YouTuber Steve Shives made a good point that I had not actually thought of before about the cosmological argument while critiquing Norman Geisler's and Frank Turek's awful book I Don't Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist: If the law of causality states that everything that beings to exist requires a cause, then before all of space and time and all the laws of physics existed – if you can believe that there was such a thing as "before" time when absolutely nothing existed – then how could the law of causality apply to the universe if it did not yet exist? In other words, before anything existed, the law of causality itself must not have existed, and so how could it have applied to the universe's origin? And if the law of causality somehow already existed, then we cannot say that "nothing" existed before the universe, because the law of causality surely isn't nothing.
Now one possible answer to this dilemma is that the law of causality is a law of logic, and logic is eternal in the platonic sense that abstract objects like numbers are also timeless and eternal. That would, I suppose allow logic to somehow predate the origin of space and time, and perhaps allow causality to apply to the universe. But if logic and numbers exist in the platonic sense, then it may be true that fundamentally all the physical laws are numbers, an idea some physicists entertain called the mathematical universe. That means that the laws of physics can be eternal in the same sense that the laws of logic can be. And the thing is, we are pretty certain that the laws of physics allow something from "nothing" – or the ultimate free lunch as it's called.
So if the law of causality can be invoked to say the universe requires a cause, maybe the cause of the universe was made possible by eternal timeless laws of physics. Otherwise, you'd have to ask yourself, what caused the law of causality? If god did it, then it is a contingent law that cannot be said to be on par with the laws of logic, because logic cannot be violated and cannot therefore be created. Maybe there is some intrinsic logic behind the fundamental laws of physics in the mathematical sense that is as yet discovered. Right now we just don't know.
Some say that the laws of physics can't actually cause anything and that they're merely just descriptions of what happens between forces acting upon matter. There is no agreement on this. Quantum mechanics and general relativity allows universes to be created without the need for a material cause and perhaps even an efficient cause. Quantum tunneling models allow for quantum fluctuations to tunnel through towards inflationary periods where infinitely dense singularities with a radius of zero can rapidly expand to extreme macro scales.
But philosophically speaking, a point that I want to make and that I think nobody can deny, is that the universe cannot be said to have emerged from a state of absolute nothing. Something preexisted at the moment the universe began, whether it be the laws of logic, or the laws of logic perhaps along with the laws of physics. Even a dark empty vacuum isn't nothing – it's a dark, empty vacuum – which is something. And the fundamental laws of logic would apply to it. And I'm still not convinced that there ever was a "before" the origin of our universe if the big bang is the absolute beginning of time and space – a claim no one can currently make with certainty.
Welcome to Atheism and the City. This blog is about exploring atheism through contemporary urban living. I live in New York City, the secular metropolis, and I have an avid interest in all things religion, science, philosophy, politics, and economics. I am an atheist, a humanist, a philosopher and a thinker, and the purpose of Atheism and the City is to write about my thoughts and experiences on the subjects and topics that I have a passion for. Feel free to respond to any post whether or not you agree.