In our last article, we began to examine our first piece of evidence – the universe itself. We put forth an argument that the universe had a cause for its existence. Now, I want to take some time and examine the premises of the argument to see why we should hold them to be true.
The first premise of our argument is that everything that begins to exist has a cause. This just seems like common sense. As we go about our day, things don’t just appear from nothing. If things could appear from nothing, then why doesn’t money or ponies or cookies and cream ice cream just appear in front of our very eyes? William Lane Craig likes to point out that getting something from nothing is worse than a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat. Because, at least with the magic trick, you have a magician and a hat!
If you want to deny premise 1, then you have to deny the fundamental principle of science – the law of Causality. Science is the search for causes. The job of a scientist is to try and discover what caused what to happen. We string together thoughts (the causes) that give us conclusions (the effects). To deny the law of Causality is to deny rational thought.
A Whole Lotta Nuthin’ Goin’ On
Some skeptics will often try to make the case that subatomic particles come into being from nothing. These particles come into being as a result of energy fluctuations inside of a vacuum. So, someone might say “look! This article came from nothing”. But, that is a misuse of terms. Laymen think of a vacuum as empty – in a sense “nothing”. However, vacuums are anything but empty. In physics, a vacuum is a sea of fluctuating energy and it has physical properties. Vacuums can be measured. This means they have properties like pressure and the amount of residual gas inside of them. This isn’t “nothing”. You can’t measure “nothing”. Trying to call a vacuum nothing is an attempt to redefine terms and play on the layman’s ignorance of what a vacuum is, technically speaking.
When we use “nothing” in our argument, we mean “no thing”. The absence of anything. Nothing isn’t just empty space. It is the absence of anything, even space itself. If someone asked me what I had for lunch and I told them “nothing. And it tasted great!” that wouldn’t make any sense. You’d think I was just trying to be funny. Or, if I ask one of my kids how much homework they have and they say “nothing. And I’ll be up all night getting it done!” I’d take that as them being cheeky. Trying to redefine “nothing” as “something” is just an attempt to escape the implications of the argument. When we say “nothing” we mean the absence of anything.
Who Made God?
It is at this point that this question may arise; if everything has to come from somewhere, then where did God come from? But, look at the premise again. Everything that begins to exist has a cause. God is the uncaused First cause. God is eternal, so he doesn’t need a cause.
Asking who made God is to misunderstand the nature of God. It is like asking “how much does the color red weigh”? Or “how many inches is the note C in a musical scale”? Or “how many sides does that circle have”? These questions do not make sense because they misunderstand the nature of the object they are trying to measure. The creator of the universe has to be uncaused because it caused everything to exist.
Here’s another way to look at it. Let’s say Bill asks Marie for a can of Pepsi. Marie says “no problem, I don’t have a can of Pepsi, let me ask Gil for one”. Gil says “no problem. I don’t have a can of Pepsi, let me ask Joy for one”. Joy says “no problem, I don’t….” and on and on and on. This group of people we could call “borrowing lenders” – in order to lend Bill a Pepsi they have to borrow it from someone else. And it could go on and on and on if we keep asking borrowing lenders for a Pepsi. Meanwhile, poor Bill is dying of thirst. In order for Bill to get his Pepsi, we are going to need something different than a borrowing lender and that is what we would call an owning lender. It has the Pepsi Bill is looking for and it will lend it up the chain until he finally gets it. In this example, it could be a vending machine, maybe. Or the refrigerator in someone’s house.
Now, let’s move that example to existence. Let’s say all the people in the previous example are ancestors of each other. In order for Bill to exist, Marie had to exist. In order for Marie to exist, Gil had to exist. Each one further back gave existence to the next generation. But, where did they get existence from? Existence had to come from something that exists necessarily. Meaning, if it didn’t exist, then nothing else would either. This necessary point is God. God did not begin to exist. God has existed necessarily eternally and could never have been created.
Premise 1 is rarely disputed because it just makes sense. Things don’t just randomly appear in front of us without a cause. And, as we’ve seen, the way people usually try to show that something can come from nothing is to redefine what nothing means.
In the next article, we’ll examine philosophical and scientific evidence to support the second premise – that is that the universe began to exist.