Note: What follows below is a transcript of the video.
In the course of debate between atheists and theists of various stripes, it’s inevitable that the Quote-Un-Quote “Big Questions” are brought to the forefront.
Apologists love to ask things like:
“Why is there something rather than nothing?”“Why are we here?” or “What is our purpose?”
“What is the meaning of life?”
Apologist Dinesh D’Souza likes to point out that science can’t answer these questions, but supposedly religion can.The problem here is that in each case, religion simply makes up an answer and then pretends that it is better than no answer at all, or by the answers we get from philosophy that is informed by science.
To be honest, every time I hear this used in a debate, it’s just infuriating. Because like almost every other question in religious apologetics, it demonstrably just pushes the problem back one step, and then claims it’s solved the issue – hoping we won’t look behind the curtain.In this video, I want to look at the biggest one – “Why is there something rather than nothing?”
The immediate response is “I don’t know and neither do you.”I’ve even had theists throw this at me as the ultimate response to the question of why they believe in a god – “Because I believe there’s a reason there’s something instead of nothing!”
To which the only correct response is “No, you demonstrably do not believe that.”This is demonstrable because if theists are to be believed, then god is very much something, and what reason is there for god existing?
Ask that question, and watch the theists perform a “retreat to metaphysics”. My favorite example of this is from an apologist JP Moreland, to quote:“[..]God does not need a cause, since he is neither an event nor a contingent being. He is a necessary Being and such a being does not need a cause. In fact, it is a category fallacy to ask for a cause for God since this is really asking for a cause for an uncaused being.”
-JP Moreland, "Scaling the Secular City" (pg 38)So the answer you’ll get is that “god is metaphysically necessary”, but this isn’t anything but a bald assertion.
First, proving anything in metaphysics is always shaky at best. Second why should we think god is the metaphysically necessary being? Any apologist claiming this needs to present an argument for it, and there’s an argument that explicitly tries to do this, the ontological argument for the existence of god, and every one of those demonstrably doesn’t work. In fact, look for a video from me soon showing how even the latest “modal ontological argument” is a failure.Some theists, realizing they don’t have any argument for this, try to define god as “the metaphysically necessary being”, which basically is defining god into existence and has no basis in reality.
So what’s the atheist answer? Well one answer is to think that if we are going to have a metaphysically necessary anything, it’s likely best defined as some form of material reality, likely quantum energy in some form or another that’s always existed, probably outside our space-time universe.If you respond with that in an argument, inevitably a theist will ask “Well where did that come from?” to which the only sensible reply is “The same place your god did”. This inevitably reveals the fact that this kind of argument ends in at least a stalemate, with the theist asserting the existence of something extra beyond what we already know. This is why any apologist trying to spin up some form of Cosmological Argument has to really dress it up with some philosophical shenanigans to try and dodge this issue.
The other answer is simply to ask “Why think there should be nothing?” which comes to almost the same conclusion as above. The entire first question assumes that an absolute nothing, that is the absence of anything, should be considered the default state just because such a thing theoretically doesn’t need an explanation, but the very fact that we are here, that we’re “something rather than nothing” indicates that such either:
“Something can come from nothing” or “Something has always existed”.Theists like to pretend that atheists take the “something can come from nothing” part of that. And to be fair when atheists publish books with misleading titles like “A universe from nothing”, it doesn’t look good on the surface.
But if you get into the details of science and atheistic philosophy, including that book – you’ll see atheists think something material always existed.The important point here is that you have to ask yourself, does religion really answer the question “Why is there something rather than nothing?” any better than science or philosophy does?