A Universe from Nothing: Why There is Something Rather than Nothing. Krauss' book attempts to show how the universe could have come from "nothing," as implied by quantum field theory.
Significant hype accompanied the book. In the afterword for the book, noted atheist and biologist Richard Dawkins compares the book to Charles Darwin's most famous work:
"If On the Origin of Species was biology’s deadliest blow to supernaturalism, we may come to see A Universe from Nothing as the equivalent from cosmology. The title means exactly what it says. And what it says is devastating."
Several months after the book's publication, David Albert, a philosopher of science at Columbia University, wrote a scathing critique in the New York Times.
Quickly, the debate degenerated into personal attacks. In an interview with The Atlantic several weeks later, Krauss derided the "moronic philosophers that have written about my book."
He also said, "Philosophy is a field that, unfortunately, reminds me of that old Woody Allen joke, 'those that can't do, teach, and those that can't teach, teach gym.' And the worst part of philosophy is the philosophy of science."
He's wrong, and several famous physicists would agree that philosophy can play an important role in understanding scientific results.
In particular, Albert Einstein weighed in on the topic back in 1944 in response to a young physicist who was trying to incorporate philosophy into his modern physics course:
"I fully agree with you about the significance and educational value of methodology as well as history and philosophy of science. So many people today—and even professional scientists—seem to me like somebody who has seen thousands of trees but has never seen a forest. A knowledge of the historic and philosophical background gives that kind of independence from prejudices of his generation from which most scientists are suffering. This independence created by philosophical insight is—in my opinion—the mark of distinction between a mere artisan or specialist and a real seeker after truth."
Einstein sincerely believed that his interest in philosophy made him a better scientist. Using his philosophical background, Einstein took a step back, realized what was wrong with the current scientific paradigm, and built a revolutionary new theory of relativity.
Throughout the rest of the 20th century, there were several other notable physicist-philosophers. Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg, for instance, were credited with formulating what is now known as the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics. This interpretation has sparked much debate and added to the discussion of quantum mechanics' implications.
Having a background in philosophy -- or at least engaging in philosophical questions -- has helped past physicists advance their scientific work. It's important to note that many philosophers of physics have strong backgrounds in science, and many have doctorate degrees in physics. So Krauss' argument that most philosophical contributions have been made by physicists is somewhat misleading. Physicists made these contributions, but they did so as philosophers of science.
These icons were addressing questions that physics alone could not fully answer. Furthermore, several philosophers of science have made contributions that go beyond the realm of science. Thomas Kuhn, for instance, coined the contemporary usage of the word "paradigm" while discussing scientific revolutions.
In the future, I hope to share some of the big ideas in philosophy of science and their subsequent impact on the blog, so stay tuned!
For a thorough and thoughtful look at the specific argument between Krauss and Albert, see this post by Sean Carroll over at Cosmic Variance.