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?
For a couple of your points (time and material reality) you say that we don’t know if this is the only universe that exists, did exist or will exist. You say that many physicists are exploring these possibilities. I don’t think that’s good enough.
Let me be clear: I am not trying to convince you that it is impossible (or at this time, even unlikely) for a god to exist, but rather you and the OP have tried to persuade the atheists here that it is likely. It does not matter that you don't think its good enough... you are trying to convince others of something for which you have no proof, not the other way around. We are simply replying that your infinite regression argument is not persuasive to us.
You are raising a mere possibility against something that our common sense, experience, and a huge volume of scientific evidence say is the case.
Nope. It is not even a scientific (i.e. testable) question with our current limited understanding/capabilities, and "common sense" doesn't tell us what happened with any form of existence before the universe came to exist. Speculation or being open to possibilities is always better than assumptions.
Until you can do better than mere possibilities I’m perfectly justified in holding to the best explanation thus far. (There are, after all, many physicists exploring the possibility that the universe is fine tuned – are you willing to consider that a valid option?)
What you feel is the best explanation thus far. Nobody has even questioned that you are perfectly justified in holding to your favorite explanation. We're perfectly justified ignoring your explanation without even considering it as you lack tangible evidence or logic with which to convince us to share it.
The idea that it created itself seems untenable, and what would there be for natural laws to work on when no nature existed? For the universe to create itself, it would have to exist before it existed, which seems flatly contradictory and irrational, doesn’t it? I know Daniel Dennett has promoted this idea when debating William Lane Craig, but even he was forced to admit this after the discussion.
Just read these ones. Firstly, we have no way of knowing that the existence of many of our observed “natural laws” are actually a consequence of the universe's existence, rather than the other way around (i.e. that the laws simply exist period and actually aided in the formation of the universe even before it existed). You are assuming that the laws are somehow contained within the existence with no basis for this assumption. Secondly, it is not required or evidenced by any observation that the only laws or principles which can act as causes are ones we're aware of or which are part of our own time or space rather than existing outside of it (i.e. laws which are not natural laws).
Further, with regards to the multiverse, cosmologist George F R Ellis in August 2011 Scientific American states that “no possible astronomical observations can ever see those other universes. The arguments are indirect at best.”
If we can’t ever find evidence of these other universes, on what basis should they be posited?
Exactly. Now if you'll just put this standard to god(s) and other religious supernatural existences, you can join us in our atheism. Of course, there are actual evidences against an intelligent agent that put him beneath a multiverse theory. For example, if an agent is intelligent enough to create a universe governed by physical laws, surely he would be aware of and capable of comprehending the wrongness of possible consequences of such a creation (millions of babies/children dying slow horrible deaths to malaria, for example) and would create safeguards against the unreasonable ones. Since this is not the case, the explanation of an intelligent origin is less compelling to me. But maybe I'm wrong to think that the level of intelligence needed to create a universe is the same level needed to comprehend its consequences.
Without evidence for this idea, I’m on much firmer scientific grounds simply claiming the standard big bang model than you are by appealing to something that may or may not exist and for which there is no direct evidence.
I am not claiming anything, simply reminding you that there are plenty of possibilities which we cannot yet or may never explore, aside from a single universe created by a god (also not explorable, at this time).
You chose option 3 (You believe neither; you make no assumption) but this agnosticism isn’t justified.
It is not agnosticism, rather is is not making baseless assumptions or believing things the way religious people do: by virtue of faith.
So often on these type of forums I’ve heard it said that “since no evidence for god exists then I don’t believe he exists” not (which is more in line with what you claim) “since no evidence for god exists I believe neither that he does or doesn’t”. As an atheist, you are not agnostic when it comes to god, whose existence you think lacks evidence, but you want to make an exception for matter and time...how is this justified?
"I don't believe he exists" (note the use of the word "he" posits specifics about a god) is not the same as "no god exists and cannot exist", and by suggesting that it means any more than that you have created a straw atheist. You cannot tell me what I am as an atheist; a-theist means "non theist" (a person who doesn't practice or believe in any supernatural thing or force). I believe agnosticism wastes time considering the existence of a god or forces unseen when they cannot be explored, and that energy is better put to use pursuing natural explanations, because god or not, there is far more to learn about the natural universe, and possible things to learn about before or outside of the universe for which we have no reason to assume are god. Note that I am not agnostic because I believe it to be a waste of time, but I do not care if anybody else is agnostic and feel no need to go to agnostic forums and try to convince them.
Your paragraph beginning “even if you accept that” indicates that you’ve not really understood one of the elements of the argument. Perhaps I've been unclear so let me clarify. Premise 1 states that “everything that begins to exist has a cause”.
Including unintelligent eternal principles or forces existing outside of the universe? If not, then why is an intelligent being necessary? If so then why would we assume that an intelligent being could escape this limitation?
Since the preponderance of the scientific evidence is that the universe had a beginning it is meaningless to ask why the matter of the universe cannot be eternal because that is not the standard scientific claim.
It is not the universe (observable time, space and matter around us) which I believe is eternal.
Nor is this an arbitrary assumption; it is based on the totality of our experiences. Every single thing that we observe to have a beginning has a cause, so it doesn’t matter if energy or whatever could be eternal because, as premise 2 states, the universe had a beginning and isn’t eternal. The Borde, Guth and Vilenkin theory proves that any universe that is on average expanding (as ours is) cannot be infinite in the past, but must have an absolute beginning a finite time ago (they also apply this to the multiverse...). Therefore, since everything that has a beginning has a cause, and the universe has a beginning it follows that the universe has a cause.
Of course the universe has a cause. Maybe you're the one misunderstanding me?
To your point 1 that “None of the descriptive words...”.
They actually do describe an agent best because if the cause eternally existed then the effect would eternally exist.
This does not in any way imply an agent.
For example, the cause of water freezing is being 0 degrees C. If the temperature was 0 from eternity past then any water would have been frozen from eternity, since there was never a time when the temperature was above freezing. So it is with the universe – if the cause is some kind of natural force (and I ask again: without nature, what can a natural force work on?) and that force has always existed then the effect of that cause (the universe) must also have always existed. But we know that isn’t the case.
This is a strawman of what people mean when they talk about eternal "natural" forces or principles (as stated above). We do not mean "natural forces" as in something contained within the universe, or that the universe as it is or originated always existed (some might believe this), but rather that it may be the consequence of principles or forces which exist eternally that are not a part of it, but rather that it is a subset of. We simply do not imply that these principles or forces are in any way intelligent, are a being or agent, etc.
Therefore, an agent is the best description because only agents can bring about certain actions at particular moments; blind natural forces are merely reactionary.
We don't know that the constant force of gravity is "reactionary", for example. Other forces we have clearly observed are only those contained within nature. We don't know whether forces or principles outside of nature exist or whether or not they are merely "reactionary".
Even if all observed forces of nature were reactionary and we assumed that no principles existed which did not behave like the natural forces we observed, there is no reason to identify this trait with an agent, because agents have also never been observed to act except as a consequence of physical reaction. Every creature's thought and behavior begins with chemicals traveling between physical nodes of their neural networks, firing more chemical based electric impulses through neural networks, leading to a pattern of behaviors or single physical action, etc. External forces stimulate sensory elements throughout our body which end up reaching brains either in our spine, head or both, which lead to thoughts and other responses. Artificial Intelligence is programmed by reactionary human agents. Any seemingly non-reactionary randomness or event comes from some kind of algorithm or measurements of the state of a crystal's vibration at a given moment in time, etc. (i.e. are not actually random). No agent has ever been observed to be anything but reactionary when its internal workings are considered.
Finally, “Also, to whoever suggested that you start with this argument to introduce the likely existence of a god, then make connections towards a specific god or gods (i.e. The Trinity, Yahweh, Allah)... you are wrong”. I addressed this in one of my responses to Nelson, so please check my response there.
More is needed to get to Jesus, and that is where the historical arguments like the ones presented in Lee Strobel’s “The Case for Christ” come in. Greg Koukl of STR gives the analogy of taking a trip – you need a plane to get from airport to airport, but you also need a few taxis to get from home to airport and airport to hotel. This argument represents only part of the journey, not the whole thing.
This is your post that I was addressing. You cannot make the journey to the destination if the destination is not what it claims to be anyways, or doesn't even exist. Just about every form of Christianity, for example, makes specific, testable claims that don't require tracing back to the start of the big bang model. If you prove one or more of those claims false, nothing is left to be done... the "God" at the beginning cannot be the version which that religion posits.