What Atheist Ricky Gervais Got Wrong Debating God With Stephen Colbert
Comedian and atheist Ricky Gervais recently squared off with comedian and Roman Catholic Stephen Colbert over religion during a recent taping of "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert." The exchange was brief and mostly unproductive in terms of articulating anything of value, but it did provide some insight into one of atheism's blind spots—teleology (the purpose of things). I encourage you to watch the video.
Not long into the discussion, Colbert presents Gervais with the philosophical question, "Why is there something instead of nothing?" Gervais immediately dismisses the question as making "no sense at all." Ricky Gervais then proceeds to change the question to "How is there something?" Going further, Gervais scoffs at the relevancy of even entertaining the notion of "why."
Obviously schooled in the Five Ways of Aquinas, Stephen Colbert allows Gervais to alter the original question and then astutely brings up the prime mover argument. After that point, the argument devolves into a series of mostly nonsensical and existentially based platitudes (minus Colbert briefly bringing up and then fumbling the concept of transcendent gratefulness).
But I want to focus on the dichotomy between "how" and "why" that Gervais introduced.
In 2010, Stephen Hawking published The Grand Design. In the book, the physicist concludes on page 180 that "spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going." In other words, with his book's argument, Hawking grabs the "how" question by the neck and body slams it so deeply into the cosmic turf as to render the question dead. Or so he believed.
Roundly refuting Stephen Hawking, Oxford math professor Dr. John Lennox published God and Stephen Hawking: Whose Design Is It Anyway? Dr. Lennox pointed out the obvious: that Stephen Hawking assumes the existence of the law of gravity in The Grand Design. Lennox muses, "Hawking appears, therefore, to be simultaneously asserting that the universe is created from nothing and from something [emphasis added]." Going back to the video and Stephen Colbert's initial query, the concept of nothing is problematic for atheists.
No matter how many epistemological pretzels they twist themselves into, atheists are reduced to pushing the concept of nothing further and further back. The incontrovertible truth is that something exists and something cannot come from nothing. Atheists are simply kicking the "nothing can" down the road as far as they are able. I'm assuming that they will continue to do so until King Jesus returns and stops that "nothing can" with His Word that He used to create everything.
Usually, when discussing the "how" question, the rejoinder is smugly tossed out that if nothing can't create something, then something had to create God. Sadly, I do not have the space to fully lay out a biblically orthodox doctrine of God. Pointing out, as does Aquinas in his version of the Cosmological Argument, that God is not a contingent being will have to suffice.