A paradox of time.

squirrelyguy

Active member
I think I read this in one of Norman Geisler's books years ago, and it has stuck with me as the most puzzling thought experiment I think I've ever considered.

Let's consider the possibility that time began an infinity ago.

Now one of the things that must be true is that the present moment could not have arrived yet. If it has arrived, then it would be the same thing as saying that an infinity can be crossed from one end to the other; but the definition of an infinity is that it doesn't have an end point.

But the present moment has arrived. Therefore, time could not have begun an infinity ago.

Since it began at a finite moment in time, how are we to conceive of the moment before time began? Is it even possible for there to be such a moment, since the word "moment" necessarily involves the existence of time?
 

Algor

Well-known member
I think I read this in one of Norman Geisler's books years ago, and it has stuck with me as the most puzzling thought experiment I think I've ever considered.

Let's consider the possibility that time began an infinity ago.
Time can't begin an infinity ago. That's what an infinity in the past means: it doesn't have a beginning.
Now one of the things that must be true is that the present moment could not have arrived yet. If it has arrived, then it would be the same thing as saying that an infinity can be crossed from one end to the other; but the definition of an infinity is that it doesn't have an end point.

Consider that the universe corresponds to to multiple dimensions, of which time is one, and everything in the universe can be expressed in terms of its co-ordinates in that dimensional space. The same group of relationships between those axes that give our location in that multidimensional space gives our position with respect to time.
But the present moment has arrived. Therefore, time could not have begun an infinity ago.
Every number is somewhere on an infinite number line. The choice of origin is arbitrary.
Since it began at a finite moment in time, how are we to conceive of the moment before time began? Is it even possible for there to be such a moment, since the word "moment" necessarily involves the existence of time?
In my opinion, no. The idea entails a contradiction in terms. Math=/=language.
 

Nouveau

Well-known member
Let's consider the possibility that time began an infinity ago.
If the past is infinite then it did not have a beginning.

Now one of the things that must be true is that the present moment could not have arrived yet.
The present would have 'arrived' in the same way that the infinity of negative integers 'arrive' at zero.

Since it began at a finite moment in time, how are we to conceive of the moment before time began?
If the past is finite then there obviously was not any moment before time began.
 

Torin

Well-known member
@squirrelyguy

I saw a Youtube debate between William Lane Craig and an atheist who is a professional mathematician. They talked for a couple of hours about the mathematics of infinity in connection with one of the syllogisms supporting the kalam cosmological argument. So, I think this specific topic can get into the weeds a bit.

It is definitely interesting to think about. Good thread.
 

CrowCross

Well-known member
I think I read this in one of Norman Geisler's books years ago, and it has stuck with me as the most puzzling thought experiment I think I've ever considered.

Let's consider the possibility that time began an infinity ago.

Now one of the things that must be true is that the present moment could not have arrived yet. If it has arrived, then it would be the same thing as saying that an infinity can be crossed from one end to the other; but the definition of an infinity is that it doesn't have an end point.

But the present moment has arrived. Therefore, time could not have begun an infinity ago.

Since it began at a finite moment in time, how are we to conceive of the moment before time began? Is it even possible for there to be such a moment, since the word "moment" necessarily involves the existence of time?
Great argument to use against the "stuff" of the universe always existed.

That leaves you with basically two choices...the universe was made by a self existent God who can operate outside of time....or the universe created itself from nothing....which we know is impossible.
 

Nouveau

Well-known member
Great argument to use against the "stuff" of the universe always existed.

That leaves you with basically two choices...the universe was made by a self existent God who can operate outside of time....or the universe created itself from nothing....which we know is impossible.
A classic false dichotomy, as has already been explained to you countless times.
 

Electric Skeptic

Well-known member
Great argument to use against the "stuff" of the universe always existed.

That leaves you with basically two choices...the universe was made by a self existent God who can operate outside of time....or the universe created itself from nothing....which we know is impossible.
...except that all the arguments against an infinite universe apply equally to the idea of an (effectively) infinite god.

And no, we don't know that it's impossible that the universe came into being from nothing.

And no, they aren't the only two choices.
 

Torin

Well-known member
@CrowCross @Nouveau @Electric Skeptic

If you gentlemen are planning to debate God's existence, may I suggest doing so on the Atheism subforum? You could start a new thread on the topic and link to it here, if you like.

A couple of reasons:

1. The Philosophy subforum should probably be more about general philosophy, or it will end up kind of redundant.

2. The issue of God's existence is emotionally charged and often not conducive to reasoned debate, so it's a good idea to keep it confined.

Pragmatically, you'll have a larger audience over there, as well. Not many people read this subforum.
 

e v e

Super Member
Reality coming from nothing or something (as two paradigms of argument) is essentially
Greek...Medieval Christianity was saturated in the Greek mindset and glued much Greek thought onto theology.


God created from Love.

Not from preexisting matter or from 'nothing' or void.

He created from Love.

God is Love.
 

The Pixie

Well-known member
Great argument to use against the "stuff" of the universe always existed.

That leaves you with basically two choices...the universe was made by a self existent God who can operate outside of time....or the universe created itself from nothing....which we know is impossible.
False dichotomy.

The universe could have been caused by some other entity that operators outside of time or something else we have not dreamt up yet. The latter should be taken seriously, given how quantum mechanics turned out. It is a simple fact that nature can be counter-intuitive.

Why is it impossible for the universe to create itself? I would be interested to see that proof.
 

CrowCross

Well-known member
False dichotomy.

The universe could have been caused by some other entity that operators outside of time or something else we have not dreamt up yet. The latter should be taken seriously, given how quantum mechanics turned out. It is a simple fact that nature can be counter-intuitive.

I suppose it could have...but that would be a God..right? There is no need to dream up this entity as we find Him in the bible.
Why is it impossible for the universe to create itself? I would be interested to see that proof.
If you have complete nothingness..how does something self create from complete nothingness...be and not be at the same time?
 

The Pixie

Well-known member
I suppose it could have...but that would be a God..right? There is no need to dream up this entity as we find Him in the bible.
It could be the God of the Bible, it could be another god, it could be something else entirely, perhaps some non-intelligent entity. We have no way to tell.

If you have complete nothingness..how does something self create from complete nothingness...be and not be at the same time?
I do not know. Is that proof it is impossible?

I mean, I like the implication you think I am omniscient, but modesty requires me to point out that there are somethings even I do not know.
 

CrowCross

Well-known member
It could be the God of the Bible, it could be another god, it could be something else entirely, perhaps some non-intelligent entity. We have no way to tell.


I do not know. Is that proof it is impossible?

I mean, I like the implication you think I am omniscient, but modesty requires me to point out that there are somethings even I do not know.
Right now I'm sticking of the God of the Bible and Genesis.
 

CrowCross

Well-known member
Of course - you are already convinced he exists and created the universe. Some of us are not.
Yup, I'm convinced. Currently I have no reason not to be convinced. If you're not convinced God exist...that's your right. I'm not going to burn you at the stake because of your belief.
 

squirrelyguy

Active member
If the past is infinite then it did not have a beginning.
I agree, and I should have worded it differently.
The present would have 'arrived' in the same way that the infinity of negative integers 'arrive' at zero.
But an infinite set is something that only exists in theory, never in practice. One cannot invent a machine that can successfully count off every number on an infinite set, regardless of where you start the count (from zero or elsewhere). And of course, you cannot "begin" the count from infinity.
 

Nouveau

Well-known member
But an infinite set is something that only exists in theory, never in practice.
How do we know that? The past could well be infinite for all we know.

One cannot invent a machine that can successfully count off every number on an infinite set, regardless of where you start the count (from zero or elsewhere). And of course, you cannot "begin" the count from infinity.
Of course you cannot invent such a machine, as inventing it would give it a starting point, and then it would no longer be a fair analogy. But such a machine could exist if the past were infinite and if it has always been counting.
 

squirrelyguy

Active member
How do we know that? The past could well be infinite for all we know.
But you're counting time in a progression from the current moment (a beginning) to the infinite past. Time is moving in the opposite direction from the past to present.
Of course you cannot invent such a machine, as inventing it would give it a starting point, and then it would no longer be a fair analogy. But such a machine could exist if the past were infinite and if it has always been counting.
As I said in my OP, this would necessarily mean that the present moment would not have arrived yet. If you're trying to count one moment after another in sequence (since this is the only way in which time happens), you cannot arrive at any particular moment without selecting your starting point first. But as soon as you select your starting point, you're chosen not to count from infinity.
 

shnarkle

Well-known member
But the present moment has arrived.
Aren't we just Begging the Question by saying that the present moment has arrived? Why couldn't we just as easily assume it never left? Since when does the present moment go anywhere?

I don't see any proof of time being anything more than an idea, or an invention of the mind. By definition, the past and future don't exist.

I think what you're dealing with is more of a contradiction than a paradox.
 
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