Thursday, 4 December 2014

Atheists: Infinite Regress Is Impossible! and other things we can know about God.

Atheists, when faced with the argument of the first cause, often will call it special pleading.   After all, "what caused God? If nothing did, how do you know?"  The alternative, however, is an infinite series of events that have already happened.  Yet, we must ask ourselves if these two options are actually equal in their possibility of being true.  Can we then apply Occam's Razor and eliminate the need for some 'extra' and ultimately unnecessary being? 
  1. Theoretically, time can potentially go on forever and there will never be an end to events in time in the future.
  2. No matter how much time passes, an infinite amount of time will never have passed, there will never be an infinite amount of events or a "day infinite."
  3. If there is not an uncaused cause, then there must be an infinite set of events going back forever into the past that consecutively caused one another incrementally.
  4. Following from 3., today is day infinite with an infinite set of events that have already happened over an infinite amount of time.
  5. Yet, in point 2. we found that it would be impossible for an infinite amount of time to pass.
  6. Therefore, today is not day infinite but a finitely numbered day.
  7. A finite amount of time has a beginning even if it does not have an end.  Endless time will always continue onward but all time that has passed will always be finite no matter how much time passes.
  8. Infinite, in regards to reaching an infinite amount of time or any incrementally additive finite quantity is impossible in actuality (only potentially possible although never actually reached).  Something that is infinite must exist at once in its infinite quality and never as a finite amount.  In fact, the only number that is possibly interchangeable with infinite is one, but that is another discussion because one is a quality of any number or concept.
  9. Back to point 3. our only option left is an uncaused cause.
Now, another way to understand why infinite regress is impossible is to think about an often used example of infinite regress.  When two mirrors are placed parallel, one in from the other, they will reflect each other an infinite number of times.....or not.  For, although there appears to be an infinite number of reflections, there never will be an infinite number of reflections.  Even at the speed of light, the light will never bounce back and forth between those mirrors an infinite number of times no matter how long you wait.  There may be an inconceivable number of reflections, but it would only be the illusion of infinite.  Further, there is always that first beam of light, that first photon that creates the first reflection before it goes on increasingly forever.  This photon comes from "elsewhere."



This argument above does not necessarily lead to any other way of qualifying who or what God is other than to say that He is the uncaused cause that caused everything.  That said, just as a building helps us get to know the architect, a painting helps us get to know the artist, or a book helps us get to know the author, so too does creation help us to get to know the Creator.  Some examples, based on the principle of 'you can't give what you don't have' are:

  • An uncaused cause IS its being, otherwise, it wouldn't be able to bestow being upon other things.
  • This being, would be the pinnacle of everything that is.  This being would be the highest being, otherwise, it would have made something greater than itself or given something which it does not have.....which is impossible.  This negates the objection which states, "who made God?"  If something made God, God would no longer be God.  The thing that made God would be greater and therefore deserving of the title God.
  • Everything that is contingent would then be traced back to this being who is not contingent upon anything.
  • All truth, beauty, good, power, justice, and everything else that exists would be found in unity, fullness and perfection in this being.  Again, if this was not so, where would it come from?
  • God, being the greatest there is to which nothing can be added to can not have anything taken either.  Otherwise, the thing taking would be greater and therefore more deserving of the title God.  He is therefore ultimately simple and unchangeable. note: Simple does not mean small or easy to understand, but rather, simple as in a unity of one thing.
  • Things exist that are not necessary.  Therefore, these unnecessary things could not exist.  If all that exists could not exist and at one point did not exist, then they should not exist at all.  Therefore, all that exists is not unnecessary.  There must be a necessary being.
  • Although language tends to struggle with the following concept, I will try my best.  God, being being itself is in full possession of everything that He is.  That is, everything that He is and everything that was, is, and will be is present to Him at all at once.  Therefore He exists in a timeless eternity with no beginning or end because there is no change from a beginning to an end.  God is, which is why He said that His name is "I AM."
These points, of course, are not everything we can grasp about God from creation, nor, would we be able to fully grasp God from creation either.  There are many other ways to phrase these points as well.  That said, they are a good start.  When a person spends time with these concepts, they will find that they are absolutely necessary and true. Further, their confidence and faith in God will be strengthened because they will understand that "the fool hath said in his heart: there is no God."  God exists and He is greater, higher, and fuller in every possible sense conceivable.....and then some.  Any other option leads to absurd self-contradictory descriptions of the way things are or came to be.

2 comments:

  1. The unintelligibility of an infinite regression is a tough concept I think. The best practical analogy I’ve ever heard goes like this...

    Suppose you are at a deli counter to buy some meat and you are told to first take a number. You are then told that you must take a number in order to take a number, and this process of taking numbers to take the next will continue to infinity. You will realize that you will NEVER reach the counter and you will NEVER get the meat. You then notice that others have meat in their cart from the same deli counter. You conclude that the process of taking numbers must have ended at some point. It could not have logically continued to infinity as is clearly evident by the meat existing in the cart.

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    1. You are right, infinite regression is unintelligible. Like your example shows, there is a skip in logic that occurs when people apply infinite to practical situations. Infinite is much different than a finite amount. It either is or isn't, but it is impossible to get there incrementally with any finite amount. There is no half way to infinite, in other words.

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