I am on Skeptic Magazine‘s email distribution. In the April 4th edition, David Ludden reviews Victor Stenger’s new book, God: The Failed Hypothesis. Stenger, a physicist, tries to refute some of the common scientific arguments for God’s existence. 

To tackle the problem of how the universe came into being fully charged with energy (the only known violation of the first law of thermodynamics), Stenger argues that there is a “close balance between positive and negative energy” so that “the total energy of the universe is zero.” I heard Peter Atkins make the same claim in a debate with William Lane Craig. This is absolutely nonsensical. If the total energy is zero, then there is no energy. And yet energy exists. How do explain the origin of energy by saying the value of energy is zero? Besides, even if there is positive and negative energy, and these two opposing forces cancel each other out, one still has to explain the origin of positive and negative energy at the point of singularity (Big Bang). Where did it come from?


What about the second law of thermodynamics (disorder increases over time)? If our universe is moving from an ordered to a disordered system, it must have been ordered in the beginning, and this would require a designing intelligence. Not so says Stenger. He says the universe began in a maximum state of disorder, but since it is expanding, that disorder is spread out throughout the universe, giving the appearance of order. Really? If I take a bag full of garbage, and empty the bag of garbage into a large field, I don’t get order when the wind starts dispersing the garbage throughout the field. I simply have lots of space between the garbage. That space is not ordered. It’s simply the lack of garbage. Disorder spread out over a large area cannot create order, or the appearance of order.


Stenger gets bold when he tries to tackle the most important philosophical question of them all: Why is there something rather than nothing? According to Ludden, Stenger argues that “the laws of physics tell us that nothingness is an unstable state and will soon ‘undergo a spontaneous phase shift’ to a state of somethingness. …A state of continuous nothingness is so improbable that it could only be maintained through divine intervention.” I’m not sure what physics Stenger is appealing to. Since so much of physics has become a metaphysical discipline of philosophical speculation, I’m inclined to think the physics he is appealing to are little more than mental gymnastics, having no basis in empirical verification. Be that as it may, notice how he is treating nothing as something. He calls nothingness a state that “undergo[es] a spontaneous shift.” Nothing cannot undergo anything! There is nothing to act, or be acted on. It makes sense to say a caterpillar undergoes a phase shift into a butterfly, but it makes absolutely no sense to say that nothing undergoes change into something. Indeed, if there is nothing, what could cause the phase shift? It can’t be the laws of physics because there is no such thing as physics in a state of nothingness. There are no causes either. There is nothing! Only something can cause something else to come into existence.


It never ceases to amaze me how people who claim to be so intelligent and rational can believe such inane things. There’s no end to the amount of self-deception one can generate when they subjugate the truth to their will. Paul was right. People would rather believe a lie than the truth. They willingly suppress the truth. They would rather believe that energy is zero, and nothing can become something than admit there is a God.