## Time has a start

• 1.5k
The possible models for the origin universe can be divided into deterministic ('can’t get something from nothing') and non-deterministic ('can get something from nothing' - quantum fluctuations). We can also subdivide these models into those of finite and infinite time. When combined, that gives 4 possible types of universe model. My argument is that 3 out of 4 of these model types leads to a contradiction and therefore we can conclude that time has a start.

A note on the method of my argument:

I will start with two axioms A and B, and show that all but one of the following combinations leads to an absurdity:
A and B
~A and B
A and ~B
~A and ~B

axiom A = 'Can get something from nothing'
axiom B = 'Time is finite'

So I will argue that ~A and B apply by showing the other three possibilities lead to absurdities:

A and B - 'Can get something from nothing' and 'Time is finite'

If time is finite, ‘anything can happen will happen’ does not have sufficient time to work its magic so there is no way for the universe to be created by natural, random processes (IE quantum fluctuations).

If time is finite but very, very long this is admittedly still an outside possibility.

~A and B - 'Can’t get something from nothing' and 'Time is finite'

So probably a start of time coincidental with creation. This is the Big Bang theory. This is a possibility.

A and ~B - 'Can get something from nothing' and 'Time is infinite'

If matter/energy is created on average (and it must be because we are here) and time is infinite, we would have reached infinite matter/energy density by now.

Also if creation events are naturally occurring and time is infinite, we would expect an infinite number of Big Bangs. There is evidence of only one Big Bang

~A and ~B - 'Can’t get something from nothing' and 'Time is infinite'

This would mean matter/energy has existed ‘forever’ which is impossible; the matter/energy would have no coming into being so could not exist; it is logically incomplete without a temporal start.

We can also argue against this model by arguing against an infinite regress of (say) particle collisions (arranged by time). With infinite time, the number of collisions must be greater than any number, which is a contradiction (can’t be a number AND greater than any number).

Summary

So my argument is the following are false:
B and ~A
~A and ~B

The following is very probably false:
A and B

And the following is possible:
~A and B

So:
B - time is finite - is true in all possible cases
and
A - Can get something from nothing is very probably false.

Footnote: God

My argument as presented above is not proof from intervention by God. So I argue that the existence of God implies time had a start:

- An eternal in time (presentist) God exists in a universe where time has no start.
- Such a God has no start in time; no coming into being; so cannot logically exist
- Or if the God had a start point in time, there would be an empty stretch of time before him and nothing to cause his existence, which is also impossible
- So God must be timeless
- Implying time has a start
• 2.2k
Can't get something from nothing
Can't get anything from an argument that does not offer a definition of its terms. And for this topic, "nothing" really needs to be defined. So, out of the gate another gee-whiz argument.

In my opinion - and I know it may seem unkind - we need to do an intervention. For Devan's sake do not engage in this argument unless to encourage him - or her as the case may be - to stop spouting nonsense and to do some real thinking.
• 1.5k
And for this topic, "nothing" really needs to be defined. So, out of the gate another gee-whiz argument

Nothing is spacetime absent of any matter/energy (except quantum fluctuations).
• 8.5k
'can get something from nothing' - quantum fluctuations

"Quantum fluctuations" can't be both quantum fluctuations and nothing. Quantum fluctuations are something. If they exist, then they're part of the universe, and explaining the origins of the universe would have to involve explaining where quantum fluctuations come from.

So either whatever exists suddenly appeared, non-causally, or something has always existed. There's no way around that.
• 1.5k
"Quantum fluctuations" can't be both quantum fluctuations and nothing. Quantum fluctuations are something. If they exist, then they're part of the universe, and explaining the origins of the universe would have to involve explaining where quantum fluctuations come from.

I agree but my argument is directed towards current cosmological thinking where the origin of the universe is almost invariably attributed to quantum fluctuations.

If we treat quantum fluctuations (and any other similar natural processes) as part of space which is part of the universe then there really is nothing to cause the universe - except the start of time - so that must be the cause of the universe.

So either whatever exists suddenly appeared, non-causally, or something has always existed

If it appeared non-causally, IE some natural stochastic process, we'd expect infinite occurrences of the universe appearing (with infinite time). We'd also have infinite matter density. So that's impossible.

Something can't 'always' exist; to exist something has to come into being first and if it 'always' existed, it has no temporal starting point to come into being.
• 8.5k
If we treat quantum fluctuations (and any other similar natural processes) as part of space which is part of the universe then there really is nothing to cause the universe - except the start of time - so that must be the cause of the universe.

There can't be anything to cause the universe, because that necessarily implies that something exists prior to the universe. But that can't be, because that existent thing would be (part of) the universe then.

So again, either the universe acausally began or something always existed. Those are the only two options logically.

If it appeared non-causally, IE some natural stochastic process,

It can't appear from some natural stochastic process. That would be something. Hence, the natural stochastic process would be part of (or the whole of) the universe at that point.

Something can't 'always' exist; to exist something has to come into being first

"Always existed" logically means that it never came into being.

All this goes for whatever we posit existing, including gods.
• 2.2k
Nothing is spacetime absent of any matter/energy (except quantum fluctuations).

That is an excellent definition. I'm pretty sure, though, there is no such thing nor ever was as your "nothing" as you define it. With such a definition you're now free to build on it whatever you want, but if the foundation is nothing, why bother? There's a divide between fact and belief and in some respects it's non-negotiable. But the benefit of belief is that you get to have that for the asking - you don't even have to ask!
• 1.5k
There can't be anything to cause the universe, because that necessarily implies that something exists prior to the universe

God could exist timelessly. He could cause the start of time and the universe.

So again, either the universe acausally began or something always existed

Can you explain how exactly the universe can begin truly acausally? (not even quantum fluctuations).

"Always existed" logically means that it never came into being.

There is nothing logical about the above statement. Would you exist if you were not born? You can't exist without coming into being.

That is an excellent definition. I'm pretty sure, though, there is no such thing nor ever was as your "nothing" as you define it

The exact definition of nothing used does not impact my argument.
• 8.5k
God could exist timelessly.

If god exists and then the rest of everything does (your options are either that, or god existed and everything else did, too, or everything else existed and then god--there's no other logical possibility), then god--part of everything, either began acausally or always existed. Once again, we can't escape the two possibilities. Either something began acausally or it always existed.

Can you explain how exactly the universe can begin truly acausally?

No one could explain either how anything can begin acausally--any explanation would imply a cause, or how anything could always exist (since that's completely counterintuitive).

Would you exist if you were not born?

If I always existed, yes. I'd necessarily exist without being born. That's what the words "always existed" conventionally refer to.
• 2.2k
That is an excellent definition.
— tim wood
The exact definition of nothing used does not impact my argument.
If your definitions are nothing to your argument, then your argument is nothing.

In all these arguments of yours it appears you're desperate to make reality agree with your ideas as they're expressed in your language. You're allowed to do that, it's called belief. But reality does not work that way and that's why there is something called science. What you're creating when you mix the two is simply non-sense. Granted there are some interesting twists in language, but they're just in language, not in the world.

Among the things that (I think) physics teaches us is that ordinary language does not exactly re-present or model reality.
• 1.5k
No one could explain either how anything can begin acausally--any explanation would imply a cause, or how anything could always exist (since that's completely counterintuitive).

Well if no-one can explain them and they are counterintuitive, then we can just rule them out? They are both impossible after all. Universes don't just pop into existence with no reason and 'always existing' is not possible.

If I always existed, yes. I'd necessarily exist without being born. That's what the words "always existed" conventionally refer to.

But you can't exist without being born. Would the universe exist if we took away the moment of the Big Bang? Everything has to have a 'coming into being' to exist (else its logically incomplete). "Always existed" is an oxymoron.

Also as I pointed out in the OP, "Always existed" involves an infinite regress into the past which is logically contradictory.

In all these arguments of yours it appears you're desperate to make reality agree with your ideas as they're expressed in your language. You're allowed to do that, it's called belief. But reality does not work that way and that's why there is something called science. What you're creating when you mix the two is simply non-sense. Granted there are some interesting twists in language, but they're just in language, not in the world.

I notice you stick to generalities and avoid engaging on any of the specifics of my argument. If there is nonsense in my argument you could at least point out where.
• 8.5k
Well if no-one can explain them and they are counterintuitive, then we can just rule them out?

Again, those are the only two options logically. Ruling them out means you just don't bother thinking about or talking about this issue.

But you can't exist without being born. Would the universe exist if we took away the moment of the Big Bang? Everything has to have a 'coming into being' to exist (else its logically incomplete). "Always existed" is an oxymoron.

That's actually just a set of assertions, worded different ways, that it's not possible for something to always exist. It's not an argument for it.

Also, that would mean that it's not possible for god to have always existed.
• 8.5k

You seem to want to be forwarding a logical argument, but where we're only allowed to assume the contingent, contemporary scientific consensuses. The two don't really go together. If you're going to try a logical argument, you need to stick to the domain of logic. If you want to argue that particular empirical claims must be true, you should focus on providing support of that.
• 1.5k
Again, those are the only two options logically ('the universe acausally began or something always existed'). Ruling them out means you just don't bother thinking about or talking about this issue.

But there is a third option, the universe began causally. If the other two options are impossible, it must be the third option that is true?

That's actually just a set of assertions, worded different ways, that it's not possible for something to always exist. It's not an argument for it.

If something always existed, it has no start. If it has no start, it has no middle or end. So it does not exist.

Also, that would mean that it's not possible for god to have always existed.

But God is timeless and finite - he has a start and end. He can always exist in a finite state by virtue of being outside time.
• 21
And I thought scholasticism was dead! But the ghost of The Duns still lingers among us, it seems!

Does A=A? or does A=B? Can both be "true"?
Does 1+1=2? Which one? How many is one?
If 1+1=2, how the hell does A=A? Or A=B? Is A one thing and B another? Are they two?
How much confusion does it take to get those committed to such nonsense to ask a simple question about their fundamentals?
• 1.5k
Could you please explain what parts of my argument you object to and why.
• 8.5k
But there is a third option, the universe began causally.

I'm not focusing on a narrow usage of the word "universe."

Whatever exists--whatever its nature, if we go back to the earliest thing, either it always existed or it began non-causally.

You can't have the earliest thing begin causally, because then something existed prior to the earliest things, making it not the earliest thing.

If something always existed, it has no start. If it has no start, it has no middle or end. So it does not exist.

Right, it has no start, and there's no meaningful way to peg a particular point as a temporal middle. It could have an end, of course. There could be something for which there's no way to peg a particular point as a temporal middle.

But God is timeless and finite - he has a start and end. He can always exist in a finite state by virtue of being outside time.

If it's possible to be timeless and finite, then that's possible period. It can't be limited to just some things and not others.
• 21
If......,then? Are you quite sure you know what this means? If "if" is, there is no "if" about it! If "if" is not, it's all pretty damn iffy! Is "then" continuous to this dilemma?
• 1.5k
Whatever exists--whatever its nature, if we go back to the earliest thing, either it always existed or it began non-causally.

But if you have a start of time and timelessness then cause and effect does not apply to timeless entities. So you can have an uncaused cause as God outside time and have him then cause the start of time and the universe.

Right, it has no start, and there's no meaningful way to peg a particular point as a temporal middle. It could have an end, of course. There could be something for which there's no way to peg a particular point as a temporal middle.

But it has no start (call that time t), so time t+1 is not defined, nor is t+2 (because t+1) is missing. All the way to the end, it's undefined.

Or imagine a clock that has always existed. It can’t read infinity as it’s impossible to count to infinity and it can’t read any lessor number as that would be incompatible with ‘always existed’. So such a clock cannot ‘always exist’. We could fit such a clock to anything in the universe to prove that ‘always exist’ is impossible.

If it's possible to be timeless and finite, then that's possible period. It can't be limited to just some things and not others.

Fair point but my personal definition of God is the creator of the universe, so if other timeless things exist, they are not directly relevant to the issue.
• 1.6k
just a few things:

1. The big bang is the only valid theory on the beginning of the universe, there is near unanimous scientific support for the big bang, and all existing time from right now, backward to a millisecond, before Time 0, is not in any real scientific dispute. Any argument anyone makes for this period of time that is outside the big bang, is in conflict with a near unanimous scientific understanding.

2. Right now there is no scientific theory ( technical definition) for anything that happened inside that millisecond. None.

3. The overwhelming scientific consensus is the universe is finite, meaning it had a beginning.

4. One is free to believe any reasonable option for the causation of the universe. Including God, or something other than God.

5. Epistemic humility should dictate generosity in the acceptance of these views that are contrary to our own.
• 2.2k
I notice you stick to generalities and avoid engaging on any of the specifics of my argument. If there is nonsense in my argument you could at least point out where.

I asked you for definition for "nothing" that you used in your argument. You gave one, but at the same time added
That is an excellent definition. I'm pretty sure, though, there is no such thing nor ever was as your "nothing" as you define it
— tim wood

The exact definition of nothing used does not impact my argument.

So I ask you again: "nothing" figures in your argument. What do you mean by "nothing"?
• 8.5k
But if you have a start of time and timelessness then cause and effect does not apply to timeless entities. So you can have an uncaused cause as God outside time and have him then cause the start of time and the universe.

If there can be something that's timeless, how would we get to any restriction on just what can be timeless? Why couldn't any arbitrary thing be timeless at some point if it's possible for there to be timeless things?
• 21
Is reality, and reason, hermetic? Anything, any least shred of meaning, not captured by the causal nexus or within the bounds of premise and consequent, changes every term. If time is that change, there is no complementary ends of time. There is nothing within those ends. Nothingness, then, is all that is deemed hermetically sealed within the beginning and end of time or between the antecedent and consequent of reason. This discussion is a good example of it.
• 1.5k
So I ask you again: "nothing" figures in your argument. What do you mean by "nothing"?

OK how about a region of space absent of any matter/energy?

If there can be something that's timeless, how would we get to any restriction on just what can be timeless? Why couldn't any arbitrary thing be timeless at some point if it's possible for there to be timeless things?

It's a fair point, there maybe a whole universe of timeless things for all we know. But I think it ultimately causally traces back to a single creator.

It's the Big Bang theory with inflation that is regarded as the standard model of cosmology nowadays. And the multiple universes extension to that, Eternal Inflation is gaining credibility. That theory does address what happened before the Big Bang.
• 1.6k
It's the Big Bang theory with inflation that is regarded as the standard model of cosmology nowadays. And the multiple universes extension to that, Eternal Inflation is gaining credibility. That theory does address what happened before the Big Bang.

My point was based on a technical definition of scientific theory which is:

"A scientific theory is an explanation of some aspect of the natural world that has been substantiated through repeated experiments or testing. "

neither infinite inflation ( inflation directly after the big bang to our finite universe is real theory) nor multi universe comes in any way at all remotely close to this requirement. And can only be generously called hypotheses. They are concepts, ideas, guesses - no better or worse than such a thing as an un-created creator. That may well change at some point. But they are not there now.
• 1.5k
Inflation does explain some of the observed features of our universe:

'Many physicists also believe that inflation explains why the universe appears to be the same in all directions (isotropic), why the cosmic microwave background radiation is distributed evenly, why the universe is flat, and why no magnetic monopoles have been observed.'

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inflation_(cosmology)#Observational_status

The plain Big Bang theory does not explain these features.
• 1.6k
the point is, it is only a matter perspective, point of view, or a prejudice to one authority or another between what " many physicists " believe or an "un-created creator". At this moment in our understanding one has no more inherent weight than other.
• 1.5k
I don't think Eternal Inflation is incompatible with belief in God. It's just the sort of mechanism that a God would employ to create a universe. Plus if inflation is natural and time is infinite then there should be infinite occurrences of inflation and infinite matter density in the universe. So inflation is not natural (God did it) or time is finite (God did it).
• 1.6k
the point is, yet again all that may be, but it is not anything near science right now, so you can't use it as science to prove or disprove anything. You are left with reason. It you want to make a case along the lines of the op that and un-created creator is reasonable, fine - but it was done a few hundred years ago and it still works. But you can't use it to say God is, only that it is reasonable to believe God is.
• 1.5k
Well there are problems with the prime mover argument:

- In the quantum era, cause and effect are under question. The prime mover argument relies heavily on cause and effect.
- The prime mover argument is inconsistent in that it uses cause and effect to trace back all motion to a single unmoved mover but then says that the unmoved mover is beyond cause and effect.
• 2.2k
OK how about a region of space absent of any matter/energy?

And 'round we go. That's a fine definition. However, it corresponds to nothing real, nothing that actually exists. Thus, anything built upon it has not merely an unsound foundation - which would imply some substance of a foundation - but no foundation at all. This lack of substance seems a feature of your arguments, and I, unfortunately, a predilection for calling out what I think is non-sense. But at every moment you have an opportunity to reclaim sense. You have merely to think through your claims and arguments and recast them in sensible form at sensible goals. You apparently wish to author a proof of God's existence, but I begin to suspect that you have not the slightest idea what to make of such a thing, were it to be proved.
bold
italic
underline
strike
code
quote
ulist
image
url
mention
reveal