One of the most aggravating apologetics fails I read or see constantly is “something can’t come from nothing.” It is a “truthiness” statement (to borrow the term from Stephen Colbert)—it seem true on it’s face and makes me feel better about what I believe.
The assertion is used against cosmologists (equated with atheists) concerning the Big Bang. It is a consequence of the Kalam Cosmological Argument (my first apologetics fail in this series). On top of that, cosmology is conflated with abiogenesis and evolution by natural selection, to claim all are untrue (and therefore atheists are wrong).
The argument takes the form of a syllogism:
a) Something can’t come from nothing, as everything has a cause
b) The Big Bang comes from nothing
Therefore, the Big Bang Theory (not the television show) is untrue and God must have created the Universe.
(Alternatively, God must have created the Big Bang.)
This is an exasperating argument, mostly because it is so disingenuous. When you point out how this misrepresents cosmology, the apologist will always double down. I have never heard any apologist give up the idea “something can’t come from nothing.”
An apologist can approach this claim from many directions. Frequently it starts with, “well, where did you come from?”
When you give the answer “my parents,” the apologist will start the infinite regression fallacy. “Well, where did your parents come from?” &c.
Said apologist can approach the claim from the other direction: “Where did the Big Bang come from?” (The idea being there was nothing before the Big Bang, followed by inserting the timeless, spaceless, eternal being who created the Universe).
The argument is also used to try to debunk abiogenesis, or the beginning of life on Earth through self-replicating molecules, which is not evolution. Evolution makes no claims as to either the origin of the Universe or the origin of life on Earth. To the apologist, however, abiogenesis and the Big Bang are both “something from nothing” and evolution and abiogenesis are the same thing.
There are a number of reasons it is aggravating:
1) If “something can’t come from nothing, how did God create something?” (Answer: Special Pleading fallacy)
b) We don’t have an example of a “nothing” to compare “something” with. The correct answer to “What came before the Big Bang” is “we don’t know,” not “nothing.” Claiming the position of a cosmologist that “nothing” came before the Big Bang is a strawman fallacy against cosmologists. Many cosmologists have offered hypotheses or opinions of what might have come before the Big Bang, but none of them have offered “nothing came before the Big Bang.”
III) If a god existed in this alleged “nothing,” then either the nothing was not nothing (there was a god in it), or this god is nothing. Therefore, a god couldn’t create a universe (the proposition becomes self-contradictory). In any case, no one has yet demonstrated the existence of Kali.
Q) Around this point, the apologist will simply accuse the sceptic of simply “wanting to sin” or some other coddleswop, because “it’s obvious the Universe was created” and then try to smuggle in the Teleological Argument (which I previously addressed).
Most apologists, when their arguments are shown to be failures, will either move on to another argument (without acknowledging or conceding their position as faulty) or move on to lower-hanging fruit (someone who can be converted to their faith with logical fallacies).
The “something can’t come from nothing” argument will frequently be used in a “proof by verbosity” logical fallacy (also known as a Gish Gallop, named after apologist Duane Gish, which I will deal with in my next apologetics fail).