I have always loved astronomy and cosmology and decided to do some research on the current state of cosmology as to what the current scientific consensus is regarding whether the universe is eternal or finite. Did the universe begin to exist? That’s probably one of the big questions of life. A question hotly debated today in the world of science…or so I thought.
To infinity and beyond
From a young age I always thought the universe couldn’t be eternal because of the problems one runs into whenever one deals with a succession of infinite events.
I always thought the existence of an eternal universe would have meant that an actual infinity of successive events would have passed prior to this moment. How is that possible? How could an infinite succession of events have passed? What about in the next 1000 years, surely a greater number of events would have passed compared to now and yet because there has already been an infinite succession of events it would still be infinite. Infinity plus 1000 is still equal to infinity. A clear logical absurdity.
Which is why in mathematics infinity is a concept and not a number – you cannot do with it the normal things you do with numbers or else it lands you in logical absurdities. Which is why David Hilbert one of the most brilliant mathematicians said “If an essential use of infinity occurs as a core part of any explanatory model, it’s not science”. George Ellis, South African world renowned cosmologist in his paper On the philosophy of Cosmology states that “One should remember here the true nature of infinity: it is an entity that can never be attained, it is by definition always beyond reach, so no physical process can create an infinity of anything”[i].
And so it seems my initial thoughts of the impossibility of an actual infinite and therefore a universe in which an actual infinite number of temporal events had occurred is impossible. It seems unavoidable that logically one must hold the position that the universe is finite in space and time.
The Scientific Evidence
Let us turn our attention to the Standard model, the Hot Big Bang – which everyone knows about but so few are willing to live with the implications. In a nutshell the standard big bang model describes the expansion of space-time from an initial singularity predicted by Einstein’s theory of General Relativity. It needs to be clear that if the big bang model is true then space-time is absolutely finite, as time tends to zero then the volume of space tends to zero. The singularity is not simply a change in matter or form but rather the absolute beginning of space-time.
Physicist Paul Davies, “If we extrapolate this prediction to its extreme, we reach a point when all distances in the universe have shrunk to zero. An initial cosmological singularity therefore forms a past temporal extremity to the universe. We cannot continue physical reasoning, or even the concept of spacetime, through such an extremity. For this reason most cosmologists think of the initial singularity as the beginning of the universe. On this view the big bang represents the creation event; the creation not only of all the matter and energy in the universe, but also of space-time itself.”[ii]
“Almost everyone believes that the universe, and time itself, had a beginning at the big bang”- Hawking[iii]
George Ellis explaining the implications of the Friedman-Lemaitre Universe Singularity Theorem says,
“This is not merely a start to matter — it is a start to space, to time, to physics itself. It is the most dramatic event in the history of the universe: it is the start of existence of everything”[iv]
So that’s one thing that needs to be clear is that the standard model leads to an absolute beginning of space-time, not just a change in pre-existing matter from one form to another – but an absolute coming into being of space-time itself. The point where general relativity breaks down is the singularity, where space-time comes into existence.
Alternatives to the standard model
There are various alternative models to the Standard big bang model however none have the as much as explanatory power, or scientific evidence as the standard model.
Steady state model, Oscillating models, Vacuum fluctuation models, Chaotic Inflationary models, Quantum gravity models, String cosmologies.
The steady state model claims the universe is not expanding and is in a steady state condition. It has been demonstrated to be false because of nucleosynthesis of light elements and microwave background radiation. Light elements could only be created in the extreme conditions of the big bang; radiation showed photons were emitted during the hot and dense phase of the universe.[v]
Oscillating models tried to avoid the absolute beginning of the universe by assuming the universe is not the same everywhere (matter is not evenly distributed). The Penrose-Hawking Singularity Theorems showed under generalized conditions, even for inhomogenous universes a singularity is unavoidable.
Vacuum fluctuating models hypothesize that before inflation the universe was eternally existing in a vacuum state. It postulates that the universe is a virtual particle whose total energy is zero and is governed by quantum mechanical phase transitions[vi]. This vacuum has energy fluctuations that constantly occur to produce matter and universes, of which ours is just one of many. These models have no scientific evidence whatsoever and have deep incoherence issues and hence were abandoned in 1980’s. Moreover the inflating universes would eventually have expanded and coalesced into one another if they had existed for infinity and therefore we would be observing an infinitely old universe.
Chaotic Inflationary models propose that the inflationary expansion of the universe did not only occur during the early history of the universe but is eternal, with each inflating universe emerging from a prior inflating one. However the Borde-Vilenkin-Guth (BVG) theorem proved that any universe which has been on average expanding cannot be past eternal in the past but must have a space-time boundary. The BVG theorem is broad and general because it does not assume that gravity obeys general relativity – it would apply for models that have a different type of gravity, such as quantum gravity. Moreover it holds true even for a universe with higher dimensions. Vilenkin and Mathini further confirm this as they say:
“A more general incompleteness theorem was proved recently that does not rely on energy conditions or Einstein’s equations. Instead, it states simply that past geodesics are incomplete provided that the expansion rate averaged along the geodesic is positive: Hav > 0. This is a much weaker condition, and should certainly apply to the past of any inflating region of spacetime. Therefore, although inflation may be eternal in the future, it cannot be extended indefinitely to the past.”[xiii]
Quantum gravity models attempt to explain what occurred prior to the inflation period, when general relativity brakes down. Ellis remarks, we do not have a good theory of quantum gravity so all quantum gravity theories are extrapolating known physics to unknown physics. There are three classes of quantum gravity models; string models; loop quantum models, semi-classical models.
The most popular quantum gravity model today is the string model which itself includes 3 subset models (Ekypyrotic; Pre Big Bang Inflation; Multiverse). String theory posits that fundamental matter is 1 dimensional strings of energy vibrating. Ekypyrotic cyclic models are cyclical models that use extra dimensional nature of string theory to produce cycling. String theory requires six extra dimensions which are curled tightly around our normal three dimensional universe making the extra dimensions unobservable. The model proposes that within the extra dimensions lies two three branes which could be our universe. These branes collide and release energy which is converted to the matter that we observe, when the universe reaches its heat death it collides with another brane thereby initiating another universe. The model is still subject to the BVG theorem and therefore cannot be past eternal with an infinite number of cycles.
Pre Big Bang inflation models are asymptotically static models – which means before the Big Bang the universe was in a static state (neither expanding nor contracting) and then transitioned via inflation to an expanding phase. The issue with this model is that the static state itself is not eternal and was created by quantum tunneling process. Secondly it is metastable- any random fluctuation will cause it to escape the static state and therefore could not have existed in that static state for eternity which means the expansion phase would already occurred an infinite time ago. Thirdly the 2nd law of thermodynamics states in a closed system the entropy of the system increases and reaches a maximum thermodynamic equilibrium where no heat transfer or chemical and nuclear reactions take place. An eternal static state would still obey the laws of thermodynamics and would have reached equilibrium by now, but it hasn’t which means it is finite.
The popular multiverse theory posits our universe is but one of a potentially infinite universe. Ellis has strong reservations about the string cosmologies and multiverse theories he says: “All the other domains considered in multiverse explanations are beyond the particle horizon and are therefore observable”[viii]. Further on he adds “the multiverse is not based on known and tested physics”[ix] and even thinks the multiverse theory actually undermines science, “But the very nature of the scientific enterprise is at stake in the multiverse debate: the multiverse proponents are proposing weakening the nature of scientific proof in order to claim that multiverses provide a scientific explanation”[x]. Moreover the string landscape cannot be eternal in the past because it is subject to the BVG theorem and also encounters problems with actual infinities.
Anyone who resorts to the multiverse as an explanation of the universe does so not on the basis of what is observed or what can possibly ever be observed!
A second category of QG models are the Loop quantum models (LQM) which have two sub-classes: cyclic and asymptotically static. LQM posits that space-time itself is quantized and it attempts to answer what happens at a singularity when general relativity breaks down. It proposes that singularity does not imply a beginning of space-time but something else which is either an asymptotically static past or a true cyclic past. A true cyclic model would increase and conserve its entropy with each cycle and therefore if the cycles had been eternal entropy would be infinite and the universe would have already faced its heat death. Seeing how the universe is not in equilibrium, it has not reached its maximum entropy and therefore cannot have been cycling for eternity.
The third category of Quantum gravity models is the semi-classical quantum gravity models which feature Vilenkin’s own Tunneling and Hawking’s No-boundary models.
Hawking’s No-boundary uses imaginary time to model the universe and therefore the model never has a space-time boundary, but this is simply a mathematical tool. Theoretical chemist Henry F Schaefar says:
“Hawking and Hartle’s no boundary proposal begins by adopting a grossly oversimplified model of the universe. Then the authors make time imaginary, and prove in their terribly restricted model that the universe has neither beginning nor end. The flaw in the exercise is that the authors never go back to real time. Thus the notion that the universe has neither beginning nor end is something that exists in mathematical terms only. In real time, to which we as human beings are necessarily attached, rather than in Hawking’s use of imaginary time, there will always be a singularity, that is, a beginning of time.[xi]
Vilenkin’s tunneling model postulates the universe is a tiny, closed metastable spherical universe filled with a false vacuum. If the universe’s radius is small it will collapse and there is a small chance it will tunnel into an inflationary phase, which would be our big bang. It faces the same problems as an asymptotic static model namely that a metastable universe cannot be stable for eternity. If it were eternal we would be observing an infinitely old universe and it would have reached thermodynamic equilibrium by now.
In the end Ellis says “all the alternative cosmological models proposed are highly speculative, untested physics, and most suffer from mathematical problems such as ill definition, or divergences, or arbitrary assumption of a matter behaviour that is nothing like what we have encountered in a laboratory”[xii].
After a century since it was proposed, the standard model, combined with Hawking-Penrose theorem which predicts a singularity where the universe began to exist remains the most scientifically supported and robust model. To believe that the universe began to exist is a legitimate scientific position to hold. On the basis of the current evidence and observations: standard model of the universe; general relativity; BVG theorem ; and the accelerating expansion of the universe due to dark energy; the 2nd law of thermodynamics– it is a near certainty the universe began to exist.
The implications of a finite universe do not seem to fit well with naturalism or pantheistic worldviews, however that’s a topic I explore further in another post. For now my brief survey only seeks to show that to claim the universe began to exist, that it is finite, that it is not eternal, is a reasonable and well supported scientific claim.
I think Alexander Vilenkin’s words are worth repeating:
“It is said that an argument is what convinces reasonable men and a proof is what it takes to convince even an unreasonable man. With the proof now in place, cosmologists can no longer hide behind the possibility of a past-eternal universe. There is no escape: they have to face the problem of a cosmic beginning.”
[i] George F.R. Ellis, Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 46, p16
[ii] William Lane Craig and James Sinclair, Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology,
[iii] Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose, The Nature of Space and Time, The Isaac Newton Institute Series of Lectures, p20
[iv] George F. R. Ellis, Issues in the Philosophy of Cosmology, p1190
[v] William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith, p129
[vii] Alexander Vilenkin, Many worlds in one, p176
[viii] George F.R. Ellis, Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 46, p14
[x] Ibid, p15
[xi] Henry F Schaefer III, Stephen Hawking, the Big Bang, and God, [http://www.leaderu.com/offices/schaefer/docs/bigbang.html]
[xii] George F.R. Ellis, Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 46, p17
[xiii] A. Vilenkin, A.Mathini, Did the universe have a beginning?,p1
Pardon me for the length, but I had time to read this post of yours (I did say I’d try to do so on my last blog response to you, so here we go…) and I had a lot to say about it.
“Is the Universe Eternal or Is It Created?”
Well the title of your post here is itself a false dichotomy (which you may already know, but I wanted to verify whether you did know this or not (we all make errors, myself included, and correcting them is how we progress intellectually and improve the strength of our arguments moving forward). You could ask if the universe is eternal or not eternal or whether it is created or not created which would be logically consistent dichotomies, but to ask whether it is eternal or created is assuming that those are the only two options which is a false dichotomy (unless proven otherwise). Another possibility would be that the universe is non-eternal and spontaneously formed for example (which would be a simpler explanation than to posit that it was created by some other more complex mystery that was itself not created). So this isn’t an either/or question you’ve posed but rather two of many possible options (until proven otherwise).
“I have always loved astronomy and cosmology and decided to do some research on the current state of cosmology as to what the current scientific consensus is regarding whether the universe is eternal or finite.”
There is no scientific consensus on this question, though it depends on what you mean by “the universe”, “finite”, etc. There is however a scientific consensus on the Big Bang occurring in at least some form, but as Guth and others have explained, this is only a model that explains what happened after the “Bang” not at the moment of the “Bang” nor whether anything occurred BEFORE the “Bang”. The fact that cosmologists are studying and proposing both finite and eternal models is because we don’t yet know one way or the other. So there is a consensus, but only on what most likely happened immediately AFTER the bang, since this is as far back as we can go before classical physics breaks down.
“Did the universe begin to exist? That’s probably one of the big questions of life. A question hotly debated today in the world of science…or so I thought.”
This depends on what you mean by “begins to exist”. And you were right the first time, this is hotly debated, that is whether or not there was any kind of existence BEFORE the Big Bang itself and also how to resolve the singularity problem proposed by the Big Bang model.
“I always thought the existence of an eternal universe would have meant that an actual infinity of successive events would have passed prior to this moment.”
This is one possibility of an eternal universe. Another is that it exists with a finite number of events, eternally, and we are just experiencing a succession of moments in this eternal structure. For example, see the B-theory of time and Eternalism which would posit the possibility of a finite number of events existing eternally with an illusory temporal component that we experience within that eternal block.
” What about in the next 1000 years, surely a greater number of events would have passed compared to now and yet because there has already been an infinite succession of events it would still be infinite. Infinity plus 1000 is still equal to infinity. A clear logical absurdity.”
This isn’t necessarily a logical absurdity because there are different sizes of infinite sets. Cantor proved this long ago with his diagonal theorem in Set Theory. For example, you can produce a series of infinite numbers that are different size sets. Even though both are infinite, some contain more members in the set than others. For example, the number of integers are an infinite set, but the number of real numbers (including decimals of course) are a larger infinite set (because they contain every possible number “in-between” those integers as well as the integers themselves). So keep this in mind when thinking about infinities. Not all infinities are created equally, so there isn’t necessarily any logical absurdity here, even though it may be difficult to wrap one’s mind around the concepts since they are so counter-intuitive (much like the counter-intuitive nature of quantum physics).
“George Ellis, South African world renowned cosmologist in his paper On the philosophy of Cosmology states that “One should remember here the true nature of infinity: it is an entity that can never be attained, it is by definition always beyond reach, so no physical process can create an infinity of anything” ”
What Ellis claimed here has never been proven, but rather he simply asserted it. For example, we don’t know whether or not space and time are infinite (that is an open question), and those would be possible examples of physical processes or parameters that are infinite (we don’t yet know one way or the other). To simply assume that they can’t be infinite is either begging the question or is erroneously based on the fact that all we can infer is that which is within the FINITE spacial region we’re looking in (our light cone) which we theorize extends far past this light cone (perhaps infinitely far), nor anything within the FINITE temporal region we’re able to analyze (since we appear to be theoretically unable to know anything that may have occurred before a fraction of a second after the Big Bang). One could also view the density at the center of a black hole as infinite (if singularities are truly real, and if they are not then the Big Bang model is likely refuted anyway as per QM). So there are a number of possible infinities that exist (such as time and space which haven’t been ruled out) and purported examples of infinities that are physically exemplified in the universe predicted by certain laws of physics (such as Black Hole singularities).
Since Ellis is also an active Quaker (a likely inconsequential detail of course, but potentially relevant to his cosmological biases), that led me to look at your other references that you listed. I don’t intend to ad hominem your sources (because their arguments can be evaluated on their own merit), but if your sources are theists that assume divine creation, you should always take what they say with caution until they demonstrate the validity of their position scientifically and see how that position has been received by peer review, etc. Unfortunately, a number of the references you listed are either Christian/Creationist apologists (i.e. WLC), and/or self-proclaimed Christians and known Intelligent Design proponents (Schaefer), etc. Those that presuppose creation have compromised their scientific credibility on this issue given their positions on the supernatural and their obvious biases toward finite cosmologies (since they are the only models compatible with their theistic worldview). Just a thought worth mentioning if you’re interested in reliable methods of finding the truth rather than merely confirmation of a preconceived notion. If I have time to read more of your posts on science or cosmology, I can only hope that the majority of sources you do list will be more scientifically credible on those particular issues without these kinds of conflicts of interest. Again the arguments can be judged on their own merit but one must be careful about religious biases when looking to sources for arguments and positions on these issues. It doesn’t matter to me whether the universe is found to be finite or eternal because both are consistent with naturalism, but when eternal cosmologies are inconsistent with certain religious or theological beliefs, then people that carry those beliefs are more likely to cherry-pick cosmologies and evidence in favor of their confirmation bias rather than examining the relative validity of the model on its own merit when compared to the rest. One can be misled by these types of sources, so we must be on the lookout for that.
Also, as I mentioned at the top of this comment, keep in mind that “creation” doesn’t necessarily follow from finite cosmologies, as for example the Hartle-Hawking No-Boundary model which has a finite cosmology but no true beginning and is an entirely self-contained model with no need of any other external explanation. There are other models as well that are self-contained and finite, thus requiring no other explanatory mechanisms so keep that in mind. Non-eternal does not mean “created”, though “created” does likely mean “non-eternal” and thus creation “models” are merely a subset of all the possible non-eternal cosmological models out there, and even considering that subset they aren’t technically models since they aren’t well-defined and carry no true explanatory or predictive power. So we can continue to look at non-eternal cosmologies, and see how plausible they are, but even if they turn out to be proven correct (and all eternal cosmologies false), they offer no proof for creation, as that would require a much more specific type of demonstration and one with a significantly higher burden of proof (since it is a far more complex model than those that don’t posit a “creator”). I can only hope that you realize this fact of the matter while moving forward.
“And so it seems my initial thoughts of the impossibility of an actual infinite and therefore a universe in which an actual infinite number of temporal events had occurred is impossible. It seems unavoidable that logically one must hold the position that the universe is finite in space and time.”
This has to be logically demonstrated, not merely assumed. Given the B-theory of time and eternalism, an eternal universe is perfectly consistent with our laws of physics, our conception of time, etc., and it is one that is accepted by most physicists for its parsimony and simplicity.
“It needs to be clear that if the big bang model is true then space-time is absolutely finite, as time tends to zero then the volume of space tends to zero. The singularity is not simply a change in matter or form but rather the absolute beginning of space-time.”
Sort of. The Big Bang model could be true in all aspects except for the singularity and then be compatible with an infinite space and/or time. In fact QM shows that classical physics breaks down at the singularity proposed within the Standard Big Bang Model which is why at the moment of the singularity, the theory itself breaks down (even though it is robust after that point in time). Since the singularities predicted by General Relativity break down because of QM, they can’t be reconciled with the most robust physical framework we’ve discovered thus far (QM) and this shows an inherent problem with the Big Bang model that physicists are trying to address. Loop quantum cosmology and other frameworks are attempts at resolving this problem, but obviously it’s still an open question. And again, even if this were true, it would only point out a finite space-time, not a creator as per your previously mentioned false dichotomy.
“The point where general relativity breaks down is the singularity, where space-time comes into existence.”
Exactly. Which is why physicists doubt the standard model is correct in its entirety. It has to be reconciled with QM to show promise as a viable model since the universe seems to operate under QM, and so it is likely that the origin of the universe must not violate QM (and thus can’t have a singularity).
“There are various alternative models to the Standard big bang model however none have the as much as explanatory power, or scientific evidence as the standard model.”
This is misleading because many of the other alternative models (which are simply revised versions of the standard model) remove the singularity that are likely violating QM, but keep the rest of the model intact, thus supporting those alternative models with the bulk of evidence that supports the Big Bang from the moment AFTER the singularity that was proposed. That is, if some alternative models posit that the Big Bang model is mostly correct, at least from the earliest known periods of space-time (post-singularity) through its subsequent large-scale evolution, but they merely remove the singularity from the model, then they are actually potentially supported with MORE evidence than the Big Bang model, because they get to keep all the evidence that supports the Big Bang from all moments after the “Bang”, and then reconcile it with QM. Some of this comes down to semantics and the terms used here, but I thought it was worth mentioning.
“Chaotic Inflationary models propose that the inflationary expansion of the universe did not only occur during the early history of the universe but is eternal, with each inflating universe emerging from a prior inflating one. However the Borde-Vilenkin-Guth (BVG) theorem proved that any universe which has been on average expanding cannot be past eternal in the past but must have a space-time boundary. ”
The BVG theorem assumes a classical spacetime, and since our universe is governed by QM, this theorem says nothing at all definitive about our universe as it is only a guideline until our classical understanding breaks down and thus can’t prove that a universe governed by QM must have a space-time boundary. Furthermore, what Vilenkin and Mithani confirmed later on (back in 2012) was not a proof that a QM governed universe had to have a space-time boundary. If they did actually prove that, they would have likely won a Nobel prize, but they didn’t prove that at all. They proved that only under certain assumptions (which we don’t know are true for certain) would the universe have a space-time boundary.
“The popular multiverse theory posits our universe is but one of a potentially infinite universe. Ellis has strong reservations about the string cosmologies and multiverse theories he says: “All the other domains considered in multiverse explanations are beyond the particle horizon and are therefore observable” ”
I think you meant to write (or Ellis meant to write) that these other domains, because they are beyond the particle horizon are therefore UNobservable, but that is beside the point. We expect them to be unobservable and outside of this horizon, since they haven’t been observed within our universe. Since inflation would have led to an incredibly fast expansion of space, and since space itself is continuing to accelerate apart due to dark energy, we are constantly losing parts of the observable universe every second because of that light cone limitation.
“Anyone who resorts to the multiverse as an explanation of the universe does so not on the basis of what is observed or what can possibly ever be observed!”
This may be true at the moment, but cosmologists are working to see if we can find some kind of an expected “fingerprint” of other universes, perhaps coming in the form of gravitational waves with certain predicted characteristics. However, even if there can be no trace of other universes, if it ends up being the best natural explanatory model of how our universe came to be the way it is, then it will likely be adopted nevertheless. Creation models are also something that we have no observational evidence for, nor could ever have any observational evidence for, and because it is supernatural and thus far more complex and mysterious, it will always be less probable and less desired than any multiverse model.
“A true cyclic model would increase and conserve its entropy with each cycle and therefore if the cycles had been eternal entropy would be infinite and the universe would have already faced its heat death. Seeing how the universe is not in equilibrium, it has not reached its maximum entropy and therefore cannot have been cycling for eternity.”
Unless something such as the Carroll-Chen model is correct, which shows how the end of every thermodynamic heat death could plausibly lead to a low entropy state for a new universe. See my previous link for details on how that works.
“Hawking’s No-boundary uses imaginary time to model the universe and therefore the model never has a space-time boundary, but this is simply a mathematical tool. ”
It would have to be demonstrated that the Hartle-Hawking model can’t be applied by showing that the imaginary time parameter isn’t possible or isn’t coherent in some way. So far as I’ve seen, this hasn’t yet been done, and so it is a plausible model, self-contained, and therefore a possibility.
“After a century since it was proposed, the standard model, combined with Hawking-Penrose theorem which predicts a singularity where the universe began to exist remains the most scientifically supported and robust model.”
Wrong. Hawking revised his position on the Hawking-Penrose theorem back in 1988 because of quantum mechanics preventing singularities. Instead, what remains the most robust and supported model is everything proposed to occur after the Planck epoch, that is, everything in the model except for the singularity.
“On the basis of the current evidence and observations: standard model of the universe; general relativity; BVG theorem ; and the accelerating expansion of the universe due to dark energy; the 2nd law of thermodynamics– it is a near certainty the universe began to exist.”
Incorrect for all the reasons I’ve stated in this comment.
“The implications of a finite universe do not seem to fit well with naturalism or pantheistic worldviews, however that’s a topic I explore further in another post.”
They are actually entirely compatible with naturalism (as I mentioned earlier in this comment) because finite doesn’t imply created (though created universe “models” would be a subset of all non-eternal models). Finite models merely need to be self-contained and/or be consistent with what we observe to be naturalistic. So it fits perfectly well with naturalism, though personally, I like the idea of an eternal model of cosmology better because an infinite past actually makes the most sense to me because of the conservation of mass and energy being upheld indefinitely into the past, but I’m perfectly content with finite cosmologies if the evidence points to them more than those that are not. One must go where the evidence leads us ultimately. It was nice to see that you assembled a lot of information in this post anyway, so I appreciate your time and effort in sharing what you’ve read with others. Peace!
A number of things strike me, one stands out: “[Sources] that presuppose creation have compromised their scientific credibility on this issue given their positions on the supernatural….” This is so only because science today is defined to exclude “non-natural” agents. this is, itself, a presumption and arbitrary, the definition of “natural” being exclusive of “supernatural” forces, but those are terms are simply relative.
Anything we define as natural excludes anything we do not define as natural. As I understand how “natural” is defined, it excludes a personal, intelligent agent (intelligence). When we say someone died of “natural causes”, we largely mean that someone died by a cause other than a process set in motion by a personal, intelligent agent. We do not say that a murder was a supernatural occurrence, but we also exclude murder from the definition of natural causes. I do not suggest that the terms are used exactly the same way in science, but the similarities in usage suggest something: that the things we define as “natural” exclude causes that we attribute to mind, intelligence and volition, and causes that we define as natural may not be all the causes that exist. Largely, however, by defining what is natural, and excluding anything that does not fit our definition, we are excluding possibilities arbitrarily.
Although I have not thought this model through, human beings seem to be supernatural. Our minds seem to operate independent of time, space and matter. Our minds and consciousness are not explained by natural causes. The intelligence, volition and sensibilities that we exhibit we do not see in the “natural” world except in ourselves. There must be a cause sufficient enough to produce our minds, which suggests a mind.
All this aside, I wonder, if our minds are truly only the product of irrational, random, material processes, how can we trust them to do science?
I could not agree more. Excluding a supernatural cause from the on set seems to beg the question. If we are asking what natural causes which rely on physical necessity and chance created the universe, it seems we have limited the set of possible causes already.
[ concerning the 5th paragraph]
I think you wrote an unfinished sentence when you said, “And so it seems my initial thoughts of the impossibility of an actual infinite and therefore a universe in which an actual infinite number of temporal events had occurred is impossible.”
Maybe you could say, “And so based on my initial thoughts of the impossibility of of an actual infinite, therefore a universe in which an actual infinite number of temporal events had occurred is impossible.”
Yes thanks for spotting that, I did not word it properly. Basically I was saying my initial intuitive thoughts of the impossibility of actual infinite (in time) universe were shown to be correct.