This seems pretty common-sensical to me. One cannot get a something from a nothing. In fact, the word "nothing" can be broken apart to show that it means "no-thing." But Carrier replied to my point with this statement:
Oh yes, "out of nothing, nothing comes" is another one. If there is absolutely nothing, then there are no rules governing what will happen. So the idea that "only nothing can come from nothing" is a rule. That's something; that's not nothing. If you really have absolutely nothing then anything can happen. Nothing governs what's going to happen. If we start with nothing, we have no idea what could occur. As physicists will tell you, like Victor J. Stenger in The Fallacy of Fine Tuning, nothing is inherently unstable. So if we did start the universe with nothing, we could actually expect something to come out of it because the probability of nothing remaining nothing is rather low and because there is nothing governing what will happen.There are a lot of problems here. First, let's look at what we mean when we use the word "nothing." When I say the universe began to exist, I mean that all matter, energy, space, and time came into being where they had previously not existed at all. In fact, when philosophers talk about the concept of nothing, it is generally understood to mean a state that is devoid of all properties. If there is nothing, then there are no physical things that can act and there are no laws of nature by which the non-existent entities would be able to act.
But Carrier seems confused on this. He first states, "The idea that 'only nothing can come from nothing' is a rule. That's something; that's not nothing." Well, that's not really accurate. The idea isn't a rule, but a description. It is another way of saying there are no laws and nothing upon which actions could even take place. But then, he goes on to say, "If there is absolutely nothing, then there are no rules governing what will happen… If you have absolutely nothing, then anything can happen!" Well, using Richard's own criteria, that would be a rule. That means you haven't started with nothing!
The idea that nothing is inherently unstable is a real science-stopper. Imagine people saying, "Well, I we had nothing and now we have this new chemical because anything can happen!" or "We don't know how that came into existence. It must've simply popped into existence because nothing can produce anything!" This is not a reasonable answer. It sounds more like magic than anything else.
So, I find this response problematic on several levels. First, Carrier argues that nothing is a great way to get something. I think that is a terrible answer and he needs to explain why we should accept it for the beginning of the universe then turn around and reject it for any other scientific question. Secondly, if "out of nothing, nothing comes" is considered something, then 'If you have absolutely nothing, then anything can happen" should also be considered something. As such, Carrier hasn't started with nothing and he needs to explain how his "rule" came into existence.