The following is an excerpt of an e-mail from the Barcelona lawyer, Daniel Vincente Carillo. As I mentioned to him in a private e-mail, I admire him for tackling these great questions, and doing so in a foreign language. The pursuit of these questions ennobles us while humbling us at the same time. Carillo writes,
In the contest between theism and metaphysical naturalism we have only four possible scenarios:1st. An uncaused and necessary universe: It doesn't exist by another being and it cannot cease to exist (absolute and eternal universe).
2nd. A caused and necessary universe: It exists by another being but it cannot cease to exist (infinite series of universes).
3rd. An uncaused and contingent universe: It doesn't exist by another being but it can cease to exist (universe from nothing).
4th. A caused and contingent universe: It exists by another being and it can cease to exist (created universe).
The first three options characterize atheism/naturalism, while the last one is peculiar to theism. But are they equally rational? Definitely not.
Now how does Carillo exclude the third option? He writes:
It looks like the 3rd possibility is the weakest, since nothingness cannot create anything at all. The act of creation, like any other act of producing something, presupposes that the creator and the creature exist simultaneously at least in some moment. However, by its very notion, nothingness cannot exist simultaneously with the universe at any moment. Therefore, a universe from nothing is impossible . . . .
This is entirely too quick. True, nothingness cannot create anything. But someone who holds that the universe just exists as a matter of brute fact, i.e., contingently without cause or reason, is not committed to maintaining that nothingness has creative power. As I recall from Russell's debate with Copleston, Russell ends up saying that the universe just exists and that is all! That is not a good answer, in my opinion, but one cannot refute it by pointing out that nothingness cannot create anything. The whole point of naturalism is that there are neither creatures nor creator.