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Listening to the Reasonable Doubts criticism of the dreadful sounding film God’s Not Dead, Justin Schieber referred to a point made by Wes Morriston.

The notion that a house popped into existence out of nothing is no more bizarre than a person built the house out of nothing.

As Ex-Apologist states:

hus, suppose we came upon a log cabin in the forest, and were told that the cabin was very special: it popped into existence out of nothing without an efficient cause. I imagine most of us would find that implausible. But suppose instead that we were told that it was special for another reason: a lumberjack built it without building materials. I imagine most of us would find the second claim at least as implausible as the first claim.

Theists claim that God is able to do the ‘impossible’ – create something out of nothing. But that is just moving the intuitively problematic claim of ex nihilo nihil fit sideways.

As Morriston himself says:

After all, a house “popping into existence out of nowhere” doesn’t seem any less absurd just because somebody says (or thinks), “Let there be a house where there was no house.”

To say that this is unproblematic when the “somebody” in question is an omnipotent God is to beg the question against those who doubt that creation ex nihilo is metaphysically possible. The reason is that on standard assumptions about the nature of omnipotence, God is not supposed to be able to do what is metaphysically impossible. If someone insists it is just “obvious” that God could create a world without any preexisting material stuff to work with, on the ground that there is no lo gical contradiction in the idea of such a feat, then the proper reply is that there is also no logical contradiction in the idea of the universe beginning without a cause.

This point can be expressed quite precisely in terms of Aristotle’s distinction between efficient and material causes. When I do the relevant “thought experiments,” I find the absence of amaterial cause at least as troubling as the absence of a n efficient cause. At the level of raw, untutored, intuition, the idea of somebody “making” a universe out of absolutely nothing seems to me to be every bit as absurd as that of a “beginning” with no efficient cause.

I am not suggesting that creation ex nihilo is logically or metaphysically impossible. I am also well aware that the kalam argument is not an argument for a first material cause, but rather an argument for a first efficient cause. (Notwithstanding the title of one of Craig’s articles on the kalam argument!) Nevertheless, I think the “intuitive” absurdity of making something “out of” nothing is a near neighbor of the intuition that something can’t “come from” nothing, and this raises a doubt about the wisdom of relying so heavily on such “intuitions” for the defense of premise (1). Craig may perhaps not unreasonably be accused of emphasizing intuitions that support the picture of creation he wishes to defend, and neglecting those that don’t.

Addendum:

Here is William Lane Craig’s response, and here is Morriston’s counter.

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Jonathan MS Pearce

A TIPPLING PHILOSOPHER Jonathan MS Pearce is a philosopher, author, columnist, and public speaker with an interest in writing about almost anything, from skepticism to science, politics, and morality,...