An Argument Against Creation Ex Nihilo

Discuss philosophical questions regarding theism (and atheism), and discuss religion as it relates to philosophy. This includes any philosophical discussions that happen to be about god, gods, or a 'higher power' or the belief of them. This also generally includes philosophical topics about organized or ritualistic mysticism or about organized, common or ritualistic beliefs in the existence of supernatural phenomenon.
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Abbe Regal
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An Argument Against Creation Ex Nihilo

Post by Abbe Regal » December 18th, 2017, 4:42 pm

An argument against creation ex nihilo occured to me earlier today and I would like some input on it. I would also wonder whether this argument has been posed before (as I imagine it must have been), and by whom, and what did they say about it? Hopefully, it will be clear and readily understood, but if not then perhaps some of you can help me clarify or reword the argument as necessary.

According to the theory of Creation ex nihilo, before anything at all existed there was only God and nothing else. Since nothing else existed whatsoever then we can conclude that the possibility for the existence of the world did not exist either. Therefore, before God could create the world he had to create the possibility for the world existing. But the possibility for the possibility of the world existing did not exist yet. Therefore, God first had to create the possibility for the possibility of the world existing. But the possibility for the possibility for the possibility of the world existing did not exist yet, and so on ad infinitum.

Now if one counters that the possibility for the existence of the world existed in God, then that would imply that God created the world out of himself which is no longer creation ex nihilo, but is actually much closer to the point of view of eastern non-dualist philosophy which says that the world and God are not essentially different. If the possibility exists apart from God and does not require him to create it then that possibility constitutes a kind of "prima materia" coeternal with God from which God creates the world, which is also not creation ex nihilo.

If one claims that the possibility of something existing is not really "something" in itself (i.e. a possibilty is not a thing), and therefore did not need to be created, I would counter that it is also not "nothing", and if prior to God's creation of the world there was truly nothing it follows that possibilities did not yet exist either.

I'll leave it there, and see what we can come up with together.

Gertie
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Re: An Argument Against Creation Ex Nihilo

Post by Gertie » December 18th, 2017, 6:08 pm

Welcome Abbe :)

Sorry to be a damp squib in response to your first post, but my opinion is that any attempt at creating an argument which applies to the situation before our universe came to exist is futile. I simply don't think our philosophy/reasoning is an appropriate tool to examine such questions (in fact I doubt we'll ever have such a tool, but perhaps science will come up with a way to get a handle on such seemingly intractable questions).

We are creatures of this universe, and limited by that, by the way we evolved to perceive and think. So for example conceptualising the state of reality 'before' time began, as we experience and conceive of it, is absurd to us. Likewise applying the laws of logic which we've formulated in response to experiencing this universe, to a state of affairs beyond this universe, strikes me as similarly pointless. Even positing a god/creative force, is rooted in our understanding of how things work within this universe.

So I believe we're left with simply saying we don't know. Unless you believe in some sort of revelation from beyond our universe - and the history of divine revelation/intuition is inconsistent, and imo more easily explained by human psychology.

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Greta
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Re: An Argument Against Creation Ex Nihilo

Post by Greta » December 18th, 2017, 7:33 pm

My problem with creation from absolutely nothing is that all evidence points against it. The universe did not come from nothing. Rather, it - or a portion of it - changed state. It's generally thought that the quantum foam preceded and spawned the BB. The quantum foam is as close to nothingness, completely empty space and quantum mechanics allows. How empty is it? Not at all. Rather, "empty" space is replete with tiny momentary fluctuations, referred to as "virtual particles". They are "virtual" in reference to their brevity - immediately popping in and out of existence. It is hypothesised that one of these perturbations in the quantum chaos popped into existence but did not pop out again.

Maybe. As Gertie noted, humans answering such questions may yet be akin to teaching a caterpillar to play tenor saxophone.

Then again, what if God is the quantum foam? The quantum foam is theoretically eternal, omnipresent and infinitely creative; all possibilities can spring from it. What of intelligence? Only in potential. Then again, if universes appear and die serially, and something like the Omega Point is true, then perhaps life from the prior universe may have kept solving the problems of survival to even survive the heat death of their universe! In that case, such an advanced form might tweak or infuse the quantum foam to shape the kind of big bang that occurs, ie. God. :)

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Re: An Argument Against Creation Ex Nihilo

Post by Abbe Regal » December 19th, 2017, 3:31 pm

Thanks Gertie, and squids are supposed to be damp, so I'm glad you atleast meet that minimal standard of squidliness. Firstly, I'll say that you don't have to take the issue of creation ex nihilo as a chronological or empirical issue. In that case I would agree with your objection. We cannot bring ourselves back to that time of creation and the conditions present there would be too inhospitable for us to carry out observations. I think it's fundamentally a metaphysical issue I'm bringing up: not whether the universe actually did at some point in the past emerge from nothing and when that might have been or how, but whether that is even conceivably possible or tenable is what I want to know. Personally, I believe that human beings are intellectually equipped to deal with metaphysical issues, but I suppose I can't prove that. By metaphysical issues I mean the fundamental principles of things, and as Aristotle puts it―"knowledge of that which is most knowable". I also don't buy into the argument that logic should be seen as purely the result of an arbitrary evolutionary process and that it therefore has no meaning apart from that context in which it developed, but I won't press that point since it is outside the scope of this thread (could make an interesting thread in itself!). Hopefully I'm not misunderstanding your point on logic/evolution.

Thank you for your response, as well, Greta. Unfortunatley I don't know much about theoretical physics so I don't feel competent to respond to those points. In any case, I hope this thread won't go too far in the direction of discussing who are what God is except as a secondary consideration pertaining to the issue of creation ex nihilo. If you can possibly translate some of the things you said into "layman's terms" or into more conventionally philosophical terminology I would appreciate it.

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Re: An Argument Against Creation Ex Nihilo

Post by Greta » December 19th, 2017, 4:06 pm

Abbe, more simply, nothing is not nothing. Rather, it's been found that a vacuum is not truly empty. Rather, there is tremendous energy in it and that manifests with what are referred to as cirtual particles:
A virtual particle is not a particle at all. It refers precisely to a disturbance in a field that is not a particle. A particle is a nice, regular ripple in a field, one that can travel smoothly and effortlessly through space, like a clear tone of a bell moving through the air.
In essence, nothing is not truly nothing but full of tiny perturbtions, winking in and out of existence. It's posited that one of these perturbations, winked into existence but did not wink out again, and thus just kept growing because there was precious little to stop it.

Also note the claim that, since time started with the BB, that there was no time beforehand. This is mistaking the map for the territory. Of course time passed before the BB; it was just not measurable. Time is measured by events based on natural cycles like rotation and orbits - but it is not generated by them. In a chaotic field of perturbations there are many events, ie. the disturbances, but if you attempted to measure that time, any reference point would be arbitrary.

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Re: An Argument Against Creation Ex Nihilo

Post by Namelesss » December 19th, 2017, 8:00 pm

Abbe Regal wrote:
December 18th, 2017, 4:42 pm
An argument against creation ex nihilo occured to me earlier today and I would like some input on it.
Observe;
'Creation' = 'causality'.
'Cause' and 'effect'.
'Cause' and 'effect' (creation) is a clumsy way of saying 'two mutually arising opposite Perspectives of the same One Reality, the same One, ALL inclusive, Truth!
In which light, the notion of 'creation', any 'creation', is impossible and absurd.
We have been thinking in the stone age for so long, it looks like heaven with our closed eyes...

The Universe/Reality is not a temporal thing, it is Holistic, every moment of Universal existence is Here! Now!
In Holistic Reality, 'creation/c&e', which depends on time and motion, is patently impossible.

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Re: An Argument Against Creation Ex Nihilo

Post by Dark Matter » December 20th, 2017, 10:14 pm

This, to me, is the most interesting subject there is. It is about what I have obsessed over for most of my life: why is there something rather than nothing? My conclusion is that, ultimately, nothing actually exists because nothing can exist, not really.

This is from the foreword of Everything Forever by Gevin Giorbran:
The big mystery of “why is there something rather than nothing?” is answered simply by understanding that nothing still exists. All possible moments of time and all possible universes physically exist simultaneously, because all are merely fragments of a physically real zero. In the same way all colors exist in white light, or just as all positive and negative numbers sum to zero, all the moments of time sum up to construct a greater balanced whole we call zero. Zero is like a whole pie that can be sliced up infinitely many ways, but always remains a single whole. It is a difficult mental switch to adjust to, but everything we know is less than zero, not simply more than nothing. And so our beautiful universe is not dying. The very surprising purely scientific truth, as explained in this book, is that our universe is in the process of merging with the timeless sum of all, with the infinite whole, with everything forever.

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Re: An Argument Against Creation Ex Nihilo

Post by Surreptitious57 » December 21st, 2017, 2:05 am

An absolute vacuum can exist but only for an infinitesimal period of time due to virtual particles
which are a manifestation of the fluctuations of spacetime because of the Uncertainty Principle
A MIND IS LIKE A PARACHUTE : IT DOES NOT WORK UNLESS IT IS OPEN

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Re: An Argument Against Creation Ex Nihilo

Post by Dark Matter » December 22nd, 2017, 12:37 am

Surreptitious57 wrote:
December 21st, 2017, 2:05 am
An absolute vacuum can exist but only for an infinitesimal period of time due to virtual particles
which are a manifestation of the fluctuations of spacetime because of the Uncertainty Principle
Perfect being is an imperfect void. 8)

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Re: An Argument Against Creation Ex Nihilo

Post by Londoner » December 22nd, 2017, 7:54 am

Abbe Regal wrote:
December 18th, 2017, 4:42 pm

According to the theory of Creation ex nihilo, before anything at all existed there was only God and nothing else. Since nothing else existed whatsoever then we can conclude that the possibility for the existence of the world did not exist either.
I think this is stretching the word 'exist'. What we mean when we say objects, like those in the universe, exist, we mean things like they are present to our senses. When we say 'the possibility exists' we do not mean that; we are not saying there is some object called 'possibility'.

If I say 'the possibility exists' I am describing not an object but an element of indeterminacy in some other description. For example, if I say about the weather 'the possibility of rain exists' I am not suggesting the existence of something separate to the weather, an alternative to 'the weather'; I am saying that 'weather' embraces both rain and not-rain.

Similarly, to say there existed the possibility for God to create the universe is to say what we understand by 'God', not to name something external to God.
Now if one counters that the possibility for the existence of the world existed in God, then that would imply that God created the world out of himself which is no longer creation ex nihilo, but is actually much closer to the point of view of eastern non-dualist philosophy which says that the world and God are not essentially different. If the possibility exists apart from God and does not require him to create it then that possibility constitutes a kind of "prima materia" coeternal with God from which God creates the world, which is also not creation ex nihilo.
Again, 'possibility' is not some sort of stuff.

To say that the world and God are not 'essentially different' depends on what we think counts as an essential difference! I would say that while God can create or destroy the world, but the world cannot create or destroy God, would be a pretty essential difference.
If one claims that the possibility of something existing is not really "something" in itself (i.e. a possibilty is not a thing), and therefore did not need to be created, I would counter that it is also not "nothing", and if prior to God's creation of the world there was truly nothing it follows that possibilities did not yet exist either.
I think possibility is a 'nothing', in that there is no thing; 'possibility'.

As I say, what existed prior to the creation of the world was God, our concept of God being something that might or might not create the world.

I do not think this is a special theological argument. We could say the same thing about any name, because all names stand for a bundle of predicates, but those predicates may or may not be true. For example, we understand that 'Aristotle' describes 'the tutor of Alexander'. But our understanding of 'Aristotle' includes the possibility that he might have done something else instead. Likewise God.

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Re: An Argument Against Creation Ex Nihilo

Post by Gertie » December 23rd, 2017, 6:40 am

Abbe Regal wrote:
December 19th, 2017, 3:31 pm
Thanks Gertie, and squids are supposed to be damp, so I'm glad you atleast meet that minimal standard of squidliness. Firstly, I'll say that you don't have to take the issue of creation ex nihilo as a chronological or empirical issue. In that case I would agree with your objection. We cannot bring ourselves back to that time of creation and the conditions present there would be too inhospitable for us to carry out observations. I think it's fundamentally a metaphysical issue I'm bringing up: not whether the universe actually did at some point in the past emerge from nothing and when that might have been or how, but whether that is even conceivably possible or tenable is what I want to know. Personally, I believe that human beings are intellectually equipped to deal with metaphysical issues, but I suppose I can't prove that. By metaphysical issues I mean the fundamental principles of things, and as Aristotle puts it―"knowledge of that which is most knowable". I also don't buy into the argument that logic should be seen as purely the result of an arbitrary evolutionary process and that it therefore has no meaning apart from that context in which it developed, but I won't press that point since it is outside the scope of this thread (could make an interesting thread in itself!). Hopefully I'm not misunderstanding your point on logic/evolution.
I'd say that if you're trying to extrapolate our conceivable notions of logic and fundamental principles beyond our universe, then it's not just an issue of the way we've evolved to observe and model our world (including fundamental principles), it's literally trying to extrapolate beyond the realm of our notions of logic, and the fundamental principles we observe and infer. We simply don't know what fundamentals, if any, apply in a state of nothingness.

So to take Londoner's point about possibility not existing, what that effectively means to us is the necessary and sufficient conditions for the existence of our universe, which in your scenario means nothingness having the property of being able to become something - which is the question we're asking.

Now you can say that according to our notion of nothingness there can be no fundamentals or necessary and sufficient conditions, and that's fine, metaphysical argument made, you've effectively defined nothingness as incapable of becoming something. But then where does our notion of nothingness arise from? From looking at our universe and noting absence of observable stuff, empty space. But now science suggests there's no such thing as empty space, as Greta says, there is a state of flux with stuff popping in and out of nothingness all the time. So perhaps it is a fundamental of this universe that nothingness is not a stable state, and if we applied that notion of nothingness beyond our universe we could say creation ex nihilo is inevitable. But who knows?

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Re: An Argument Against Creation Ex Nihilo

Post by Hereandnow » December 28th, 2017, 4:58 pm

It matter goes to an apriori intuition that is altogether the same as that for causality: Every event must have cause. Remember how Hume posited that when an observed event causality, all that was ever truly observed was contiguity, that is, the one following the other in succession. The causality was never witnessed at all. Being a good empiricist, he concluded that there was no such thing as causality beyond the mere habit established over time of witnessing one thing following another in every case. Kant comes along noting that causality is very different from contiguity in that it possessed the absolute certainty, apriority, that the event in question cannot be a stand alone event: it is caused by an antecedent event because it must be caused by a antecedent event. Why? Entirely intuitive. It carries the force of necessity that is, as Kant puts it, apodictic. There is no proof beyond this. It is not a discursive proof, it is apriori, self justifying. Just try imagining otherwise: the mind reels in objection.

Creation ex nihilo would require a causeless event, you know, "out of nothing."

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