Ethan Siegal says you can get something from nothing, and thus the universe required no creator:
In many ways, yes, you can. In fact, in many ways, getting something when you have nothing is unavoidable!
What do we know about this “nothing?” It includes space:
For example, take a box and empty it, so that all you’ve got is some totally empty space, like above. An ideal, perfect, empty vacuum. Now, what’s in that box?
Good question. What do we know about this vacuum?
Well, it turns out that empty space isn’t so empty. One of the consequences of Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle — that you can’t know a quantum state’s energy exactly for a finite duration of time — means that when you’re talking about very short time intervals, there are large uncertainties in the energy of a system. Over short enough timescales, the energies are large enough that particle-antiparticle pairs wink in-and-out of existence all the time!
So in addition to space, we have energy. We also have something called a quantum state, and we have durations of time. Now, what does this have to do with the universe being created from nothing?
When the Universe inflates, or expands exponentially (before the Big Bang), these quantum fluctuations also expand, and get stretched across the Universe faster than they can annihilate one another. These fluctuations show up as regions with slightly more (for positive fluctuations) or less (for negative ones) energy, which then grow into structure (like clusters, galaxies, and stars) and voids as the Universe ages…. And if you start with enough energy, you can take all of the real matter and antimatter pairs that exist, and create more matter than antimatter, giving us a Universe where we have something, today, rather than nothing.
Now, that’s what we know we can get, even from nothing.
Siegal supposes we can get a universe from nothing, and he makes a case for it, provided that space, time, quantum states, particle-antiparticle potentialities, and energy are all precisely nothing.
I can see it now. When he got his Ph.D. in theoretical astrophysics and applied for his first job, the interviewer asked him what he studied in grad school. His answer would certainly have been, “I learned about quantum physics, space, time, energy; in other words, absolutely nothing. I spent all those years and dollars learning a lot about nothing at all. I’d like you to hire me to study nothing.”
P.S. Stephen Hawking would also like us to believe the laws of physics are nothing. He’s made himself quite a reputation out of knowing a lot about exactly nothing.
Hat Tip: Edward Feser. And another tip o’ the hat to our friend P.Z. Myers, through whom I first heard about Siegal’s paper. P.Z. doesn’t study nothing for a living, but he sure has a lot of respect for it.