Question #14 God, Infinity, and the Beginning of the Universe

What is a good way to argue against an infinite regress when showing there has to be an uncaused cause [because the universe had a beginning]? And how would you eggrespond to someone who says God not having a beginning would have to share the same problem of having
an infinite regress?
For those that aren’t familiar with the Kalam Cosmological Argument, it is an argument that points to a first cause since the universe had a beginning. Watch here:
Well many atheist reject the second premise, “The Universe had a beginning”” to try and say that the universe is eternal and therefore doesn’t need a cause. This however would lead to what is called an infinite regress or more appropriately, it would lead to crossing infinity, which is logically impossible.
When speaking of infinity we must differentiate between an actual infinity and a potential infinity. Actually infinity means that there exist an actual infinite number of things right now.  So how many numbers exist? An infinite. How many is that?…..well…its infinity. Theres no number to it because whatever number you pick you can always add one infinite numbersmore. So an actual infinity can not actually exist in reality. Now contrast that with potential infinity. If I start counting now, I will never reach infinity but I will be counting towards a potential infinite. This means I will keep counting but never reach an end. So when talking about infinities we know that an actual infinity can not exist (like an eternal past), but potential infinites can be concepts, like counting to forever.
So how does this apply to the universe? Well if I can’t count TO infinity then I can not either count down FROM infinity. How so? Well today is here because yesterday ended. So lets say today is 0 and yesterday was -1, the day before that -2, day before -3 and so forth. Well if the universe is eternal (existed forever infinitely in the past) then how did we ever get to today if there was never a beginning? It would be infinitely old and since we can’t cross infinity then we should have never arrived today. Another analogy: Say we have dominoes and today was the last domino which fell. Well in order for this domino to fall the one before it had to fall. But if there was never a first domino to be pushed then domino9how can we even get started? So for there to be an eternal universe, think of trying to jump out of a pit that is infinitely tall. But its actually worse. Its like trying to jump out of an infinitely tall pit that is bottomless. Not only is it impossible to do, it’s impossible to get started. Therefore the universe can not be eternal in the past and must have an absolute beginning. Thus the second premise in the Kalam Cosmological Argument, “the universe began to exist” is valid and true.
Now what about God? If the universe can’t be eternal in the past, then why can God be existing forever in the past?
Well when you unpack the question this is really a category fallacy. See, the Kalam Cosmological Argument points to a timeless Being. That means God literally transcends time with out creation. So this would mean that there was no time with out the creation of the universe. So to say God was always existing would imply that there was a time frame in which God “was” when there was no time for God to be in. Well that’s a contradiction. How can something be in time when there is no time to be in? This will take a minute to wrap your head around it but lets use an analogy for help. There are other things, if they exist, that also transcend time. Take for example the number 7. If it exist it is not in time. In fact it is not even made up of matter and neither does it take up space. To be in time something would have to pass through a series of events and/or have a beginning. The number 7 does not, therefore it is not in time. This question was beginningactually asked to by Saint Augustine (354 AD – 430AD) when it was asked of Him, “What was God doing before He created the universe and why didn’t He create it sooner?” After much thought and reflection Augustine came to the only possible conclusion that God, along with creating matter and space, created time. It was only with in the past 50 years or so that scientist actually came to discover that time in fact did begin at the inception of the universe. Its amazing what we can learn when we use philosophy and think about God and His attributes.

-Eric Hernandez

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4 thoughts on “Question #14 God, Infinity, and the Beginning of the Universe

  • May 4, 2015 at 12:13

    Hey, I found this tab in my browser again. It’s been a while so I’ll just respond to just one of the posts since last time I visited. My comments won’t even be about god, just the universe.

    I can’t figure out what you mean by actual and potential infinants. Your definitions get lost in metaphors (which are definitely helpful, but indirect)

    He is an example of potential infinity that I think you agree with.
    1. We start with today, and no matter how far in the future we go, there is still further in the future that we can go.

    Now lets switch that up a bit.
    2. We start with today, and no matter how far in the past we go, there is further in the past we can go.

    My hunch is that you will agree with the first, but disagree with the second, and I’m not entirely sure why.

    I’m not quite sure what you mean by “cross infinity”, but I’m not sure it applies the way I laid out the scenarios. We cross time to whatever point we are picking, but we can (hypothetically) keep going.
    You said “Not only is it impossible to do, it’s impossible to get started”, but I think this misunderstands what an infinite past would mean. If the universe was infinitely old, then there is no “getting started”. That question would be a category error of an infinitely old universe.

    Lets first try to talk about this without even mentioning the big bang, if possible. Most of your argument seemed separate from it anyway.

  • May 4, 2015 at 12:13

    Jared, the reason i would disagree with your second point is that you say no matter how far back we could go, there is further in the past we can go. I would disagree. You’re point assumes there is an infinite number of days we could go to. So you’re essentially saying the reason there is an infinite regress is because there is an infinite regress. But that of course begs the question of whether or not there is an actually infinite number of past events. I agree that if the universe is infinitely old then there is no getting started. However, once again this begs the question of whether or not it IS actually infinite and infinitely old. So these arguments for a finite past are philosophical arguments as to why the universe can not be infinitely old. 1) If the universe were infinitely old then we would never arrive to here because not getting started can’t lead to anywhere so its an absurdity. So there must be a stopping point if we have arrived to today. So yes if the universe is infinitely old then yes this would be a category error, but if its not infinitely old then it stands as valid. We have to get started in order to get anywhere. Dr. William Lane Craig lays out the following syllogism:

    1. A collection formed by successive addition cannot be actually infinite.
    2. The temporal series of past events is a collection formed by successive addition.
    3. Therefore, the temporal series of past events cannot be actually infinite.

    Lets look at some scientific reasons to think the universe is not past eternal.

    1. The universe is expanding. This shows that we can trace its expansion back into a single point to which it began. 3 cosmologist conclude in their discoveries (the bvg theorem) that any universe which has been expanding through out its history could not be eternal in the past but must have an absolute beginning.

    2. The second law of thermal dynamics makes us aware of the fact that the universe is running out of usable energy. So if the universe is infinitely old then it would have used up all of its energy by now since it has been doing so for infinity past. The universe still has usable energy, therefore it is not infinitely old.

    I refrained from using analogies and clearly an analogy can only be pushed so far but they allow us to exercise thought experiments to help wrap our minds around these concepts. I hope this helped.

  • May 5, 2015 at 12:13

    Your posts talk about 2 points, philosophical and scientific. Lets look past the sciency stuff for a moment and focus on only the philosophical. I’m trying to get some fodder for a conversation with this atheist I know.
    I’m looking for the philosophical argument that says an infinitely old universe is impossible.
    The way he laid out the two situations above I see the future and the past as being potential infinites.

    I’m sort of having trouble with the way you talk about infinity. The future and the past must both be looked at from the present. We can say that no matter how far in the future we go, there is further to go in the future. And likewise we can say no matter how far in the past we go, there is further to go in the past. I understand the science reasons for that, but I’m looking for a philosophical objection. Preferably a syllogism.

    I’m not sure Craig’s really applies to this scenario, at least I don’t see how it does. His first point is true. If you have an empty set, and then add some number of things to it, then you only have that number of things, not infinite. The way he set up this scenario, you have a set of past events. And no matter how many past days you add, there are more days available to add. So you don’t get an actual infinite, but it’s a potential infinite. And it seems to allow for an infinitely old universe

  • May 6, 2015 at 12:13

    You seem to be confused in thinking that you can add more days to the past as you could to the future. The problem with that is that the past is already over and done with, the future is not. Hence the future can only be potentially infinite and not actual. Meaning it can keep attempting to reach infinity and can go on forever. Once again though, the past is already done. You can’t add another day to the past because its already happened. Also the example I gave earlier still stands. If I can’t count to infinity, 1,2,3…100..etc “infinity” then I equally can not count from infinity to now. Yesterday being -1, -2, to infinity. This is just literally an impossibility. Another argument usually given is that infinity can not exist because it would lead to absurdities. For example what is infinity minus 3? Infinity. What is infinity minus 5? Infinity. Hence you the same answer for two different problems which is absurd and can not be possible.

    Also, Craigs syllogism explains well how the past can not be infinite given that the past is formed by successive events. Before you can get to today, yesterday must first happen.

    If this still does not help then lest probe deeper and let me ask, what reasons or arguments could you give (or do you think your atheist friend would give) to show that an actual infinite can exist?


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