The nature of the debate between science and theology on the issue of creation of the universe, as presented in the media since atheists and agnostics took an activist stance (as propounded by Dawkins, Hitchens and an increasing number of others), and by diverse new defenders of theism who argue against the atheists, revolves around the concepts of ‘nothing’ and ‘God’.
The crux of debate about the origin of the universe is whether something can arise spontaneously from nothing; that the Big Bang was a contingent event, without any cause such as an ‘uncreated creator’. The central concept that receives little or no attention in this debate is ‘nothing’. By definition, nothing cannot exist. How then do we then even arrive at the idea of nothing?
The word ‘nothing’ is simply a contraction of ‘no thing’. This shows that there is no positive conception of nothing, only an idea of the absence of some thing or other, or of all things (and, if one prefers, of all matter and energy). Thus, nothing is not an empirical concept, there is no basis for it in experience, only in the interpretation of perception… the deduction that something is not present (where it was expected to be).
On the BBC programme “The God Question – the Cosmos” it was held by Dr. John Lennox that theologians that the choice between God or science is a false dualism since the Big Bang creation ‘from nothing’ is acceptable both to science and theology, but that God, not science, put the universe there, being ‘Himself uncreated’. This idea he did not bother to explain (just as he did not explain how “The fact is that there is a God watching means that there’s going to be justice”). An unidentified Muslim on the BBC programme claimed that “The question ‘Who made God?’ is actually an illogical question.” He did not demonstrate or give any context to explain how a question could be illogical, however, he simply asserted it. So much for his logic.
All who would argue that the universe was created from nothing by an ‘uncreated creator’, are appealing to nothing as a precondition of existence. The only alternative is that the universe was created from something prior to the Big Bang, which obviates the idea of its creation from nothing. When theists insist that it was created by God and define God as ‘uncreated’, they simply mystify the issue yet further, as whatever was never created evidently cannot exist. To assert it could while lacking all evidence of the possibility is totally illogical (and totally not empirical, of course)… so it appears as sheer mental stubbornness. By that measure, the universe, created from nothing by God, logically makes God nothing too.
The question remains unanswerable with any certainty, but so did countless other questions until science came along and gradually wrestled with them. It may take a long time, but science has shown that no one can impose a limit on what it can learn and know in the future. It may take a long time to explain apparent creation from nothing, meanwhile the futility of claiming any knowledge that an omnipotent God did that continues unabated…