Tuesday, May 24, 2016
As an atheist I hear it all the time: NO ONE CREATED SOMETHING OUT OF NOTHING? This is the name of the first chapter in Christian Apologist Frank Turok's book Stealing God. Other variations of the question go, "How do you get something from nothing?" or "How does nothing create everything?" or still yet, "Why is there something rather than nothing?" The popular view out there especially among theists is that atheists believe "nothing" somehow created everything. If you're an atheist in any kind of situation talking or debating with theists you can be sure some variation of these questions will come up at some point, and you've got to be prepared to give a response. Of course "I don't know" is always a respectable answer, but to me there is a short sound byte answer that can be given and it relies on refuting a common misunderstanding of the big bang that so many of us make, including many atheists.
First, some of these questions assume that the ontological default state should be nothing, and not something, and theists who ask these questions will almost certainly not have shown any justification why that should be so. I don't think one can even come up with an objective prior probability for such an assumption. Second, many of these questions usually rely on a faulty assumption about the big bang. Many people falsely assume the the big bang entails there there was a state of nothingness, and then *poof* you get a big bang. That's not what it says. That's not even what inflationary theory says. They both simply say that there was a first moment when t=0. There wasn't anything prior to that; there was no state of "nothing" from which everything came out of. And since space and time are tied together, as Einstein showed, with no space prior to t=0, there was no time. So you can say that the universe always existed in that at every moment of time the universe exists. In this sense, the universe is omnitemporal. That means there was always something. Somethingness might be the ontological default, and not nothingness.
So no atheist must be committed to the view that "nothing created everything." This is an absurd parody of the atheist position on cosmic origins, and far too many religious apologists and atheists alike believe this. Now of course it is always possible that there was spacetime prior to the big bang. If there's an infinite amount of spacetime prior to our universe's big bang, then most of these questions are mute anyway. And if there is a finite amount of spacetime prior to our universe's big bang, the same principle applies to the absolute origin.