Open Thread for Show #750 – Matt & Tracie

This is the open thread for the program. No topic, just calls. Caller Eric, from AZ, most fun. Can something come from nothing? Can there *be* nothing? If it *is* or *was*–then could it have actually been nothing? If nothing does exist, does that mean it’s something? If nothing cannot be (as Eric defined it as nonbeing), then it can never have been–and so there has always been, according to Eric, something–by definition. So, something has never come from nothing–as nothing cannot be. I’m not sure Eric had thought this through before calling, despite his boast that he beat George (H.) Smith in a debate.


  1. says

    Well if he’d spent a wee bit less time talking smack, and a wee bit more time thinking about his argument, he might have caught that premise #1 was an argument from ignorance.

    Just another logic’ing God into existence with undemonstrative absolute claims as premises.

    If even one of the premises is “as far as we know”, then sure, you can have an argument that “most likely” is true, but that’s the status it’ll stay until enough empirical evidence is gathered to bring it from “most likely” to “confirmed”.

  2. MichaelD says

    Almost certainly a cosmological argument. I didn’t catch much of the episode but that was the most hilarious caller in a while.

  3. Senectus says

    I’m halfway through listening to this and already I’ve had to stop. Too much conflicting emotions listening to the guy who wants to debate Matt.

    LOVE it!
    Will go back to what I expect to be a trouncing by Matt in a little while 😀

  4. Drivebyposter says

    Am I the only one unfamiliar with George H. Smith and confused as to why anyone should care about an alleged debate between him and the caller that doesn’t understand what words mean?

  5. Senectus says

    Wow, that was both Horrible and Fantastic to listen to…
    I want to hear Matt debate this guy.
    Possibly the best episode ever, thanks for making my Mondays awesome guys!

  6. Jeff says

    Caller was not familiar with the dangers of inductive reasoning, and why they are not so useful as proofs. Try this:

    All life is carbon-based, has either DNA or RNA, and originated on Earth. So we can safely assume that all life is carbon-based, has either DNA or RNA, and originated on Earth. Right? What, you doubt it?! So you’re saying you can prove that there is life which is either not carbon-based, does not contain either DNA or RNA, or didn’t originate on Earth? Can you provide even one example of such a thing? No? Then consider it to be proven otherwise, and I will proceed to use it in logicing a being into existence.

    Tracie was correct that we don’t have any real concept of what “nothing” would be, if it ever “existed” or exists to this day, or whether or not something can come from it. The only thing we know for sure is that it is true that something can come from something.

    Also, it was a logical absurdity that there was no such thing as an absolute reference frame for the Universe. Then we found out otherwise. Physics holds many, many surprises, and has already proven that it doesn’t give a damn what our intuition and reasoning says should be possible.

  7. andrewhawkins says

    So first, Eric compares debating theists on AXP to adults sparing at karate with children and then states that he’s won every debate in which he’s participated. This establishes him as an arrogant little twat, and I’m really wanting to see him get taken down a peg or two. Then he proceeds to take a page from William Lane Craig’s book with the “something from nothing” question and gets KNOCKED FLAT ON HIS ASS! I came in my pants a little. Awesome show.

  8. wholething says

    Which is more likely: an unstable nothingness (a la Krauss) or a stable nothingness with some mechanism that maintains stability?

    The nothing the AZ guy mentions is imaginary. It only exists in the minds of philosophers and sophisticated theologians. It’s a Platonic ideal like a perfect equilateral triangle.

  9. Justin says

    It was interesting to see Matt and Tracie fight with the hyper-ego caller to keep him off his script. He wanted to run away with the conversation so badly. Maybe his high opinion of himself got a bit of a check.

  10. Muzz says

    Boy debate guy was hilarious. I hope you guys do debate him somehow, actually. It’s juvenile of me perhaps, but after that much talking up the bet at the weigh-in his ass needs to be in put in the ring. So to speak.

    There’s going to have to be a page on Iron Chariots or something devoted to this ‘Nothing of The Gaps’ semantic bollox. ‘Nothing’ avoids definition better than god himself. I think you only need show, as Tracie did nicely, that there’s no standard of absence that they will accept as actually nothing-there to look at and they’ll just keep playing keepaway with their definition and pretend that makes it valid. That is about the best you can do to point out how stupid the whole premise is.

    Doesn’t say much for his ass kicking syllogism if it can’t get past point one though (not that it’s likely to be all that original)

  11. jarimakela says

    It was amusing, this debate champion but in all seriousness, could a debate between him and Matt be of any actual use in any sense apart humor? He stumbled on his own first point and all went downhill from that.

    Reuben would have given much better opposition than this bag of wind.

  12. Senectus says

    Never underestimate the educational power of someone else’s fireball decent into crushing defeat at the hands of a professional.

    (Or even a highly skilled and intelligent amateur re: Matt )

  13. m6wg4bxw says

    I Googled out of curiosity. Perhaps no one cares, but I might have found evidence of the debate at The Indomitus Report. A 2005 newsletter mentions a debate between a George Smith and an Eric on the topic, “Is it Reasonable to Believe in God?” A brief account of the debate describes Smith losing the debate because spoke from a philosophical viewpoint rather than counter his opponent’s arguments.

  14. daemonowner says

    There are two types of inductive arguments he’s trying to make here. One refers to nothing but with space existing – where we do have experience and can make inductive arguments, and the other is refering to nothing (not even space) existing – which we do not have any experience of (and so cannot make any inductive arguments) and the idea is meaningless to even physicists.

    The problem is he is making an inductive argument that nothing can come from nothing(in a universe where space exists) based on day to day experiences and the framework we have developed to describe the world (a strong inductive argument it would seem), but when his inductive argument is criticised by citing the works of Krauss he defends by saying that Krauss is refering to existence including space – exactly the foundations *he* is arguing upon too.

    He then applies this inductive argument – based upon experience in existence with space, obviously – to existence without space, an incoherent idea that is not in any way supported by experience or any understanding of the universe we know of. The foundations he is arguing from are an accidental equivocation at best, an argument from ignorance at worst.

    Premise One is so colossally fucked up it is beyond repair. The entire premise has to be redone or his specific argument fails entirely.
    His argument just got pwned by an 18yr old biology student. I can stroke *my* ego too. XD

  15. Senectus says

    I have no background in Physics etc so please point out any flaws in this reasoning but it seems obvious to me that you couldn’t prove that something did or didn’t come from nothing.
    The mere act of viewing Nothing means that something is going to be there, either was there before or was created by the act of viewing it.

    It’s something that can’t be proved or disproved.

  16. daemonowner says

    “He then applies this inductive argument – based upon experience in existence with space, obviously – to existence without space, an incoherent idea that is not in any way supported by experience or any understanding of the universe we know of. The foundations he is arguing from are an accidental equivocation at best, an argument from ignorance at worst.”

    *Correction. He is not applying the argument, but rather saying it is the same, so he can claim that his inductive argument is well founded and he can them move onto premise two.

    I think this whole ordeal is based on an inadequate and constantly shifting definition of ‘nothing’ and ‘existence’.

  17. mond says

    Wow. Self proclaimed Master(de)bater fails to understand that the rejection of a claim is not the assertion of an opposite claim.
    Who’d a thunk it.

  18. daemonowner says

    We have demonstrated (I’m not a physicist, and I am refering to Lawrence Krauss’ A Universe From Nothing) that virtual particles can pop into existence from nothing – in the sense of just space existing, and no other requirements. We have an understanding of how it can happen, how it doesn’t violate the laws of the universe (negative energy balances out positive energy, I think – someone correct me if I’m wrong) and we have mathematical models of how it works, which won a Nobel Prize.

  19. Tomasz R. says

    From the comments it looks like Eric is using Gish Gallop, that is spamming opponents with false assertions and attacks, so many of them that the opponent is not able to respond during the time allocated for debate, and also so spread over various sciences, that it’s sure the opponent doesn’t know the topic of some of them. This way createst the impression there are many holes in the attacked position, that even such good representative of it is helpless to defend it. Basically it

    W don’t have the debate online, but it’s safe to assume that it probably looked similar to this debate of Laurence Tisdal, that also featuret too slow, and unprepared for this technique opponent:

    What is the way to win against such techniques? Perhaps these methods may help:

    1) Slow the guy down to 1 assertion at time (stop the spam) – exactly as Matt and Tracie did on the show. Probably impossible in a formal debate format.

    2) Actually answer his fallacies by referencing to the books and papers that contain correct information, and to the authors/scientists that work on this topics. If you don’t know some points – promise you’ll publish the solution on a website later (good way to advertise a website). This is the only way to address every of his points and not exceed your time if he manages to output his spam of fallacies.

    This is good for the watching public, because they know where to search for information after the debate.

    3) Go into the attack mode yourself: forget about defending his attacks, but attack his position with STRONGER arguments he attacks yours.

    Perhaps even a relative comparison would do? If he tries to prove your position is crap, and you prove his position is much, much worse?

    4) Perhaps not getting provoked, but going into generalist, abstract arguments would do? Saying you are not interested in his “unimportant details”, and explaining how things work in general and how it does validate your position and contradict his.

  20. Jeff says

    Seems our caller is Eric Lounsbery. Got some info with the Google:

    Eric Lounsbery is the pastor of Family Christian Fellowship in Mesa, Arizona. Eric has debated the issue of Christianity vs. Atheism against such notable atheists as Dan Barker, Reginald Finley, and Monty Gaither (and now Matt Dillahunty and Tracie Harris). He is also the inventor of numerous games, including two Bible games.

    Eric is the inventor of:
    Inklings Bible Game
    Babble Game
    Situations, the “What if” game that could save your child’s life.
    Mattel’s Nickelodeon Six Pix
    The “no-wait” sand timer

    Eric is also the editor of a reprinted version of:
    J. J. Blunt’s Undesigned Scriptural Coincidences

    DVD of the Smith debate is available on this UFO freak site (very reputable, I’m sure), for a rip-off price of over $31.

  21. Tomasz R. says

    I never understood the reason of using cosmological argument – how does even proving that some Creator existed 15 billion years ago mean that it exists NOW ? Most beings we know tend to die after some time…

  22. says

    It just seems silly to me to say:

    All X in the universe are Y.

    …after you’ve examined 0.000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000001% of them.

  23. Jacob says

    Matt Dillahunty is a God (or maybe just a prophet). He said at about 31:20 in yesterday’s show “instead of us jousting about back and forth about nothing”.
    10 minutes of jousting back and forth about nothing ensued.

    So, now I’m not an atheist anymore. Where do I go to the church of the living Dillahunty?

  24. says

    Does that mean we have to nail him to a piece of wood? Or is he more of the “sacrifice a virgin at the full moon” kind of god?

  25. davidct says


    Eric did mention the so called “Law of Cause and Effect” before he was forced to go back to dealing with the problem of his assertion about nothing. I suspect a list of “old Chestnuts” so to speak.

  26. John Kruger says

    This counter argument does not seem to be too popular, but I find it fun. Given “something cannot come from nothing”, and “nothing created god” you can prove god does not exist and could not have created anything.

    1) Something cannot come from nothing.
    2) God was not created by something, or nothing created god.
    3) By 1 & 2, god is not something.
    4) By definition and 3, god is nothing.
    5) By 1 & 4, something cannot come from god.

    Though really, all this proof does is remove the special pleading.

  27. says

    I think that when Eric was requesting a “debate,” what he was really asking for was “6-10 minutes of uninterrupted TV time.” You can tell he had a whole lot of individual pieces simplistic nonsense that he was going to build up into an “irrefutable” wall of nonsense.

    Plus, while Matt is the debater, Tracie often dives in with the single best point of the discussion. So fun times!

  28. Senectus says

    Sometimes I really wish the show goes for a lot longer.
    This was one of those times.

    BTW anyone have a link to a recording of the debate that Matt was talking about just having had??

  29. Hairy Chris, blah blah blah etc says

    I don’t think that it’s quite like that, it’s about how “nothing” is defined. We can have “nothing” in this universe, but it’s defined in space and time (it’s a perfect vacuum somewhere & somewhen), but also have a “nothing” where our universe doesn’t exist.
    Tracie’s point is absolutely spot on that we have no experience of the 2nd type of nothing – the universe exists, and we have no knowledge of the state of affairs before Planck time so “nothing” may be non-sensical, let alone being able to assign behaviour to it (“something” can or cannot come from it, either way). 🙂

  30. Jacob says

    Hmmm. I’ll disagree with points 2 and on. If god was not created by something, it doesn’t mean he was created by nothing. You would have to leave it that god was uncreated, ie eternal. A better argument IMO is something like this:

    1. If Something cannot come from nothing (the nothing that Eric defined, ie nonexistence)
    2. Then, all things (which are by definition something) are uncreated. They would always have to come from somewhere else.
    3. Therefore, if indeed there is a god, then he couldn’t have created anything. At best, he’s a great rearranger (ie, he took already existent matter and rearranged it to be the universe as it was at the Big Bang).
    4. Therefore, a true creator god does not exist. Existence itself preceded god. God would be nothing more than an alien (maybe a powerful one, but not all-powerful). He may have even created this universe but he didn’t create existence itself.

    What I found is that theists tend to counter with only a special pleading argument, usually in the form of:
    1. Something can’t come from nothing.
    2. Therefore god created everything, except he created it all from nothing.

  31. Orlando says

    Which is why theologians love Plato and his perfect circles, etc. They forget that Greek philosophers were not educated in the scientific method, and they were flat wrong about some of their assertions.

  32. Orlando says

    Good suggestions. But with these guys, they cling to pre-scientific definitions of words such as nothing whereas atheists employ up-to-date definitions based on our latest understanding.

    And they reject our more accurate definitions out of hand as they violate common sense. Of course reality largely violates common sense, but primitive thinkers are going to be blind to such insights.

  33. Orlando says

    which sets up: when you have a law, you must have a law-giver, and we’ll define him as spaceless, timeless, all-powerful, and personal – personal because he sacrificed his only son…blah, blah.

  34. Jacob says

    I think that when Eric was requesting a “debate,” what he was really asking for was “6-10 minutes of uninterrupted TV time.

    O.M.FSM! Every “theist vs atheist” debate goes like that where we have the theist making 20 claims (sometimes relatively coherently, sometimes complete nonsense) in 5 minutes, and the atheist has to rebut each and every claim in only 5 minutes and inevitably can’t refute them all. Then the theist claims “victory” because the atheist didn’t refute each and every claim. It’s called a Gish Gallop, and it’s absolutely why I only want to see these kinds of debates on the Atheist Experience because the hosts can refute their non-sense point by point instead of having non-sense go unchallenged. Of course, the William Lane Craigs of the world don’t like it when the Atheist can rebut each and every non-sense point they have, and invariably those types avoid the Atheist Experience like the plague.

  35. tracieh says

    Weird, I can’t seem to “reply” to Orlando’s final post for some reason. But yes, Eric called it “nonbeing” at one point. His statement then, to me, was exactly: “Nothing IS what IS NOT.” And then tried to say it was my questioning of the statement that was “absurd” (that may be paraphrasing him–but he basically called my questions about “nothing” incoherent)–what he failed to realize was that his own statement of what “nothing” *is* is what made the conversation absurd. “Nothing is not” would have been more clear.

    But by his own use of the term, it sounded as though he would define nothing that which isn’t. I don’t know what that means or even how to discuss that–as it’s nonsense in the abstract. It has meaning in limited context–“hand me that apple on the table,” “There is no apple on the table–there’s nothing there.” But to say “nothing” in an undefined, abstract context…what *is* that? I can’t even ask what it *is*–since it *isn’t*. So, what are we even talking about?

    That was my main issue with is first point.

  36. Orlando says

    I thought the most hilarious point was when Matt acknowledged that he had debated theists, Eric asked, “who won?”

  37. tracieh says

    George H. Smith is fairly brilliant. In my opinion, you’re not alone in that you wouldn’t recognize his name; because for some reason he’s indescribably underrated and unknown, especially considering what he offers in response to theistic claims; he is, in my view, the best atheist writer I’ve ever read for addressing apologetic claims and showing up the fail in the most clear and indisputable ways. Claiming he defeated Smith in a debate is like claiming you beat a powerful super computer at chess. I’ve never seen Smith debate live–and so I do hold out the possibility that, as I noted, he might not be that brilliant on the fly–some people aren’t well spoken, even while they’re well written. So, maybe he’s like that. But if this guy honestly trumped Smith–and Smith was on form–that would certainly have been an argument I would dearly want to hear from a theist. I’d want access to that debate.

  38. tracieh says

    Your example of life in the universe is a good one, that I think makes the fallacy very clear. Thank you for providing it.

  39. tracieh says

    Yes, was also funny how Matt and I had just opened the show by talking about how people can be so set in their ideas that they can’t imagine other people thinking differently. We were talking specifically about the “atheist in a foxhole” example, but this guy was a good example as well. His name drop with Smith–and claiming to have trounced him, and then his integration of quoting Kant–as though it was highly impressive, even though all he was really saying was “Kant agrees with me,” and this after Matt had already said, and so had to remind him, that it doesn’t matter WHO makes a claim, the claim stands or falls on its own merits. This guy was everything he accused us of being. And, as usually, he was the one insulting our other callers, not us. His claim that they’re arguments are so thoughtless as to be compared to a child talking to an adult is exactly what I expect from an arrogant ass. It’s about what I’d call an “archetype.” We get this “type” all the time–“your callers are all stupid–why don’t you debate someone who really knows their stuff.” We reply by saying we don’t consider everyone who calls us to be stupid, and have never asserted such an insulting thing about people who call our show–by and large. They then either fail to take the task of offering a decent representation (so they’re one of the “stupid” ones?) or they give it a shot and show they are no different than our other callers–although they, for some reason, think much more of themselves than them.

    If anyone belittles others to pump themselves up–it’s these people.

  40. davidct says

    I tend to view debates against people who are free to just make things up as non-productive. It is only useful if the audience in informed a little.

    The main reason the Eric was made to look bad was the ability of the hosts to make him stop and make him defend his first assertion. In a debate he would have been able to build a steaming pile. Since he is usually allowed to get away with he feels he is a skilled debater. Even worse he has convinced himself that by “winning” these debates he has proved his god – Not much of a god at that. He has taken his assertions from others and while not understanding the flaws has seen fit to take on the cloak of arrogance. His god would be so proud.

  41. tracieh says

    Thank you for locating this and posting it. It’s very telling. A debate format can be whatever people make it. And in this case, I think it would be fair for Matt, if he wanted to debate this guy, to insist on an assertion-by-assertion system of assertions and rebuttals. You make one assertion at a time, and we discuss until resolved or each get X-time-allotment. Then we move on to your next point. That would put the onus on the guy making claims to *ensure* they are all addressed in the allotted time–because he would only be allowed to move on to the next point, after the current point had been addressed. I’m not informed about debate formats–but I don’t think this would be unreasonable to suggest.

  42. tracieh says

    Let’s not forget “repeatedly” and “after it was explained to him several times and he claimed to know the difference.” 🙂

  43. mike says

    “Nothing” seems to be a concept that is hard for us to comprehend, but if there was a god and nothing else, at the beginning, how did this god make the universe out of nothing? Also, how did this god appear out of nothing? It seems his argument could be used to disprove a god, though since no gods appear to exist we don’t really need any new arguments.
    -When he tried to get Matt to just agree that it would seem logical that something can’t come from nothing, I wish Matt would have brought up the double-slit experiment in physics where sending one electron(photon?)at a time would logically produce a double slit pattern, yet it doesn’t and the single particles appear to interfere with themselves defying all “logic” thus showing that using the common sense logic that we have now to examine these complex concepts may be unwise.

  44. tracieh says

    Without a doubt, the part that made me nearly lose it laughing was when we thought we’d lost the call. Someone in the audience said, loud enough to hear, something like “Did he get cut off?” and we were waiting for a reply–and then Matt shouted to the control room “did we lose the call?” and it was just “what happened to the guy?” And suddenly, he comes in stammering and sputtering that my question about “nothing” is basically nonsensical. And I think Matt put in at that point something along the lines of “Now you’re getting it.” I think, just for a moment, the caller’s brain locked up. He thought it was from me being nonsensical–but I think it was more that the nonsensical nature of his base claim sank in for a moment. I could be wrong. But that’s what I think could have occurred–the idea of “this makes no sense.” But he just didn’t back it up enough steps. It made no sense due to his premise–not due to my specific question. Any question about “what is nothing?” would be nonsense, because he’d defined it as, literally what is not (nonbeing). And what the hell *is* what *is not*? That’s nonsense as it violates a few of the Laws of Thought. Nothing can both be an not be, and nothing can be what it is not.

  45. tracieh says

    I don’t think it’s posted yet. But check the blog as it will likely go up here when it’s posted and available online.

  46. tracieh says

    No doubt. “Hmmm. Well let’s see. I’m still an atheist…Does that give you a clue?” lolz.

  47. Hairy Chris, blah blah blah etc says

    Check out his “Atheism: The Case Against God” if you can. He has some very powerful arguments against the most common apologetics, and is quite a fun read too.

  48. Scott says

    @20: “Plus, while Matt is the debater, Tracie often dives in with the single best point of the discussion. So fun times!”

    For sure! Matt may have assembled most of the coffin, but Tracie drove the nail! I am a fan of all of the hosts of the show, everyone brings skills to the table. But every time I see Matt and Tracie together, I know it will be good. A perfect complement to each other. I would like to see some 2 on 2 “debates”. The two of you together are much more than the sum of the parts!

    p.s. I wonder if Eric will put an asterisk now on his perfect debate record. Nah, not publicly. But he knows it!

  49. Trooper CX says

    I think at about 35:33 when the caller pauses, he knows he has just been TROUNCED. LOLOLOLOLOL

  50. terrycollins says

    Good show! It’s always nice to see the Cosmological argument shot down on the first assertion.

    1. Something cannot come from nothing.
    2. Assuming 1 as fact, then nothing cannot beget something.
    3. If nothing cannot beget something, then nothing would have ever existed.
    4. These points exist, therefore 3 is false, therefore 2 is false, therefore 1 is false.

    People like Eric must go through some incredible mental gymnastics in order to hold on to their teddy bears. Since I’ve never seen anything magically created, and we have good natural explanations for many of the things we can examine, I feel quite justified in imagining that the universe probably had natural origins, even if I don’t know what they were. I mean show me some magic, and I might start considering it as a possibility.

    Or even better, give an example of anything that has ever been argued into existence without evidence. This philosophical mumbo jumbo is crap, but it’s all they have. Thank goodness for AE and the job they do to regularly debunk it.

  51. chrisco says

    Goerge Smith’s “The Case Against God” was the FIRST book I got pertaining to atheism while i was a sophmore in high school. I can say becasue i didnt have access to the internet in its first years this book really helped me with the concept i was trying to wrap my mind around at a young age. I still have it on my shelf. 🙂

  52. Trooper CX says


    “And if we debate, I demand a vote!”

    That was awesome. Wonder if he said he won to his friends.

  53. Jacob says

    “Nothing would have ever existed” isn’t the only option though, the other option is that something always existed.

    If something always existed, then it doesn’t mean that “something cannot come from nothing” is false.

  54. says

    Nor could he get the burden of proof quite right.

    “Disprove my premise” doesn’t satisfy it.

    You know, if we as atheists were to say “There is no God because we’ve never found one”, we’d be rightly smacked down. Apparently it’s okay when an apologist does it.

    And whenever a theist calls the show and says “Well you can’t prove to that there isn’t a god”, he/she gets a smackdown as well.

  55. says

    You guys were on fire today! Tracie, thanks so much for hammering home the point about how we have no experience with “nothing”. Such an important point, and it totally shut that nonsense down!

  56. MrPendent says

    This is my feeling. Even as he was suggesting this, I kept thinking, “What is the point?”

    Either you have evidence of your god or you don’t. It doesn’t matter what kind of convoluted neologisms you come up with to prove that Santa brought you presents, until I see a fat red guy flying through the air with a glowing reindeer, it’s meaningless.

  57. Scott says

    Also, Matt, don’t give in when they say “well, it is at least *probably* that X …”. If you have no evidence of a phenomena, you cannot say *anything* about its likelihood. That’s not how probability works.

  58. James M says

    Don’t forget that the nonzero energy level of the universe (zero point energy) is a result of Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle applying to the state of nothingness. A particle having a well defined energy content of zero with zero momentum and no position means it’s nonexistence is well defined for all measurements and all observers. This is in violation of Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle. The zero point energy of the universe is created out of the inherent uncertainty of the energy content of a pure vacuum.

    So, therefore, something can and frequently does come from nothing.

    Here is a review of Eric’s debate with Smith.

  59. terrycollins says

    Well my post is more about wordplay than pointing out a logical truth. If “nothing cannot beget something” is true, does that make “something cannot beget something” false? Can both statements be true, or both false?

    Ug, I hate mind games. I’ll stick with evidence based explanations.

  60. says

    You know what, I think I have figured out how to describe what the ‘something from nothing’ caller. What he was doing was a ‘cargo cult debate’, he used fancy words, interrupted Matt a lot, accused Matt of making argumentation errors he actually didn’t, and accused Matt of failing to debate properly when there was no such case to be made.

    I really think he was trying to _emulate_ what people do when they’re actually debating, except he didn’t have any actual arguments, so he turned it into a meta-debate about debating, and tried to win that debate. That I think is something that would probably be best described by the term ‘cargo cult debating’.

  61. Curt Cameron says

    Well, Eric was definitely an entertaining caller, the kind most of us look forward to. It cracked me up how he was champing at the bit to get on to his second premise, while Matt and Tracie were holding the reins back at the first premise that hadn’t been resolved yet.

    That call highlights, I think, why debate formats are so frustrating. In a debate, Eric would have been given ten or so minutes to establish his argument, and he would have just blasted through all seven of his premises. Then his opponent would be burdened with going back to the first one and explaining why it’s not valid, then maybe the second, then Eric would go again and say a bunch of other unsupported nonsense. The only proper way to have a conversation about this topic is like Matt and Tracie did – DO NOT move on to the next point until the previous point is resolved.

    I did think it was brilliant the way Tracie formulated the objection to “something cannot come from nothing.” She said something like “we’ve only seen examples of ‘something’ coming from ‘something.’ We’ve never had ‘nothing’ to be able to see if something can come from it.” That was perfect phrasing. I prolly would have added that physicists I’ve heard have said that “nothing” is likely unstable.

  62. m6wg4bxw says

    Smith’s “Why Atheism?” was the first book I read about atheism, by an atheist. It was a profound experience for me.

  63. gfunk says

    I wonder if he was going to address the special pleading of “something can’t come from nothing- except God.” Part of me wanted the hosts to bring it up, but it’s probably best they didn’t even let him get past the “nothing” nonsense. Who knows what sort of a gallup he would have taken.

  64. LP says

    I loved when Eric said “not the debates I’m in”. Whew, arrogant much, buddy? Shouldn’t you be the Pope of Protestants by now if you’ve proven your god exists that thoroughly? 🙂

  65. Rafael says

    Erick let clear that religious people dont study their religion, that means, they Dont no what they are talking about!
    Any atheist that likes the subject can debunk any religious argument, and can debate with any Apologetic!

    Hugs from Brazil!

  66. Ribis says

    1) Define the universe as a thing that requires a god-thing.
    2-7) Offer unrelated arguments or extraneous material extending 1).

    QED: God exists.

    I despise “formal” debates, especially the single-session circuses. Unless both parties care more for advancing the discussion than advancing their agendas, such shindigs serve no function beyond a show of resolve. Moreover, if both parties prefer exploration to vindication, they might as well hold a (possibly moderated) round-table discussion instead.

  67. LD says

    I kind of felt bad for Eric during his long pauses / moments of silence.

    You just know watching it that he was experiencing massive cognitive dissonance.

    Well done Matt & Tracie for handling that pompous caller with incredible elegance and intellect!

  68. paul says

    I thought you guys handled it well, Tracie, although I wish he could have gotten a few more of his premises out … I think all you need to say when someone calls and claims that the show is like listening to an adult dispense with the feeble arguments of naive children, is ask him what that says about the arguments that he is about to make on the show!

  69. hp9000 says

    I always wonder, if a god exists and he’s so powerful, why doesn’t he defend his own existence by himself instead of sending these ignoramuses to do the dirty work. And, if he doesn’t care to defend himself because he’s taking a nap or busy answering so many prayers, couldn’t he at least create somebody more skilled than the Erics’ of the world? Talk about a useless god.

  70. Jeff says

    If he had gotten further into his argument, you also could have used the same technique, but with “all minds are attached to physical brains” as the subject, then claim you’ve proven that a non-physical mind cannot exist.

  71. Chris says

    I’m going to go out on a limb here & say within Eric’s own head he won that debate. He’ll probably justify it with Matt & Tracie weren’t conceding obvious simple points & hung up on him from being scared.

    I’d actually like to see a proper polled debate like the one Stephen Fry & Christopher Hitchens did with Anne Widicolme on the catholic church. It would certainly make any victory claim harder for him to justify.

  72. John Kruger says

    Well, if you are going to posit a god as un-created and eternal, we can just assert that the universe could be un-created and eternal. The whole point of the “something cannot come from nothing” bit is to build on a requirement for an origin.

    But heck, why stop the special pleading once you have started?

  73. jacobfromlost says

    At one point it seemed to me that Eric was just going to try to bully the hosts into agreeing with him…and when they still didn’t agree, he was going to repeat the same nonsense more forcefully.

    This reminds me of con men and salespeople skilled in the “hard sell.” One strategy they use is to talk very fast, and get you to agree with things that may or many not connect to what they ultimately want you to do. If they can get you saying “yes”, even if it is to tangentially related questions, the more likely you are to say “yes” to the sale.

    The problem is that Eric didn’t understand that Matt and Tracie have encountered the “hard sell” many times before.

    (Back when telemarketers still called me, I had SOO much fun saying yes to every single question until they got to the sale–and I said no, lol. They would get so upset, lapse into silence, start stuttering, repeat the question again and again as if the answer would be different, sometimes even feign as if I hurt their feelings, etc. Sound familiar?)

  74. gfunk says

    I hate when theist call and rag on the other theists that call into the show. I was glad they put this guy on the spot. It’s not so easy to prove your fantasies, is it?

  75. gfunk says

    His ridiculous and lengthy preamble about a Seinfeld should be a red flag about his debating techniques. He could have saved a few minutes by saying “you think your arguments are better than they are because you are arguing with uneducated theists.”

  76. Jason Goertzen says

    The kind of ‘nothing,’ that Christian apologists have retreated to talking about in order to preserve their cosmological arguments is a nearly meaningless concept–and one that is a long way from what was meant by the term when it was used by their ideological predecessors–Aristotle, or Aquinas, for instance. These philosophical giants would have marveled to know what we currently know about Physics, and would have been the first to abandon significant portions of their work if they did. It’s frustrating to watch Christians trot out 500 to 2500 year old cosmologies as though they are authoritative descriptions of reality.

    The fact is: we don’t know anything about the fundamental nature of the reality–certainly not with enough confidence to use it as a premise in a logical argument.

    We don’t know what exists beyond the Universe–if anything; but the only reality to which we have access is full of stuff, things, *being*–whatever you want to call it. There isn’t nothing–there’s something. When you deprive your cosmology of nonsensical ‘before the Universe,’ language–you’re left with the realization that there has never been ‘a time’ when there was nothing–making the ‘something out of nothing’ argument irrelevant.

    Anyway, this is getting long enough that I might need my own blog at this rate, so I’ll leave it at that 😉 I guess I just needed to get something off of my chest after listening to you guys suffer patiently through that guy’s argument!

  77. Vall says

    I pictured smoke coming out of his ears. It was almost like the “Seinfeld” episode when Kramer was dominating his Karate class.

    Boy, he really, really wanted to move past the first point quick.

  78. Alan says

    Matt forgot to ask the caller to pray to his god for inspiration before making his point.

    Also, even given the statement “You can’t get something from nothing” as true, when someone asserts that a god created the universe shouldn’t the response be something like, OK, you have a theory there, how can you prove it? What method was used to create the universe, and how would it differ from one which came into being without the assistance of a deity?

  79. senectus says

    It did sound very much like the guy wasn’t used to having a discussion where his voice was the only one that mattered (aka a sermon).

    Also I don’t think the guy has really really thought about what “nothing” actually means.

  80. gfunk says

    I’m afraid it wouldn’t be very effective, but I always like to imagine a debate where this happens (a ten minute case built on a false premise), and when the other participant gets their turn, they simply say “I don’t accept your first premise because of X, Y and Z, hence everything else is faulty. Please try starting again,” and then hanging out silently for 9 minutes.

  81. says

    So supposedly the AXP crew is beating up defenceless opponents, but how many hours of religious programming is available in the Austin area in a given week? And that religious programming is completely one sided: this is our mythology, oh by the way it’s like totally true.

  82. Minus says

    BTW, didn’t Kramer end up getting his ass kicked by the kids in that episode?

    (Not sure of the significance of that.)

  83. says

    I may be oversimplifying things here, but even if you were to grant the argument that something can’t come from nothing, it still doesn’t necessarily mean that the something was created by god, or at least the god of the Abrahamic religions. You just can’t make that leap.

    I could easily say that a hyper-advanced alien race created the universe, and while they may be godlike to us because of their advanced technology, it still doesn’t make the case for the god that I think the caller has in mind.

    The point is that if I grant your premise that something has to come from something, and you say it’s god and I say it’s aliens, we’re still just two people making assertions with no evidence to back them up.

    Am I missing something?

  84. waspbloke says

    All the various hosts on the show have there strengths and I for one enjoy seeing any of them get stuck in to callers that bring out their best skills. That said, no disrespect to the other hosts but Tracie and Matt are surely the A-team when it comes to debating these type of well practiced script monkeys. I seriously doubt that it was a coincidence that Eric called in this week. I bet he’s been waiting for weeks for it – he obviously rates himself so highly that he wants to be able to claim to have taken down the great…XYZ.

    I really hope (and am pretty sure that,) Eric is the kind of person who’d have told his usually compliant congregation of suckers for his ‘proof’, of his intention to call in.

    P.S. Moar Josh! Dude did a good job last week.

  85. NoApologetics says

    Tracie: “You’ve never examined nothing so how you make any assessment of it.”

    Eric: “………………”

    And that is what we refer to in the business as dead air.

    Kudos to Tracie for taking that first premise and turning it into nothing.

    Absolutely smashing.

    Best episode ever.

  86. Jeff says

    I suppose it’s ironic, with all Seinfeld talk, that your latest episode ended up being about nothing.

  87. jacobfromlost says

    That’s hilarious. And a very subtle irony, too, as “nothing” became “something” in both cases, making something out of nothing. lol

    And Eric’s first premise dies of fatal poetic justice.

  88. DataCable says

    That was just about exactly my idea for short-circuiting the entire conversation:
    Accept his first premise is true, something can not come from nothing. Immediately respond with “Then where did your god come from?”

  89. atheistthaigirl says

    I’m anxious to hear George’s comments too. He always tells an amusing story. Hopefully he’ll show up at the next B/N Free meeting.

  90. tosspotovich says

    Eric’s first premise relies on argument from intuition/common sense (a subset of argument from ignorance, I suppose). Theists I have met regularly take this tack.

    Intuitive thinking is great for averting immediate danger but it also tells us the earth is flat and solid objects are densely packed, while science reveals that the earth is an oblate spheroid and solid objects are mostly empty space.

    The pie and sauce equation is a good illustration: If a pie and sauce is $1.10 and the pie is $1 more than the sauce, how much is sauce? Many will intuitively (and incorrectly) respond “10c”.

  91. Senectus says

    I still don’t fully understand the reason why, but I’m pretty sure the answer here is .09c ?

  92. Senectus says

    hang on, thats wrong.
    Its $1 MORE, so if the sauce is .10c the pie $1.10?

    F@KT$ .

    This one always catches me. Its going to kill me getting this right, someone please answer it correctly.

  93. Jeff says

    Best episode ever? Isn’t that going a bit far? Do you remember the one with the guy telling Matt to take a mirror mounted on a piece of wood to a local river, get in the state of mind that he would smear feces on himself, then he would see ghosts and could be sucked into another realm through the mirror?

    Honestly, short of the Pope admitting Matt was right and de-converting live on the air, how could The Atheist Experience get any better than THAT episode?

  94. Senectus says

    aha! just figured it out!

    The Sauce is .05c so the pie is $1.05
    The pie is exactly $1.00 MORE than the sauce…

    Now i can get back to work 😛

  95. fred jones says

    The funny thing about these deluded individuals who confidently claim they can prove the existence of usually the Christian god, is they miss the obvious fact that if their claim was actually true they would very quickly become one of the most famous figures in human history and there would no longer be any Atheists.

  96. mike says

    Technically, you’re still wrong, the sauce is $0.05 or 5¢ ; not 5/100 of a cent as you wrote (0.05¢) A bit pedantic, I know, sorry but a pet peeve of mine

  97. Senectus says

    Aww come on… you put no less than 5 commas in that sentence and you’re picking minor semantics like that?!


  98. ah58 says







  99. says

    I think we can go even further than saying we’ve never examined nothing therefore we can’t say anything about it. Since something exists now we can with certainty say one of two things. Either there never was nothing, or something can come from nothing.

  100. says

    Eric’s first premise relies on argument from intuition

    And it’s a poor argument from intuition that compares apples, and oranges. Sure we all know intuitively that an apple for example doesn’t just pop into existence inside an empty jar. But that’s not the kind of nothing we’re talking about here. That would be something coming into existence within already existing space, and time. We’ve never seen nothing, have no idea if nothing is even possible, and certainly can’t draw constitutions based on our experiences with something.

  101. Jeff says

    Sadly, no. Many things, such as round Earth and evolution, have been well-proven. However, there are still hold-outs, as we all know.

  102. Vyapada says

    If a vote was to be taken, a pre-post situation may be advantageous to see a change in opinion (if dishonesty could somehow be removed)…

  103. senectus says

    I wonder if it’s possible that there never was ever a state when there was “nothing”
    That a state of true nothingness is not possible in or universe…

    That would really mess with the God Groupies…

  104. says

    I’ve been thinking about his one a bit and I’m wondering, exactly what is going to prevent something from coming from nothing?

    If we have a situation of pure non-being, presumably the laws of cause and effect are not in operation. “Nothing” can’t be said to follow the law of cause and effect, since that would be attributing a quality to it. Anything that has qualities is not nothing, but something.

    Anyway, this is just an extension of what you’re saying. We can’t really talk about “nothing” at all, since in order to talk about it, we must attribute qualities to it. The moment we do that, we’re no longer talking about “nothing”.

  105. says

    I’ll bet that, if questioned, he’ll just say that they cut him off before he could make his argument, so it doesn’t count. And besides, it just proves that they were scared of debating him. I have no doubt that he’ll chalk this up as a win.

  106. MAtheist says

    That just reminded me of Douglas Adams’ tea and no tea from the Hitchhiker’s Guide game. Where you need to possess both tea and no tea at the same time.

  107. Jackson says

    Yeah, the actual commentary seemed to indicate that while Eric was wrong on the facts, he was better at debating, and so he won on technique. This is why I generally don’t like debate, especially live debate where you have time constraints and have to be able to respond to every point on the spot. That’s not how discourse should work.

  108. tracieh says

    >I wonder if it’s possible that there never was ever a state when there was “nothing”

    If such a state “was”, that would mean it “existed”, and it would then, by definition, be *something*, not *nothing*. Nothing, in the way this caller defined it, cannot ever exist, by definition. He said it was a label for “nonbeing.” So, it could not “be” and still be nothing.

  109. Kazim says


    tea: Taken.
    no tea: Taken.

    > I
    You have:
    no tea
    a thing your aunt gave you that you don’t know what it is

  110. Jackson says

    I think the fundamental gap between Matt and Eric was that Matt was judging his past debates on whether he was right or not, while I think Eric thought it was on some level possible for him to win or lose a debate on the existence of God. Eric put a lot of stock in his own skill at debating, which by all accounts it seems that he has, while Matt put more stock in the fact that he was right. Even if Matt were to do such a bad job at debating that most of the listeners agreed that he lost the debate with Eric, he would still be right, and that’s much more important than whether your skill with rhetoric was such that people thought you “won.” A more useful metric is whether people actually changed their minds by watching the debate, and not whether people felt that you “won.”

  111. tracieh says

    I can’t just say “OK, I agree, let’s move along,” if what he’s said actually is incoherent. I need to *at the very least* understand what he is trying to communicate in order to tentatively grant his premise, even hypothetically, and allow him to proceed. His statement “something cannot come from nothing” is nonsensical, because his use of the term “nothing” is incoherent. You can’t build a valid argument on a nonsense premise. So, why even go on?

  112. tracieh says

    It means that Eric is going to call back and kick our asses and humiliate us in front of everyone. I hope I’m not on that day–I couldn’t bear the shame of it.

  113. tracieh says

    Yeah, I can’t imagine who is more defenseless than the children being indoctrinated in Sunday Schools. Good call.

  114. tracieh says

    >Also, even given the statement “You can’t get something from nothing” as true

    The way the caller was defining “nothing” made that claim incoherent. It wasn’t true or false–it was meaningless.

  115. tracieh says

    >that there has never been ‘a time’ when there was nothing–making the ‘something out of nothing’ argument irrelevant.

    In a nutshell, yes. If this “nothing” existed, then it was something. So, it can’t be. If it could *be*, it would be something, not nothing. If “nothing exists,” it’s automatically become something according to the caller. It was nonsense. And as you say, it makes his statement irrelevant. But I don’t even think he realized it was nonsense. I think he thought it made sense and was a given that anyone should agree to. When I started to grill him about the nature of nothing, he took my questions to be nonsense–but that’s only because the concept was nonsensical. His original statement is what made any followup discussion nonsense. It cannot be talked about sensibly.

  116. tracieh says

    Back when I had more time on my hands, I did this to salespeople as well–but only obnoxious ones.

  117. gfunk says

    And ‘moving along’ is a trick they want you to fall for because even if you refuse to agree but allow the conversation to proceed, I think listeners can lose track of that detail and give more weight to the new argument than it deserves. It’s just the way the mind often works. You have to continue to backtrack and remind them you never agreed with the premise- it’s tedious and confusing for the audience. That’s why I was glad you all stood firm this time.

  118. jacobfromlost says

    When you ask, “Then where did your god come from?” when they say something can’t come from nothing, the responses I’ve gotten are…

    1) God isn’t something (ie, physical).
    2) God isn’t something, he’s spiritual (I guess spiritual isn’t something?).
    3) God always existed/is eternal.
    4) God is outside space and time so doesn’t require a cause, so he didn’t come from anywhere.
    5) God is outside the universe.

    That’s when I toss all of that for EXISTENCE. Do they claim their god EXISTS (no matter in what way–spiritual, physical, energy, outside the universe, etc)?

    If so, then:

    Did god create his own existence? If so, then he did so while not existing. If not, existence in some form is independent of god and “creation” is rather just tinkering with what was already there (whatever that was, it wasn’t created by a god and didn’t need a god to exist).

    Even the second sentence in Genesis says stuff was there before creation other than God, so why do they always make these weird arguments about god being required to create matter, etc? Even the BIBLE says the earth was “without form” and that there were “waters”. But when you look up “without form” (strong’s H8414), all the other references to areas of land indicate it means “wasteland” or “wilderness (of solitary places).” It’s also difficult to see how the first lines of Genesis can be interpreted to mean the earth was not THERE, as it says there were waters on it in the very same sentence, lol.

    And while it says god created the light, separated the light from the darkness, and created the dome to separate the waters above from the waters below…it DOES NOT say he created the waters! Those were already there before creation! (And a reasonable interpretation could say that he didn’t create the EARTH either–that it was already there, just a unformed wasteland/wilderness that god “formed” the way he wanted it.)

  119. NoApologetics says

    I’m prone to hyperbole but I am self-aware of it.

    As much as I enjoy a good whacky-shack moment I prefer watching rational Madame Guillotine come down on the heads of highfalutin Apologists who think they are gonna just waltz on in and own the place. I’m just fascinated watching their lips whimper after they’ve effectively been intellectually decapitated. As if this water-downed Kalam Cosmo(Hmmm… coming up with drink idea) hasn’t already been countered to death on this show. Spend more time figuring out why your premise is not excepted and less time memorizing other person’s(*COUGH WLC COUGH COUGH*)arguments, passing them off as your own and begging folks to just except the premise and fugetaboutit so I can continue being intellectuality dishonest.

  120. says

    This is quite off-topic, really, but I take the meaning of Genesis to be that god formed the earth from some kind of primordial sea, possibly representing chaos and disorder.

    E.g. Genesis 1:9

    And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so.

    This seems to imply that the earth was not only empty, but actually entirely covered by water. This would be consistent with Babylonian myths, which the Hebrews borrowed from heavily, where creation starts with Tiamat, a sea goddess, who is also associated with primordial chaos. The Egyptian creation stories also feature the sea as an origin point.

    Seems to me that the Hebrew creation account is basically a modified version of the same story. Instead of the god originating from the sea, he floats over it, separate. Instead of defeating a monster, he simply commands the sea.
    It seems designed to establish that this really is the biggest, baddest god out there. He doesn’t even need to fight the chaos, he just commands it to become ordered. “Our god’s bigger than your god”, etc.

  121. TommyLee says

    Eric, the caller from AZ, is Eric Lounsbery. I’ve heard him debate Dan Barker a couple times in the InfidelGuy radio show. He is a pastor and rants in debates like a Sunday morning sermon. His voice sounded familiarm when I heard him call in, but I wasn’t certain it was him until he said “You’re gonna go ahead…” He repeats this phrase like it’s his trademarked moto. As much as I would love to hear Matt debate him and blow him out of the water, it was incredibly satisfying to hear the few minutes Matt argued him, call him a “tool” and hang up on him.
    If anyone is interested in hearing him debate Dan Barker, and has a few bucks to spare, go to:

  122. Jdog says

    Do we have a good, standard explanation for Eric of how he was being intellectually dishonest (not that he’s around to explain it to, but for future callers)? I’d suggest it’s similar to asking someone “have you you stopped beating your wife?” (or significant other of choice). Eric effectively refuses to acknowledge that there’s a third option: people who have never beaten their SOs. I suppose that’s because he’s in the “atheists are just in denial” camp.

  123. Vall says

    “listeners can lose track of that detail and give more weight to the new argument than it deserves”

    Exactly right. Those arguments are a house of cards, as Tracie and Matt proved by knocking down the first card over and over. If the very first point is wrong, there is no reason to move on. The other person needs to get past the first point so they can confuse you enough to agree with them.

    I think it is dishonest to make arguments like those, and I wonder what Jesus thinks when he hears them. He must be spinning in his grave.

  124. Edmond says

    Why can’t something come from nothing? We’ve all heard the old aphorism “Nature abhors a vacuum” (and yes, I know it’s not exactly accurate), but who knows how Nature handles “nothing”? The existence of nothingness may cause Nature to spontaneously create a universe! Nature may have been FORCED to create something BECAUSE of nothing!

    There are many speculative alternatives available, rather than just assuming that “something can’t come from nothing”.

  125. jacobfromlost says

    I think this is on topic insofar as we are discussing creating “something” out of “nothing” in a specific mythological context, how the myth is (to my mind) misconstrued, and (after being misconstrued) then tried to be applied to modern understandings/evidence of something vs. nothing.

    “possibly representing chaos and disorder.”

    Very interesting considering the definitions in Strong’s H8414.

    I also wanted to mention an obvious counterargument to what I already said: the first sentence of Genesis says god created the heavens and the earth, which many believers seem to take as an ex nihilo creation. But I don’t think that is what is being describe because 1) every other time “creation” is used in relation to god, he is creating things out of other things that already exists, and 2) there is a description of how god “fashioned” (created) everything after that.

    Also, the “god created the heaven and the earth” seems to be a topic sentence, and the description is HOW he did this; the first sentence, to my mind, isn’t analogous to “god created the fundamental materials/chaos out of which he then fashioned the heavens and the earth.” Moreover, believers often make the argument that god did not create the darkness, and I would agree that the myth indicates this. But the myth also seems to imply that the nothingness/ chaos/ wilderness/ wasteland out of which god created the heavens and the earth (and in so doing, making them “good”) did not originate from god. And I think one would be hard pressed to get a believer to agree that god created ex nihilo chaos, confusion, nothingness, etc, out of which everything existent was fashioned, ordered, and made “good.” That seems anathema to everything I’ve ever heard them say. Although they do seem to want to say that god created existence out of metaphysical nothingness…which doesn’t seem to jibe with the way the myth treats creation, a way that suggests chaos and disorder exists uncreated all on its own, and god comes along to fashion it into ordered things.

    …Although there is, even in the bible, the idea floating around that god creates EVERYTHING, including evil.

    Isaiah 45:7 (King James Version):
    “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.”

    Of course, the apologetic is that “evil” in this passage refers to “natural” evil like adversities, afflictions, wars, etc. But that seems to jibe with “chaos” idea, so maybe if you pressed them on this they WOULD say god created the chaos ex nihilo out of which he then created the order. Who knows? The problem, though, is if you pressed them with “Does god create confusion?” or “Does god create disorder?”, I think they would instantly switch sides and say no.

    So it’s basically as if they said, “Heads we win, tails you lose,” without even understanding what they’ve done.

  126. senectus says

    But neither side can use that argument, as if you have true nothing then you don’t have nature either.

    I reckon those that like to use this something from nothing arthegument have decided that the nothing they speak of is just empty of macro objects space. Their God character had that to work with.

  127. jacobfromlost says

    And if we’re talking about metaphysical “nothing”, we not only have no example of something physically coming from “metaphysical nothing”, we have no example of ANYTHING physically real coming from anything metaphysical (“nothing”, “something”, or in between).

    It’s not as if the Platonic forms were actually demonstrated to be the origin of things, yet it seems to be a kind of tacit assumption in the background of those saying, “Something can’t come from nothing, therefore god.”

  128. Sharon says

    So would this work as a definition of nothing: a state of existence, about which no characteristic can be attributed.

  129. Jackson says

    We don’t have any examples of something coming from nothing, but it’s not like we have any examples of something coming from something either. I’d say we have a complete lack of knowledge about where stuff comes from or whether stuff comes at all. Maybe stuff just is.

  130. says

    Yeah, in the end Kramer got a bit too cocky about his dominance over the class and the kids swarmed on him on an alley 🙂

    I liked how he managed to completely fail on that metaphor as well. The problem with theist debaters is of course that even if you happen to be the very best professional theist debater on the planet, you’re still not very far above the average wannabe theologian who has briefly looked over some Conservapedia type Creationist page for a couple of arguments that you’re going to keep on rehashing no matter how many times they are debunked.

  131. Roberto Aguirre Maturana says

    I’m not following this argument about the untestability of the assertion “something can’t come form nothing”. Isn’t that the same as to defend the untestability of the assertion “we cannot get a non-empty subset from the empty set”?

  132. Jdog says

    The screen door snorts and locks itself. “You’re one of those bloody apologists, aren’t you? Sod off, unless you’ve got that bloke who did that thing with the bread and fish with you!”

    > G

  133. liminus says

    I think the difference is that when we talk about “sets”, we are talking about the conceptual realm of mathematics. The whole nothing/something business is referencing the *real world*, it’s a question of physics.

    The empty set is a real mathematical concept. “Nothing” is not a real physical concept.

    It reminds me of the first premise of WLC’s cosmological argument: “Anything that begins to exist has a cause”

    OK, so give me an example of something that “begins to exist”. It can’t be done, at least not based on any evidence. Anything which is part of the universe (ie everything) has existed in some form or other for the whole time the universe has existed, so the answer ultimately reduces to “the universe began to exist” which is not based on any evidence; it’s a philosophical conceit.

    Similarly with this argument Matt and Tracie rightly asked “OK, so give me an example of nothing” which of course Eric could not do. Both arguments are based on an incoherent, nonsensical first premise.

  134. says

    Good point about changing forms being a question of whether it was even fair of me to indicate something comes from something. It actually would have been better expressed as, ironically, George Smith put it: “Things that do not exist cannot be the cause of other things.”

    Regarding this: “if you have true nothing”

    This becomes a logic problem. You can’t *have true nothing*–as then you’d have *something*. True nothing (as the caller was conceptualizing it) cannot be, or else it’s not.

  135. says

    There are two problems to address. If there *was* that sort of nothing, it would then “be”–and that would be “being” and therefore something. So, how do we even conceptualize “something coming from nothing”–when “nothing” is impossible?

    Regarding the vacuum, the caller rejected that as “nothing.” He didn’t accept physical understandings of “nothing”–and used “nonbeing”–which caused a nonsensical loop.

  136. says

    I don’t believe I accused him of being intellectually dishonest. I said outright in this post he just needs to think it through better–and that was my opinion as well during the call. “Not well thought out” doesn’t mean dishonesty, in my view. However, your comment may have been directed to something someone has said in comments, other than me, and if so, then they need to address their claim of his dishonesty. I think Eric really thinks his ideas are brilliant. I don’t think he thinks he’s being tricky.

  137. says

    Please be a little more explicit. I’m not really sure what you’re saying here. Are you trying to say that the proposition is self-evidently true? Is the use of mathematical language simply a metaphor or is there some other point with it?
    I really don’t get it.

  138. says

    Oh–but people could be talking about the debate methods that have been written up on Eric. I read those, and if they’re accurate, I would have to say they did sound more manipulative than “honest dialog.” If he did really argue as described, I would think he knows exactly what he’s doing and is more intent on scoring points in the debate than getting to the truth of a matter. I would say that’s dishonesty.

  139. says

    Oh, and sorry for the multiple posts, but also he accused Matt–repeatedly of saying things Matt never said. Even after Matt corrected him about three times on the idea that he *wasn’t* saying something can come from nothing, Eric kept insisting that is what Matt was saying. He indicated that he understood the difference between not accepting a claim versus asserting the claim is false. If that’s true, then he was purposely strawmanning Matt, which is dishonest. If he wasn’t purposely strawmanning Matt, then he was not being up front about understanding the difference between not accepting a claim and asserting it’s false–again, just saying he understood things he really was confused about. If he interprets not accepting claims as asserting the opposite (as he acted like he did), then when Matt asked “do you know the difference?” he should have honestly said “No, that sounds like the same thing to me.”

  140. Roberto Aguirre Maturana says

    Are you trying to say that the proposition is self-evidently true?

    I just don’t understand why the proposition regarding empty sets is, I presume, considered self-evidently true, and the proposition regarding nothing is not.

  141. says

    Well, for one thing, we know how sets behave, empty or otherwise, since they’re concept that we define. However, we do not know how “nothing” would behave, since we have no experience of it.
    An empty set is something, not nothing. It has specific qualities and we can reason about it. “Nothing” is different. We don’t know anything about it. In fact, we can’t know anything about it, since if we know something about it, it’s not nothing.

    I don’t think it’s reasonable to equate the two in any manner.

  142. gfunk says

    This seems like a common symptom of people who are comfortable dealing in absolutes. They really can’t click with the concept of reserving judgement as being a real stance. They say they understand it, but they still convert “you don’t believe it’s true” to “you believe it isn’t true.”

    I don’t think it is a conscious dishonesty in most cases, it is just a hard mode of thinking for a lot of people to get into, and even when they seem to agree to it, you’ll often catch them going back to the absolutes after a bit of discussion.

  143. jacobfromlost says

    Tracie: Good point about changing forms being a question of whether it was even fair of me to indicate something comes from something.

    Me: I think it *was* fair because both you and Eric were considering the “stuff” around us as something. I think it was only Eric who tried to obfuscate by pretending we can simply equate (or connect via cause and effect) metaphysical something/nothing with demonstrable somethings/nothings. When Eric started talking about metaphysical nothing, you were right to point out that we can’t examine it…as we also can’t examine metaphysical somethings (ie, god, spirit, etc) from which they also want to claim things can come.

    The weird and ancient idea that metaphysics are eternal and the source from which physical things come also seems to be struggling in Eric’s argument–but, as theists usually do, they just say god is the source of metaphysics also…and then point to how god being the source of metaphysics makes him the source of physics because the source of physics is metaphysics because they say so.

  144. says

    To make that a little clearer (perhaps): to say “something can’t come from nothing” is self-contradictory. You’re attributing a quality to “nothing”, i.e. “is unable to produce something”.
    Any proposition that attributes qualities to nothing, is no loner talking about nothing.
    Ergo, the original proposition is meaningless.

  145. jacobfromlost says

    No, as a state of existence exists by definition, which means it is something. And just because something cannot be said of something doesn’t necessarily mean it doesn’t exist, so calling it “nothing” is unwarranted and unsupportable.

  146. says

    I found Eric’s 7 premises that he uses as evidence to “prove” the existence of God. He used them in his debate with Dan Barker, which I found on the It costs $1.25 to download the file.

    Eric Lounsbery’s 7 premises:
    1. Something cannot come from nothing.
    2. Something exists.
    3. Something must be eternal.
    4. The universe is not eternal.
    5. Whatever is eternal transcends the universe.
    6. Whatever it is that is eternal from premise 3, it also has to be omnipotent. (No effect can be greater than its cause.)
    7. Whatever is eternal is of supreme intelligence.

    Personally, I don’t see how he doesn’t notice that premises 2 and 3 together show that “something” exists and must be eternal, meaning that if these premises are true then we should be able to demonstrate the “conservation of ‘something'”. Whatever “something” is. Of course he established in premise 1 that if there was something called nothing then it is not possible for something to exist. I’m sure there are many other ways to pick apart his premises.

    Also, Lawrence Krauss recently had a discussion with Richard Dawkins where he addressed the theists attempt to move the goal posts on the definition of “nothing”. At 45:51 Richard asks Lawrence about the idea of something from nothing. At 48:35 Lawrence addresses the multiple definitions of nothing. When he says an eternal empty void can create something, and theologians and philosophers say, “That’s not nothing.” He says space itself can be created from nothing, and theologians and philosophers say, “That’s not nothing.” He says that the laws of physics can be created from nothing, and theologians and philosophers say, “That’s not nothing.” He points out that perhaps only theologians and philosophers are experts at nothing.

    Here is the video if you are interested:

  147. terrycollins says

    Babies are just a bunch of pre-existing atoms and molecules reassembled, and not an example of something coming from nothing as the OP was referring to.

  148. liminus says

    I think you’ve answered your own question in your responses below. Either that, or I’ve misunderstood your question.

  149. liminus says

    Or rather, in your response above. I thought my reply would appear immediately after what I was replying to!

  150. Roberto Aguirre Maturana says

    I agree, the empty set is not nothing, it contains nothing. But then again, wouldn’t that make the proposition “something can’t be a subset of the empty set” meaningless, since according to yourself we cannot reason about the contents of the empty set, that is, nothing?

  151. jacobfromlost says

    That’s interesting, but I think he has redefined “omnipotence” to simply mean “all being.” From my reading of the premises, all he has demonstrated is that something is something. If he wants to insert god in there, it seems to me the best this argument does is say that “all being” is god, including me, a rock, and the steaming pile of dog doo in the corner.

    Which seems to me if god is “all being,” then what’s the point of the term “god?” Just to make us confuse it with his idea of god?

  152. jacobfromlost says

    Also, if we’re going to play semantical games with “eternal” outside space-time, we also have a simple counterargument to “the universe is not eternal.”

    If we get to call things outside space-time “eternal”, then we can all things WITHIN space-time eternal also. How long will I be alive and typing this sentence at 12pm pacific time on February 29th, 2012? FOREVER!

  153. Jdog says

    I was referring to right at the end of the call, when Matt said he’d hang up and there would be no debate unless Eric understood how he was being intellectually dishonest. Eric then said he wasn’t being dishonest, so Matt hung up.

    At least, I’m fairly certain that’s how it went. My sound card appears to have suddenly decided to stop working, so I can’t check it now.

  154. says

    We learned everything we needed to know about eric’s debating skills from his comment, “have you ever taken a vote”. He only cares about what sounds good and can convince or befuddle others. He has no desire to learn any facts or new information. he debates just like all the talking heads out there. He will go back and try and figure out a end run around matt and tracies objections. You can see this by how fast he trotted out the Lawrence Krouss video rebuttle. He will crawl back to his cave and cry foul until he or someone else comes up with some kind of a response, then he will be back at it again.

  155. says

    It was meant more of an example of “something from something”.

    Sure, they are just rearrangement of matter, but that wasn’t the assertion. Anything was the assertion.

    So, in this case, either the baby always existed, or we don’t know where they come from, unless of course, we aren’t making a distinction between a particular arrangement pattern versus what it’s made of.

  156. terrycollins says

    That’s not how I interpreted the statement “something from something” in the context of the post. I read it to mean a ‘new’ something from something, not rearranged stuff. Like conjuring up a rabbit out of thin air using a magic wand. But I did misunderstand your reply. My apologies.

  157. John Kruger says

    I think my argument still holds. Keep in mind that “something cannot come from nothing” was a granted premise. It is similar to stating all things need an origin from other things, and as such an uncreated eternal god is excluded from “something”. Perhaps a better 2nd statement would be “God did not come from something”.

    In the end, I expect that Matt and Tracie’s tactic was far better, to deny the premise at the outset, it is much more Gish Gallop proof.

  158. says

    Mathematical nothing is not the same as philosophical nothing. I really don’t think there’s any use in making this mathematical metaphor. “Nothing” can be well-defined in mathematics. That’s not a problem. Just like the word “nothing” can be defined. Because it’s not nothing, it’s a word.
    The problem is not really whether we can reason about our concept of nothing (which we obviously can, though it might be tricky), but whether that reasoning has anything to do with the real world. Just because we can think of something doesn’t mean there’s a real-world correlate of that.

    That’s why we keep coming back to testing. Without testing, it’s all just words. Even if you made a rock-solid proof, it wouldn’t mean a damn thing if it couldn’t be tested in the real world.

  159. says

    I guess we’re running into a kind of “the Dao that can be spoken of is not the true Dao” situation. Sure, you can talk about Nothing. You can define it and reason about it.
    The question is, does this Nothing have anything whatsoever to do with the world we actually live in and how do we find out?

  160. ryanvanek says

    I love how the great debater got derailed on the first premise. No doubt there was a neat little script that follows from premise one leading to the special pleading conclusion: “… but God came from nothing, and he doesn’t have to conform the first premise because he’s God”

    P1: Something cannot come from nothing

    Other premises (to distract you from P1)

    C1: God came from nothing.

    The contradiction is built right into the argument for everyone to see.

  161. gfunk says

    I think you left one middle point out which they hold very important-
    P1: Something cannot come from nothing
    P2: But something does exist
    C1: God is that thing which came from nothing and made everything that now exists.

    And he doesn’t like gays.

    It’s a ridiculous non-sequitur because their could be many gods that all came from that same nothing instantly, or why not just some organisms appeared, but whatever.

  162. Jdog says

    Okay, sound is working again. Matt just said that Eric was being “dishonest” (not “intellectually dishonest”) by trying to put words in his mouth and Eric failed to grasp that.

  163. galaxyman says

    Some quick points, I would like to go into more detail but got to hit the hay.

    He’s got some real problems with his assumptions.

    For instance he says something (I guess he means a deity) is eternal. This also means perfection or infinity.

    This is an issue on many grounds for that would actually mean no god or deity, as this would also mean not an entity. This would actually be counter to the claim of a god, for to infinity there is no single point of reference as in our universe much much less us.

    Also infinity cannot interact with the finite. Infinite also means infinite energy and mass. That would not work well in our finite world.

    It sounds like Eric as with many apologist like to use the Universe and its (maybe) beginning.

    Now the question for Eric is does he believe this deity created the Universe from the “outside” of time and space or from the inside?

    If say from the inside (which I don’t think he would say) then it (the deity) created itself?

    From the outside which under his 3 and 4 points, then he’s got a HUGE problem. In fact I’m sure most deist do believe that “outside” is it.

    Well because of inflation, this so called deity would never know what it created or even know about Earth and of course us.

    One reason is simple, as light and the information it carries will never ever catch up with the expansion of the Universe.

    Our Universe is about 14 billion years old, but because of the expansion the size of the Universe is somewhere in the 75 billion light years range, take a few billion light years or so, meaning light and the info it carries will never catch up or transcend this Universe. This illogical deity from the “outside” would not know anything about our Universe, for the info will never get there.

  164. VanRado says


    I think this forum is limited to four reply tiers within a post. I had this problem the other day with the definitions thread. I suppose it’s supposed to stop tangents and keep everyone on point. Also there’s the practical aspect as each reply within a reply is indented; you would get to a point where each line would consist solely of a character.

  165. indyactivist says

    Eric from AZ says you can go on the internet and see how he trounced George Smith in a debate. Here is what I found:
    I ought to be asleep right now but I couldn’t resist blogging about a debate I attended this evening between a fundamentalist preacher and George Smith, an old friend and the author of Atheism: The Case Against God. George debated born againer Eric Lounsbery of the Family Christian Fellowship. Lounsbery says he has debated “notable atheists” but the people he mentions are not people I know. That is not to say they aren’t notable to some people but not to me.

    Now I thought Lounsbery was incredibly devious. I don’t mean he had good arguments but deceptive arguments and that is not the same thing.

    He started out with a list of assertions. This assertions ranged all across the board when it came to their subject matter. Some were historical, some were biological, some were philosophical, etc. But he had a relatively large number. He said he had only 8 but it was more than that because he then made assertions based on his previous assertions. They accumulated quickly and I would guess he made about 25 such assertions in total.

    Now debates in public might last an hour to two hours at the most. If you throw in enough points it is always impossible to address them all in that period of time. Lounsbery would then point to the points to which he felt no response was given and crow about it. He took that as evidence he won those points since his opponent “didn’t even try to address them.” That is was impossible to do int he allocated time period is ignored. Fundamentalists pick and chose evidence to support conclusions already drawn.

    One problem becomes obviousl. False premises or erroneous assertions can often be done in seconds. But it can take far longer than that to explain why the assertion is wrong. So in any debate the fallacious side can have an advantage, when time is a factor, by simply making a large number of fallacious statements. They can do one false assertion every minute. Now if it took ten minutes to explain the error than the false side can in 20 minutes make assertions which would require 200 minutes in rebuttal.

    In addition there was another issue at play. One doesn’t need to know what they are talking about to make false assertions. One does have to be knowledgeable in a field to repudiate them especially if the errors are subtle or not necessariloy obvious to the layman. So someone with a very shallow knowledge of numerous fields can make assertions in a dozen different specialties. To make a false statement does not require much knowledge. His opponent, if not a specialist in every one of those fields is thus unable to honestly debate those points. He would not be in a position to point out the errors.

    Lounsbery thus had a dishonest advantage there. He could make a false claim about physics to a biologist and the biologist, as a scientist will admit he is not qualified to respond to the assertion. Which doesn’t mean a biologist couldn’t do so. On the other hand a philosopher might be able to pick about the philosophical assertions but a biologist wouldn’t. If you then make assertions across a range of fields you are pretty much guaranteed that no opponent can respond to them all. Once again you use this as proof that your assertions must be true because your opponent did not answer them.

    Now what I would like to see is a series of debates. Let Lounsbery make his claims about biology only with a biologist and stick to that field. One whole debate on just one aspect of the issue. Then a week later he can debate the philosopher. I wonder why that kind of limited debate is never proposed. In this case Lounsbery should know that Smith is a philosophy not a specialist on physics.

    Smith, like most honest academics, is quite happy to say when a field is outside his sphere. That’s integrity. Lounsbery uses such intergrity against his opponents. For instance Smith said that since he was a philosopher he wanted to concentrate ont hat area since that is what he knows about. In his time Lounsbery made a snide remark about how if he were Smith he’d avoid the science too because the science proves him wrong.

    In addition Lounsbery kept referring to his collection of assertions as “evidence”. I think George should have pointed out to him the difference between a string of assertions and actual evidence.

    At various points Lounsbery offered a theory as to why something happens in science. Of course his theory repeatedly pointed to one cause—God. Or in has case onlyt he Christian God, more specifically on the Christian God as believed by fundamentalists.

    So he would say things like “George Smith has to give a explaination for X.” He would then assume that failure to offer an alternative theory proves the God theory. Here is a clear example of how that is wrong.

    Nutter: “Space aliens are flying around the world in space ships and kidnapping people for anal probes.”

    Skeptic: “I see no evidence for that.”

    Nutter: “We saw lights in the sky last night. Now you must explain what those lights were to prove I am wrong.”

    Well the Skeptic does not have to offer an alternative theory. If I am accussed of murder I don’t have to prove that I know who did it. I need only rebut the theory that I did it. A murder may have taken place and I may not know who did it. My lack of an alternative theory of causation is not proof that the Nutters theory is correct. In fact in some cases i don’t even need to rebut. I could be silent or merely point out that the lack of evidence for one theory is not proof for any particular alternative theory.

    And Lounsbery was particularly insistent in demanding alternative theories in fields where he knows his opponent is not a specialist. He didn’t do that when it came to philosophy. In fact he pretty much avoided that field preferring to concentrate on fields where he knew any assertion could not be countered from personal knowledge. So Lounsbery wanted answers on evolution from someone who has no training in that field.

    A couple of things irked me in particular because I thought they were just mean spiritied. Sure he had on his smiley Jesus face for the public but that smile is very thin indeed. The idea is to appear to be a nice guy and keep the fundamentalist bullshit as far off the burner as possible. But he made one point about atheists I though was particularly vicious.

    It is not that atheists are wrong. He thinks they are but that didn’t bother him. He asserted that atheists in fact know that the proof for the fundamentalist Christian God is overwhelming and all around them. Thus he immediately asserts dishonesty on the part of anyone who disagrees with him. I know many atheists who, like myself, had to consider the arguments before becoming an atheist and did not do so lightly. Yet he asserts that I’m lying when I say I was convinced to the contrary. He says the proof is there.

    So I asked him what evidence he has that I dismissed the god concept contrary to what I actually thought to be true and to do so without quoting Bible verses which are not proof. I only realized how dishonest his reply was shortly after. He asked me why I first believed in God. Well 99.99% of people “first” believe in some deity because they were taught it as children. Much the same way they believed in Santa. So I honestly answered that question. He went around the block a bit and then argued that it was clear I never rationally believed in God in the first place so I had not in fact considered the evidence.

    What’s wrong with that? Well, it assumes that if one didn’t consider those arguments when one first encountered the God idea, which is usually in childhood, then one has never considered them. That’s a fallacy but by the time he got around to that claim I was heading to the back of room having asked my question.

    I had a second question for him that I asked which he also found rather uncomfortable. I asked him if he a faithful Catholic, who is a staunch Catholic according to all Catholic teaching is or is not a Christian. Now the fundamentalist assumes that anyone who is not a fundamentalist is not really a Christian. But in a public debate he doesn’t want to tell the audience that he thinks most other Christians are in all practicality just another version of atheists since they believe in false gods. This was a bit difficult for him as a strong Catholic, who is also a friend of mine, had been helping Lounsbery prepare for the debate.

    Lounsbery was stuck and was looking for a way to respond. And he actually seemed to have stalled rather badly. He knew his silence and inability to finish a sentence looked bad and said: “I’m trying to figure out how best to respond.”

    My reply was, “A simply yes or no will do.”

    That’s the problem of course. He really does think that Catholics are not much better than atheists but he’s not keen to lose the support of all the Catholics. He tried to streatch it out with all sorts of qualifiers but when he finished he had basically said that good Catholics are not Christians. So all atheists are dishonest. Catholics are barely better than atheists and maybe worse. He was not particularly found of Mormons either and clearly put them outside the Christian camp.

    One area where opponents of the theocratic fundamentalist go wrong is that allow the fundies to build false coalitions. They form special interest groups on an issue in a united front. So they may fight for censorship with Mormons, Catholics and Orthodox Jews. Merely by asking them to be honest about what they think about their partners can splinter these alliances. Surely my Catholic friend felt a bit less happy when he learned that he is not a Christian after all. Mormons might form an allegiance with a Baptist but would they stay in it if the Bapitst told the public what he honestly thought about Mormons. Merely knowing what the fundamentalist believes about his friends and asking pointed question so he can’t avoid telling the truth splinters this alliance. It’s a tact I recommend strongly.

    At some point I will watch the DVD of the debate and will have more detailed comments. But I can only speak about things I know something about. So no doubt Lounsbery will ignore what I do respond to and point to anything I neglected taking my neglect as proof he was right. But logic is not his strongpoint.

    I’m really late for bed so I won’t proof read this first. If you find typos don’t bitch I’ll try to proof it in the next few days.

    posted by GodlessZone at Saturday, November 12, 2005

  166. Roberto Aguirre Maturana says

    Mathematical nothing is not the same as philosophical nothing.

    That assertion of yours is far from self-evident to me. Can you elaborate on that, please?

  167. says

    It basically comes down to what I wrote below. If it can be thought of, discussed, reasoned about, or considered in any fashion whatsoever, then it’s not nothing.
    Naturally, all concepts are merely representations, but with nothing, it’s not even that, since there’s nothing to represent.

    Maybe I should have stayed away from the mathematics. I’m not a mathematician, by any stretch of the imagination, and I won’t pretend to understand anything about set theory.
    It does seem to me, though, that mathematics deals with defined concepts. A defined concept, by definition, is not nothing.

  168. Roberto Aguirre Maturana says

    It does seem to me, though, that mathematics deals with defined concepts. A defined concept, by definition, is not nothing.

    Great, can you provide the definition for that concept which describes the content of the empty set? according to you, that should be enough to establish that the mathematical nothing, which can be defined, is not the same thing as the philosophical nothing, which can’t. However, I suspect that you won’t be able to provide a definition which cannot apply, with slight modifications, to describe the philosophical nothing as well. Or what is worse, you won’t be able to provide a definition at all. Off course, I’ll be happy to be proved wrong.

    What I think is that the premise “something can’t come out of nothing” is indeed wrong, yet not for the reasons exposed so far, but because it wrongly presupposes a causal or temporal precedence of “nothing” respect to “something”/”everything”, yet “nothing” and “everything” are actually complementary, in the same sense that it’s meaningless to say that the objects contained on the Universal set came out of the Empty set.

    Sorry for my convoluted argument, I don’t think I making myself clear…

  169. says

    can you provide the definition for that concept which describes the content of the empty set?

    No, I can’t. Can you? I didn’t introduce the concept. You provide the definition. If you don’t have one, then you’re not really saying anything.
    If it’s defined, then it’s not nothing. If it’s not defined, then it doesn’t mean anything. That was the very thing I was trying to express and it’s the central problem (to my mind) in trying to reason about “nothing”.
    I realize that I’m going quite hard-core on this point, but I think it matters. Really, you can’t even name it. Just saying “the contents of the empty set”, you’ve already abandoned the true “nothing”.

    Also, I really don’t like the idea of using mathematics as if it says anything about the real world. Unless you can demonstrate the relation, mathematics is just another self-coherent system of thought; one of many. There’s no reason at all to assume that the conclusions derived from mathematical analysis say anything about the real world. The conclusions must be tested before we can trust them.
    Mathematics happen to be useful in a lot of ways, but it’s not a given that it should or that it will, especially when we start moving further away from the reality we’re used to.

    As regards the rest, I’m afraid I don’t really get what you’re saying. It seems to me that you’re drawing a parallel between X creating/causing Y and set Y being derived from set X.
    I’m not sure that’s really valid. It would seem to imply that the cause has to somehow already contain the effect. I’m not sure what that would mean in real-life terms.

  170. says

    7. Whatever is eternal is of supreme intelligence.

    I’m curious how he figures #7.

    I’m willing to buy that the universe had a start or whatever, but the leap from “first mover” to “intelligent being” ususally just that – a leap.

  171. says

    4. The universe is not eternal.

    I’d point out that this cannot be anything other than an argument from ignorance as well. How does he know that? Because the universe is 13.something billion years old?

    How does he know that we’re not in an endless cycle of:
    1) Big bang
    2) Heat Death
    3) Repeat

    This is where proofs by logic fail miserably. You have to make massive assumptions on topics that are not well known (or not known at all), especially on topics that are truly bizarre, like quantum physics and singularities.

    So, in the end, his premises are:

    1) Argument from Ignorance
    2) True!
    3) Argument from Ignorance
    4) Argument from Ignorance
    5) Relies on #4 being true
    6) Equivocation Fallacy
    7. Non Sequitur

  172. gfunk says

    Well, he pitches them as 7 progressive logical absolutes, each building on the former, but since they are neither correct nor sequential significant (which others have dissected in this thread), they really just end up being 7 assertions.

    Calling them simple and common sense is his attempt to prime his listeners into accepting them at face value.

  173. Ray says

    So what? How does his support for some politician have any bearing on the merits of his arguments for atheism? Ad hominem.

  174. Drivebyposter says

    Um Ray…the fact that a guy is supporting a complete kook doesn’t reflect well on that guy. It’s not an ad hominem to point out that he apparently holds a lot of shitty views when talking about how impressed i should be with his argument skills.

  175. says

    I think Eric has premise one backwards when he says “Something cannot come from nothing.”

    Perhaps something should be defined as matter and energy. I’m no physicist, but I believe everything we know of is made of matter and energy. Every “thing” we observe is just a subset of all matter and energy. When we consider the conservation of matter and energy then we find that “something cannot come from something.” Matter and energy don’t create more matter and energy.

    It is already painfully obvious that defining nothing is problematic. But I think if we asked Eric and a physicist a few questions about nothing I think they would answer like this:

    How would you define nothing?
    …no matter? Eric: Yes. Physicist: Yes.
    …no energy? Eric: Yes. Physicist: Yes.
    …no space? Eric: Yes. Physicist: Yes.
    …no time? Eric: Yes. Physicist: Yes.
    …no God? Eric: No. Physicist: Yes.

    I suspect Eric is less capable than your average physicist of believing in or conceptualizing nothing. Since Eric thinks God is eternal then he doesn’t actually believe nothing ever existed.

    As Lawrence Krauss has pointed out, nothing is unstable. When we consider that something (matter and energy) can come from nothing, and that something cannot come from something (conservation of matter and energy), then the first premise should actually be:

    1. Something can only come from nothing.

  176. says

    Beautiful. I think this is a very relevant point. We’ve been so focused on what is meant by “nothing” that we’ve completely ignore what exactly is meant by “something”. As it turns out, that’s just as big a problem as “nothing”.

    I will critique one point you made:

    Since Eric thinks God is eternal then he doesn’t actually believe nothing ever existed.

    I don’t think that’s really a problem. The whole point that Eric was going towards, if i understand him correctly, is this:
    1. something can’t come from nothing
    2. matter has not always existed
    3. therefore, matter must have come from something that isn’t matter, i.e. god (a basic cosmological argument)

    If this is truly his argument, it’s not a problem that he doesn’t believe that there never was nothing. In fact, it follows from the first premise that there never could have been nothing, since if at any point we have nothing, we’ll never have anything ever again.

    There are many problems with this argument, but I don’t think this is one of them.

  177. simontom says

    ‘They’re so simple I believe you’ll agree with every one of them’. HAHAHA

    Couldn’t even get agreement on the first one jackass!

    This episode was TV GOLD! Look at how many posts there are already!

    The funniest part…’You’d better let me finish!’ and ‘As long as you would agree with that’ (dude, you’re missing the point, they’re NOT agreeing with you!).

    I love that Matt won’t let the caller carry on and bully the conversation in the direction he wants it to go.
    Matt: ‘…for the person who’s asserting that something can’t come from nothing, it is their responsibility to prove their case, can you do that.’
    Eric: ‘So can we accept premise 1 and I’ll move to premise 2?’

    What is this, an Abbot and Costello routine?!

  178. simontom says

    I read this article too, and I was most fond of the second question he asked in the Q & A that shows that Christians really have a narrow range of what constitutes a true Christian, but they will band with them nonetheless when it can help their cause.

    I wanted to post a message on the page, but you have to have a blog to do so. I was hoping to encourage him to call the AE show and discuss that debate and how it went.

  179. Eric Lounsbery says

    Tracie, I am looking forward to that day 🙂

    But first let me say, Wow! I just ran across these responses and did not know I had set so many atheist hearts a flutter! Now that you all (the atheist community here) have had time to ponder the first premise maybe you could just simply post your evidence of “something coming from nothing” and this whole “debate” would be over. In the mean time I did want to paste a portion of the atheist’s response to my debate with George Smith that comes from one of the links above, so that your listeners knew I was telling the truth (cuz most will probably not go to the link and this will save them the effort.),…. so here it is:

    “David’s speech was the highlight of the show, but not the first element of the Freedom Summit. Indeed, on Friday evening there was a debate sponsored by the Summit between George Smith and Eric Lounsbery. The debate considered the topic, “Is it Reasonable to Believe in God?”

    Mr. Lounsbery took the affirmative, and presented a great deal of compelling evidence. George Smith took the negative and failed, utterly, to confront the evidence or even to comment in many cases on the claims made by Lounsbery. As such, it was extremely disappointing as a debate. For speaking style, arguments claimed and uncontested, and effective rebuttal, the debate was won by Lounsbery. However, in subsequent discussions with scientists and others who attended the Summit but missed Friday evening’s debate, it seems that quite a bit of compelling evidence against Lounsbery’s positions is available. Thus, the experience of watching an atheist get trounced in a debate over the reasonableness of a belief in God was unsatisfying. Smith seemed unwilling to debate, and preferred to approach the question from a philosophical viewpoint rather than speak with a technical debater’s strategy to win the actual debate itself.”

    Matt and Tracie, I look forward to visiting with you again relating to these and other God “issues”. Hopefully Tracie will hide the hang-up button next time so I can make my case. 🙂

  180. Eric Lounsbery says

    One other comment before I catch some shut-eye: I never imagined that the time would come when the atheist community, that supposedly prides itself on “evidence”, would get their feathers so ruffled over the statement that “Something cannot come from nothing”! Even George Smith in his classic work, ATHEISM, THE CASE AGAINST GOD, derides those who would believe the contrary. It seems the atheists here have chosen by “blind faith”, completely contrary to the evidence, to believe that something can apparently pop into existence from nothing! And this is reasonable???

  181. says

    Oh my fucking, sadomasochistic Jesus. Another one who doesn’t understand that the rejection of a claim is not the same as accepting the counter-claim.

    Here’s an idea, why don’t you go back an listen to this episode again and actually listen this time!

  182. Hairy Chris, blah blah blah etc says

    A couple of things that you need to think about….
    1) Tracie’s point about a metaphysical “nothing” – you need to be able to define it in a way that is coherent for your first premiss to make any sense.
    2) Have you worked out why you got hung up on yet? Hint: you are making a premiss in a logical argument, you need to support it, however you were mis-characterizing Matt’s refusal to accept that you had supported #1 with an affirmation of the opposite. This is why your honesty in debate was called into question & plug pulled.
    Before your argument gets anywhere you’re going to need to think very carefully about your definitions as many theistic arguments are one big category error because the groundwork hasn’t been done.

  183. Hairy Chris, blah blah blah etc says

    Oh, and WRT the George H Smith book. Yeah, it’s a pretty good place to start but cosmology has moved a long way since he wrote it over 30 years ago. It sometimes makes me wonder what use philosophy is on this level because it’s the theoretical physicists and cosmologists who have the tools to answer these questions, not philosophers per se.

  184. Hairy Chris, blah blah blah etc says

    From the review that you posted, Eric:

    However, in subsequent discussions with scientists and others who attended the Summit but missed Friday evening’s debate, it seems that quite a bit of compelling evidence against Lounsbery’s positions is available.

    Hahahaha, OK, so you’re a better at debate technique then George H Smith, but the substance of your arguments is questionable. Nice, seeing that it’s the substance that’s actually important. Debates in and of themselves do not prove anything at all other then the skill of the presentors at public speaking.

  185. Jdog says

    TAE has used the ‘coin flip’ analogy here before, Eric. A coin is flipped and the result is hidden from view. I state that “the coin came up heads”. Do you believe this statement? If not, does that mean you believe that the coin came up tails? Of course not.

    Another problem is that your premise of “something cannot come from nothing” is unsound. It is an unreal statement, because there is no “nothing” in reality. It’s not even relevant to the rest of your argument; you could leave it out and cut it down to 6 steps.

    However, your other 6 arguments don’t fare much better. If you look through the thread, you can see where they’ve already been picked apart.

    Ultimately, your “proof” of God is just a version of the cosmological argument. We encounter it frequently; it’s not new and it’s demonstrably false.

  186. Eric Lounsbery says

    First, in response to LykeX’s first reply: Let me just say, Wow, what a mature response! You embarrass yourself and your fellow atheists by such a childish rant.

    Secondly, Simontom,….I could tell you how the debate went but rather than do that I included an atheist’s review in an above post. You can also read comments about the debate going bad for your side by visiting The Lippard Blog. I believe Jim Lippard is the past president of Internet Infidels.

    Here is part of what Jim wrote in his blog for that day:
    “By contrast, the Freedom Summit did not begin with a prayer but with a debate on the existence of God between atheist George Smith and Mesa pastor Eric Lounsbery. I did not attend the debate, which took place on Friday night, as I feared it would not go as an Internet Infidels-sponsored debate would go. From what I heard, it was as bad as I feared, with Smith unprepared to address Lounsbery’s shotgunned series of arguments. (In a debate format, dropping the opponent’s arguments is a way to lose.) The public debate format is not a great format for seriously addressing any intellectual issue (written materials are essential for any real depth), but it can be done well if the participants are properly prepared and skilled and experienced at working in the debate format.”

    And just so you know, prior to the debate the atheist organizers called me and told me that they would have a scientist joining George during the debate in case it was necessary to draw on his knowledge for issues relating to science. They said I could also have a scientist join me if I chose, but I told them that it would not be necessary. They did this because one of the main organizers of my debate with George had attended my previous debate with the head of AZ American Atheist org. In write-ups after that debate the atheists posted that they had suffered “a blood-bath”

  187. Jdog says

    Um, Eric, you do realize that the review saying you were “shotgunning arguments” isn’t a good thing, right? It means you’re attempting a dishonest debate tactic wherein you make so many bad arguments that your opponent cannot refute them all in the time alloted; you then claim “victory” because some of your arguments went unanswered.

    If your opponent falls for it, they then spend all their time refuting some of your bunk arguments instead of making any points of their own. George Smith actually took the correct response: he refused to allow your attempt to control the debate and made his own points.

  188. Eric Lounsbery says

    Jdog, a few quick points:

    1. Shotgunning is not necessarily a negative thing. It is, only if your arguments are weak, for example, Eddie Tabash consistently uses this technique in his opening statements firing off what I believe are very weak arguments. However, if you have a significant amount of very good evidence and a very short time to present it, the opposing side often feels they got hit with a shotgun blast. And it is certainly presumptuous of you to assume (as it appears you did) that my arguments were “bad arguments”, when on the contrary they were very strong arguments. And finally, I NEVER claimed “victory”. The atheists who discussed the debate claimed defeat! I have simply reported their opinions.

    2. It was not that George didn’t have time to refute all my evidence, instead, to the best of my recollection he did not refute any of the evidence I presented. Of course I could be wrong about that since it has been years since the debate took place. He may have at least attempted to refute one or two of the points. One thing I can say about George Smith is that he truly was a very kind and respectful man. It was a pleasure to meet him.

  189. Eric Lounsbery says

    Ok my atheists amigos this is really getting hilarious. Here is what George apparently posted about our debate, with my comments following it:

    “I debated the guy at a Liberty Summit Conference in Phoenix 6 or 7 years ago. I don’t recall his last name, but it begins with an “L.” A DVD was made of the debate. I have a copy somewhere, but it is probably buried in a box. If I run across it, I will give you the details.

    From what I had heard of Eric — he is one those fundy pastors (an avid creationist and a young Earth advocate) who goes around challengng atheists to debates — I didn’t trust him. I therefore had several email exchanges with him so we could narrow down the topic. We agreed to focus on Creationist arguments.

    Eric went first. He did a power point presentaton, and contrary to our agreement, he quickly ran through a list of bullet points — over 50 in all — that included claims about Old Testament prophecies of the messiah to supposed witnesses of the Resurrection to, well, you name it. I stopped taking notes at around point 20.

    When it became my turn to speak, I said that Eric argued for absolutely nothing. All he did was make a string of assertions — a “laundry list,” as I called it — because he knew that I couldn’t possibly cover everything, even if I wanted to. The whole thing was a Micky Mouse debating tactic, so I would stick to addressing the issue we had agreed upon. And that’s what I did.

    By his standards he won the debate, since I ignored almost everything he said in his initial presentation. Homey don’t play that game. 😎


    Here is my response:

    1. I am not a young earth creationist. The EVIDENCE points to the earth being 13.7 billion years old and I have no problem with that because the evidence is very strong.

    2. I did not “challenge” George to this debate. His good friend who is a criminal defense attorney who heads up the National Freedom Summit approached me about debating George at the convention and I agreed.

    3. I know of NO EMAILS ever being exchanged where we agreed to focus on creationist arguments. If George has any in his archives, I would love to see them. I don’t believe they exist.

    4. George stated that I debated in a way contrary to our agreement. Really? If George has by chance saved any of these email “agreements” I give him my permission to post them here. I will apologize openly and sincerely if I violated any agreement.

    5. In my opening I presented 11 arguments that supported my case.

    6. Regarding the idea of simply making “assertions”, whenever I prepare for a debate I write the claim (premise) and then give a list of supporting evidence. I never simply offer an assertion with no evidence to support it.

    7. He said that by my standard I won the debate, again, I never claimed victory. The atheists claimed defeat!

    Having a different recollection of the debate does not change my opinion of George Smith. I have very high regard for his kindness, his intellect and his sincerity. I simply assume that since the debate was so long ago that much has been forgotten on both of our parts.

  190. Jdog says

    Eric, shotgunning arguments is always a bad thing if the opponent does not have enough time to respond to all of them. It’s equally presumptious of you to assume that your arguments are good arguments, perhaps even moreso because your primary tactic is “running out the clock”.

    If you make your arguments one at a time and allow enough time for your opponent to properly refute them (such as when you called the show), you’d be in for a shock at how poor your arguments really are.

  191. Eric Lounsbery says

    Just a quick note about point one. I wrote the evidence indicates the “earth” is 13.7 billion yrs old. I meant to write the “Universe”. The evidence apparently shows the earth to be approximately 4.5 billion years old. And again I have no argument against that. Sorry for the typo. 🙂

  192. says

    First, in response to LykeX’s first reply: Let me just say, Wow, what a mature response! You embarrass yourself and your fellow atheists by such a childish rant.

    You thought that was a rant? My, you have been living a sheltered life, haven’t you. Besides, your attempt to make this about personalities, rather than arguments, is noted.

    Now, since you completely ignored the point, do you or do you not understand that there is a difference between rejecting a claim and accepting the contrary claim?

    Until you answer that, there’s nothing else to discuss.

  193. says

    By the way, nobody gives a flying fuck about your irrelevant debate with George Whothefuck. If you want to have a discussion with him about it, go look him up.

    Here, we were discussing your unsupported assertions and your apparently deliberate attempt to strawman Matt into defending a position that he had repeatedly told you he did not hold.

    Yeah, that. Guess it slipped your mind, seeing as you’ve studiously ignored all the comments referring to this point.

  194. Eric Lounsbery says

    Jdog, I did make my argument one point at a time and no one even attempted to refute it, the only attempt was to debate the meaning of “nothing”. When asked to define “nothing”, I did. Still no refutation of the point was given by either Tracie or Matt. So fulfilling your request….the point was SOMETHING CANNOT COME FROM NOTHING. I invite anyone here to list the evidence that the premise is wrong. Please number each piece of evidence so I can respond to it. No shotgunning here. Just one point to refute.


    I look forward to your refutations. 🙂

  195. says

    So fulfilling your request….the point was SOMETHING CANNOT COME FROM NOTHING. I invite anyone here to list the evidence that the premise is wrong.

    Have you heard of this thing called the burden of proof? Surely you have. It’s your premise. It’s not up to us to prove the premise wrong. It’s up to you to prove it right.
    So, provide your evidence that something can’t come from nothing. If you can’t do so, we’re free to reject the premise with no further justification.

  196. Jdog says

    Eric, your premise refutes itself.

    “Something cannot come from nothing” is a nonsensical statement, given your definition of nothing. It’s akin to making a statement about an attribute of leprechauns (such as “all leprechauns like to drink beer” or “leprechauns create rainbows”); to the best of our knowledge, there are no leprechauns, so any such statement makes no sense.

    Unless you can demonstrate that your definition of nothing actually exists, you cannot possibly make any true statement about its attributes. But, since your definition of nothing is “non-existence”, your argument is self-refuting.


  197. Jdog says

    Oh, whoops. You wanted that in numbered lines.

    1. A thing must exist in order to make true statements about its attributes.

    2. Your definition of nothing includes “non-existence”.

    3. Therefore, _any_ statement of nothing’s attributes is untrue, including the statements “something cannot come from nothing” and “something can come from nothing”.

  198. says

    We’ve actually already been over that argument earlier in the thread (not quite phrased that way, but the same basic point).
    Of course, I’m sure Eric is way too busy fellating himself over his past debate victories to bother with reading the preceding 200 comments where people have been discussing his argument.

    Btw, Eric. We’re still waiting for an answer on that infamous question: do you or do you not understand that there is a difference between rejecting a claim and accepting the contrary claim?

    I will, if necessary, post this question as a reply to every single post you make here, until you answer it.

  199. Jdog says

    LykeX, please butt out of this particular discussion if you’re just going to repeat the same invective-laden question. Eric’s already made it quite clear that he doesn’t understand that denying a statement does not automatically mean you affirm its opposite. You are correct that he does have the burden of proof; however, I doubt he understands that either.

    His premise was quite simple to refute and I’d like to see him attempt to defend it. I’m expecting a highly-ironic conflating of terms will be involved.

  200. The Amazing Rando says

    Interesting bunch of quotes you got there. I like reading over your material, now if only you could provide us with a link to verify that these quotes did indeed come from an atheist. Or are you lying about this too? You do realize your breaking the ninth commandment by lying to us, you wouldn’t want to go to hell just to win an argument would you?

  201. Eric Lounsbery says

    jdog, my premise is simply another way of saying that no effect occurs without a sufficient cause. What is amazing is that so many here and on the program seem to want to argue semantics over a premise that is the BASIS of ALL science!!! Honestly, does anyone here want to argue that? If so let them forever be silent in regard to condemning those who live by a blind faith! For in doing so they condemn themselves.

  202. Question Everything says

    Eric Lounsbery says: jdog, my premise is simply another way of saying that no effect occurs without a sufficient cause.

    Then your premise is demonstrably false. We know about virtual particles, and nuclear decay. In other words, uncaused effects.

  203. Jdog says

    You might consider taking a refresher course on science, Eric. The basis of science is the scientific method, which is the formulation and testing of falsifiable predictions to discover facts about observed phenomena.

    Your premise was most definitely “something cannot come from nothing” and I do not appreciate your attempt to move the goalposts. You were quite particular on the show to both define “nothing” (which is not mentioned in your new argument) and to repeatedly try and misrepresent the hosts’ rejection of your premise as belief in the opposite. Causeless effects are not the same thing as existence originating from non-existence.

    Now that it’s been explained to you why you must demonstrate that your concepts (such as nothing, leprechauns, or God) exist in reality _before_ you try to make truth statements about them, you are free to make “no effect occurs without a sufficient cause” your next argument if you wish (however, as QE mentioned, it’s incorrect, so I don’t recommend it), but I’d like you to acknowledge that your original premise was false.

  204. says


    >Even George Smith in his classic work, ATHEISM, THE CASE AGAINST GOD, derides those who would believe the contrary.

    I’m actually currently reading this book. And now I’m interested to see where Smith addresses this, because I’ve read “Why Atheism?” and Smith offers a very different construct, which I hope you are not confusing with your own statement.

    Smith offered, in “Why Atheism?”: “Things that do not exist cannot be the cause of other things.” This statement I would agree to. But this is *not* to be confused with your statement, “something cannot come from nothing,” which does not carry the same meaning, and, in fact, carries no meaning. But again, I’m still reading “Case Against God,” and Smith may get into “something cannot come from nothing,” but if so, he’d be moving toward sloppy language and incoherent meaning.

    When you use the term “nothing”—what *is* that? I can’t even ask the question, as the question itself is nonsensical. Nothing can’t *be* anything—or else it would be *something*, rather than nothing. And if it’s not anything—then what do you mean by it? You said on the phone you meant “nonbeing.” In the abstract—without a context—what *is* nonbeing? I have no idea what “nonbeing” is within an undefined framework.

    Now, given a context, we can have nonbeing. If I am asserting there *is* an apple in a bowl, and you see there clearly is not, then it’s fair to say “there is nothing in that bowl”—meaning “there is no apple existing in that space.” This is sloppy shorthand, but can be understood to mean “the apple [in question] does not exist.”

    But when you assert a claim about “nothing” outside of a framework with defined “somethings”—that is incoherent. What is absent in this “nothing” you speak of—which “somethings” are missing? If you mean “all of them,” then I’m truly baffled, because at that point, we’d have a “something.” You’d be describing a situation with no space, no time, no matter, no energy…and that is *something*. It has attributes that we’ve just defined and described–it would be identifiable, in that case, and that’s “something.” And if such a thing could *be*—it certainly would not be “nonbeing,” but “being” at that point, by definition. In the end, you’ve defined a state that, if it was, would then not be. That’s the madness in your statement that George Smith avoids when he simply claims “things that do not exist cannot be the cause of other things.”

    But when you assert “something cannot come from nothing,” you’ve just asserted that nothing is something, and you now must explain how that can be possible—which leads down the rabbit hole that the nothing cannot *be* anything or else it isn’t.

    >jdog, my premise is simply another way of saying that no effect occurs without a sufficient cause.

    Jdog addressed this new premise, and I’ll let him and you carry on with it—but please be aware that this is *not* the premise you put forward on the program. You claimed “something cannot come from nothing.” Do you really not see how that statement is not the same as what you just said here to jdog?

  205. Eric Lounsbery says

    ARE YOU SERIOUS????? This very type of ad hoc reasoning that will lead to your own heart condemning you before God! You act like you’re in an ivory tower pouring out your condemnation and judgment upon what I stated yet, consider the utter absurdity of your position:

    1. You claim you would like for me to state that my first premise is wrong. Yet the simplicity and truth of it is the BASIS of all science! You say “Causeless effects are not the same thing as existence originating from non-existence.” I agree, but the principle is the same. And even if you disagree the point is, you are clearly arguing that existence CAN come for non-existence! Or that something can come from nothing. Then like the hosts of TAE you argue “Eric you must show that your concept of nothing exists in reality!!” Such an argument is so non-sensical that I can’t believe so many who listened were surprised at my silence! What would you expect when such an outrageous request is made??? How would someone show that nothing exists? After all, even YOU refer to nothing as “non-existence”! So for someone ask me to show that non-existence exists in reality is a logical contradiction and an absurdity.

    2. What do you propose exists outside of the Universe? Science seems to propose two theories 1. Other universes 2. NOTHING! Hmmmmm….But the problem with #2 is that EVERYONE in their heart and mind knows that something (our universe) cannot come from nothing(non-existence), so….theory 1 is proposed.

    3. How about you (and your noble leader Matt) state what your position is relating to the origin of the Universe? Did it come from nothing? And if so, what is the “nothing” it came from? You define your nothing.

    I look forward to your response.

  206. Eric Lounsbery says

    “Jdog says:
    March 10, 2012 at 9:49 am

    You might consider taking the a refresher course on science, Eric. The basis of science is the scientific method, which is the formulation and testing of falsifiable predictions to discover facts about observed phenomena.”

    Jdog you might also consider the same course. Is there ANY law that is more of a foundation for scientific conclusions than the Law of Cause and Effect? If my first premise is wrong, then how do you obtain these so-called “facts” observed? After all, in your worldview most observations could be called into question because if an effect does not need a cause, or if something can come from nothing, or if existence can come from non-existence, then who is to say that the observed heat given off from an experiment didn’t just “pop into existence” without a cause? from nothing, or non-existence? If my premise is not true then you would have no certainty about most if not all of science’s conclusions.

  207. Jdog says

    We’re just talking about your first premise right now, Eric. Your second and third questions deal with later premises in your argument for God, but there are significant problems with the very first one!

    Cause and effect are not the basis of science. You may wish to consult a dictionary or encyclopedia. The basis of science is the scientific method. Cause and effect don’t enter into it, except as potential hypotheses that could be revealed as likely to be true or likely to be false via the scientific method.

    Your definition of “nothing” is what is logically absurd and I’d like you to acknowledge that. I asked you to demonstrate the existence of non-existence in the hope of driving home that idea. You cannot use nothing to make a true statement, because true statements must be about things that are real. I am not asserting “something can come from nothing”; that is just as logically absurd as asserting “something cannot come from nothing”.

    As for your mention of me acting like I’m in an ivory tower, have you considered that it may seem like that to you because your position is incorrect? You’ve demonstrated that you don’t understand science, that you don’t understand the burden of proof, and that you can’t even fathom the idea that it’s logically possible to reject both a claim and its opposite (often for the same reason).

  208. Jdog says

    Eric, there is no absolute certainty about any of science’s conclusions. New evidence could always come along that redefines what was previously accepted as most likely to be true. I don’t remember the circumstances, but someone won a Nobel prize rather recently for doing so.

    It’s “causality” – not the “‘law’ of cause and effect” – and we’ve discovered that it doesn’t apply in all cases. The scientific method can be used to determine that a given event does not have a cause, such as with radioactive decay. However, most events do have causes.

  209. LawnBoy says

    Both Matt and Eric agreed that WLC is afraid to debate Matt. Is there publicly-available evidence of this cowardice?

  210. says

    DataCable, that is a well known line Theists are fond of treading. John Lennox addresses it often. Their position is that their God was not created, nor did it “come from” anything. We are told he is an eternal, personal being that exists outside of time and space, and so, is not bound by the rules of normal logic. It’s a particularly overt form of special pleading.

  211. Marcia Everett says

    Is this the episode where a christian gives 8 points for the existence of god? and the eighth one is divided into 3 parts? I was hoping someone would write down the 8 points. I’m going to try and hear this show again.

  212. Luna says

    Definitely one of the best calls ever on TAE.

    Seeing Matt and Tracie utterly demolish this clown had me laughing on end.

  213. Ben says

    Just here to state two examples of nothing. I can’t think of an absolute tangible nothing but…
    Example 1. Black is an absence of light, meaning there is nothing in terms of color. Black is nothing.
    Example 2. Silence is the absence of sound. There is nothing in regards to noise or sound. Silence is also nothing.

  214. says

    The fact that some particular thing is absent isn’t what’s meant by nothing. You might as propose non-giraffeness; there’s nothing in terms of giraffes.

    Nothing is the absence of all things, not just some small sub-category. This is important for the essential argument, since it can be easily demonstrated that, e.g. sounds can arise from an initial situation of silence.

  215. says

    Why would you post a link to that video when you could’ve posted a link to one of several videos of his talking about atheism?

    George H. Smith’s book Atheism: the case against god, moved me more than any other book on the subject. Its attack is based not on interpretation of sacred texts or cultural influence of religion, which can always leave the believer with wiggle-room, but on logic. Let the theist propose his theory of God. Evaluate each line of argument posited by the theist. Smith identifies the flaws, inconsistencies, and unclear definitions in the theist’s arguments.

  216. says

    Everyone here is so focused on how nonsensical the concept of “nothing” is.
    I believe that’s exactly where the theists want us (even though Eric didn’t realize he could’ve proceeded with his argument once Tracie and Matt recognized that to discuss “nothing” made no sense),
    so that they can start with rhetorical premise 1,
    “Can something come from nothing?”
    Um…I guess not.

    Of course you can’t prove that, since we’ve never observed nothing.
    It’s a nonsense question, like “What’s the difference between a duck?”
    Matt and Tracie would rightly say, “That question doesn’t make sense.”

    Then Eric could’ve said, “In the same way that talking about ‘nothing’ doesn’t make any sense,
    your world-view doesn’t make sense.”

    Since Eric was reading from his script, he wasn’t able to handle Matt’s, “No, I don’t accept premise 1.”
    However, I think Eric could’ve continued without the acceptance of premise 1, if he simply rephrased the premise. Maybe, “Either every thing has a cause; or some things do not have a cause.”

    I think Matt would have to agree to that. Then Eric could’ve moved on to wherever he was going.

  217. says

    Then Eric could’ve said, “In the same way that talking about ‘nothing’ doesn’t make any sense,
    your world-view doesn’t make sense.”

    In which case Matt and Tracie would have said, rightly, “that’s a load of bullshit” or more diplomatically, “explain why.”

    “Either every thing has a cause; or some things do not have a cause.”
    I think Matt would have to agree to that. Then Eric could’ve moved on to wherever he was going.

    In which case, they could have replied: “So, your god, does he have a cause or not?

    No matter how you look at it, the point to take away from cosmological arguments is that there’s something about causality we don’t understand. Either we accept that the normal forward-flowing chain of cause and effect is not all there is to it, or we accept an infinite regress.

    God doesn’t get you out of that bind. If god doesn’t have a cause, then either he existed forever (infinite regress again) or he came into existence by some non-causal means (violating normal causality). If god does have a cause, then you haven’t explained anything, you’ve just moved the chain back another step.

    Appealing to god’s mysterious, supernatural nature (such as the “ground of being” nonsense) obviously isn’t serious either, since it’s basically just an admission that you don’t have an explanation after all. It’s tantamount to saying “it’s magic”.

    The central problem with cosmological arguments is that they don’t actually solve the problems they point to. They highlight an issue, assert that god is the answer and then hope that nobody points out that they haven’t actually explained a damn thing.

  218. ELordy says

    Either there is a part of one’s existence which survives death or there is such a thing as nonbeing. It’s my contention that Eric’s ‘first premise’ was in fact a misdirection designed to get Matt and Tracie to examine and refute the concept of nonbeing. Having done so, there own words could be used against them when later examining whether or not consciousness is finite in nature (it isn’t).