WLC Quotes John Barrow and Frank Tipler
If you’ve watched many William Lane Craig debates (such as this one from 2009), you’ve probably heard him use the following quote from cosmologists Barrow and Tipler while defending his Kalam Cosmological Argument:
At this singularity, space and time came into existence; literally nothing existed before the singularity, so, if the Universe originated at such a singularity, we would truly have a creation ex nihilo.
– John Barrow & Frank Tipler, The Anthropic Cosmological Principle (1986), page 442
(Note for the non-Latin speakers: ex nihilo translates to “out of nothing.”)
In the clip linked above, Dr. Craig specifically claims that this Barrow and Tipler quote represents “contemporary cosmology” – never mind that the book it was taken from is nearly 25-years-old. But in reality, a lot has happened in the last 25 years in regard to the initial (Big Bang) singularity.
Remember: Barrow and Tipler’s claim that the universe came from “literally nothing” depends on whether or not there was an initial singularity (“if the Universe originated at such a singularity…”). Athough, I’d argue that Barrow and Tipler’s definition of “nothing” is not the same as Dr. Craig’s definition of “nothing,” but I’ll save that for another post (or you can watch my video on this quote).
So, was there an initial singularity at the Big Bang? Barrow and Tipler seemed to think so in 1986. But in 1988, Stephen Hawking (commenting on his singularity work with Roger Penrose) wrote in A Brief History of Time (page 50):
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
And the tide has shifted against the singularity ever since. As theoretical astrophysicist Ethan Siegel explained in 2010,
…the idea that our Universe started from a singularity was a very good one back when we thought that the only important things in our Universe were matter and radiation, but now that we know about inflation, there is no reason to believe that our Universe ever had a singularity in the past.
He goes on to say that the initial singularity is an “outdated idea.”