William Carroll–Landscapes of Nothingness

I should like to focus on nothing””that is, on the various senses of nothing about which scientists, philosophers, and theologians speak””and the danger which follows from a failure to keep distinct these different senses. It may seem strange, but my task here is to make crucial distinctions about nothing….

Lawrence Kraus, however, simply rejects any appeal to notions of “nothing” which are beyond the explanatory domain of the natural sciences. As he said in an interview on National Public Radio in January: “the question of why there is something rather than nothing is really a scientific question, not a religious or philosophical question, because both nothing and something are scientific concepts, and our discoveries over the past 30 years have completely changed what we mean by nothing.” Krauss goes well beyond what most physicists would claim when he says: “the distinction between something and nothing has begun to disappear, where transitions between the two in different contexts are not only common, but required” (183). Indeed, he has a whole chapter on why nothing is unstable. In a way, of course, he is right. The “nothing” he attributes to various cosmological theories is really something. The distinguished French physicist, Étienne Klein, author of Discours sur l’origine de l’univers (2010), observes that, contrary to Krauss’ speculations, we do not have the conceptual tools to try to explain how something can come from nothing; indeed, “that which pre-exists our universe is never nothing,” since all change starts from a prior something….

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Philosophy, Science & Technology, Theology

One comment on “William Carroll–Landscapes of Nothingness

  1. DTerwilliger says:

    I had the privilege attending a lecture given by William Carroll – and a luncheon in his honor – while studying graduate philosophy at Gonzaga University back in the late 1990’s. He presented St Thomas Aquinas’ view of creation from eternity. Anyway, being a lowly grad student much of what Dr. Carroll said escaped my grasp then and probably still does today. However, as to the issue presented here (ex nihilo, nihil fit), it seems to me that many modern physicists struggle with it because doing physics without metaphysics is like changing a tire with one hand tied behind their backs. Consider how Aristotle’s book Physics leads right into his Metaphysics – in which he also treats special metaphysics (theology). The modern “materialistic” physicists often lack the requisite philosophical tools for getting to the noumena (let alone accept and analyze it) behind the phenomena they study. I take it that the adage that “nothing comes from nothing” is an intersecting explanation (of physics and metaphysics) that acknowledges “effects” cannot be their own “causes.” From my reading on the subject, Classical and Medieval philosophy (at its best) was gifted with a penetrating curiosity about causation which, today, has been ignored due to the prevailing Positivism in the 20th century. However, the great thing is metaphysics is making a slow but certain comeback. Consider Fr. Robert Spitzer, for instance, in his work on modern physics, cosmology, philosophy and proofs for the existence of God. This is wonderful stuff and I believe it is most helpful to modern day Christians who need to be led out of the dead-end cul-de-sac of Fideism into a robustly reasoned and strongly defensible world-view.