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Everything Came from Nothing

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In his 2009 book Who Made God: Searching for a Theory of Everything, Christian chemist Edgar Andrews challenges many of the statements made in new atheist writings including my 2007 book God: The Failed Hypothesis. I have placed a point-by-point rebuttal to Andrews' criticisms on the Internet. Here let me address just a few of his objections relating to proposals for how the universe came from nothing and how complexity arises naturally from simplicity. See also my earlier post "Did the Universe Come from Nothing?".

Andrews asks, "Doesn't Dr. Stenger's idea that simplicity begets complexity totally contradict Richard Dawkins' argument that God, having created an exceedingly complex universe, must be even more complex and thus highly improbable?"

Here's exactly what Dawkins said in his 2006 blockbuster The God Delusion:

A designer God cannot be used to explain organized complexity because any God capable of designing anything would have to be complex enough to demand the same kind of explanation in his own right. God presents an infinite regress from which he cannot help us escape. This argument . . . demonstrates that God, though not technically disprovable, is very very improbable indeed (p. 109).

The point Dawkins was making is that if William Dembski, Michael Behe, and other proponents of intelligent design are correct in their claim that complexity can only arise from higher complexity, then God would be even more complex and an explanation would then have to be found for his complexity. But Dawkins does not believe for a moment that this is the case. No one has been more eloquent than Richard Dawkins in describing how complexity arises from simplicity in biology, so it is ludicrous to suggest he supports the ID view.

I have personally checked with Dawkins and he agrees with my interpretation of his words.

Note that when Dawkins says the existence of God is "technically unprovable, he is not disagreeing with the statement made in God: The Failed Hypothesis that God does not exist beyond a reasonable doubt. Of course we cannot disprove the existence of all conceivable gods. However, Andrews does not understand the argument for the non-existence of God. He repeatedly says it is based on the lack of evidence. He misses the whole point. The case is not solely based on the absence of evidence but on the absence of evidence that should be there. The God worshiped by Jews, Christians, and Muslims plays such an active role in the universe and in human life that he should have been detected by now.

Andrews also tries to undermine proposals I describe about where the universe and the laws of nature come from, namely, that they came from nothing -- from the void. He distinguishes between two kinds of void: Void-zero is "the eternally pre-existent, non-physical framework in which the physical universe began and must, by definition, lie beyond the reach and remit of science." He says I confuse this with void-one, which "lies entirely within the material universe" and is "a constituent of the cosmos" that is composed of empty space.

He further adds, "The laws of nature . . . are just part of the created physical order . . . . The symmetries of void-one (if they exist) do nothing to explain the origin of the laws of nature, being themselves simply an expression or manifestation of those laws."

Andrews is making a metaphysical assumption that this "void-zero" exists in reality. He cannot know that. He is basing that statement on his faith that another world exists, not science which finds no evidence for such a world. He is also making a metaphysical assumption that the laws of nature are something inherent to the universe, part of the "created order" that we scientists discover. He cannot know that either by any credible means.

When theists ask, "How can something come from nothing?" they have the burden of defining what they mean by nothing. Assuming they can, then there are two states of existence: something and nothing. The theist then assumes nothing is the more natural state and so the transition nothing-to-something requires an agent, which is what we call God.

Now, why should nothing be more natural than something? In natural processes, the transition from simple to complex is spontaneous, that is, not the result of any causal agent as in the phase transitions gas-to-liquid-to-solid.

Assuming that, however we define it, nothing is simpler than something, we expect that the natural state of existence to be something rather than nothing--not requiring God. It would take an agent such as God to maintain an eternal state of nothing!

The theological claim that science cannot describe the origin of the universe and its laws in purely natural terms is refuted by the existence of plausible scenarios consistent with all knowledge that are fully worked out mathematically and published in reputable journals. These scenarios need not be proven. And until all conceivable natural scenarios are disproved, they suffice to show that the origin of the universe is not beyond the reach of science.