WHAT IS “NOTHING”?
Okay, we need to wrap our heads around a concept that can be difficult to understand. The word “universe” refers to four things: space, time, matter and energy.
The Standard Model of the Universe is the accepted explanation for how the universe began. Basically, there was an explosion that launched the four things: space, time, matter and energy.
Now, let’s talk about the hard part to understand.
The Standard Model is telling us that before that explosion 13.8 billion years ago, the “universe” did not exist! There was literally nothing. The word “nothing” means an absence of anything at all. Now let’s think about this very carefully and unwrap that idea just a little bit.
This means that before the big bang explosion, there was literally “nothing”:
1. NO SPACE
There was no space. Now try to understand this because it’s very difficult:
• Before the explosion, there were no physical dimensions.
• There wasn’t anything you could call a “place” or “location” or “space” the way we think of them.
• Literally “nothing” existed . . . NOTHING!
• People mistakenly assume that there was some kind of “pre-existing space” that just expanded, but that is not the case.
• So if God existed before that time, as Jews and Christians claim, he would have to be an immaterial being, a mind or intelligence with no physical dimensions.
• The Standard Model says there was “nothing” before.
• So when we say the universe began, “space” or physical dimensions began.
2. NO TIME
There was no time. Try to understand this because it’s very difficult:
• Before the explosion, there was no “time.”
• “Time” is an element of the term “universe” too.
• Time itself “began” with that explosion.
• In fact, Einstein’s theory said that we could no longer just speak in terms of space and time as separate concepts, but we now had to refer to “spacetime” as one combined word because they were interrelated.
• So when we say the universe began, “time” began.
3. NO MATTER
There was no matter. Listen carefully to what we’re about to say:
• Prior to this explosion, no matter or physical material existed either.
• Some people like to think that the matter we see in the universe today is just broken off pieces of material that existed before the explosion.
• NO! Big bang cosmology tells us that even matter, which is one element of the term “universe,” did not exist before the explosion!
• So when we say the universe began, “matter” or material began.
4. NO ENERGY
There was no energy.
• Whether we are talking about energy in the form of electricity, chemicals, heat or whatever, energy also did not exist before the explosion.
• Some people have the mistaken impression that there might have been pre-existing energy, perhaps in a vacuum of some kind.
• Many have been incorrectly taught that a vacuum equals nothing, but they are actually two different things: a “vacuum” is basically a sea of turbulent energy, and “nothing” is the absence of anything at all. This distinction has not been explained very well by physicists when talking to laypeople.
• So when we say the universe began, “energy” began.
So according to the Standard Model, the universe sprang out of literally “nothing” — no space, no time, no matter and no energy. By the way, a long time ago, a book called “Genesis” said the same thing in claiming that God created everything ex nihilo or, in other words, out of nothing.
This is what it means when we say “the universe began”!