Science and “The Question”

In a recent scathing review of Lawrence Krauss’ A Universe from Nothing, science writer John Horgan argues that science will never answer “The Question.”  That is, Horgan thinks that science–the way we usually understand science–will not be able to explain why there is something rather than nothing.

For those following the creation/evolution debates, “the Question” has long been a central bone of contention between creationists and evolutionists.  Creationists have always rested their arguments on the notion that science could not explain the fundamental creation of life ex nihilo.

As Horgan insists, one does not have to be a fundamentalist anti-evolutionist to doubt the ability of science to answer such fundamental questions.  In fact, Horgan concludes his review by warning scientists that they must not overextend.  If mainstream scientists claim to be able to answer “The Question,” Horgan warns, “they become the mirror images of the religious fundamentalists they despise.”

I imagine many of those fundamentalists will take solace from the fact that prominent scientists dispute Krauss’ ex nihilo argument.  There is a vibrant tradition among anti-evolutionists of following evolution debates among scientists.  Anti-evolution writers and activists have always used such debates to demonstrate to their audiences that scientists do not agree on the science of evolution.  As Ronald L. Numbers demonstrated in Darwin Comes to America and The Creationists, anti-evolutionists have long celebrated disagreements among mainstream scientists.  My hunch is that some pundits from Fundamentalist America will cite anti-Krauss arguments as evidence that science will never be able to answer “The Question.”

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  1. It’s bizarre that fundamentalists cling to The Question so strongly. It’s really a minor point. Even if some kind of supernatural intervention were required to start life in our universe, it’s a huge jump from there to saying fundamentalist Christianity is true, with a great many more challenges to their position which do have proper scientific evidence.

    • @Jonny,
      Right: even IF supernatural intervention was required for something to happen instead of nothing, it does not follow that a bearded God created a Garden in Mesopotamia in six days.
      But IF I believe a God created the world in six days, it helps to think that even the sharpest scientists doubt that the universe could have simply burst itself into existence.


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