Just check out the exchanges between New Atheist biologist Jerry Coyne and Catholic philosopher Ed Feser if you want a good example.
Now we have New Atheist physicist Lawrence Krauss, whose new book A Universe from Nothing purports to explain how something came from nothing (as he defines it). My review of the book will be up this week, but in the meantime, there is philosopher David Albert's takedown of Krauss' book in the New York Times, which he summarizes as "the pale, small, silly, nerdy accusation that religion is, I don’t know, dumb."
Of course the issue of where scientific explanation begins and ends is not, as scientists like Krauss seem to believe, a question in the field of science, but, ironically, in the field of philosophy, philosophy of science in particular. Albert points out one of the central flaws of Krauss's entire position:
It happens that ever since the scientific revolution of the 17th century, what physics has given us in the way of candidates for the fundamental laws of nature have as a general rule simply taken it for granted that there is, at the bottom of everything, some basic, elementary, eternally persisting, concrete, physical stuff. Newton, for example, took that elementary stuff to consist of material particles. And physicists at the end of the 19th century took that elementary stuff to consist of both material particles and electromagnetic fields. And so on. And what the fundamental laws of nature are about, and all the fundamental laws of nature are about, and all there is for the fundamental laws of nature to be about, insofar as physics has ever been able to imagine, is how that elementary stuff is arranged. The fundamental laws of nature generally take the form of rules concerning which arrangements of that stuff are physically possible and which aren’t, or rules connecting the arrangements of that elementary stuff at later times to its arrangement at earlier times, or something like that. But the laws have no bearing whatsoever on questions of where the elementary stuff came from, or of why the world should have consisted of the particular elementary stuff it does, as opposed to something else, or to nothing at all.But it's not like Krauss or any of the other New Atheists are actually going to pay any attention to the fact that their field of expertise has nothing to do with the questions they think they can use it to address. That would be an admission that the scientism they champion is completely bogus.
...The fundamental physical laws that Krauss is talking about in “A Universe From Nothing” — the laws of relativistic quantum field theories — are no exception to this ...and they have nothing whatsoever to say on the subject of where those fields came from, or of why the world should have consisted of the particular kinds of fields it does, or of why it should have consisted of fields at all, or of why there should have been a world in the first place. Period. Case closed. End of story.
He also points out one of the central problems of the book, which is Krauss' definition of "nothing," which, it turns out, happens to be something, namely vacuum states:
But that’s just not right. Relativistic-quantum-field-theoretical vacuum states — no less than giraffes or refrigerators or solar systems — are particular arrangements of elementary physical stuff. The true relativistic-quantum-field-theoretical equivalent to there not being any physical stuff at all isn’t this or that particular arrangement of the fields — what it is (obviously, and ineluctably, and on the contrary) is the simple absence of the fields! ... And the fact that particles can pop in and out of existence, over time, as those fields rearrange themselves, is not a whit more mysterious than the fact that fists can pop in and out of existence, over time, as my fingers rearrange themselves. And none of these poppings — if you look at them aright — amount to anything even remotely in the neighborhood of a creation from nothing.
The book is, indeed, a mess, which, of course, didn't stop fellow New Atheist Richard Dawkins from hailing the book. Read the rest here.