How Much Faith to Be an Atheist? A Response to Geisler and Turek (Part 2).

How Much Faith to Be an Atheist? A Response to Geisler and Turek (Part 2). September 13, 2019

This is a continuation of my response to the Christian apologetics book I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist by Norm Geisler and Frank Turek. Read part 1 here.

For more, I recommend an excellent and thorough critique by fellow Patheos atheist Jeffery Jay Lowder.

Let’s move on to some vaguely science-y arguments in I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist.

Cosmological Argument

Geisler and Turek (GT) uses the familiar form of this argument:

1. Everything that had a beginning had a cause
2. The universe had a beginning
3. Therefore, the universe had a cause (page 75)

Why the “that had a beginning” caveat? The phrase is obviously added to avoid the challenge, “But if the universe had a cause (let’s call it ‘God’), what caused God?” What that premise is trying to say is, “Everything had a beginning . . . except God.” That’s a remarkable claim, and we need evidence before we accept that God had no beginning.

GT labels premise 1 the “Law of Causality,” but a fancy label doesn’t make it right. Who says it is? Indeed, the popular Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics says that it’s wrong: at the quantum level, events don’t always have causes. For example, when an electron, neutrino, or photon comes out of a decaying atomic nucleus, that event had no cause.

Even if “Everything that had a beginning had a cause” were always true, we’re talking about two different kinds of “begins to exist.” In our world, everything that begins comes from something else. The oak tree comes, not only from the acorn, but from sunlight, water, carbon dioxide, and nutrients. Even quantum particles, virtual or otherwise, come from the matter or energy that was there before. But GT is talking about the universe, which they think came from absolutely nothing. Science knows of no examples of such a thing happening, and we’ve entered the realm of science fiction. Or religion.

Another problem is that cause implies time. X wasn’t there, then the cause happened, and now X is there. But how does this make sense when there is no time before the Big Bang?

Here are a few more points:

  • This is just a deist argument. If I found it convincing, I’d still be far from Christianity.
  • Physicist Sean Carroll has responded to William Lane Craig’s attempt at this argument (my summary of that debate).
  • I write more about Christians’ attempts to defend against the rebuttal, “If God caused the universe, what caused God?” here.
  • I critique the Kalam Cosmological Argument here and here.
  • Christian philosophers like Craig often introduce pop philosophy (that is, common sense that’s labeled “philosophy”) into the conversation. This doesn’t help.

Thermodynamics

You know the witticism about knowing just enough to be dangerous? That’s GT within science. I just wish their readership were skeptical enough to catch their negligence. Or deception.

If a wind-up clock is running down, then someone must have wound it up. (p. 77)

Why someone? Why not something? GT’s agenda is showing. Childish naiveté is appealing when it comes from a child; here it’s just tiresome.

Since we know of no other supernatural explanations for natural things, we won’t be starting now.

And most cosmologists accept the idea of a zero-energy universe in which the positive energy in things like matter is balanced by the negative energy in gravity. No, this appeal to thermodynamics fails. The universe isn’t running down; from a net energy standpoint, it’s doing nothing, and no scientific laws are violated.

Science and Genesis

GT handwaves about the “overwhelming evidence for the Big Bang and its consistency with the biblical account in Genesis” (p. 84).

Yes, the evidence for the Big Bang is overwhelming, but there are no clues to it in the six-day creation account in Genesis. Where in Genesis do you find the idea of a singularity? Inflation? Quantum physics? The unification of the four fundamental forces? 13.8 billion years?

You might respond that Genesis isn’t supposed to be a science textbook, and that’s fine. But someone who says this shouldn’t try to jump on the science bandwagon now.

Here’s how GT could make their case. Give an unbiased person a copy of the six-day creation story in Genesis, and ask for a one-page summary of the main scientific points with no theology. Now get the same thing from a science perspective—say from middle school textbooks that cover cosmology, geology, and evolution. Compare the two summaries. You still think they would be consistent? Could you derive the science summary from the Creation summary?

The Cause of the Universe revealed!

GT wants to find properties in the Big Bang that they can match up to with properties of the Christian god.

The First Cause must be self-existent, timeless, nonspatial, and immaterial (since the First Cause created time, space and matter, the First Cause must be outside of time, space, and matter). (p. 93)

Their agenda is clear when they pick and choose bits of science like chocolates. They rely on science to get the Big Bang but then jettison science when it’s inconvenient and swap in Christianity. Science says, “We don’t know” when appropriate, and that’s a perfectly good answer when, in fact, we don’t know.

Science doesn’t imagine any being behind the Big Bang; there simply isn’t any evidence pointing there. But that doesn’t stop GT from loving and groundless speculation in that direction. They’ve already named it First Cause, so they’re halfway to God: it must also be “unimaginably powerful,” “supremely intelligent,” and “personal” (personal, because he chose to create the universe). And when you squint at the Bible, you find those properties an exact match for (drum roll!) the Christian god!

In light of the evidence, we are left with only two options: either no one created something out of nothing, or else someone created something out of nothing. Which view is more reasonable? . . . The most reasonable view is God. (p. 94)

What kind of proof is that? No one creates a crystal. At a higher level, no one creates a whirlpool. Higher still, no one creates a solar system. We have no examples of a supernatural being creating anything and myriad examples of nature creating things. Why imagine a supernatural being creating the universe?

And who says that what came before the universe (if that’s even a well-constructed idea) was nothing? Let’s leave the nice scientists alone and let them do their work. If any discipline will tell us more about the origin of the universe, it will be science. Religion has taught us nothing verifiable about reality.

Continued in part 3.

Science doesn’t make it impossible to believe in God, 
it just makes it possible not to believe in God.
— Steven Weinberg

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(This is an update of a post that originally appeared 8/27/15.)

Image credit: NASA

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  • ThaneOfDrones

    The universe had a beginning

    Were you there?
    /kenhammode

    • wannabe

      Great!

    • Jim Jones

      They start with an unproven assumption.

    • So you are asserting an infinite regress of absurdity to get around your shame over sin?

    • Bob: The universe had a beginning
      Ken the Hamster: Were you there?
      Bob: Why, yes. In fact, I was there.
      Hamster: No you weren’t!
      Bob: How do you know? Were you there??

  • RichardSRussell

    I am always at pains to point out the distinction between physicist Sean M. Carroll of Caltech and evolutionary biologist Sean B. Carroll of my own beloved University of Wisconsin – Madison. Each is just as distinguished in his own field, equally respected, similarly articulate, with comparable-quality books under his name, and just as much death on the TBs as the other, so one might easily imagine it’s just a single almost super-human intellect named Sean Carroll. But it’s not.

    • ThaneOfDrones

      All the same, I look forward to any book they co-author; which would presumably be on science & religion.

    • BertB

      Go Badgers…except when they play the Wolverines!

      • ThaneOfDrones

        Badgers? Badgers? We don’t need no stinking badgers.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gx6TBrfCW54

      • RichardSRussell

        I’ll bet we’re both looking forward to Sep. 21 then, eh?

        • BertB

          Yeh, I think the Wolves are in trouble this year. Almost lost to Army last week. Badgers may eat em up.

        • Greg G.

          I’m in Columbus so I am expecting the Buckeyes to take out the Wolverines on November 30 and the Badgers on October 26 and probably again on December 7, as usual.

        • BertB

          Yep, you are probably right.

    • TheNuszAbides

      What in tarnation does “death on the TBs” mean?

      • RichardSRussell

        They really have no patience at all for True Believers.

  • BertB

    The notion (not really an idea…that gives it too much credence) that everything had a beginning…except the Christian God…is the ultimate example of special pleading.
    The speculation that the Universe did not have a beginning is more plausible. We know that the Universe exists. We have no reasonable justification for the belief that any supernatural entity exists or that it created the Universe out of nothing.

    • JustAnotherAtheist2

      Amusingly, god runs into the same infinite regress he supposedly solves once you starr investigating his thoughts. Whether you look at the desire to create something or his changing opinion of that creation, there’s a clear sequentiality to his thinking. So the question always remains, “what was he thinking before that?”

      Theistic tap-dancing around this only leads to absurdity. Was god simultaneously please and disappointed with his creation? Was there a First Thought? If so, did god form with pre-existing impressions already built in?

      It’s yet another example of god’s inability to address the issue that supposedly makes him necessary.

      • BertB

        It’s yet another example of god’s inability to address the issue that supposedly makes him necessary.

        And thus makes him unnecessary.

        • All is created by God and all is continent upon God.

          sin, division from God, is death because you need God to live. Without God, you are like an appliance that is unplugged.

        • Raging Bee

          “Oh,” says God, “I hadn’t thought of that.” And vanishes in a puff of logic.

      • Raging Bee

        And how can any sentient being know anything before anything existed to be known?

        • Being outside space and time, you heathen!

          /s

        • Raging Bee

          So…God looked forward in time to see what he wanted to create?

      • zenmite

        Excellent point! Strange to think that a being like God could exist without a beginning and then at some point ‘decide’ to create our universe. Wouldn’t that indicate that He changes, has sequential thoughts or desires? If He created time itself, how did this movement of thought take place? How could there be any change in his subjective state if there were no time? Is this the only Universe God created? Has he created others before this one? If He is complete unto himself, why create anything at all? Just so the majority of humans get to be born and go to hell? Didn’t he know how it would all turn out using his omni-god prophetic ability? I guess maybe he was creating hell for those of us asking such questions as per Augustine. Like today’s Christians, Augustine asserted that time did not exist before creation, so the question is meaningless. To me, this seems logically incoherent.

        • Mix in the Fundagelical view of Him being outside space and time -never changing- and the problems increase.

        • I would imagine the “problem” is because you take your capital sin of pride (delusion you will usurp God’s Divine Will) as your axiom. therefore all you do is plagued by evil (decay caused by sin).

        • This will be above your level, but I will answer your straightforwardly. your problem is both ignorance as well as fixation on control by way of pride. Maybe I’ll charge bob his satanic temple donation money for 100 post graduate tutoring lessons (not joking).

          God is Ipsum Esse Subsistens; the Subsistent Act of “To Be” Himself. That means God is the Uncreated, Uncontingent Prime Mover (Subsistent) and is so far above His Creation that you cannot witness Him outside of seeing Him act directly on Creation (Act of “To Be” Himself).

          Time is caused by motion of God creating. Time only exists within creation, as creation has a definite end and all here is mortal.

          Outside of creation, there is no time. Heaven and Humanity are Eternal, which means “beyond time.”

          you fell by way of consuming the devil’s sin. God broke His Creation to allow you a chance to be born here instead of in h*ll. you were only allowed a short time because you are here to Repent. should you fail, you get what you desire: total, complete separation from God (aka h*ll).

          If you are within the Church (the only possibility of Salvation), you have the opportunity to take a spot on the Hierarchy of Grace left vacant by the demons.

          So to reiterate: God is is not a being. As I said to the other idiot above: you are trying to present God as a mere being because you are a mere being. you figure doing so will justify your claim that God is your competitor or that you could usurp God or that you can control God.

          the devil uses people like you as an example before the Throne of God to claim that humanity was a mistake.

      • Michael Murray

        I like that. Of course if you are Christian you just play the “God is beyond our understanding card”. Beats all other Pokemon. Just remember to put in back in your deck when you need to tell everybody about what God wants us to do and most important not do. God’s apparently big on not dos and not at all beyond our understanding at that point.

        • you are finite and created and contingent, you cannot understand God. you are -once more- trying to present yourself as a competitor to God.

          being a creation of God and contingent upon God, you would do best to listen to God as he knows that does and does not work. your entire fallen being is marked by the desire for suicide.

    • the only special pleading going on here would be your delusion that God is a created, contingent being as you are, because you want to present yourself as a competitor to God. you are trying to create more-and-more absurd situations in which you can try to maintain your delusion of the capital sin of pride (delusion that you have usurped Divine Will).

      All is contingent and caused in Creation. Creation is a creation of God and all in it is caused by God and is contingent upon God.

  • Die Anyway

    When pondering this topic I have my own analogy. I have created universes in the laboratory. Well, to be specific, I have poured agar plates, inoculated them and watched the bacterial colonies grow. By stretching my imagination to the limits, I could imagine that our universe is an experiment being performed by some vastly different scientist from a vastly different, vastly greater culture. There is no evidence for this, it’s just a possible(?) way our universe was created by a “creator”. As the OP points out, this does not get us to the Christian God but seems to me more likely than a single entity god that creates this universe in the manner described by the Bible. And it poses the question “What makes something a god?” In my alien scientist analogy, would they be a “god”? If we somehow discovered that I was correct (or even some approximation), would we worship those entities? Pay tithes and homage? Perform rituals? Heh, I suppose some people would.

    • NS Alito

      I have created universes in the laboratory.

      Rookie! Lisa Simpson’s science fair experiment—a tooth in sugary cola—created beings who worshiped her.

    • That is possibly the most advanced case of the capital sin of pride that I have ever seen

      you try to project your ugliness onto God in the hopes of justifying your pride (delusion of arrogating to yourself Divine Will).

  • Michael Neville

    The First Cause must be self-existent, timeless, nonspatial, and immaterial (since the First Cause created time, space and matter, the First Cause must be outside of time, space, and matter).

    This is pure supposition. GT, like most theists offering a cosmological argument, make assertions and label them as fact. We, and this includes GT, don’t know what caused the universe or even if there was a cause.

    Now I’ll make my own supposition. The probability of an Iron Age, Middle Eastern, tribal god creating the universe is so small that the hypothesis can be ignored.

    • Susan

      We, and this includes GT, don’t know what caused the universe or even if there was a cause.

      Exactly. Especially, the second. Our gut notions of “causality” break down long before this point.

      As do our notions of “nothing”.

    • BertB

      Yours is more plausible then theirs.

    • Rudy R

      It’s a supposition based on only one arbitrary option that there was nothing before there was something. The other option is that there was always something. Then selecting the nothing option, there is further supposition based on only one arbitrary option that the mental was the first cause. The other option is the physical as the first cause.

      • Raging Bee

        “It’s always something!” — Official creed of the Church of St. Rasanne Rosannadanna

        • Rudy R

          “Never mind” — Emily Litella aka Gilda Radner

    • epeeist

      GT, like most theists offering a cosmological argument, make assertions and label them as fact.

      It isn’t even as though theists get them from the biblical tradition. The expression ex nihilo nihil fit derives from Parmenides and a “First Cause” and “Unmoved Mover” is of course from Aristotle.

    • TheNuszAbides

      So then there’s the special pleadingeculation that those priesty-scribes were receiving signals from ~something greater than a mere tribal sponsor~ … which doesn’t at all settle the question of why anyone should trust their successors’ say-so on the matter … Again, unless the Vatican librarians are keeping under wraps the peerlessly enlightening account that would disintegrate our free willmake the case.

      • Freedom is responsibility. Will is the capability to do Good. Therefore Free Will is the responsibility to do Good.

        you are confusing free will for choice. your evil is a negation on choice, which is the source of both your reprobate mind and confusion.

        you are bargaining with your damnation, not making any reasonable claim here.

        I keep seeing you damned ones use the excuse “special pleading,” while you are using every possible mental gymnastics to try to justify your absurd capital sin of pride (delusion you have usurped Divine Will).

        this is not shocking. when the capital sin of pride (inherently impossible) is exposed (and therefore the impossibility and absurdity of it is exposed), it turns into the mortal sin of despair. this is when you try to use your usurped Divine Will that you convinced yourself you have to try to project in the hopes other are damned in your place.

  • 1) Either the zero-energy Universe, with it having popped up in a pre-existing vacuum as understood by physicists, given that nothingness as understood in philosophy probably does not exist (see what I did here?), or alternatives as eternal inflation, a collision between two branes, and other ideas even more arcane. One could wonder about the origin of all those and maybe the question is meaningless.

    2) If Genesis was more than just based on the Babylonian Enuma Elish, it would not only be much larger but also it would mention formation and evolution of the Universe, Solar System, Earth, etc. as well as subatomic particles as the Higgs boson, bacteria, etc. Fundagelicals may analyze it word by word, but it’s a VERY poor substitute to the findings of science.

    3) Even if such an entity existed, it’s a big great of faith to assume is the Judeo-Christian-Islamic God and not an entity totally ununderstarable an alien to us, given for example how bizarre are quantum mechanics, and way beyond a Bronze/Iron Age Middle East war/weather deity obsessed with being worshipped and the way sacrifices must be done and who behaves like so many other deities of that region of the world.

    • The sciences were created by the Church and can only exist within the Church. you are simply trying to hide gnostic dogma behind pseudoscience.

      Genesis was written by Moses when he wrote down what God told Him about the beginning of everything. The information was completely lost as the Anteldeluvian world was destroyed and remade.

      you claim to speak on God here, but you show no understanding of God.

      the mohammedans worship the devil openly; as do you, so you cover for them. seems you do the common “atheist” idiocy of trying to conflate all “religion” so you can blame the Church and God for everything pagans and demons do, while claiming that pagans and demons have all the accomplishments of the Church and God.

      the demon you mistake for your ego, mammon, is “cruel master” or “false god.” you try to conflate your demon with God for the delusion of power (what power do demons have to give you? spoiler: they don’t).

  • epeeist

    Won’t be long now before we are back to a universe that is 6,000 years old – https://www.apnews.com/4f9cd2357365418e81104a33994c0d32

    Note the caveat further down the article:

    Jee and outside experts had big caveats for her number. She used only two gravitational lenses, which were all that were available, and so her margin of error is so large that it’s possible the universe could be older than calculated, not dramatically younger.

    • Michael Neville

      So an apparently settled number (Hubble’s Constant) is being reexamined. That’s how science works.

      • epeeist

        Yeah, it’s a crap article, but “Hubble Constant being rexamined” is nowhere near as catchy a title.

    • Since you’re an astrophysicist you probably know there’re plans to use gravitational waves as detected by LIGO and similar instruments to measure Hubble’s constantm given that Cepheids, the TRGB, etc. measurements give a different value to the one estimated from Planck data.

      My personal thoughts are that the Hubble constant looks different in modern times compared to what Planck found due to measurement errors and/or things being somewhat wrong with our assumptions (Cepheids could have actual different luminosities due to metallicity effects and/or interstellar reddening, variations of luminosity among stars of the TRGB depending also of metallicity as well as of mass, different types of Type Ia supernovae, etc), as much exciting that was new physics being behind said differences.

      • epeeist

        Since you’re an astrophysicist

        Sorry to disappoint, but I’m not. If I can claim anything it would be to molecular physics.

        As for the rest of your comment it would point to the mutability of facts (such as the Hubble constant) and to an iterative refinement as new methods and capabilities come into play.

  • Doubting Thomas

    This is just a deist argument. If I found it convincing, I’d still be far from Christianity.

    Actually, it’s not even a deist argument. It’s an argument for a cause of the universe. The apologist then simply equates that cause = god without justification.

  • Otto

    In light of the evidence, we are left with only two options: either no one created something out of nothing, or else someone created something out of nothing. Which view is more reasonable? . . . The most reasonable view is God. (p. 94)

    Wait, wait….I thought something can’t come from nothing? Now he is saying it can?

    • Michael Neville

      If a material naturalist is saying there’s no evidence for gods being involved in the creatioin of the universe then the theist says ex nihilo nihil fit (nothing comes from nothing). But if a theist is arguing that their favorite pet god created the universe then of course this god created the universe out of nothing. It’s similar to how faith is a good thing if the theist has it but if the same theist accuses an atheist of having faith then faith is a bad thing. In both cases it depends on who is making the argument.

    • JustAnotherAtheist2

      And if there is a god, why is there also nothing? Is god nothing? I’m totally confused.

    • Rudy R

      What GT is implying is something can only come from nothing with god magic.

      • Otto

        Than they shouldn’t say something can’t come from nothing. Can’t have it both ways.

  • JustAnotherAtheist2

    P1: Everything that begins to exist has both material and efficient causes.
    P2: The universe began to exist.
    C: The universe has material and efficient causes.

    Ignoring any P1 inconsistency with quantum mechanics, I ask any theist to explain how this isn’t at least as sound as Kalam’s formulation. If you think otherwise, please describe what error I am making.

  • Alan Mill

    GT is assuming that space has a cause. What if it does not have a cause.
    2,500 years ago Buddha concluded that space is uncaused. Nothing does not need a cause and space is nothing.
    Interesting stuff space. It’s nothing which is something or looking at it the other way, something which is nothing.
    And space apparently has energy.
    And energy can be converted into matter.
    Maybe we can get something out of nothing.
    Buddha may have been on the right track.

    • NS Alito

      I’m convinced! You’ve converted me to Buddhism!

      • Alan Mill

        You don’t have to be a Muslim to do algebra.

        • NS Alito

          …and you don’t have to do algebra when you’re retired.

        • Alan Mill

          So why does nothing need to be caused? You still have to deal with space when you retire.

        • NS Alito

          The universe pretty much ignores me, so I try to return the favor.

        • Alan Mill

          You still take up space.

        • NS Alito

          I’m just a transient configuration of molecules, ever changing.

        • Alan Mill

          And taking up space. 🙂

        • Greg G.

          I am just borrowing space, matter, and energy. I return it when I am done with it. But I am using as much time as I can get away with!

        • Phil Rimmer

          … you’e a pretty cool configuration…well, at the moment…

        • Phil Rimmer

          Some bits of it notice you, because…

    • Michael Murray

      Sister Maria said “nothing comes from nothing, nothing ever could”. How can you solve a problem like Maria ?

      • Alan Mill

        You address the issue. So, is space uncaused?

        • Greg G.

          Space is supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

        • Michael Neville

          So space is sung by Julie Andrews and an actor whose name I can’t give because both his first and last names are on the Official Patheos Naughty Word List™.

        • Greg G.

          In the beginning was the word and the word was “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”. It solves the problem like Maria that Michael Murray posed.

        • BertB

          I thought the word was “antidisestablishmentarianism.”

        • Michael Neville

          Or possibly paradimethylaminobenzaldehyde.

        • Ignorant Amos

          floccinaucinihilipilification?

          the action or habit of estimating something as worthless.

        • epeeist

          So, is space uncaused?

          Take two objects, are they embedded in a container which we label “space” or is all that exist simply a distance relationship between them? In other words, does space exist or not?

          One might take a somewhat different view, namely that of Herman Minkowski:

          The views of space and time which I wish to lay before you have sprung from the soil of experimental physics, and therein lies their strength. They are radical. Henceforth space by itself, and time by itself, are doomed to fade away into mere shadows, and only a kind of union of the two will preserve an independent reality.

        • Alan Mill

          It’s my understanding that Hawkings suggested Einstein’s equations would work on the other side of the big bang where time is a dimension of space and space is timeless.
          So why does nothing need to be caused?
          Introducing caused objects into space does not help us with this.

        • epeeist

          It’s my understanding that Hawking suggested Einstein’s equations would work on the other side of the big bang where time is a dimension of space and space is timeless.

          Not something I have come across, if you have a reference I would appreciate it.

          But you haven’t answered the question I posed, does space exist as a substantial entity or is all that exists the relationship between objects?

          So why does nothing need to be caused?

          In this kind of conversation I tend to start by asking what is meant by “nothing” and whether such a state was ever the case (which somewhat begs the question since it applies that “time” exists).

        • Alan Mill

          I’m not a physicist but my understanding of big bang is that there was space before there was matter.
          Why does space need to be caused if it’s immaterial?
          Use your preferred use of nothing in regard to why does nothing need to be caused in relation to space. It’s a small blog post tossing ideas out there.
          As for Hawking, memory is that it was an article when he died, in a newspaper.

        • epeeist

          I’m not a physicist

          I was, but this is not my area. My understanding is that there was a quark/gluon plasma immediately after the BB, given that quarks are fermions then this has some implications for the existence of space.

          Why does space need to be caused if it’s immaterial?

          Why should it matter whether something is material or immaterial in terms of causality? If all that exists are relations rather than a substantial entity then one can ask whether causality is required.

          Use your preferred use of nothing in regard to why does nothing need to be caused in relation to space.

          This is trickier than you think. According to Democritus all that exists are “atoms and the void”, I suspect that he would have said that if you take away the atoms then you are left with “nothing”. This doesn’t work these days in that QM would indicate that particles are constantly created and annihilated out of the quantum vacuum. If the substantivalists are correct then space actually exists and if GR is correct then space-time exists, so once again we don’t have nothing.

          However, try getting theists to go beyond this and say what they mean by “nothing”, I doubt you will get an answer. Try pushing them into saying whether the laws of physics or logic should be dispensed with and see what you get (there are implications whether these exist or not). Get them to tell you what the difference is between “physical nothing” and “metaphysical nothing” and whether the latter ever obtained. All you will get are crickets.

        • Alan Mill

          epeeist
          I’m not trying to give an answer that we don’t actually know. (better than 42 anyway) I acknowledge that I am presenting a very simplistic take on it. Could be even simpler than 42.

          As you say the physics is not really relevant when discussing with Theists and the end is usually crickets. And a draw.
          This was a point I was trying to make in response to their claim that the most reasonable explanation for life, the universe and everything is an uncaused god that makes matter in some uncertain manner.

          Their simplistic uncertainty can be countered with another simplistic uncertainty that does have some advantaqes, that space is uncaused and creates matter in some uncertain manner.

          Physical science doesn’t come into as we move into using political science to deal with religion.

          At least everyone has everyday experience of space while there is not a shred of credible objective evidence for this god and and more importantly, unlike their god, space is not a socio political ordering principle that is telling us what fibres to wear or that we should cure mental illness by drowning pigs. Space doesn’t appear as a voice in peoples heads so they can tell us what space wants us to do.

          The two uncertainties leave us with the politics of religion to discuss. And religious politics does most certainly exist by the mega amount.

          Discussing physical science with theists never gets anywhere. Discussing political science soon has them getting themselves stuck in a corner as its analysis of theism is hard to counter unless you are an unabashed totalitarian.

        • epeeist

          As you say the physics is not really relevant when discussing with Theists and the end is usually crickets. And a draw.

          My assumption is that there are more readers than contributors when it comes to blogs like these. If someone is unable to define what they mean by a term or defend their position then does this appear to be a draw to the kibitzers?

          At least everyone has everyday experience of space

          I would disagree, what they have experience of is their relation to other places, I live about 12Km from Manchester for example.

          there is not a shred of credible objective evidence for this god

          Agreed. In terms of ex nihilo nihil fit, which the thrust of this sub-thread, even if they could define their terms it doesn’t get them to their god.

        • Alan Mill

          Pedantry and disagreements in the physical or metaphysical sciences is a draw. Political science gets results cause religion is politics. Unfortunately, God doesn’t have to exist or be well defined for theism to cause social chaos and destruction.

        • epeeist

          Pedantry and disagreements in the physical or metaphysical sciences is a draw.

          Nope, if one side is making an ontological commitment (in this case that “from nothing, nothing comes”) while the other side is simply sceptical about the claim then the side making the commitment has the burden of proof. If they cannot provide backing and warrant for their claim then it fails.

        • Alan Mill

          epeeist

          Has anything really been achieved in the academic ivory tower. We still have two viewpoints based on uncertainty and no factual result. Team Secular has taken more wickets and has a better run rate but it’s still a draw on the scorecard.

          In the ivory tower room I looked into, nothing is space without matter, and Manchester doesn’t matter since Root’s new leg theory failed to stop Smith keeping the Ashes.

          But down on the ground in the world of real politics where we all actually live, the claim that there is not enough faith to be an Atheist is stomped on by political science.

          GT is also being disingenuous using the Atheist label, as while Theism is an ordering principle, Atheism is not an ordering principle.
          Faith is not needed to say that Theism is a bloody awful ordering principle. It’s an observed fact.
          Faith is not needed to say that Secular Humanist Liberal Social Democracy is a far superior ordering principle compared to Theism. Its an observed fact. Theism is on par with Fascism and Communism as bloody awful ordering principles.

          Even if they came up with conclusive credible objective evidence that Yahweh exists as they claim, I would dissent as his politics is a bloody awful ordering principle.

        • epeeist

          Has anything really been achieved in the academic ivory tower.

          Let’s take a couple of contemporary examples shall we, namely climate change and vaccination. Evidence showing that anthropogenic climate change is real and demonstration of the effectiveness of vaccines are both achievements of the “academic ivory tower”.

          In the ivory tower room I looked into, nothing is space without matter,

          Try taking that to a blog with an emphasis on philosophy and see how far you get with that definition.

        • Alan Mill

          epeeist
          You’re being pedantic again. Quite a misrepresenting deflection there as I was clearly talking about the the academic ivory tower in specific relation to the topic of this thread discussing the uncertainty of the beginnings of our universe. Don’t even have to use the DRS on your dismissal.

          If Atheists cannot agree with each other regarding uncertainty, then we can’t expect Theists to agree with us on these uncertain issues so we’d better tackle them on something concrete.

          Religion has very real and disastrous social consequences due to its totalitarian political nature.

          I note that you made no response to the political method of dealing with the claim that there isn’t enough faith to hold the Atheist conclusion. Do you ever try discussing religion with Theists using political science or do you only use physical science?

          I observe what appears to be a lack of political understanding or political will among many Atheists when it comes to critiquing religion and an aversion to discussing the politics of religion when its an area that has mountains of evidence about the appalling consequences of religion as an ordering principle and why religion is an unacceptable and worthless ordering principle.

          Having an academically brilliant definition of nothing is not going to be much use if Theist totalitarians get the practical political power to knock on your door with their AK47s.

          Maintaining as much separation of church and state as possible will keep our liberal social democracy more harmonious and prosperous than having an academic definition that does not resolve an uncertainty.

          What is certain is that Theism is an appallingly bad ordering principle. Always has been, is now, always will be.

        • epeeist

          You’re being pedantic again.

          A quotation from Francis Bacon that I like:

          Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man.

          Quite a misrepresenting deflection there as I was clearly talking about the the academic ivory tower in specific relation to the topic of this thread

          And yet your complete sum of what you said was, “Has anything really been achieved in the academic ivory tower.”, nothing to say you were restricting things to any particular topic.

          Let’s restrict the subject to the “uncertainty of the beginnings of our universe”. The theistic claim is that “from nothing, nothing comes”, now this is a knowledge claim for which the classical theory of knowledge is sufficient, i.e. knowledge is “justified true belief”. If I claim to know that p then this means I believe that p is true and that I have justification for that belief. If the theist is unable to bring forward any justification in favour ex nihilo nihil fit then their claim to knowledge fails.

          Do you ever try discussing religion with Theists using political science or do you only use physical science?

          It depends what they raise, I am quite comfortable using science, philosophy, ethics and politics, less so with Bob’s major thrust, which is apologetics.

          Maintaining as much separation of church and state as possible will keep our liberal social democracy more harmonious and prosperous than having an academic definition that does not resolve an uncertainty.

          Fine, but this has nothing to do with the subject under discussion.

        • Alan Mill

          epeeist
          You are still being pedantic. It’s boring. You know why we have paragraphs.

          The subject under discussion is Atheism being a faith position. I’m putting forward why being a Secular Humanist is not a matter of faith, its a concrete matter of practical politics.

          We still have two positions of uncertainty regarding the origins of the universe and that’s not going to change any time soon. The Atheists have more wickets and a better run rate but there is no winning concrete result to either side. Having equations that show they are wrong does not show we have an answer to why there is something. The Theists don’t care about our arguments or beautiful equations. They care that we admit we don’t know why there is something and care that we can’t explain it with physics to give a concrete answer. They are good at spin and they like arguing about uncertainty cause the argument is done on their terms.

          But mostly they care about political power and their special privileges as they think they are special. They never argue about political power, cause that wouldn’t be on their terms, at least not in western liberal social democracies. They think it will become on their terms when their Jesus returns to rule the planet but he’s already nearly 2,000 years late. I don’t expect him at any time and while they wait they continue to keep the political power mostly under the bench in liberal social democracies though they are pushing back more and more as secularism has removed quite a lot of their power and privilege. And they really don’t like it. Now they are seeking religious freedoms laws so they can ignore secular law and vilify and discriminate against decent people who are doing them no harm.

          Theism still continues to exert an unacceptable political influence and your academic arguments and pedantry do not derail it. Neutralizing it’s politics as much as possible in the public square does and that’s a practical political process not an academic argument. Instead of pushing equations, you’d have a better result pushing the clerics and aristocrats out of the House of Lords.

          The politics is relevant due to Theism being a very nasty ordering principle and Atheism is not an ordering principle. Rejecting Theism is not a matter of faith or academic arguments, its a matter of observed fact of lived life and the social chaos and destruction that religion has caused. The major problem with Theism is not their absurd arguments about the origin of the universe but what they do with practical political power. Political power is not absurd. Its highly dangerous in their hands. God does not have to exist for this power to be wielded. The wielding is all too human.

          And while this isn’t the exact article I read, this is a take on Hawking’s idea of timeless space from around that time.
          https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2018/05/stephen-hawking-s-almost-last-paper-putting-end-beginning-universe

        • epeeist

          You know why we have paragraphs.

          Yes I do, which is why I use them.

          I’m putting forward why being a Secular Humanist is not a matter of faith

          Strange, in this particular bit of the thread we seem to be arguing about the formation of the universe and whether one can come to a certain conclusion about a particular argument.

          As it is I have no problem with arguing for secularism, it is one of the reasons I support the National Secular Society here in the UK.

          We still have two positions of uncertainty regarding the origins of the universe and that’s not going to change any time soon. The Atheists have more wickets and a better run rate but there is no winning concrete result to either side.

          But this doesn’t mean that the balance of probabilities falls half way between.

          You seem to have a hammer and nothing else.

          If an apologist comes to this blog with arguments about the historicism and actions of Jesus does support for secular humanism address his claims?

          If a creationist comes to the blog and witters on about the age of the universe and the “problems” of evolution does support for secular humanism address his claims?

          If someone comes to the blog and supports the cosmological or ontological arguments does support for secular humanism address his claims?

          If

        • Alan Mill

          G’day Epeeist

          I’ve found the social sciences, particularly political science to be very useful tools that do many tasks and are much more useful than pedantry. Theists are good at word games too. And we are still dealing with the Theist claim that Atheism’s origin of the universe and the rejection of Theism is a faith position. They want to argue from physical science as it suits their terms. While it is useful to rebut them particularly for those who come to blogs like this new to doubting theism, and Bob does a great job of that, we are not adding anything much new into the mix and it’s still on their terms of uncertainty. IMO, arguing from social sciences is doing it on our terms.

          Probability does not give us the evidence of our alternative to the god mind as the reason for something rather than nothing otherwise this blog wouldn’t be wasting its time rebutting all that apologetics. While the Theists have no evidence for their claim, we are still missing the final bits of the puzzle so the Theists can still claim that we are proposing an alternative without evidence. The evidence will come on the basis of what has come before but in their eyes and our commentary, this looks enough like faith to give them something to bang on about for the time being.

          Too many ifs with this approach as you say.

          But the ifs tend to disappear when you use social science rather than physical science. There is over whelming evidence that Theism is an appallingly bad ordering principle. This can’t be refuted and only a totalitarian would try and Christians who are democrats get pushed into a corner on this.
          My rejection of Theism is not a matter of faith as GT claims. It’s a matter of real politics. No ifs.
          Your rejection still seems to have a lot of ifs.
          Political science undermines the moral argument too.

          Theists don’t care than we can explain creation nearly down to the moment of creation. They jump into that gap of uncertainty. They love uncertainty as it keeps them in the game and they can keep wielding power. But they don’t like political certainty.

          When they ask for evidence that their “science” is wrong and dodgy, we can’t give enough to deny them gaps. If they ask for evidence that their political science is wrong and dodgy, we don’t have enough time to give it all to them, which is why they don’t ask as politics is their Achilles heel.

          Religion is not really about physical science. It’s about politics. It’s about power relationships.

          I like to argue on lines that can produce certainty rather than uncertainty. Quantum mechanics does not deter Theists as sod all people can grasp it. They just go pfft. When quantum physics can promote itself with the emotional power of the old masters paintings and devotional music then it will resonate with the masses. Until then – pft. We are mostly talking to the wall. Albeit important talking. But lots of wall.

          You don’t use a welding torch to carve a wooden chair leg. But then you knew that. Social science is no good at the origins of the universe and physical science is no good at morality and political power.

          The alleged actions of Jesus deal with the nuts and bolts of daily life experience that people can understand and the political policies and actions of Jesus can be analysed with the tools of secular humanism and liberal social democracy.

          Look at his mental health policy. This is just totally bonkers. I have yet to come across a Christian who is a medical professional or a health minister (and we have plenty of both of those in our countries) who are prepared to put Jesus’ ideas about treating mental health into practice. Yet most secularists don’t challenge Christians on this kind of alleged history. The politics is still real even if the history is fake.

          Quantum mechanics means nothing to most of the population as a serious issue. A person in your family with a mental health issue is readily understood as a serious issue. Doctors who are Christians don’t throw a faith claim at secularists who ask if they would recommend drowning thousands of pigs if a patient with a mental health issue presents to their surgery. It’s certain that they would not go down this Gadarene path.

          I wish I could get journos to ask Christian health minsters whether they think the ideas of their saviour, and the allegedly most wise man who ever lived, on the topic of mental health are some ideas that our governments should implement. It’s certain that they would not implement them. But it’s too rude to embarrass the health minister with his religious beliefs not matching reality so it doesn’t get done or the journos just don’t know their religion very well.

          Then there is the trial scene. Apply some modern policing to it, ironically via a fictional character who is almost as well known and has had a very real impact in the real world too.
          Holmes “ Watson, I draw your attention to the curious incident of the dog in the night.”
          Watson “But the dog did nothing in the night.”
          Holmes “That was the curious incident”

          And so since then police use this as a very useful method to determine the truth of the story they have been given. Ergo – the trial story is fake news.

          And then we can move onto the top down political structure of Christianity and the totalitarianism that comes with that. No ifs there either. It stinks to high heaven. And theists are rare on the ground who defend this. In fact I can’t think of any. Let me know if you know of some.

          And now I will continue my travel through foreign climes and continue to be slow to respond as it takes days to find the time to compile a response.
          Thanks to the Renaissance, the Enlightenment and the move away from all art being religious. My son says he’s been to enough galleries and we’ve only just started.

        • JustAnotherAtheist2

          However, try getting theists to go beyond this and say what they mean by “nothing”

          The only thing you are sure to hear is that the GR version of empty spacetime is not “nothing” enough, along with an accusation that the atheist is disingenuously redefining the term. As if they had offered both a robust definition and evidence that it is what preceded our universe…..

        • epeeist

          As I have said elsewhere, if the theist has a better definition of “nothing” then I have yet to hear it from any of them. They are more than willing to criticise the version that scientists offer but I have never had one of them say what they mean by the term.

        • Michael Murray

          I don’t think we know yet.

        • Alan Mill

          So why does nothing need to be caused?
          It’s a good arguing point with theists. Space is immaterial, exists and possibly causes material to come into existence in ways we don’t understand yet and no god is needed.

      • I will assume damned ones like you will try to rape and murder nuns, as you always have. They tend to fight back though.

    • All is caused and contingent.

      you don’t know what nothingness is as you are part of existence, meaning you are still connected to God.

      the only “nothingness” is h*ll, which is the only place outside of God. Seems like you see it sprawling before you, and so you suckle on an old devil worshipper who claimed h*ll and destruction of the soul (“nirvana”) would lead to apotheosis. spoiler: it doesn’t.

    • ThaneOfDrones

      What if space does not exist of itself, but is only a property of matter?
      Can space without matter actually exist? What does it even mean?

      • Alan Mill

        Big bang seems to suggest a small amount of space preceded matter.

      • epeeist

        What if space does not exist of itself

        There are two views, that of the substantivalists who regard space as existent (think of the size of such an entity) and objects embedded into it and relationsts who think that all that exists are the relations between objects. The weight tends to be on the side of the substantivalists but as far as I understand there is no killer fact to decide one way or the other.

  • NS Alito

    Yes, the evidence for the Big Bang is overwhelming, but there are no clues to it in the six-day creation account in Genesis. Where in Genesis do you find the idea of a singularity? Inflation? Quantum physics? The unification of the four fundamental forces? 13.8 billion years?

    Why did God need to rest on the sixth day?

    I’ll just toss that one in the pile with why God needs human defenders, why God has such craþþy communication skills, why God has trouble with defeating iron chariots and why God needs a spaceship.

    • Michael Neville

      According to Genesis God rested on the seventh day. He spent the day watching football and drinking brewskis.

      • JustAnotherAtheist2

        I must have missed that song, what album is it on? Is that the Peter Gabriel edition or Phil Collins?

        • Michael Neville

          It’s on the Grateful Dead’s Live/Dead album.

  • Hans-Richard Grümm

    To add some overkill:
    How can Turok et al. conclude that this creator of the universe (assuming arguendo that it exists) is
    – self-existent (it could have been created itself; a creator of X isn’t automatically a “First Cause”) ?
    – extremely powerful (all we can say it that it has created this particular universe) ?
    – supremely intelligent (and could foresee the future development of the universe) ?
    – and had a choice creating ?

    • God is the Uncreated, Uncontingent Prime Mover.

      God created for the Good of the created, this is Love.

  • Phil Rimmer

    We have never seen anything begin to exist. We have only ever seen things transformatively emerge.

    The Universe appears to be net-nothing. Net-nothing, separated out, clearly could emerge from a (perpetually) existing principle needing no extra stuff.

    Quantum reality, stripped down to its non-universe manifestation, is non-entropic (time symmetric) and quite possibly the the perpetually existing principle needed to make a net-nothing, time asymmetric, entropic, transient reality transformatively emerge.

  • ThaneOfDrones

    Check this #### out: Shapeshifting sea creature expands in front of scientists’ eyes

    Note the “resident isopod”

  • Phil Rimmer

    It does seem that the religious may have the “miracle” of existence entirely back to front. Universes make minds, not the reverse.

  • I Came To Bring The Paine

    Apologist: “How likely is it that the universe came from nothing?”

    Me: “How likely is it that a single (not plural) ‘mind’ created the universe from ‘nothing’ is the same ‘mind’ that is depicted in the christian bible who reveals ‘himself’ to individuals and the craftiest of his animals was a talking snake and is ‘pleased’ by the aroma of burnt sacrifices of animals and also sent his ‘son’ (who is also himself) to sacrifice his life to satisfy himself to save human beings from himself and he wants to have a personal relationship with you if you just read a book written by people who are under his spell and believe everything written in it is absolutely true and give your life to his son who is also himself – and wants you to give 10% of your gross income to your church. You calculate those odds.

    Apologist: “…………”

    • JustAnotherAtheist2

      Ha, great response!

  • Buckminsterfullerene

    The First Cause must be self-existent, timeless, nonspatial, and
    immaterial (since the First Cause created time, space and matter, the
    First Cause must be outside of time, space, and matter). (p. 93)

    So in other words the 1st cause has to be nothing because nothing is timeless, nonspatial, and immaterial.

    • BertB

      As immaterial as an imaginary geodesic dome.