Recently, Canadian psychologist-turned-public-intellectual Jordan Peterson hosted popular physicist Lawrence Krauss on his podcast. Peterson, on the other side of a health crisis, has been engaging an eclectic array of intellectuals to keep himself sharp while he promotes his new book, Beyond Order. As a scientist who’s become known for politically incorrect opinions, Krauss was a natural conversation partner for the controversial professor, and the two got along well. Maybe too well, as Peterson allowed Krauss to repeat various talking points unchallenged …
“Take me back to the beginning,” Peterson asks, meaning 14 billion years back, to the beginning of time. Naturally, Krauss is only too happy to oblige by playing his greatest hit for the professor. He presents himself as the cautious, reasonable scientist who rewinds the tape only as far as he can extrapolate his own understanding of the laws of physics, unlike those excitable religious types who think they can tell you what happened at t = 0. But from t = 0.000000….1 onwards, the laws of physics can explain everything beautifully. This is “the difference between science and religion.”
Here Peterson asks a question: Those laws, did they come into being along with the universe?
Krauss hedges his bets in reply. “Maybe they pre-existed, maybe they don’t. Those are metaphysical questions.” Metaphysical questions are above his pay grade, he wishes to stress. Right before saying it’s not just possible but “quite likely” that our universe arose from nothing, “no space, no time, and maybe no laws.” At the least, we can say confidently that it has all the properties we would expect to observe in a 14-billion-year-old universe that came into being “spontaneously, without any supernatural shenanigans.” This isn’t a proof, but it at least makes Krauss’s claim sound more plausible.Elizabeth Whateley, “Jordan Peterson Springs the Trap of Scientism” at Evolution News and Science Today (July 30, 2021)
Here’s the podcast:
Krauss’s claims — it’s not just possible but “quite likely” that our universe arose from nothing, “no space, no time, and maybe no laws.” At the least, we can say confidently that it has all the properties we would expect to observe in a 14-billion-year-old universe that came into being “spontaneously, without any supernatural shenanigans.” — are clearly ridiculous. “Nothing” is not an account of anything and there is no way we could know what a universe from nothing “should” look like. Peterson is being too kind here.
See also: Jordan Peterson — Do the Stitches Hold?