When Lawrence Krauss received a surprise Christmas gift from William Lane Craig, he was initially elated. “I opened the gift,” Krauss said, “to find nothing was in there! You can imagine my surprise that such a contentious debate opponent would send such a thoughtful gift.” The noted physicist was taken aback at the amount of nothing Craig had given him. “How he got so much nothing to fit into a box is beyond me. He must have had help from Santa Claus. Only a professional could have put this much nothing in such a small space”, he said. When questioned as to what made nothing such a great gift, Krauss explained, “It’s the most wonderful gift! After all, nothing can become anything so Dr. Craig gave me everything when he gave me nothing. It is the most appropriate gift a physicist could receive. I just want to say to Dr. Craig, ‘Thanks for nothing.’”
After admiring nothing for a time, Krauss took it around to show his friends and family. “But,” he said, “then I began to think, ‘where am I going to keep nothing’? ‘how should I store nothing?’ ‘how do I care for nothing? ‘what is good for nothing?” These became troubling questions as Krauss pondered the gift more deeply. “Nothing is unstable”, Krauss recalled. “I wrote about it in my book. It can suddenly become something. What if it becomes something in my living room? What then? It would be all right if it became a sofa or hardwood floor, or even that new TV I was admiring at Walmart. But what if it becomes something else? We’ve learned over the past one-hundred years that nothing is much more complicated than we would have imagined otherwise. It’s a boiling, bubbling brew of virtual particles that are popping in and out of existence at every moment. What if it became a horse that defiled my carpet? Oh, Craig would really love that!’
Krauss began to get creative in his thinking about nothing. “I began to wonder if I could seed nothing so that it would turn into something that I wanted. So I put six peanut M&Ms into the box. Nothing happened, I thought. But then one of the children picked up my box and said, ‘Look! There’s something in there! It’s candy.’ When I looked again, there was no longer nothing in my box, there were six peanut M&Ms. It was a pretty amazing moment.”
After reflecting on the gift of nothing, Krauss became more cynical. “I’ll bet this is Craig’s way of trying to destroy me. It’s like a white elephant gift. He probably thought a wormhole would open up and swallow me. He’s crafty, you have to give him that. But I thwarted his diabolical plan with six peanut M&Ms.”
When contacted at his home in metro Atlanta, Dr. Craig explained, “I had picked out a nice plastic salt and pepper shaker set for Dr. Krauss when Jan suggested that we send him a new buzzer. He apparently wore out his last one in Australia at that first dialogue. He didn’t use it for the final two talks, so it must have been broken. But in the flurry of wrapping gifts, his gift got wrapped but we forgot to put the buzzer inside. How was I to know that such an oversight would turn out to be such a great gift? It really is symbolic of his philosophical arguments, they bubble, boil, come in and out of existence, are very erratic, and you hope they turn into something sometime. I really should have thought of this earlier.”
In closing our conversation, Dr. Craig said, “There is a very practical side of nothing that I hope Dr. Krauss learns to enjoy. You see, when you go, you can take nothing with you, so it is great for travel. You never have to check it at Customs. I hope Lawrence enjoys nothing for many years to come.”
Dr. Craig spoke warmly of his frequent debate partner. “When I think of nothing I think of Dr. Krauss. In fact, I think it is fair to say that there’s no one I think less of when I think of nothing than Dr. Krauss. Merry Christmas, Larry.”
This was philosophical satire. Merry Christmas!