Islamic Forum

# To Infinity And Beyond

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This is completely rational and to argue against it is to go against the laws of logic i.e. it is illogical to contend otherwise.

I thought this was an interesting challenge, and since I am not above making a clown of my self (cue the rimshot), I'll risk illogic and attempt to contend otherwise.

Josh contends that to posit an infinite regression of causal events is an absurdity and cannot logically exist in space and time. Rather, it is only a mathematical function that has no point of contact with reality. In fact, the truth of this is demonstrated by the very definition of infinity and space/time (and thus is known a priori). To defend this position, Josh offers a scenario to demonstrate its impossibility:

You are in a queue at a shop counter. There are 3 people in front of you. It takes 1 minute for each person to be served. After each person is served, it causes the next person to step forward and be served. Therefore, you will wait 3 minutes before you are served. If there were 10 people in front of you, you will wait 10 minutes. If there were 100 people in front of you, you would wait 100 minutes, and so forth. However, if there were an infinite number of people in front of you i.e. there was no beginning to the queue, you would be waiting an infinite time to get to the front. In fact, you (a cause) would never happen because you exist at the end of infinity. This can be said for every cause in this absurd example. No causes could happen in infinity.

At first glance, this does seem like a very good argument, in fact, an impossible conundrum for anyone wishing to propose an infinite regression as the source of our present universe. But, I began to wonder why it didn't satisfy me, and it dawned on me that there was something missing, and that was that while he deals with the time it would take for any point in the continuum to arrive, he doesn't deal with nature how much time is allotted to each point to reach its destination. Allow me to illustrate:

You are in a queue at a shop counter. There are 3 people in front of you. One person is served each minute. After each person is served, it causes the next person to step forward and be served. Therefore, three people will be served when three minutes has passed. If you wait 10 minutes, ten people will be served. If you waited 100 minutes, there would be 100 people served, and so forth. However, if you waited an infinite number of minutes i.e. there was no beginning to when you started waiting, there would be an infinite number of people served. In fact, you would have already been served since you have been among the infinite already served. This can be said for every person in this absurd example. Every event that takes a finite amount of time could happen in infinity.

As you can see, all I have done is reversed the focus of consideration from how how much time an infinite series of finite events takes, to how many finite events can occur in an infinite amount of time. This one small redirection of our attention completely transforms the outcome, despite me retaining the basic structure of his example.

There were a couple of other interesting things that were brought up. The first was that the universe is governed by a principle (or law) called causality, and that this law has been demonstrated by science. Clearly this is not the case, and the impossibility of science, an empirical discipline, to prove it was fairly conclusively demonstrated by David Hume. Rather than prove it, science is built upon the presupposition that there is causality, and depends on this presumption for all of its conclusions. (You can read more about this, and Kant's facinating "solution" here: (you are not allowed to post links yet)"you can't post links until you reach 50 posts_plato.stanford.edu/entries/kant-hume-causality/"]you can't post links until you reach 50 posts_plato.stanford.edu/entries/kant-hume-causality/[/url]).

The second interesting idea was the assumption that the universe was deterministic, when in fact it seems that our best scientific opinion is that it is not deterministic except at the statistical level. And even beyond this, should there have been an infinite regression of universes that preceeded this one, there is nothing that requires us to posit that they were deterministic (there is actually no way to posit any knowledge of them at all except that they preceeded us). Thus, we have no grounds for assuming anything on the basis of our current conditions because we have no justification for extending them outside of our present point, let alone outside the period of the existence of our universe (a consequence of the problem of causality that Hume also observed).

I hope that I have adequately represented Josh in this, and if not, I would gladly welcome any correction.

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Sorry, perhaps I didn't make it entirely clear, but this is open to anyone who wants to discuss it, and not just josh0335.

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No takers? I'm sad (ha ha). I thought it was insightful, especially since I thought josh0335's example scenario was clever.

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OK, I'll bite,

We cannot have an infinite past events in the universe simply because the universe it self is govern or bound by time.

From little that I know of the law of causuality, Cause + Action = effect

Since, this universe is here and it is real, then that itself is an 'effect'. The law says the universe cannot create itself, since it need to pre-exist to do so. The Quran appeals to common sense and rationality by asking "did it create it self?" or "was it created from nothing?". Indeed How could the universe create it seft as it did not exist before?

The starting point, as per science, is the big bang (Action). Therefore the other component is the 'cause'. In other word, every creation has a creator, every effect there is a cause. The cause however, must be superior that the effect because it can exist without the effect whereas the effect cannot come into existence without a cause.

In essence, this 'cause' must be superior to the universe as it can exist independently of the universe and therefore not bound by any law that bounds the universe whatsoever. This is common sense and logical.

As we know, nothing in the universe is infinite, even the size of the universe is finite (i.e such and such light years across) & given that this universe is govern or bound by time, space, energy and matter, so we cannot have 'an infinite past events" in the universe, and it is logical to conclude that the cause is not bound by these laws and is infinite. The cause is ONE since infinity + 1 is an impossibility or illogical. Does this make sense?..

Casuality from wiki: (you are not allowed to post links yet)"you can't post links until you reach 50 posts_en.wikipedia(contact admin if its a beneficial link)/wiki/Causality"]you can't post links until you reach 50 posts_en.wikipedia(contact admin if its a beneficial link)/wiki/Causality[/url]

Allah knows best.

ard

Edited by RAHIMI

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We cannot have an infinite past events in the universe simply because the universe it self is govern or bound by time.

This universe is, but what is being discussed is what caused this universe, and so lies outside of both the universe and its constraints.

From little that I know of the law of causuality, Cause + Action = effect

Since, this universe is here and it is real, then that itself is an 'effect'. The law says the universe cannot create itself, since it need to pre-exist to do so. The Quran appeals to common sense and rationality by asking "did it create it self?" or "was it created from nothing?". Indeed How could the universe create it seft as it did not exist before?

But cause and effect are not physical laws, but are rather patterns in our perceptions, which is a synthesis of observation and cognitive structuring. You would have to read the article I linked on Hume and Kant to get a better understanding of the arguments for why this is.

The starting point, as per science, is the big bang (Action). Therefore the other component is the 'cause'. In other word, every creation has a creator, every effect there is a cause. The cause however, must be superior that the effect because it can exist without the effect whereas the effect cannot come into existence without a cause.

But the Big Bang isn't an action, it is just a point very early in the history of the universe when rapid expansion and cooling were occurring. According to science, we do not know what preceded it due to the opaque nature of this event that would have prevented any differentiation in the structure of the universe necessary for the communication of information from what was prior to this.

In essence, this 'cause' must be superior to the universe as it can exist independently of the universe and therefore not bound by any law that bounds the universe whatsoever. This is common sense and logical.

Why must the cause be superior, and by what measure would it be superior? That doesn't actually make sense to me. It strikes me as neither common sensical or logical unless other assumptions are being made that make it so.

As we know, nothing in the universe is infinite, even the size of the universe is finite (i.e such and such light years across) & given that this universe is govern or bound by time, space, energy and matter, so we cannot have 'an infinite past events" in the universe, and it is logical to conclude that the cause is not bound by these laws and is infinite. The cause is ONE since infinity + 1 is an impossibility or illogical. I hope this make sense..

I am not talking about infinite events in this universe. I am talking about an infinite string of events that lead to this universe.

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Sorry, I missed you editing in the link to causality. Unfortunately, that article doesn't mention the important work Hume and Kant did on the subject, although you can find it on Wikipedia. But your article does mention other problems with thinking causality is a principle in the nature of the universe:

However, according to Sowa (2000), "relativity and quantum mechanics have forced physicists to abandon these assumptions as exact statements of what happens at the most fundamental levels, but they remain valid at the level of human experience."

I believe my explanation also squares with this, because the synthesis of a posteriori observations and a priori cognitive structuring are both inescapable elements in the human experience.

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I think the problem with your scenario is that it posits an actually infinite period of past time. But as the Kalam Cosmological Argument (adapted by Josh) shows, this is an impossibility. William Lane Craig, a Christian thinker who has recently re-popularized this old Islamic argument, deals with all the recent attempts at rebuttal:

In short, an actually infinite period of past time, and an actually infinite number of past events are both impossibilities. (A potentially infinite thing however, is possible, and should not be confused with an actual infinite.)

If you feel that you can prove the existence of an actual infinite, I'm sure Craig would love to hear about it (or maybe not)! Seriously though, the Kalam Argument has the purpose of showing that the universe can not have existed for an actually infinite period of time and that it therefore had a beginning in time. And recent science has tended to support this philosophical view, as Craig points out. The Kalam argument then propounds the necessity of an Uncaused Cause to terminate an infinite regression, as an infinite regression is an impossibility. What the Kalam argument does not necessarily do, is show us who or what the Uncaused Cause is. As Craig suggests however, the argument does at least provide the clue that Uncaused Cause should possess will (see above link).

Peace

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<I am not talking about infinite events in this universe. I am talking about an infinite string of events that lead to this universe.>

Then why did you bring up the law of causality? Since science pretty much established that the starting point of this universe is the big bang, then are you suggesting that there were infinite number of big bang wannabees (without cause) prior to the THE BIG BANG which resulted in the formation of this universe?

Is that what you are suggesting?

ard

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<I am not talking about infinite events in this universe. I am talking about an infinite string of events that lead to this universe.>

Then why did you bring up the law of causality?

Because it was brought up in the original post that I am referencing

Since science pretty much established that the starting point of this universe is the big bang, then are you suggesting that there were infinite number of big bang wannabees (without cause) prior to the THE BIG BANG which resulted in the formation of this universe?

Is that what you are suggesting?

I am merely suggesting that we cannot rule out possibilities based on a priori knowledge of the infinite, and that any attempts at such a determination must, by their very nature, be a posteriori. It was the original posters contention that he could rule out certain possibilities based on nothing more than the logical outcomes of infinity. I am disputing that contention in this thread.

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Ah I didn't notice this thread. I might have a crack at it later at work when I'm pretending to do work. :sl:

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In short, an actually infinite period of past time, and an actually infinite number of past events are both impossibilities. (A potentially infinite thing however, is possible, and should not be confused with an actual infinite.)

I'll have a look at the link, but this would seem to defeat the Kalam Argument as well, for it can't work unless you are positing an actual infinite number of events. My infinite time is simply the flip side to any infinite series of events the argument proposed.

If you feel that you can prove the existence of an actual infinite, I'm sure Craig would love to hear about it (or maybe not)! Seriously though, the Kalam Argument has the purpose of showing that the universe can not have existed for an actually infinite period of time and that it therefore had a beginning in time. And recent science has tended to support this philosophical view, as Craig points out. The Kalam argument then propounds the necessity of an Uncaused Cause to terminate an infinite regression, as an infinite regression is an impossibility. What the Kalam argument does not necessarily do, is show us who or what the Uncaused Cause is. As Craig suggests however, the argument does at least provide the clue that Uncaused Cause should possess will (see above link).

What would it have to say about an infinite series of events that lead up to (and so was outside of) the universe? This view is consonant with the present universe having a beginning, although I believe my argument would support at least the possibility of this universe being infinite. I only rule it out on a posteriori grounds, which is the the conclusion of my argument, that discussion of these things must necessarily be a posteriori and not about a priori arguments on the nature of infinity. So, just to be absolutely clear, the argument I am putting forward is not that the universe is infinite, but that its finiteness is a matter of a posteriori observation, and not a priori reasoning.

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Ah I didn't notice this thread. I might have a crack at it later at work when I'm pretending to do work. :sl:

Thanks. I am looking forward to reading what you have to say.

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William Lane Craig, a Christian thinker who has recently re-popularized this old Islamic argument, deals with all the recent attempts at rebuttal:

I didn't get very far on that link. From the summary of the article:

Since whatever begins to exist has a cause, there must exist a transcendent cause of the universe.[using large font size is not allowed]

That isn't true, at least not as far as we know. There is no known cause for the decay of radioactive isotopes. You can predict how many will decay on a statistical level, but when or why each individual atom decays is spontaneous and without any known preceding events. I will read the rest of the article, but I did want to report back that I found this to be less than encouraging.

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Salam

The Universe you are talking about is the First Heaven (called Sama'ad-Dunya). There are Seven Heavens which are physical. Beyond the Seventh Heaven is Paradise which is followed by the Kursy of God subhanahu wa ta'ala which is sometimes translated as the Footstool of God. The Kursy is followed by the Throne of God Almighty.

The size of the First Heaven in comparison to the Second Heaven is like a ring in the desert. The size of the second is like a ring in a desert in comparison to the third and on and on and on. The width of Paradise is as big as the Seven Heavens altogether. Just the width, yet what about the depth and length of paradise. Paradise compared to the Kursy is like a ring in the desert and the Kursy is like a ring in the desert compared to the Throne.

However, all these vast creations are not eternal nor infinite, but they have limits in size, space, and time, but God Almighty does not have any limits and limitations.

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The Human soul is created for eternity and will live infinitely long. Human life has a beginning, but not an end. Everyone, received eternal life: the people of Paradise and the people of Hellfire. For the people of Paradise bliss is eternal and infinitely improving.

For the people of hellfire, punishment and torment is eternal and infinitely increasing in severeness.

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Salaams,

It seems to me that you've excluded the sequential nature of time itself from your example. For time to be infinite, it must have no beginning and no end. Time, by definition is the passing of one moment to the next. So there is a sequence here, one moment must pass for the next to begin. But for one moment to pass, the prior must pass. But if there are infinite prior moments, there can be no new moments to pass. It's the same paradox. Time cannot exist infinitely. If time cannot exist infinitely, then there can be no infinity in our reality. So there cannot possibly be an infinite regress outside of this universe, because the same paradox applies. This statement here, "However, if you waited an infinite number of minutes i.e. there was no beginning to when you started waiting, there would be an infinite number of people served," doesn't stand up to the definitions we've used. There cannot be an infinite number of minutes.

Of course, this logic can only work if you can clearly define time. I'm not sure that the very basic definition I gave is actually sufficient.

Peace

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Salaams,

It seems to me that you've excluded the sequential nature of time itself from your example. For time to be infinite, it must have no beginning and no end. Time, by definition is the passing of one moment to the next. So there is a sequence here, one moment must pass for the next to begin. But for one moment to pass, the prior must pass. But if there are infinite prior moments, there can be no new moments to pass.

I guess I don't agree here. Let us apply this to something that both of us can grasp rather easily.

We can divide the span of one second in half. We can then divide that in half. Is there any point where this has to logically stop? No, and if that is so, then there are an infinite number of points within the span of that second. Now if what you say is true, one moment would have to pass for the next to begin, but for that moment to pass, the prior must pass. But there are infinite prior moments, so there can be no new moments to pass. Do you really believe this? Time as a concept would cease to function and your paradox would be completely undone, since it is depending on this concept. How many seconds did it take you to read this? How many moments were passed within each of those seconds?

It's the same paradox. Time cannot exist infinitely. If time cannot exist infinitely, then there can be no infinity in our reality. So there cannot possibly be an infinite regress outside of this universe, because the same paradox applies. This statement here, "However, if you waited an infinite number of minutes i.e. there was no beginning to when you started waiting, there would be an infinite number of people served," doesn't stand up to the definitions we've used. There cannot be an infinite number of minutes.

I haven't seen you demonstrate that time cannot exist infinitely. Each second has an infinite number of points on a continuum, and yet we still understand the passing of one second. I do not see why we cannot extend this to any continuum of time.

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I didn't get very far on that link. From the summary of the article:

That isn't true, at least not as far as we know. There is no known cause for the decay of radioactive isotopes. You can predict how many will decay on a statistical level, but when or why each individual atom decays is spontaneous and without any known preceding events. I will read the rest of the article, but I did want to report back that I found this to be less than encouraging.

Sad Clown, I really feel that you should read the article. Craig deals with various objections that have been raised by contemporary philosophers to the argument. I've cut and paste an excerpt below. If you really feel that you have something new to offer to the debate, perhaps you should submit it for publication.

At this point, we might find it profitable to consider several objections that might be raised against the argument. First let us consider objections to (2.11). Wallace Matson objects that the premiss must mean that an actually infinite number of things is logically impossible; but it is easy to show that such a collection is logically possible. For example, the series of negative numbers {. . . -3, -2, -1} is an actually infinite collection with no first member.[10] Matson's error here lies in thinking that (2.11) means to assert the logical impossibility of an actually infinite number of things. What the premiss expresses is the real or factual impossibility of an actual infinite. To illustrate the difference between real and logical possibility: there is no logical impossibility in something's coming to exist without a cause, but such a circumstance may well be really or metaphysically impossible. In the same way, (2.11) asserts that the absurdities entailed in the real existence of an actual infinite show that such an existence is metaphysically impossible. Hence, one could grant that in the conceptual realm of mathematics one can, given certain conventions and axioms, speak consistently about infinite sets of numbers, but this in no way implies that an actually infinite number of things is really possible. One might also note that the mathematical school of intuitionism denies that even the number series is actually infinite (they take it to be potentially infinite only), so that appeal to number series as examples of actual infinites is a moot procedure.

The late J.L. Mackie also objected to (2.11), claiming that the absurdities are resolved by noting that for infinite groups the axiom "the whole is greater than its part" does not hold, as it does for finite groups.[11] Similarly, Quentin Smith comments that once we understand that an infinite set has a proper subset which has the same number of members as the set itself, the purportedly absurd situations become "perfectly believable."[12] But to my mind, it is precisely this feature of infinite set theory which, when translated into the realm of the real, yields results which are perfectly incredible, for example, Hilbert's Hotel. Moreover, not all the absurdities stem from infinite set theory's denial of Euclid's axiom: the absurdities illustrated by guests checking out of the hotel stem from the self-contradictory results when the inverse operations of subtraction or division are performed using transfinite numbers. Here the case against an actually infinite collection of things becomes decisive.

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I didn't stop reading, I just mentioned that I found this discouraging. So far, I haven't seen him address the issue I brought up, but I'll continue reading it. You'll probably have to give me some time to go through the whole thing, though.

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Well, it doesn't look like I'll be published on this matter after having a look at this:

I don't have any original objections to the Kalam argument, and everything I was thinking was problematic about the argument is included there, actually there was more than I had thought up. I suppose I will try to put it in my own words, but I am afraid wordVision student is going to be disappointed (unless his suggestion of publication was not earnest), because I won't be bringing anything new to this debate. If these counter arguments are not convincing to you, I doubt I will be able to present them in a way that makes them acceptable. I simply hope it can be recognized that reasonable people can disagree on this matter.

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The comment was made with tongue in cheek, but without malice. I hope no offence was taken.

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This is not going to be an easy discussion, wordvision student. The article is long, and has numerous points where I disagree. Let me show you what I mean as briefly as possible:

1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause of its

existence.

2. The universe began to exist.

2.1 Argument based on the impossibility of an

actual infinite.

2.11 An actual infinite cannot exist.

2.12 An infinite temporal regress of

events is an actual infinite.

2.13 Therefore, an infinite temporal

regress of events cannot exist.

2.2 Argument based on the impossibility of

the formation of an actual infinite by

2.21 A collection formed by successive

2.22 The temporal series of past events

is a collection formed by successive

2.23 Therefore, the temporal series of

past events cannot be actually

infinite.

3. Therefore, the universe has a cause of its

existence.

Of those points, I disagree with the premises: 1, 2, 2.1, 2.11, 2.22, and so obviously I disagree with the conclusions: 2.13, 2.23, and 3

Each one of these points could be a long and detailed thread in and of itself. How would you like to proceed? I am afraid the conclusion to each of these discussions will ultimately be the same as it is now, since both of us are aware of the argument and its counter arguments. Let me know what you want to do and I will do my best to proceed on that.

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This is not going to be an easy discussion, wordvision student. The article is long, and has numerous points where I disagree. Let me show you what I mean as briefly as possible:

Of those points, I disagree with the premises: 1, 2, 2.1, 2.11, 2.22, and so obviously I disagree with the conclusions: 2.13, 2.23, and 3

Each one of these points could be a long and detailed thread in and of itself. How would you like to proceed? I am afraid the conclusion to each of these discussions will ultimately be the same as it is now, since both of us are aware of the argument and its counter arguments. Let me know what you want to do and I will do my best to proceed on that.

I think you are right. As with most philosophical issues of this nature, the arguments, counter-arguments and responses to the counter-arguments are all freely obtainable in the literature. I feel that there is little to be gained by simply re-stating these well known points. You will necessarily side with the non-theistic view, while I will naturally take the theistic view 'and ne'er the two shall meet'. In case other readers are interested, I will simply re-post the link which supports my position, as well some additional references.

1. William Lane CRAIG's article on his version of the argument, with responses to counter-arguments:

2. Islamic Thought on the Existence of God by Cafer YARAN (on Google Books) - Chapter on Kalam Cosmological Argument:

As a postscript, I might just take this opportunity to mention the deficiencies of the Wikipedia entry on this topic, and of Wiki in general. It should never be thought that the Wiki entry on any given topic represents a comprehensive and unbiased view. The Wiki entry on Kalam, for example, states the various objections to Craig's argument, but doesn't deal as comprehensively with Craig's responses to those objections. While some of the entries on Wiki are fantastic, others, by Wiki's own admission, require quite a bit more work before they come up to scratch. The Kalam entry is a case in point.

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You will necessarily side with the non-theistic view

Well, I don't believe I would necessarily side with any view, but seeing that I had already begun making these sorts of objections even before reading article containing these counter arguments, it does seem that I would have been in agreement with the non-theistic view on this occasion.

As for the wikipedia article, I think it should be read in conjunction with the article you mentioned, as the both of these should cover fairly well both sides. I don't think we should be too hard on wikipedia, at least not in this circumstance, since I doubt there are many other encyclopedic sources that would have even mentioned Craig in their article on the Kalam argument, let alone offered a description of his views, their objections, and at least some of his replies to these objections. It isn't perfect, but I don't see many better alternatives.

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