Saturday, 3 March 2012

A Universe From Nothing (Lawrence Krauss)

“Every atom in your body came from a star that exploded. And, the atoms in your left hand probably came from a different star than your right hand. It really is the most poetic thing I know about physics: You are all stardust. You couldn’t be here if stars hadn’t exploded, because the elements - the carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, iron, all the things that matter for evolution and for life - weren’t created at the beginning of time. They were created in the nuclear furnaces of stars, and the only way for them to get into your body is if those stars were kind enough to explode. So, forget Jesus. The stars died so that you could be here today.”

1 comment:


I think that those of us with materialist proclivities may need to come to terms with the possibility that there are some cosmological questions that empirical science may never be able to answer, while also recognising that this possibility alone does not entitle us to give up the search for answers. As Krauss points out, if our current theoretical conception of the universe is correct, there will come a time when, due to the universe's accelerating rate of expansion, all the surrounding galaxies will be receding from us at a rate that exceeds the Hubble constant, rendering them unobservable. At that time, practically all the evidence we presently have for the existence of other galaxies (besides our own) will be gone, and observers relying on empirical observation would justifiably be led to conclude that the Milky Way (or, to be more accurate, some sort of Milky Way/Andromeda hybrid) is the only galaxy in the universe. This possibility should give us pause, for it points to another possibility; namely, that we may be living at a point in the evolution of the universe in which certain evidence regarding its origin is simply no longer available, rendering an observation-based science impotent to answer such questions. I believe this is an important possibility to keep in mind since, in our attempts to respond to the Creationist, ID theorists and the like, we may feel tempted to posit that fundamental physics will (given enough time) eventually provide answers to all cosmological questions. However, this need not nor should it be a burden that the materialist takes up. Acknowledging the possibility that there are certain cosmological questions that science may never answer is not to concede that we may justifiably evoke God, a deity, or something non-physical or supernatural to do the job. Acknowledging the possible limitations of empirical science (in this regard) would, I suspect, also make us less hasty to presume that a given theory has solved the most fundamental problems regarding our cosmic origins. In order to resist this temptation, at least two points are worth bearing in mind: (i) acknowledging that there are things we do not presently know is not to concede that we can never know them, and (ii) acknowledging the possibility that there are things we may never know is not to concede that their explanation is supernatural or non-physical.