Did the Universe Have a Beginning?

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There is a popular argument from theists that in order for the universe to exist, there must be a creator of some sort.

The argument looks something like this:
1. All things that begin to exist have a cause.
2. The universe began to exist.
3. Therefore the universe was caused.

Premise 1 typically does not receive too much attention. We do not observe universes spontaneously coming into being, and it is hard to imagine that even happening. Therefore we do not argue that point too much.

The premise that receives much more attention is Premise 2, that the universe began to exist.

This point is the bane of philosophers and scientists who do not like the idea that the universe began to exist because then they need to account for the cause. Accounting for this cause is often very uncomfortable for non-theists because there are only so many things that could cause a universe (defined as all known matter and energy) to come into being (*cough*God*cough,cough*).

Ever since the discovery of the expansion of the universe, science has been on the side of a finitely old universe. In tracing the universe’s expansion back, we reach its point of origin where it exploded in the “big bang.” However, science is not entirely conclusive. There are still theories about oscillating universes, multiverses, and there are even objections to the reality of an expanding universe.

It is the opinion of this author that in the face of these objections, science is still overwhelmingly on the side of the theist in regards to the creation of the universe in support of the big bang and a finitely old universe. However, it is also the opinion of the author that there is a conclusive proof for a finitely old universe that does not rely on science (which is certainly well worth studying but still ever changing).

Instead of science, I would like to focus on the impossibility of an infinitely old universe on the grounds that if the universe did not begin, it would be impossible for us to ever reach where we are in time right now. In the end, we will see that the universe must have had a beginning. (For the sake of clarification, I will be referring to a universe that had a beginning as a “finitely old universe” and I will refer to a universe that had no beginning as an “infinitely old universe.”)

If the universe did not have a beginning, then the universe has existed for an infinite amount of time. The core of the problem is that this means before the moment in which you are existing right now, there was already contained in the past an infinite amount of time.

Now for the sake of clarity, there are two kinds of infinities (that are relevant to our purposes). There is a potential infinity and there is an actual infinity. We may think of the future as infinite because no matter how far we go in the future, there will always be a moment after it (unless something very strange happens, but let’s leave that for the sci-fi genre). This means that time in the future is potentially infinite.

But what about time in the past? Since it is already in the past, it would have to be an actual infinite.

In order to see why this is a problem, we have to take into account what time really is. I am defining time as the succession of events in reality. This change can be anything from the movement of an atom or its components to the thoughts of a cognizant being. Unless all things stop changing and literally everything in the universe stops acting in any way, time will always be moving forward as a linear, forward-moving, succession of changes and events.

I am sure that my philosopher friends will want to strangle me for over-simplifying a concept as incredibly complicated as time, but in my youthful naivete it seems accurate enough.

Now back to thinking about time in the past:

We have covered that time is a linear succession of events (or moments if you prefer the term). This means that in the past there has been a succession of events one after the other. Now if the past goes back infinitely, there would be an infinite amount of moments. So no matter how far back we go, there will always be a moment before the next, and a moment before that moment, and an infinite amount of moments before that one, and another infinite amount of infinities before that moment, and so on in an endless regress of moments that must be reached before the next moment could be reached.

In other words, if the universe is infinitely old, there were endless events that must be reached before the next even could be reached. Therefore, if there was no beginning it would be impossible to move forward in time (let alone reach where we are today).

The only conceivable way for the universe to have never began is for it to be completely static with no change/no events. In such circumstances, there would be no time, the universe would simply *be* in an unchanging state. Yet this is not the world we see around us. We look around and we see change and movement, and this series of events is what creates time. Now if the universe was originally unchanging but is now in a state of constant change, something must have caused the universe to exit its previously static state. This means that if someone refuses to acknowledge a start to the universe and instead wants to focus on the idea that it was at one time static, they must still account for a cause for the change which we now see.

Therefore, given the changing state of the universe, we must conclude that the universe has always been changing (or at least come up with a cause for the first change if we were to say that it was always it began in a state in which it was originally not changing). The bottom line is that the universe could only have been changing for a finite amount of time before we could reach any point in time.

Since the universe must have began (or began changing which would take us down the road of Aristotle’s unmoved mover) at some point, we are left with the conclusion that an ultimate cause is necessary, and premise 2 of the argument l laid out in the beginning must stand.


Kyle Huitt
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Kyle Huitt

Part of the multitude that has lost their faith, but part of the few that has returned to it. This blog is my attempt to describe why I returned to the faith, and to maybe prevent somebody else from leaving it in the first place. Studying philosophy and history at Hillsdale College. Member of Delta Tau Delta fraternity.
Kyle Huitt
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