Isn’t the universe eternal? (Thus doing away with the need for a creator).

Posted on January 31, 2011 By

“The universe had a beginning. There was once nothing and now there is something.”

–Janna Levin, from the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics at Cambridge University

————

A universe with a finite past requires a beginning, which in turn requires a transcendent (or supernatural) cause. This is why our universe must be eternal for atheism to be valid. But Big Bang cosmology has shown that the universe is NOT eternal. In New Proofs for the Existence of God, Robert J. Spitzer (who was assisted by Dr. Stephen Barr of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Delaware) reveals that:

“Prior to Einstein’s publication of the General Theory of Relativity, one could have thought that supernatural design was completely unnecessary because it was believed (in accordance with Newton’s postulates) that the universe existed for an infinite amount of time with an infinite amount of space and an infinite amount of interacting content. Therefore, there would have been an infinite number of ‘tries’ [for randomness to produce an orderly universe] to bring about virtually any degree of complexity.”

“Standard Big Bang cosmology totally changed these postulates, and reduced the total number of ‘tries’ in the observable universe to a very finite number…..This comparatively small number of ‘total possible mass energy interactions in the universe for all time’ revealed the extreme improbability of high degrees of complexity arising out of the universe by pure chance.”

Further, this book also states that “David Hilbert (the father of finite mathematics) has given new probative force and depth to the argument for the intrinsic finitude of past time (implying a timeless creator) in his article On The Infinite.

Hilbert (among the greatest mathematicians of the 20th century) said:

“The infinite [as in infinite past time] is nowhere to be found in reality. It neither exists in nature nor provides a legitimate basis for rational thought. The role that remains for the infinite…is solely that of an idea.”

Many other contemporary mathematicians (such as mathematicians Frankel, Rotman, Kneebone, Zermelo, and Robinson) draw the same conclusion. Mathematicians Rotman and Kneebone state in The Theory of Sets and Transfinite Numbers:

“The conception of an infinite sequence of choices (or any other acts)…is a mathematical fiction—an idealization of what is imaginable only in finite cases.”

But rather than just taking some highly prominent mathematicians at their word, wouldn’t it be nice to understand for oneself just why infinite past time is mathematically impossible?  Fortunately, the mathematical concepts herein are easily accessible to non-mathematicians.  Below is an excerpt from The Case for the Creator by Lee Strobel and features an interview the author conducted with William Lane Craig:

“Let’s use an example involving marbles,” he said. “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. One way I could do that would be to give you the entire pile 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 infinity left over for myself, and you would have an infinity 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 of the marbles numbered four and higher. That way, you would have an infinity of marbles, but I would only have three marbles left.”

“What these illustrations demonstrate is that the notion of an actual infinite number of things leads to contradictory results. In the 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 nonidentical results.”

“For that reason, mathematicians are forbidden from doing subtraction and division in transfinite arithmetic, because this would lead to contradictions. You see, the idea of an actual infinity is just conceptual; it exists only in our minds.”

And lastly, in 2003, physicists Borde, Vilenkin and Guth corroborated to formulate a proof that demonstrates that an eternal universe is not possible. It is known as the BVG theorem. Alexander Vilenkin is very blunt in regard to the implications of this proof:

“It is said that an argument is what convinces reasonable men and a proof is what it takes to convince even an unreasonable man. With the proof now in place, cosmologists can no longer hide behind the possibility of a past-eternal universe. There is no escape, they have to face the problem of a cosmic beginning.” (Many Worlds in One [New York: Hill and Wang, 2006], p.176).

It should be noted that this proof applies to any proposed “multiverse” or “oscillating universe,” etc. in which our universe may be situated. Astrophysicist Robert Jastrow (the founder of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies) echoes Vilenkin’s above comments:

“The lingering decline predicted by astronomers for the end of the world differs from the explosive conditions they have calculated for its birth, but the impact is the same: modern science denies an eternal existence to the Universe, either in the past or in the future.

To explore this subject matter in more detail, please read this article.



  1. Dashan says:

    from http://www.bukisa.com/
    “The first law of thermodynamics says that energy cannot be created of destroyed, it only changes form. There is still no consensus by scientists as to whether the universe is eternal, or whether there was a beginning of time. Nobody knows, but I can tell you what we do know.

    The most popular theory today on the origins of the universe, is that it existed as a singularity of infinite density, in which time did not exist, and then for no apparent reason, it just began expanding, which led to everything we know today.”
    Read more: http://www.bukisa.com/articles/334052_is-the-universe-eternal#ixzz1FRhsuAdQ
    Dashan says
    From a purely scinetific perspective, personally I cant logically see how matter can exist independent of time. Just because time refers to measurable physical events, a motionless changeless object surely must occupy space, no matter how small & exist relative to a future event such as the BB.

    I could be wrong too but if light is fleeing into the abyss of infinite space at 300,000km/sec and the universe is also expanding albeit at a much slower rate, then there is no way that such energy will return to recharge the universe which is destined for oblivion as dead stars & planets according to the law of entropy. It seems then “There is no escape, we have to face the problem of a cosmic death” and thus a universe in ruins. Of course this is just what the Bible says will happen about this world fading away but “My love will endure”. Maybe someone can supply the exact Scriptural reference?

    • syoungren says:

      Dashan:

      Whether or not there is a consensus among scientists as to the universe having a beginning is besides the point. Scientific consensus is not nearly as relevant as the scientific and mathematical facts. I demonstrate in my “Isn’t the Universe Eternal?” post that any cosmology that denies a beginning to the universe runs afoul of the BVG proof and the laws of mathematics (and the second law of thermodynamics as well).

      Scientists have a huge psychological motivation to believe in an eternal universe. This article by astrophysicist Robert Jastrow (former director of NASA) demonstrates what I mean.

      A failure by some scientists to accept what the laws of mathematics (and other proofs) say should be viewed as a psychological/sociological phenomenon.

  2. Dashan says:

    If the atheist is brutually honest there are only two choices- God or physicalism also known as naturalism or materialism. By choosing the latter, the atheists becomes content in every part of their being to live as a materialistic reductionalist. They will never admit to a mystery of the design that all scientists allude to. Taking this reductionalist belief to the deepest level and to an indefinite time into the future (and it will always remain indefinite) when “science will know everything” (Peter Atkins) is itself an act of faith which denies that there can be anything unknown to science.
    If from nothing nothing comes, the atheists must hold to the fact that matter is infinite in the past (infinity may exist in maths but is an abhorrent concept to the physicist. Look at the insummountable problems facing physics to compromise Relativity with Quantum mechanics. Infinity in an equation make the results meaningless.
    My challenge to the sceptics & others is to explain how a infinite series of past finite physical events is possible? I like the analogy that if one had a cosmic video recorder on which ALL past events were recorded how could we ever reach the beginning of the tape if we wanted to view all such events.

    • syoungren says:

      Peter Atkins (and other atheist’s) view that eventually “science will know everything” demonstrates a poor grasp of the philosphy of science. Lynn Margulis (a Professor of Biology from Oxford and the University of Massachussetts) has a much more sophisticated understanding of this subject matter. In her book What Is Life?, she says:

      “…science is asymptotic. It never arrives at but only approaches the tantalizing goal of final knowledge. Astrology gives way to astronomy; alchemy evolves into chemistry. The science of one age becomes the mythology of the next.”

      “Asymptotic” is the adjective form of the noun “asymptote,” which is defined as: “A line that continually approaches a given curve, but does not meet it at any finite distance.”

      The failure to understand the nature of human knowledge is one of the cornerstone flaws of the atheist worldview. The idea that science will one day know everything reminds me of a humorous TV commercial I once saw where a guy turns off his computer after telling his wife that he “finished the internet.”

  3. Dashan says:

    I recommend a scientific paper entitled written by 3 atheist theoretical physicists
    “Disturbing Implications of a Cosmological Constant,” announced the title of a paper on the Los Alamos National Laboratory Web site.1 So “disturbing” were the paper’s findings that within a few days the British journal Nature ran an online commentary on them as well. Was evidence mounting against a naturalistic model for the beginning of the universe? Without daring to hint at the possibility of supernatural design, commentators suggested, “Our universe is so unlikely that we must be missing something.”2

    The MIT and Stanford physicists who authored the original paper had investigated the possibility of replacing a single-creation-event cosmic model with a multiple-beginnings model. Their results said it won’t work: the cosmological constant (self-stretching property of the universe) negates the possibility.

    The team had explored a phenomenon called “Poincare recurrences” as a way around the space-time limitations constraining their model.3 This idea offers the theoretical possibility (if the universe is subject to the same limitations event horizons impose on black holes) that after the universe is maximally expanded, it could come back together into one tiny point and then start all over again. The idea died when data showed that the time required between these hypothetical Poincare occurrences would be so absurdly long and the number of necessary recurrences so huge that unless the cosmological constant is wrong, a multiple-beginnings scenario remains both scientifically and philosophically impossible.

    The authors also demonstrated that a universe governed by a cosmological constant will—of necessity—manifest extremely low entropy at its beginning. Such a low entropy state, according to the authors, would demand that “an external agent” (external to matter, energy, space, and time) that “intervened…for reasons of its own” in some miraculous way.4 In other words, the researchers conclude that either astronomers are wrong about the cosmological constant or, a specific deity miraculously intervened.

    The researchers prefer to believe that astronomers are wrong. But, evidence for the cosmological constant is compelling—as is its implication of a divine Creator. Skeptics wanting more evidence need not wait long. Several independent teams of astronomers already are making measurements that will put cosmic creation to a more stringent test. The words “In the beginning God created…” stand to be affirmed anew.”

    So much for science closing the gaps to rule out an external agent/Creator. No doubt there will be some frantic fantasizing by atheists to weavel their way round these facts based on zero evidence o

    • Dashan says:

      For those not in the know re. a Poincare recurrence , please consider a large room filled with matter and energy where all the particles and photons undergo random, chaotic motions. The laws of statistical mechanics tell us that if we wait long enough the particles and photons, by chance, will all cram themselves into a cubic micron in one of the room’s corners. This condition, of course, is highly unstable and the particles and photons will quickly disperse throughout the room. The time between all the particles and photons being released from that cubic micron and their return, by chance, to that same cubic micron is called a Poincare recurrence.
      So unless the cosmological constant is wrong, a multiple-beginnings scenario (oscillating universes) remains both scientifically and philosophically impossible.

    • syoungren says:

      Dashan, this is excellent. I will review this and probably provide a link to it at the bottom of one of my essays.

  4. the savers says:

    Is God real? Do you have questions about God. Want to find out the truth. Contact us at godlovesandsaves@gmail.com. We can help. Any age. Kid or Adult.

    -The Savers!

  5. Paul Bradley says:

    I can’t go past the question. How did God come into existence?

  6. Paul Bradley says:

    No wonder you have next to no comments on this blog. You are out of touch with reality.

    You are frauds masquerading as enlightened intellectuals . Wrap it up any way you like, but spin and dogma piffle is not proof.

    On top of that, even a kangaroo court would allow a token comment from the opposing view point to be aired.

    Shame on you!

    • syoungren says:

      OK, Paul, why don’t you bring me back in touch with reality by providing a fact based, logically constructed reply to the arguments presented in this post.

      What token comment from the opposing view have I not allowed to be aired? Once again, this is an open forum. You can post anything relevant to this subject matter that you like. Just try to make it something more substantial than a bunch of ungrounded, angry assertions and characterizations such as “frauds” and “dogma” and “kangaroo court.”

      Please furnish for me a rationally constructed, fact based rebuttal to the arguments presented on this post. I EAGERLY await your reply.

  7. James says:

    Whoa… Paul Bradley’s comment on a ‘kangaroo court’ is the best expression i’ve ever heard. I think I’ll try to use it from now on.

    One other thing… I’m not sure about Dashan’s comment that the only two choices are ‘God or materialism.’ Buddhists, for one thing, don’t believe in a God, but are clearly not materialists. #

    Anyway… this, the cosmological argument, has survived essentially unchanged from Aquinas in C13th. Science has basically confirmed what Aquinas had suggested all along- the universe is almost definitely not infinite.

    But I don’t think this requires a timeless God, and the argument all comes down to causality. Once again, these replies aren’t my own but are very old, with many dating to Hume.

    1) The Cosmological argument rests on the assumption that the universe is subject to laws of causality. In other words, because other things in the universe operate by cause-and-effect, the universe must do also. But I’m not convinced this is the case. Yes, the universe had a ‘beginning’ (in that it does not stretch back infinitely- remember there was nothing ‘before’ the universe as the universe is the beginning of time itself). But just because everything within the universe that has a beginning has a cause, doesn’t mean the universe itself has to have a cause.

    2) Not everything has an obvious cause. Physicists note that subatomic particles can appear and disappear spontaneously.

    3) Our observation that things with beginnings have causes is based on our worldy experience. We observe that buildings have been built, for example, so when we see buildings we assume they also were built. But we have no experience of different universes, so we are not in a position to say what rules or sequences the universe must follow.

    4) The Cosmological argument assumes that it is acceptable for God to be a ‘brute fact’- or, in other words, containing an explanation of himself within himself. This, Aquinas postulates, is the only way to prevent an infinite regression of causes. But why is it more acceptable to say God is the brute fact than to say the universe is?

    And finally… I believe that any discussion about how the universe ‘began’ is fruitless. The universe is, in Russell’s words, just a handy word we use to describe everything we know and understand. All of our experience of causality, logic, mathematics and so on exist within the boundaries of the universe. To try and take a step back beyond the outer boundaries of this universe – as though it were a star or a bacterium, open to observation – is to step beyond the bounds of human experience and comprehension.

    • syoungren says:

      Can you provide a scholarly citation which states that there are exceptions to the law of causality? Not having an obvious cause is not the same as not having a cause.

      Immanuel Kant effectively responded to Hume’s attack on causality. This article goes into detail.

      Why is it more acceptable to say that God is the brute fact rather than to say that the universe is? Well, do you believe that time, space, matter, and energy all appeared spontaneously (in the Big Bang) as the result of a “brute fact” without a cause? Please cite for me some cosmologist or philosopher who endorses this view. Please also read my post entitled “Why Is There Something Rather Than Nothing.”

      This all goes back to my post entitled God Is Real…Why modern physics has discredited atheism. In what is perhaps the ultimate chicken-or-the-egg discussion, science and philosophy have, since the time of the ancient Greeks, wrestled with the question of whether matter is rooted in consciousness or vice versa. Modern physics clearly indicates that matter (and everything else for that matter) are rooted in consciousness. Please read the post.

      It is noteworthy that the most prominent atheist of the last 50 years, the Oxford University philosopher Antony Flew, changed his mind and endorsed theism (see his book There Is A God: How the Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind). He did this partly on his acceptance of philosophical arguments which he believes successfully counteract the philosophy of Hume and Russell. You can read an except from this book in my “Why is there something rather than nothing” essay. I cannot recommend this book strongly enough.

      Flew, as I said, was not just any old atheist. His paper Theology and Falsification was the most reprinted philosophical tract of the last 50 years and served as much of the intellectual basis for modern atheism. It is truly hard to imagine an event that could be more scandalous to atheism than to have its onetime “frontman,” as it were, reverse his views and endorse theism.

      • James says:

        Well, if you’re going to demand a ‘scholarly citation’ for everything I say, there’s not much point my arguing, since I have neither time nor inclination to go trekking for quotes from my chosen philosophers.

        But my views are hardly new. Hume is the originator, being the greatest critic ever of the common sensical world views, such as that everything including the universe follows causality. Then there is Bertrand Russell (I believe I have mentiond the Russell/Copleston debate from 1948).

        It’s ironic that you mention Kant, who himself was opposed to the Cosmological argument (though believed in God for other reasons).

        Once again, I’d like to impress on you that it’s completely ridiculous to treat the whole universe, the universe itself, as just another object to be put under a miscroscope. You say, “do you believe that time, space, matter, and energy all appeared spontaneously (in the Big Bang) as the result of a “brute fact” without a cause?” But this is precisely the point: any theist believes that God is a ‘brute fact’. They don’t accept the question you have just posed over the universe: “do you believe that God just ‘is’, without explanation or cause?’ God is the end to the infinite regression, the ultimate ‘brute fact’.

        But why, Russell and others posit, not just reduce this chain of regression by making the universe itself the end to the chain? Why can’t the universe be what ‘just is’ any less than God can be, except that ‘God’ has such ‘spiritual’ connotation?

        Don’t know anything about Flew, but I am most interested to hear these arguments that he believes counter Russell and Hume. Would you be able to elucidate them please?

        • syoungren says:

          Have you read my post entitled “Why is there something rather than nothing?” It is under the “snippets” section at the top and goes into more detail as to why Flew rejected Hume and Russell’s arguments. Please also read philosopher Mortimer J. Adler’s arguments at the bottom.

          Here is the pertinent excerpt from Flew’s book There Is A God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind:

          “Hume held that there is no cause of the existence of any series of physical beings beyond the sum of each member of the series. If there is a beginningless series of nonnecessary existent beings, then this is a sufficient cause for the universe as a whole. Conway rejected this objection on the grounds that ‘the causal explanations of the parts of any such whole in terms of other parts cannot add up to a causal explanation of the whole, if the items mentioned as causes are items whose own existence stands in need of causal explanation.’ So, for example, consider a software virus capable of replicating itself on computers connected by a network. The fact that a million computers have been infected by the virus does not in itself explain the existence of the self-replicating virus.”

          God is the non-contingent cause of the universe that exists outside of time. Please recall that this is consistent with what modern physicists say about consciousness being the ground of reality (as presented in my God Is Real: Why modern physics has discredited atheism post. If consciousness is the ground of reality, then a conscious, eternal being, rather than a non-conscious universe, is the “brute fact.”

          • James says:

            Hmm. I am pretty sure that Flew has misunderstood Hume’s objections to the Cosmological argument. To reiterate, the whole is often more than, and different to, the sum of its parts.

            All my cells can reproduce through meiosis (nearly); but that doesn’t mean I can reproduce through meiosis.

            Each indiviudal human has a single mother. But that doesn’t mean the human species as a whole has a single mother.

            And so on.

            Finally, you say “is consistent with what modern physicists say about consciousness being the ground of reality.”

            You act as though all physicists are agreed on this point. Have there been any independent surveys to show this?

            • syoungren says:

              You are pretty sure that Flew misunderstood? Flew was a Professor of Philosophy at Oxford University and I am sure he looked in to the subject pretty carefully. Can you point out specifically what Flew got wrong rather than just reiterating your previous point and not responding to Flew’s objections?

              A whole may be more than the sum of its parts, but the whole still requires an explanation, as Flew and Conway explain. Can you specifically counter this point with a philosophical argument? You have just repeated your previous argument and ignored Flew and Conway’s objections.

              I don’t suppose all physicists are agreed on this point. But it is very hard to justify belief in materialism in light of what modern physics knows about the crucial role that consciousness plays in physical reality.

  8. Terry S says:

    Scott: The idea that science will one day know everything reminds me of a humorous TV commercial I once saw where a guy turns off his computer after telling his wife that he “finished the internet.

    Terry: If science knew everything, science would cease to exist. Science is the study and observation of things to find the truth. If they already had the truth there would be no reason to study it. This is why science doesn’t try to study god. They already have the truth. God doesn’t exist.

    To try to study or observe something that doesn’t exist would be a complete waste of time. A senseless task more suited to theists. They do waste a lot of time trying to prove something that doesn’t exist is real. Sadly, they can easily convince a large part of the gullible population. You know who you are.

    Science does not claim that the Big Bang was the beginning of the universe. They do not call it a supernatural event. They describe what they “think” happened in the first few second of the expansion. They do not try to tell us where this singularity came from or what might have been before that. Even if the singularity was all there was for an eternity, the universe would still be eternal.

    Of course I don’t “believe” the universe was an eternally dense lump that started to expand. I “believe” the universe is much larger and more complex than science has the ability to observe. I don’t know this for sure, that is why I call it a belief. Just like the theist doesn’t know if god exist or not. That is why they call it faith. What I do know is the supernatural doesn’t exist. I do know god is supernatural so I do know god doesn’t exist. No matter how you slice it up, without evidence for the supernaturl you have nothing but a bunch of opinions and philosophical poo-poo-ca-ca. Just the facts.

    Scott: It is noteworthy that the most prominent atheist of the last 50 years, the Oxford University philosopher Antony Flew, changed his mind and endorsed theism.

    Terry: There is nothing noteworthy here. It just means that Antony Flew was never an atheist. He was a confused theist or agnostic. There are a lot of confused theists that claim they are or were atheists. It is amazing how few people know the difference between a theist, atheist and agnostic. Some even “believe” they are atheist/agnostics or agnostic/theists.

    Here is a fair definition of atheist and agnostic if you like a bunch of long winded, high brow definitions.
    http://www.evilbible.com/Definition_of_Atheism_1.htm

    • syoungren says:

      Terry,

      You make a lot of assertions that you don’t back up with any logic. You state that “God doesn’t exist,” yet you fail to provide us with anything that would suggest that this is anything more than a stubborn presupposition. You state that “science does not claim that the Big Bang was the beginning of the universe.” And yet science clearly does state that the Big Bang was the beginning of the universe, as I detail in my above essay. Remind me again, what have you done to rebut the points made in this essay and the essay titled Is There A God? What Is the Chance That Our World is the Result of Chance?

      You have a peculiar habit of responding to rational arguments with empty assertions. For example, what is your reply to the fact that a past-eternal universe is impossible by the laws of mathematics, as I describe in my above essay?

  9. EYang says:

    Great article, thanks for this. It seems ironic that God as a first cause provides a lot of the answers that naturalism/materialism cannot, and not simply as a “God of the gaps” argument. CS Lewis’ quote also comes to mind:

    ‘If the solar system was brought about by an accidental collision, then the appearance of organic life on this planet was also an accident, and the whole evolution of Man was an accident too. If so, then all our present thoughts are mere accidents—the accidental by-product of the movement of atoms. And this holds for the thoughts of the materialists and astronomers as well as for anyone else’s. But if their thoughts—i.e. of materialism and astronomy—are merely accidental by-products, why should we believe them to be true? I see no reason for believing that one accident should be able to give me a correct account of all the other accidents. It’s like expecting that the accidental shape taken by the splash when you upset a milkjug should give you a correct account of how the jug was made and why it was upset.’

  10. […] had a beginning…just as described in the first chapters of Genesis…as I describe in Isn’t the Universe Eternal? (Thus doing away with the need for a creator) and Is There a God? (What is the chance that our world is the result of […]

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