A Universe From Nothing?
One interesting development of Twentieth Century cosmology is the discovery of the Universe's finite past. Beginning with Einstein's Theory of General Relativity and Edwin Hubble's observation of the red shift in light from far off galaxies, scientists began to understand that our universe is currently expanding. Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose solved a series of equations known as the Singularity Theorems, which showed that an expanding universe implied a definite beginning in time for the Universe. This model of the Universe, known as the Standard Model, has been deridingly referred to as the Big Bang. Since, there have been many empirical confirmations of the so-called Big Bang Theory, including the cosmic microwave background radiation predicted by George Gamow and later measured by Arno Penzias and Robert Woodrow Wilson.
Even though he played a leading role in the development of the Big Bang Model, Stephen Hawking expressed much unease with this description of the universe, primarily because it implied a moment of creation. In a speech given at a conference at Cambridge in honor of his seventieth birthday, Hawking explained:
"A point of creation would be a place where science broke down. One would have to appeal to religion and the hand of God."
Cosmologist Alexander Vilenkin gives little hope for anyone considering an eternal universe. At the same conference, modestly titled The State of the Universe, Vilenkin's presentation suggested that there are no successful descriptions of an expanding universe with an eternal past. Consider Vilenkin from his book Many Worlds In One:
“It is said that an argument is what convinces reasonable men and a proof is what it takes to convince even an unreasonable man. With the proof now in place, cosmologists can no longer hide behind the possibility of a past-eternal universe. There is no escape, they have to face the problem of a cosmic beginning” (Vilenkin, Many Worlds In One, p. 176).
As the realization of the universe's beginning is becoming more and more certain, some naturalists are forced to make a strange leap: perhaps the universe came into being without a cause at all. Cosmologist Laurence Krauss, in his book A Universe from Nothing, claims:
"The purpose of this book is simple. I want to show how modern science, in various guises, can address and is addressing the question of why there is something rather than nothing: The answers that have been obtained--from staggeringly beautiful experimental observations, as well as from the theories that underlie much of modern physics--all suggest that getting something from nothing is not a problem. Indeed, something from nothing may have been required for the universe to come into being. Moreover, all signs suggest that this is how our universe could have arisen" (Krauss, A Universe from Nothing, p. xiii).
Of course Krauss fails to explain the origins of our universe precisely because he fails to understand the nature of "nothing." Krauss's description of nothing includes time, space, matter, energy, and the laws of nature. These are all features of our universe, the very object in need of an explanation. It's clear, to most of us, that universes just don't come into being from nothing and without a cause. Might it be possible that Big Bang Cosmology is pointing back to a simple yet profound idea, that a timeless, spaceless, immaterial being brought it all into being? The opening verse of Genesis captures this idea:
"In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." Genesis 1:1
Twentieth and Twenty-first Century cosmology has brings us back to the very same idea that Moses affirmed over 3,000 years ago: God is the transcendent creator of this world and everything within it. He brought space, time, matter, and energy into existence without any previously existing material, an idea captured by the Latin phrase Creatio Ex Nihilo (creation from nothing). So while Krauss may be correct in predicting a universe without a material cause, logic demands that there should be some causal explanation of the Universe. After all, universes don't just pop into existence. The Bible describes God as the efficient cause, or the causal agent, who brought the Universe into being, and this fits well with what we now know about the past history of the Universe.