The Beginning of the Universe

(Cross-posted at Rational Thoughts)

I’m currently working on a nine-part series on the kalam cosmological argument and I thought it would be nice to post this particular entry here.

Defenders of the KCA muster several different arguments in support of the premise that the universe began to exist.  These arguments are both philosophical and scientific in nature.  Arguments under the former category involve showing that the existence of an actually infinite number of things is metaphysically impossible. If the universe never began to exist, then its past duration would be actually infinite. Since actual infinities cannot exist, then the past duration of the universe must have been finite, implying that the universe must have begun to exist. Even if one grants that it is possible for an actual infinite to exist, it still cannot be formed by successive addition, and henceforth the past duration of the universe must still be finite. From a scientific perspective, the beginning of the universe is strongly supported by modern big bang cosmology. The proponent of the KCA thus finds himself comfortably seated in the midst of mainstream cosmology. Combined, these two reasons lend strong support to the truth of the second premise.

The Impossibility of Actual Infinities

It’s helpful to distinguish between actual and potential infinities.  Potential infinities are sets that are constantly increasing toward infinity as a limit, but never attain infinite status. A more accurate description would be to say that their members are indefinite. An actual infinite, by contrast, is a set x that contains a subset x’ that is equivalent to x.  That is, they are denumerable.  Phrased in layman’s terms, a set is actually infinite if a part of the set is as big as the whole set.  A potentially infinite set would thus be a set in which a part is less than the whole.  “The crucial difference between an infinite set and an indefinite collection would be that the former is conceived as a determinate whole actually possessing an infinite number of members, while the latter never actually attains infinity, although it increases perpetually. We have, then, three types of collection that we must keep conceptually distinct: finite, infinite, and indefinite. [1]  Because it leads to contradictions and absurdities, an actually infinite set cannot exist in reality.

There are several examples which illustrate the absurdity of the existence of an actually infinite number of things, the most famous of which is known as Hilbert’s paradox of the grand hotel. For the sake of clarity, however, I’ll use a simple example used by Craig:

Imagine I had an infinite number of marbles in my possession, and that I wanted to give you some.  In fact, suppose I wanted to give you an infinite number of marbles.  In that case I would have zero marbles left for myself.

However, another way to do it would be to give you all of the odd numbered marbles.  Then I would still have an infinite left over for myself, and you would have an infinite too.  You’d have just as many as I would — and, in fact, each of us would have just as many as I originally had before we divided into odd and even!  Or another approach would be for me to give you all the marbles numbered four and higher.  That way, you would have an infinite of marbles, but I would have only three marbles left.

What these illustrates demonstrate is that the notion of an actual infinite number of things leads to contradictory results.  In my first case in which I gave you all the marbles, infinity minus infinity is zero, in the second case in which I gave you all the odd-numbered marbles, infinity minus infinity is infinity; and in the third case in which I gave you all the marbles numbered four and greater, infinity minus infinity is three.  In each case, we have subtracted the identical number from the identical number, but we have come up with non-identical results. [2]

The point of this example is that arithmetical operations with actually infinite quantities yield contradictory answers, and thus it is metaphysically impossible for actual infinites to exist.  The notion of an actually infinite set is purely conceptual and has no relation to reality. It should be noted here that while one is able to work with actual infinities in set theory and calculus, they existence in re is metaphysically impossible.  Their existence is only permitted in mathematics because mathematical operations involving infinite quantities are prohibited. In reality, however, there is nothing stopping someone from adding or subtracting from an infinite quantity of marbles.

Suppose however, that actual infinities could exist in reality. Would this serve as a defeater for the second premise? It seems not, for even if actual infinities could exist in reality, they could not be formed by successive addition nor could they be navigated successfully.  It is impossible to form an actually infinite quantity by successive addition, as one can always add another number to what they have counted.  No matter how many times one adds a number to a finite quantity, one will never yield an infinite quantity.

Even if actual infinities were possible, it is unclear that they could be traversed.  Consider Bertrand Russell’s example of Tristram Shandy, who writes his autobiography at such a slow pace that it takes him a whole year to write about a single day.  If Shandy had been writing for eternity past, then he would be infinitely far behind. [3] Since it is impossible to traverse an actually infinite past, then we should not have arrived at this point.  But since we have, we can conclude that the past duration of the universe was finite.

Critics have sometimes compared the impossibility of forming an actual infinite to Zeno’s paradoxes of motion, which, though tricky and stubborn, are obviously wrongheaded.  But these comparisons are not accurate for several reasons:  First, the distances traversed in an infinite past are actual and equal, as opposed to being potential and unequal in Zeno’s paradoxes.  Second, the distances traversed in Zeno’s paradoxes sum to a finite distance, whereas the distances traversed in an infinite paste sum to an infinite distance.  Finally, it begs the question by presupposing the distance traversed as being composed of an infinite amount of points.  Critics of Zeno held that the existence of the line itself is prior to any divisions that are made in it.  Moreover, in regards to an infinite past, divisions such as a halfway, a quarter of a way, and a third of the way are unintelligible because there is no beginning, unlike in Zeno’s paradoxes. [4]

Scientific Pointers to a Beginning of the Universe

Due to the heavy influence of Aristotelianism, scientists and philosophers from the medieval periods up until the early 1900’s firmly believed in the eternality of the universe.  The first indications that the universe was not eternal started to surface in 1917 with the advent of Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity. Einstein himself was a believer in an eternal universe, and when he saw that his theory of general relativity did not permit such a model, he introduced a “fudge factor” into his equations to maintain an eternal universe.   By exploiting the shortcomings of Einstein’s model, the Russian mathematician Alexander Friedman and the Belgian astronomer Georges Lemaitre independently developed an expanding model of the universe.  Further evidence came in 1929, when astronomer Edwin Hubble confirmed the expanding universe predicted by the Friedman-Lemaitre model through his discovery of redshift.  The fact that the universe was expanding implied that in some point in the past, it was compacted together tightly, for if one reverses the expansion of the universe backwards in time, the universe becomes more and more dense until it reaches a state of infinite density.  This had the jolting conclusion that the universe, over 14 billion years ago, had once been compressed to a size of an infinitely dense point known as a singularity.  Since space and time themselves came into existence at this singularity, it served as a boundary for space-time, as there was no moment “before” the big bang.  Hence, the origin posited by the standard big bang model is that of an absolute origin ex nihilo.

This lent strong support to the Judeo-Christian doctrine of creation ex nihilo. In fact, the bang theory, far from having atheistic implications, was actually criticized for being too religious when first proposed.

Further support came in 2001 with the advent of the BVG theorem.  Physicists Arvind Bord, Alan Guth, and Alexander Vilenkin were able to prove that any universe in a state of cosmic expansion must have an absolute beginning point.

Scientific verification for the second premise also comes from the second law of thermodynamics, one of the most verified laws in science.  According to the second law, the entropy of a closed system tends to increase over time.  In other words, the amount of energy required to do work constantly decreases as closed systems tend toward equilibrium.  If one drops a small amount of food coloring into a cup of water, for example, the food coloring will diffuse evenly throughout the water.

Applied to the universe, the second law implies that it will eventually attain maximum entropy.  This is known as the heat death of the universe.   At that point, there will be no energy available to do work, and the universe will be locked in a state of changelessness.  If the universe were eternal, however, then it should have already attained maximum entropy.  But since it has not yet attained maximum entropy, then it follows that the universe must be finite in its past duration.  Picture a toy that has been wound up.  If an infinite amount of time had passed, then the toy should have wound down.  The fact that it is still running indicates that it was wound up a finite time ago.  On the basis of the second law of thermodynamics, we may also conclude that the universe began to exist.

Notes:

[1] — William Lane Craig and James D. Sinclair in William Lane Craig and J. P. Moreland (eds), The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology (Blackwell: 2009) p.105
[2] — William Lane Craig, as interviewed by Lee Strobel in The Case for a Creator (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan 2004) p.103
[3] — For more on this, see Paul Copan and William Lane Craig, Creation Out of Nothing: A Biblical, Philosophical, and Scientific Exploration (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic 2004)  p.213-216
[4] — Craig and Sinclair, “The Kalam Cosmological Argument”, inTBCNT, pp. 119
30 replies
  1. Other Simon
    Other Simon says:

    …the universe began to exist.

    By using the word ‘begin’ you necessarily imply a time before the universe; a notion of time which is somehow external to the universe. But this is (1) foreign to our understanding of time and (2) fatal to the definition of ‘universe’.

  2. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Other Simon,

    Craig responds,

    Yes, speaking of a moment “before” the moment of creation does imply time before time, which is incoherent on the Augustinian view I defend. But notice that I don’t use that word in your quotation from my interview with Lee. In my early work, I thought people would understand, once I explained my view, that the expression “before creation” is just a harmless façon de parler (manner of speaking), not to be taken literally. But in light of the confusion engendered by the phrase, I have since been very careful to avoid it, speaking rather of God’s existing without (or sans) creation or existing beyond, though not before, the Big Bang. One nice way of expressing God’s priority to creation is to say that God is causally but not temporally prior to the beginning of the universe.

  3. Other Simon
    Other Simon says:

    Stuart,

    Avoiding using the phrase ‘before the big bang’ does not dig one out of the hole. My argument is: If a thing has a beginning, then there was necessarily a time before that thing existed. Period.
    One could demand that the beginning of the universe had a different sort of beginning than anything else we have ever observed, but that is as ad-hoc as demanding that god is a self-extant being. There is absolutely no precedent for this, and it is merely a sleight of hand to claim the desirable attributes of ‘beginnings’ but dump the inconvenient attributes.

  4. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Other Simon,

    If a thing has a beginning, then there was necessarily a time before that thing existed. Period.

    If this is true, then time is eternal and you have to deal with all the arguments above for the universe not being eternal in the past. Before you have stated that the no one has ever observed a beginning without a time prior to it. Are you sure you want to conclude then that such an event is impossible?

  5. Other Simon
    Other Simon says:

    Stuart,

    Yes, I suppose this is true. (I don’t actually have much time for philosophising over types of infinities) But I think our understanding breaks down well before this point. For instance, from relativity we understand that time is intimately involved with mass and space. If all the mass and space in the universe was created at a particular instant……well, what does that even mean for time? No one knows!

    Before you have stated that the no one has ever observed a beginning without a time prior to it. Are you sure you want to conclude then that such an event is impossible?

    Well, I think it is just bad induction. We never, ever, ever observe beginnings without times prior, and I’m supposed to believe that a few biased philosophers using anything BUT observation have ‘shown’ that there was one event that breaks this rock-hard rule? I don’t think so.

    What Craig says about a causal notion of ‘prior’ makes some sense, don’t get me wrong. But in your quote above he has highlighted the problem with it himself. He speaks of a façon de parler; he wants to use some parts of the term ‘before’ but not others. Again this is bad induction. There are other motives for doing this other than sensible reasoning. I mean, come on – seriously – how can we expect to make sense of what occurred “‘before’ time” when even our simplest sentence about this ‘before’ time contains a word (‘before’) which we know is not even being used correctly. Well before this point I just shove everything off the table and ask for some real evidence; empirical evidence. And there isn’t any. So it’s pointless addressing it.

    The other thing which occurs well before any of this philosophising is bias. It is very clear to me – especially from his last sentence you quoted (“one nice way…”) that the source that motivates his thinking is entirely personal, not objective.

  6. Joe
    Joe says:

    you can’t have a “prior” anything without time. Also, creation events REQUIRE time, since you NEED a moment prior to which there was no creation. Otherwise, this argument falls since it never “did not exist”.

  7. Dominic Bnonn Tennant
    Dominic Bnonn Tennant says:

    By using the word ‘begin’ you necessarily imply a time before the universe

    No you don’t. The word “begin” doesn’t necessitate a temporal connotation. Trying to impose a temporal connotation onto it just because it usually has one in common usage is to ignore what the argument is actually saying.

  8. Other Simon
    Other Simon says:

    Bnonn,

    I cannot think of a non-temporal use of the word “begin”. Can you?

    We are specifically talking about a temporal beginning here. When people talk of the beginning of the universe they are talking about time.

    Craig talks of a ‘beginning’ but tries to divorce it from time. This is just him inventing a new ‘phenomenon’ for which there is absotively no evidence. That’s okay I guess so long as we hold seriously new ideas about the logic of the toothfairy, too.

    Also, as I have explained above, we have never, ever observed a ‘beginning’ of anything without a time before. So to postulate one is just bad reasoning, bad science, bad induction…. It is obvious that the only motivation to postulate this is a conclusion already decided upon. And that. Is bad logic.

  9. Dominic Bnonn Tennant
    Dominic Bnonn Tennant says:

    We are specifically talking about a temporal beginning here. When people talk of the beginning of the universe they are talking about time.

    They’re talking about the instantiation in reality of the universe—including time itself. Causation does not imply temporal causation, however. Even if I can’t come up with an example of something beginning atemporally, that doesn’t prove anything with regard to the universe’s origin, since by definition my experience is limited to temporal phenomena, while the universe’s beginning is an atemporal phenomenon.

    This is just him inventing a new ‘phenomenon’ for which there is absotively no evidence.

    It’s like you don’t even read our articles. You just come barging in, blustering about there being “no evidence”. But of course, there is evidence—in fact, the postulate of an atemporal beginning for the universe is a logical deduction from the following two well-supported facts:

    Time is a phenomenon internal to the universe.
    The universe has not always existed.

    If the universe has not always existed, then it began to exist. But if time is a phenomenon internal to the universe, then time began to exist when the universe began to exist. Therefore, the universe began to exist atemporally.

    I understand that you’re highly biased against the Kalam argument, but seriously, if you’re going to object to it, try to raise objections that don’t make you look desperate by merit of being so inept.

  10. Simon
    Simon says:

    Dom,

    Those are well supported facts? The original post doesn’t refer to these. May I have some links to evidence for these?

    The first seems immediately problematic. What could “internal to the universe” mean when we can know nothing external to the universe.

    And that the universe has not always existed is surely at best a loosely supported theory. Sure the science points to a starting point for what we currently know of as the universe, but this definitely doesn’t necessarily lead to the idea that the “universe” (as in perhaps more than what we know of) hasn’t always existed.

    Fun ideas, nothing to hang anything heavy on.

    (oh and it seems you, as an Editor to set an example, should re-read the first instruction above the comment box before posting)

  11. Damian
    Damian says:

    Time and causality are intimately entwined. It could equally be said that “causality is a phenomenon internal to the universe” in which case Bnonn will have refuted Craig’s Kalam argument:

    1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
    2. The universe began to exist.
    3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

  12. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Hello Joe,

    You said,

    you can’t have a “prior” anything without time.

    This is false.

    In the absence of time you can have things that are logically prior. Philosophers have understood this for centuries. Sublapsarian and Supralapsarian schemes in Christian theology talk of logical orders and progressions which causally determine a whole list of things. Predestination, where God infallibly knows what is going to happen in the future by knowing the free actions of his creatures, is an example of causation where God’s knowledge is temporally prior but his creatures free actions are logically prior and determinative of God’s knowledge. The example used to explain this type of causation is the infallible barometer, which appears to determine the weather, but in actuality its the weather that determines what the barometer reads.

    In the case of the universe (and time, being a part of the description of the universe) beginning to exist, this can be understood as a case of simultaneous causation. For instance, the boat displacing the water in the river is a case of simultaneous causation. A sitting man can cause his lap to disappear by standing – so his lap disappearing was the effect which happened simultaneous to the man standing which was the cause. When we speak of God deciding to create the universe and then creating it, what is meant (though not understood by all) is not a temporal succession of events, but a logical succession of events. Logically the cause of the universe would be God deciding to create the universe, but temporally the moment God decided to create the universe was the same moment the universe was created.

    With these holes filled in you should be able to make sense of the KCA.

  13. Joe
    Joe says:

    In the absence of time you can have things that are logically prior. Philosophers have understood this for centuries.

    This is completely irrelevant- in order to call it a “creation event”, there must be a time when universe did not exist. Without this, how can you claim the universe ever “began to exist” in the first place? Beginning necessarily entails time. To separate it from time is just absurd.

    Sublapsarian and Supralapsarian schemes in Christian theology talk of logical orders and progressions which causally determine a whole list of things. Predestination, where God infallibly knows what is going to happen in the future by knowing the free actions of his creatures, is an example of causation where God’s knowledge is temporally prior but his creatures free actions are logically prior and determinative of God’s knowledge. The example used to explain this type of causation is the infallible barometer, which appears to determine the weather, but in actuality its the weather that determines what the barometer reads.

    Sounds to me like unnecessary obfuscatory wibbling. If god is outside of time, his knowledge CANNOT be “temporally prior”. In fact, god cannot think, since he cannot generate thoughts, because generating thoughts require time.

    In the case of the universe (and time, being a part of the description of the universe) beginning to exist, this can be understood as a case of simultaneous causation. For instance, the boat displacing the water in the river is a case of simultaneous causation. A sitting man can cause his lap to disappear by standing – so his lap disappearing was the effect which happened simultaneous to the man standing which was the cause.

    but PRIOR to this action, the lap “existed”.

    When we speak of God deciding to create the universe and then creating it, what is meant (though not understood by all) is not a temporal succession of events, but a logical succession of events. Logically the cause of the universe would be God deciding to create the universe, but temporally the moment God decided to create the universe was the same moment the universe was created.

    This makes no sense. God cannot have “decided” something without time. Also, if the causation is simultaneous, as I suppose “timeless creation” (is this even a valid concept?) requires, then how can you claim it “began to exist”?

  14. Other Simon
    Other Simon says:

    Bnonn,

    Simon and Damian make cogent points.

    Causation does not imply temporal causation, however.

    Yes it does. ALWAYS. Which is why you can’t come up with any non-temporal examples.

    Even if I can’t come up with an example of something beginning atemporally, that doesn’t prove anything with regard to the universe’s origin, since by definition my experience is limited to temporal phenomena, while the universe’s beginning is an atemporal phenomenon.

    How do you know that the universe’s beginnings are atemporal? (Apart from the pre-conclusion of a god) From what experience do you speak? Especially when you can’t even come up with any examples. My recommendation is that you stick to the temporal!

    I take your point about the two evidences, but my issue is that they can’t be strung together as is done here.

    If the universe has not always existed, then it began to exist.

    Lol. This just doesn’t make any sense……..If you were claiming that “the universe has not always existed, then it began to exist – where ‘began’ and ‘always’ refers to temporal notions” then you would necessarily be advocating a super-universal time. (There is a problem with this, though. You would be confusing normal time and super-universal time because you would be using normal time to guage that the universe had a beginning (big bang), and then claiming that this means that thre is a super-universal time)

    But I think that what you are claiming is that “the universe has not always existed, then it began to exist – where ‘always’ refers to normal time and ‘began’ refers to atemporal/logico-causal ‘time’ Clearly the two ‘times’ are a problem.

    Ultimately the two evidences:

    Time is a phenomenon internal to the universe.
    The universe has not always existed.

    Are fatally parasitic to each other. How can one guage that the universe has not always existed when ‘always’ itself is internal to the universe?
    I, personally, would further argue that ‘logico-causality’ is necessarily internal to the universe also, by definition of the universe. Something cannot be external to the universe by definition. This results in the observation – which I hope I have made clear here – that it is impossible to talk about the universe as a whole without contradiction and paradox. Including, poignantly, the previous sentence. It has to be that way.

  15. Dominic Bnonn Tennant
    Dominic Bnonn Tennant says:

    Yes it does. ALWAYS. Which is why you can’t come up with any non-temporal examples.

    It’s as if you think that merely asserting something enough times will make it true. Unless you can show that atemporal causation is actually logically incoherent, or otherwise impossible, why should we entertain your shrill inductive fallacy as a serious objection?

    How do you know that the universe’s beginnings are atemporal? (Apart from the pre-conclusion of a god)

    Again, did you not read the post? The logic against a beginning in time is airtight; if there were a meta-time or super-time external to the universe, within which the universe was created, then either there must be a timeless cause for that as well (in which case the problem simply gets pushed back a step); or the universe could never have begun to exist.

    Lol. This just doesn’t make any sense……..If you were claiming that “the universe has not always existed, then it began to exist – where ‘began’ and ‘always’ refers to temporal notions” then you would necessarily be advocating a super-universal time.

    Only if you continue to assert, without any accompanying argument, that causal terms must imply temporality; which I deny. Moreover, I’m not committing the category error you accuse me of, since it is manifestly the case that, from a perspective within the universe, the universe has not always existed. We know that the universe did not exist causally prior to the big bang.

    Maybe next time you comment, you could present an argument instead of prejudiced statements of faith.

  16. Other Simon
    Other Simon says:

    It’s as if you think that merely asserting something enough times will make it true. Unless you can show that atemporal causation is actually logically incoherent, or otherwise impossible, why should we entertain your shrill inductive fallacy as a serious objection?

    It is the argument that you are advocating that is mere assertion in the absence of evidence. You are claiming these things without a shred of evidence. It is not my job to show that ….bla bla bla… is impossible. It is up to you to show it to be true.

    Only if you continue to assert, without any accompanying argument, that causal terms must imply temporality; which I deny.

    No. It is not I that has to show that causality must be temporal. YOU must show that the idea of non-temporal causality even exists. And since you can’t even come up with an example, end of your argument! Come back when your philosophising is more than just an imaginary-magical world projected from your biased pre-conclusions.

    Moreover, I’m not committing the category error you accuse me of, since it is manifestly the case that, from a perspective within the universe, the universe has not always existed. We know that the universe did not exist causally prior to the big bang.

    This statement is non-sensical. If time is internal to the universe, what does it mean to say that time started at a particular point in time?

  17. Other Simon
    Other Simon says:

    p.s. There is no ‘prior’ to the big bang. OR, if there is, then we are talking about an extra-universal time. In which case we have solved nothing and merely pushed the problem “back a step” since ‘extre-universal’ is an oxymoron.

  18. Joe
    Joe says:

    @ Other Simon-

    Well, it hasn’t been established that time began with the Big Bang. It’s though that although the singularity itself did not experience time (much like the black hole, I guess), there’s no evidence to suggest that time actually began with the black hole.

  19. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Hello Joe,

    I got the feeling you’re reacting without thinking thinks through clearly. Here are my responses.

    Beginning necessarily entails time. To separate it from time is just absurd.

    I think your right here. But a beginning does not necessarily entail previous time, as the examples I provided for simultaneous causation show. I/we are not separating beginning from time altogether.

    Sounds to me like unnecessary obfuscatory wibbling. If god is outside of time, his knowledge CANNOT be “temporally prior”. In fact, god cannot think, since he cannot generate thoughts, because generating thoughts require time.

    Good to see you trying to do some theology. If God is outside time, his knowledge would appear temporally prior to his temporal creatures, which is all the illustration requires.

    but PRIOR to this action, the lap “existed”

    Of course. I’m not disputing that. The illustration was meant to show that the cause and effect were simultaneous.

    This makes no sense. God cannot have “decided” something without time.

    It makes perfect sense. The reason for your denial is something I could easily affirm with my previous statement you quoted.

    Also, if the causation is simultaneous, as I suppose “timeless creation” (is this even a valid concept?) requires, then how can you claim it “began to exist”?

    Not sure where you got the phrase “timeless creation” from. The phrase “began to exist” is an easy way of saying “sprang into being,” or something similar. It expresses the idea that the universe is not eternal in the past, but has a definite beginning a finite time ago. However tricky that is to conceive of in the case of the universe, it is something a child could understand. No antecedent temporal state of affairs is implied.

  20. Joe
    Joe says:

    I think your right here. But a beginning does not necessarily entail previous time, as the examples I provided for simultaneous causation show. I/we are not separating beginning from time altogether.

    But it does. Otherwise, how can you say it began? Prior to the boat being in water,it was not displaced. Prior to the person standing up, the lap was there. In order for the water to be displaced, there must have been a moment when it was NOT.

    Good to see you trying to do some theology. If God is outside time, his knowledge would appear temporally prior to his temporal creatures, which is all the illustration requires.

    Why should I accept this bare assertion?

    Of course. I’m not disputing that. The illustration was meant to show that the cause and effect were simultaneous.

    … from a prior time from which such events had not occurred.

    It makes perfect sense. The reason for your denial is something I could easily affirm with my previous statement you quoted.

    It’s because it made no sense. And it still doesn’t.

    Not sure where you got the phrase “timeless creation” from. The phrase “began to exist” is an easy way of saying “sprang into being,” or something similar. It expresses the idea that the universe is not eternal in the past, but has a definite beginning a finite time ago. However tricky that is to conceive of in the case of the universe, it is something a child could understand. No antecedent temporal state of affairs is implied.

    it’s a “timeless creation” because Tim here is supposing that time began with the universe- in order for that to come about, one must FIRST assume that there was a “time” prior to this “creation” where it did not exist. Also, it’d be nice if you actually had some substantive evidence of the universe actually beginning to exist about then. All we have is the inflationary theory which does not speak of the actual “origins”. In fact, there’s NO consensus on how Big Bang even occurred. In short, it has not been established the universe had a beginning. Tim’s talk of the BVG theorem doesn’t help his situation since unless he has substantive evidence for that particular model (which he does NOT- and really NOBODY does for their pre-planck cosmology), it’s just another model of which several other competing ones exist.

  21. Other Simon
    Other Simon says:

    Joe,

    Well, it hasn’t been established that time began with the Big Bang. It’s though that although the singularity itself did not experience time (much like the black hole, I guess), there’s no evidence to suggest that time actually began with the black hole.

    I think you’ll find that the standard physics story is that time began at the big bang. I don’t know what this means – I’d say I even disagree with it – but I think that’s the standard story. Read the following two sections and I’m sure you’ll see why I take the modern cosmological models with a grain of salt.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time#Time_and_the_Big_Bang

  22. Joe
    Joe says:

    While space is said to unfold, and the justification for this is pretty clear, it has not yet been established that time began at the big bang. It has been assumed, largely because of the interconnectedness of space and time, and given further weight by the posit that, under relativistic gravity and it’s effects on time, time stands still at the singularity. Firstly, this latter has not been experimentally confirmed, although it has weight. Secondly, it is not clear that our cosmic instantiation arose from a singularity in the conventional sense. It should be noted here that there are two very valid definitions of ‘singularity’ in cosmology, namely the area of infinite density and infinite curvature that we get from black hole cosmology, and ‘a place where our laws or ability to comprehend break down’. This does not mean that we cannot know, just that we do not know.

    Further, even given a conventional singularity, and time stopping at the singularity, that does not mean that there was no time before the singularity, just that the singularity itself did not experience time. There is ample justification for this model of time, especially given the wealth of experimental data in confirmation of GR. Many entities in the universe do not experience the passage of time. Does this mean that there’s no time?

  23. Other Simon
    Other Simon says:

    Joe,

    I tend to think that GR will turn out not to be true, or different at large distances. Especially with all the “missing mass” that’s supposed to be out there; I’m betting that we don’t find it.

    I’m not familiar with any examples of ‘singularity’ that do not involve infinite curveature. Examples?

    I do wonder, though, when it comes to black holes, that they may turn out to be ‘quantum objects’ and it may be that it really is that we cannot know, as opposed to just don’t know. I must have read something about this somewhere because I don’t know where this is coming from

    Further, even given a conventional singularity, and time stopping at the singularity, that does not mean that there was no time before the singularity, just that the singularity itself did not experience time. There is ample justification for this model of time, especially given the wealth of experimental data in confirmation of GR. Many entities in the universe do not experience the passage of time. Does this mean that there’s no time?

    I understand what you mean here. But if it is true, then our term ‘universe’ is misplaced isn’t it! There is, then, an extra-universe which contains our universe.

    Many entities in the universe do not experience the passage of time. Does this mean that there’s no time?

    I don’t know of these ‘many entities’. Enlighten me.
    But YES, it still does not make sense to talk about ‘time beginning’ as regards to the universe as a whole. It only makes sense if time is a property beyond the universe, which there can’t be by definition of the word ‘universe’!

  24. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Hello Joe,

    But it does. Otherwise, how can you say it began? Prior to the boat being in water,it was not displaced. Prior to the person standing up, the lap was there. In order for the water to be displaced, there must have been a moment when it was NOT.

    Its clear you haven’t yet grasped the idea. Its true that prior to the boat being in the water the water was not displaced, but the illustration is not of a boat entering into the water. The illustration is of a boat that is in the water. I could have just as easily used a log in the water that had always been submerged at the bottom of the river, and always been displacing the water of the river. In order for water in the river to be displaced, the boat just has to be there in the water, it doesn’t need a prior time for the cause to make the effect. The cause and effect are simultaneous. Consider a man sitting down, and causing a lap to be created – the effect of a lap was not present prior to the cause of a man sitting down, but only appear when he does sit down. The cause and effect are simultaneous. And in this way it makes perfect sense to say a lap began to exist, even if we know absolutely nothing prior to the lap being created.

    Stuart:Good to see you trying to do some theology. If God is outside time, his knowledge would appear temporally prior to his temporal creatures, which is all the illustration requires.

    Joe:Why should I accept this bare assertion?

    The illustration is immediately apparent to anyone who puts a little thought into it. A similar illustration would be if you have seen a movie like Sandra Bullock’s Premonition, or Nicholas Cage’s Next, or even Back to the Future. Anyone with knowledge about the future has temporally prior knowledge and that knowledge would appear to be determinative, yet their knowledge was not logically prior, but logically subsequent to the choices and circumstances of the situation they have knowledge about.

    Do you mean the assertion, “If God…, then his…”? You don’t have to accept the God of the illustration to understand or accept the illustration. Just a reminder, its you making that assertion that God remains outside time subsequent to his creating the universe.

    it’s a “timeless creation” because Tim here is supposing that time began with the universe- in order for that to come about, one must FIRST assume that there was a “time” prior to this “creation” where it did not exist.

    The thrust of the argument in my comments is to show that a prior time does not need to be assumed in order for time to come into being. Thus, that time began when the universe began to exist is reasonable and possible. Whether or not that is the case, I’ll leave up to the cosmologists.

    Also, it’d be nice if you actually had some substantive evidence of the universe actually beginning to exist about then. All we have is the inflationary theory which does not speak of the actual “origins”. In fact, there’s NO consensus on how Big Bang even occurred. In short, it has not been established the universe had a beginning.

    Its difficult to imagine that you actually read the article above, as there are a number of arguments, philosophical and scientific, that support that the universe had a beginning. While how the Big Bang occurred is controversial, this does not remit the near consensus that agree there was a Big Bang. It seems you misunderstand the Big Bang theory – which supports an absolute origin of all space, time, matter and energy a finite time ago. In other words, in the Big Bang Theory we have a literal creatio ex nihilo – a creation out of nothing. I don’t want to make out that a universe finite in the past is beyond questioning or doubt, but from what I’ve read and studied this seems to be far and away the most favoured conclusion, the theory having received overwhelming experimental and empirical support, its rival hypotheses all toppling soon after being proposed.

  25. Joe
    Joe says:

    I tend to think that GR will turn out not to be true, or different at large distances. Especially with all the “missing mass” that’s supposed to be out there; I’m betting that we don’t find it.

    GR’s main problem is with quantum mechanics, as far as I know, regarding gravity. As far as we know, it has been a very good model in predicting the curvature of space.

    I’m not familiar with any examples of ’singularity’ that do not involve infinite curveature. Examples?

    I don’t believe I’ve said there aren’t?

    I understand what you mean here. But if it is true, then our term ‘universe’ is misplaced isn’t it! There is, then, an extra-universe which contains our universe.

    I define universe as the space/time.

    I don’t know of these ‘many entities’. Enlighten me.
    But YES, it still does not make sense to talk about ‘time beginning’ as regards to the universe as a whole. It only makes sense if time is a property beyond the universe, which there can’t be by definition of the word ‘universe’!

    Black Hole, for one? I mean, in the singularity and such…

  26. Other Simon
    Other Simon says:

    I’m not familiar with any examples of ’singularity’ that do not involve infinite curveature. Examples?

    I don’t believe I’ve said there aren’t?

    I’m confused. You said: It should be noted here that there are two very valid definitions of ’singularity’ in cosmology, namely the area of infinite density and infinite curvature that we get from black hole cosmology, and ‘a place where our laws or ability to comprehend break down’

    I talking about your second ‘type’ of singularity here – in bold – one which you seem to say does not involve infinities. I don’t know any examples of your second type of singularity. Can you give me some examples?

    Black Hole, for one? I mean, in the singularity and such…

    You claimed that “many entities” don’t experience the passage of time. Sorry but a black hole is not ‘many entities’. I was rather hoping to be enlightened.

    ——

    You seem to have missed the important point here

    Further, even given a conventional singularity, and time stopping at the singularity, that does not mean that there was no time before the singularity, just that the singularity itself did not experience time.

    The salient point I am making is that you cannot compare a black hole with our model of the universe as a whole. Certainly time can exist outside a black hole but that is because there is universe surrounding the black hole. But there is not universe surrounding the universe, and so your comparison is completely void.

  27. Joe
    Joe says:

    ‘a place where our laws or ability to comprehend break down’

    I talking about your second ‘type’ of singularity here – in bold – one which you seem to say does not involve infinities. I don’t know any examples of your second type of singularity. Can you give me some examples?

    This singularity is the pre-planck singularity, which, because of the breaking down of laws, we don’t know. Similarly, I don’t think we really know what goes inside the black hole? I mean, yes- there is tremendous gravity that causes the curvature for one, but I don’t think we know what occurs? does the matter just disappear? what happens? I don’t think we know.

    The salient point I am making is that you cannot compare a black hole with our model of the universe as a whole. Certainly time can exist outside a black hole but that is because there is universe surrounding the black hole. But there is not universe surrounding the universe, and so your comparison is completely void.

    How do you define the universe? Since it has no been established time to have begun, it is similarly possible that the singularity, due to its extreme gravity did not experience time, but not that time itself did not exist.

    In any case, the KCA, at least this form, is flawed because it claims that time and the universe began. But if there’s no time, then how can one claim the universe ever did not exist? How can the universe be created if there’s no moment prior to which the universe did not exist?

  28. Joe
    Joe says:

    Its clear you haven’t yet grasped the idea. Its true that prior to the boat being in the water the water was not displaced, but the illustration is not of a boat entering into the water. The illustration is of a boat that is in the water. I could have just as easily used a log in the water that had always been submerged at the bottom of the river, and always been displacing the water of the river.

    Oh I’ve “grasped it”. And I found it lacking, since you still haven’t answered the main problem of saying “time and the universe began”. Even in your example of boat displacing water, in order for the boat to “begin” displacing water, there MUST have been a time prior to which the water was NOT displaced. As for your latter example, a similar analogy can be made of the universe- it could have always existed, albeit in different forms.

    In order for water in the river to be displaced, the boat just has to be there in the water, it doesn’t need a prior time for the cause to make the effect.

    It does need the prior time of which the water was NOT displaced.

    The cause and effect are simultaneous. Consider a man sitting down, and causing a lap to be created – the effect of a lap was not present prior to the cause of a man sitting down, but only appear when he does sit down.

    This is STILL a problem on your part. There was a time prior to which the lap did not exist.

    The cause and effect are simultaneous. And in this way it makes perfect sense to say a lap began to exist, even if we know absolutely nothing prior to the lap being created.

    It’s interesting how there are no actual examples or evidence of any cause/effects that are god-caused. The lap “began to exist” from a prior time in which there WAS NO LAP.

    The illustration is immediately apparent to anyone who puts a little thought into it. A similar illustration would be if you have seen a movie like Sandra Bullock’s Premonition, or Nicholas Cage’s Next, or even Back to the Future. Anyone with knowledge about the future has temporally prior knowledge and that knowledge would appear to be determinative, yet their knowledge was not logically prior, but logically subsequent to the choices and circumstances of the situation they have knowledge about.

    I wouldn’t exactly put faith into movies to show exactly how time works. In order for them to even observe the “future events” in any case, time was necessary for them to know- to generate thoughts. And why is time necessary? Because otherwise thoughts would not be generated, since there was no time prior to which the thought did not exist.

    Do you mean the assertion, “If God…, then his…”? You don’t have to accept the God of the illustration to understand or accept the illustration. Just a reminder, its you making that assertion that God remains outside time subsequent to his creating the universe.

    I made no such claim. My point is that in order for god to have created time and the universe, he himself must be timeless, which itself is an illogical concept.

    The thrust of the argument in my comments is to show that a prior time does not need to be assumed in order for time to come into being. Thus, that time began when the universe began to exist is reasonable and possible. Whether or not that is the case, I’ll leave up to the cosmologists.

    But for anything to “begin existing” regardless of whether the cause/effect itself is simultaneous, there MUST have been a time prior to which either time or the universe did not exist. Obviously this makes no sense. Thus it’s illogical to speak of time ever “beginning to exist”.

    Its difficult to imagine that you actually read the article above, as there are a number of arguments, philosophical and scientific, that support that the universe had a beginning. While how the Big Bang occurred is controversial, this does not remit the near consensus that agree there was a Big Bang.

    I don’t deny that the Big Bang occurred…

    It seems you misunderstand the Big Bang theory – which supports an absolute origin of all space, time, matter and energy a finite time ago.

    It seems YOU do, Stuart. The Big Bang speaks of the cosmic inflation of space from a singularity 14 billion years ago, not of the origin of the universe.

    In other words, in the Big Bang Theory we have a literal creatio ex nihilo – a creation out of nothing. I don’t want to make out that a universe finite in the past is beyond questioning or doubt, but from what I’ve read and studied this seems to be far and away the most favoured conclusion, the theory having received overwhelming experimental and empirical support, its rival hypotheses all toppling soon after being proposed.

    It’s clear to me you haven’t read what cosmologists actually have postulated- the Big Bang does not speak of the origin, but of the inflation/expansion of space/energy from a singularity. It says NOTHING of an actual “creation” event. To suggest this is just pure misrepresentation of cosmology and physics. In fact, there are NO consensus on what “lead to the big bang”.

  29. Timothy
    Timothy says:

    Hey guys, sorry I haven’t been able to respond personally. I’m currently on a trip for an academic competition and will be back by the weekend to answer some of the comments.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] (Cross-posted at Thinking Matters Talk) […]

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *