Somehow this all evokes memories of medieval schoolmen, angels, and how many of them (angels, not schoolmen) could dance on the head of a pin:

What is nothing? Sounds like a simple question—nothing is simply the absence of something, of course—until you begin to think about it. The other night the American Museum of Natural History hosted its 14th annual Asimov Memorial Debate, which featured five leading thinkers opining (and sparring, sometimes testily, but more on that later) about the nature of nothing. — Michael Moyer, “Physicists Debate the Many Varieties of Nothingness,” ‘Scientific American Blog,’ March 22, 2013

Evidently, nobody at the debate dared challenge the Standard Big Bang Model, with all attendees blithely accepting it as proven. Thus, any and all inferences which they might adduce during the debate would rely on this most unreliable of cosmological theories.

Nonetheless, there were disagreements:

Much of the evening was consumed with debate over how the cosmos went from this state—the state of complete nothingness—to the universe we know today. The physicists seemed to be of two minds. [J. Richard] Gott argued that it’s possible that there was no beginning. — Ibid.

To say “there was no beginning” would seem to contradict the Big Bang Model, but to conclude that you would be seriously underestimating the cunning of physicists. Cosmologists, unlike those experimental scientists who greatly contribute to human knowledge and welfare, feel they’re under no obligation to produce solid, laboratory-testable proofs for any of their assertions.

Some of the group, championed by Lawrence Krauss, were of another mind:

The other, more popular idea was that of the multiverse. Rather than ask how the universe came to exist from nothing, the multiversers assert that being is the natural state. Perhaps a near-infinite number of universes exist, each with slightly different sets of physical laws. We find ourselves in the universe that has physical laws conducive to advanced life-forms for one simple reason: in order for us to exist, the laws of the universe must allow it. — Ibid.

Click to enlarge.

In both principle and practice, of course, the existence of a multiverse is impossible to prove, and the idea itself . . .

. . . is something of a magic trick, said Gott—an explanation without explanatory power. It appears to answer the question of why there is something rather than nothing, but instead it shifts the blame down the line. It answers the question why are we here? with a tautology: because we are. — Ibid.

So, was anything really decided at the debate? Read the entire article here to find out.