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.