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Ducksauce

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time for the Uncaused Cause
« on: November 09, 2007, 09:05:30 pm »
...er, I mean God.  Forgot where I was for a moment.

I'm slightly involved in an online discussion; the OP went something like this:
-  there cannot be an infinite regression of causes
-  therefore there must be an uncaused cause
-  that UC existed eternally
-  since the UC was in an initial state, and then went into a state of creating (without being externally caused, by definition), that strongly implies a decision was made and that the UC is a consciousness

Basic cosmo argument.  So the question I have is, if there cannot be an infinite regression of causes, then why can there be infinite time for the UC to exist in prior to the initial creation event?  Whether the units are "causes" or "seconds", isn't an actual infinite impossible?  

WLC says God existed "timelessly" prior to creation, then in time afterwards.  This seems ad hoc to me.  If time is the dimension in which cause & effect takes place, then how could He have done anything?  Alternately, I'm not sure I could explain to someone what "undifferentiated time" is.  I'm looking at Reasonable Faith, pp. 94 & 119.

Our timeline is a half-dimensional line with a starting point (Big Bang).  If His time is a 2D plane for example, that would eliminate the need to be created.  But I'm not sure multi-dimensional time escapes the infinite time argument.  

So I'm looking for easy-to-describe possible explanations for the state of temporal affairs prior to creation.  Anyone have any thoughts?  Even if I wasn't too lazy to pick up a book tonight, I'm not sure I have the right one.  Thanks!

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Harvey

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« Reply #1 on: November 09, 2007, 09:16:22 pm »

Ducksauce wrote: So the question I have is, if there cannot be an infinite regression of causes, then why can there be infinite time for the UC to exist in prior to the initial creation event?  Whether the units are "causes" or "seconds", isn't an actual infinite impossible?

I don't think an actual infinite is impossible, but I do think that an infinite number of past causes is impossible.

Ducksauce wrote: WLC says God existed "timelessly" prior to creation, then in time afterwards.  This seems ad hoc to me.  If time is the dimension in which cause & effect takes place, then how could He have done anything?


God has eternal thoughts. These thoughts are not temporally preceded by other thoughts, rather if a certain circumstance exists (e.g., a void of physical stuff), then the Holy Spirit exists at that point of nothing. As a result of God as Spirit existing at that void, there is a temporal sequence of something happening (i.e., creation). This creation is "in time" meaning that the topology at the moment of creation is a different topology the moment after creation, and so on.

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Ducksauce

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time for the Uncaused Cause
« Reply #2 on: November 09, 2007, 09:33:47 pm »
harvey1 wrote:

Quote from: Ducksauce
So the question I have is, if there cannot be an infinite regression of causes, then why can there be infinite time for the UC to exist in prior to the initial creation event?  Whether the units are "causes" or "seconds", isn't an actual infinite impossible?
I don't think an actual infinite is impossible, but I do think that an infinite number of past causes is impossible.

Thanks Harvey.  But why one & not the other?  And if the past prior to our timeline's beginning (t0) was infinite, then it never would have reached t0, i.e. the basic argument as to why there can't be an infinite past.  [You seem to say that you think an infinite past is possible, but I wasn't sure.]


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Harvey

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« Reply #3 on: November 09, 2007, 10:39:18 pm »
Ducksauce wrote: But why one & not the other?


In the case of an actual infinite, the only restriction against it is anti-intuitive arguments (e.g., Hilbert's Hotel). But, anti-intuitive arguments don't necessarily apply since there is a difference from what could happen versus what is allowed to happen. For example, if one had a time machine, then theoretically one could go back into the past and stop oneself from having a time machine to go back into the past, but that doesn't mean that this anti-intuitive argument against time travel succeeds in showing that time travel is impossible. It just shows that bizarre things could happen if everything is allowed to happen.

In the case of an infinite past, a current event is dependent on a past event. And that past event is dependent on another past event, and so on. However, if there is an infinite chain of past events, then there is an event in the infinite past that is part of the cause of a current event. However, in order for such a cause to be a real cause, there must be a demonstratable causal chain from point X in the infinite past showing how point Y in the present came about. But, this cannot be demonstrated since there is no way to demonstrate how an X event brought about a Y event since the infinite cannot be traversed. In other words, there are causal events X in the past that happened an infinite time ago, but no matter how far back into the past we physically traverse (i.e., trace back) to reach that causal event X, we never reach the X-cause. The reason is because we cannot traverse the infinite. So, in what way is X a cause of Y? It cannot be a real cause. Therefore, there is no reason to believe in past infinite causes.

ducksauce wrote: And if the past prior to our timeline's beginning (t0) was infinite, then it never would have reached t0, i.e. the basic argument as to why there can't be an infinite past.  [You seem to say that you think an infinite past is possible, but I wasn't sure.]


t0 is not infinite. As we approach t0, quantum uncertainty predominates this world and time itself becomes uncertain. That is, there is no absolute zero time. As we move within a planck moment to the beginning, the temporal events become causally uncertain. The universe is just the size of a planck sphere, and size becomes indistinguishable from zero.

Let me give you an analogy. If you buy a pie from the baker, and divide it into three portions, and then you give all three portions to someone, how much pie is left? Zero, right? However, if you take that same pie and divide that 1 pie by 3, then each piece of pie is 0.33333...3% of the whole pie. Times 3 pieces that means the pie you give away is 0.99999...9% of the pie, so now you are left with a small piece of pie even though you gave away the same pie. Unfortunately, you don't have enough pie to eat because that small sliver of pie that remains is equivalent to zero, but it is not exactly zero.

Similarly to this analogy, the universe at a certain point in the past is zero size and as much as a planck size in diameter. It is both nothing and something. It is nothing in the sense that we've traced it back to the point to where all there is is a void, and it is somethng in the sense that it is a small shell expanding according to the will of God. After this small shell expands to larger than a planck size, we have real pieces of pie to eat.

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Drm970

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time for the Uncaused Cause
« Reply #4 on: November 10, 2007, 12:14:56 am »
I want to go out on a limb here and you can evaluate my thinking. Suppose, per impossible, that there is an infinite past time. Suppose further this principle: For any point in time Tn, the previous point in time Tn-1, is the sufficient cause of the following point in time(where one point in time includes all states of affairs in that point). If that is the case, then the argument against an infinite past time follows from the conclusion that there can't be an infinity of past causes. Of course, that makes use of a theory of time that's not universally accepted. So for any point in time, there is a previous point in time, which is the cause of that point in time, on into infinity. So what follows is that time must have begun. If that is the case, then Craig's contention that God is outside of time is not ad hoc, but follows from the argument. It's not something thrown in there for show, but is the only option if the argument works.


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james b

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time for the Uncaused Cause
« Reply #5 on: November 10, 2007, 05:56:23 am »
I agree with Drm.  I was thinking exactly this as I was reading Harvey's argument against an infinite chain of causes.  It seems reasonable enough (to me) to think of the existence of t(n-1) as the cause of t(n).  At the very least, it's a necessary condition, isn't it?

   

   
If time is the dimension in which cause & effect takes place, then how could He have done anything?

   

   I'm not convinced cause & effects necessarily require a time dimension.  Though I may, of course, be completely wrong here.  I think (from previous threads) that Harvey reckons numbers can exert causal influences on the natural world.  (He gives an example of some weird particle thing that I don't understand).  If this is true, and if it's true that numbers exist timelessly, then this would be an example of a timeless cause (though I guess the effect would be in time).  Another example might be ideas in the mind of God.  These are presumably the effect of God's intelligence.  This probably won't get you very far with an atheist.  But the idea doesn't seem incoherent to me.

   

   But even if it causes and effects do require time, there's nothing to stop causes and effects being simultaneous, so the idea that God brought the universe (i.e. space, time, etc) into existence at t=0 still seems feasible.

   

   I guess this raises the question as to why the universe hasn't been around forever, since it's (presumably) always been God's intention to create it.  But a free decision of the will, by definition, doesn't require any antecedent determining conditions -- meaning a free choice has the appearance of a completely spontaneous event -- meaning someone like God can exist timelessly and changelessly and yet still freely execute a certain (contingent) intention. In this way, I think a temporal effect can arise from a changeless cause, as long as that cause is a free agent (which God is).

   

   So, given God's existing changelessly without the universe, I think it's feasible for creation to be understood as a freely willed act of God that, once it occurred, brought time into being along with the universe.

   

   James,

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Craig

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time for the Uncaused Cause
« Reply #6 on: November 11, 2007, 12:12:22 pm »

Jason Reed (the philosophy professor at SES) has dont alot of work in this area..I even heard at a meeting...Dr.Craig stood up and told him that he had learned alot in this matter. You might want to check him out.

"You'll never stop at one. Ill take you all on!" - Optimus Prime

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Ducksauce

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time for the Uncaused Cause
« Reply #7 on: November 11, 2007, 10:36:37 pm »
The argument presented in the OP is solid.  It forces the atheist to either argue for an infinite regression of causes, a tough road to hoe, or accept an uncaused cause.  And once a UC is accepted, it's tough to escape the UC being a consciousness.  But the biggest hole in this is defining the state or frame of reference the UC is in "prior" to creation, and I guess I don't necessarily mean temporally prior.  

I was defining time as the dimension in which cause & effect takes place, so some kind of time would be required for God to make a decision to create & act on it (maybe).  So our possible explanations for the state that the UC existed in "prior" to creation are:
1) an infinite past is possible, but infinite regression of causes is not.  I can't buy this one, per DRM's post for example.  
2)  He existed in some sort of "timeless" state, but not possible given my definition.  Or is it?  James, your statement of cause & effect being simultaneous at t = 0 is interesting.
3)  Our universe is dimensionally a subset of the UC's, both spatially & temporally.  Multidimensional time eliminates the need for creation, but I'm not sure it gets around the infinite past issue.  I once read Hugh Ross hypothesize that God's time could be a two dimensional spherical surface upon which our timeline was a line (with a beginning) at the equator.  God would sit at the "North Pole" of this timesphere and all the longitudinal lines would give him access to all points of our history simultaneously.  Total speculation, not at all fully developed.  Has anyone taken this idea further?  I don't have Time & Eternity, if it's discussed there.  
4)  "undifferentiated time", per WLC.  Maybe the same explanation as James' concurrent cause & effect?

Any other thoughts?  Craig, what does Jason Reed say?  I'm still looking for that speculative but tidy explanation, though I suspect it doesn't exist.  Even so, the alternative is an infinite regression of causes, so it's a case of "choose your [apparent] paradox", I guess.

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james b

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time for the Uncaused Cause
« Reply #8 on: November 12, 2007, 05:40:41 pm »
Hi Duck,

   

   You're right.  It's not an easy one.

   

   Personally, as I say, I find the idea of God bring the universe (including time itself) into existence at t=0 the most convincing option.

   

   The possibility of causes and effects being simultaneous isn't, as far as I know, particularly contraversial.  In fact, there are people out there who argue that causes and effects are always simultaneous -- and, when you think about it, this notion has an intuitive appeal to it.  A commonly given example is that of a man lying on an airbed or something like that.  The cause (the man's lying on the bed) is ongoing, and is simultaneous with its effect (the bed's being depressed) -- even if the man's been lying on the bed since eternity past.

   

   So the idea of simultaneous causation isn't unfeasible.

   

   Moreover, I think to say that causes need to work 'in time' in some way is a dubious starting point, since once you've established that the universe's history isn't infinite (which can be done in a number of ways), what you've effectively done is establish that time itself had a beginning.  And, if time had a beginning, it surely needs a cause (or why would it 'begin'?  Why wouldn't time have always existed?).

   

   In other words, to restrict causes and effects to being 'in time' rules out the idea of time having a beginning -- which runs contrary to the implications of the best evidence we have.  And to dismiss the implications of the evidence on the basis of a restrictive definition of causation seems wrong-headed to me.  If our definition of causation can't accommodate the universe's being caused, then let's change our definition of causation!

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Harvey

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time for the Uncaused Cause
« Reply #9 on: November 12, 2007, 07:34:10 pm »

james b  wrote: But even if it causes and effects do require time, there's nothing to stop causes and effects being simultaneous, so the idea that God brought the universe (i.e. space, time, etc) into existence at t=0 still seems feasible.

This does not seem feasible to me. Imagine t=0, then by definition nothing can change to cause a change. If that were not the case, then t would not be zero by definition. t would just measure whatever is changing with respect to God's thoughts.

Now, I suppose it's possible that there's a geometry to God's thoughts where every point on God's mind-space corresponds to a state of affairs. If the state affairs is that there is nothing (i.e., t=0), then it is not necessarily the case that a change is happening in God's thoughts. Rather, the state of affairs t+1 would not be a real temporal change from the original state of affairs at t=0 (since by definition this is not possible), t+1 would just be causally dependent on a different point in God's geometrical mind-space.

However, this depiction of creation does not bring about any independent notion of time since the state of affairs is altogether causally dependent on the geometrical point in God's mind-space. Even if a state of affairs were only co-dependent on God's mind-space (for example, creation is dependent on God's mind-space and also dependent on some platonic physical laws), it's hard to see how creation could in any way be independent from an outside geometry. This does not bode well for a free universe.

The only way around this that I can see is if time is somehow primitive to creation. However, if time is primitive, then we'd have to avoid time never coming into existence since then we're back to a past infinite. That's why I think the quantum origin of time is the best explanation (which Ducksauce for some odd reason didn't mention in his summary my answer as a possible answers--I suppose he doesn't consider this to be a legitimate option..?).

With regard to this quantum origin of time, time remains primitive meaning that at approximately t=0, time is just uncertain. Time is in a superposition state (i.e., a state where reality is not fixed). That is, time is zero + time is already passing + time is in reverse moving toward zero time + time is becoming classical time.

The great appeal to this notion is that it solves the origin of space as well (i.e., space is nothing + space is already something + space is expanding into classical space). Therefore, the quantum origin to our universe is not only an endorsement on the existence of a Creator, it is an endorsement on a Creator who wishes to instill free will into creation, i.e., a personal God.


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Ducksauce

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time for the Uncaused Cause
« Reply #10 on: November 12, 2007, 10:09:55 pm »
Hey Harvey, nothing personal about omitting your explanation.  I actually thought I hadn't explained clearly about never getting to what I called t0, or t=0, the beginning of our timeline at the Big Bang.  I was talking about appoaching it from negative infinity on some other timescale that ours is maybe a subset of, rather than from positive infinity.  So when I saw you start explaining the Planck second, it seemed you thought I meant counting down to t=0 from the positive direction.  Actually I was trying to say you can't count from negative infinity to zero.  My apologies.  

I'm reading your most recent post & it seems you're saying God "always" existed within the Planck second, which seems as good an explanation as any to me.

The atheists on the other forum are now defending infinite causal regressions anyway, so the discussion has taken a step back.  Not sure if it will get around to discussing the nature of the Uncaused Cause's pre-creation temporal state.  Which may be just as well, given my lack of clarity on the subject.

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Harvey

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« Reply #11 on: November 12, 2007, 10:22:40 pm »

Not a problem, DS. Btw, is this a closed discussion group, or would it be possible to join in on your discussion happening at the other website? This forum seems to be going to sleep...


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Ducksauce

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time for the Uncaused Cause
« Reply #12 on: November 12, 2007, 10:51:36 pm »
It's open, so dive in my man...
http://www.richarddawkins.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=27980

An Orthodox Jewish physics student started the thread, and seems to be on the ball.  Except where he appeals to an infinite past, IMO.

Do you mean the whole forum is asleep, or just my thread?  I actually like the pace around here.  I've got a job, small kids, etc.  Other forums, like the one above, require alot of bandwidth & almost real-time commitment if you really throw yourself into the mix.  If you post something, especially being a theist, you'll get a response in minutes.  I used to post more there, but even then tried to keep myself to 1-2 concurrent threads.

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Harvey

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« Reply #13 on: November 13, 2007, 06:26:09 am »

Oh, that forum. I agree that some forums are way too active for me (active or activist... hmm). I used to debate in one such forum, and you'd get cavils as responses and after a while I decided it was better to not post anything at all.


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Ducksauce

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time for the Uncaused Cause
« Reply #14 on: November 14, 2007, 08:54:04 pm »
[after looking up cavil]
C'mon Harvey, join that forum!  Don't make me use the junior high treatment on you.  Seriously, I think you could contribute.  There's a Harvey and a Harvey4 already (though they don't post)..."Harvey1" is all yours.  And that thread is still very active; it would be cool if you jumped in.  Especially since I sense I'm about to take a beating.