How Seriously Does Our Concept of Time Affect Arguments for God’s Existence?

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Photo by Uroš Jovičić on Unsplash
A common argument for God’s existence is the Kalam Cosmological Argument which states:

1. All things that begin to exist have a cause.
2. The universe began to exist.
3. Therefore, the universe has a cause (typically understood to be God)

Critics of this argument commonly focus on premise number 2 by arguing that the universe has existed for an infinite amount of time. Theists defending the argument typically respond by arguing that if the universe has existed for an infinite amount of time, then it will have had to traverse an infinite amount of moments in time one by one (which is just as impossible as counting from one to infinity).

Courtesy of timeincosmology.com
The most common response from critics is that theists are assuming that time works like counting successive numbers. Of course it is impossible to count from one to infinity by counting one number at a time, but there is a different theory of time which is currently in vogue. This is the B Theory of Time (represented by “Block Universe” in the illustration on the left) which asserts that all moments in time exist in relation to one another in a great big block of time. This is contrary to A Theory of Time (illustrated by “Presentist View” in the illustration on the left), commonly thought of as a common sense theory of time, which fits the typical idea that the only time which exists is the present.

Critics of the Kalam Cosmological Argument turn to B Theory of time because they think it allows them to assume that the infinite block of time just exists (and we just happen to exist at this point in time in relation to all the other points in time) without having to traverse an infinite amount of events to arrive at where we are now.

However, B Theory does not save the critic. B theory of time is still linear, in a sense. There are events which exist before this present moment and after this present moment, and the proximity of those events to this present moment are finite and measurable (otherwise they would not be relative to each other). But if we suppose that the universe has existed for an infinite amount of time, then we must consequentially suppose that the great big block of time containing all points of time in relation to each other is infinitely large. If this great big block of time is infinitely large, then there is at least one point in time infinitely far away from our present point of time. This also means that there is an actual infinite amount of points in time.

These two conclusions (a point in time existing infinitely far away from our present point in time, and there being an infinite amount of points in time) pose serious problems for the idea that B Theory could accommodate a beginningless universe.

Let’s begin with the issue of there being an infinite amount of points in time. This idea fails because it entails the possibility that an actually infinite set of anything can exist in reality, but this is impossible. We can talk about actual infinites within carefully thought out mathematical systems, but actual infinites do not work in spatiotemporal reality. Imagine a library with an infinite number of books alternating red and blue. Suppose we divide all of its books in half between red and blue books. Cutting any value in half should yield a value that is smaller than the original value, but in the case of our infinite library there would be just as many red books and blue books as there are books altogether since an infinite set divided by two is still infinite. This is the kind of thing we can describe in mathematical equations, but which does not work in physical reality. Therefore, positing an actual infinite amount of points in time is heavily problematic. This is only one reason why B Theory of time does not save the critic of the Kalam Cosmological Argument.

The second reason B Theory requires a beginning for the universe is because the block of time containing all points in time relative to each other would be indefinite if it never had a first set of points in time. If this were the case, there would be points in time which actually exist which are indefinitely far away from our present point in time. But this yields absurdities. These points indefinitely far away from us must be finitely far away from at least some point of time, and that point of time must be finite in its relation to another point, and so on until we reach our present point in time. If this is not the case and the point in time indefinitely far from us is not relative to another point, then either this point does not exist in our block of time or we must redefine B Theory altogether since it stipulates that all points of time in existence exist in relation to one another. But if we say that the point indefinitely far from us exists a finite distance from another point in time which ultimately exists finitely far away from our present point in time, then the sum of all the distances between these points in relation to eachother would be finite.

Therefore, the point in time that we thought was infinitely far from our present point in time existed at a finite distance in relation to it all along. Either B Theory fails as a theory altogether since it fails to account for these points infinitely far from our present point which must exist if the critic of the Kalam is right in saying that the universe never had a beginning, or the critic of the Kalam using B Theory must come to terms with the reality that all points in time must exist in relation to one another and this cannot be the case if some points exist indefinitely in relation to other points in time.

A critic of the Kalam might respond to both of these arguments by asserting that if they are right, then it cannot be the case that time will extend indefinitely into the future and that B Theory of time is true. This is indeed a problem if my arguments are correct, and it seems to mean that either the universe will not extend indefinitely into the future (that time will reach an end), that B Theory of time needs to be modified to exclude future points in time, or that B Theory of time is false altogether. I’m personally inclined to side with the option that B Theory of time is false altogether, but the point still stands that B Theory of time does not allow the critic of the Kalam to posit a beginningless universe.

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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