Tuesday, April 30, 2013

So Let's Just Say Infinities Are Impossible

I recently got into a conversation with an apologist who used the "real infinities can't exist argument", and specifically was saying that it is impossible to have an infinite past. It essentially says that with an infinite past, you can't get to the present moment. I've explained before what the problem with this argument is, but that's not my focus today. For this article, I want to assume that the argument is valid and see what would follow.

The argument concludes that there must be a beginning. Granted, we all agree that this universe had a beginning at the big bang, the question is what came before that? What started that big bang? Many say that one possibility is a multiverse, or perhaps a contracting and expanding universe. This argument says that even given those possibilities, it is impossible for them to go backward in time forever. Whatever it is, it must start somewhere. Whether it is at the big bang, at an earlier iteration of our expanding and contracting universe, or at the beginning of the multiverse, there has to be an uncaused cause somewhere. They are, of course, happy to place God in this spot.

But I would argue that we have gained nothing here. By the exact same argument which says the multiverse can't go back infinitely into the past, God can't either. When I pointed this out, the apologist said that it doesn't apply to God because he's immaterial. The problem with this line of logic is the "no infinite past" argument never mentioned material. It either applies to matter and to God, or it fails for both. If God can be infinite, then their argument is invalid and it is possible that a multiverse could be infinite as well. If infinities are not possible then God has to have a beginning and he needs an explanation just as well as the first universe/multiverse.

"God is eternal, he's outside of time." This is the other response I hear a lot to this line of argumentation. I'll be honest, I'm not completely sure what that even means, but I don't think it matters if I do. If God can be outside of time, why can't other things be as well? Perhaps the multiverse is "outside of time". No matter what angle they take here, the apologist is basically trying to construct a problem for the multiverse but leaving a trap door for their God to solve that problem. As far as I can tell, this will inevitably lead to the multiverse itself fitting through that same trap door. Their only recourse seems to be to special pleading by simply insisting that only God can fill that role.


  1. Agreed, it either applies to God or it applies to none, you can't just invent exceptions to the rules because it gets you out of a pickle. This is all too common among theists who provide a "Get out of reality free" card to God at every turn.

    Besides, the people who are against infinity really have no clue what they're talking about, it's just a "common sense" kind of argument that's fundamentally wrong.

    1. "the people who are against infinity really have no clue what they're talking about"

      This is what really drives me crazy. I know a lot about infinities and it is hard to see arguments this bad. When I went in depth through WLC's version of this argument it was difficult to refute just because his argument is so poorly explained it took me forever to figure out what he is even trying to say. Honestly, I think part of the strategy is being confusing on purpose and hoping people will just take his word that infinities are impossible.

  2. I have an infitnity question. Could the universe have an origin, like the singularity of the Big Bang, yet still have an infinite past? For example, if time was exponentially slowed (at least from our point of view) the closer to the singularity, couldn't it be an infinite past because it would take in infinite amount of time to reach back to the singularity...does that make any sense?

    1. That's a good question. I wondered about this myself a while ago and asked a physics person. They said no. If I recall correctly, the age of the universe depends on your frame of reference, and the age that we typically hear is based on the maximum from any frame of reference.

      I might be butchering the explanation as to why a bit, but I definitely remember that the answer was no.

  3. The Cosmological Argument is predicated on the A-theory of time, but many philosophers and scientists think that the B-theory of time is more compatible with the evidence, like general relativity. Here's an outline of the two theories if you don't already know:

    A-theory, also known as presentism, says only the present exists

    B-theory, also known as eternalism, says the past, present and future are all equally real and all exist

    If the B-theory is correct, it means that the amount of time in the past can be finite, but the singularity isn't the "beginning", it's just an endpoint in a 4 dimensional space-time block universe, kind of like how a yardstick doesn't "begin to exist" at the first inch, it is just an endpoint.

    The B-theory refutes the cosmological argument quite well, but it does involve an actual infinity of future events all being real. But I just wrote how claiming that an actual infinity is impossible posses some huge problems for the god hypothesis.

    1. Yup, they create these broad statements (infinities are impossible) which then cause problems for their God. The only way around it seems to be special pleading.

      BTW, for anyone who sees this in future, the post The Thinker is referring to is here


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