Please do your best to respond to this post. I won't insult you if you don't insult me.
Cause and effect. How can something come out of nothing? How could the very first thing that happened to start the universe not be effected by anything? It has to go back and back and back until one thing that effected something without being caused. That, I believe, was a god. Can somebody please prove this point wrong?
First, that's an argument from ignorance. That you can't personally conceive of the way this could have happened or that we don't know how it might have, isn't evidence that it didn't. And it really isn't evidence that it didn't enough that a supernatural disembodied mind with inconceivable powers is the better explanation than just admitting we don't know yet.
Second, modern understand of physics has a different understanding of "nothing" than our everyday understanding of nothing. In the physics sense of nothing, there is a tiny but non-zero energy that has particles popping in and out of existence spontaneous from nothing. The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics says that closed systems will tend to disorder but fully in keeping with the 2nd Law is very rare instances of spontaneous increases in order. From there all you need is inflation and you've got a universe from nothing.
That's the short answer. To get the full answer you have to do some reading. I can suggest some books for you. The bottom line is that we know how the universe can come from nothing. What we don't know is how a supernatural disembodied mind with inconceivable powers exists. Physics we can explain. The other is just "God did it!"
Here's theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss explaining. He has a book coming out soon that is an expansion of the topic of the video.
Ask yourself why (almost all) cosmologists are atheists if in fact the question you pose is so powerful...
so you think that way back then that random microscopic dots came about?
No. Is that what you think I said?
Look up zero point energy (also called vacuum energy), virtual particles, hawking radiation and the Casimir effect
The Casimir effect is proven and measurable. Caused by putting to metal plates so close together that virtual particles aren't created between them, so the pressure from the other side pushes the plates together
It's not what happen with the Big Bang, but things can indeed come from seemingly "nothing"
Damn... beat me to it.
The particles pop into existence because existence is not an absolute value; it is a relative value. The emergence of matter and energy at random are the result of this. It is observed on small scales because at those small scales the relationship between that region of space and the observer becomes more tenuous as it is more difficult to observe/interacts less. On the larger scales it is collectively referred to as dark matter and dark energy (although to quantum theory, there is nothing "dark" about it at all. It is just matter and energy in a quasi state of existence).
1) do the particles really pop into existence from nothing, or do we just not yet understand where/why they come about?
It's in the video I embedded above. Here's the relevant clip starting at the point where Krauss is describing how the space between protons in the nucleus of an atom– as empty a space as there can be– is crackling with this energy of nothing.
Our best understanding of physics tells us that they pop into and out of existence from nothing. This could certainly be wrong. But if it is then everything we know about physics is wrong because the accuracy of this understanding is tied up in a web with everything else we know of physics, many aspects of which have been experimentally confirmed. That particles pop into and out of existence from nothing has experimental evidence itself. It's not just theory or chalkboard math. There's the Casimir effect, there's Hawking radiation, etc.
And let's say that it was the case, not that they popped into and out of existence from nothing but that we just didn't understand where they came from; so? If that were the case the best the conclusion would be to stick a place holder there and continue searching, not going "We don't understand this, therefore Goddidit!"
2) is this 'nothing' thought to be eternally existing, or to have a finite past?
I'm sorry, I'm forced to chuckle. And I mean no disrespect by it. It's just incredible... You've just had it explained that our modern understanding of physics shows that the universe doesn't need a god to explain its existence and this apparently prompts you to find something to do for god in having created the vacuum energy itself.
Look, if you're willing to go to the point where you're going to find a gap to situate god within no matter what then I submit to you that you'll always be able to point to a gap in our understanding and say "aHA! What about HERE?!" But the long history of this strategy is one in which god who gets smaller and smaller and smaller as there's less and less of a gap in our understanding that he can be unnecessarily inserted into. How tiny must he be if rather than creating the universe all he did was create the vacuum energy that allows for the existence of quantum fluctuations which allows for inflation which allows for the big bang which allows for the universe? (Is he unable to just make the universe [in which case in what sense is he the god of classical theism?] or is he deliberately creating in such an obtuse way in order to give us every impression that he doesn't exist? [in which case... whatta douche.])
There's no question that, at bottom, we either have to posit a god as a brute fact or the universe as a brute fact. So it comes down to which one of these options we have reason to think true. Whether the universe has always existed, whether the multiverse hypothesis is true and we're just one of many that was given birth to by another universe, or whether the fundamental laws are such that the universe bootstrapped itself out of nothing, we have naturalistic reasons for thinking one of these (or some as yet unknown solution) is true. The alternative is that a supernatural (something we have no experience with) disembodied mind (something we have no experience with) with inconceivable powers (something we have no experience with) exists outside of space and time (a concept we have no experience with) and created the universe as an act of will out of the kind of nothing we traditionally mean, ex nihilo.
Anyway, as for your question, *shrug* we don't know. Maybe the vacuum energy is eternally existing. Maybe it only existed for some time before the big bang. The point is that even if it has a finite past, the long history of scientific discovery tells us that there will be a naturalistic explanation for why it exists, just like there have been naturalistic explanations for everything else eventually. The long history of scientific discovery tells us that if it has a finite past, the explanation is fantastically (cosmically! lol) unlikely to be "Goddidit!" And since that's true, why live our lives as if it isn't in the meantime?
I just love your comments Nelson :)
I love this stuff!! Thanks Nelson for another brilliant answer.
This is why you shouldn't even bother trying to posit scientific hypotheses for the origins of the universe to religious people who make the existence proves god argument. Unless and until we can truly explain it with a consensus scientific theory that has been around for a while, all efforts will be met with the type of squirming, endless regression arguments that you are trying to counter here, Nelson. Though I admire the clarity of your thoughts and prose, your efforts are wasted.
I think it is much better, for now, to point out that no ones knows the answer to the question and that claiming to know, as the religious do, should be grounds for losing one's credibility. Only a liar, a fool, or a madman would claim to know the answer to that question.