Monthly Archives: May 2013

Infinite time

There’s a common argument often used to “prove” that God must exist.  It generally starts with the assertion that there can be no infinite regression of causality, meaning that if we go back in time and watch all the events unfold, all the causes that created their effects, then at some point there must be this first cause which can’t itself have been caused. The argument for this premise is false.

The argument that there can’t be an infinite series of past events goes something like so:

  1. Assume that there is an infinite series of past events.
  2. There is an event infinitely long ago.
  3. It would take an infinite amount of time to get from that point to this point in time.
  4. Ergo the premise is false.

Step two is the flaw in the argument.  If there’s an infinite series of events stretching back in time, this does not mean there is a particular event that was infinitely far back.  In fact, that statement is utterly incoherent.

To explain this, I think it worthwhile to consider a mathematical equality:

.999… == 1

 At first glance it seems to be intuitively false.  How can .999… be the same value as 1?  Well, it’s true.  Here’s the proof:

1 / 3 = .333…

1 = 3/3 = (1+1+1)/3 = 1 / 3 + 1/3 + 1/3 = .333… + .333… + .333… = .999…

I have to admit that when I first ran into this proof I asked the utterly inept question, “What about the last .000…1?  Doesn’t 1 – .999… = .00….1 with a 1 infinitely far in the back?”

Truth is that there isn’t one!  Thinking that there is fails to understand infinite regressions.  If the sequence terminated then it would not be infinite.  There’s no final anything…no infinitely far back 1.

The same is true for infinite sequences of causality or time.  Pick any infinitely far back point in time and there’s an infinite sequence of time before it.  Not only that, but you’ll find that if you pick any point of time in the past…ANY point in time…the sequence is no longer infinite; there in a defined length between any two points in time.

Another way to think about it is to recognize that it’s question begging.  If there’s a point in time infinitely far back, and the sequence itself is infinite, then that point in time also could never be reached, ergo it’s not there either.  So by using that point as a premise the conclusion is question begging.

Not to say that there IS an infinite series of causes all the way back for eternity in the past, but there could be.  There’s nothing to conclude that it couldn’t be that way.

I think though that this probably isn’t the case.  The arrow of time hypothesis makes some sense to me and if it’s true then time doesn’t work like we think it does, we just observe it as a linear progression of events because entropy dictates it’s the only way that actually is observable…thinking creatures can only perceive the sequence of time in correlation with increasing of entropy.  There actually IS no past or future, only our perception of one.  If this is true then the question itself makes no sense.

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Having an “open mind”.

When I was a child I was taught not to discount anything.  This included things like my parents’ chosen religion of course, but also other things like ghosts, UFO’s, channeling, Big Foot and a whole lot of other nonsense.  I wasn’t taught TO believe in these things, but I was encouraged to pay them a lot more credibility than they deserved.  You see, my parents wanted me to be “open minded” about such things.

There’s nothing wrong with having an open mind, but I believe that kind of open mind is way too open.  Ideas should all be met with healthy skepticism, not a default of, “Well, I suppose it can’t be proven not to be true so maybe it is.”  That’s letting your brains fall out.

When someone suggests an idea and claims it to reflect the real world we live in, we should expect them to provide some demonstration that their claim is true. When they start verbal vomiting about the “metaphysical”, the unfalsifiable, and the downright absurd expecting us to believe it we should treat with the same respect, or lack thereof, that they are treating us.  If they dare bring up the “divine” or “sacred” they deserve to be spat upon.

People like this are taking a massive shortcut. They are trying to assert their own ideas and moral claims without taking the responsibility of demonstrating them to the rest of us. What degree of arrogance it must take to expect someone to believe the same things you believe based on your say so! To expect someone to hold the same things as important because they “have to” — because it’s sacred!  

If someone expects you to share their values they need to pay you the respect of trying to convince you that they are true. We should withhold our beliefs until they do so and we should not respect those who would take the shortcut and brow-beat us with made up nonsense that can neither be demonstrated nor logically proven. The ability to believe in such things is not a valuable asset, it is a flaw in human nature.

An open mind is ready to be convinced, not crammed full of absurdities nor every claim someone purports is the truth.

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