Today on Quirks and Quarks Bob McDonald interviewed Dr. Lawrence Krauss, author of A Universe from Nothing. Krauss argues that Nothing is actually a quantity that is radically different than conceived by classical philosophy. He then proceeds to explain that Nothing, i.e., a vacuum devoid of all particles, actually has mass that can be measured. Diving into the murky waters of quantum physics he discusses the nature of gravity and how it has the ability to create things from nothing.

As I listened I was fascinated by his account, however I found that I disagreed with his description of Nothing. He was saying that Nothing was not actually no-thing but rather Something. Having a raging sea of energy, or so-called "Dark Matter" is not Nothing, there seems to be yet another language game at work here, a subtle redefining of the word. Krauss uses the word Nothing to refer to a state that is in reality something, his science is interesting, his reasoning ics flawed. Krauss, I believe, has made a category mistake in his explanation of Nothing.

Throughout this interview he repeatedly bashes creationists and religious believers. However he takes it a step further by even rejecting philosophical explanations. This shows an example of a scientist overstepping his bounds (for more on the limits of Science, see Dr. van der Breggen's class on the Philosophy of Science). Regardless of one's views on the origins of the cosmos, it is important that one thinks critically about the nature of Nothing, I would caution against those who define Nothing as Something. Give the interview a listen, and think critically!

Meme Analysis

Blogmaster Emeritus, Mark Jensen, recently sent me this internet meme asking PFC to do an analysis of its alleged logic. I'm sure many of you have seen it on Facebook but here it is again. When I received this in a message I suddenly got a mental image of VDB muttering into his mustache "So many fallacies" and I knew that something must be done.

*Disclaimer: I or PFC do not necessarily agree or disagree with the above conclusion of this meme, this exercise is merely a look at the use (or lack thereof) of critical thinking.

For starters, the nature of internet memes is such that there is almost inevitably going to be a massive case of the Straw Person fallacy going on. There are in fact many quite nuanced arguments against H, drawing inspiration from the Bible that cannot be so casually dismissed with a sentence, more work should be done.

Now working from left to right.
"Because Jesus Said So" - the objection is true, although a case could be made that inferences could be drawn from what he did say on similar topics.

The first blue box, "Have fun..." unnecessarily insults people who hold to a certain view. This is known as an ad hominem attack and in this case bullies people into agreeing with the author rather than actually engaging in debate.

The next two boxes, "OT and NT" end with false dichotomies. There are other ways to answer the secondary questions than just a simple yes or no (although flow charts get messy when they have to deal with every possibility). 

A theological insert here - to say that the Bible clearly defines anything can often be a stretch, and both boxes in this route fall prey to a rather shallow reading of the text.

The appeal to the "ick factor" in the final route is an interesting one and should not be so quickly dismissed. Yes we should be tolerant, and there should under no circumstances be hateful discrimination. However, there is something to be said for prima facie arguments, appeals to the obvious norm (this is basic anatomy). Much can be said for alternatives, but the simple fact of our anatomy remains and questions can and should be raised about a cavalier approach to sexuality: Are all practices healthy, safe, beneficial? These issues should be examined in and of themselves, not simply dismissed out of hand.

Finally, the only green box, the alleged "right answer". The inference of this comment is that those who disagree are uncivilized barbarians, which is simply not the case. There are civilized, educated people with very real concerns and to paint them as something they are not, is as bad as discriminating against homosexuals. Fighting discrimination with discrimination, while perhaps rhetorically effective, is not logically sound.

In conclusion, this meme is riddled with fallacies and logical shortcuts. Complex questions very rarely have easy sloganesque answers.