Hello Gulliver, Thank you for your post. Apologies for the late response as I’ve been a bit busy and also have very limited net access... appreciate your patience though. I think my attempt at being short and to the point has caused some miscommunication in my intended points. I didn’t want to get too detailed in the OP, but given your post, maybe I should have. I’ll address your points below. The last few of your quotes are in "code" since I went over the quote limit. My intent was not to shift the burden of proof to the atheist. Please notice I’m not really discussing the existence of God at all in the OP… the OP is solely tackling the issue of whether or not the universe needs a source outside of itself to explain its existence. That source can be anything at this point- X, Y, or Z. Perhaps introducing the voices of “theist” and “atheist” was a bit premature, but I did so for ease of following the argument. Secondly, I realize I didn’t really offer a positive argument at the outset but just responded to objections (though some positive arguments are embedded within the responses to objections). This is because I found the claim that “an existent within the universe requires a source” (see below for reason in change in wording) to be a primary self evident intuition– much like the claim that triangles have three sides. This intuition is based on our experiences with and observations of the world. Thus I didn’t think it required an argument. If you find this claim questionable, please explain why. Am I shifting the burden of proof here again? You state, “This is a far fetched claim, and the general rule of thumb is that the more extraordinary the claim, the more the burden of proof lies with the claimant.” Saying that a material existent within the universe does not need a source seems much more far fetched than saying it does. If you asked me to prove that the chair I am sitting on (or any other material existent in this universe) did not just pop into existence on its own or that it did not just always exist, then I would think you are switching the burden of proof. This is why I put “pre-existed” in quotes… because such terminology is essentially inaccurate given that we are using a temporal term to describe a non-temporal dimension of existence. But I do not see a problem in saying that the singularity requires a source whilst understanding that this source did not come “before” the singularity in the way that we understand “before.” I also understand that this source cannot consist of any sort of “causal chain” since that would imply it is bound by time. These considerations, however, do not undermine the fact that the singularity requires some sort of source for its existence above and beyond itself. So in other words, I’m not sure if I understand how your point is significant beyond just correcting the terminology we use when describing that source. I should clarify that by “universe” I was not referring to anything beyond just the material existents that make up the universe. I am arguing that the individual material existents within the universe require a source. I was not arguing that this abstract concept of “universe” that refers to the collection of individual material existents needs a cause. “Universe” is just a concept that does not actually exist materially. It is the individual material things that make up the universe that exist. And it is those things that I am arguing require a source for their existence. Now, you may object by saying each existent is already explained (via a naturalistic chain of cause/effect) and hence no longer requires a source/cause above and beyond the chain. In response, if each existent is explained by the previous existent in the chain (which is how I am assuming you would explain their existence), then the “first” existent in the chain still requires a source/explanation that cannot be found within the chain. If we want to think in Big Bang terms, “what is the source of the singularity?” would be the appropriate question here. Thus, I don’t think the fallacy of composition is applicable to the argument. Though I realize my brevity in the OP might have given the wrong impression. I must admit my total ignorance of quantum physics (and shortage of time to study it right now)… so can you give me a (simpler) example of something in the universe that does not have a cause? Secondly, wouldn’t you agree that such a case(s) – assuming that it exists the way you describe it- is the exception and not the rule? If so, do you think it’s wise to base one’s overarching ideas and arguments on such rare occurrences (especially when we have no reason to think such processes apply to any objects beyond just that which they are observed in)? Is the problem with the “within time” part or just saying the universe is eternal? I don’t understand what exactly your objection is… As for shifting the burden of proof: same response as above [saying the universe (or the material existents/first material existents to be more precise) has no source is far more extraordinary than saying it does… given our knowledge of material existents]. In any event, I don’t want this discussion to turn into a debate over who has the burden of proof, because settling that issue isn’t absolutely necessary for discussing the topic at hand… I don’t really want to get into this issue yet because it gets into part 2 of the discussion (i.e. what that source is like… which includes arguments as to how it is that the source “just is”). But very briefly, to me the response to your issue consists of two parts: 1) why the universe can’t just be and 2) how the source/agent can just be. As for 1, provided we agree that the universe (or the first material existent) requires a source for its existence, then we can no longer just say that the universe or that first existent “just is,” however much we may dislike the alternative (an external source/”agent”). Recognizing the need for the existence of some sort of outside “agent” is an entirely different issue from demonstrating the attributes of that agent (which answers how it can just be). It seems like this objection is always raised once an argument for the necessity of the existence of a source has been provided (and before arguments are given for what that source must be like- which is what would answer the objection)… but the objection doesn’t really do anything to show that the universe can just be. Anyways, I’d like to be a bit more thorough in my response but don’t want to get ahead of ourselves in the discussion… or make this a free for all as to any atheism/theism issues. The more focused the better. The one issue I would like to discuss for now is whether or not the universe requires some source for its existence. Of course we will always be gaining new knowledge, but that will not undermine the most basic, fundamental principles upon which all knowledge is based (causality, substance, etc). Just because we do not know everything does not mean we cannot progress based on that which we do know. I responded to this above. As I explained earlier, I am not saying the universe as a whole requires a source for the reasons I outline earlier. Rather, each existent requires a source. I am assuming you will refer me to a causal chain as a source for each existent. Within a causal chain, not every existent will be explained (i.e. the first in the chain). Therefore, my argument should be read as “the first material existent” or “material existents” require a source. I didn’t think I would have to get that technical so I didn’t word it that way in the OP. Hence my change in wording now if that is more suitable… 4. even if the conclusion was true, despite the fallacy, this argument can also be applied to an agent creator Again, don’t want to get into this issue yet… we’ll leave it to part 2 if you don’t mind following the order I’d like to keep the discussion in. 1. precedence requires time, and there was no time before the Universe 2. fallacy of composition 3. this argument can also be applied against an agent creator I think I have already responded to all three of these within the post above. If I have missed anything please let me know. My personal perspective on this is that nobody knows how the Universe got started. I respect that… because I realize that stance is held out of recognition of how ignorant humans are and how limited our knowledge is of the universe. But I do think that our knowledge, however limited, can still provide us with many “truths,” truths that we shouldn’t shy away from out of anticipation for future knowledge (which in my opinion cannot possibly contradict certain facts we know as of now- given certain rules of logic/foundational principles of knowledge, and it is these facts that I depend upon when drawing conclusions as to the issue of this thread and other issues). Asking the atheist to prove that the Universe was not "created" is somewhat disingenous, as it is effectively asking to disprove the existence of God. This is shifting the burden of proof. I responded to the burden of proof issue above… if it remains an issue of contention, I suggest we both just agree to offer positive arguments for our stances (me: that material existents/first existent requires a source; you: that material existents/first existent does not require a source- if I understood correctly) instead of spending the rest of our time in this thread arguing over who has the burden of proof. This is what I tried to do in the OP by responding to the objections but can further develop if it is not sufficient.. Please note that not all my responses in the OP touch on the burden of proof issue… so we can focus on that which does not if you agree. Thanks again for the post… always a pleasure to read your thoughts. Take care.