A New Axiom for New Atheists, Old Atheists, and Theists of All Stripes

by Chris Van Allsburg

There are three axioms, or general truths, that apply to the consideration of the origin of life. The first is ex nihilo nihil fit, and is a popular Latin phrase which means, “From nothing, nothing comes.”  This axiom is usually used by theists to counter the atheistic notion that the universe came from nothing.  Of course, Scottish philosopher and skeptic David Hume (1711-1776) posited that the cosmos could have always existed, and prior to Big Bang Cosmology in the early 20th century, most cosmologists and many in the field of natural science and of philosophy believed that very thing.  The counter argument to such a view comes from the theist, or what most people have believed since the dawn of time, that “from nothing, nothing comes.”  It applied to Hume prior to Big Bang Cosmology, and it applies even more so today.  There is a better axiom for atheists and theists, however, which we will get to shortly. 

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Ex nihilo nihil fit, when told to nearly every child, is asked with a follow-up.  When hearing this axiom from her Daddy when she asks him where all of this came from, hears her father speak of the creative power of Almighty God.  Satisfied minds of inquiring children are rare, however, and the next question from the child’s inquisitive nature is “If God made everything, then who made God?”  Usually, the father sits back and smiles and appeals to the common sense notion that God is the creator, and has always existed, and that when we say, ex nihilo nihil fit, we are speaking of the created order, or of the physical universe (‘physical’ here, is used for the sake of simplicity when talking to a child, for we know there are also laws of math, logic, and nature).  The child is reminded of the common sense notion that God the creator does not apply to the realm of “nothingness,” and she runs on her merry way to swings and piles of leaves and the things that children do…

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