This conversation occurred in a discussion thread for a video by Dr. William Craig regarding the nature of First Cause. The atheist in question posted an identical set of objections to basically everyone who did not react negatively to the video. Unlike previous posts, this is not paraphrased; I have simply copied and pasted the final entry from the original conversation, italicizing the other person’s statements for ease of reading.
Atheist: “1.) We don’t know if something can’t come from nothing. No one has been able to test this.”
Me: We absolutely know that NOTHING WHICH BEGINS can come from nothing. First, because the law of cause-and-effect is cornerstone of logic; if it were found to be untrue, then logic (and thus science) would be proved null and void. Of course, that’s technically an appeal to emotion, so we can also point to the fact that it is sustained by every observation of everything, by everyone, ever. It is by definition the most-tested hypothesis possible, and it has never failed.
Atheist: “The video shows examples of whole complex objects popping out of existence from nothing in order to make it seem more ridiculous, yet, all that is needed are extremely simple particles. Once you have the particles, you already have the necessities for a universe of stars, planets, rabbits, and magician hats. How do you know that these particles can’t come from nothing?”
Honestly, I didn’t watch the video. Presumably, you are referring to virtual quantum particles; these find their formal cause in quantum probability and their efficient cause in quantum vacuum energy, as well as the pre-existence of space-time itself.
Atheist: “2.) We don’t know if the universe had a beginning. We definitely have evidence that it began to expand, but we don’t know if it had an actual beginning.”
Me: The eternal universe model is irrational (since the universe could not be meaningfully used in ratio), illogical (since it allows a physical existence without beginning), and anti-scientific (being contrary to both general relativity and thermodynamics). Further, since thermodynamics informs us that the universe WILL end, and we already know that there are MINIMUM physical limits (Planck Time and Planck Space) it is counter-intuitive to assert that there was no beginning. Which is why ETU has basically zero support.
Atheist: “As for the energy issue, we don’t know enough about the universe before the big bang to answer that. We don’t have all of the facts, and therefore, cannot conclude that it must be God’s doing.”
Me: You misunderstand the nature of cause. The universe does not exist because God took an action; the universe exists because it is the nature of God (as First Cause), that the universe exist.
Atheist: “There are too many questions that are unanswered. How did the laws of physics work before the big bang?”
Me: The laws of physics describe the best-understood operation of human observation of how the universe works. By definition, “how the universe works” did not exist prior to the universe.
Atheist: “Is there something beyond our universe that supplies infinite energy?”
Me: If there is, it is not getting to us. Cf. thermodynamics.
Atheist: “Are there other universes that supply infinite energy?”
Me: Again, the existence of other universes does not affect us in any way, nor does it affect this line of questioning. Even if there were a multiverse (which is untestable, and therefore outside the scope of science or rational philosophy), it would not negate the requirement for First Cause.
Atheist: “As always, Christians want to avoid these questions, and just assume that it’s all from God.”
Me: There are two possible axioma from which we must choose to base our understanding of existence: either the universe has a rational organizing principle, or it does not. If the universe has a rational organizing principle, then that principle is God. If the universe has no rational organizing principle, then the universe is irrational; science, logic, and mathematics have no value, and human existence is meaningless. Being axioma, these two statements cannot be tested; you must simply choose. Nor are Christians alone in choosing a rational universe; 96% of humanity agrees with us.
No, that does not make our choice necessarily true, but it does make your statement false–and give the claim of theism the status quo.
Atheist: “3.) Supposing that the universe did have a beginning and a cause, there is nothing in this argument that points to God. “
Me: By definition, the cause of existence is God.
Atheist: “If you managed to make it past the first two mistakes, you’re still far from reaching a reasonable conclusion that God exists. This argument doesn’t even support the idea that any god exists. In fact, it doesn’t even argue that any being created the universe at all. The most that you could argue is for a supernatural event.”
Me: The supernatural has nothing to with the topic of First Cause. This is a discussion of metaphysics. They have nothing to do with each other.
Atheist: “4.) Even if God is the most reasonable solution, that doesn’t actually mean that it’s reasonable to believe it.”
Me: Actually, by definition it does.
Atheist: “Even the most reasonable belief is unreasonable if there is not enough evidence/reasoning to support it.”
Me: Then it would not be the most reasonable belief. Note again, however, that I am not arguing for a BELIEF in God, but acceptance of God as an axiom.
Atheist: “At the end of this argument, you’re still left without any evidence/support that God exists.You would need additional arguments/evidence for God’s existence, and you don’t have them. And unfortunately for you, we have too much evidence against his existence.”
Me: False; there is no evidence that God does not exist. The fact that we live in a rational universe, on the other hand, clearly demonstrates that God does exist. If you do not understand this necessity, it is probably because you are conflating mythology with ontology, and mis-defining God as some sort of mere supernatural agency.