Scientists contemplate universe’s origin
A Universe from Nothing: Why is there Something Rather than Nothing? by Lawrence M. Krauss; ISBN 978-1-4516-2445-8 ©2012, $24.99, p. 202
The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning: Why the Universe is Not Designed for Us by Victor J. Stenger; ISBN 978-1-61614-443-2 ©2012, $28.00, p. 341, including notes, bibliography, and index
By Fred Reiss, Ed.D.
WINCHESTER, California — The Zohar, the preeminent work of Jewish Mysticism, whose authorship is attributed to the first century CE rabbinic scholar Shimon bar Yochai, recounts that God contracted (tzimtzum in Hebrew), thereby forming space for creation. A millennium after bar Yochai, the great Middle Ages Jewish Aristotelian philosopher Maimonides argued in his seminal work The Guide for the Perplexed that there are four propositions about the creation of the world: creation out of nothing, the Jewish perspective; Plato’s assertion that creation arose from pre-existing matter; Aristotle’s argument for the eternity of the universe; and the beliefs of the god-less philosophies, such as the Epicureans, who say that things just materialize and decay by chance. Now, a millennium after Maimonides, science might be ready to weigh in and perhaps declare a winner.
Renowned particle physicist and cosmologist Lawrence Krauss in his newest book A Universe from Nothing continues along the scientific path started by Darwin in the mid-ninetieth century that life on earth can be explained without God. A Universe from Nothing succinctly reveals a series of scientific conclusions based on past observations as well as twentieth and twenty-first century discoveries, such as relativity, quantum mechanics, an inflating flat universe, anti-particles, dark matter, dark energy, and perhaps even multiverses, all of which are derived from measurements of the cosmos and follow immutable physical laws. In A Universe from Nothing, Krauss assures us that taken together the conclusions of modern physics can explain the creation of the universe without God.
Many of us have been taught to believe that creation needs an external creator, which we refer to as God. However, Kepler, Newton, Einstein, and many others have demonstrated that there are physical laws governing the universe and Krauss concludes that these universal rules are all that exist and by their very existence require our universe to develop and evolve just as it has for the last 13.7 billion years. Krauss, like Stephen Hawking, looks at the data and is satisfied that the rules, the physical laws of the universe, alone, explain why there is something rather than nothing.
The anthropic principle, the idea that the laws of physics and the fundamental constants of the universe are precisely arranged and balanced to guarantee life on earth, implies that God is the creator of the universe. Physicist, astronomer, and philosopher Victor J. Stenger wrote The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning to dispel this notion. Stenger sets up each of the so-called “fundamental constants,” such as the speed of light, Plank’s constant, and Newton’s gravitational constant, as straw men, only to knock each of them down by making extensive use of physical arguments and diagrams, and especially mathematical equations, which the average reader might find “tough going.”
Unlike theologians, who start with a conclusion, God exists, and seek proofs from any source available to support this supposition and unlike philosophers of science who contemplate such things as what is real and what is truth, but whose methods offer little hope of finding how the universe began, both Krauss and Stenger agree that only through measuring nature and following the subsequent trail of data can we ever discover with any certainty how the universe began. Stenger chides believers of the anthropic principle, saying it is not so much that we exist because God fine-tuned the universe for life, but because life found a way to evolve under the conditions imposed by the laws of the universe.
There are scientists who disagree about the existence of dark matter and energy and even the interpretation of quantum mechanics and whether or not the universe is actually in a state of inflation. There are theologians who readily accept the data, but reject a non-deist answer by asking, “Who made up the rules?” Until such time, if ever, that the issue of God’s existence is settled, atheists of the world unite, as you have nothing to lose but eternity.
Reiss is a retired public and Hebrew school teacher and administrator. He is the author of The Standard Guide to the Jewish and Civil Calendars; Ancient Secrets of Creation: Sepher Yetzira, the Book that Started Kabbalah, Revealed; and Reclaiming the Messiah. The author can be contacted at email@example.com .
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