Failed Atheist Explanations for a Beginning to the Universe.


My intent here is to briefly touch on the troubles that a universe with a beginning has for atheists, especially for their proposed explanations.

The beginning of our universe is evidently troubling for atheists judging by their responses. For a start philosophical reasoning shows that it is not possible to have an infinite regress of past events. Couple that with persuasive scientific evidence from cosmic expansion and the second law of thermodynamics, and we needn’t doubt that the universe had its finite beginning in the Big Bang. According to prominent cosmologist Paul Davies, “the big bang represents the creation event; the creation not only of all the matter and energy in the universe, but also of spacetime itself” (1). Atheist scientist Stephen Hawking chimes in that “almost everyone now believes that the universe, and time itself, had a beginning at the big bang” (2).

Atheists, however, have traditionally believed that the universe never had a beginning but that it had existed eternally. According to some contemporary atheists, “Religious humanists regard the universe as self-existing and not created” (3). However, as noted this is problematic both philosophically and scientifically. Next to no expert in the field accepts an eternal universe and no evidence has proven convincing to cosmologists, as Robin Schumacher realizes, “atheism’s struggle is to explain how the universe is eternal when all scientific discovery shows it had a beginning” (4).

Other atheists like Lewis Wolpert more honestly admit that “there’s the whole problem of where the universe itself came from,” and then asks “How did that all happen? I haven’t got a clue” (5). I suppose many atheists leave it at that and put it on the back burner until hopefully the dilemma is resolved one day. But if this is the line that The Dutch Atheist takes (I will be debating him tomorrow) then I will view my challenge from the Kalam Cosmological Argument as a success, hence having proved the existence of God. Moreover, I think Stephen Hawking is quite informative in saying that “Many people do not like the idea that time has a beginning, probably because it smacks of divine intervention” (6). Of course it smacks of divine intervention precisely because we are dealing with a creation event from nothing that could only be reasonably explained by the creative act of a creator. I’d further argue that claimed ignorance can be lazy since it merely refuses to adopt a position (either the universe began to exist or it did not) and have to explain how it sits with one’s atheism. It’s far easier to pretend that something is not a problem than actually have to grapple with it.

Then there are the typically more irrational efforts in dealing with the dilemma. Atheist philosopher Daniel Dennett agrees that the universe has a cause and that it began to exist a finite time ago, but he then argues that the cause of the universe is itself (7). This is clearly irrational for he is essentially saying that the universe had to already exist in order to bring itself into existence. It would have to exist before it existed! His view is therefore logically incoherent.

Another atheist in a video he released essentially argues that the universe came into being from nothing. This is irrational for the very reason that things that do not exist cannot bring other things into existence nor bring itself into existence. Something which does not exist has no creative power, nor the essential properties, to bring anything into existence. Philosopher William Lane Craig thus explains, “suppose something could come into being from nothing. If that were the case then it is inexplicable why just anything and everything doesn’t pop into being out of nothing. But no-one here tonight is worried that while you’re listening to this debate a horse may have popped into being uncaused out of nothing in your living room, and is there defiling the carpet right now as we speak” (8). Craig concludes that “To suggest that things could just pop into being uncaused out of nothing is literally worse than magic. It is to quit doing serious philosophy and appeal to magic… when the magician pulls a rabbit out of the hat, at least you have the magician” (9).

Finally, Stephen Hawking proposes that the origin of the universe is explainable by the law of gravity, “Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing” (10). Again, this is problematic for several reasons. Firstly, laws are by definition descriptive in the way that they describe nature and how the physical world functions. However, they are clearly powerless to bring anything into existence, as professor John Lennox notes, “Laws themselves do not create anything, they are merely a description of what happens under certain conditions” (11). That’s pretty much the sinker for Hawking’s proposal but, on a further note, Hawking is already assuming that something exists, namely gravity. So when Hawking says “the universe can and will create itself from nothing” he doesn’t actually mean nothing in the sense of no thing which is the complete absence of space, time and matter. Instead according to him gravity already exists, and because gravity exists the universe can be brought into existence. So Hawking hasn’t made a single step in the direction of explaining how the universe can come into existence from nothing.

In our debate I will press The Dutch Atheist on this point. I am absolutely certain that his explanation will be found in this above treatment. How does he explain a universe that began to exist in retrospection of his atheism? I look forward to finding out.


1. Davies, P. “Spacetime Singularities in Cosmology,” in The Study of Time III.

2. Hawking, S. 1996. The Nature of Space and Time. p. 20.

3. Humanist Manifesto I.

4. Schumacher, R. An Examination of Atheism’s Truth Claims.

5. Wolpert, L. 2007. The Hard Cell. p. 18.

6. Hawking, S. 1988. Brief History of Time. p. 46.

7.  Dennett, D. 2006. Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon. p. 244.

8. YouTube. The Wit of Dr. Craig – Part 7 “A random horse from nowhere defiling your carpet.”

9. Craig, W. 2010. The Best of the Kalam Cosmological Argument. .

10. Hawking, S. The Grand Design. p. 180.

11. Lennox, J. 2010. As a scientist I’m certain Stephen Hawking is wrong. You can’t explain the universe without God.

26 responses to “Failed Atheist Explanations for a Beginning to the Universe.

  1. You really need to stay in your own sphere of expertise, as your arguments clearly demonstrate that you’re in over your head on this topic.

    1) re: “Atheists, however, have traditionally believed that the universe never had a beginning but that it has existed eternally”. I guess that’s true if, by “traditionally” you mean centuries ago. Atheists have accepted the big bang theory for nearly 100 years. So atheism isn’t struggling to “explain how the universe is eternal when all scientific discovery shows it had a beginning”

    2) You erroneously paint the origin of the universe as an atheist problem. It’s not – it’s a Physics problem. And science continues to work that problem, but you know what? It’s a hard problem. Give them some time. There are countless phenomena that science didn’t understand – until they did. Your whole argument is essentially a “god of the gaps” one. And if history is any predictor of the future, the number and sizes of the gaps that theists can attribute to their god(s) will continue to shrink day-by-day.

    3) The Kalam Cosmological argument is fundamentally flawed, and has been thoroughly rebutted by folks who actually understand cosmology. You can Google it if you like.

    4) On a related note, are you seriously debating Physics with Stephen Hawking? The mistake that you and other apologists consistently make is the assumption that the normal laws of causation in classical (i.e. Newtonian) Physics apply in all aspects of the universe. They don’t. They don’t apply in the realm of quantum Physics, and they don’t apply when you’re discussing the boundary conditions that existed at the moment of the big bang.

    • 1 – Yes, and, as i quoted, religious humanists still regard the universe to be eternal. And yes it remains a struggle for atheists to explain.

      2 – It is an atheist problem. It is not a physics problem. Science presupposes things exist to work. To look beyond the universe, you must look beyond physics. The beginning of the universe is a philosophical question, and one that is problematic for atheism

      3 – I supposes I will just have to trust you…

      4 – It is not a matter of academic status. You still have a problem of a beginning to solve.

      • I’m confused by your first comment
        A) your specific reference to RELIGIOUS humanists. Is there a reason you singled them out? Are you claiming that all religious humanists believe in an eternal universe? Are you suggesting that they are somehow representative of all atheists?

        2) The Physicists who have dedicated their lives to studying the universe and its origins will be dismayed to learn that they’ve been wasting their time – that all along, it was just a problem for philosophers to solve. Seriously, though, you should really study some Physics before you make statements like that.

        And you continue to make the mistake of conflating science and atheism. Atheists as a group agree that we don’t yet understand why the Big Bang happened. But most of them recognize that this is a problem for science to answer. Atheists are comfortable with the fact that we don’t yet have all the answers, and don’t feel the need to leap to a “God of the gaps” conclusion. Science hasn’t yet explained what causes many diseases. Shall we conclude therefore, that demons are responsible?

        4) It absolutely IS a matter of academic status, and it is either naïveté or arrogance or both, to believe otherwise.

        Yes, it’s a problem that science would like to solve (just as we’d like to understand the causes for every disease), but as I’ve said before, it’s a really hard problem. Give them some time.

        • Richard, please stop being disingenuous here. Certainly the Big Bang is a scientific dilemma, but it is equally an atheistic dilemma. The atheistic claim is that there is no God (a=non theist=believer in god) and that all hat is exists through natural forces, whatever that force may be in a given situation (i.e. quantum physics, general relativity, etc.). The Big Bang presents an insurmountable problem to this stance, as Ll physics break down at the instance. There are no natural causes for nature, and to claim there could be for a finite system is begging the question by circular reasoning. This is most certainly an athiest problem. Science merely tells us what is. Athiesm goes further is stating what is not (god of the gaps argument). The two are distinctively separate, though one does attempt (and fails) to follow from the other.

          • It’s not the least bit disingenuous. You believe it to be so, only because you are trapped in your “God of the Gaps” thinking. The atheist is able to accept the fact that science hasn’t (yet) solved this problem. Hence there is no dilemma. BTW – it’s a hard problem; give them some time. Shall we also throw in the towel on curing any more diseases? After all, if they haven’t cured them by now, it must be impossible, right?

            You then make the unsubstantiated claim (and one that is not supported by Physicists) that the Big Bang is an insurmountable problem for science. Are you a Physicist? Have you actually studied any Physics?

            Finally, you overgeneralize on atheism, stating that “Athiesm goes further is stating what is not”. While there are some atheists (often referred to as “gnostic atheists”) who assert that there is no god. Most (including myself) fall into the category of “agnostic atheists”, who simply choose not to believe in the existence of god (any god), because there is no objective evidence for one. I likewise choose not to believe in leprechauns for the same reason, although I can’t prove that they don’t exist.

  2. It always amuses me when atheists such as yourself love to tear completely logical statements apart and, having no credible arguments, answers or rational explanations of your own, seek to replace them with absolutely nothing of any consequence at all!

    • Odd that you should express such amusement, while offering not even the slightest real rebuttal. You claim that I have no credible arguments, yet you are either unwilling or unable to provide a counterargument.

      • Easy. The rebuttals and counterarguments are already set out quite plainly in James’ excellent article above – no need to add anything.

        • No, they are not. He made arguments, I posted rebuttals. Any debater, when faced with a counter-argument, will NOT just repeat himself, which is effectively what you are doing as an attempted proxy for James. A six year old child would do that, but an adult will only do that if they have no meaningful response.

  3. Seriously Richard, you are the one that shows dire ignorance of how science and rational thought works. Dr. Craig has a very long article with over 50 academic references showing how solid and irrefutable the KCA actually is (as well as a series of ~50 lectures refuting every one of the scientifically ignorant fallacies of atheists that would tear other fields of science apart if they were applied consistently):

    1) Atheism in the past depend on the claim of the eternal universe and claimed it was a rational justification of this. Science falsified this calim as well as many others of ancient atheism. Rationally, atheism should have been abandoned just like spontaneous generation was when its major claim was falsified. What atheists have done in recent times is just shifting goal posts and reversing their claims and trying to pervert a universe with a beginning into somehow supporting atheism when it absolutely cannot. Why? Because in 100% of cases where something has a beginning and we know it’s origin, there was a creator of some kind. Thus the only valid inference that can be made if we show the universe had a beginning is that it too had a Creator.

    2) The origin of the universe IS a HUGE atheist problem and it’s precisely because of this that some atheist scientists rejected it for decades, using every excuse imaginable. Materialist claims are the most refuted, debunked and falsified claims in the entire history of science. The more time is given, the more they are refuted, Eternal universe, spontaneous generation, vestigial organs, dozens of versions of universal common descent have all been debunked by science and abandoned by EVERYONE and so many other claims of materialism have followed this pattern of having a short heyday and then being debunked by science

    There is no God of the gaps in the KCA. It’s a solid scientific inference. I have taught the philosophy of science to university students, so I know something about this area. Atheism has a materialism of the gaps problem..that continually gets refuted by science with time and the gaps keep getting bigger and bigger for atheism.
    3) The Kalam Cosmological argument is fundamentally flawed.

    No it isn’t. It never has been. It’s only lied about by really ignorant people or liars. Take your pick.

    4) Do you know the history of science..or even about Hawking? No scientist is infallible and Hawking has reversed himself from time to time. Almost every step forward in science went against famous respected thinkers in science.

    You are simply wrong about the origin of the universe. Even atheist scientists like Vilenkin agree that all the evidence we have points to a universe with a beginning. And you can’t just willy nilly ignore the foundational principles and practices of science because of your preconceived and predetermined notions of materialism. Doing such shows that you like all atheists willfully pursue ignorance and science denial instead of scientific facts.

    Dr. Craig has lectured extensively on relativity by the way. He’s wayyyyy more informed than you are about it (and more informed than I am too since I regretfully was not able to take a class in physics in school due to my family moving and schools not having the same schedules and other reasons).

    Basically, the notions of atheism are ALL based on the science denying a priori fallacy of methodological naturalism that predetermines that all answers must be materialistic and sets aside science willy nilly whenever it’s problematic for atheism. I’ve seen this done literally 1000s of times with my own eyes.

    • Bryan – so you’ve taught the Philosophy of Science. Lemme guess – it’s at a Christian University. And I’m also willing to bet that you have little or no science education – just like Dr Craig. You noted that you’ve never studied Physics, yet you pretend to understand Physics better than Hawking. The two of you have the gall to lecture scientists on the nature and philosophy of science. The fact that either of you considers yourself to be qualified to lecture on anything related to science is a testimony only to your foolish arrogance. That foolishness is also evident when you make the positively silly claim that scientists set aside science willy-nilly, and that they deny science. What you claim to have seen 1000’s of times with your own eyes is just evidence of your own failings -to understand and/or accept the science.

      You refer to “scientifically ignorant fallacies of atheists that would tear other fields of science apart if they were applied consistently”. Again, you’re only showing your ignorance. Craig, a non-scientist (actually anti-science) claims to know more about all those fields of science, than do the many thousands of people who have devoted their lives to their study, and who have a proven track record (based on many decades of enormous scientific and technological progress). He is an arrogant fool for making such claims, and you are a fool for believing them.

      And your claims as to the supposed failure of materialism are also unequivocally false.
      A) whether the universe is eternal or finite has no bearing on materialism. You leap to your “God of the gaps” conclusion for the same reason that your ancestors believed that the motion of the planets was divinely controlled, and that diseases were the work of demons. Materialism disproved both of those quaint notions. The fact that science hasn’t yet answered the question as to why the Big Bang happened, doesn’t mean it had supernatural causes. It’s just because it’s a hard problem. Give them some time.

      B) the only people who have abandoned the acceptance of common descent (and the existence of vestigial organs) are extremist Christian science deniers, such as yourself and Craig. So I’m trying to figure out whether you made your claims out of ignorance, or if you are willfully lying.

      I already noted the fatal flaw with Kalam (that you’ve chosen to repeat yet again), which is the erroneous assumption that Newtonian Physics and classical notions of causality applied at the moment of the Big Bang. If you had studied Physics, you’d understand this. I get why Creationists are so in love with Kalam. It sounds compelling to the uneducated mind.

      Atheism depends on one thing, and one thing only – the fact that there is precisely zero objective evidence for the existence of God (any God).

      You want to reject all of modern science – fine. Pack up your computer, refrain from using any modern modes of travel, forego any and all medical treatment, etc., since none of those things would exist, were it not for the science you reject. Stick to spreading your propaganda and your mythology to your gullible students, and you can all be blissfully happy in your ignorance.

      “Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.” – Confucius

      • Craig “anti-science”? Why? Because he doesn’t agree with your unscientific atheism? I love the way materialists think they are the only one’s who “understand” science.

        • No, it’s actually people who have studied science that understand science. Craig has not. You apparently have not. I love the way Christian apologists think they know more about science than those who have spent their lifetimes studying it.

          • If “science” is right in that we are simply the product of mindless, unguided, randomly-produced natural processes, over many millions of years, then it has given us strong reason to doubt the reliability of human cognitive faculties and therefore inevitably to cast doubt on the validity of any belief, or so-called “truth”, that it may produce – including it’s own inbred atheism.

            Similarly, modern humanism is the faith that through science alone humankind can know the “truth” and so be “free”. But if the evolutionists’ theory of random mutation and natural selection is true this is impossible. The human mind is simply the product of, and merely serves, evolutionary success – not truth.

            Atheism, together with neo-Darwinian evolution, ultimately undermines the validity of the very rationality and logical reasoning that is needed not only for science but for any thinking whatsoever.

            • You make the classic error of describing evolution as a purely random process. Mutations are random, but Natural Selection is NOT. Natural selection depends on the competitive advantage provided by certain traits, and a competitive disadvantage to others. So your argument suggests that there is no competitive advantage to having an ability to separate fact from fiction. Such an argument is just plain silly on its face.

              • Of course there is an advantage by having the ability to separate fact from fiction – but what has that to do with natural selection? Are you suggesting it has a “mind” and the ability to “choose”?
                Regarding random mutations, these have never been proved in the lab to produce anything at all an organism, and inevitably simply result in impairment,deformity or death.
                Glad to note you did not disagree with my comment that according to Darwinian doctrine the human mind is simply the product of, and merely serves, evolutionary success – not truth.

              • Your question “but what has that to do with natural selection?” really just demonstrates your lack of understanding of natural selection. No I’m not suggesting that natural selection has a mind, or in any conscious sense, an ability to choose. Natural selection (as the name implies) DOES result in the selection of favorable traits over unfavorable traits. Simply put, one with a favorable trait has a better chance at surviving and reproducing, than one without that trait. The one that survives will propagate that trait to its offspring, spreading it (in time) throughout the population, as natural selection continues to offer that same advantage.

                As for your claim that random mutations “have never been proved in the lab to produce anything at all an organism, and inevitably simply result in impairment,deformity or death”, I’m not sure why you singled out “the lab”. Mutations happen in the real world, and the lab is really not the best place to evaluate whether mutations are helpful or harmful to survival. But countless mutations have been shown to be beneficial in the domain of plant and animal breeding (which is really the science of artificial selection). Some random mutations make a crop more hardy, or improve the flavor or yield, etc. They may result in a rose with a particularly appealing color. Likewise with animals, they may make a chicken bigger, a horse faster, or a better dog (for whatever purpose the the dog is being bred). When the breeders recognize a desirable variation in their population, they selectively breed that individual. So whereas natural selection improves that individual’s odds, artificial selection improves its odds of passing on the trait to a near-certainty.

                On your final note – I want to be careful of semantics (especially when you’re paraphrasing me). Yes, according to the theory of Natural Selection (i.e. “Darwinian doctrine”), the human mind is the product of evolution, and therefore serves the goal of evolutionary success. But to say that it doesn’t serve truth, could be interpreted in multiple ways. Are you trying to imply that the effects (the ability to discern truth) are not real benefits? If so, I strongly disagree. A simple analogy is that of birds’ wings. Darwinian theory would argue that the development and evolution of those wings gave birds a competitive advantage, but no rational person would argue that the wings don’t “serve” the ability to fly.

                So if you’re simply using the word “serve” in the context of achieving objectives, I would agree that there is no evolutionary objective for truth, any more than there is an evolutionary objective for flight. However, the ability to fly has been proven to be a useful adaptation in a wide variety of mammals, insects, and of course birds (as well as dinosaurs). Likewise, the human brain has proven to be a useful adaptation – including its ability to distinguish fact from fiction.

              • Only your very last statement is worthy of a response – the brain’s “ability to distinguish fact from fiction”. Would you care to explain how this remarkable ability, that requires an intelligent conscious “mind” capable of rational thought and logical reasoning, could possibly have just blindly “evolved” from purely material chemical substances and unguided processes? (And don’t just say “given enough time anything can happen” – that won’t work!)

              • Sure. Nearly every animal has a brain. Some brains are bigger than others. A bigger brain is useful for all sorts of things, such as solving problems (e.g. how do I reach that food, etc.). Therefore a larger brain can be an evolutionary advantage. Therefore individuals with larger brains may have a greater chance at survival/reproduction than those with smaller brains. At some point, the larger brain enabled the initial use of tools (another evolutionary advantage). And this further favored those with larger, more sophisticated brains, as did the advent of more complex communications, etc.


              • You miss my point. Of course most creatures have a brain. My question concerns consciousness, intelligent thought processes, and logical reasoning. How do you explain these faculties in the light of a purely material, physical brain – are “you” just your brain (with no free will of your own) or do “you”, and your mind, actually exist apart from your brain and can therefore use it to freely decide on your actions and control your behaviour? How is it that you are conscious of your own “self”, and your surroundings, when all the substances that your body consists of are just mindless chemical molecules?

              • The short answer is that there’s no evidence that the mind exists apart from the brain. One only needs to look at the wide variety of brain diseases, defects, and injuries that impair mental functioning. To presume that the mind of someone who has severe brain damage, for example, is somehow still intact (in spite of the obvious measurable loss in functioning), simply defies all logic.

                As for how consciousness works, well that’s obviously a hard problem, and is still being studied.

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