Creation and Its Detractors
In a New York Times editorial this week, Columbia University philosophy professor David Albert reacts to a provocative new book on quantum physics. The book is A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather Than Nothing by Lawrence M. Krauss, and it presents what its author claims is a purely scientific and emphatically secular explanation for what theologians call creation ex nihilo. Militant atheists such as Richard Dawkins, who wrote the book’s afterword, will doubtless seize on the book as the (latest) “final” nail in the coffin of theism. The whole notion of a Creator, so the argument goes, is hereby rendered unnecessary by quantum field theory.
I won’t go into the details of Albert’s critique of this latest triumphal attempt at deicide. It is well worth a read, and a single line is enough to give you a taste: “But all there is to say about this, as far as I can see, is that Krauss is dead wrong and his religious and philosophical critics are absolutely right.” Can you imagine a sentence like that being printed in The New York Times? That fact alone might be taken as wry proof for the existence of God!
Oh, and while I’m at it, Stanley Fish also struck a new blow against liberal fundamentalism. The ubiquitous Dr. Dawkins appears there, too, uttering a line about citing scientific authority “chapter and verse”. Stanley Fish makes some hay out of that, and makes you think while he’s at it.
The Creation (as original event) remains a huge stumbling block, not only to the modern, scientific mind, but also to every form of human hubris, every one of our delusions of self-sufficiency. This latest dust-up comes from the direction of quantum physics, and refers to the original origin of everything. But the very idea that we have a Creator who is distinct from—and at the same time utterly involved with—us and the rest of his creatures casts our daily existence (not just our ultimate origins) in a light which is, at least for the modern atheist, outrageous and unsettling. Creatio continua is also a challenge to people—perhaps especially when our interest in God’s action has been focused too exclusively on the question of origins. There is far more to the doctrine of creation than that (such as everything in Luther’s explanation of the First Article).
It is important to note that we don’t by any means “prove” a literal reading of the Biblical creation account by refuting the claim that quantum field theory (or some other mathematical model) has debunked religion. And we also shouldn’t jump to the conclusion that quantum physics is all bunk because somebody has made illogical claims for it. There are certainly anti-religion “scientific” bigots, but there are also anti-science religious bigots. A pox on both their houses! The doctrine of creation means (among other things) that we who understand that it is our duty to thank and praise, to serve and obey our Creator are also delighted by and open to His other creatures—even quantum fields.
Jeff Wild March 28, 2012
Thanks for the article. Small typo, it should be Albert not Krauss in this sentence, “I won’t go into the details of Krauss’s critique”
Will Schumacher March 28, 2012
Thanks for catching that!
Matt Priem March 30, 2012
As a former scientist, it always frustrates me to see such buffoonery as “A Universe From Nothing” passed off as good science. I blame this on the modernist approach to education that killed the more philosophical classical method. We have today scientists that are brilliant in so far as their ability to manipulate data, but quite backward in their ability to rationally assess the significance of that data. In this case, Krauss seems unable to grasp that “no-thing” cannot have ANYTHING a part of it.
Besides, suppose Krauss could “explain” the universe without reference to God? I can explain the universe without reference to Krauss, so where does that leave him?
Matt Priem March 30, 2012
Fortunately a good philosopher was on hand to provide this excellent article. Kudos to David Albert, and may more good philosophers follow his example.
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