Possibly the most common argument for the existence of God is that it is untenable to maintain that the universe came from nothing. This can come in the form of the Kalam argument, the argument from fine-tuning, and even in this popular but ignorant meme:
The fact that there was a big bang which marked the beginning of our universe and its expansion is practically undeniable. I’ve heard from Christians, at varying levels of understanding just what the big bang is, argue: “Well, can you tell me what happened 10 seconds before the Big Bang?” “What caused it? Something must have caused it!” “You just can’t get something from nothing. You can’t get matter from non-matter. You just can’t. That violates the first law of thermodynamics.”
I used to respond to these arguments by saying, “There was no ’10 seconds before the big bang’ because before there was space, so there was also no time,” and “Well, evidently something did come from nothing at least once. How do we know? Because the universe isn’t eternal, yet here it is!” I knew I wasn’t an expert on physics, but the way I understood it, the big bang was the occurrence of matter expanding from a singularity. That’s really all that I knew. If someone wanted to know just how it happened, I would refer them to Lawrence Krauss’s A Universe from Nothing, because even if I didn’t know how it worked, at least someone did.
If you look back at some of my book reviews, however, you might notice that I myself have never read A Universe from Nothing. I do own it, but I’ve always found it quite daunting, especially since CosmicSkeptic (Alex J. O’Connor) is so much smarter than I am, and he himself admitted that this book got a little technical for him. (And I couldn’t even make it through The Selfish Gene!)
Even with my self-admitted lack of capability to understand physics past Newton’s Laws of Motion, I still do my best to learn about the big bang as well as I can. Recently, for example, I listened to The Here and How Podcast‘s episode called “Did the Universe Come from Nothing?” The hosts taught me that we don’t know if there ever was an all-consuming nothing or if there were always particles within a singularity which then expanded into the universe as we know it today. It got into some pretty intense quantum physics, at which point I began to zone out because it was so far past anything I can conceivably understand.
I think I have come to the conclusion that I will never understand the big bang. I don’t know how it happened, where it came from, if there was a “before the big bang,” which now I know, there could have been, and what kind of quantum weirdness can result in a universe like ours. I suppose this makes me some sort of agnostic. In The God Delusion, though, Dawkins defined two different kinds of agnostics: there is the case in which you don’t have enough information to make up your mind but you probably will one day, and there is the case in which you admit that the truth on a certain matter cannot ever be known by humans.
I believe I’m the first kind of agnostic in respect to what exactly was going on that defining moment 13.8 billion years ago. Being an atheist doesn’t make me a genius or a physicist. And I don’t think that the intricacies of the big bang are something that just any layman can grasp, no matter their beliefs.
So does this leave me with an indefensible position that “there was nothing and nothing happened to nothing and then nothing magically exploded for no reason, creating everything”? In a way. But I have to be content with not knowing everything about the origins of the universe. After all, I’m just one person, a writer and designer by trade, and not a scientist by any stretch of the imagination. And that accusation against atheism, obviously, is incredibly dumbed down and inaccurate, while at the same time purposely saying the word “nothing” so many times that the reader is totally thrown off and can’t help but see atheism as ludicrous.
Speaking of atheism being ludicrous, I’ll close with a response to the comment that got me started on this entire tirade about the big bang in the first place.
“Just wondering if you could clarify this;
‘Here’s the difference, though, between the “miracle” of the big bang creating a world like ours, and the miracle of, say, a virgin giving birth: if you have a large enough sample size, anything that is possible becomes more and more probable. A big bang resulting in one tiny planet of billions was possible, and given enough time, the chances of this possibility to become reality become infinitely more likely. And with billions of billions of planets, the chance that one could sustain life becomes more likely.’ (this was an excerpt from an Apologetics 102 post)
No disrespect, but it makes precisely zero sense. Why is it “possible” that the Big Bang would have happened at all without a miracle? And given the fact that the odds of fine-tuning are vastly lower than the number of available planets, any lottery comparison seems to provide the opposite conclusion — it’s unwinnable by any coherent measurement.
There are a number of other things here that have less than viable logic.”
First of all, thank you for insulting my logic. It really made my day.
But on a serious note, the commenter brought up the point that got me thinking: “Why is it ‘possible’ that the Big Bang would have happened at all without a miracle?” You know what? If you want me to be honest, I don’t know. I didn’t respond back to this comment because I was sure that I wouldn’t be able to coherently explain what caused the big bang. (Someone else did respond, and they’ve been debating ever since, although I haven’t taken the time to read through the whole thread.)
Here’s the thing: me not being a physicist doesn’t mean that the big bang didn’t happen. And it doesn’t mean that it needed supernatural intervention. With the supernatural being on a whole separate plane from the natural, I’m pretty positive that a supernatural being causing the big bang wouldn’t make it any easier to understand. There would still be all this stuff I don’t know about quarks and quantum particles and space and time and atoms and nuclei and galaxies and radiation and who knows what else.
Saying “God did it” doesn’t change any of that, it just inserts an unnecessary placeholder for people who, like me, are too confused to understand quantum physics, but unlike me, are scared to not have an answer so they just slap a god-shaped band-aid on it. Those of us who are atheists and not scientists just have to accept that we won’t all understand the big bang ourselves. Of course, we can always ask questions, but just because the answer is too complex for us doesn’t mean that it’s wrong.