind’s conception of the absolute lack-of-all, is the entirety, or whole amount, of what is present. The entirety/whole amount is a relationship defining what is contained within (ie., everything) and is therefore a grouping, and an existent state. Its edge is not some separate thing; it is just the relationship defining what is contained within. Therefore, what has traditionally been thought of as “absolute lack-of-all”, “nothing”, or “non-existence”, is, when seen from this different perspective, a grouping, and thus an existent state or “something”. Said yet another way, “non-existence” can appear as either “nothing” or “something” depending on how the observer thinks about it. What this means is that our use of the term “nothing” is actually a misnomer and that the way we’ve always thought of “something” and “nothing” as being different is incorrect. This reasoning is then used as the basis of a primitive model of the universe developed via what I refer to as “philosophical engineering”.

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  51. 51. Sabretruthtiger 11:47 am 06/24/2012

    The author has made erroneous assumptions. The author is making the logical mistake of placing creation within the laws of physics. i.e time and space. The question is what created time and space and the laws of physics. The energy inherent in quantum space is a phenomenon within the laws of physics. Not only that but the particles are not necessarily springing from nothing, science cannot fully understand the underlying nature of such quantum phenomena and argumentum ad ignorantiam is not a valid argument in favour of it actually being nothing, especially as I mentioned earlier, such a phenomenon exists within the laws of physics and time and space, and therefore can not actually be nothing. So true nothing conceptually cannot spawn anything. a key point is the fact that we cannot conceive of phenomena outside of time/space and the laws of physics, consciousness or conscious experience is a phenomenon unexplained as yet by physics and who’s to say that existence itself is not a form of consciousness and some form of sentience beyond our comprehension is behind it. For instance the spontaneous symmetry breaking leading to the respective finely balanced forces and particles in turn leading to high information complex sentient life from a high entropy state is unexplained by science. Evolution and other theories explain the mechanism but not how the respective forces were so finely balanced. There are theories like the infinite universes/dimensions theory postulating that we just happen to be in one of the infinite variations with life but they still don’t explain why the dimensions are separated as opposed to a homogenous singularity mush, and why there is not infinite variability in all respects even within dimensions. Science by the very nature of it’s workings cannot comprehend phenomena outside the laws of physics and making proclamations such as ‘there is no need for a God’ is arrogant and erroneous especially as the definition of ‘God’ is not universally defined. There is also the fact that there is a political agenda behind the attack on theistic religion. The globalists that control the western governments are attacking traditional theistic religion because they’re implementing a world government and they need maximum control in the transitional phase over the populace and they cannot tolerate institutions that promote allegiance to something other than the state. The vaccuum of theism will be replaced by their new age world religion they’re implementing. It’s an eco-fascist, Gaia, mother Earth goddess religion that deifies their environmental governance system based on the man made global warming fraud (all the scientific evidence is against anthropogenic global warming, no evidence supports it). This environmental religion is state-based and makes the state God, also enabling them to monitor and control every aspect of the population’s lives via ‘CO2′ governance.

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  52. 52. neutrino78x 3:24 pm 08/6/2012

    Lawrence Krauss, I enjoyed your book The Physics of Star Trek!!

    I haven’t read this other one…but I have to say…based on what I have read about your book, you seem to be misunderstanding the question at hand.

    When we say “why is there something rather than nothing”, we mean literally nothing. That includes quantum fields, laws of physics, any kind of energy, time itself, etc. Literally nothing is not a difficult concept. Goalposts are not being moved. We simply mean literally nothing, as in the complete absence of anything, including the laws of physics.

    So this notion that somehow one can perform a scientific experiment to explain why there is something rather than nothing, as opposed to how it came to be there, seems nonsensical.

    You speak of instabilities, and how that leads to a singularity, etc. Well, if there is an instability, that is something, right? It is not nothing. So already you are not addressing the fundamental question.

    Look, this question is and will always be a philosophical/religious one. As a Deist, I believe there was a Creator who created the laws of physics, and then left the universe on autopilot thereafter. Christians believe God intervened several times thereafter, including revealing His word to humans and walking on Earth as a human (with human DNA, indistinguishable by empirical observation as being anything other than a normal human). Atheists believe it was just a random event, or that there was always something rather than nothing.

    All these positions are equally valid.

    Now, maybe the purpose of your book is to address the “intelligent design” theory, in which case I agree with you, intelligent design is nonsense, and an attempt to justify the teaching of religion in a classroom. Clearly, fundamentalists are not coming from a rational position.

    But if your purpose is to somehow claim that all religion, even the moderate ideas which are tempered by reason, such as the Roman Catholic Jesuit idea that Catholicism is not in conflict with modern science, cannot be a valid answer, and that somehow there is a scientific observation one could make to disprove even moderate religious beliefs, I must disagree.

    Religion and philosophy address a question more fundamental than can be answered by any conceivable scientific experiment. Any answer given by the scientific method would presuppose there being something rather than nothing, and therefore would not address the question at hand.

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  53. 53. neutrino78x 3:36 pm 08/6/2012

    45. dmpjedlicka — “why is the sky blue” is actually not correctly worded, if you are to answer it with science.

    The proper wording would be “HOW is it that the sky is blue?” In which case we can answer with rayleigh scattering, etc.

    The answer to “WHY is the sky blue” would have to be something like “God chose to write the laws of physics, which ultimately resulted in a blue sky on the planet Earth”, or “no reason, just a random physical process that happened to result in that color”.

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  54. 54. get1949 2:22 pm 10/31/2012

    Nothing, anything, everything, and something: the common ‘problem’ is the word thing. Science itself defines matter (and therefore things/stuff) as being made up of mostly empty space. If you surf around for a percentage of what “mostly” means; 99.99% empty is a typical answer. Further of all the matter in the universe 96% of it is Dark Matter and Dark Energy leaving us only 4% (out of which 99.99% is empty). I believe the answer is that, “nothing is nothing” and therefore everything is something but all of ‘that’ is an electronic signal resident in a giant hologram and ‘someone’ is watching the ‘stage’ as we dance in life and perform to the beat of the light. Frankly, I’m more interested in who built the stage (the time space fabric) that we exist upon and that also when we do discover (any) information how can that NOT come from intelligence? SO…it is all electronic! We never touch a ‘thing’ we just bring our fingers (which hold an outside skin of negatively changed electrons—the valance electrons) in proximity to a table (or whatever) which also has a negative electron ‘skin’ which causes the electrons to deflect and bend (in their orbital) and this then sends a signal to our brains that we have ‘touched’ something…but, in reality, it is all empty space! So somebody write another book and get this to filter into all these frustrated ‘brains’ out there and then let’s figure out where this ‘intelligence’ comes from NO matter how uncomfortable it makes us for one point seems obvious that which is science will be determined from that which is outside of and not restricted to what is ‘reality’. We are a weird bug in an even more unbelievable existence.

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  55. 55. magnani 8:22 pm 03/19/2013

    Ah! Nothing here… Good. Check. Move along… Move along… ;-)

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  56. 56. Channe 7:00 pm 05/5/2013

    Anyone who believes that space, time, matter did not exist at some point are just creating their own god to worship.

    The simplistic answer tends to be the most logical. Time, space, and matter are eternal. Get over it !

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  57. 57. PLOTCH 4:15 pm 06/27/2013

    “Anyone who believes that space, time, matter did not exist at some point are just creating their own god to worship.”

    Could you please explain exactly how and why, space, time and matter came to exist in the first place? Is it not the same as saying “god(s)” exist as the first cause because the “god(s)” always existed eternally with no cause for themselves?

    Is not your statement merely subsituting space, time and matter in place of god(s)?

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  58. 58. LewSouth 5:25 pm 03/1/2014

    It seems to me that the Question is clearly a philosophical rather than a scientific one, and the Answer is along the lines of the so-called anthropic principle: If nothing existed, we couldn’t ask the question.

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  59. 59. PLOTCH 8:09 pm 03/6/2014

    John very good article. I read the book Why Does the World Exist and it is very thought provoking and provacative. Best book on the subject so far.

    Best we can say so far about all this, is that we simply don’t know. This is the most honest answer anyone could give about why the world and the universe exists. It really is a mind blowing question and leaves us wondering no matter how hard we try to answer it.

    Personally I believe something far greater than us, is responsible for it all. But, remember as you read this this, it is my personal opinion and is only held for myself, not to convert anyone.

    Scientists like Krauss and Dawkins of course want to offer plausible explantions for their own contributions to the answers we all seek as to why there is something rather than nothing. However, there is always the doubt because we simply have not seen for ourselves truly what is it that “gives the fire to the equations” in the first place, to quote another scientist.

    It truly feels like we chase ones tail and never get anywhere.

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  60. 60. KevinMcGeary62 9:51 pm 03/11/2014

    I see many trying to take sides on this issue. Something to consider: Dr Krauss is the only physicist to have received awards from all three major American physics societies: the American Physical Society, the American Association of Physics Teachers, and the American Institute of Physics. The author of this piece John Horgan, a Journalist, attempts to ‘smack down’ one of our greatest advocates of Science because?
    He doesn’t agree with the empirical evidence that Krauss shares in his book, or doesn’t understand it? I looked for any specific questions in this piece that Horton may be asking Krauss. I found one in paragraph five: “Whaaaa…??!!” But as it turns out that question was evidently for Richard Dawkins.

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  61. 61. Scottie9999 11:33 pm 06/30/2014

    Perhaps we will never answer the question “Why is there something rather than nothing” because they question may be a pseudo-question. That is, this looks like a meaningful question (it has the right grammatical form) and it tickles our brains and stirs in us a sense of wonder. But maybe we are under an ILLUSION that this string of words is actually asking a coherent, meaningful question.

    I am suggesting that, in the spirit of Wittgenstein, we can “dissolve” the problem, rather than solving it. That is, we can show that what seems to be a genuine philosophical question is not a question at all.

    Why should we think that this is a pseudo-question? I have two reasons for thinking this:

    (1) The sort of answer we give to other questions will fail to answer this question. Generally, we answer why-questions by references some prior cause, or object, or entity, or law, or principle, or event, etc. But in answering this question, we may not do that. As soon as we cite any object, entity, law, or principle of any sort we have already assumed that THERE IS that object, entity, law, or principle. So we have presupposed that there is, there exists, something. But then we have to explain why that thing exists, rather than nothing. Ad infinitum. This casts a bit of suspicion on the coherence of the question. There seems to be nothing, even in principle, that could answer it. It’s not just that we have no idea what the answer is. We don’t even know what kind of answer would fit the bill.

    (2) We think we can imagine two alternatives: (A) the existence of something, and (B) a nothing-world, a non-world. But can we really imagine (B)? I am not convinced. When we imagine the non-world, the nothing-world, perhaps we are just imagining that–nothing, i.e., we are not imagining anything at all. So perhaps when we utter the word “nothing” in the question “Why is there something rather than nothing”, the word “nothing” refers to nothing. It has no referent. So the question fails to express a complete proposition, since one of the terms fails to refer.

    I am of course not saying that I am SURE that the question “Why is there something rather than nothing” is meaningless or defective. But I am suspicious. I welcome any comments.

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