Hello Ron: Smith wrote a good piece on "Big Bang Cosmology and Atheism: Why the Big Bang is No Help to Theists" by Quentin Smith
As with most theistic arguments, it's not "debunkable," which is in itself a glaring problem. I'd just smile and say that's nice, circular, but nice. And then maybe add something to the effect of, it seems we have different definitions of what qualifies as proof.
Although I did like that idea earlier of making statements or asking questions that might throw them a bit off, but I think I might start answering them as though I agree while doing the suggested gender pronoun switching, throwing in a different, non-christian name for god or jesus, and whatever else along these lines. Might bring to light some assumptions they make and take for granted. That and it would certainly make me chuckle :).
It's also begging the question. The theist is assuming that which they are attempting to prove. (That god exists)
Begging questions is one of the tools in the Apologetical tool box. Not to go on ad nauseum, but I like George H. Smith's approach at pulling the rug out from under theistic retreats to presuppositionalism.
The following text is paraphrased from George H. Smith's book, “Atheism: The Case Against God” p.41.
To exist is to exist as something. To be something is to have a specific nature. That is to have a particular identity. The Laws of Identity A=A and Non-Contradiction A =/= ¬A entail that any ontological being must posses specific determinate characteristics. To have such characteristics is a consequence of being part of nature. But the theistic God is asserted to be super-natural, and that is to be exempt from the uniformity of nature. Herein lies the contradiction fatal to any claim of knowledge about God. Having specific determinate characteristics imposes limits, and those limits would restrict the capacities of the alleged super-natural being. Such restriction then renders the alleged super-natural being subject to the causal relationships that denote the uniformity of nature in actual existence and disqualify it from being God. To escape this contradiction, the religious mind proposes to somehow imagine a God lacking any definite attributes or properties. But a postulated existent devoid of properties or attributes is indistinguishable from nothingness and is incompatible with the concept of existence. For God to have characteristics necessarily means God must have definite characteristics. That is to say that God would then necessarily be limited, for to be A is to also not be ¬A. Any being with characteristics is then subject to the uniformity of nature imposed by those capacities. For a super-natural being to differ from natural existence, it must exist without a limited identity and nature. This amounts to existing without any nature or identity at all. If humanity is to have meaningful discourse about God, we must presuppose it to have properties by which is can be identified. By asserting that God is super-natural theism stipulates existence apart from the uniformity of nature and eliminates any possibility of assigning definite characteristics to God. But by assigning definite characteristics to God, theism brings its God within the natural realm and renders it not-God. Something cannot be both A and ¬A. God then cannot exist, and any claim of knowledge of God is indistinguishable from fantasy of God.
The argument then goes round and round with constant request for a way to reliably distinguish God belief from God fantasy. Sometimes this gets a little ugly, but I think it ultimately will have beneficial effect on the believer if it motivates them to question the faith, for indeed false comfort is no comfort at all.
Would I be safe, Robert, in translating that as, "The invisible and the non-existent look very much alike."
I don't know if this has been discussed but when someone uses a First Cause argument it's easiest to just ask who created God. Inevitably they will say "God has always existed" or "God created himself". You can then point out that they are guilty of "special pleading", a logical fallacy. The universe requires a creation/creator but God does not.
Edit: If they blow this off then they do not care about logic and no amount of logic you use will persuade them.
The latest attempt to get around that is to change the statement to 'Everything that began to exist had a cause, the universe began to exist, so it has a cause." They then state that God didn't begin to exist, so it doesn't need a cause. This one is just as easy to knock down.
First, the initial statement is assumed but not proven. We know of things that begin to exist that have no known cause (virtual particles), so claiming that everything that begins to exist has a cause is not true.
Second, the claim that the universe began to exist is not proven, either. We can only go back to Planck Time with our current understanding of physics, what happened before that is still speculative.
Yeah, I remember watching a debate with WLC where he stated that. Even though he talked himself blue in the face he never properly backed up the first two assertions. The statement that "God didn't begin to exist therefore he didn't need a cause" is still special pleading.
Dave, what would be a good response to a rebuttal that the atheist is unjustifiably presuming metaphysical naturalism?
Probably that no metaphysical naturalism is being presumed.
For the first point (things needing a cause to exist not being proven), the fact remains that there are things that begin to exist (such as virtual particles) that have no known cause. Postulating a supernatural cause is possible, but ultimately irrelevant as any supernatural cause can be provided (God, Ra, pixies, Nyarlathotep, and so forth), leaving us in the same spot as before, ignorant of any actual cause.
As for the second, "We don't know" is an acceptable answer. We have several hypotheses, some of which involve the universe being created, some not. Even if we were to include the 'God Did It' hypothesis, the answer is still "We don't know".
No answer is better than the preposterous one that a magical sorcerer made the universe. What most theists don't get is that their insistence that "there must be a cause because nothing else makes sense" presupposes that the physical laws that prevail now were there in the beginning. There's no reason at all to believe that. The original state may have been strange beyond human comprehension.
There are no logical reasons the universe needs a creator to exist. The universe is not a theorem, a proof, a postulate, or any other element of an argument. It exists. It doesn't prove or disprove anything.