My question concerns the first premise of the Cosmological argument: Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
It is said that this is reasonable to believe because in everyday life we don’t see things just pop up out of nowhere. I think almost any reasonable person would therefore agree that premise one is true within our physical universe.
However, one atheist friend of mine made the rebuttal ‘what reason do we have to believe that premise 1 applies to a period before the physical universe existed?’
The physical universe is the realm in which such laws of causation hold. But what about in another dimensions (outside of space-time)? In a state before the universe was created, we don’t know what laws hold or don’t hold.’ It is therefore plausible that in such a pre-universe state, that something COULD come from nothing.
How would you rebuttal this argument? Is premise 1 a conditional premise that requires a physical universe to already exist? Isn’t it more accurate to elaborate upon premise 1 and write it in full as : Given that we are talking about a physical universe as we know it, then ‘everything that begins to exist has a cause’.
I would take our real life experiences to bear out the truth of what we know intuitively, that things do not just begin to exist without a cause. Premise 1 seems self-evidently true, much like “1+1 = 2”. Consider what objecting to the premise would mean. One would have to say that something can come into existence out of absolutely nothing. “Nothing” means “not anything”, not even the potential that something should exist. How is it that something which has no potential of existing should nonetheless begin to exist? Surely we are more justified in believing that nothing comes from nothing than to believe that, inexplicably, something can come from nothing.
Your friend is suggesting that it is the laws of our universe that prevent this from happening, but this is to misunderstand what the physical laws are. The physical laws neither cause nor prevent anything from happening. They describe how things do, in fact, happen. So it cannot be the case that the laws of our universe are somehow preventing something from springing into existence from nothing as the laws have no causal powers whatever.
That being said, I actually prefer to lean into these sorts of objections rather than refute them. Consider what your conversation partner is conceding. They are suggesting that, in order to save atheism, they must abandon causation itself. If they are to maintain their atheism they must abandon something as common sense as cause and effect. My response would be something like, “And what you have said just is my point. If God does not exist, then the beginning of the universe is not rational. In order for atheism to be true, we must resort to an irrational approach to the beginning of the universe. The theistic worldview is a better worldview because it need not become irrational in order to survive the evidence for the beginning of the universe. This seems to give us a good reason to affirm the theistic worldview and resist the atheistic worldview.”