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July 08, 2014

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A little confused on this one, is he trying to say the universe is eternal?

Question: Do non-things have properties or attributes like omniscience? Can nothing be bored and/or creative?

Unfortunately, given the tone of the email, the challenger is likely to trample your answer under his feet.

1. Best way to respond? Ignore it – from the tone, it is clear that the person is not interested in anything you actually say.
2. Explain where the person goes wrong: What God is/isn’t.

The real Question – Why do you i) require a first cause? and ii) insist on it being God?

Answer: This is the Kalam Cosmological Argument summed as:

P1: Everything that begins to exist has a cause
P2: The universe began to exist
C1: The universe has a cause

The cause must be as follows:

Immaterial - since material being only happens at creation)
Timeless - An actual infinite cannot exist & the first-cause must not have a beginning
Powerful – Creating ex-nihilo (out of nothing) surely implies power
Personal – The first-cause must stand in causal relationship, and have the freedom to act within a finite time ago yet with the eternal potential to act, and act freely

The only two possibilities given the first two arguments is Abstract objects (if they exist), and God.

Abstract objects (if they exist) do not stand in causal relationships, nor do they have Power. God on the other hand does and so the best explanation is God.

(I think an alternative view is to use Plantigua’s maximally great being argument)

I must be getting old and crotchety. I'd probably just completely ignore him. There's no-thing here to respond to. If somebody wants to make an argument, they should make an argument. But this isn't an argument. It's just a parody that doesn't remotely resemble Christian theism. Besides that, the tone is obviously snarky, and I've just gotten to where I ignore snarky people because they're obviously not interested in having an intelligent discussion, and I'm not interested in exchanging snark.

I suspect there are a couple of arguments lurking in the background, but I don't like to do the work of making those arguments explicit for the person, especially when you run the risk of being accused of misrepresenting the other person's position. If they want a response, it's their job to make their argument explicit, not mine. They need to unpack their own drivel.

But if I had to guess, I'd say one argument they're making is similar to the argument Kai Neilsen made in his debate with J.P. Moreland, that "God" is a meaningless word since it can't be described in any positive terms. That doesn't strike me as a good argument since "God" seems to be a clear enough word for religions to be centered around it and for people to have meaningful debates about it. Even people who believe in God have disagreements about what God is like, so there's obviously content to the word.

The second argument is that creation ex-nihilo means nothing at all existed, which means not even a "God" could've been around to create anything. That's why he calls God "no-thing" or "nonthing." That's just based on a misunderstanding of what "creation ex nihilo" means. It doesn't mean nothing at all existed; it means that what came into existence isn't made of pre-existing material.

The rest of the parody, I can't even guess what the argument might be.

The best way to respond to this may very well be to just ignore it. There’s no interest in information, conversation, or even spirited debate expressed in this rather painful paragraph. There’s only someone railing against something they obviously don’t understand. Why people take the time to whine at an apologist without first taking the time to know the actual claims of apologists is beyond me. If it’s not worth understanding, surely it’s not worth ranting across the internet at an adherent?
The initial issue is a starting ad-hominem well poisoning assigning an IQ of 50-69 to anyone that adheres to a monotheistic belief. Included is a shot at Trinitarian belief as “tri-theistic”; since when calling someone a moron you might as well accuse them of not believing what they claim to believe.
From an uncharitable perspective the individual does not know how to read as he misconstrues the Genesis description of the world as “without form and void” (Genesis 1:2 ESV) for a description of God. From a more charitable perspective the individual is taking a number of the stated attributes of God and ramming them through a naturalistic worldview and shaving off critical aspects of God to get the round peg to fit through the small square hole. For example God is immaterial. Because naturalism says the material world is all that is, that means God is nothing (because there is nothing outside the material). This basic misconception of God informs the rest of the diatribe. The argument from then on is a more vitriolic and ranting version of William Lane Craig’s expression of incredulity at the concept that “the universe just popped into existence out of nothing.”
Once the nothingness of God is established, the other attributes of God are glued back on in an attempt to demonstrate their absurdity. For example, “Once upon a time before there was time” is likely intended as a clever attempt to express the absurdity of timelessness. However, current physical cosmological understanding is such that 1) there is a beginning to the universe of matter and energy and 2) time is co-contingent with the universe of matter and energy such that 3) time had a beginning. Meaning even in the naturalistic cosmological understanding “Once upon a time, before there was time” is an accurate description.
The next example of an attempt at demonstrating incoherence is itself incoherent. First, it claims that the “nonthing” is all knowing and expresses that because of its timeless nature the “nonthing” did not have a first memory of its realization of its existence (entirely accurate). Then it goes on to claim that the “nonthing” had no memory “that it had been existing forever.” But while the first lack of memory is explained by timelessness, there is nothing to explain why the second memory should not be present. However, even though this “nonthing” has no memory of its extended existence it is then claimed that the “nonthing” gets bored because it was “doing nothing for seventy billion trillion quadrillion eons or so.” Yet 1) time doesn’t exist and 2) the “nonthing” doesn’t remember its forever existence. How can it be bored for existing for a non-existent duration of time that it doesn’t even know has [not] gone by?
Of course they author would respond that of course his expression is incoherent, the Christian belief is incoherent, and he’s just bringing it to light. If we don’t like what is incoherent we should stop believing in “moronic” stuff such as monotheism. And here lies the core of the issue with what the author says.
The author is insulting and ascerbic in his rhetoric, but if his information is correct there’s actually not much wrong with his reasoning. Nothing cannot create something, so the claim that nothing created the universe is absurd. We should have no trouble agreeing with that. However, his information is not correct. The Christian claim is not that nothing created something.
In the author’s argument is basically that God is without physical attributes, therefore God does not exist. Yet if you deny the physical is all that is real, and all that exists, the entire argument fails.
God is immaterial, yes. He has no inherent physical properties. That does not mean that he has no properties whatsoever (it is possible that the author is confusing the conceptions of ultimate reality from eastern religions that claim it is “beyond all distinctions and descriptions” with the monotheistic expression of God). God is all powerful, all knowing, personal, just, holy, loving, etc. God has properties of character and will even though he lacks properties of height, weight, ohms, amps etc. God is not “nothing” or “nonthing.”
God is also eternal and the creator of all things that are created, including time. So God existed in a state that the best we have to explain with the language available is “before” time in what we call “eternity past.” As temporal beings that know nothing other than a time-constrained existence this concept of there being no time is difficult to grasp and as such difficult to express. One result of God’s timelessness, however, is that God would not have gotten bored with his existence because (for many reasons actually, but in terms of time) there would not be a succession of moments in which there were successive experiences of awareness of the lack of change or occurrences.
Also, a necessary, eternal being with no beginning would have “no memory of its first realization that it did exist.” This is not in opposition to being “all knowing.” If there is no first realization of existence, there can be no memory or knowledge of a first realization of existence. Further, going back to God’s timelessness, if there is no succession of moments, there cannot be a first realization of existence because there can be no new moment in which there is a second realization of existence. So, instead of a memory of the first realization of existence there is a single awareness of existence. It is not “first” in the temporal sense implied, because it is the only one present, and the only one necessary.
“Was the universe made from nothingness.” No. The universe was not made “from”; the universe was made by. There is a semantic, but very important, distinction between the phrase “the universe was not made from anything” and “the universe was made of nothing.” The phrase “X is made of Y” assumes two things. First, it assumes that the Y is pre-existent to X. Second, it assumes that when X exists, it is still composed of Y. So, if we say that “the universe was made of nothing” we would be saying that nothing existed prior to the universe (ignoring the issues of time at the moment) which is false. God existed prior to the universe, so there was more than nothing that existed. We would also be saying that the universe is currently composed of nothing, but the universe is composed of matter and energy. When we say that a chair was made of wood, we don’t think that because the chair now exists, the wood suddenly doesn’t.
What God did was create the universe by his power, using no pre-existing building material, and resulting in the existence of new matter, energy, and prescriptions for how they would interact. This is creation ex-nihilo because there was no building material that was utilized. It is not, however, a claim that the universe is “made of nothing.” If the universe must be made “from” something, then it is made from God’s power. That is more accurate because God’s power continues to sustain and hold together all other things that exist. (Col 1:17)

Pearls and swine. I'd wait for a change in attitude before bothering to reply to this strawman, then I'd point her in the direction of Aquina's metaphysics.

>> seventy billion trillion quadrillion eons or so ...

The worse part of this paro-deity is that it gives us an anthropomorphic "God with a watch bound by a calendar." Honestly, time cannot exist in a vacuum (how can a particle move from point A to point B, when there is no point A, point B, much less a particle?). Prior to the creative "Moment" of origin, how can we speak of time? Thus we refer to the eternal, or better, the timeless.

This individual snarky paragraph shuts down any hope of rational discussion, which I feel the e-mailer tries to avoid.

But, if time is a human construct based on astronomical benchmarks (the sun, moon and stars of the fourth day), the really of the beginning starts at the creative "Moment" of origin.

Sam and Robert, excellent responses.

My initial reaction is "OK...and so???"

Can something come from nothing?

The challenger seems to think that that idea that something could come from nothing is absurd. Most of the post is intended, I think, to make fun of the idea of something coming from nothing.

I happen to agree with him. One gold star for the challenger...it is not possible for something to come from nothing,

How this adds up to an objection to theism is beyond me. The challenge seems instead to be an argument for theism made by someone a little too slow to realize that he's arguing for the very position that he thinks he's rejecting.

"Without form or substance" does not exclude a Mind.

"Without form or substance" actually does exclude a mind. Minds are mental substances.

"Substance" just means "bearer of attributes". Nothing physical is implied.

Even the word "form" is ambiguous. We tend to think of it as a synonym for "shape". In that sense, form is a strictly material notion (of course, matter itself is mind-dependent on my view, but that's another conversation). But when the King James says "without form and void", which is what I suspect the challenger was trying to lampoon, the term "form" is actually synonymous, more or less, with "attribute".

So the statement that a thing has no form or substance is just the claim that it has no attributes nor anything that could even have attributes. That is to say that it is nothing. It does not exist.

But I return to what I was saying before, the challenger does well to notice that nothing is not a good starting place for giving rise to something.

He misses the conclusion though: since all the contingent somethings that fill up our world can't come from nothing, there has to be something that exists necessarily upon which all those contingent somethings depend...there has to be a Necessary Being.

“Was the universe made from nothingness?”

The Big Bang theory is an effort to explain what happened at the very beginning of our universe. Discoveries in astronomy and physics have shown beyond a reasonable doubt that our universe did in fact have a beginning. Prior to that moment there was nothing; during and after that moment there was something: our universe.

According to the many experts however, space didn't exist prior to the Big Bang. Back in the late '60s and early '70s, when men first walked upon the moon, "three British astrophysicists, Steven Hawking, George Ellis, and Roger Penrose turned their attention to the Theory of Relativity and its implications regarding our notions of time. In 1968 and 1970, they published papers in which they extended Einstein's Theory of General Relativity to include measurements of time and space.1, 2 According to their calculations, time and space had a finite beginning that corresponded to the origin of matter and energy."3 The singularity didn't appear in space; rather, space began inside of the singularity. Prior to the singularity, nothing existed, not space, time, matter, or energy - nothing.
http://www.big-bang-theory.com/

My response - Yes. Genesis, as well the evidence, does seem to indicate that the universe was made from nothingness.

It's a story ( not a good one ether ). Any of us can come up with a story, the question is do we have good reason to believe his story, is there evidence to support this or any other story. It seems that we must consider these things when they have good reason and evidence, and are just not baseless assertions.

Well, atheists frequently attack premise 1 of Kalam - "everything that begins to exist has a cause." They say that something can begin to exist without a cause, with "nothing" bringing it into existence. Thus, the ranting atheist above is actually conceding premise 1 of Kalam, by postulating a "god" who is "nothing" and being sarcastic about such a "god" causing the universe to come into existence.

Since most atheists concede premise 2 of Kalam - "the universe had a beginning" - based on Big Bang cosmology and the BGV Theorem, the ranting atheist has inadvertently backed the Kalam Cosmological Argument for the Existence of God.

In a nutshell, the argument is self-refuting to the standard atheistic view of the universe coming into existence uncaused. He is unknowingly attacking his own position.

The link HERE has some discussions around these topics. Those titled, “Life, the Universe, and Nothing” and “God and Cosmology: The Existence of God in Light of Contemporary Cosmology” may be relevant to this thread.

He says that once upon a time there was nothingness. This is an assertion. It is an assertion based on his non-belief in God. My belief in God leads me to a presupposition that says that there has always been a God so there has never been nothingness. The universe was created, but God has always been and always will be. There has never been a time that God was not. This is my view.

Excogitating Engineer, I think that your presupposition can also be fully supported evidentially using Kalam (supported by "Big Bang" and BGV) and the metaphysical characteristics that follow for the Uncaused First Cause - God.

Alex, I can answer that in one word! Jesus :)

"cannot exist AS anything whatever"

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