I have been remiss in my duties.
So, for traditions sake if for nothing else:
“Let us start with the self-evident proposition that nothing comes from nothing.No effect arises except from a cause sufficient to give rise to that effect. For if “nothing comes from nothing” were not true, anything could come from anything, and there were be no such thing as cause and effect, and we could not be having this conversation.”John C Wright https://www.scifiwright.com/2021/05/on-the-unity-of-god/
I’d start with whether the proposition is self-evident in the context of an argument about the existence and unity of a god but that’s a different rabbit hole. Likewise, Wright introduces without examination, a big pile of assumptions about time, causality and where the heck logic comes from but I believe I’ve covered those issues before with some of these styles of argument. [Short version: if “nothing comes from nothing” (or causality, or time or logic) is a fundamental truth of the universe, what brought that governing rule into being? If the answer is ‘god’ then you can’t apply that rule to claim god is necessary, as god would transcend (or proceed) that rule.] But put that aside, it’s the next bit that is sillier.
Wright’s proposition [N1] is “nothing comes from nothing”. Wright claims that the negation of [N1] implies [A1] “anything comes from anything”.
Now I think there’s some ambiguity about what ‘nothing comes from nothing’ could mean as it reads literally like that the source of an absence can only be an absence. However, that’s a nitpick*. In context, what Wright means by [N] is “it is not the case that nothing can generate something”. We’ll call this [N2]. That’s not as pithy as Wright’s but in context, it is the point he is trying to make and fits with our understanding of physics in the sense of conservation of mass-energy. It’s still not tight and you could quibble about with examples like a vacuum being the ’cause’ of some event but in those examples, there still has to be a something, somewhere involved. So let’s go with that for the moment so we can get to the gist of the logical error.
I’ve made it a lot easier to see what the negation of [N2] is. We’ll call this [not-N2] “it is the case that nothing can generate something”. Does this imply [A1]? No, and it’s not even close. I suspect he’s tried to negate “nothing” and done it twice (ie an argument not-nothing must be anything and so both “nothings” in [N1] become “anything”) but that’s just incoherent. That’s not how truth, logic or language work. If “absence makes the heart grows fonder” is false we can’t conclude that “presence makes the heart grow less fond”, heck that is almost an implication of the saying being true! Negating a proposition isn’t just swapping keywords to their opposites – that might give you gibberish or even the same idea rephrased.
He could improve his argument by ditching [A1] as a reason for saying [N1] can’t be false. Instead, he could have gone with [A2] “it is the case that nothing must generate something”. That’s better! After all if nothings can go around making somethings then there wouldn’t be any room for nothings! Yeah but no. I’m messing with modalities and there’s a hidden assumption in [A2] which crops up a lot in these kinds of arguments for the existence of god which can be summed up as things must happen for a reason. [not N2] (“it is the case that nothing can generate something”) just says that things can (sometimes) pop into existence for no reason at all not that they must. Maybe just the once, maybe a thousand times, for no rhyme or reason.
But that is illogical! No, we can reason about it and apply logic to it. We just did. It implies there are things that might occur that will have no underlying explanation but then again, with Wright’s version of god, we end up with a being that is beyond explanation. Either way, you end up with a point where we can’t explain something.
Note: this isn’t any sort of proof of atheism or the non-existence of god, just that Wright (as you all already know) tends to pack in a pile of hidden assumptions and then employs petitio principii to arrive at the predetermined conclusion.
*nitpicking is surely permitted in the rules of pedantic arguments about the logic of god but I don’t want to get distracted.