Lawrence Krauss recently wrote a book explaining how modern cosmology and quantum mechanics can answer the question of how our universe could have arisen from empty space. However, this book is not without criticism. David Albert submitted one such criticism as a book review in the New York Times. The problem is Albert failed to fully think through his argument.
Let’s start with a basic introduction to Kraus’s argument—a very basic introduction. Kraus points out that quantum mechanics shows us that particles can spontaneously appear from what we would consider empty space and that this may be a way to explain how something arises from nothing. Albert criticizes this by using his own definition of nothing. He argues that because particles can actually arise out of this empty space that it is not actually “nothing” because something must exist from which these particles can arise. Albert correctly points out that in this empty space the laws of physics that allow particles to spontaneously appear must still exist. Thus, Albert is stating that because the empty space had potential to become something that in fact it was not really nothing at any point. Here, Albert has defined nothing to require that it be some sort of emptiness that has no natural potential to become something.