New Atheist Atheology
by Michael Egnor
P.Z. Myers answered my eight questions about what New Atheists really believe. Myers provided his “fast and flippant” answers; yet he provides a fine synopsis of New Atheist atheology. More detailed book-length New Atheist apologetics (Dawkins, Harris, etc) are less fast but no less flippant.
My original questions are followed by Myers’ answers, then by my reply.
1) Why is there anything?
Myers: Nothing is unstable.
Me: “Nothing” is not unstable. Nothing is not stable. Nothing is not metastable, nor hypostable, nor quasi-stable. Nothing is nothing. Nothing has no properties. “Nothing is unstable” is gibberish. Hence its central place in New Atheist atheology.
If by “nothing” Myers is referring to the emergence of matter by quantum fluctuations (today’s trendy New Atheist evasion of theism), I observe that a quantum field isn’t “nothing.” A quantum field is very much something, in need of explanation. A quantum field gives rise to particles, not to itself. You have to explain the existence of the quantum field. Nice try.
The question “why is there anything” is fundamental. The classical theist answer is that God’s essence is His existence, and He is the ground of existence. Note that God (as understood classically) does not need explanation or cause. The uncaused nature of God is demonstrated, not stipulated, by classical theism (see Aristotle’s Prime Mover argument and Aquinas’ First, Second, and Third Ways). Furthermore, the Prime Mover argument (Aquinas’ First Way) demonstrates that God’s existence is necessary even if the universe was eternal and had no beginning; His existence is necessary for existence of the universe at every moment.
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New Atheists don’t understand the question, don’t understand the terminology, and don’t understand their own rudimentary logical contradictions. New Atheist ignorance doesn’t mean that classical theism is true; it merely means that New Atheism has nothing to say. But I sort of suspected that.
2) What caused the Universe?
Myers: Nothing caused it.
Me: “Nothing” doesn’t cause anything. Nothing is absence of existence. Nothing has no agency. “Nothing caused…” is an oxymoron.
Let’s look at coherent answers to the question. The basic cosmological argument is this: 1) Whatever begins to exist is caused by another 2) the Universe began to exist 3) The Universe was caused by another. Rudimentary logic. Something that begins to exist cannot cause itself, because that would mean that it was prior to itself, which is nonsense.
The universe began to exist 13.75 ± 0.17 billion years ago. So another caused it. The universe is nature, so its cause is super-nature-al (sometimes the hyphens and the last ‘e’ are omitted). The supernatural cause of the universe is an insight provided by science and reason. Denial of a supernatural cause of the universe is denial of science (Big Bang Cosmology) and reason (elementary logic).
Let’s consider the alternatives…
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