Category Archives: Science
Sci-Fi Premiere: Farscape
If you are interested in science and sci-fi, please check out this sci-fi series to see if this is something you might be interested in.
You may no be able to find this listed on current US TV or Cable programming; so you have to see the rest of season 1 on Hulu. I gather that about 4 seasons of this show were actually made—surprising to me how I never heard anything about it until now. Enjoy!
Do You Believe There Are Aliens?
There is reason to believe, granted the sheer enormity of the universe, that there could be life on other unknown worlds. It is indeed the rational position on the matter, given that the more we learn of other solar systems, we’ve also come to discover that there are indeed earth-like planets out there—i.e. planets which closely mimic the earth’s privileged position in its solar system and possess similar set of factors which helped sustain life on this planet. Nevertheless, it is also useful to stress (and this emphatically), that there has been no definitive confirmed extraterrestrial life out there. This is not to say that there necessarily isn’t or that there couldn’t be—it is just to say that to the best of our knowledge, Life has not been found anywhere else YET. This is what keeps SETI occupied as they search for possible signals from possible civilizations out there in the mind-staggering expanse of space.
This realization should make proponents of the whole ancient alien idea a little bit more modest and humble with their claims. It is admirable that these pro-ET discussants have thus far maintained a dignified civility with their elucidations, but I would caution that we do not allow ourselves be carried off entirely by what can at best be described as hopeful conjecture. As anyone neutral on this matter would have observed, this discussion makes more sense when we are granted the liberty of making a lot of generous assumptions and speculations. Now, unless we’ve become blinkered sci-fi enthusiasts, we needn’t blur the lines between hopeful speculations and verifiable facts.
Now, what exactly would alien life look like? Have we made space in our deliberations for the fact that we could indeed stumble upon technologically less advanced, carbon-based extraterrestrial life forms? What about technologically less advanced non-carbon-based extraterrestrial life forms? Seriously, why do we assume that aliens must necessarily possess superior technology and/ or are capable of harvesting us for their benefit? The answer would be because it seems to be the familiar motif generated by imaginative sci-fi writers. I think it can be deeply entertaining to ponder the vast mysteries that will yet be unfolded to us with the passage of time, but I’d be caution against some overweening presumptuousness on the basis of inconclusive and highly speculative sci-fi literature. While the ideas tossed about in popular sci-fi literature can eventually become reality, it wouldn’t help things to treat it as such now. The best one can hope for in these circumstances is that people who have consumed a staggering amount of sci-fi literature would find themselves sufficiently motivated to want to conduct real science with a view to bringing refreshing new perspectives and insights into what we now cavalierly accept. Indeed, such transformative paradigm-shifting moves may make some of these exciting sci-fi ideas an eventual reality.
I say these because there is no shortage of conspiracy theories and fantastical but improbable notions that are making the rounds.
Now let’s get on with the physics…
You would pretty much have to say that the entirety of modern physics and cosmology are on shaky grounds if we are to grant the leaps needed to make some of these ideas come through. At the barest minimum, if possible alien spacecraft is to traverse the mind-boggling distances required for deep space exploration, they need to fly at or very close to the speed of light—in fact it would be better if they could fly at faster-than-light speeds. But nothing in physics suggests that anything the size of a spacecraft –no matter how powerful (no matter the vast amount of energy you would burn for such a vessel to fly) –can ever hope to approach the speed of light. Not only do you have to ponder the vast length of time it would take these possible aliens to traverse galaxies shuttling around in spacecraft which albeit more powerful than anything this planet has ever known is nonetheless demonstrably slow at astronomical scales, you would also have to wonder how long these possibly non-carbon-based life forms can possibly live. Can this alien non-mechanical life form live/survive for say 500 years on one single leg of a deep space odyssey? 1000 years? 5000?
Indeed, to make some of these ideas work we would have to seriously tinker with contemporary physics: we would have to revise or discard general and special relativity theories; the concept of time would have to get another meaning or look; the speed of light will pretty much cease to matter in calculations if we can experimentally prove the existence of superluminals (objects which display faster than light motion); we might even have to revise the already experimentally verified idea that the universe is expanding i.e. the fabric of space-time is still expanding as stars, planets and indeed galaxies continue to fly away from each other. We might also have to invoke and provide evidence for the existence of wormholes etc.
But let us now limit ourselves to interstellar space travel. If indeed there are aliens zipping around in superluminal propulsion spacecraft in this galaxy alone, then it becomes at once conspicuous why in all these years they have not been able to make contact. Why has SETI not been able to at least spot a signal from these proposed advanced civilizations? Granted we are not talking about flying from one end of the Milky Way to the other (that will easily take 100000 years flying at the speed of light), why haven’t they been able to make any contact at all? The closest known stars and brown dwarfs are within or less than 16 light years from our star. This means that if the stars closest to us have planets that contain advanced alien life forms that could fly around in superluminal jets, we should have had one of those civilizations approach this distinctive planet on this solar system in less than 17 years! SETI was created in 1984 which makes it 28 years. If they have not seen anything approaching extraterrestrial intelligence all this time, we would be led to conclude that a) the possible alien life forms might be found even further away in this galaxy (if at all) or b) no matter how highly technologically advanced we suspect these proposed beings are, they are subject to the same physics as we are and thus could not possibly have erected superluminal jets.
None of these observations is designed to put a dampener on the possible ecstatic expectations of alien visitations that some might possibly harbor. It might be that if there are other life forms out there, we may never know. Also, it may be that by the time they eventually discover this planet we might have long ceased to be here having already destroyed ourselves and wrecked the planet with nuclear weapons. Another enthralling possibility given the 5 billion-year proposed life expectancy of our sun is that whatever race of humans are around in another 100,000 years will be as advanced over us presently as we currently are from microbes—this is so that any possible visitation by aliens would perhaps not fill the humans existing at that time with anxiety and/or trepidation.
Reflections On The Nature Of God
1) If I may reflect on this Sun-Sunbeam analogy that has been presented by adherents of the Grail Message to explain the nature of God, I’ll have to say that I am not convinced that the sunbeams or the sunrays are essentially different from the sun. There is no sensible way to talk of the sun (crudely put, a hot burning radiating ball of fire) existing without its sunbeams or rays. I contend that the sun’s rays have always existed together with the sun. In other words, there was never a time a pre-existing sun suddenly decided (as it were) to produce emanations.
When the star called the sun was born, that same instant did it begin to radiate away its beams. The nature of the sun is such that it produces emanations; it is incandescent. The sunbeam essentially flows out of the sun containing the very essence of the sun. To put it differently: it would be a strange star, indeed a star not worthy of its name, if it could be demonstrated that the Sun did not have its rays or beams co-existing with it at all times. If we then cannot properly speak of the sun without the sunbeams, I think the analogy that portrays God as the Sun and Creation as the Sun’s beams (sun’s radiations or emanations) is altogether faulty.
2) I also have a philosophical disagreement with any view that essentially reduces God to energy. The word energy has a rich physical meaning which can be brought to bear in these discussions as they provide an illustrative framework upon which to anchor concepts. God is not to be conceived of as merely some inanimate, unconscious, driving force or energy or motivating principle. He is not to be thought of as some primordial energy that somehow dissipates into Creation. To be fair, the human language can prove to be inadequate to convey our deeper thoughts on the subject, nonetheless we should really try and simplify our definitions as much as we can, taking care not to conflate ideas. The view of God as “primordial energy”, or “primordial light” or “primordial time” may sound very poetic and numinous but they are altogether mistaken in that these qualifiers essentially depersonalize or de-animate God. The only way to redeem this view or to imbue it with any merit is to say that these descriptors are to be regarded as God’s attribute in some poetic or metaphorical manner of speech. Ontologically speaking, these descriptors fail hopelessly in establishing the nature of the being we are talking about because on that view God is some nebulous inanimate or non-sentient entity.
3) God is first and properly speaking, a mind or a sentient (conscious) being. You can also call him the Primordial Consciousness or Primordial Life. He is personal—which is to say that he has self-will, free will, rationality, and consciousness. I must point out rather quickly that when I say that God is personal, you shouldn’t take that to mean that he is a human being or a human person. Personhood is not limited to Homo sapiens or for that matter, any other physically instantiated particulars. Philosophically speaking, personhood involves a self-conscious and rational being, or a unit of self-consciousness; and thus the expression cannot be straitjacketed and appropriated solely to evince some naturalistic presuppositions. Once you have established this, you can then go ahead to speak of other divine attributes that he properly possesses. Some of these attributes are that God is metaphysically or logically necessary, immaterial or incorporeal, eternal, non-spatial, immortal, omniscient, morally perfect, omnipresent or ubiquitous, and maximally powerful. So please let us stop borrowing excessively from the rich language of physics here in analogizing God to some Primordial force, energy, pressure, light, magnetism, singularity, electricity, gravity, momentum, etc. In my opinion these analogies to physical phenomena can be altogether counterproductive and belittling.
4) God’s infinite attributes are qualitative rather than quantitative. I find that often when people talk about divine infinity, they picture a God that has parts or components, and/or is spatially extended. Thus, they imagine that while speaking of God’s infinity, you are talking about some mathematical concept of infinity. For example, the set of all numbers (if you successively count upwards from 1) is infinite. God is not said to be infinite in that quantitative sense. He is not proposed to be made up of an infinite array of discrete or finite particulars; his infinite power is not to be understood as saying that he possesses an infinite amount of quantized energy; his omnipresence is not to be understood as saying that God literally physically occupies every inch of space-time. Infinity as it applies to God is merely qualitative as it seeks to express the total, undifferentiated and maximal nature of God. Indeed, as some have already pointed out, one can readily see vestiges of God’s superlative or infinite divine attributes in human beings and in the created order.
Creating “Ex Nihilo”
In which a skeptic queries the concept of “Ex Nihilo” creation:
The idea of God, as the supreme uncaused Cause, helps in escaping the irrationality of springing out of an absolutely unproductive void — nothing. But in an empty world, there would be God and nothing, but now there is us and something. Does that mean your God created from NOTHING? Also in your view, is design necessary for a creation out of nothing, with no rule or character to conform with?
I would agree with the first part of your submission that God as a necessary being is absolutely required if one wishes to avoid the utterly irrational proposition that things which were not in existence suddenly and spontaneously popped into existence from NOTHING. That is a metaphysical impossibility. Being does not, cannot, and never will, emerge from non-being. The problem I notice in discussions of this sort is that far too many skeptics and atheists have a twisted and unrealistic understanding of the word ‘NOTHING’.
Quite frankly, I am amazed that this same misunderstanding has continued to appear in discussions of this sort. When people who claim to be able to demonstrate that being can emerge from non-being (from nothing) attempt to explain this deeply irrational stance, you can immediately see that they treat the ‘NOTHING” as if it were indeed ‘Something’. This is to say that they playing semantic games and not quite coming to grips with the philosophical meaning of ‘nothing’ (i.e. not anything at all). “Nothing’ or ‘Nothingness’ does not imply vacuum, or void, or empty; has no components or parts, and certainly no attributes; is not governed by any physical laws and certainly cannot be meaningfully thought of as involving any interactions. To be painfully tedious, nothingness (nothing) is simply what it states: the non-existence of anything at all. This is a concept that naturalists or empirical materialists sometimes have a hard time to come to grips with.
Now, what does it mean when people say that God created “ex nihilo”? This simply means that God did not create the universe out of any previously existing matter; he created literally out of nothing. There was no pre-existing material substance which he used (as it were) to create all physical reality. This happens to have been confirmed scientifically as well. It boggles the mind to read people in 2011 say something like “matter is eternal and merely changes form”. To me, it sounds like reading someone saying that the earth is flat. But I suppose I shouldn’t judge harshly because I must admit, sometimes it can be hard for people to imagine that at some point in the past the universe came into being with all matter, energy, gravity, dark matter, dark energy, and all the initial set of conditions and constants. To suppose there was some pre-existing matter which reorganized or reassembled into this universe is to work with an outdated view. Frankly, no one who is familiar with the state of current cosmology or astrophysics will say this—not with the degree of scientific and evidentiary support the Big Bang model currently enjoys.
To answer your last question as to whether creation out of nothing presupposes design, I’ll answer thus: logically, one is not committed to saying that creation out of nothing must presuppose design. In other words, we can quite imagine that it possible for a God capable of creating all matter and energy to have done so without imbuing said creation with a final cause/purpose/design. That is, there is no logical contradiction inherent in stating that “a maximally powerful God exists” and “God created the universe without any teleological implications.”
However, as one begins to probe the universe, one will quickly and immediately recognize the exquisite and mind-numbingly precise degree of fine-tuning that is required for this universe to have continued to exist immediately after the Big Bang event and further to have continued to expand as it has to eventually support life. Now before anyone starts muttering “the anthropic principle”, you should realize that I am not personally invested in the appearance of life per se, as I am invested on the idea that the universe, without these initial conditions and constants, without this exquisite fine-tuning, would have collapsed in on itself shortly after the Big Bang creation and thus ceased to exist. This is before we even get to the possibility of other macro-worldly phenomena like stars, galaxies, clusters, super-clusters, black holes, nebulae etc.
Besides, as you continue to investigate, you will see unmistakable and tell-tale signs of design or fine-tuning that permeate the universe. It is also important to note that not everything exhibits a teleological imperative. Nevertheless, if you choose to be unconvinced about the clearly evident signs of design or fine-tuning in the universe, I have no quarrel with you. But, unless you can conclusively demonstrate why anyone should doubt a design inference, anyone is within his/her rational right to hold and affirm what is painstakingly clear.
War Of The Worldviews
Can these worldviews be reconciled?
Must embracing one worldview demand the rejection of the other?
What are your thoughts on the competing and contrasting claims made by science and spirituality?
Dawkins Wants Your Children NOW!
LOL.. Ah Dawkins!
He is still avoiding any serious examination of his godless prattle and running from academics who want to challenge him to a serious debate. But of course, he has enough time in the world to go after your children. Apparently, not satisfied with preaching to his uncritical New Atheist flock on the vast danger of allowing theists raise their own children with the belief that there is a God, he has taken it upon himself to catch YOUR children young! Of course, he would not like you to point out to him the utter irony of baiting young children with a book called “The Magic of Reality” after supposedly denouncing and critiquing the alleged ‘numinous’. Yes, he can dash any appeal to the numinous to the rocks only when he is not borrowing the same concept to peddle his worldview. It makes me laugh the way Dicky Dawkins and his merry band of materialist science fetishists go to some lengths to borrow from and imitate these fundamentalist Christians they love to rail about.
Anyone with slightly better-than-average critical reasoning skills, both atheist and theist alike, can see “The God Delusion” for what it really is after reading it. It is little more than an unsophisticated piece of sophomoric diatribe. But of course, you don’t have to take my words for it. You can read it and see how far YOUR own critical thinking skills will go in spotting the illogical arguments that litter the whole religion-bashing screed. But of course his book achieves a vital purpose namely to empower other hitherto closet atheists to speak their anti-theistic convictions boldly. Having recorded such a phenomenal success by this initial endeavor, judging by the brood of militant atheists that now litter the public discourse and sundry web fora with their rancid obloquies, I suppose Dicky Dawkins has now embarked on another leg of his quasi-Pauline atheological missionary journey. Yes, now he is coming for your children!
But what’s wrong with Dawkins’ actions? Shouldn’t he be allowed to indoctrinate tender impressionable children into his atheistic worldview? Shouldn’t he be allowed to pretend that his worldview is simply just about “the science of it all’? Of course not. If he insists that children should not be taught the moral and religious outlook of their own caring parents until they are old enough to make a choice, why does he imagine that it is perfectly acceptable for theist parents to allow their own children be indoctrinated into Dawkins’ atheistic philosophy? Most children, who actually have the privilege of going to school, go there to learn the skills necessary to improve their lot in life. As they grow up and start taking rudimentary science courses, they begin to learn ‘useful’ and practical science as well as a scientific methodology and approach to tackling empirically testable hypotheses.
This means that they are not, during their tender formative years, indoctrinated into a largely atheistic worldview with its obvious naturalistic presuppositions and ‘dogmas’. Clever admixtures of empirically verifiable science with other atheistic assumptions form the bulk of this book. As a matter of urgency, you could pick up that book, edit out parts where it degenerates into atheistic conjecture and little hard testable and replicable science like the areas that deal with evolution by natural selection and speciation, and have a somewhat balanced, less propagandistic tool. If Dawkins insists that children be allowed to decide whether to follow the faith of their forebears only after they’ve grown old enough to critically assess the merits, the same reason should apply to any attempt to indoctrinate children into his atheistic philosophy conveniently masked as science.
It should be evident to all that atheism is not synonymous with science nor is theism the antithesis to science. Theists and atheists alike should teach younger children an appreciation for science and scientific thinking when and wherever it applies. However, since all knowledge is not amenable to the ‘scientific method’ despite its popular appeal, it would be better to foster and encourage independent critical thinking skills, as this would be a valuable tool. Such a tool will cause a young mind to question not just the myths they may have encountered in the faith sphere but also the all-too-easily assumed but unverified presumptions that now undergirds Dawkins’ philosophical atheism. There is enough mystery, awe and wonder about the cosmos for theists and atheists alike to appreciate and investigate without the leering old pedo-peddler Dicky Dawkins stalking and luring your children.
Steve Jobs, the visionary face of Apple, has died. He died of a rare but deadly form of pancreatic cancer, being just 56 years old. I simply want to salute this colossus that bestrode the tech sector for his tireless devotion to excellence. Here I am reminded of the things that have emerged from Apple under his leadership which have radically impacted or transformed the face of technology in recent times like iPods, iPhones, iPads, and a re-invigorated mac OS. One only hopes that his passing does not spell an end to the slew of buzz-worthy technological innovations from Apple. May his soul rest in peace.
- Apple fans reach for Jobs’ devices to mourn him – BusinessWeek (news.google.com)
- Steve Jobs, Apple Founder, Dead at 56 (rollingstone.com)
Look, A Werewolf!
I am not the biggest fan of Vamp fiction, but I can say that I have a considerably healthy interest in reading books or watching video material dedicated to Vampire folklore. As is usually the case, when reading books exclusive to this Fantasy genre, you will come to discover a whole slew of otherworldly creatures that can excite and captivate the imagination, or in the very least inspire terror in the minds of people who would spare a thought to the subject. Take werewolves for instance—how is it that after reading or watching material dedicated to werewolves, that most people do not completely and irreversibly jump ship by abandoning their hitherto tenacious fascination for vampires?
I am more fascinated and excited by lycanthropes. In my opinion, werewolves are more fearsome, more powerful, more intriguing, more awe-inspiring, more cool. Granted, vampire stories and similar tales are all products of fertile imaginations, but have you ever imagined what it would be like if indeed there were these massive, hairy, powerful creatures around?
Can you even begin to fathom the horror of witnessing the moonlit night transformation of a usually jovial, or calm averagely built acquaintance into one giant hirsute, clawed and fanged beast? Can you even visualize the horror of seeing that massive covering of hair on the face and body? Of hearing that bone-chilling lupine howl? Of noticing the rending of normal garments? Or of seeing the vicious imprint of formidable razor-sharp claws on immediate surroundings? Any encounter with lycanthropes will surely convince you of their brute strength, assuming you managed to survive the deadly affair.
It is therefore with a feeling of sympathy that I talk about a certain guy in Mexico by the name of Danny Gomez, who has an unfortunate genetic disorder resulting in an anomalie known as hypertrichosis or werewolf syndrome. Sufferers of this syndrome have massive and thick hair on their faces and body—such thick dense covering of hair that they do infact look like werewolves. Anyone who had not seen them before will definitely be startled or jolted by their appearance upon first contact. It is therefore hardly surprising that people consider individuals afflicted by this condition as freaks of nature resulting in their ostracism.
Hopefully a cure would be found for this soon. Researchers have determined that human werewolves have a gene (or rather a set of genes) responsible for body hair growth that are turned ON and thus fully expressed whereas such genes are usually turned OFF or altogether missing in regular people. This is a momentous and uplifting discovery because unlike many bizarre birth defects, this condition has been definitively isolated and tracked down to a genetic anomalie.
All that remains is to figure a cure that would stop the expression of this gene or remove it altogether. If that happens, one can hope that an application of the cure would prevent further growth of hair on eyelids, palms, faces and other parts of the body that are usually alopecic. Only when you have to shave hair off your face constanfly, or else avoid all contacts with strangers, will you begin to appreciate the utter piteousness of the situation. Life as a performer in a roving circus freak show, I would imagine, gets stale and unsatisfying in the end. Besides, I hasten to add that such a nomadic lifestyle is clearly not for everyone.
Finally, I’ll let my mind wander. What if these poor sufferers of this syndrome, who have had to hide or avoid contact, and who do not possess any amazing powers suddenly evolved some mysterious werewolf powers, possess superhuman speed and agility, superhuman physical strength or perhaps subhuman lupine ferocity and bloodlust? Would they suddenly become hunted and eliminated?
Revisiting The Causal Principle
In which an atheist tries to rebut the Causal Principle by presenting this dialogue:
Christian: When you see a building, you know it had a builder. When you see a painting, you know it had a painter. When you see the universe, you know it also had a maker. This is God (of course it must be the Christian form of the many Gods). It is IMPOSSIBLE for something to come from nothing
Atheist: A builder and a painter takes existing materials and uses them to make the end product such as a building or a painting.
What existing materials did God use to make the universe? What? Are you telling me God made the universe out of NOTHING? I thought you said that was impossible?
Here, the atheist tries to fashion a hypothetical discussion between a Christian and an Atheist which he hopes would seriously undercut if not rebut the Causal Principle. After reading that brief dialogue, the atheist hopes you would at least be persuaded to believe that the Christian is advocating a position which could be proven to be logically inconsistent or perhaps metaphysically unnecessary. At any rate, does the atheist’s objection actually defeat the Causal Principle?
The answer is NO.
The problem I suspect is that the atheist has not fully understood what the Causal Principle or the causal premise is actually saying. In my experience talking to many atheists, they usually attack a rather flippant or overly simplistic version of the argument without actually attempting to understand the full explication of that premise.
Let us briefly examine what the Causal Principle is actually saying. The proper way to understand what the Causal Principle is saying is to read it thus: “Being can only come from Being; something cannot come from non-being”. This would be the same as saying that “nothing (no something) comes from or of nothing/non-being”. This is not only intuitively and philosophically valid, it has also been confirmed constantly through science. There are no serious objections to this principle.
The common objections you hear from people claiming to anchor their objections on science is nothing but a grave misunderstanding of what nothing actually means. When you talk to people who pretend that this premise can be shown to be false, all you need do is try to talk to them about what they understand NOTHING to mean, and you will see quite clearly that in most cases they treat NOTHING as if it were SOMETHING indeed.
What about this atheist above who misconstrues the argument for why the universe has a maker? Well, I am not sure that this atheist understands the logical conclusion of his argument. It is one thing for an atheist to suggest that we may not currently have the full explanation of how the universe came about; or where the universe came from (considering the recent forays into multiverse theories). Nevertheless, it is another thing altogether to say the universe created itself out of nothing, or that it spontaneously popped into being. This is where many atheists indeed have to bite the bullet if they have to escape the logical inference to theism. But why would the atheist risk rationality and even common sense to stake out the absurd claim that the universe created itself? For the universe to spontaneously pop into being, or to create itself as it were, the universe would already have to be existing! This is clear nonsense.
So how do we apply the Causal Principle to the universe? Well, here’s the simple answer. The universe has already been proven to have a finite past. In other words, the universe was not eternal in the past. For the universe which shows a finitude in the past to begin to exist, it had to have a cause which brought it into existence. Even if you posit a multiverse (an unproven fantasy at the moment) which gives rise to this universe as one of several billion possible universes, you have not escaped or avoided the specter of cosmic beginnings. It simply pushes the question back as to how that parent or mother universe came to be. The atheist would be forced to declare that there is no naturalistic explanation for that, or else assert that this unproven figment of the imagination called the multiverse is simply eternal and uncaused.
The statement “God caused the universe to exist” does not furnish us with anything other than the realization that God preceded the universe and was the efficient cause of the universe. Consider the sculpture called The David, for instance. This sculpture didn’t pop into existence uncaused out of nothing from nothing and by nothing. It had a cause. The efficient cause of that sculpture is the sculptor Michelangelo. He is the one that thought it up and fashioned it albeit from a material cause (the marble). It is useful to understand the difference between efficient and material causes. When someone says that God is the cause of the universe, that statement does not furnish anyone with the physics of the event because the said event was clearly above naturalistic physics. When a Christian says that the universe did not spontaneously pop out of nothing, they are quite plainly saying that the universe came from something. That something is God. How God chose to do it is what science is trying to unravel.
So what stuff did God create the universe from? This is a very good question. God is held to be the maximal possible being. As a maximal being, he possesses maximal power. So, only a maximally powerful being can act on a state of affairs causally prior to the universe to produce the universe. Only a maximally powerful being can create the universe that now exists out of literally no stuff (nothing). The claim the Christian is making is simple: God is the explanation or the efficient cause of the universe—and this he did or fashion ex nihilo, or literally out of nothing; which simply means that he did not use any supposedly pre-existing material substance to create the universe.
At this juncture, the atheist may be tempted to disagree, with the hope that there may come a time in the future when some scientists that are deeply uneasy about the logical inference to theism, which comes out of the realization that the universe was not past-eternal, would succeed in showing a completely naturalistic account for the origin of the universe. Indeed, many of such theories purporting to establish a past-eternal universe have been advanced in the past and ultimately defeated.
If I may suggest, there is possibly no way that I see to get around the specter of cosmic beginnings. Any thinking atheist who purports to actually follow the science involved will sooner or later realize that the issue of the origin of the universe cries out powerfully for an explanation. The only explanation that makes sense of all the relevant philosophical and scientific knowledge at our disposal is the case made for a creator God.