Time without beginning a.k.a. eternity--what is the deal?

jread
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Time without beginning a.k.a. eternity--what is the deal?

Good evening R.R.S. Happy (belated) Fourth of July. I have been thinking about a particular question for quite some time now. Ever since I took a Buddhism class this past semester I've been intrigued by the seeming commonalities between religions. I'm perhaps over generalizing, but it seems that one common idea pops up and that is, "From time without beginning" a.k.a. "eternity." I know that this is a common thread between Buddhism and Christianity that is used in different ways and contexts in each. Buddhism for example says that the rebirth cycle (samsara) has been going on from time without beginning. While similarly, Christianity says that God has always existed; a Christian never attempts to answer the question, "Where did God come from?" just like a Buddhist never seeks an answer to, "What was before samsara began?" Those questions simply can't be answered. What I can't get over is why does a religious belief structure, would leave such gaping holes in the system? Why is there are always "eternity" and unanswerable questions?

I know there are a lot of possible answers to this question. Believers may say, "Oh well that's why you need faith." and a non-believer may say, "Oh well that's because it's a figmant of the human imagination." Both answers are unsatisfactory. It seems also that science has the same problem of, "Where did the universe come from? Where did the Big Bang originate? Essentially, where does the enternity or time without beginning regress end? If there is no end to the regress, what does that mean? I sure don't know. Your thoughts please. -- 

The implication that we should put Darwinism on trial overlooks the fact that Darwinism has always been on trial within the scientific community. -- From Finding Darwin's God by Kenneth R. Miller

Chaos and chance don't mean the absence of law and order, but rather the presence of order so complex that it lies beyond our abilities to grasp and describe it. -- From From Certainty to Uncertainty by F. David Peat


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I generally think that

I generally think that religions deal with eternity precisely to not have any unanswered questions. If there was a time before God existed then there would need to be a reason for God to be brought into existence and an explanation would be needed as to how god was created. It also (by christian first-cause argument logic) implies that there was another being that created God, meaning God is not the most powerful, there is or was some supergod that created him. Even then you've need to answer where the supergod came from and so on. Saying god always existed is an easy way out of this problem, something that has always existed does not need, and negates the posibility of something before.

In terms of a scientific view of the start of the universe, I'm not up on my cosmology but the explanation that makes the most sense to me is that time exists within the universe, it is another dimension (like the 3 we move around in) so there was nothing before the univerese as 'before' needs time but time only exists once the universe exists. Without time there is no cause and effect thus nothing needed to cause the universe, infact nothing could have caused the universe.

Naturally that doesn't explain why the universe does exist, but it does explain how there can be no before and no cause.

Oh, a lesson in not changing history from Mr. I'm-My-Own-Grandpa!


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Why is it such a gaping

Why is it such a gaping hole? In mathematics the concept of infinity is reduced to a symbol. Nobody has ever counted to infinity. But it is accepted as valid concept and consistently used to derive mathematical results. Why do we insist on more than this when saying god has always existed?


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wavefreak wrote: Why is it

wavefreak wrote:
Why is it such a gaping hole? In mathematics the concept of infinity is reduced to a symbol. Nobody has ever counted to infinity. But it is accepted as valid concept and consistently used to derive mathematical results. Why do we insist on more than this when saying god has always existed?

Nobody is going around saying "because infinity exists, this book written by infinite inspiration is literally true and therefore you must not have pre-marital sex or be homosexual or vote democrat, and if you don't believe in infinity, you're going to hell."

"After Jesus was born, the Old Testament basically became a way for Bible publishers to keep their word count up." -Stephen Colbert


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Textom wrote: wavefreak

Textom wrote:

wavefreak wrote:
Why is it such a gaping hole? In mathematics the concept of infinity is reduced to a symbol. Nobody has ever counted to infinity. But it is accepted as valid concept and consistently used to derive mathematical results. Why do we insist on more than this when saying god has always existed?

Nobody is going around saying "because infinity exists, this book written by infinite inspiration is literally true and therefore you must not have pre-marital sex or be homosexual or vote democrat, and if you don't believe in infinity, you're going to hell."

 

Huh? Where did morality come into it? The question was about timelesness. You're trying to refute my comment by invoking irrelevancies. I think it's called a red herring.


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Allow me to clarify: I'm

Allow me to clarify: I'm saying your argument is a false analogy, Wavefreak.

Nobody is arguing that infinity has an external physical existence apart from the concept.  The token is used in the formal system of mathematics, but doesn't go beyond that (into things like, for example, moral questions or questions of where souls spend eternity).

This makes the analogy "belief in infintity = belief in god" a false analogy because of the key difference in the terms.  

"After Jesus was born, the Old Testament basically became a way for Bible publishers to keep their word count up." -Stephen Colbert


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ParanoidAgnostic wrote: I

ParanoidAgnostic wrote:

I generally think that religions deal with eternity precisely to not have any unanswered questions.

I agree. I just can't see how the "true" religion in the world can have unanswered questions. If God is truth then why should his true religion have so many unanswerable questions? (If one were to operate in a Christian context)

Furthermore, if any religion "true" or not has figured out reality and the reason for existence, why can't they figure out some of the unanswerable questions within their system?  If eternity is such an essential part of the system's functionability, then why can't eternity be explained when it is such an essential part?  

The implication that we should put Darwinism on trial overlooks the fact that Darwinism has always been on trial within the scientific community. -- From Finding Darwin's God by Kenneth R. Miller

Chaos and chance don't mean the absence of law and order, but rather the presence of order so complex that it lies beyond our abilities to grasp and describe it. -- From From Certainty to Uncertainty by F. David Peat


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Textom wrote: Allow me to

Textom wrote:

Allow me to clarify: I'm saying your argument is a false analogy, Wavefreak.

Nobody is arguing that infinity has an external physical existence apart from the concept. The token is used in the formal system of mathematics, but doesn't go beyond that (into things like, for example, moral questions or questions of where souls spend eternity).

This makes the analogy "belief in infintity = belief in god" a false analogy because of the key difference in the terms.

 

Were that the analogy I was trying to make then you would be correct. But you are making an analogy that isn't there.

The original question was:

What I can't get over is why does a religious belief structure, would leave such gaping holes in the system? Why is there are always "eternity" and unanswerable questions?

 

First, this question can't be asked or answered without first assuming, at least temporarily, the existence of god.

Second, the question is about the inclusion of eternal existence as a property of god and why it is relegated to a category of un-answerable questions.

My analogy points out that we accept infinity in mathematics without knowing exactly what it is or how to get there. But it is a necessary concept to make parts of mathematics work. We aren't required to count to infinity to make use of it as a concept. And if we ask is there anything larger than infinity it is considered an odd question. Even though it has been shown that certain infinite sets are "larger" than others, there is still a largest set (last I recall, it is an open question if there are still "larger" sets yet to be discovered). The point to all this is that our understanding of infinity in mathematics is not complete, yet we accept it as a necessary property.

Moving on to my analogy. Again you cannot even ask the question without for a moment accepting the existence of god, so this is not a claim for that existence. My claim is that assigning the property of eternal existence to god does not require a full understanding of what eternal existence means any more than we are required to have a complete understanding of infinity in mathematics before we can make use of the concept.

 

 


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When speaking about things

When speaking about things existing infinitely there are two routes one can take:
There is the all-so-common theistic mindframe which, dishonestly, asserts that all things need a cause and then zap God into existence as uncaused.
Then there is the mindframe that allows for infinite things, in this case God, yet if we are allowing for the infinite existence of anything there is absolutely no need to leap further than out universe as the matter/energy within it is, will be, and has always been at steady state along with the inability to create or destroy any matter/energy. There is absolutely no reason to jump to unneccessary, unprovable, illogical conclusions .


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Whatever your worldview, I

Whatever your worldview, I think you still need something "eternal and uncaused" from which to start. So to each his own:

- Christian: God

- Buddhist: samsara

- Atheist: the universe or reality or energy (a.k.a. something we figure out with science)

So eternity is an axiom that everyone has to deal with.

The only way to get rid of the axiom, as far as I know, is to say we live in this causal universe made of space-time which all began at the Big-Bang and phrases like "before the Big-Bang" "what caused the Big-Bang" are meaningless because there is no time and causality to talk about. 

 

A mystic is someone who wants to understand the universe, but is too lazy to study physics.


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I suppose then my question

I suppose then my question would be: why do we have operate and confront such an axiom? Where did it come from? I'm not suggesting that it came from God. I am merely asking how it is that a possible axiom within all human systems of thought originated? Where was its source?

I know these are probably all unanswerable questions. Although, I still feel attempts to at least hypothesize are worth while. I would attempt to answer them myself if I felt that I had something worth something. I must admit these questions are answerable for me. I would welcome anyone who feels that they may have something to contribute to possible answers.   

 

The implication that we should put Darwinism on trial overlooks the fact that Darwinism has always been on trial within the scientific community. -- From Finding Darwin's God by Kenneth R. Miller

Chaos and chance don't mean the absence of law and order, but rather the presence of order so complex that it lies beyond our abilities to grasp and describe it. -- From From Certainty to Uncertainty by F. David Peat


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jread wrote: I suppose

jread wrote:

I suppose then my question would be: why do we have operate and confront such an axiom? Where did it come from? I'm not suggesting that it came from God. I am merely asking how it is that a possible axiom within all human systems of thought originated? Where was its source?

 

Human conceptualization.

I know, you want something more basic than that.

My answer would be: the relationship is not causal, but interconnected.... a triangle isn't 'caused' by three sides, it is a two dimensional object with three sides.

If 'eternity' were an axiom, it would be a necessary idea born of a human mind's attempt to contemplate matters of time. I.e. it would be part and parcel of one's concept of time.

  (I leave aside whether we are actually discussing an actual axiom here... not sure if 'eternity' is an axiom...)

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I think eternity is an

I think eternity is an entirely human concept.

 Let's break the universe down, plus time, into three dimensions. Let's then plot two dimensions, X and Y into 3D space, and reserve the dimension Z for time. What you would then get is a three dimensional representation of our universe plus time. 

 It turns out, this representation looks sort of like an elongated sphere with a cut off end (the present). This is what the univserse quite literally "looks like" when viewed from a higher dimension. At the rounded end of the sphere is the big bang. If time were a function of this object, its Z height, you couldn't have anything "before" the big bang, because time is a property of the universe. It is (and I hate to use the cliche) like asking "what is north of the north pole"?


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time without beginning

The argument goes that we exist in a universe in which time always was and is and as such time has no beginning.  I read about this idea of infinite time and hear people propose it, not infrequently, as their explanation of why the universe exists, (ie. it never did 'not exist' - case closed).  To say time always existed and there always was time, means that time is 'travelling' forward from 'a point' (metaphor accepted) of infinity (obviously in the past).   It seems axiomatic to me that you cannot reach the present from an infinite past.  As time travels forward, 'marches on' etc. etc. - no matter how 'close' it may come to reaching the present, there is always an infinity of time drawing it into the past away from the present time, the present moment,  in which we exist.  If our time came from infinity then the present time would not exist and, moreover, we would not exist to have this discussion.  Starting from a 'place' (metaphor accepted) of infinity, time would never reach the 'big bang' in the first place, or even an infinite series of big bangs (whatever that means!). 


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wavefreak wrote:Why is it

wavefreak wrote:
Why is it such a gaping hole? In mathematics the concept of infinity is reduced to a symbol. Nobody has ever counted to infinity. But it is accepted as valid concept and consistently used to derive mathematical results. Why do we insist on more than this when saying god has always existed?

I'm sorry, but when attempting to compute your post... I got a "divide by zero" error.

“A meritocratic society is one in which inequalities of wealth and social position solely reflect the unequal distribution of merit or skills amongst human beings, or are based upon factors beyond human control, for example luck or chance. Such a society is socially just because individuals are judged not by their gender, the colour of their skin or their religion, but according to their talents and willingness to work, or on what Martin Luther King called 'the content of their character'. By extension, social equality is unjust because it treats unequal individuals equally.” "Political Ideologies" by Andrew Heywood (2003)


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I don't see why an infinite

I don't see why an infinite past should be assumed impossible.  People say that if there's an infinite amount of time in the past then we would never reach here, because any amount of time that passed would still not get us here.  But what they hide is the "finite" implied in one key term.  A case that actually creates a valid argument is to say that any finite amount of time that passed would not get us here.  But this is basically like saying "but if we only had a finite amount of past time, then we wouldn't have an infinite amount of past time."  While this is true, it hardly shows that an infinite amount of past time is a logical impossibility.

 

Moreover, people always fail to separate temporal history from causal history.  If the temporal displacement between cause and effect decreases as we go backwards along the chan (say, because the universe was smaller in the past and so cause-effect, which is limited by lightspeed, could occur more quickly), and if this happens in a precise enough fashion, then you can fit an infinite causal chain in a finite amount of time.  In a way, you could think of the time being like the interval (0,now], where the zero point isn't included in the interval.  Causes can occur at times now, now/2, now/4, etc.  Thus you have an infinite causal history without an infinite temporal history.  No first cause and no first moment, but yet a finite amount of past time.

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