Can a Singularity Be Described as “Nothing?”
According to the Standard Big Bang model, the universe began in the form of a singularity – a point of infinite density and infinitesimal (zero) volume. And although there are problems with extrapolating the Standard model this far back, William Lane Craig seems willing to ignore them so that he can continue claiming that the universe came “from nothing and by nothing.”
But how does the Standard model allow him to make this claim? Well, a singularity’s property of having “zero volume” is pretty easy to square away with the idea of “nothing,” but as for the singularity’s “infinite density,” Craig has a completely different explanation:
This event that marked the beginning of the universe becomes all the more amazing when one reflects on the fact that a state of “infinite density” is synonymous to “nothing.” There can be no object that possesses infinite density, for if it had any size at all it could still be even more dense.
– W.L. Craig, “The Existence of God and the Beginning of the Universe” (first published 1991; updated 2002).
If you’re finding yourself thinking, “…uh …what!?” after reading that then you’re not alone. This is an extremely sloppy piece of work, and it’s hard to imagine that Craig, a man with two PhDs, could have seriously written such a thing. Here are three problems with this argument:
#1: Craig writes, “…if [the singularity] had any size at all…” but the singularity predicted by the Standard model doesn’t have any size at all. So to put it bluntly, this means that Craig’s justification doesn’t even apply to the proper situation.
#2: Craig writes “There can be no object that possesses infinite density,” but the singularity is defined as a state of infinite density. So, even if his justification for this claim made sense, all it proves is that singularities, as they are defined by physics and mathematics, cannot exist. And because the Standard model predicts this singularity, it only means that the standard model is incorrect in this regard (which is probably true).
#3: Craig is claiming that “‘infinite density’ is synonymous with ‘nothing,”” but he only attempts to demonstrate that a state of “infinite density” is impossible. It simply doesn’t follow. As the philosopher Wes Morriston pointed out,
No one would suppose that it follows from the fact that there can be no round squares, that “round square” is synonymous with “nothing.” But neither should anyone suppose it follows from the fact (assuming it is a fact) that there can be no infinitely dense objects, that “infinite density” is synonymous with “nothing.”
To compound the confusion, Craig goes on to quote Fred Hoyle saying that the universe, according to the Standard Big Bang model, was shrunk down to “nothing at all.” But as I’ve elaborated upon in a previous post, Hoyle was only talking in terms of volume – he didn’t even mention density.
Furthermore, in the glossary to The Inflationary Universe (amazon), theoretical physicist Alan Guth notes that a singularity should also have an infinite pressure and an infinite temperature. How does Craig explain these properties as being “synonymous with nothing?” As far as I’ve looked, he never does, but I can assume that his explanation would be as ridiculous as the one he gives for infinite density.