Tag Archives: eternity

It’s Always Been This Way

Infinity-Time1In arguing that the universe must have had a cause to come into existence, William Lane Craig has said that he finds the philosophical arguments for a beginning to the universe stronger than the scientific arguments.

Chris Hallquist, after an attempt to refute Craig’s review of the scientific evidence (without citing any actual science), turns to the philosophical arguments.

He correctly summarizes Craig’s argument thus:
1. An actually infinite number of things cannot exist

2. A beginningless series of events in time entails an actually infinite number of things.

3. Therefore, a beginningless series of events cannot exist.

If this is true, then one is forced to accept what the Bible has claimed for millennia: that the universe has an origin.

Hallquist’s strategy is to argue chiefly with premise (1). He claims that there is no contradiction to be found in examples like the famous Hilbert’s Hotel (where subtracting infinity from infinity can yield any number of a range of results).

I find this response much better than the previous section, probably because Hallquist has actually studied the subject. However, he still has not shown an actually existing infinite number to be a cogent idea.

In fact, I find this to be Hallquist’s best moment in his discussion of Craig. He shows a real understanding of Craig’s argument, and offers a reasonable answer. Even if I don’t find it convincing, and he ignores other points, it isn’t difficult to picture a sane person believing this.

Still, I do disagree.

Personally, I prefer the “Grim Reaper Paradox” to the examples Craig uses. In this example, a man has been passed by an infinite number of grim reapers, any of which will kill him if he’s still alive. But, if one asks the question “which reaper actually killed him?”, contradictory answers surface.

In an infinite string of them, there is no “first” grim reaper, so each of them should have passed a dead man, killed by some in front of it–but this would mean that none of them actually killed him.

But, if none of them killed him, he shouldn’t be dead–which is obviously wrong.

The oddness can be explored further, but the point is that this isn’t answered by Hallquist’s statements about Cantorian set theory. Nor are Craig’s examples that Hallquist failed to mentioned addressed by it. This would be understandable if he then moved on to these ideas, but he seems to think that dealing with one issue proves that all issues can be likewise addressed.

One could say any number of things to this, but the thing not to say is that this is a silly example–not applicable to the real world. Not only is it a logical test, but moments in time are very much like grim reapers in that they advance the heat death of the universe.

This paradox shows that there is no way that we could ever have reached this moment in time were the universe eternal.

So, while I appreciate that Hallquist has understood the arguments about infinities (rather than simply dismissing them as “fairyology”), and gives a much better response as a result of his studies, I do disagree.

As do the majority of people. Very few individuals, even atheists, are still trying to argue that the universe has existed eternally.  There is very little, if any, to take this view.