Every now and then an article pops up and claims “Physics discover particles coming from nothing” and atheists then point smugly and suggest this explains away the need for God. What do physicists mean by such reports and how does that effect the notion of “something can not come from nothing” ?


An article in Scientific America Magazine explained how it appears photons, which are the equivalent of particles of light, can pop in and out of our perceivable universe, so is this “something from nothing? Before we can answer this, we need to define exactly what “nothing” is. There is a physics “nothing”, and philosophical “nothing”.

A Physics “nothing” is just the absence of matter, but the presence of space, time and energy, from which things can happen. So If I have a box, and I remove the air from the box, a physicist would say that the box has nothing in it.

A Philosophical “nothing” is absolute “nothing” from which nothing can arise, there is no potential for change. So by definition, if there ever was absolute nothingness, then nothing else would ever be able to exist.


As for the article in Scientific America, it clearly states “This work and a number of other recent works demonstrate that the vacuum is not empty but full of virtual photons,” as of course nothing could truly come from nothing, so in this instance their are virtual particles which perhaps exist in a way we can not detect and come in and out of our perceivable space.  


Its easy to see why the two sides get so annoyed at each other when the have such different understandings of the same words. To deny causality would be to deny logic and all of science in one swoop, a few have taken this approach, such as Ghazali and some even argue Hume. However the stronger and widely accepted position is that causality is true, and this is practically and philosophically true.