I couldn’t think of anything to write about this time, so this article is about nothing. It was inspired by an item I saw in the news a while back concerning a book by Dr. Stephen Hawking, the British physicist. In the book Dr. Hawking asserts that there is no longer any need to consider God as the creator of the universe because the laws of physics show that the universe could have arisen from nothing. This made me think deeply about nothing. I am often accused of doing that anyway, so I figured I may as well put it to some good use.
The history of nothing is actually rather interesting. For instance, did you know that ancient mathematicians used zero only as a placeholder and not as a true number? If there was nothing there they just didn’t fool with it, which makes sense if you think about it. Mathematicians in India eventually developed zero as a number, and it’s good they did. With the national debt nearing $16,000,000,000,000, we need all the zeros we can get.
Nothing does not have a particularly good reputation. It sounds so negative. If you’ve ever had nothing in your bank account then you know how inconvenient nothing can be. But technically nothing is neither positive nor negative. It is just nothing. If at the end of the day someone asks you what happened that day and you can honestly say nothing, then you’ve come out okay. Nothing good happened but nothing bad happened either. You broke even, and sometimes that’s all you can hope for.
Mrs. Amburgey, my first-grade teacher, would have never accepted the idea of the universe arising from nothing. She was adamant that zero plus zero equaled zero. I remember well trying to reason with her about the issue. “But Mrs. Amburgey,” I implored, with youthful exuberance, “what about quantum fluctuations and distortions in the space-time continuum? Couldn’t those make zero plus zero equal one? Couldn’t they make something come from nothing?” With infinite patience, Mrs. Amburgey smiled her beatific smile and said, “No, my dear, when you have nothing you will always have nothing until you add something to it. Zero plus zero will always equal zero. Zero minus zero equals zero. Zero multiplied by zero equals zero. And zero divided by zero equals zero. You can never get something from absolutely nothing.” It was right there in the first grade that I developed a profound sense of nothingness which has stayed with me to this day.
If the universe came from nothing, wouldn’t it be accurate to say that the universe was made by nothing? After all, we know that something exists, so if there was nothing but nothing before there was something then nothing had to make something out of nothing in order for there to be something instead of nothing. But if nothing did indeed create the universe then nothing did a remarkable job. Cosmologist Martin Rees has identified six values which are fundamental to the universe as we know it. They have to do with the amount of material in the universe, the strength of the electrical forces that hold atoms together, how firmly atomic nuclei bind together, and other such qualities which make up the infrastructure of the universe. If any of these values were just a little bit different then the universe as we know it would not exist. Even more importantly, we would not exist. With different values the universe would do wacky things like collapse in upon itself or fly apart. In other words, the universe is finely tuned to support life as we know it. It is as if someone turned the dials when the universe was created and made sure the values were just right. Did nothing do this?
Scientists who prefer to leave God out of the picture have an answer to that question. It is the multiverse. The multiverse theory says that there are many other universes besides the one we live it. We can probably never get to them, but there may be zillions of them out there somewhere, and we just happen to live in the one that turned out just right for supporting life. In other words, it was all just chance. We hit the jackpot with this universe. Not only that, but we also happen to live on a planet which is itself fine-tuned to support an incredible variety of life and which is located in a part of the galaxy safe from violent events such as exploding stars and black holes and which has a moon that affects plate tectonics, rotational speed, tidal activity, and wind in such a way that life can thrive. All this happened by chance.
With this in mind, it is now possible to identify what might oxymoronically be called the two atheistic deities: Nothing and Chance. According to the gospel of atheism, Nothing and Chance created the earth and all that we see around us when we look up into the night sky. They fine-tuned the universe to make it capable of supporting life when planetary conditions are suitable and put the earth in just the right place in the galaxy and set the earth and the moon in just the right orbits. They sustain it through their spirits of emptiness and randomness.
Three thousand years ago men worshipped idols made of wood and stone and credited them with powers of creation, and today we marvel at such ignorance. Now Nothing and Chance are seriously considered to be creators. Perhaps we have not made as much progress as we think we have. One can speculate how the atheistic Bible would read if atheists had a Bible:
"In the beginning Nothing created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was void, and Chance moved upon the face of the waters. And Nothing said, 'Let there be light!' And there was light…"
If all this sounds a little silly, that's because it is precisely that: silly. The idea that creation popped into existence from absolutely nothing with no cause, no design, and no purpose is absurd. The universe was created by intelligence and power so vast and magnificent that we cannot begin to fully conceive of it any more than we can fully grasp the unfathomable distances between the stars. God’s fingerprints are all over creation. They should be all over our lives too.
Before we finish, let’s look at a real Bible passage that talks about nothing. It is Romans 8:38-39, and it’s one of my favorites:
"I am sure that nothing can separate us from God’s love—not life or death, not angels or spirits, not the present or the future, and not powers above or powers below. Nothing in all creation can separate us from God’s love for us in Christ Jesus our Lord!"
Nothing can separate us from his love! Now that’s nothing to get excited about!