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Discussion 2 to Talk Back 83
Origins

by: Will Petillo

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Art, I certainly can’t speak for all agnostics, but I for one am open to being convinced that God exists (or that God does not exist, which seems a bit more likely). In fact, I would love to be convinced since I would probably find a genuine faith to be quite comforting. Unfortunately, I just haven’t heard any conclusive arguments one way or the other and, given the nature of the question, I probably never will. A more elegant version of your argument was first stated by Thomas Aquinas (no offense to your writing, Aquinas is one of the most influential philosophers in the history of the western world I am comparing you with) at the beginning of his Summa Theologica—which I suggest you read if you are interested in this subject. In it, he attempts to prove God’s existence in five different ways, which are all basically different versions of the “prime mover” argument and can all be refuted, albeit with considerable difficulty.

In case some of my fellow agnostics post a response to your post, I will make mine a bit creative so that it stands out. Here is how the discussion you posted should have gone:

(B = believer, NB = nonbeliever):

B: Why is there something instead of nothing?

NB: I don’t know, but the history of the universe can be traced back as far as the big bang, so until new evidence comes in it would seem as reasonable to credit the big bang with the creation of the universe as anything else.

B: You haven’t answered my question. Why is there something instead of nothing?

NB: Perhaps the universe just created itself. I suppose there could have been a big bounce from a previous universe collapsing or alternate universes involved somehow, but those would just push the problem back.

B: But how can something come from nothing?

NB: I don’t know; more research will be necessary to answer that question. I suppose it is also possible that the history of the universe stretches back into infinity or that time is curved and needs no beginning.

B: But how is that possible?

NB: O.K. fine, have you got a better theory?

B: God did it!

NB: Right…and where did God come from?

B: Nowhere, God exists outside of time and is the prime mover of the universe, capable of creating anything without needed to be created itself.

NB: How is bringing in an unobservable divine entity to an explanation of the universe’s origins not just a needless complication of an already mind-bogglingly complex subject?

B: God is beyond human comprehension; therefore the beginning of the universe is ultimately one of those things that simply cannot be explained.

NB: You may be right there in saying that the universe is ultimately inexplicable and caused by some sort of Supreme Being—and you haven’t made any claims about this divine entity that I am currently able to disprove—but I am going to keep working to explain as much as I can through reliable methods and assume that every problem can be overcome until proven otherwise. Even if I don’t manage to explain the “big questions” like the origin of the universe, I’m sure I’ll run across lots of interesting little discoveries along the way.

B: You’re not going to find an answer if you narrow yourself only to looking for natural causes. You need to open yourself up to God and just have faith.

NB: We’ll see about that.

In speaking of flawed proofs for God’s existence, no one has written a rebuttal to the second argument I wrote (as a joke) in a response to Meditation 605—it’s the longer (and more interesting) one that does not explicitly rely on the logic of self-contradiction.