MOSCOW, March 10, 2012 ― A number of readers reacted strongly to a recent piece in which I called into question Richard Dawkins’ claim that “life started from nothing.” Among other things, they chastised me for using the term “nothing.” This came as something of a surprise, since I merely used the same term Dawkins used when making his fantastical statement.
But be that as it may, the point is well taken – we do need to be careful how we define our terms when engaging in a philosophical discussion of this kind. This is especially true when it comes to the term nothing, which not only refers to something that has never been directly observed but which is even difficult to conceive.
It has been suggested that when we speak about the state of affairs which existed prior to the beginning of the universe, we should use expressions such as “the absence of energy” and “the absence of matter.” This is fair enough, since this is what the widely accepted theory on the origin of the cosmos seem to imply.
Most scientists today believe that the universe originated in an event which is commonly referred to as the Big Bang. It was at the Big Bang that all the energy – and by extension matter – came into being. But the Big Bang not only birthed all energy and matter in the universe, it also brought about time and space. It was at the Big Bang – scientists tell us – that these first appeared.
Prior to the Big Bang, then, there was no energy, no matter, no space and no time. If any state ever qualified for the term nothing, this would certainly do. But since some find this term lacking, we can say that prior to the beginning of the universe there was the absence of energy, the absence of matter, the absence of space, and the absence of time.
This, however, does not remove the problem for the atheist, because now instead of asking how can something come from nothing, we are forced to ask:
- How can the absence of energy give rise to energy?
- How can the absence of matter give rise to matter?
- How can the absence of space give rise to space?
- How can the absence of time give rise to time?
By replacing the term nothing with a more detailed definition makes the problem even more glaring, because it further highlights the difficulty inherent in the atheist claim.
To suggest that the absence of a thing could give rise to anything is obviously absurd. But this is exactly the position Richard Dawkins finds himself in. He has to explain the coming into existence of the universe from the absence of the very things which define and comprise it.
This is an unenviable task, because it is an impossible one. Needless to say, many have attempted it. The result is that none of the offered explanations is convincing with most being outright incredible. That’s why after years of theorizing by atheist thinkers we come to the point when the world’s most famous atheist asks his audience to blindly accept the absurd claim that “life began from nothing.”
If you wonder that perhaps you may have overlooked some profundity in Dawkins’ statement, you have not. Dawkins’ assertion is really as silly as it sounds. When eight-year olds utter such nonsense we chastise them for talking rubbish. The fact that this kind of statement was made by an Oxford professor makes it no more acceptable. Richard Dawkins is obviously an intelligent man. But even intelligent men can sink into nonsense when they try to evade the obvious.
As a naturalist, Dawkins should know that the absence of something can never give raise to anything. Fortunately, there is an obvious solution to this conundrum – a supernatural agency that is beyond energy, matter, time and space. This is the missing part in the atheist equation without which one cannot make sense of the universe. If he wants to remain consistent and intelligible, Richard Dawkins needs to accept this fact, since this is where both logic and science lead.
Born and raised under communism, Vasko Kohlmayer is a naturalized American citizen. He has lived in several countries under various forms of government, but he still marvels at the goodness of God and the wonder of life.
He has written for a number of newspapers, magazines and internet journals. Vasko currently lives in Europe with his long-suffering wife and two beautiful daughters. He is the founder of The Christian Writers Foundation.
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