A Good Infinite Regress Step of Some Cosmological Arguments

Is there a God? If so, what is She like?

Moderators: AMod, iMod

User avatar
Immanuel Can
Posts: 10803
Joined: Wed Sep 25, 2013 4:42 pm

Re: A Good Infinite Regress Step of Some Cosmological Arguments

Post by Immanuel Can »

Dontaskme wrote: ...nowhere.
You mean where this message went? :D
Dontaskme
Posts: 9539
Joined: Sat Mar 12, 2016 2:07 pm

Re: A Good Infinite Regress Step of Some Cosmological Arguments

Post by Dontaskme »

Immanuel Can wrote:
Dontaskme wrote: ...nowhere.
You mean where this message went? :D
Cold fusion drives the universe.

99.999% of the mass of the universe exists in the form of plasma.

0.001% of the mass of the universe exists in atomic form. In other words 99.999% of the universe does not exist.

Life is but a dream.
User avatar
Immanuel Can
Posts: 10803
Joined: Wed Sep 25, 2013 4:42 pm

Re: A Good Infinite Regress Step of Some Cosmological Arguments

Post by Immanuel Can »

Lawrence?

Are you still around?
User avatar
Arising_uk
Posts: 12314
Joined: Wed Oct 17, 2007 2:31 am

Re: A Good Infinite Regress Step of Some Cosmological Arguments

Post by Arising_uk »

Immanuel Can wrote: Oh, sorry...broadly speaking, it means the tendency of the world to move from a state of higher order to lower order...decay and decline, really. The idea is that the world is, so to speak, "running down," dissipating energy and creating disorder from order, not the other way around.

This is a very well-established scientific law...maybe the most secure scientific law we have. ...
I think this is a misunderstanding of the science, it's not 'higher' to 'lower' nor 'decay' and 'decline', as you point out it's just a move to a very-ordered state of energy, i.e. evenly distributed across space or whatever substances are concerned. It also may not be true that nothing then occurs as spacetime might still keep on expanding.

The rest is just you abusing the scientific term for your own personal religious beliefs.
Last edited by Arising_uk on Wed Feb 15, 2017 10:34 am, edited 1 time in total.
User avatar
Arising_uk
Posts: 12314
Joined: Wed Oct 17, 2007 2:31 am

Re: A Good Infinite Regress Step of Some Cosmological Arguments

Post by Arising_uk »

Immanuel Can wrote:...
Another way of saying this is that -6 never happened, because -7 couldn't happen until -8 happened, but -8 couldn't happen because -9 hadn't, and so on...backward to infinity. But "infinity" isn't a point, but rather a placeholder for the unending lack of a previous point. So none of the numbers in the sequence can ever happen at all, because their necessary prerequisites have never taken place either, because their necessary prerequisites never happened yet, and so on....to infinity. ...
And yet there they are, happening?
Last edited by Arising_uk on Wed Feb 15, 2017 10:28 am, edited 1 time in total.
User avatar
Arising_uk
Posts: 12314
Joined: Wed Oct 17, 2007 2:31 am

Re: A Good Infinite Regress Step of Some Cosmological Arguments

Post by Arising_uk »

Immanuel Can wrote:...
Of course, for the believer in a First Cause, the answer is obvious; but what is the right answer if one does not believe in such things?
Actually, who cares? But one answer is it's turtles all the way down.

But you appear to have a problem as you want causes but then a cause which is not caused but you want causes?
ken
Posts: 2075
Joined: Mon May 09, 2016 4:14 am

Re: A Good Infinite Regress Step of Some Cosmological Arguments

Post by ken »

Immanuel Can wrote:
ken wrote:If the "world", whatever that is, is running down, then why is the Universe supposedly expanding? Is that part of entropy also?
Science tells us it's "exploding." That is indeed part of entropy.
You say, "Ah, now you ask the important question: ..." but yet you do not answer the "important" question anyway whatsoever other than "Of course, for the believer in the First Cause, the answer is obvious".

WHAT is the supposed obvious answer?

WHO/WHAT is the alleged "first cause"?

HOW did the first cause happen?

WHY did the first cause happen?

WHEN did the first cause happen?

WHERE did the first cause happen?
The first cause has to be first, and has to be uncaused. As Leibniz reminds us, whatever we suppose to be that Cause has to be sufficient to the proposed effect. If the "effect" is our universe, then the First Cause must be self-existent, creative, order-producing, immensely powerful...

Only one agent fits...

God.
Thanks for showing us what your beliefs are directly. Those beliefs explain a lot about why you respond the way you do.
Last edited by ken on Tue Feb 14, 2017 11:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.
ken
Posts: 2075
Joined: Mon May 09, 2016 4:14 am

Re: A Good Infinite Regress Step of Some Cosmological Arguments

Post by ken »

Dontaskme wrote:
Immanuel Can wrote: The first cause has to be first, and has to be uncaused. As Leibniz reminds us, whatever we suppose to be that Cause has to be sufficient to the proposed effect. If the "effect" is our universe, then the First Cause must be self-existent, creative, order-producing, immensely powerful...

Only one agent fits...

God.
The universe is no thing and everything all at once one without a second. We know this because it cannot step outside of itself to look back at itself to verify it happened. The past never happened, the future never comes. The universe therefore must be ''infinity for eternity'' condensed into this immediate infinitesimal now...aka The zero point of conception. In other words it is the micro&macrocosm all in one place aka nowhere.
For what it is worth I know you are on the right track and I understand completely what you are talking about, but when you start using words like 'no thing', 'nowhere', 'illusion', et cetera in the way you do this can make what you are trying to say and express far more confusing than it needs to be.
User avatar
Immanuel Can
Posts: 10803
Joined: Wed Sep 25, 2013 4:42 pm

Re: A Good Infinite Regress Step of Some Cosmological Arguments

Post by Immanuel Can »

ken wrote: Thanks for showing us what your beliefs are directly. Those beliefs explain a lot about why you respond the way you do.
You're welcome. It was a very poorly kept 'secret': I'm quite frank about it.
wtf
Posts: 981
Joined: Tue Sep 08, 2015 11:36 pm

Re: A Good Infinite Regress Step of Some Cosmological Arguments

Post by wtf »

Immanuel Can wrote: You're welcome. It was a very poorly kept 'secret': I'm quite frank about it.
It would be more clear to me if you stated your position, since I haven't read the entire thread in detail.

I did find this near the beginning.
Immanuel Can wrote: If the universe were an infinite regress of causes, and
Entropy is a persistent feature of this universe, then it follows that
The universe is infinitely old, and so is entropy.


I do not agree with that, again based on a simple mathematical model. I don't claim the universe is the model, only that your reasoning about infinity has hidden assumptions.

Suppose the universe is modeled by the integers, ..., -3, -2, -1, 0, 1, 2, 3, ...

It will be seen that this collection of points, or instants, or whatever you prefer to call them, is unbounded but not necessarily infinite. You are making an unjustified leap from the potential infinity to the actual, as named by Aristotle. It's perfectly possible that we have each of those points of time, just not all at once.

So perhaps I wake up and I'm living at -43434. Or 5454343. I'm at some point. I'm at a finite point. There is no point of time which is infinite.

I believe you are not considering this. In math it's the difference between the counting numbers 1, 2, 3, ... and the completed set of them as given by the Axiom of Infinity. The Axiom of Infinity is a very powerful axiom of mathematics. There is no reason to apply it to the physical universe. The universe might well be unbounded but not infinite. You might wake up and find yourself at any particular point; and you may be able to go back or forward a finite number of points; but you can NOT ever go infinitely back or forward.

Again I'm only offering this mathematical perspective to clarify your use of infinity. The universe might be a potential and not an actual infinity.

And even in such a universe there might only be a finite amount of entropy. I don't know how you quantify entropy but here is a mathematical model of how entropy could be finite even with an unbounded past.

Say there's 1 unit of entropy at the point 0, and 1/2 unit of entropy at the point -1, and 1/4 unit of entropy at the point -2, and so forth. Then the past is unbounded, yet the total entropy is only 1, the finite sum of an infinite series.

Again I don't mean to interject formal math into what is essentially a theological discussion. I only mean to clarify the way you're using the term infinity. It's perfectly clear to me that the past could at least in theory be unbounded yet have finite entropy.

To sum up:

* The past and future might be unbounded; yet there is always a finite amount of time between any two moments. The past and future are always in a state of becoming. They are never completed.

* The past could be unbounded, yet its entropy across the entire past might be finite. (If you have a different way to measure entropy I'm sure I can fold it in to my model).
uwot
Posts: 5068
Joined: Mon Jul 23, 2012 7:21 am

Re: A Good Infinite Regress Step of Some Cosmological Arguments

Post by uwot »

Immanuel Can wrote:Ah, now you ask the important question: if entropy is the law, then from where did the universe get this marvellous amount of energy and order from which it is now progressively declining entropically? There must have been an immense infusion of it somehow...but how?
Of course, for the believer in a First Cause, the answer is obvious...
Indeed. And to the believer in Santa Claus, it is obvious who left the presents by the fireplace.
Immanuel Can wrote:...but what is the right answer if one does not believe in such things?
Ah, now you ask the important question.
Immanuel Can wrote:There are actually logically only two possibilities here. Either a) the universe had a beginning, or b) the universe had no beginning.
Well, without getting too muddled up in semantics, 'the universe' is generally taken to mean all the stuff we can see. (And a lot more stuff within that horizon that we can't see, so as I don't get accused of contradicting myself.) As you acknowledge, this all seems to have been concentrated in a singularity 13.78 billion years ago, and has been expanding ever since. In that respect, the consensus is that 'the universe' did have a beginning. What we don't know is the conditions in which that event took place; whether 'the universe' within our visible horizon is all there is. So we currently have no means of discovering what the first cause of 'the universe was. It is precisely the sort of gap in our knowledge that Henry Drummond warned against filling with god.
Dontaskme
Posts: 9539
Joined: Sat Mar 12, 2016 2:07 pm

Re: A Good Infinite Regress Step of Some Cosmological Arguments

Post by Dontaskme »

ken wrote:
For what it is worth I know you are on the right track and I understand completely what you are talking about, but when you start using words like 'no thing', 'nowhere', 'illusion', et cetera in the way you do this can make what you are trying to say and express far more confusing than it needs to be.

In saying there is no 'thing', the 'thing' that is negated is known.

Apart from the 'things' known, there is no 'thing'.

The 'thing' that is known, is not what you think it is.

I'm just a messenger of truth mate.

Lies are easy to understand, truth requires a little more attention.
Justintruth
Posts: 186
Joined: Sun Aug 21, 2016 4:10 pm

Re: A Good Infinite Regress Step of Some Cosmological Arguments

Post by Justintruth »

Lawrence Crocker wrote:Arguments for the existence of God purporting to show that there must have been a creator ex nihilo, first mover, or ultimate sustainer of physical reality all share a step that the particular sort of infinite regress that there would otherwise be is a metaphysical impossibility. This is often put in some such as, “a completed actual infinity is impossible.” For example, the Kalam argument denies the possibility that physical time could have existed forever (i.e. time cannot be of order type *ω). No contradiction, however, can be produced from time having already gone on forever, and many of us think that the argument is no better than “I cannot imagine how time could extend infinitely into the past; therefore time does not extend infinitely into the past."

There is one form of the cosmological argument, however, for which the impossibility of an infinite regress seems to me to be on much better footing. This is where what is denied is explanation that goes on infinitely – infinitely many steps, infinitely far back, or infinitely deeper. Being finite, we cannot handle an infinite explanation. If in order to understand F1 we need an explanation of F2 for which we need an explanation of F3, and so on, then we will never understand F1.

If a cosmological argument premise denying infinite explanations is true, however, that does not put the whole argument in the clear. There remains the regress stopper – God’s existence must preclude the need for any further explanation. God can be such a stopper only if the concept of God has some very special properties. Sometimes this is put as “God is self-explanatory.”

Many have asserted that God is self-explanatory or that, if God exists, his existence is self-explanatory. If this is true all those of us who find no conceptual impermissibility in asking “what explains God?” are flat wrong. I, for one, have never come close to being persuaded.

Quite a different problem with an explanation based cosmological argument is that there may well be no explanation for some phenomena. That this uranium atom, and not that one, gave off an alpha particle at a particular time has no explanation at all under the quantum theory interpretation now in vogue. Explanation runs out with a stopper very different from God.

So, even were I right, as I think, that some cosmological arguments have a true “no infinite regress” premise, that is only one step towards showing those arguments sound, and very steep steps remain.

For slightly more detail, and a caveat or two, you could look to my blog LawrenceCrocker.blogspot.com.
The problem is that causality based on nature is ontic only and therefore not "causal" as Hume pointed out.

Take a sequence of natural causality in time and model it like this:

If a then b, a, therefore b. If b therefore c, b, therefore c etc.

Now take a look at a causal chain with none of the events occurring and model like this (I have assumed the causal connections are sufficient and necessary):

If a then b, not a, therefore not b. If b then c, not b, therefore not c etc.

Now set these into infinite regress

...if a-2 then a-1, a-2 therefore a-1. if a-1 then a0, a-1 therefore a0, if a0 then a1, a0 therefore a1...
...If a-2 then a-1, not a-2 therefore not a-1. If a-1 then a0, not a-1 therefore not a0, if a0 therefore a1, not a0 therefore not a1

So the difference in a finite chain that is and one that isn't cannot be the "if _ then _" for that is the same in a causal chain that does exist and a causal chain that does not. Nor can it be the A's. Rather it is the difference between not being and being.

In a finite chain there can be a first cause if first means first in time but not an infinite.

So an infinite chain has no first cause in that sense. It requires something else - roughly the difference between being and not being. So the only cause must be outside of time, eternal, not in it and is the cause of being. Causation "of time" not "in time" as Martian said I think. The causation is therefore also eternal and as such is a distinction of being.

You have grasped the essence of that nature because reasons can be based on other reasons - explanation - as you say.

I was taught that Aquinas not only believed in infinite past causal chains but believed that time was necessarily infinite in the past. I am not sure I believe it as there was such confusion between nature and the supernatural then.

Either way, the cosmological argument is best understood as an emasculation of natural causality in an infinite regress and a demonstration that an infinite regress is necessary in time under assumption of no ex nihlo cause.

The possibility and necessity of an infinite regress in time is why the argument works and "first mover" is not the first in time but is required as a start of any explanation.
Justintruth
Posts: 186
Joined: Sun Aug 21, 2016 4:10 pm

Re: A Good Infinite Regress Step of Some Cosmological Arguments

Post by Justintruth »

Lawrence Crocker wrote:Arguments for the existence of God purporting to show that there must have been a creator ex nihilo, first mover, or ultimate sustainer of physical reality all share a step that the particular sort of infinite regress that there would otherwise be is a metaphysical impossibility. This is often put in some such as, “a completed actual infinity is impossible.” For example, the Kalam argument denies the possibility that physical time could have existed forever (i.e. time cannot be of order type *ω). No contradiction, however, can be produced from time having already gone on forever, and many of us think that the argument is no better than “I cannot imagine how time could extend infinitely into the past; therefore time does not extend infinitely into the past."

There is one form of the cosmological argument, however, for which the impossibility of an infinite regress seems to me to be on much better footing. This is where what is denied is explanation that goes on infinitely – infinitely many steps, infinitely far back, or infinitely deeper. Being finite, we cannot handle an infinite explanation. If in order to understand F1 we need an explanation of F2 for which we need an explanation of F3, and so on, then we will never understand F1.

If a cosmological argument premise denying infinite explanations is true, however, that does not put the whole argument in the clear. There remains the regress stopper – God’s existence must preclude the need for any further explanation. God can be such a stopper only if the concept of God has some very special properties. Sometimes this is put as “God is self-explanatory.”

Many have asserted that God is self-explanatory or that, if God exists, his existence is self-explanatory. If this is true all those of us who find no conceptual impermissibility in asking “what explains God?” are flat wrong. I, for one, have never come close to being persuaded.

Quite a different problem with an explanation based cosmological argument is that there may well be no explanation for some phenomena. That this uranium atom, and not that one, gave off an alpha particle at a particular time has no explanation at all under the quantum theory interpretation now in vogue. Explanation runs out with a stopper very different from God.

So, even were I right, as I think, that some cosmological arguments have a true “no infinite regress” premise, that is only one step towards showing those arguments sound, and very steep steps remain.

For slightly more detail, and a caveat or two, you could look to my blog LawrenceCrocker.blogspot.com.
The problem is that causality based on nature is ontic only and therefore not "causal" as Hume pointed out.

Take a sequence of natural causality in time and model it like this:

If a then b, a, therefore b. If b therefore c, b, therefore c etc.

Now take a look at a causal chain with none of the events occurring and model like this (I have assumed the causal connections are sufficient and necessary):

If a then b, not a, therefore not b. If b then c, not b, therefore not c etc.

Now set these into infinite regress

...if a-2 then a-1, a-2 therefore a-1. if a-1 then a0, a-1 therefore a0, if a0 then a1, a0 therefore a1...
...If a-2 then a-1, not a-2 therefore not a-1. If a-1 then a0, not a-1 therefore not a0, if a0 therefore a1, not a0 therefore not a1

So the difference in a finite chain that is and one that isn't cannot be the "if _ then _" for that is the same in a causal chain that does exist and a causal chain that does not. Nor can it be the A's. Rather it is the difference between not being and being.

In a finite chain there can be a first cause if first means first in time but not an infinite.

So an infinite chain has no first cause in that sense. It requires something else - roughly the difference between being and not being. So the only cause must be outside of time, eternal, not in it and is the cause of being. Causation "of time" not "in time" as Martian said I think. The causation is therefore also eternal and as such is a distinction of being.

You have grasped the essence of that nature because reasons can be based on other reasons - explanation - as you say.

I was taught that Aquinas not only believed in infinite past causal chains but believed that time was necessarily infinite in the past. I am not sure I believe it as there was such confusion between nature and the supernatural then.

Either way, the cosmological argument is best understood as an emasculation of natural causality in an infinite regress and a demonstration that an infinite regress is necessary in time under assumption of no ex nihlo cause.

The possibility and necessity of an infinite regress in time is why the argument works and "first mover" is not the first in time but is required as a start of any explanation.
User avatar
Immanuel Can
Posts: 10803
Joined: Wed Sep 25, 2013 4:42 pm

Re: A Good Infinite Regress Step of Some Cosmological Arguments

Post by Immanuel Can »

wtf wrote:Suppose the universe is modeled by the integers, ..., -3, -2, -1, 0, 1, 2, 3, ...

It will be seen that this collection of points, or instants, or whatever you prefer to call them, is unbounded but not necessarily infinite. You are making an unjustified leap from the potential infinity to the actual, as named by Aristotle. It's perfectly possible that we have each of those points of time, just not all at once.

So perhaps I wake up and I'm living at -43434. Or 5454343. I'm at some point. I'm at a finite point. There is no point of time which is infinite.
You seem to have me backward. I was presenting the case against the existence of an actual infinite.

Since you ask, let me simplify that case as much as I can.

Take out a pen.

Write the number 1.

But before you do, write 0.

But before you do that, write -1.

But not until you've already written -2.

When you've already written -3.

But not until you've written the number -4.

And so on, to infinity.

The question, then, is "When will you actually get to write the number 1? Remember, every number before must be written prior to it.

Obviously, then, you will never ever have the chance to write 1, if you play by those rules. But that is exactly what an infinite regress posits: that before any action, there has to be an infinite chain of prior causes. But if the chain is infinite, then no prior cause ever gets to take place, because the one prior to it hasn't happened yet, because the one prior to that hasn't happened yet...and so on forever.

The point is that whether you use integers or causes, if the number prior to any number you pick is a prerequisite for the next one, and if the set is infinite, NO NUMBER EVER HAPPENS. It can't.

Now, I'm suggesting that if our universe is a chain of causes, just like Naturalism or Physicalism claim it is, then it cannot be infinite. It will have to start somewhere, with an Uncaused Causer, because absent that, NOTHING EVER HAPPENS according to the Naturalistic theory itself.

I trust that clarifies the case I'm pointing out. I wasn't the one who invented it, but it seems quite right to me. It means that there is no actual infinity of causes.
Post Reply