WLC Quotes Paul Davies
In many debates (such as this one from 2009), William Lane Craig uses the following quote from physicist Paul Davies (“P.C.W. Davies”) to bolster his Kalam Cosmological Argument:
The coming-into-being of the universe, as discussed in modern science, is not just a matter of imposing some sort of organisation upon a previously incoherent state, but literally the coming into being of all physical things from nothing.
Because Paul Davies is a physicist, you’d think that Dr. Craig would quote one of his scholarly articles or one of his books, but instead Dr. Craig takes this quote from an interview which the Australian Broadcasting Company aired in 1995 (and subsequently published online in 2002). Since Dr. Craig has heavily abridged this quote, here it is in full (with the parts that Craig uses in bold):
The mechanism of the coming-into-being of the universe, as discussed in modern science, is actually much more profound than the biblical version because it does not merely involve order emerging out of chaos. It’s not just a matter of imposing some sort of organisation or structure upon a previous incoherent state, but literally the coming-into-being of all physical things from nothing.
The first thing you’ll notice is that Dr. Craig leaves out the bit where Davies claims that the “coming-into-being of the universe” is “much more profound than the biblical version,” and the reason for this is pretty obvious: If Craig left that bit in during debates, it would make the Bible look inadequate or, worse yet, it might make the bible look like it is in error – a huge problem for a Biblical inerrantist like Dr. Craig.
But to be fair, Paul Davies is not a Biblical scholar. So, the argument could be made that his interpretation of the Bible is incorrect. So, let’s stick to the cosmology: is Paul Davies really claiming that “all physical things” came literally from nothing? Well, it certainly seems that way to me.
On the other hand, an argument could be made that the use the word “nothing” by a physicist tends to be a lot different from the way Dr. Craig defines uses the word “nothing”. In this case, it’s a bit difficult to tell, so let’s just assume for now that Davies is saying exactly what Dr. Craig thinks that he is saying.
So, my first question is, “what model of cosmogony (i.e. the origin of the universe) is Davies using to make this claim?” Well, the only model that is mentioned in the interview is the Friedman model – also known as the Standard Big Bang Model.
Now, I’m sure the “Standard” model sounds very impressive. In fact, if it’s the “Standard” model, then most physicists and cosmologist must use this model, right? … Well, no. The Standard Big Bang model always had problems because it predicted a singularity (a point of infinite density) at the beginning of the universe which causes problems mathematically.
Because this interview with Davies was conducted in the mid-1990s, he may have had in mind the Hawking-Penrose equations from the 1970s which saves the initial singularity at the big bang. Unfortunately, the conclusion of this work was eventually rejected by both Hawking and Penrose because they failed to keep quantum mechanics in mind. To quote from Hawking’s 1988 book, A Brief History of Time (page 50) concerning the Hawking-Penrose equations:
It is perhaps ironic that, having changed my mind, I am now trying to convince other physicists that there was in fact no singularity at the beginning of the universe—as we shall see later, it can disappear once quantum effects are taken into account
The epoch before about a billionth of a second, however, remains murky territory, with plenty of scope for disagreement.
So, if Davies was using the Standard Big Bang model, then his remarks in the quote which Dr. Craig uses are simply outdated – in which case, Dr. Craig has absolutely no legitimate reason to present the quote as if it represents modern cosmology/physics. But, it’s possible that Davies was talking about something other than the Standard model… right?
For example, he could have been talking about a vacuum fluctuation model, but this wouldn’t work for Craig because he rejects these models.
Davies could have been talking about Alexander Vilenkin’s model which states that the universe came from “nothing,” but that model wasn’t elaborated on until 2003, well after the interview this Paul Davies quote was taken from (also, Vilenkin’s model doesn’t claim that the universe came from absolutely nothing, but that’s a topic for a different post).
No, no other models besides the standard model seem to make sense with Davies’ claim. But that model is outdated… so is Dr. Craig just being dishonest with this quote?