Union University
Union University Dept of Language


I Corinthians 1:28-29

Director of the Institute for Intellectual Discipleship

January 5, 2012 - The hubris of some cosmological physicists occasionally exceeds the boundaries of the expanding universe upon which they propound. In one sense, this should come as no surprise. To have literally figured out reality, as some cosmological physicists claim, requires wrapping one’s mind around the universe so to speak. Thus, it stands to reason that prodigious intellects come with matching egos. 

Still, the manifestation of this phenomenon, while understandable, is noisome. Thankfully, grammar comes to aid when philosophical arrogance, masquerading as sound science, requires a logical thrashing.

By way of illustration, consider recent claims of renowned cosmologist, Lawrence M. Krauss. In his new book, A Universe from Nothing, Krauss purportedly demonstrates the spuriousness of the famous philosophical dictum, ex nihilo nihil fit (out of nothing, nothing comes). Krauss explains, “Empirical discoveries continue to tell us that the Universe is the way it is, whether we like it or not, and ‘something’ and ‘nothing’ are physical concepts and therefore are properly the domain of science, not theology or philosophy.  (Indeed, religion and philosophy have added nothing to our understanding of these ideas in millennia.)”

Krauss goes on to point out “how physics has changed our notions of ‘nothing’.” He explains that modern science has debunked the old idea of nothing as empty space, and replaced it with “a boiling bubbling brew of virtual particles,” various interpretations of which yield different conceptions of nothing. 

Of course, the punch line (incidentally not in dispute here) is that the relevant equations all entail that our present universe (i.e., something) arises from the various models of “nothing” so construed.   Hence, contra those foolish theologians, something can come from "nothing."

While Krauss (or anyone for that matter) is welcome to construe “nothing” in ways suited to his purposes, the metaphysical mountain that is the grammar of being is immovable. Nothing is, quite literally, no thing. Speaking strictly, nothing isn’t. Thus, Krauss’s assertion to the effect that “nothing” is like this or that is an assertion about something, not nothing. Logically, nothing can be asserted about nothing. By contrast, lots can be said about empty space or bubbling brews of undetectable particles precisely because these are things.

Ironically, Krauss is right to assert that after millennia, “religion and philosophy have added nothing to our understanding” of nothing. Properly understood, nothing can be added to one’s understanding of the nature of nothing, because there’s no thing there to understand. Apparently, Krauss does not understand this.