In the year 2010 scientist Lawrence M Krauss wrote an article in Wall Street Journal1 in which he has argued that as the total energy of our present universe is found to be zero, so from this it can be concluded that it has originated from nothing. The gist of his argument is something like this: let us suppose that the universe has actually originated from nothing at all. (Here this nothing is the so-called nothing of the scientists, not the usual nothing of the philosophers.) Then in that case the total energy of the universe would obviously be zero, because here everything has started from zero or nothing. Surprisingly scientists have also found that the total energy of the present universe is zero. So naturally it can be said that it has actually originated from nothing, because in that case only its total energy is expected to be zero.
But this reasoning is faulty. This is because it can be shown that 1) if the universe has originated from something and not from nothing, then in that case also the total energy of the universe would be zero; and 2) if the universe has been created by some supernatural agent, then again its total energy would be zero.
Case 2): First I will show how the total energy of the universe would be zero if it is created by some supernatural agent. Let us say that this supernatural agent who has created the universe is God. Now what does it mean that the universe has been created by God? As universe primarily means its space, time, matter and energy, so universe created by God will mean its space, time, matter and energy have been created by God. That will further mean that before creation by God there was no space, no time, no matter and no energy. That will again mean that God was in no space and time and that God did not contain any matter and energy. That is the reason as to why theists always describe their God as spaceless, timeless and immaterial. Neither this spaceless, timeless and immaterial God can contain any energy, because energy was also created by God along with the creation of the universe. That means the total energy content of God is zero. Therefore the total energy content of the universe will also be zero, because universe cannot contain more energy than the source from which it has originated.
Here it might be objected that neither energy nor matter can be created or destroyed. But if we keep in mind that the total energy of the universe has always remained fixed at its zero value, then we can say that as such energy has not been created or destroyed at all. Only that it has taken positive and negative forms in the universe, the total energy always remaining zero. The same can be said about matter also.
Case 1): Here we will have to rely on the findings of two modern scientific theories e.g. the two theories of relativity. Regarding any scientific theory it is usually said that all theories are provisional. That means any current scientific theory can be superseded by some new theory in future. But if the old theory is a well-established and tested theory, then it can never be totally falsified. Only its limitations will be known to us. Although Newton’s theory of gravity has been replaced by Einstein’s theory of gravity, yet Newton’s theory has still its applicability in limited cases.
We say that the universe had originated from something. That means before the origin of the universe from that something there was nothing else other than that something – no space, no time, no matter and no energy. Space, time, matter and energy came into being after the origin of the universe from that something. Now Einstein’s general theory of relativity has shown that space, time and matter are so interlinked that there cannot be any space and time without matter. Similarly there cannot be any matter without space and time. Again from Einstein’s special theory of relativity we come to know that matter and energy are equivalent. So instead of saying that there cannot be any matter without space and time, we can also say that there cannot be any energy without space and time. Now we have already shown that the initial something was without space and time. But we have also shown that there cannot be any energy without space and time. So the initial something cannot have any energy. Therefore the total energy of the universe originated from that something will also be zero, because it cannot have more energy than the source from which it has originated.
So, if the universe has a beginning, then it is quite immaterial as to whether it has originated from something or from nothing or whether it has been created by God. This is because in all the three cases above it will start with zero energy. So from the mere fact that the total energy of our present universe has been found to be zero, it cannot be concluded that it has actually originated from nothing, because in the other two cases also its total energy would be zero. So zero total energy cannot be the only factor on the basis of which we can conclude that our present universe has actually originated from nothing.