Home > Cosmic Origins, General Cosmology > Can a Singularity Be Described as “Nothing?”

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.

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  1. Eric
    12/16/2010 at 11:15 PM

    Infinite density CANNOT BE philosophical nothing. For density to be infinite, volume must be zero and mass must be nonzero, else density would be indeterminate. A nonzero mass cannot be a property of philosophical nothing.

    • stan Zorin
      12/19/2011 at 1:20 AM

      There cannot be “an infinite density”. Everything has a limit.

    • Amateur Academic
      04/14/2014 at 4:23 AM

      Just so you know, a singularity is poorly understood mathematically today. When physicists see the singularity has infinite density, 0 mass and 0 volume, it’s viewed as the current mathematics behing relativity becomin unsuitable for quantum scales. So singularities do EXIST, they just don’t ACTUALLY have infinite density and 0 volume.

  2. Pachomius
    01/18/2011 at 4:04 PM

    [quote]
    Can a Singularity Be Described as “Nothing?”
    07/17/2010Leave a commentGo to comments
    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:
    [unquote]

    “…William Lane Craig seems willing to ignore them so that he can continue claiming that the universe came “from nothing and by nothing.”

    I am absolutely certain that William Lane Craig for being a Christian has never said “that the universe came’from nothing and by nothing.”

    Of course you can give me the text from him where he wrote or said that.

    You see, is it the position of Christians that the universe was made by God but not from any pre-existing material not also made by Him, God.

    So what he could have said if he did say anything in regard to the origin of the universe is:

    “that the universe came ‘from God and by God.'”

    In that phrase, from God and by God, from means the same idea as by.

  3. Daniel
    04/12/2011 at 11:56 PM

    Hello,

    It was always my understanding, confirmed repeatidly by many a philosophy professor, that technically speaking, to say something is a point of infinite mass is really to say that it is simply a mathematical point. Technically speak it is therefore nothing in physical terms. Brian Greene also discusses this in his “The Elegant Universe” in positing a “planck sized nugget” so to escape the notion of an infinitely dense point. He specifically mentions that infinite density would comprise a beginning “zero point”.

    That has always been my understanding however and physics is not my expertise.

    • Amateur Academic
      04/10/2014 at 3:45 AM

      I’d just like to say that singularities are NOT viewed as real world phenomena by physicists. Instead, they’re an example of general relativity breaking down on a quantum scales (i.e. the mathematics is not suited for quantum scales, and thus gives results that are nonsense). It’s like trying to divide by 0. You don’t get a physical answer.

      That’s why many hypothesis’ today in quantum cosmology try to AVOID singularities. It’s viewed as a break down in physics (Based on Vilenkin Tunneling, the Universe is much more likely to have started as a virtual particle).

  4. Lee
    03/11/2012 at 8:42 PM

    Why, does one suppose, the one attacking Craig is so angry???

    • Amateur Academic
      04/14/2014 at 4:24 AM

      I don’t know. Frankly we’re all kind of tired of arguing. I need to lie down…

  5. 09/02/2013 at 6:00 PM

    WHAT I’M ABOUT TO SAY IS RELATIVELY TRUE and WHAT I’M NOT ABOUT TO SAY IS ABSOLUTELY TRUE…

    * NOTHING IS ABSOLUTELY TRUE
    * EVERYTHING IS RELATIVELY TRUE
    * ALL THINGS ARE PERMITTED

    …above is the answer to everything and nothing, stop debating, matter doesn’t matter, nothing doesn’t matter and that is the ” real ” truth

  1. 08/28/2010 at 6:34 PM
  2. 09/07/2010 at 7:10 AM
  3. 07/19/2014 at 9:40 PM

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